Strength in Small Sizes

hummingbird-164632_640“A hummingbird flew into the garage and it won’t fly out!” my mother announced as she passed my open door.

I blinked in surprise before making a dive for my worn tennis shoes and following her through the back door. We craned our heads painfully back in order to scan the rafters, but we saw nothing and the air maintained complete silence.

After careful scrutiny and several well-timed bursts of wing activity, we at length spotted the small bird. My mother opened up all the windows and doors leading to the great outdoors, but the hummingbird only flew upwards into the peaked crossbeams, not downwards. It never went low enough to see the escape, and as the sun began to set in its crimson glory, the hummingbird grew more and more agitated.

I returned indoors for a while, figuring that maybe as the air became cooler the bird might fly lower to the ground and find an exit. A few minutes later I checked on the progress of our visitor. It was flying around with thick tendrils of spiderweb and cobweb hanging off of it like a cape, the low drone of its delicate wings beating against the walls that confined it. I turned to address my mother, but before we exchanged a word we heard a *THUNK* at close proximity. My mother let out a wordless exclamation, and I whirled.

“What was that?” I said.

“It just fell behind the washing machine!”

The rush of pity in my heart bid me to act quickly, and I carefully bent to examine the location of the fallen creature. Whether by chance or design, the hummingbird came to rest in a small but still accessible crevice between the washing machine and a neighboring basin. I very slowly and deliberately reached into the space, gently took hold of a particularly long strand of entangling cobweb, and carefully dragged the poor bird into the open. It fought feebly as I eased it into my palm, and even in its weary state the strength in the wings amazed me.

I held in my hand an imprisoned treasure of pale green. I determined the hummingbird was a female, and her wings were partially unfolded, partially pinned to her body by chains of lint and spiderweb. Her legs and feet disappeared into a grey fuzzy mass the size of a large grape—no wonder she couldn’t land properly. She bore a dust muzzle on her needle beak, and she shook uncontrollably.

The fallen bird was exhausted and no doubt starving after more than an hour of trauma in the garage. My mother remembered we had an unused hummingbird feeder inside, so she went off to prepare some solution while I started working on the web. Holding the tiny hummingbird in my hand is something I’ll not forget. She was obviously terrified, but her eyes were wide open as she lay on her back, and she just watched me. I freed her wings first because they were the least entangled, then I slowly worked her beak free. I really wanted her to drink something if she could, and when my mother brought out the feeder I positioned the bird appropriately, since she couldn’t yet stand on her feet by herself.

At first the creature would have none of it, and she jerked her beak out of the feeding hole. She must’ve tasted a little of the elixir however, because she suddenly perked up and attacked the solution with vigor. I watched, my eyes growing ever rounder as this bird drank, and drank, and drank. Twenty seconds later the green jewel removed herself from the feeder, tested the air with her burgundy tongue, and sat back weary but no longer hungry.

The meal accomplished, the next mission became untangling the buried feet. I carefully maneuvered her in my hand, and after some time I got one foot free. She scrambled upright and proceeded to roost on my finger.

I did my best to work in this position, pulling off minuscule pieces of cobweb at a time. I eventually realized I wasn’t going to get the lint-like bulk off in this way, so I very carefully wrapped the bird in my fingers and asked my mother to get my tiny sewing scissors. With legs smaller than toothpicks, I was rather nervous I’d break one in some careless tug of my thumb or stray snip, but I didn’t know what else to do! At this point I realized I’d been talking to the bird from the start, and I had to laugh at myself.

At long last, the final strand of the trap slipped off the remaining foot, and the hummingbird made a valiant effort to right herself. I let her, and she proceeded to suck a great amount of nectar into her fragile body. As I observed her, I became very happy. Both legs and feet worked properly, and although she was still shivering, the little hummingbird was extremely alert.

Twilight hung on the edges of the day, and my mother and I debated about keeping the bird overnight to ensure her safety verses letting her go immediately. The freed hummingbird made it clear she wanted to be on her way, and with little ceremony I carried her outdoors. When I opened my hand, she just sat there for a minute, as if getting her bearings. Then she took off with a healthy buzz of vibrating energy. She disappeared quickly into the settling darkness, leaving me with an empty hand, a warm heart, and the very strong feeling that I would see the green jewel again.



Remembering SkyHawk

Part of me is somewhat saddened that the issue with my eyes has forced me to write less on the computer. Among other things, I had hoped to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year, but (obviously) that isn’t going to happen anymore.

What I am going to share today is a memory, and to this day it remains one of the strongest memories I have of my first horse, SkyHawk. I spent about 2 hours today going through my personal journals looking for the entry, and at length I found it.

I’ve been talking recently about stories where people rescued horses, but there’s also a place for stories where horses rescued people. Physical rescue is heroic, but so is emotional rescue. I know almost as little about therapy horses as I do about rescue horses, with one exception. I’ve been rescued before, and this is my story.


The last photo of SkyHawk and Me.

July 7, 2004

A couple months after I first got SkyHawk, my brother started showing the first signs of what eventually (i.e. four years later) led to his diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. At the beginning, though, we didn’t know what was going on. We just thought my brother was going through some weird form of rebellion, so when the first real blow came that something was seriously wrong, I fell apart.

You must understand, before my brother started changing he was my best friend hands down. We did everything together, shared all our secrets, and valued the other’s opinion more than anyone else’s. The day I realized I’d lost that, I almost broke.

I ran to the only other place I had (I was 16, but not driving at the time and thus couldn’t escape that way)–I ran to my horse’s stall. Hawk was still relatively new to me, and I didn’t know him that well. I wasn’t sure if I really trusted him yet, but I was in a bad way and willing to take my chances just to be with something living and outside the house.

I sat down in the corner and started crying hard, silent tears, my face buried in my knees and my arms wrapped around my legs. After a few minutes I heard Hawk moving around, then I felt this light pressure on the back of my neck. I opened my eyes and looked up, and through watery vision I saw he was standing over me with his nose pressed against my shoulder. I cried even harder then, and he stayed with me, nose to shoulder, for what felt like ages.

I’ll never forget that night. It was the moment I knew Hawk and I understood each other. I trusted Hawk completely after that.

Hawk and I went on to do all kinds of things together. I took a fancy to bareback jumping and bridle-less riding (but not bridle-less jumping, because I wasn’t quite that brave). We went for trail rides through acres of apple orchards and vineyards, taught each other the passage and piaffe, and consumed large amounts of root beer (me moreso than him, but he did enjoy the occasional swig).

I miss him.


My Horse Sprenkil has another rejection! Time to send out more queries…