Saturday, October 10, 2015


A happy convergence of events, one of those unforeseen synchronicities you would be ashamed to conjure in fiction: I was seated on the couch by the bay window overlooking the front garden, reading The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (University of Texas Press, 1998) by June Osborne, a paperback I picked up at the branch library for twenty-five cents. It’s not a systematic field guide but more like a scattershot monograph into which the author throws everything she knows, often in the form of tidbits like this: The Portuguese word for “hummingbird” is beija-flor, “flower-kisser.” Some anonymous Shakespeare in Brazil (hummingbirds are a New World phenomenon) came up with that little gem and gave it to the world. And while I was still savoring it, a ruby-throat kissed the bee balm in our garden. It’s the second week of October in Houston, and on Friday I saw, along with the hummingbird, a tiger swallowtail flitting about the crepe myrtle in the backyard and a toad in the driveway. 

Osborne also notes that in Spanish, a hummingbird is known as a picaflor, “flower-piercer,” or a chupaflor, “flower-sucker.” The poets in these tongues observe the feeding habits of the birds. Emily Dickinson saw “a route of evanescence.”

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