My house on the mountain is mostly glass, when it comes right down to it. There's a window in two walls of every room, and the whole front of the house is a soaring wall of glass reaching almost 40 feet toward the tip of the stonework. Taking the ancient advice offered those who live in glass houses, I'll try and tell this tale gently if I can. It's true every word, but it's not entirely about hummingbirds.


Having a bit of a soft spot for, well, almost everything, I feed the birds. I especially love the little buzzing turbojet hummingbirds that come by to drink the colored red water that I mix with sugar and the bird vitamins the pet store people assure me are just the thing. Hummingbirds, they told me, are naturally cautious and although I keep bees and have learned to move slowly, I never could get close enough to learn much about them.


One August afternoon, a heard a thunk, and the cats scrambled like F-16s off the deck to seek, find, and eat whoever it was that just flew into a window and was now too dazed to fly away. I beat them there to pick up a green-breasted hummingbird, heart pounding, breathing hard, blinking, and quite unable to do much else. Sometimes there's nothing but the music, and this was one of those times, so I sang the hummingbird song. Soothing, sweet, I'll-hold-you-until-you-can-fly-away. Everyone knows that song, or one very much like it.

She eventually gathered herself together, climbed up, and perched on my index finger staring at me and wondering whatever it is that hummingbirds wonder. I kept singing, soothing and reassuring her until she finally flew away. Not that I could keep a hummingbird, of course, or would even want to, but I was both happy she could fly away and not-exactly-sad that she did.

I'm not much of an ornithologist, which is to say that green-breasted hummingbirds all pretty much look the same to me. I could recognize this one though, by the way she flew, and she kept coming by to drink all summer. She was understandably wary of the house, flying a tight pattern from the West to avoid the North-facing glass. I don't know when or why I decided to try this, but I wondered what hummingbirds might wonder and held out my index finger. For the rest of the summer, on most weekends after breakfast, a hummingbird would perch there. So small, so delicate, and so trusting of such a big creature whose motives she didn't understand.

Well, possibly didn't understand ...

Two years have passed and hummingbirds, like all things, eventually cease to be. So there's simply no explaining why once again, as Spring comes to the mountains, green-breasted hummingbirds will perch on my index finger if I sit quietly and wait. I suppose even hummingbirds have stories to tell each other: There's a giant in the mountains, and he'll catch you if you fall.