Humbled by a warm body in a cold world

As life and work has commanded most of my attention for the last few months, it’s been a while since I had a chance to write. But the other day, I saw the most astounding thing that made me marvel at the limits of our human perception. Or, maybe I should revise that generalizing blanket statement to encompass only my own pre-concieved, discriminating ideas of the world around me. This lesson, I simply have to share…

My orange house-tiger staring accusingly out the window, wondering what in the world happened to his stomping grounds...

My orange house-tiger staring accusingly out the window, wondering who in the world did this to his stomping grounds…

A couple of weeks ago, temperatures dropped far below the usual, and big, fluffy snow flakes quickly covered the ground. In usual Portland fashion when we get a little snow, everything came to a standstill – schools closed, workers were released early, businesses shut their doors, and the roads were quickly littered with the remnants of driving mishaps and abandoned cars. Anyone who has ever lived in areas where wintry conditions are the norm this time of year, will no doubt snicker condescendingly at this, but it is true. Portlanders just aren’t generally prepared for this sort of thing, and adventurous gardeners venturing out of their climate zone are even less so. Although I vainly tried to cover up my most tender darlings in anticipation of the Arctic Blast we experienced in early December, I’m pretty sure I lost a few of them despite my smothering efforts. So this time around I resigned to the fact, and instead focused on keeping the bird feeders stocked with seeds and suet cakes, and the hummingbird feeders full. Because it was so cold, and the sugar water kept freezing, I alternated my two feeders, so that one was always thawing while they were feeding out of the other.

By the following morning, the snow had been covered  by a layer of ice, and everything in the garden was pressed to the ground under the weight. The bamboo was practically folded double. Crouching down under it evoked the experience of a standing under a weeping willow.

The normally stately, upright black bamboo submissively bent to the powers that be.

The normally stately, upright black bamboo submissively bent to the powers that be.

Every little twig had a coating of ice. As the wind stirred, a glassy, clinking sound emanated from the branches. I kept wishing for the sun to break through the cloud cover, but it never did. That would have been a fantastic sight - a sparkling wonder world!

Every little twig had a coating of ice. As the wind stirred, a glassy, clinking sound emanated from the branches. I kept wishing for the sun to break through the cloud cover, but it never did. That would have been a fantastic sight – a sparkling fairytale landscape amidst the destruction!

By mid-day, as the temperatures rose, the air filled with the sounds of melting snow, dripping water and crashing ice. There was a sense of relief – a sense that was amplified by the chirping and chattering of birds that suddenly seemed to have re-emerged. When it was at its coldest, it was awfully quiet out there… I was outside surveying the storm damage, when I suddenly saw it by the hummingbird feeder. A small bird – definitely not the humming kind – kept swooping down to the feeder, trying to flap its wings to keep itself still in the air so it could drink from the yellow plastic flowers.  Invariably, it managed to stay level with the flower for a second or two, before it was pulled below by its own weight. Not one to give up, it kept trying, again and again. Such perseverance! Fascinated, I stood still and just watched. My thoughts went to the Olympic athletes, whose gritty determination, indomitable spirit, and steely perseverance have been keeping me spellbound and averted any cabin fever during the storm. Then I went inside to get my camera. The little bird was gone when I came back, and for a while I lamented that nobody would ever believe me when I retold what I’d seen. But it had apparently just taken a break, as soon afterwards it reappeared. The photos I got weren’t great, but you get the idea. According to my Birds of Oregon Field Guide the closest look-alike I found indicates that this tiny little overachiever might be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but I’m not sure. If you can identify this bird despite the mediocrity of the photos, please let me know what it is – I would love to know!

Here is our little hero... You can see him contemplating his next move in the lower right hand corner.

Here is our little hero… You can see him contemplating his next move in the lower right hand corner.

Flapping away with all his might...

Flapping away with all his might…

Maybe it'll be easier if I try it from above...

What was that? … It’ll be easier if I approach it from above…?

Okay, here we go!

Okay, here we go! Are you watching?

