Fairies in our nets

A male Calliope Hummingbird

A male Calliope Hummingbird.

Today we caught fairies in our nets– Calliope and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. The male Calliopes have beautiful throats, an iridescent rosy or purple color, depending on the light. Sometimes, once I gently untangle them from the mist net, they’ll sit in my hand, miniscule feet tucked up into their chests, resting. Dark limitless eyes looking all around, diminutive breast heaving as if it had just run a marathon, their colors changing in the light– only an illusion, a change of perspective. After breath-holding seconds, when time seems to stand still, their wings begin their blurred-motion movement and they buzz out of my hand and back into their world.

There’s always a moment when I wish I could keep this tiny bird forever, but every fairy has to be free. How else do they keep their magic?

male caha in hand_618x379

The same male Calliope hummingbird, moments before he flew away out of my hand.

Corrugated Hummingbirds

I’m almost wary to draw my hand away, as if, without me to hold it, the heft of the skies, heavy with stars and longings, would fall.


Written during my trip to Belize, July 2010. All pictures are from that trip. 

There is something about water, the sound of water, that is relaxing, almost numbing, but refreshing as well. The cleansing sound of water, reaching those places inside that even the sun cannot see.

I’m sitting on a raised deck on a tiny island off the coast of Belize, in the wind, in the dark. The surf and the wind in the palms behind me blend together into a wild, reckless sound that fills my soul with a deep longing, a restlessness of the spirit. I have a moment of profound loneliness, a deep ache echoed in the night sky.

The deck shakes a little, and the railing over the water is loose and shifting in the wind, causing vibrations that feel like footsteps, the footsteps of someone who isn’t coming. I can see out in the dark to the reef, to a light way out over the water, perhaps another caye. Behind me are palms dancing, and a bit of corrugated iron roofing that somehow manages to hold on to the deck bangs strenuously. The nails must be strong, tenacious, to defeat the continuous, mildly violent, wind.

Belize cayes

I could close my eyes and be a thousand miles from here, on the Florida panhandle, about to bed down for the night behind an abandoned motel, listening to the wind. That wind was more primeval and had more force, violence, to it. I could feel myself almost being blown away, swept off across the Gulf, like a ruby-throated hummingbird. This wind is not as strong, but there is still a restless aggression to it. I feel that it would sweep me back to the mainland if it could. The frigate birds and the pelicans glide it, soaring, holding their places in the sky. I wonder what effort it takes, to ride head-on into the wind, to glide smoothly side-to-side without flapping a wing.

Behind me also are lights of the other cabanas, the faint reminder of the rest of the human population. Looking up, I can see millions of stars in the night sky, fainter counterparts to these electric specks. I hold my hand up, fingers wide, to give infinity perspective. Here I sit, a speck of nothing, and yet galaxies span my palm. I hold nothing in my hand, and yet every molecule of air, every tiny pinprick of light, the essence of life, carries a weight, at times heavy enough that I can feel the pressure on my skin. I’m almost wary to draw my hand away, as if, without me to hold it, the heft of the skies, heavy with stars and longings, would fall.

When I looked up a while ago, throwing a thought to the stars and the wind, a shooting star streaked a short distance, beginning where my eyes first landed in the night sky. My thought given form, accepted into nature, my desire to ride the wind like the frigate birds now shooting across the heavens, between the gaps of my fingers, out into the everything-ness of the world.

Frigatebird in Belize

Sunset and frigate bird. Belize, 2010.