It was one of those perfect afternoons: sunny with a moderate temperature and breeze off Puget Sound. As I stopped off the stairway in front of our office, I had to avoid a small rustling leaf on the sidewalk. Yet it was no ordinary leaf. Stopping and taking a look behind me, I noticed a small hummingbird on its back as the white speckled chest heaved.
Taking a moment to seize up the situation, I felt a momentary twinge of sadness and then started my lunchtime walk. Half a block down the road, I was suddenly asking myself: is this who I am?
Growing up, my grandmother was always a presence in our lives. She taught her family a great many things about how to view the world around us. When Gloria wasn’t painting pastoral landscapes, she was teaching her grandchildren about nature and the small miracles of wildlife around us. She’d identify the various birds that would visit her garden, marvel at the bees, take joy in the small garter snake that would visit her porch every day.
My sister and I would help gently capture birds that accidentally flew into the house, wrest away voles from our dog, and marvel as seals and porpoises would swim around our rowboat. An industrious beaver family lived on the lake my aunt was at, and we explored the body of water for signs of these elusive dam builders.
After an afternoon antiquing session in our nearby town with my sister, mother, and grandmother, we exited the store and prepared to get in the car when one of us noticed a very scared dog tied to a dumpster. She was hungry, whimpering, and the store staff said she was abandoned by her owners: left to her fate. We were strained financially as a family and already had a canine companion, but it was decided that however our position was, this dog needed our help. We gently convinced her to get in the car, and after a vet visit paid for by my grandmother, Lucy the dog was adopted into the family.
When a creature needed our help, we were taught to provide the love and care it needs to either survive in the wild, or adopt it into our household. It’s not always an easy choice, but it was always the right one.
Back at the sidewalk, this animal needed help moving away from where it could be crushed by unwary walkers, and perhaps it had greater needs than that. Sitting on our bottom step and placing my feet around the bird, I started calling our local wildlife rescue center for advice.
Gently covering the hummingbird with a tissue paper to calm it down, I softly nudged a piece of paper under the bird. Weighing no more than a few grams, the bird was easily supported by this lightweight piece of paper. Lifting it into a small box I had prepared, I brought it inside and gave it a chance to recover in our conference room.
Opening the lid of the box, I could see that the bird had righted itself and was calmly sitting in the proto-nest when it suddenly took off and began to hover above our white board while emitting the characteristic flight “chirp” noise that hummingbirds often do. For a few seconds, it looked like it was recovered and ready to go back outside. Then it fairly abruptly begin a descent and landed in disarray.
As it lay on the ground, it lended itself for a closer look. Although the iridescent feathers of the back and neck are the most noticeable feature, the beautiful white/black/brown coloring on the tail revealed the true wonder of these small flyers.
Replying to the voicemail I had left at PAWS, they requested that I bring in this bird to their rescue center 15 minutes away. With the help of a co-worker, we were on our way to drop the hummingbird off with the people who were going to give it the care and attention it needed.
The next time you see an animal, take a moment to appreciate it for what it is and the contributions it brings to our Earth. Do not disparage the raccoon, the pigeon, or the crow, but instead recognize them as unique species that are adapting to the world around them. If you’re looking for a pet, look at your local shelters for animals in need of a loving home. Rescue that spider from your sink and place it outside instead of just batting it down the drain. Try to reduce how much meat you consume, and eliminate it entirely if you can.
We can’t solve all of humanity’s ills in a day, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my family, it’s that little acts of kindness towards nature can make the world a better—and more diverse—place to live in.