A good teacher makes all the difference in the world. I'm looking forward to seeing the progress of the little bright-eyed, fuzzy, determined student!

A good teacher makes all the difference in the world. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of the little bright-eyed, fuzzy, determined student under the coaching and guidance of this pro!

I’m humbled by this little bird, which keeps trying so hard to become a hummingbird. I also feel very arrogant for assuming that only humans try to better themselves and achieve a greater purpose. Well, today I got my own ignorance shoved down my throat, and I think I’m better for it. Go figure…

Advertisements

About annamadeit

Born and raised in Sweden, my aesthetics and outlook on life are strongly shaped by a culture rich in history and tradition. I care a great deal about environmental responsibility, and my aesthetic reflects the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia. I was trained as an architect at the University of Cincinnati and as a color specialist at the Scandinavian Colour Institute in Stockholm. I'm obsessed with plants and gardens, and aim to take my skill set a step further by designing gardens as well as interiors. As someone so aptly said: " Architecture is the skin that separates the exterior from the interior". So true - you can't successfully focus on one without incorporating the other. I'm also an avid cook, and I love to ski. In addition, I put time and efforts into trying to rectify things that I feel are wrong in my immediate community. As you will see, The Creative Flux will touch on all these things, and more. For sure, it's all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blog!
This entry was posted in Gardening and Landscaping and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Humbled by a warm body in a cold world

  1. Kris P says:

    You have to admire his determination and perseverance. I hope it earned him enough sustenance to make the effort worthwhile. Who knows – maybe he’ll pass his genes along to his progeny and someday all his kind will be equipped to manage in a world flipped on its ear by climate change.

    • annamadeit says:

      Yes, I hope so too… I wish I had half of his stamina… I think that’s the kind of ingenuity and perseverance it will take to weather what’s to come. Spirit like that is certainly worthy of success, I think!

  2. What a delightful and plucky little bird! I am always thrilled to see one of the really little ones in my garden; the added feeding change is a bonus for yours. Do you think he could sense the warmth from the unfrozen feeder contents?

    • annamadeit says:

      You know, Jane – I didn’t think of that… Maybe he did sense the temperature difference? That’s a good thought, and I wonder if he is still out there. Hope to be out there a little today! 🙂

  3. Ricki Grady says:

    I never tire of wildlife stories…or of the gymnastics critters go through to get at provisions. The comparison to Olympic athletes is appropriate.

    • annamadeit says:

      Fascinating, isn’t it? I need to figure out a way to help him out…

      • mbsopinion says:

        They make a hummingbird swing-y perch thingy (kind of looks like a birdie trapeze) that you could hang next to it. My feeders are close enough to my house that I am able to rig up feeder heaters out of either a gooseneck lamp or aluminum pie plates with Christmas lights poked through them. Then the little fellers sit on the edge of the plate or lamp and warm up.

      • annamadeit says:

        Aww – cute! Love both those ideas!

  4. Barbara Kelberlau says:

    I live in Southern Oregon and we experienced many of the same conditions in December. We have a little fatty yellow bird who has developed a taste for hummingbird nectar. We make it easy because our feeders have perches. He lands and swings wildly, spilling nectar everywhere.

  5. autopolis says:

    Wow, I’m so jealous of all the green things in your yard in the middle of winter!

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, but it has been so cold, Greg… Much worse than normal. There is a lot of crispy brown devastation as well – I just didn’t photograph it. Mind you – at some point I will probably appreciate all the new space for new plants. 🙂 You will just have to plan a summer trip out here to see for yourself!

  6. Wow, Anna…this is so cool. That little bird…nature is amazing. He kind of reminds me of a bushtit but not quite….such a cutie! Looks like a lot of wildlife around here was looking for nectar this past snowstorm!

  7. Loved your story. My birding skills are very rusty, but I’m sure it is a ruby-crowned kinglet, Anna – thin bill, prominant white eye ring (broken above and below) and white wing bars. Good job!

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Julie! I put a little stick for it to perch on, but have not seen it again. Mind you, I haven’t had time to be out there much. Hopefully it gets my gesture… 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s