The Hummingbird Chronicles, part 2

August 3, 2013

After three days of just sporadic glimpses  of the birds, I decided it was time to return to HD to get a replacement fuschia, what seemed to be the only solution to regaining hold of our birds. We had observed the flight patterns of the birds in the recent days and saw that they were diagonally charted from above us to the left, to below us to the right. When I leaned my head over the balcony rail, I could see them stopping at a balcony about two over and two up from us. Someone had stolen our hummingbirds. I think that was when I decided we didn’t have to wait for the fuschia to recover and begin blooming again- we could start afresh with a new plant, bountifully draped in the luscious purple lobed flowers. I announced to Jimmie that we would go to HD after lunch and at about 1:30, we got into the car and drove to the HD nursery. I strode purposefully into the garden area, Jimmie following as quickly as he could. I wanted to dash in and out with our purchase to get back to the viewing platform as quickly as possible. I turned the corner and went to the fuschia area where I had bought the last plant, and much to my horror, the plants were gone, replaced by some ferns and other flower bearing plants. I sought it a young man to help me. I said, do you still have fuschias? No, he said, we are out of the season for fuschias. My face must have revealed my disappointment; Jimmie was standing there patiently waiting and I was loathe to tell him that we were out of luck. I plowed on. “You see”, I said, to the two young men who were now helping me, “we have had hummingbirds visiting our balcony and the fuschia plant, and we went away, and when we returned, the plant had died. Now the hummingbirds have left.”  The eager young man on the left visibly brightened and jumped into action. “Oh, I just took a picture of the hummingbird this morning over near the bougainvillea. And I also noticed a tag on some of the plants just outside that said hummingbird on them. Here, let me show you.” We trotted outside, leaving Jimmie to follow and join us. The young man took me to a table with lantana and some other low flowering plants and gestured over the table like a psychic over a crystal ball. “It was somewhere on this table that I saw the tag on the pot. Or,” he said, moving to his right to a low pallet on the ground filled with lavender flowered drought resistant plants, “somewhere over here. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“No,” I said, “this has been very helpful. I will continue to look at these two tables.”

As the young man walked back into the garden cage, I looked over the table and pallet, and picked up the lantana. I figured the bright orange and red flowers would at least visually draw the birds to our balcony. As I made my way back into the garden cage area, after telling Jimmie to go back to the car to wait for me- standing a long time is difficult for him,  froze in my tracks. There at the pallet was a hummingbird energetically and methodically sipping from the hundreds of pink flowers on the status-like purple flowered plant, as well as at the neighboring red flowered plant, similar in type – both looked like they were from the same genus as the Lavender plants we used to have in our back yard in Van Nuys.

August 7, 2013

This morning beginning at 6:45 AM there was a positive frenzy of activity at the feeder. Originally, when I had installed the birdfeeder to the railing of the balcony, I had used metal straps and after attaching the bracket to the banister, there was a 6 inch extra piece of metal that jutted out into the open air be on the balcony. At the time, I thought I should perhaps cut that off because it sticks out and it might catch someone’s attention to the balcony. But as our building ages and the time of its keep painting approaches, I thought I might want to leave that extra hanging there so it’s easier to remove this when the time comes to paint the building. And so I left it. In the past few days, that metal extra piece has become the perch with a male hummingbird who is trying to assert his dominion over the hummingbird guards will sit. With his neck cocked at a 90° angle to his body, he searches the sky for other approaching hummingbirds who might trespass in his domain. His angry cheeps match almost exactly the call that I found on Google when I searched for hummingbird calls. Yes, I did that, too.  And this morning the activity around the bush was extraordinary. One bird would arrive and feed intently at the blossoms of the bush. The second bird would arrive and sit at the feeder and suddenly the first bird would back up from the bush and the second bird at the feeder would back up from the feeder and a dog fight would ensue in the airspace directly parallel to the balcony. The winner of this dogfight would then retreat to the perch and sit there cheeping his success. The other interesting behavior which I observed in this morning was the bird who would come and sit on the balcony and try to feed from the blossoms without flapping his wings. Alas, he found that the blossoms were just out of reach and so he had to begin flapping again from the bush. This thrilling display of avian pride and aptitude is distracting, when you’re trying to read both the New York Times and the LA Times and do the LA Times crossword puzzle before going to work. I’m getting nothing done. It’s become an obsession. And you know what, it’s okay with me.

