Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Hummingbirds

Our feeder is up and we are open for guests.

No other bird can perform their tricks of flight - flying backwards, hovering in place. It takes energy for a hummingbird to move its wings so fast - an invisible 80 beats per second, which is why it must consume its weight each day in nectar -- or sugar water.

I never cease to wonder at the innate system of chemical command and control that lets the bird perform a dozen intricate maneuvers more quickly than I can turn my head. Every cell of the hummingbird's body is a buzzing conversation of proteins, speaking a language of shape - shapes as various as the words in a human vocabulary.

"The power of the visible is the invisible," said poet Marianne Moore. The sleek, iridescent body, the soda-straw beak, the whirring helicopter wings. What we see is dazzling enough. What we cannot see is even more dazzling.