My husband, Scott, has been talking a lot lately about us reviving our habit of filling a hummingbird feeder. He really likes watching them from our back porch while we eat dinner out there.
But he also is very aware that when it came to feeding the hummers, I became something of a crazed maniac. I’d insist we come home early from picnics or hikes, because I was certain the hummingbirds were out of food. Or, I’d get up before sunrise so I could ensure there was plenty of sugar water out for the tiny birds, because some of them would start showing up at the feeder when first light had barely hit our yard.
There was a very good reason for my bizarre, obsessive behavior: I am afraid of hummingbirds.
Yes, the Earth Mage—the woman who walks with Bear at her side, who isn’t afraid of Rattlesnake or Coyote or Bobcat, is terrified of a two-inch long bird.
Before you label me daft, let me tell you what it was like when we had hummingbird feeders before.
If I accidentally let the feeder run dry, when I’d step out the back door, I would immediately be surrounded by a cloud of hummingbirds—Anna’s hummingbirds, Allen’s hummingbirds, Costa’s hummingbirds—all furious at me for allowing their feeder to stand empty for, like, two minutes. They would fuss at me mightily, and get right up in my face while doing it. I’m not talking two or three or six hummingbirds, either. I’m talking like twenty. Or maybe a hundred. I couldn’t count, because I’d be too busy trying to swat them away, but the little buggers are faster than imitation syrup running down a stack of pancakes.
Have you ever watched hummingbirds fighting one another? They swordfight in mid-air with those long, pointy bills of theirs. With the humming sound their wings make, they remind me of tiny Jedi knights fighting the Emperor’s army in Star Wars with their light sabers. They try to stab one another. They do stab one another. It looks painful. I’m sure it is painful.
Which is why I am afraid of hummingbirds. I have no desire to have to try to explain to an EMT or emergency room doctor why I’m being admitted with a helmet of five hundred tiny birds stuck to my skull. And in my ears. And, perhaps, my eyes. My glasses seem poor protection when it comes to battling a thousand hummingbirds.
So, we took the feeders down. I stayed inside for a month, hopping the angry mob of ten thousand little birds peering in my back windows would go away. When I had to go out, Scott would throw a blanket over my head and rush me to the car, slamming the door once I got in lest the birds figure out it was me under there.
After a few months, the trouble settled down. The hummingbirds went back to finding food in the flowers that are so abundant in our hills. For Pete’s sake, we live in Southern California; there is always something blooming here. They won’t starve without my feeding them.
That was more than a year ago. And, as I said, Scott is now making noises about wanting to feed the hummingbirds once again. But this time, he wants the feeder at the back of our yard, not right up by the house. He thinks this will somehow make a difference.
Tomorrow is Scott’s sixtieth birthday. Being the devoted wife I am, as part of his birthday gift, I went out and bought a beautiful wrought-iron birdfeeder hanger for him to place in the yard, wherever he chooses, so we—meaning, I—can once again hang a hummingbird feeder.
He accepted the gift only after extracting a promise from me that I will fill the feeder only once a day. I agreed. For now.
But the moment I end up with an angry hummingbird stuck in the tip of my nose, I’m quitting for good. You’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you. Let him feed the damned hummingbirds. I’m going to go find a nice coyote or rattlesnake to spend my time watching.
It’s a whole lot safer.
Smoky is an ardent outdoorswoman with a deep reverence for nature. She lives in California with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains, camping in the Sierras, splashing in tidepools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.