Today I was standing on the front steps of my daughter’s house, next to a flowering plant with honey-suckle-like blossoms. And a ruby-throated hummingbird came to sip at the nectar, hovering at my elbow. I could have reached out and touched it with a finger. Suspended before me, a manikin on invisible strings, regarding me with its tiny shining black bead of an eye. Evidently deciding I was harmless, it hummed its way from flower to flower not even an arm’s length from this clumsy, fumbling imperfect human. Iridescent green, sheened gold, each feather perfection, each wing invisible – just a blur across the leaves – tail tipped black and white, stiletto beak stabbing with the precision of a sewing machine needle…a wonder in a world we skim by with so little empathy or understanding.
My grandson, just three, his world as totally self-centred as a child’s horizon dictates it must be, yet exploring with his imagination in ways that astound me. In a moment, he can be a princess, a prince, a boy trying to grow up or a baby to be pampered. He uses language – a free-flowing waterfall of words – in ways not limited as we adults limit ourselves with thoughts of rules and the niceties of our polity and our desire not to appear ridiculous. He is a king, a dancer, a singer, a chef, a vulgar story teller and a kind Cinderella, all in the space of a single tale. When he is overwhelmed and uncertain, he says, “I want to go home” even when he is already home. And in so doing he sums up the adult world, where we would all like to go home, yet never can, not truly, for only as children – if we were lucky – did we know what it was to be enfolded within the safety of parental love and the security of a mother’s arms and to believe utterly and fearlessly that we were indeed safely home.