Nothing in nature captures the eye like hummingbirds. When they hover in a sunbeam, flashing their metallic, boldly colored gorgets, they set the imagination on fire. Tradition has associated hummingbirds with the rainbow, with jewels, and with the faery realm.
In his novel, Green Mansions, W.H. Hudson asked these questions:
Have you ever observed a humming-bird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers
–a living prismatic gem that changes its colours with every change of position
–how in turning it catches the sunshine on its burnished neck and gorget plumes
–green and gold and flame-coloured, the beams changing to visible flakes as they fall, dissolving into nothing, to be succeeded by others and yet others:
In its exquisite form, its changing splendor, its swift motions and intervals of aerial suspension, it is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description.
And have you seen this same fairly-like creature suddenly perch itself on a twig, in the shade,
its misty wings and fanlike tail folded,
the iridescent glory vanished,
looking like some common dull-plumaged little bird sitting listless in a cage?”
The on-again-off-again beauty of hummingbirds is ethereal. Their feathers seem to glow with inner light. When we close our eyes the images of these lively little beings seem to linger on the backs of our eye-lids. If we let them, they fly directly into the soul, bypassing all our ideas and theories.
D. H. Lawrence once wrote a poem about the dawn of creation when an enormous hummingbird was flying out on the leading edge of time as the world took shape behind it. Real hummers, of course, are tiny, but there is a sense in which the world is indeed created anew every time a hummingbird flies. When our eyes follow them, we see beauty unfolding. Hummers dart through woods or meadows like tiny elves or fairies who know exactly where they want to go. They whir buzz, and zoom from one splash of color to the next, approaching red or blue flowers with wing-beats so fast all can we see is a blur.
As creatures that move and live and have their being around irises and penstemons, hummingbirds pause magically in the air, defying gravity, aiming their needle-like beaks into the sweet inner mysteries of the flowers, then they plunge head first, half disappearing. Coming back out, they fly backwards, sometimes covered with pollen. Hummingbirds are fully alive and insanely happy. These dazzling little creatures have a radiance about them. They give the human heart something it deeply needs.