All winter long I gazed sorrowfully at
the wooden hummingbird that hung from the window ledge.
The left wing was missing!
Often, looking at the sad sight, I recalled the famous Langston Hughes poem, “Dreams:”
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
The Cuban hummingbird was not just any old bird!
Five years ago, in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, I had received a visitation from a very rare species,
affectionately nicknamed “Zunzuncito” by the Cuban people.
To commemorate that event, I brought back two hand-carved wooden
hummingbirds from a street vendor. One for my friend Vi and one for me.
The broken-winged bird hung from a slender string attached to a nail above the window ledge.
As I scoured the floor under the window,
I tried to think logically.
How could the little brown wing have disappeared?
Had someone swept it up in a passion of fastidiousness,
not recognizing how precious it was?
I looked everywhere: under the rug, lamp, and flower pots.
Had it gotten swept up with pine needles under the Christmas tree?
Did a grandchild carry it off, not knowing what it was?
This morning, however, after my journal/Lenten reading/prayer time,
I looked at the bird one more time.
If I were a falling wing, where might I land?
All of a sudden, I felt a surge of intuitive knowledge:
“Look in the jungle, under the dead leaves.”
Sure enough, there in the center flower pot,
under a bed of brown leaves,
was my little “Zunzuncito” wing.
I joyfully plucked the wing from under the leaves,
noticing that the artisan who made it had carved feather grooves into its sides.
I placed it carefully back into the special hole on the side of the bird,
making a note that both wings need a tiny dollop of glue to avoid another wing-oscopy.
Today, on Friday the 13th of March, in the midst of a global health crisis,
with a prayer list longer than usual,
and a fresh sense of the fragility of life,
I am holding fast to dreams, thankful to Langston Hughes.
Here is a humble haiku to celebrate:
A bird with one wing
cannot fly, nor will it sing,
until dreams return.
What sign(s) of hope are you seeing in this time of crisis? Let’s gather our dreams together and send them flying to health care workers, politicians of both parties, mayors, governors, those struggling to breathe, and those struggling with fear.