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July 15, 2008
Beats me where that damn bird is, I said to Q as we sat out under the dogwood after supper last night. I think she must be dead.

He nodded. Yeah. She'd have come back if she could have, he said.

Well, nobody lives forever. Certainly not a hummingbird -- most of them cash in after about four years. And Q is right about Ethel: that bird knew a good deal when she saw one, and this garden is a hummingbird's dream of heaven.

I cleaned and filled feeders for four years before I ever saw a hummingbird at any of them. I must have gone through nectar enough to fill a swimming pool. I will never forget the moment when Ethel finally came -- where I was standing, where she flew, how quietly happy I was. How I stood out there for a long time after she had gone, stood there with the garden hose in my hand, just feeling my happiness, keeping it to myself for a good ten minutes before going inside to tell Q the news. If I had never seen her again, I would have been content with that one moment.

But we saw her again. And again and again. Watched her during our picnic suppers under the dogwood. Learned which feeders she preferred. Watched her go after flowers, in front and out back. Watched as she stationed herself on a high branch to keep watch over all the feeders at once, because another hummingbird was in the yard, and she didn't want to share. At breakfast, we watched her tiny throat swallow as she sipped from a feeder right by the kitchen window. We spent two good summers with Ethel.

Last year she didn't come. Another female did, once, and a male, name of W.C. Fields, who said he knew her. And nobody yet, this year.

You have to maintain the place of love, even if your love goes away. You can't close up shop, not if you want love again. You've got to stay open, even if you feel like a fool doing it.

Ethel, are you in Heaven?

Maybe. Looks a lot like Costa Rica. But it could be Heaven.

Did you die?

Oh, yeah. Just got tired and couldn't get up and out to the food, you know. That's how most of us go.

Did it hurt?

I don't remember. We don't really dwell on the past here.

You don't?

Nah. We don't really have a past here, anyway. It's all now.

We have one.

Well, you think you do. It's all now there, too, only you don't know it.


Your feeders all clean and filled?

Oh, yes. Always. No hummingbirds, though.

Well, I'll see what I can do. Catch you later.
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