On the Yard

There is a plumb-black flower in my yard, about the size of my thumb but nar­row­er and pret­ti­er. It’s on a stalk of Sun­down­er Moun­tain Flax and it is the white hot cen­ter of a month of hum­ming­bird wars that take place every June. Juve­nile male hum­ming­birds stake out their ter­ri­to­ry in the late spring, and for what­ev­er rea­son, this par­tic­u­lar plant is high­ly regard­ed among these thugs. If I sit on the chaise longue in the back­ground for any amount of time in the morn­ing or in the late after­noon I am treat­ed to a free-for-all cage fight with­out the cages. Their calls are quick clicks, but if you’ve ever heard them slowed down, you’ll know they sound like trilling whales. They dive bomb each oth­er, drink from the flax flow­ers, blast off and blast back, and some­times they’re so wrapped up in the busi­ness at hand, they don’t real­ize they’re float­ing right next to me for a few sec­onds, until they do, and then they’re back in com­bat. These bat­tles usu­al­ly last a minute or two, but some­time they go on and on. There’s nev­er a clear win­ner, at least to me, and while they’re obvi­ous­ly engaged in seri­ous stuff, the dance of light and motion is a salve against my days.