A beautiful autumn day with shifting light, and the wind speaks of the cold and sleep ahead. The leaves are turning, and caught in the waves traversing the garden. Beautiful and sad, a melancholy settles on the ground as everyone and everything scurries in preparation for what is coming. All this is very familiar.
What is new is the disappearance of Elvis and all his friends and co-actors. About three weeks ago, when the weather was deciding whether to change or not, our neighbors left. What a summer sharing the garden with them.
Elvis, with his red cravat, was in charge of the feeder. He took his job seriously and did not fail to make sure everyone knew what was allowed. When Elvis was not drinking the nectar himself, he was guarding over it and regulating its use. Others, mainly females, were allowed to imbibe or chased away at incredible speed.
The dance was amazing. Always coming and going, weaving in and out of the branches in patterns that no one could think up. Witnessing this, it was clear that thought could not even be ascribed to any of them. They were with their experience, they let whatever came up come up, and for them there was no question that they were all functioning appropriately and efficiently.
The darting and diving were amazing to watch. So fast and able, so clear and decisive. But that was not the greatest part: seeing the action so clean and direct, all of the birds passionate and disentangled participants.
Elvis’s stillness was gloriously aware. Though I loved to watch him dive and chase others from the feeder, when he stood totally ready without attacking or retreating was the time to really watch and learn. Elvis was one-pointed without being rigid. He could move in a heartbeat without forsaking stillness. When most of us think of hummingbirds we have in mind a constant movement. The wings never stop. Elvis commanded through his still awareness.
Elvis was the king. One day a large hawk came and settled on one of Elvis’s boughs. Elvis was not far away. The hawk never went for Elvis. He wouldn’t probably because the hummingbird is too small. But we knew it was because Elvis was the king of the garden, and when he stood at attention he was bigger than any other bird entering this terrain.
Elvis knew who he was, knew who the other hummingbirds were, knew the other birds and thoroughly knew the terrain. There was no movement, no going forward, unless appropriate. No retreat occurred without the utmost of strategy. Elvis did not think, he knew.
Birds like Elvis are teachers of stillness. They may not have our level of consciousness and sophistication, but they are committed and decisive, both in stillness and in action. And even in action, they remain still. Elvis was, in his limited way, one-pointed. And it was brilliant to see. Though I attributed individuality to him, he had none, nor was he looking for any.
My summer was spent sharing the stage with Elvis. Whether I was inside or on the deck, every day was interspersed with sitting and sharing the stillness and life with Elvis. Such a large being in a small body, his presence was always felt. So alive.
Looking forward to next summer when Elvis returns—or at least an Elvis impersonator.
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