Beautiful little messenger

A week ago Saturday, Anne and I were walking our dog Stella alongside a busy street. I was walking ahead of them a ways when I saw a colorful shape on the road. When I realized what it was, I was surprised and dismayed. The tiny still form was a beautiful hummingbird.

I bent down and carefully lifted the nearly weightless creature. He laid unmoving, his body slightly curled up. Although I could not see any visible injuries, he did not appear to be breathing, nor did he struggle as I carried him. I did not have a plastic bag with me or anything else to safely carry him in, so I emptied out one of my jacket pockets and gently laid him in there. Then Anne and I stopped at the grocery store, one of us shopping while the other waited outside with Stella. Then we walked through a nearby park and went home.

When I removed him from my  pocket, I was surprised to see that his body had straightened out and his eyes were open. Were they open or closed before? I wasn’t sure. He still wasn’t moving at all (other than possibly his eyes). So I went upstairs and emptied out an old wooden recipe box to use as a bed for him. We did not have any nectar on hand, but Anne thought we could see if he would drink some soy milk. We poured a tiny amount in a bottle cap, and I held it near his tongue for a while. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, the liquid began vanishing.

Then he closed his eyes. So he was alive, but very weak. He made no attempt to fly or struggle. I laid him down in his box with the cap nearby, and placed him in our spare bathroom where he could have some peace and quiet. It seemed unlikely that he would recover, but at least he could have a peaceful passing without fear of being stepped on or found by another animal.

He died sometime in the next couple of hours, although his body remained flexible which made me cautious about assuming him dead. Eventually his eyes became sunken into his skull, although his feathers remained as vibrant as ever.

I was undecided about what to do with his body. I thought of trying to preserve it, but did not think I would be able to really preserve the beauty he possessed in life. Many beautiful things are temporary. We enjoy them for a little while and then learn to let go.

I thought about at least preserving his wings, but could not bring myself to cut him in any way. It just felt wrong. Still undecided about what to do with him, I placed his body in a sandwich bag and put him in the fridge. I knew I wanted to at least keep his bones, but was not sure how to go about that. After reading up on bone preservation online and talking with a few friends, I decided I would bury him. Anne purchased some potting soil a few months ago. All I needed to do was find a pot.

After searching in the garage, despairing of finding one, and resigning myself to wait until I went shopping again, I noticed the plant pot we have in the kitchen that we use as an odds ‘n ends holder. I am so accustomed to seeing it as an odds ‘n ends holder that it did not register in my brain that it was a plant pot, and the perfect size. So yesterday I buried him.

The lovely Snow of Swamp Witchery suggested I wrap the body in cheesecloth before burial to keep the bones together. As I laid him to rest, I noticed there was an angel design on the pot. I never realized it was there. I can’t remember where we got the pot and don’t remember receiving any plants for gifts. However we got it, the design seemed appropriate.

I did not have any fresh flowers on hand (Anne is allergic). It felt kind of strange to leave the soil bare, so I placed some cowrie shells and a fabric rose on top.

He is now resting on a quiet shelf in the garage. I’d like to place the pot outside, but we live in a condo with a shared yard and I worry that children or animals will mess with it and possibly damage the bones. I am not sure when I will bring the bones up. I guess when the time feels right. I am also not sure yet what I will do with his bones.

Why did this little bird cross my path? This is the second hummingbird we’ve encountered since coming to this neighborhood. The first one appeared to us shortly after we bought the place, when our realtor brought us by to check on some work that was being done before we moved in.  Hummingbirds always make me think about Marie, Anne’s stepmother who crossed over a couple of years ago.

I had been thinking about Marie off and on recently, probably due to the holidays. She really enjoyed the festivities. Perhaps the little bird was a sign from her in some way. They are so alike—tiny, beautiful and fleeting.

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2 Responses to “Beautiful little messenger”

  1. Its always sad when one finds animals close to death, but you provided a service where one was needed.
    I have read about burying in pots as well – I think the best advice I’ve read was leaving it for a year and a day, I know very Pagan sounding – but it seems like the right amount of time especially since your using potting soil where there isn’t any contact with bugs or worms.
    Be Well

  2. cheshirecatman Says:

    Thanks for your comments. I am familiar with the year and a day period in Vodou practices, and agree that would be a good idea given that the pot is not outdoors. Maybe by that time I’ll have some idea what I am supposed to do with his bones. 🙂

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