Consider the Hummingbird

Reading great writing is a joy.


In 2017, the Oregon based writer Brian James Patrick Doyle died at the age of 60 of a brain tumor. He was a spiritual writer whose prose are remarkable. They are joyful and alive and playful. He connected us with the wonders of the natural world and the human heart. He was a beautiful writer and by all accounts, a beautiful human being.


His collection of essays entitled One Long River of Song begins with this chapter heading:


That the Small Is Huge, That the Tiny Is Vast, That Pain Is Part and Parcel of the Gift of Joy, and That This Is Love

The very first essay is entitled Joyas Voladoras and every time I read it, I smile through tears because it reminds me of everything I loved and feared about my Tom.


Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird's heart beats ten times a second. Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backward. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing...their hearts barely beating, and if they aren't soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be.
The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It's expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.





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