The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

A ruby-throated female spent a long time at my feeder this morning. Normally, hummingbirds act territorially, but the lady was calmly sharing with what looked to be a bumblebee, a small black flyer at the tube next to her.

Then the bumblebee rose up and flew straight at the hummer, and the hummer rose with beating wings and put her beak on the bee, which wasn’t a bee at all, but a baby hummingbird being fed by its mother, a sight so breathtaking that I wept. Its face was that of Roberta Flack’s song.

And so this day went. On my walk, seventeen egrets—five snowy and twelve greats—lined the shore of Scotch Jimmy Island. Some of them had youngsters chasing after them. One mom fluttered up and so did her youngster, and the mom flipped and flew, and so did her youngster, and the mom landed and so did her youngster. We’ve all been there. Can’t get any me time.

At the top of Stroke hill, a bald eagle perched in a sycamore tree and watched two puppies in a back yard. I shouted, and the eagle soared off. Along the river, yet another eagle drafted over the treetops.

The cicada chorus sang its mad-inducing ascending and descending song, and frogs joined in. Carolina wrens and mockingbirds shouted each other down. I know I am among the last on earth to hear and see such sights—birds are disappearing as are insects—and so may this essay be part of the last record of the last days.

It is grasshopper season. Every step along the river path stirred the hoppers up and away on dry wings. The last of the summer butterflies root in the dust and puddles along the way, soaking up nutrients and minerals. Dog-eye sulfur butterflies flitted about and so did tiny purple hairstreaks and giant, fan-shaped purple swallowtails.

The local roads have begun wriggling with fuzzy caterpillars wending their way forward. I have never seen a bird pluck up a caterpillar. Perhaps some chemistry is involved. Swallows flit around the bluffs and gorge on butterflies.

This is the worst tomato season I remember. I love tomatoes, have been known to eat five or more a day in good years. My friend Farmer Orville’s tomatoes are red and chewy and tasteless. I bought five tomatoes at Ringhausen’s Orchard, ate one and threw away four.

The three greatest tastes on earth: Tomatoes. Peaches. Women. I could eat all of them every day and never get tired. Not necessarily in that order.

I walked up past the hummingbird feeder. Three ladies sipped nectar cocktails. Maybe the baby, sated and drowsy, maybe the baby, nature’s ambsace, maybe the baby

was asleep.

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