Tuesday, May 15, 2018

dirgeless in the garden

I am flying north again this week.

Last month, it was for a wedding.

This month, it is for a memorial service. For my aunt who died early in April (goodnight, gracie). My cousin, her son, has asked me to speak, and I have been working on some words that will be entirely inadequate to sum up her life. At best, I can hope for a vignette.

The past few months have been a time of transition for me. Several people close to me have died, and I have not mentioned them previously here. A member of our church board. A former Clackamas County District Attorney who served as a legal and political mentor since 1966. And two local notable personalities who added to both the depth and the weirdness of our small expatriate community here (if "community" is really the word).

I started listing them today and realized how much I miss seeing each of them. They all had become almost scenery in my life. And then they were gone.

There is a moment in all of these reveries where nostalgia can easily slip into the land of the black dog. The black dog that would love nothing more than to sever nostalgia's aorta.

I was saved from that episode by a bird. A small bird. One of God's clowns in nature. A hummingbird.

I like to think it is just one bird. My bird. That comes only to my patio to slake its nectar thirst.

As far as I know, there is more than one on this particular circuit. I have not even been able to accurately identify its species. It flits by too fast.

Whether it is one or more, I had not seen a hummingbird for months in my patio. In an attempt to tame my yellow-flowering vines that provide shade and privacy to each of the house's bedrooms, I cut them back almost to the ground this fall.

No vine. No yellow flowers. No hummingbird.

I did wonder where it went to supplement its diet. Of course, there are plenty of other gardens in our tropical village. And, for all I know, while the vines were down, it might have been vacationing in Arizona.

But, it is now back. I had just finished cataloging the deaths of my friends when she appeared (her lack of color has tipped me off enough to genderize her) out of the corner of my eye.

There is something about the antics of hummingbirds that fascinates everyone I know. If one appears in a garden, everyone pauses to watch. The hovering. The darting. The blurred images of a purposeful life.

And, just like that, as if she were Wonder Woman, she was gone. She had briefly shared a bit of magic, and now she had other souls slipping into the morass that she needed to save.

The hummingbird brought another gift. She provided me with the hook I needed to sum up my aunt's life.

And that is a lot for a little bird to give in one day.

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