“I never dreamed of such a thing before…”


What might we have to wait 77 years to see? 

Wendell Berry has come back into my life lately— and I am so happy for it. I woke up at 5:39 this morning hoping that the babysitter would arrive on time so I could go to Appamada, my meditation center, and be a part of my Thursday morning zen discussion group, which starts at the zen-like time of 6:30 in the morning. But the pregnant babysitter was down for the count, texting me that she was not able to make it this time. Quite a blow. I love these Thursday morning convergences, led by the wise, wonderful and winsome teacher Flint Sparks. I might even be obsessed with my group, just a little, and I hate to miss them. But it’s not easy to get a last minute baby sitter at 5:45 in the morning while your husband is in California, so I got up, made coffee, and hung out with my daughter and her lop-eared bunny Leo while the sun was rising (they were already up– daughter Carlisle is a self-proclaimed “early riser.”)

Plus, my Plan B was looking pretty good. I have a new book of poems to savor with my morning coffee—This Day, Collected & New Sabbath Poems, by the inestimable Wendell Berry (recommended by Flint). I am no newcomer to Wendell Berry. I am pretty sure I tried to write a senior English paper on the relationship between Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Wendell Berry back in college (I say “tried” because what I turned in was an abomination—I was distracted at the time by a pale blond banjo player.) Friends and I used to recite his poem, Wild Geese, at Thanksgiving. And then Flint just recently started referencing Wendell Berry, the Sabbath Poems,  and the excellent interview with Berry and Bill Moyers that aired not long ago.

So, it’s 6am and the coffee is ready and I tell my 8-year-old daughter that she has to listen to a poem. I quickly scan through this bountiful volume, rich with 34 years of Berry’s Sunday musings, and find one that would appeal to her.  Boom– the year 2011, Poem 10:

I saw a hummingbird stand

in midair and scratch his cheek

vigorously with his left foot,

as he might have done perched

at ease upon a tree. “Wonderful!”

I said to myself. “I never dreamed

of such a thing before, and now

after seventy-seven years

of watching, I have seen it!”

Not only did Carlisle pay attention to this wee hummingbird-sized poem, she said, “I know what that means, he’s seventy-seven years old!” and then she proceeded to try to scratch her cheek with her foot while pretending to fly. She and I agreed that we, experienced hummingbird watchers, also have never dreamed of such a thing before, and that we would feel pretty lucky to see it. I, for one, had never even considered that hummingbirds have cheeks, much less ones that need scratching…..We will keep watching,


Hummingbird image from: www.grahamowengallery.com/photography/hummingbirds.html

1 Comment

  1. I too, am a Berry fan. Deeply engaging, like the Thursday morning group can be; I’m sorry you missed it. Both are better shared with you – even if you can’t fly or scratch your cheek with your foot while doing it. Thanks for this gift.

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