Winter Thoughts on Bears, Hummingbirds, and Gratitude

Occasionally, during a long, rainy Oregon winter, on days when it’s nearly impossible to gage time because it is so sunless and devoid of shadows, I think I want to be a bear:  Eat all summer, sleep all winter, and wake up skinny in the spring. Bears got it right, I think, on our winter days when the sun sets at 4:30 pm, and doesn’t rise again until almost 8 am the next day.

Anna's Hummingbirds
Anna’s Hummingbirds, ink and watercolor 2020 by Julianna Paradisi

Bears, I think, got it right.

But on a winter’s day such as today, I’m glad I’m not missing it because I’m asleep. I rejoice in the lavender shadows of trees cast on fresh snow by the sun. The air temperature remains cold; it will not rise above freezing this day, but where the sun hits it, the snows drips, drips, drips anyway. Later this evening, after sunset, it will freeze again, creating ice that will continue to make travel by car difficult.

But I don’t travel by car. I walk. My pink snow boots are gird with traction devices. I call them “shoe chains.” They make treading on slick, ice covered streets very manageable.

This morning I took a long walk, taking photographs of scenes in the fresh snow that fell most of yesterday, and last night.

Afterwards, I returned to check in on the condition of my hummingbird feeders.

I’ve written before about caring for hummingbirds during freezing weather. Although I am living in a rented home during the remodel of my permanent one, I am managing to maintain my hummingbird feeders as they were. 

Because of the direct sunlight, I’ve found the nectar hasn’t frozen during the day, so I stopped alternating the two I have, and now they are both available to my tiny, jewel-like guests. 

As soon as I put the second one out, however, the magenta-headed male Anna’s Hummingbird (they don’t migrate in the winter) positioned himself on the dormant, potted fuchsia between the two feeders. I watched for a while as he warded off all comers, denying them access to either feeder, despite there being plenty of nectar for all. 

Greed is a very common peculiarity, isn’t it?

The Anna’s Hummingbird hasn’t done anything to gather or create the feeder with its nectar. It exists for him because of my beneficence. I provide the feeders with nectar because I enjoy watching the hummingbirds. 

Despite this arrangement, the hummingbird guards both feeders, keeping them to himself. He’s very aggressive, and I consider with gratitude that he is not the size of a pigeon, let alone a pterodactyl.

But I forgive his arrogant little self. We humans are not much better in our behavior.

I love this cold, sunny, snowy day. I’m glad I’m not asleep.

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