My Grampa Jimmy loved hummingbirds. When he was in his prime, he lived with my grandmother in a big house, a house he built with his own hands, overlooking the lazy mountains of Northern Virginia. Shortly after the house was finished, Jimmy picked up his ladder and adorned almost every window of that house with bright red hummingbird feeders. Then, once a week he would mix the nectar - a simple syrup of sugar and water - and go from window to window, refilling the feeders.
He loved to watch them hovering in mid-air, drinking deeply from the flower-like openings. “Look here, girls,” he’d say. “If you sit still and watch closely, you might see one come along. You might even see one fly backwards...”
And so more often than not on those long, hot summer days, that’s where you could find us: sitting by a window listening to my grandfather tell hummingbird secrets in his hushed, delighted whisper.
We learned about their nests, how they were no bigger than half a walnut shell. How the mommy birds would use the silk from spiders to construct a cup-shaped home that could expand to accommodate her growing brood. How a hummingbird's heart-rate can exceed 1,000 beats per minute; how they need to drink their weight in nectar every day; how they live constantly on the brink of starvation, working all day to store up enough energy to make it through the night.
Looking back, it’s clear to me now what my grandfather was doing. It's true, he loved to catch a glimpse of those mysterious, allusive little birds, but there was more: Jimmy was a man of deep faith, and it seems to me that hanging the feeders, mixing the syrup, and watching the windows week after week was one of the ways he served and enjoyed God’s creation. In his own sweet, small way, Jimmy was helping out a fellow traveler, and letting us in on the magic.
Come to think of it, that’s what we’re trying to do over here at SALT. Through words, music, poetry, and film, we’re hoping to be a cool cup of water in a hard, lonely world; a little silk nest that will grow and grow and grow; a bright red cup full of nectar for hungry pilgrims on the way.
Thanks to Eli Duke for filming these baby hummingbirds with their hearts beating so fast, so fast. And, thanks to the whole SALT Team for working so hard, so hard to build this beautiful community of pilgrims.