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Kathy Bradley

Hope, faith often go hand in hand

It is dry. Very dry. So dry that the new leaves on the holly trees at Sandhill have rolled into tight brown spirals that make them look like miniature cigars. They disintegrate into fine powder when pressed between my thumb and index finger.
    I'm pretty sure that the dryness has something to do with the fact that I've not seen any hummingbirds this spring. Not one. And that disappoints me.
    Mixing up the nectar that looks like cherry Kool-Aid, funneling it carefully into the feeders and then watching the aerial stunt shows of the bird kingdom's imps has become one of the truest delights of springtime for me.
    We started this cooperative effort, the hummingbirds and I, about four years ago. I'd never noticed any of them around Sandhill proper though there always seemed to be a few floating around Mama and Daddy's house. One day a visitor noticed a single bird hovering outside the living room window, mesmerized, apparently, by his own reflection — and videotaped the performance to show me when I returned from work.
    I was so infatuated that I insisted we drive back to town immediately to buy a feeder. I put it up outside
 the dining room window and within a couple of days I was being entertained by the hummingbird and his friends while I ate dinner.
    Last summer, when I added the deck to Sandhill, I also added another feeder, hanging it on a shepherd's crook at the corner of the deck. This year I got a third — a globe the size of a small canteloupe made of thick glass like a Coca-Cola bottle the color of the ocean at mid-morning — and hunt it in the chinaberry tree in the back yard.
    On the first warm Saturday I mixed up some nectar and filled all three, ready for the arrival of my hyperactive friends.
    Funny thing: Here we are, the middle of May, and I've not see a single hummingbird.
    I come, the feeders are empty. I fill them up. A few days later, they are empty again. I fill them again. And again. And still no hummingbirds. I can't make them come. All I can do is hope.
    Standing under the chinaberry tree the other evening, at just twilight, ocean blue orb balanced in the palm of one hand, ruby-colored liquid pouring out of a pitcher held in the other hand, I had an epiphany.
    "Feeding invisible hummingbirds requires not hope, but faith," I heard my heart whisper.
    I stopped to consider that. Hope is very still. Quietly it gazes with rapt attention at the future that is not yet, but might be. Faith, on the other hand, is anything but still. It taps its foot, strums its fingers. It remembers, no, not just remembers, but depends on the past.
    Hope pulls. Faith pushes.
    Hope desires, longs for, imagines hummingbirds. Faith fills the feeders.
    It is hard sometimes to know which of the two virtues is needed. Hard to know whether to turn one's back on what has been and put all one's eggs in the basket of what might be or to leave one's eggs in the nest, knowing that they, kept warm by the body of the mother hen, will hatch in their own time.
    And, then, like most epiphanies, this one shifted a little. "Of course," my heart said, still whispering, but a little louder, "sometimes you need both. Sometimes," she said, "faith and hope work together. Sometimes you need to act on what the past taught you in order to imagine what the future might be."
    I put the rubber plug back into the feeder, hung it back up on the tree and walked into the house, fairly certain that all that whispering had to do with something other than hummingbirds. And absolutely certain that one day, one day soon, I was going to see a hummingbird.

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