Monday, June 11, 2012

Sit Still, Hummingbird!

by Susanne Dietze

About a month ago, a blur of brownish green whipped past my front window. A hummingbird! I love watching those tiny little birds, but my joy increased when I realized she’d built a nest—hardly bigger than a mandarin orange—in the crepe myrtle tree right outside the pane.

I’d never seen a hummingbird sit still, much less been able to observe its babies. What a gift! I checked in on her several times a day, watching her shape her nest and fluff it with tufts of dandelion. The kids and I did research to determine her species (perhaps Anna), incubation period (14-23 days for two white eggs), and lifespan (3-5 years, but sometimes longer).
As close as we could get to "Mama Hummie"

Right away, she represented several things to me: the joy of spring after a dark winter, the mastery of God in His astonishing creation, and the cycles of motherhood. All of the clich├ęs about “empty nests” hit me afresh as I realized, around Mother’s Day, that soon after her babies hatched, they'd learn to fly and then they’d all be gone. The thought was like a little death, just like the end of every school year for me, that date when the familiar ends and my children are one grade closer to growing all the way up.

Through the hummingbird, God reminded me to cherish what I have now, be it children or a nesting hummingbird to watch. And to cling to the knowledge that when times are difficult, spring will follow, in some way or another.

So we cherished. We watched closely as she seldom left the nest, staying fixed in her spot despite noisy lawnmowers and intense winds. It reminded of the early weeks of my firstborn’s life, where it seemed I did nothing but sit and lactate.

“I’ve been where you are, Mama,” I said in a moment of female solidarity.

About the time I expected the eggs to hatch, I finally accepted that our hummingbird had abandoned her nest. For three days, she’d stayed away for long periods. Then one morning, she just wasn’t there. The reason is unknowable—a predator, undeveloped embryos, or a click in her brain that just told her to move on—but the “little death” I knew would hit me came far earlier than I’d expected.

Of course, that’s the largest lesson God’s taught me through the hummingbird. Change is part of His design, a teacher of sorts which makes me more reliant on Him. And he’s with me throughout my personal times of planting and harvest, sleeping and waking, holding close and letting go. For every dream of mine that dies, truncated in a blow or withering over time, something else grows and blooms, whether it’s a new dream or a deeper maturity in faith.

I’ll cherish the memory of watching a hummingbird sit still, of sitting at the computer with a kid on my lap as we researched species, of remembering to take joy in how blessed I am each moment. And in the dark days of winter, I’ll remember that change is coming. There’s a time for everything.

Even for second chances. Mama Hummie is currently fashioning a new nest in the same tree—not in as visible a spot, but I don’t care. I’m keeping my eye on her, and thinking with gratitude of the second chances and fresh starts God’s given me.

Postscript: This post originally appeared on Tea and a Good Book, May 23, 2011. Within eight weeks, Mama Hummie's eggs hatched and here, one day before they left the nest, are her babies.

Photo credit: K. Dietze

 Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,


  1. Oh, this is great.

    I love watching the birds!

    My swallows are hatching their second batch this year right now. I can't wait to see little fuzzy heads peeping over the edge of the nest. :D

  2. I hoped you'd like this post, DeAnna. ;) Watching baby birds is its own sort of joy.

    I've certainly learned a lot from my baby hummies.

    Take pictures of the swallows! We have a second batch of baby doves in a tree in the backyard. I far prefer them there to the nests they tried to build on the ceiling fan on the patio or the two times they laid eggs on the block wall. Ugh, those birds embody the term "bird-witted" like no other species.

  3. Oh, the poor little doves. They really are birdbrains, aren't they?

    Heh heh.

    You can see my swallow pictures on my earlier post. Ummm . . . a week or two ago? Can't remember, but they're there. :D

  4. I remember those photos! There were something like five babies, weren't there? So sweet.

    Take pictures of their siblings when they hatch!

  5. We had a beautiful family of cardinals outside our window this year.

  6. Cardinals are gorgeous. I wish they lived here.

  7. Thank you for the post, Susie. It reminds me of something I recently read regarding change. Sometimes change, especially difficult change and suffering, comes to force us to do something we know we should do. The first apostles were sent to make disciples of all nations, but it wasn't until after suffering began in Jerusalem that they actually got up to go. Good things to ponder.

  8. Thanks, Karl. You're right: change can be difficult but it creates fertile soil for growth. Still, it's my nature to resist it.

    Thanks for coming by.

  9. Susie - forgive me being so late. I loved this post when it was first happening, and I love it now. It's one of those I can read over again without ever getting tired of the wonder and the miracle of seeing hummingbirds slow down long enough to nest and pose for pictures.

  10. Suzie, you were up late!

    Your kind words about this post inspired me to re-post here.

    We have a hummingbird nest in our strawberry tree, but we can't see it well. Last year's experience was pretty special.

  11. Susie, your pics are precious. I can feel your love for these little creatures flowing through the words of your post. You’ve mentioned them several times and I’d hoped you'd post, but then I went into my cave and worried I may have missed it. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  12. Anita, I'm glad you could see the pics. The one of the babies if my favorite. :)

    I know what you mean about hiding in our writing caves. Speaking of which, here I go...


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