Hummingbirds and Spider Webs

+ hummingbird 16999850_sBoston’s Franklin Park Zoo is excited about a pregnant hummingbird. The zoo’s only female has built a nest and laid an egg – an unusual occurrence for hummingbirds in captivity. The news was reported in the Boston Globe, with a picture of a beautiful hummingbird perched on its tiny nest.

This story caught my eye because I’ve got hummingbirds on the brain. I had a close encounter of the spiritual kind with a hummingbird last Fall while my family and I were visiting Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Our tour guide had taken us to the remains of an ancient above-ground kiva, a sacred stone-walled circular building. Nancy guided us into a meditative state and gave us a few moments to be quiet in the sacred space of the kiva and the vast blue sky. Honoring each of the four directions in turn, I suddenly spotted a hummingbird. We watched it suck the nectar from first one flower and then another. In this desert terrain, where we saw only a few other signs of animal wild-life, this felt special to us – a visitation from the animal spirit world.

Native Americans see the relationship between nature and animals as powerful and meaningful. Based on the animals’ physiology and habits and the myths surrounding them, animals represent different qualities and spiritual powers. By learning about an animal, Native Americans believe we can connect with the animal’s energy and be helped and supported by it in our life.

I have tracked the animals that came into my awareness for years and studied their symbolic meaning. Out in New Mexico, I recalled that some sources describe hummingbird’s keynote power as joy. I certainly felt joy when I saw the bird in the Canyon, but I was eager to learn more.

When I came home from the Southwest, I checked a few sources for both facts and spiritual symbology about hummingbirds. The information I found inspired some hummingbird practices:

1. The hummingbird is so named because its wings beat so fast – from 60 to 200 times per second – they create a humming sound. One source suggested that this humming reminds us to hum. I discovered years ago that humming helps me relax and fall asleep when I’m tense or if I’m sick and my body feels out of sorts. Humming creates a gentle internal massage in our bodies. The vibration works like a tuning fork treatment, getting the organs and bones buzzing and vibrating. It is truly calming and restorative. First hummingbird practice: Hum!

2. Hummingbirds are master fliers. Not only do they fly very fast, but they can also fly in all directions and hover. Their total range of speed goes from a standstill-hover to sixty miles per hour. And they can fly backwards as well as forwards and sideways. Ah, to be as adept as hummingbird at moving and maneuvering, metaphorically speaking, in our lives! Imagine sizing up a situation or an interaction and being able to quickly and adroitly side-step, back away or step right into it as we deem best. Many a difficult conversation would benefit from this capacity to maneuver. Many an opportunity could be explored with hummingbird’s ability to go full speed ahead or hover thoughtfully. Imagine all of this happening with hummingbird’s ease and grace! Second practice: Maneuver in our lives with the hummingbird’s skill of flight.

3. Because it’s the smallest of birds on the planet, hummingbird builds a very small nest – about the size of half of an English walnut. Their eggs are about half an inch long. We’re talking small! But, once the babies are born and start to grow, they need a bit more room. Hummingbird’s solution? They use spider web silk to bind the nest together when they build it. The elasticity of the silk allows the nest to expand as the young hummingbirds grow. Third spiritual practice from hummingbird: Incorporate energetic elasticity into our lives so we can grow and expand. For example, keep an open mind that can modulate and change. Or, periodically set intentions and goals that support our growth, stretch our comfort zone.

4. Hummingbirds go from flower to flower consuming half their body weight in nectar every day. We probably shouldn’t do that (smile!), but nectar also represents the sweetness in life. Flowers bring beauty to the planet and joy to us. According to Native American tradition, hummingbird reminds us to see beauty, to delight in flowers, aromas, the beauty of being alive. Hummingbird teaches us to suck the nectar from life, to share it with others. Being in touch with this opens our hearts, expands our Spirit. Fourth practice: savor the sweetness of life, find its beauty, and share its joy.

So, be a hummingbird! Hum, maneuver with agility, create the means to expand and take in life’s nectar. You don’t have to see a hummingbird in a kiva to connect with hummingbird’s energy. Simply ask it into your life and invite its many qualities to help, inform and support you. Your life will only get sweeter if you do.

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