The moment I stepped out the door, the familiar twittering in the tree caught my attention and I smiled.
For a couple weeks now, when I emerge from the house to greet the morning, I am met by the song of a lone hummingbird. The miniature fellow, who comes throughout the day to the red glass feeder outside the cottage front windows, sits upon a slim bare branch of the neighbor’s dead tree, singing his little heart out.
The voice is small and a little scratchy, like a teenager in adolescence, but he rests on his perch and trumpets away, often for twenty minutes or more. Occasionally he zooms down in a blur of wings to hover at the feeder, then back to his overlook to continue singing. I see him there at various hours throughout the day when I step out with the dogs, or if the gods have smiled and the fog has lifted, allowing a bit of sunshine so that I might sit outdoors at the bistro table and chairs on the deck. Every time I hear his song, I look up and spot him in his usual place, a smile spreading across my face and heart.
As if I didn’t already love these miraculous winged marvels, until these recent weeks, I never realized that hummingbirds actually sing. Twitter and chirp, yes, especially in the petty dramas that erupt at the feeder. How wondrous to know them as songbirds, as well.
“Flick,” I call this little friend with his bright magenta hood and emerald feathers. His presence and persistent song cheers me. Summer is gloomy on this stretch of coastline, with the marine layer of clouds forming a near constant blanket that obscures the sun and drapes the landscape in veils of mist. Walking my two English Whippets. I’m usually wearing a jacket and scarf, as if I reside in some far northern clime rather than California.
Add to this that I have been feeling somewhat heavy in spirit by the ongoing stream of rejections from literary agents regarding my latest book manuscript. I’ve notched up fifty-five declines so far, with not a single request to actually read the work. Granted, in the perennial saga of writers knocking on publishers’ doors and accumulating ungodly numbers of rejections — including the well-known accounts of great authors and books that became blockbusters only after being passed over hundreds of times — my little pile of rejections is fairly modest. Still, it is discouraging, a blue cloud wrapped around my heart, and I am feeling the need to set the whole search aside for a while and turn my energy to other endeavors that yield more positive results.
At moments, I feel more like the Dancer of Frustration than the Shaman of Stars.
We all have our struggles, our chosen mountain to climb via rocky, spiraling path. My challenges are surely no greater than any other artist or individual; indeed, they are probably less, and I do try to keep the whole matter in perspective. I’m but one of seven billion people on this blue green jewel of a planet spinning through the infinite reaches of space; that’s little more than a dust mote, really, though I always aspire to be a luminous one. And I still trust that when we offer something from the soul toward the larger good, the Universe responds. Eventually. Though perhaps the response won’t be in the manner that we expect. (In fact, it almost surely will not be.)
When I feel discouraged and down in spirit — by the foggy summer gloom, the stream of rejections — I know that grace waits right outside my door. There is the elegant and venerable Grandmother Monterey cypress with her spiraling grey trunk and outstretched arms, wordlessly reminding me about deep roots and patience, and that all weather passes eventually. Too there is the ongoing miracle of each living thing in my front garden, from the riotous cherry tomato plants in their wine barrel planter, the sweetly intoxicating scent of the ever-blooming jasmine vine, right down to the invisible microbes in the dry soil that make all life possible. And a hummingbird’s song of joy.
Though it may seem otherwise on the surface (or reading the headlines), all things are becoming — evolving into a higher, collective version of ourselves.
Nightly in my dreams, I am graced with visions and reminders; myriad images of (literally) smashing the small life we cling to, and opening to something much wider. And I know this is the true path of “becoming” for each of us: to lessen our grip on the things we hold tightly — identity, work, relationships — or wish will be, while allowing ourselves to be stretched past our familiar limits into something larger and more authentic. Something more powerful, beautiful, alluring and true.
Like travelers clutching a valise, we all lug around our small, limiting accounts of who we are, what happened to us earlier in life, and the notions of what we may be capable or worthy of (or not). Yet the truth is, all those stories simply keep us stuck in our chosen rut, gravity that anchors us when we try to break free of our familiar orbit. The limiting messages are not just in our heads and hearts, but in our emotional and mental bodies as well; the energetic or “light body” that, for most of us, is pretty cluttered up with old thought forms, keeping us dense and heavy.
Short of working with a healer to clear out some of those old thought forms, perhaps the best and most immediate thing that most of us can do is to simply pause and take a couple of deep breaths, feeling our feet on the ground and remembering the larger story. Nature, whether embodied as the scent-ual pink rose, towering redwood tree, or dancing Monarch butterfly, is unparalleled in opening the heart and mind, helping to remind us that we are larger than the tired litany of thoughts that keep us small, stuck, and “safe.”
As the rejections pile up, certainly I could choose to listen to that naysaying, inner critic’s voice that tells me I am not a worthy enough writer to attract a literary agent, or that my book isn’t a good one, or that maybe the Universe doesn’t want this gift of story. Alternatively, I can step outside and plant bare soles (and soul) upon the earth, inhale down into my belly, open the tight cage of my chest, and listen to a hummingbird singing to me.
If we’re paying attention, the messengers of Grace are everywhere, and how often have I written about them in this journal over the years.
I write not just to tell you, friend, but to remember who I really am and what is true.
Here’s hoping that you realize that the true task in life is not to hold more tightly to things but rather more loosely, to soften our edges, and allow ourselves to be stretched — broken open, even — past familiar boundaries. Think of it as ego dismantling, soul forging, and heart shaping. You have a unique song and gift, and everything in nature (which includes your own soul) is seeking to remind you of a few core imperatives, like sing. Grow. Shine.
Wherever and whomever you are, may you always have the courage to live your vision with an open heart and, like a hummingbird, drink the nectar from life’s flowers.