Marianna came back to the same lovely garden at mating time every year. It was not large, but had several tall old trees in which to build her nest and lots of flowers to give her nourishment. It had always been a comfortable safe place to raise her chicks. Her mate, of course, departed immediately after the mating ritual and left all the work to her, as was the way with hummingbirds.
The older lady who lived in the house spent a great deal of time in the garden and Marianna felt secure and serene in her presence. When Marianna made her mad dashes to the brilliantly colored flowers she often heard “beautiful” or ” amazing” almost whispered as the lady smiled and watched her flitting from plant to plant. The lady probably did not know that Marianna also scooped up a thousand or two insects and spiders during her short forays every day in order to have protein for herself and to give to her chicks when they hatched.
Marianna sang her song of chirps happily and peacefully, and felt sure these chicks would live to carry on their family as had the others before them.
Then, one day, a younger woman came to live at the house. Marianna watched as this one sat outside for long periods, too…..But she felt different somehow. Though there were happy sounds coming from her at times, there was a sense of something dark and brooding as well.
Marianna always began her song of chirps at daybreak, as did all of her species. Had the humans been familiar with bird language, they would have heard her say, ” it is morning….I have rested through the night, and now must tell all that I have a nest in this tree, with tiny eggs that will hatch into beautiful hummingbirds. Beware, they are yet young and I will protect them with my life if need be.” Over and over she chirped her song throughout the daylight hours, and was very tired by nightfall.
One morning early, her song was interrupted by the banging of a long pole on her tree. She paused her chirps for a few minutes and wondered why the younger human female would try to hurt the lovely old tree. Surely the tree had caused no harm. She watched as the woman left the tree, moving her legs swiftly and slamming her feet hard onto the ground. She felt an agitation and an anger coming from the woman, and again paused her chirping song in sheer confusion, but began again, as it was the duty of female hummingbirds to send their message during the daylight hours.
Again on another morning, the tree was attacked brutally by the woman, this time with a long round hollow pole that caused a sound that frightened Marianna and vibrated through the poor tree. As before, she interrupted her song, and again she felt the anger, but this time it was accompanied by the words, ” murder…kill…snap your neck.” She paused her chirping for a longer period this time, but her duty was clear and she resumed her song.
She became more careful in her feeding times and places, trying to avoid the younger human and the feeling that emanated from her.
For a few days, all was calm and comfortable again as both the humans were away from the house for a time, but when they returned, the angry words from the younger human woman were more vile than ever. On one particularly beautiful morning, as Marianna chirped her song, a stone hit the tree…then another, but this one hit very close to her nest. Fear gripped Marianna as she realized the harm was not meant for the tree, but for HER!! And her children! Noooo!! This cannot be!! She had always been safe here…well, except for the time a cat had come into the yard and thought he might have a small snack of hummingbird, but when Marianna had dived and taken a small, but painful chunk out of his ear, he had run away never to be seen again.
But this….this was a human….bent on her death and the death of her children, all apparently because her chirps were annoying to the young woman. A great fear passed through Marianna, but a great determination rose in her, as well. She raised her voice and delivered her warning louder and faster, rising even earlier in the morning and chirping later after dark, although the energy she expended was dangerous to her.
As time passed, the female human’s words became louder, more threatening and more frequent. As Marianna sat on her nest one morning, a great stream of water came from the ground. It flew from a long round tube with something on the end of it that propelled a strong stream directly at her nest, and there was something in the water…slimy and sticky with white bubbles in it. It stuck to the tree and the leaves, suffocating them, and made her feathers stick together for a while making flying impossible. Fear surged through her! Then a long stick with strings hanging from one end came flying into the tree. It stuck in the branches well above the top of the wall surrounding the property. More terror! If the woman would attack with weapons, what would she do next?
The following day passed without incident, but Marianna could feel the tension building in both the humans. It was like heavy black cloth blocking the light. Something was coming. The next day, near mid-morning, close to her tree, she heard soft but stern words,” you need to leave my house…now.”. The older woman had drawn a line, Marianna could tell. There were a few other words after that, but the angry young woman appeared in the yard after some time, possessions in tow.
Marianna flew to the bottlebrush tree in the front yard and watched as the younger female human got into a car along with her belongings. She could feel the vile anger leaving and peace returning. The older woman removed the long tube with the poison in it from beneath her tree and said soothing words as she looked up at Marianna. In the world Marianna and her ancestors had known, survival sometimes depended on simply staying out of harm’s way…….building your nest above the reach of most predators and living one more day.
Early the next morning, Marianna flew again to the bottlebrush tree and looked down the street that had taken the younger woman away. On this day she chirped slower, but louder. Had the older lady been capable of understanding bird language, she would have heard Marianna say into the wind, directed at the angry young woman who had tried to murder her…. “birds were here before humans…..we have survived dangers you cannot possibly imagine, and I am better at this game than you are, BITCH!”
Manon Stephenson, currently residing in Cuenca, is a wonderful and funny storyteller. She is working on book based on a small southern town, where a visito comes through every hundred years.