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A New Desert Mother

The Humane Society of the United States

Has an animal influenced your faith? Contributors to The Francis Files share their stories.

by Phyllis Strupp

Why was she doing that—up, down, back and forth—right in front of me?

Once she had my full attention, she showed me her secret: Gracefully, this Costa hummingbird lowered herself down into a tiny nest near our back door.

Her intentions quickly became clear: She wanted my help securing her nest. The wind was vigorously throwing it around like a yo-yo. It was clear no egg or baby could endure such a joyride.

Two weeks earlier, we discovered a broken egg the size of a jellybean near the back door. Was it from the same hummingbird? Was she so determined to achieve maternal success that she was humble enough to ask for help? 

Using some wire and scissors, I tied up the long, flowing branches of the cape honeysuckle. She watched intently, bobbing around on her nest, apparently teetering between fear and hope. After I was finished, the nest seemed more stable.

We left for two weeks that morning. While we were gone, The Weather Channel indicated our home would endure high winds on two days. I wondered how the would-be desert mother was faring.

When we arrived home, the first thing I did was check the nest. There she was, right in place! A week later, there were two little heads sticking up out of the nest, adorned with the same distinctive white throats as their mother.

All three of them became used to us walking by and looking up at them. In the hot afternoon sun, the mother bird would go to a nearby fountain and sip mouthfuls of water to take back to them.

Another week later, just in time for Mother's Day, she coaxed the fledglings out of the nest much as a parent encourages a child to walk.
Not long after that, I saw her feeding one of the fledglings in a nearby tree.

But, soon enough, this desert mother will be alone again, making her way through the world with a body that weighs less than an ounce and a spirit strong enough to ask for help.

If she can figure it out, maybe I can too.

Dance, hummingbird, dance
back and forth in the cooling mist.
Your babies have flown
and once again
you're all alone.
So dance, hummingbird, dance.
Dance for the joy
of being alive
on a warm spring morn in the Desert.

Phyllis Strupp is the author of The Richest of Fare: Seeking Spiritual Security in the Sonoran Desert, winner of the Independent Publishing Award for Best Mind-Body-Spirit Book in 2005.

Do you have a story to share? Submit your story and we may share it with our readers. The opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Humane Society of the United States.

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