This past weekend I witnessed something wonderful. Early in the morning on Saturday, while walking around the garden before the big storms arrived that had been forecast, and before we left the house to go to Knoxville to visit the offspring, I was able to view the most amazing thing. Of course my camera was not with me, it was too dark really to take a good photo, so why bring it out? It was just going to be a quick look at the garden’s status before the rain started. There cannot be enough looking at that status and I needed to fill up my eyes since we would be away for the day. The usual route had been followed, looking for progress in the blooms just opening and inhaling the scent of azaleas, dianthus and roses. The far corner where the arbor is providing support for newly planted roses and clematis was the first destination as the path was followed from the back door to the east. The shrub border was checked to admire the deciduous azaeleas still afire with color. The veggie area was checked for emerging sugar snap peas from the white blooms. The foxgloves at the back corner of the shed were checked for any apricot color visible from the swollen buds. The knot garden was checked for the progress of the dying tulip foliage to be at the stage where the celosia seedlings could be planted inside the quadrants. The step edges were checked for the appearance of any new diathus color combinations. As I was coming back towards the house, via the pond to check on the fish, Fido and Casey, a ruby throated hummingbird flew to the waterfall and stopped midair, looking at the water. I stood still as a statue, barely breathing for fear of frightening him away. He comtemplated the water for a short time, I thought he was maybe going to get a drink. And he did, touching his pointed beak on the rock where the water drips down. There was thunder in the distance, long and rolling. I remained with my feet glued to the spot on the stepping stone, waiting for what would happen next, heart racing. The tiny bird flew into the dripping water, landing on the sloping stone, and began bathing himself! He crossed his wings on his backside and shimmied and shook while clinging to the rock. He did not have his wings outspread like most birds do when they splash around in our various birdbaths. His head turned left and right speedily, hummingbirds even bathe quickly, just like they flutter their wings. He stayed under the tiny shower for several seconds. My mind was going wild, knowing there would be no running inside to retrieve the camera, I tried to memorize each moment, never wanting to forget what was being witnessed, for it is unlikely that I will ever happen upon such a wonder again. After becoming as clean as he wished, he flew to the nearby dogwood tree and landed on a branch. He was finishing his abulitions, preening his feathers and smoothing his wings. He spent a good amount of time getting every feather in place to his liking, then flew to a higher branch and began the routine over again. I was nearly in tears with happiness that he remained within sight as long as he did. Then it was up, up and away, hovering for a moment near the top of the vine laden walnut tree, then off to the west. I came inside to write this down before it could be forgotten or the memory altered by time.
The step stone to the right of the lowest stone in the above photo was where I was standing, looking inward toward the waterfall, scanning for orange fish Fido and white fish Casey when the visitor arrived.
The hummer refreshed himself with a bit of a sip from the sloping rock beneath the flat piece of flagstone where the water drips. He touched his beak to the wet surface at the edge while still midair. After a couple of drinks he landed under the second stream from the right for a shower, clinging to the stone with his claws.
The view while standing on the same stone where this scene had just been seen, with the camera this time, feet facing the pond and looking behind my left shoulder to the steps that lead to the top of the hill.
The view looking up the hill from the pond from the same position. As much delight as these views provide, the voyeur view of the hummingbird taking a shower was by far more wonderful than anything else the garden has ever offered.
A close up of the sacred spot on the sloping stone immediately after the witnessing of the event. It appears that a little memento was left by our feathered wonder, be it a feather, the preferred belief, or something else. Even though this iridescence has now been washed away, the the memory of it is etched in my mind’s eye forever.