This last Sunday before Fall succeeds summer seems just the time to ask the question, “How did you spend your summer?”
Remember before we explore two answers to that question, that the many stories shared in our Sunday morning visits often suggest that there are no coincidences in life. So today, let us share a tale, not of coincidence, but of convergence.
It begins with my adult niece Sara Cunningham Luby-Baluha (second child of my late sister Mary Cunningham Luby who died when Sara was just 5.) As she recovers from a successful surgery, she was touched and inspired by the images of hummingbirds sent to her at her Connecticut home. In emails, she told me, her Aunt Liz Luby, and her sibling Alice Cunningham Luby Bedell that the almost invisible birds were fortifying themselves for their flight to warmer climates.
That is where Richard Schiffman entered the picture. Richard is the widely published biographer, writer on scientific, spiritual, and environmental issues and panelist at the recent Hunter/CUNY Writer’s Circle Summer Symposium. I asked if I might share his poem with all of you. Since he is a man as kind as he is brilliant, he welcomed the sharing. His poem appears below. I hope that you too will be nourished by the electric connection between Richard’s poem and Sara’s hummingbirds.
A Lesson in Stillness
What do you do out there? they ask.
— I watch hummingbirds, I reply.
The world is unraveling and you watch hummingbirds?
— Someone has to do it.
You just sit around and do nothing?
— I watch hummingbirds.
So what do you see in them?
— Little flames on fire with themselves.
I’ll grant they’re pretty, ruby red throats and all.
— That’s not what I mean.
What do you mean?
— I mean life blazing in small containers.
Cute little buggers.
— Rapacious is more like it.
So it’s their hunger you fancy?
— No, it’s how they hover.
Like one flower in front of another.
— Flowers don’t have wings.
You can’t even see a hummingbird’s wings, they move so fast.
— Exactly my point.
That they move fast?
— In order to hang stock-still in the air.
A real paradox.
— Let’s call it a lesson.
What is the lesson?
— It’s what I’m spending my summers learning.
What are you learning?
— How to keep still.
Why would you want to keep still?
— To sip the nectar.
So just stop moving; what could be simpler?
— You’re confusing torpor for stillness.
What’s the difference?
— Three thousand wing beats per minute
Looking back on months of natural disasters and manmade discord, being treated to the insights of patient, poet and photographer are gifts. They converge like varied paths to inspiration, to provide the perfect antidote to the negative. Let them deliver assurance that hope and healing remain possible; that they will emerge like discernment of the almost invisible birds. All at 3000 beats per minute.
Poem by Richard Schiffman from What the Dust Doesn’t Know, Published by Salmon Poetry
Photos by Paul Swanson, except opening photo by Bigstock by Shutterstock