What it Means to be Free

At dinnertime here in the central mountains of Mexico, the colibries (hummingbirds) in my ‘hood flock to the feeders on my terrace for their last drink of the day.

There are dozens of them, or at least that’s how it seems. They’re hard to count (and to photograph) — always flitting, swooping, darting, swishing, pushing, shoving, flying forward and backward, sometimes bumping into each other like bumper cars at the county fair, then stopping briefly for some sips of sweet nectar before nightfall when they rush off to wherever bed is.

Four colibries at two of my feeders

Not having a cat or dog or any other dependent creature in my life here in San Miguel de Allende now, I consider these colibries my pets. I’d name them if I could – short names befitting their tiny, thumb-size stature, like Joe or Sam or Sue or Ike – but I’m sure even I couldn’t tell them apart. I feed them, happily refilling my feeders every day with the sugar-water solution I make (in a 1:4 ratio) to keep them coming back to me.

Just two of “my” colibries

Then every late-afternoon/early-evening I sit and watch them from a small table on my terrace as if this were the best show in town. And sometimes they swoop in within inches of my face as if to say hi or thanks.

More swooping in

I learned recently that the hummingbird is the bird assigned to the astrological sign Taurus. Well, that’s me! But how diametrically different the almost-weightless, darting, ethereal hummingbird is from us heavy, plodding, earthbound bulls. It must be the bird we would most wish to be, if promised a big wish. Yes! To be small and light and to dance in the air like that — so carefree!

I’ve never been a birder. You know, the type of person who tiptoes among the brambles like a burglar at dawn with big binoculars in hand. I’ve simply envied birds from afar for most of my life. As a young child I even envied flies, for the same reason: They can fly! I wanted so badly to fly away.

But birders appear to make a specialty of this envy. Remember Christian Cooper, the birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park who was falsely accused of threatening a woman and her unleashed dog three years ago? Longer story shortened: That woman lost her job. But Cooper got a better one. He became the host of National Geographic’s new show, “Extraordinary Birder.”

Christian Cooper, birdwatcher

Cooper has also written a soon-to-be published book, titled Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World, an excerpt of which was published this week as an essay in The New York Times’s Opinion section:


It’s a beautiful essay, which echoes my sentiments about hummingbirds but goes, of course, much further. It makes me want to become a birder.

I’ll quote a little from Cooper’s essay here and then let him have the last word: “…beyond all that, we [birdwatchers] love birds for a simple reason: They can fly. We see them launch themselves effortlessly up into a medium with no boundaries while we remain earthbound, and we are inspired to dream.

“Imagine watching land and sea unfold beneath you not through the windows of an airplane but under your own power. The things that you’ve left behind recede to insignificance, put into new perspective by a towering vantage point. What it must be like to hang suspended on the wind, how radically different to conceive of movement not in two dimensions, not just as backward and forward, left and right, but in three — always infinite possibilities of direction, the body rising and falling at will. We lift our gaze skyward to the birds and see what it means to be free.”

32 thoughts on “What it Means to be Free”

  1. As always I love reading your thoughts…. So funny as so many hit so close to home. My mom has hummingbird feeders at her house and delights in their existence. In the fall she knows when they are about to leave to stay their journey to you. They just returned and again they will be a huge part of her life in Vermont. Brasos y Besitos.

    1. Thank you, dear Kimberly. Holly and I should train “our” hummingbirds to deliver messages back and forth to us! 🙂 So glad you liked this post. — Abrazos y besitos to you, BB xx

    1. Yes! This is one of the reasons I’ve never been afraid of death. I’ve always imagined we (or at least our spirits) will be able to FLY in the next realm. Of, course, I could always be wrong! 🙂

  2. Wonderful Bonnie.
    Thank you so much for the update on Mr Cooper. I will try to locate the National Geographic program.
    We are back in Ann Arbor for the summer. A few years ago, sitting on our terrace I quite suddenly heard a very loud brief roar in my ear. Turning quickly I managed to see the hummingbird – who had nearly touched my ear

  3. Oh Bonnie! Thank you so much for the loveliness you bring.
    I too am a Taurus and humming birds have been a source of joy and healing for me since I was a child in the early 50s, spending my summers in Freehold, New Jersey. They haven’t forsaken me—they’re here in Taos!

    “The little girl is at a window in the early morning. She rests her chin on her arm over the wooden ledge of peeling paint and puckered wood. Sunlight releases the smell of warming skin and it mixes with the wafting sweetness of phlox. Tall pink, violet, and snow-white panicles of tiny florets reach up to meet her. Hummingbirds swirl, dart, and hover around the flowers. She is still, immersed. She melts into their world—the air they ride, the wall sheltering the phlox, the rays of sun their shimmering iridescence reflects. Their ease around her, their disregard of her is comforting. it wraps her in a soft cocoon and holds her. She eases into it.”
    (a little memory)

  4. Beatifull Sra Bonnie…I also see a lot of Them on our side also I want it to mention something;its great to have such a nice neighbors!!!

    1. Gracias, querido Gabriel! I’m so happy that you and your family are now settled in to your lovely new home next door. But you must know that all of the colibries are MINE! (Ha-ha — una broma! 🙂

  5. Years ago, I was sent a card with a hummingbird photograph. Below, it read:
    Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, and the only birds to fly backwards and upside down. They dart from flower to flower, searching for nectar, but are also capable of flying long distances. Thus, the hummingbird has become symbolic of reminding us to stop, and appreciate what beauty is in front of us, as well as to value perseverance. Also, because of the way their wings move, forming a figure eight shape, or the sign for eternity. Thus, by sending you this hummingbird photo, I send you my wishes for a fulfilled long life!
    I wish the same for you Bonnie.

    We don’t have hummingbirds where I live, but we have a wonderful array of parrots, magpies and kookaburras, all with their own personalities. During COVID lockdown, we were forced to stay home, and I would sit in my garden every day, taking note of the seasonal changes and soon birds joined me. Of course, I couldn’t resist giving them food. which is why they returned. One day, an entire flock of corellas circled my home, high above the sky, until they were suddenly on my lawn. I found amusement and peace, sitting in the sun, and a tranquility I hadn’t experienced for a long time.

    1. I’ve never been to Australia, Loula (though I have been to New Zealand); but when you write your WOW comments, I feel I’m sitting across your kitchen table there. It’s such a pleasure to “hear” your thoughts and memories. Thank you so much for writing and sharing.

  6. Dear Bon,
    You have not only delightful birds but also a breathtaking view! I’m also a fan of Chris Cooper. I have gotten to know him a bit because he is an occasional host on a weekly youtube news program I watch. He is a lovely man and very interesting. I am planning to read his book when it comes into paperback.

    1. Funny how Fate works, isn’t it, Paul darling? That awful experience for him in Central Park ultimately opened beautiful doors for him! Could you give us the name of (or link to) the YouTube program he’s on? I’d love to see it too. — LU, BB xx

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