Saturday, May 08, 2010

`A Route of Evanescence'

The morning cool and clear, the sky a burning blue. Staying indoors felt like a cheat so we took the kids on the long walk around campus, past firs and down a shaded corridor of cedars. On the east side of the building is the commons, a terraced palazzo of concrete landscaped with shrubbery and ornamental trees from East Asia, none in flower, I thought. Moving among their shadows I spied a quick, fat, un-moth-like moth that flitted out of the tangle into the sunlight and turned into a rufous hummingbird.

He worked the foliage efficiently, wasting little time and energy: Hover, dart, hover, flit. I held my student’s hand and we stayed still, watching the soundless marvel trolling for nectar, which he found. Five feet from us stood a low bush with clusters of small white flowers, invisible at a distance. He quickly probed them, making course adjustments along the way. I was an avid follower of the space program as a kid, and the words “pitch and yaw” came to mind. Then he flew to the roof in a long arc and disappeared, lapsed time perhaps forty-five seconds. Without naming her subject Emily Dickinson captures the hummingbird:

“A Route of Evanescence,
With a revolving Wheel –
A Resonance of Emerald
A Rush of Cochineal –
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head –
The Mail from Tunis – probably,
An easy Morning’s Ride –”

The third and fourth lines nail the bird’s coloration precisely. My student, I’m certain, had never seen a hummingbird. I saw her eye follow the moving shadow, so close was its purposeful path: “A Route of Evanescence.”

1 comment:

Reed Sanders said...

Thanks for that