Today, I was fortunate enough to have a quite enchanting experience while walking my 110lb goofy dog (Bosco) on a local trail which runs alongside a rather large river. The path winds through a long and thin park which is dominated by Cottonwood trees - a tree, by the way, which in spring exudes the most delightful scent from the oil upon its new leaves - and brambly undergrowth. At this time of the year the leaves are only just beginning to unfurl from their buds on the smaller plants, and the rather more majestic trees remain naked in a quietly dignified way.
It was a grey, damp morning. The low clouds were trying their best to work up a decent rain shower, but their hearts weren't in it, and the best they could do was to pepper me with sprinkles every minute or two. It was dull, damp and all in all, rather an unpromising walk - until...
Trudging along and trying not to stare at my dog's all-too-evident bum hole (I do wish he'd lower his tail more often), I suddenly became aware of a sound that had been in the background for several minutes. I hadn't been paying attention to it, but something prodded me and awoke me from my dog-centric reverie. A low whistle, it was - rather like the sound you make if you whistle softly and hum in the back of your throat at the same time. What do you mean, you can't whistle and hum and the same time? I suggest you try harder, and immediately.
There it was, that familiar sound - HUMMING BIRDS! I looked up and towards the sound, and within seconds even my tired old eyes picked up a flitting smudge, darting around a nearby tree. As I watched, the tiny little thing settled on a branch and gave me a good looking over for about a minute. I stood, transfixed - it's rare to have the opportunity to watch a humming bird at rest. Clearly, on this occasion, the bird considered me to be much too big and lumbering to be any threat (I must say, the implication about my weight is a little uncalled for, but this was not a tame humming bird, after all: no manners).
All around me were distant sounds of other birds, and sure enough, another zoomed over my head towards my little friend (whom I shall call Norman), at which point he took off as if he'd been yanked from the branch, and the two began a spiralling dance (although it may have been a vicious fight) into the trees. I resumed walking (the dog had taken up a standing position on his back legs and was tapping one foot with his front paws on his hips) and was delighted to be mobbed - as much as you can be by creatures that weigh only a few grams - as I continued. The whistling of their blurred wings was at times augmented by some very pissed-off sounding chirps, and I had the distinct impression that I was interrupting a most important occasion.
I stopped a respectful distance away from the first sighting and watched as the tiny forms engaged in the most breathtaking aerobatic displays with one another. It was magical. I was alone (the dog really doesn't count in such situations) and I felt privileged to be granted the chance to watch these miniscule masters of the air go about their business. In the spirit of noticing the effect upon me, I also gradually became aware that I was grinning like the village idiot. I was also feeling bloody marvelous.
I love it that something so simple, so pure and so innocent can have that effect upon me. It is, I think, an indication that the child - the child who can be astonished and gawp in wonder at the world - is still within me. It means that the world is still a wonderful place to be, and to discover.
It means that I am not only alive, but living.