Saturday, August 10

Yesterday, late in the day, our planters arrived that we had ordered from Home Despot. I had stopped by Home Despot on my way home from work yesterday, only to discover yet again that the plants that I was looking for had already passed out of the season. Again I was pretty unprepared, and so I chose two plants that had bright orange trumpet flowers and some gardenias which I thought would be appealing to the birds. I brought them home and I put them out on the balcony while I took the cart back downstairs and when I came back Jimmie said that none of the birds had gone near the plants. So I figured that I would just take them back the next day to Home Despot. Which is what I did. This morning, I went to Home Despot And lingered in the garden area, looking to see if the hummingbirds would visit any of the plants. And sure enough, the hummingbird salesperson who had helped me the previous week went feeding at the  salvia plants, and also near some  purple plants with heads like Queen Anne’s lace. I put them in the cart and found a hibiscus plant with an orange flower and planter for that plant and went home. My stomach, was growling by the time I got home.  After breakfast I started with the planting process laying them out in the planters and then filling the planters with the soil. I used to do a lot of gardening, when Jimmie and I had first moved out to Los Angeles and purchased our starter home in North Hollywood. The backyard of the house was a vast expanse of concrete. It has little corralled areas which were full of sand and ultimately full of sand and cat poop once our cats have gone in the backyard and anointed the areas. We hired a man whose name was Jack and he came in with a sledgehammer he broke out all of the concrete in the backyard. A friend of ours, had arranged for him to come and we paid him and now I’m thinking seemingly small amount of money to do this incredibly difficult job. I think Jack ultimately died, which put a pallor on the garden. Hopefully not because of our garden project, but uncomfortably close to the conclusion of it. Anyway, that garden and the subsequent garden on our old street have been entertaining to me and also very satisfying. However when I begin working in south Los Angeles and driving back and forth to the valley I no longer had time for gardening, and so I turn the gardening over to professionals. Five years ago, when we move downtown to our apartment on the 11th floor facing the north we gave up our gardeners and pool man and the huge water bill that we paid every other month in the Valley. I think our water bill was more frequently than not in the $675 range. So now I think nothing of dropping 50 bucks at Home Depot for plants to go in the planter and I think nothing of the time that it takes to honeypots some plants and make the garden beautiful. It is a manageable space for me, financially, emotionally and physically.

So this morning, the only problem with my garden project was that the birds were very frantic  when I begin filling the planters  with soil and plants because I was standing directly under the feeder. I could hear their frenzied  chirps as they urged me to hurry to finish my planting.

August 13, 2013

I downloaded the video footage that I took the other morning at 6 AM when the hummingbirds were just beginning to rally. There are images of one and two and three and finally for hummingbirds darting around in the space of the viewfinder. What I realize now two is that my footage hummingbirds sometimes blurry and sometimes clear. I think this might be a result the fact that there is active construction going on but large 22 story building just beyond our balcony. The camera lens doesn’t know whether to focus on that movement or on the hummingbird movement. As result, occasionally I have very sharp images of the birds and sometimes I have blurry images of the bird and sharper images of the construction maybe it’s because of my advancing age, but I seem to be able to see every observation as a metaphor something larger. The footage of the hummingbirds, is a minute examination of a shared hobby with Jimmie. It represents something that is brought us together to experience the sheer and now in a very visceral and satisfying way. We truly take delight in reporting to each other as our attentions turned from the feeder to the newspaper in the morning, that oh, there is one there now. Or here comes Sheriff Sam,  the bully bird that sits on the perch and fights the  others off. The blurry construction in the background, represents a project that may or may not be finished in Jimmie’s lifetime. This is difficult for me to grapple with as I look out the window. It makes our appreciation of the feeder all that more poignant for me. And the images that my amateur camera is able to capture, become a talisman that we can share even after the sun has set and the birds have gone to roost in the trees. When I go off to work in the morning, when I return from work conversation naturally wanders to the success or failure of the future to draw the birds that day. Yesterday I came home from work, and when asking Jimmie when he did that day, he said I didn’t go to the park today. I didn’t want to leave the birds. And I understand that completely.

Meanwhile, the rest of our life proceeds apace. Jimmy goes off to the dentist to get his permanent crown. I go shopping for Chris’s 24th birthday presents. We plan a visit for next June with our dear friend Susan from South Africa. We think about whether to buy Red Sox dodger tickets next week. We watch a series of poor to middling Netflix movies on our new TV. But each day, I get up at six or 6:30, and set my sights on watching out the window for the inevitable return the hummingbirds.

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