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September 4, 2010
Oops -- I forgot one of the feeders, and found it full of dead wasps when I finally opened it to clean and replenish it with fresh nectar. Hummingbirds do eat insects, but I would imagine they stick to bugs that aren't almost their own size. Certainly I am careful of my diet in this way. I try never to eat anything I can't lift.*

Motionless in the lethal, sticky syrup of leftover sugar water, the dead wasps gave me a better look at themselves than they ever would have done alive. Their ebony bodies, their translucent russet wings -- so fragile-looking. They couldn't possibly lift such a large insect into the air. But they do, of course: what the wings lack in heft they make up for in speed -- their wings beat 117-247 times each second, I read somewhere. A second! The buzzing we hear when they fly near us is made by their wings. Same with the hummers -- they clock in at about 150 beats per second.

Me, I do arm circles. Fifteen forward, then I switch and do another fiftteen backwards. Then I do another set. I used to do three sets, but we were all much younger then. By the time I've finished the last backwards fifteen, my arms are tired, and the circles are both smaller and slower than they were when I started. Probably one each second. The last couple of circles might be even slower than that. It'll be a while before I catch up with the wasps and the hummingbirds. Until them, I am in no danger of a sudden takeoff.

In my dreams, though, it's a different story. There, I often stretch forth my arms and effortlessly gain the sky, and I am always a little surprised that I can do this. It is as if my flying ability were a new bit of information, something I hadn't known about myself. Very quickly, though, I become delightfully accustomed to it: I head straight for a grove of trees and then up and over the tops of them, slip easily over the tops of houses, even skyscrapers, aware that nothing is too high. After all, altitude is nothing if you can fly -- it's no harder to fly a thousand feet up than to fly five feet off the ground. The big thing is getting up airborne at all. Once you know you can fly, you're up.

I'm not the only person who dreams she can fly, I have learned. Lots of people have this dream. Flight is such freedom and such power -- no wonder we dream of it. We all have obstacles in our path, and we dream of surmounting them with ease. It remains a dream, of course: the actual surmounting of actual obstacles is hard work. Birds and bugs are the only ones who can fly over them. The rest of us must slog through or find a way around.


*Though I would be proud to have thought of this excellent line, it is not my own. Miss Piggy originated it. Do you know her? Here she is interviewed by Jon Stewart.

Check out Carol Stone at Ways of the World on the Geranium Farm this week -- in "Fixing Social Security: A Big Deal, Or Overblown?" she helps us understand the social security crisis we hear so much about.
Do you care about creating a sustainable life? Do you want to find a way to unite this work with your faith community? Consider attending an important conference at Kanuga this October --

Sustainability: A Matter of Faith October 17-19
From the very beginning, God called us to care for the world around us.
This mandate to take care of creation is considered by many to be one of the most serious issues of our time. It is also an area where people of all faiths can stand in solidarity.

This conference will explore ways we can work together toward a more sustainable future.

Workshops and group discussions will inspire participants to put their faith into action with practical and spiritual responses to the environmental issues that face our daily lives.

To learn more,. visit

Keynoter: The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is the president and founder of the nonprofit environmental ministry The Regeneration Project and its energy conservation initiative Interfaith Power and Light. The IPL is a national network of more than 10,000 congregations in 29 states supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

She has brought widespread attention to the link between religious faith and the environment. As one of the first faith leaders to fully recognize global warming as a core moral issue, she has mobilized thousands of religious people to put their faith into action through energy stewardship.

She serves as the environmental minister at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco and chairs the commission on the environment for the Diocese of California, where she was installed as canon for environmental ministry. She is the lead author of Love God, Heal Earth, a collection of 21 essays on environmental stewardship by herself and fellow religious leaders.

Conference Chaplain: The Rev. Barbara Crafton is a spiritual director and award-winning author. Her web site, The Geranium Farm, is an online institute for the promotion of spiritual growth that publishes the Almost Daily eMos, read by thousands worldwide. She was rector of St. Clement's Church in Manhattan and served both historic Trinity Church, Wall Street, and St. John's Church in Greenwich Village. She was a chaplain at Ground Zero during the recovery effort after the 2001 World Trade Center bombing. Most recently, she was interim rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Florence, Italy.
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