Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Right In Front of Me

As I descended the hill around the bottom curve of the wobbly teardrop-shaped street on my walk yesterday, I heard an odd sort of buzzing sound. It was high-pitched, but lower than a bee or fly. I looked up to see a tiny hummingbird zipping back and forth over the street. I thought the poor thing was going to exhaust itself, zooming this way and that without landing for at least a full minute. It's tiny wings were blurred with speed, and it was too far over my head for me to even see what colors it was, but I got my camera out, zoomed in as much as I could, and tried to follow the little thing with the lens.

But every time I thought I had it, every time I looked down at the camera's screen to see the dot of brown in the middle of the blue and white sky, it had already disappeared. Finally, I got this shot:


See it? That little speck in the clouds?


Still the bird flitted back and forth in a zig-zag pattern over the street. "Go rest!" I called to it. It was so tiny that surely it would use up all its energy in a moment more and collapse. Yet still I tried (and failed) to get one more picture of it.

Eventually it buzzed off into a tree, hopefully to sit still for a minute before finding a flower or feeder to get some lunch. I went on my way, tucking my camera back into its case and then into my bag.

Prepare yourself. I know this sounds cheesey, but I still think it bears saying now and again. What I wish I had done now was simply watched the hummingbird instead of trying to capture it on camera. I was thinking about the blog, and sharing this story with you, but the one photo I did get didn't show the bird at all; it's just a shot of the Colorado sky with a barely-noticable fleck in the middle. If you didn't know better, it might make you think you needed to clean your computer screen. But sometimes it's better to put the camera down (or the microscope you're intent on using to examine something, or the bullhorn you're using to yell at it, or the plank out of your own eye) and just look and listen. How much more would I have noticed about the little hummingbird if I'd really watched it instead of trying to capture one instant of its life for my own satisfaction? How much more would I learn if I would just shut up and listen instead of trying to put myself into everything?

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