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May 7, 2007
Is Ethel Merman back yet? someone emails. I write back that she's on her way. Someone in North Carolina writes that she saw Ethel in her back yard, and someone else in Maryland says that she gave Ethel a snack for the road. So, yes, Ethel Merman is on her way back here.

That's Ethel Merman the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird who has spent the last two summers in our garden. Not Ethel Merman the singer and actress, who will remain on Broadway forever, having directed that her ashes be sprinkled there after she died.

I dreamed of Ethel the hummingbird last night -- an encouraging sign, I think, since I dreamed of her last year shortly before her return and dreamt of her many times in the years I spent waiting for her to come. She must be sending me telepathic bulletins as she flies.

Four years I waited to welcome a hummingbird, planting the kinds of flowers they like, faithfully putting out feeders filled with sugar water, cleaning and changing them every few days, with nary a hummer in sight. I learned a few things about life while I was waiting:

1. Wishing for something doesn't bring it into your life. You also have to prepare for it.

2. Preparing for it isn't magic, either. It can take a while; few qualities are more important than patience in getting what you long for. But at least you know you're ready for it when it does come.

3. You might not get what you long for. We resist even the thought of this at first, but we must learn to entertain the possibility without panic. So you have to become a person who can be joyful without it, even though you want it very much. A person who can rejoice in the simple fact of its existence, even if you never possess it. I came to feel that I was caring for all hummingbirds by preparing for one so carefully for so long. I knew that I had made a good place for them, that I was there for them if they chose to make use of me, and that become enough for me.

4. Everything is a gift. My longing for a hummingbird never caused me to disdain the wonderful birds who already visited our garden. All birds are miraculous. Everybody is miraculous. That we encounter one another at all, any of us, is a tremendous honor.
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