A Backyard Cosmological Event

The weather so far this spring has been as dour and soggy as any of the past 37 that I've lived here in the PNW. This Saturday morning was different.

Twenty-five days past the equinox, and this mid-April day was leaning in and living up to its place on our Gregorian calendar. Accordingly, I was sitting and sunning outside, thinking about the little cosmological event I witnessed last summer.

It began with a male Anna’s Hummer flying though our open back doors and then heading straight for our front window. He must have seen something worth his entering and then the light of the forward facing window seemed his best exit. Always forwards towards the light, never retreat, is in keeping with his eagle-sized assertiveness. I suppose he struck the window at an oblique angle that happily only stopped him, but did not hurt him.

This transparent force field didn’t befuddle the hummer or give him pause, not for an instant. My thought, not his admission. He simply stuck with a game plan that had always worked and repeatedly hit against the window again and again. Going up, sideways, down and across, but never once considering that he might have a failing strategy. That he best make another choice. In fact he exhausted himself to the point of torpor. My guess, not his confession.

I then picked up this unresponsive bird and walked him outside. I stood midway on our deck and held him in my open palm, tilted to receive the maximum force of the sun. Aside from my palm as platform, all was still, lifeless. Then a small explosion. No other word for it.

An iridescent male Anna's Hummingbird
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

When I recovered from my startle, he was a good distance away and headed for one of his favorite perches on the tippy top of our Parrotia tree. There was no acceleration from start-up to cruise speed. No obvious awakening. Just a near infinitely miniature repeat of the cosmological Big Bang and there it was, the animate world was again going along full tilt. Like I said, I witnessed a small cosmological event. Now that’s my favored explanation, not his recollection.

So what does his resolute fight with the window and obliviousness to seemingly obvious alternatives signify? That this bird is bird brained? Hardly. It’s really more about us, not him. His fine grained range of choice is suitable for his graceful comportment along the forested-edge of his world, where we would struggle. Now that’s our limitation, not his.

Think about it. I carry a small fortune on my back just to survive a few days in Cascade alpine, where I meet his cousin the Rufus Hummingbird getting along just fine thank-you-very-much by carrying no more than iridescent feathers on his. That’s my limitation, not theirs.

Our range of choice has evolved to keep up with the pace of change to the memes of society—that’s what culture does for us. His pace evolved to match the historical rates of change to the ecology of his world—that’s what evolution does for him. Problem is, with our much ballyhooed progress, we have goosed the rate of change to the existential conditions of his world beyond that of evolution.

Now that’s our responsibility, not his. And, that’s our worry, not his. He’s got a lot of flowers to sip before nightfall after all.

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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