The Gift of the Hummingbirds

Every seven or eight years, I get a hankering for an adventure. These adventures generally aren’t planned, per se, they’re opportunities that arise and I think, “Hey, that’d be fun.” And then I’m on a plane, not sure about what comes next.

In 1992 I was offered a job in Kuwait.  I went to the San Francisco public library to check out a book on Kuwait, to see if it was something that I wanted to consider. There were no books on Kuwait, but there was one on Iran. I figured that was close enough (in hindsight, not at all the same…), read it, and decided to go.

In 2001 a friend said, “Let’s bike through Cuba!” I bought a used bike and attempted to buy a nice seat for it (the bike store employee said he wouldn’t allow me to buy such a nice seat for such a piece of junk) and that was the extent of my planning. As we rode from town to town in Cuba, I realized that a few practice rides in San Francisco might have helped me…

In 2007, I had to travel to Nepal for work. I decided to hike the Annapurna Circuit over 21 days. The first night of the trail, other hikers sat around the table, talking about how they had prepared for the hike. When one person talked about carrying a backpack weighted with rocks and running up and down stairs, and the others nodded in agreement that they, too, had done so, I wondered if maybe I should have done more than simply requested vacation days…

All of the adventures turned out fine. More than fine, really. Pretty spectacular, actually. I’ve always been a “Let’s see what happens” type of person, and generally appreciate that there’s a lot of good.

I’ve decided to walk el Camino de Santiago in March and April this year. And for some inexplicable reason, I’ve felt the need to plan. Maturity? Maybe. Lessons learned from past experiences? Maybe. Surprisingly, the planning has been  gratifying.

I’ve researched ultra-light clothing/sleeping options. I’ve tried on backpacks and hiking shoes. I’ve started walking longer distances.

Today my neighbors and I set out for a 15 mile walk, more or less the distance I’m aiming to do daily on el Camino. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that is satisfyingly meditative. We walked from our homes in the center of the city to the ocean. On the way there, we noticed a hummingbird, sitting on a bush. I’ve never seen a hummingbird not in flight. We all stopped, transfixed. The bird sat there. For minutes. We watched, silent. It flittered to another bush, flittered back in front of us, then flew away. We walked. It rained. We inhaled the fresh air of a forest after a shower. On the way to lunch, we noticed another hummingbird, just sitting there on a bush. The bird turned its head and we were treated to a splash of vibrant pink on its head. We watched. It sat. We mentioned that this must be a sign. It flew away. We stopped for lunch. We chatted with strangers. We laughed. We wished each other well. We walked along the ocean, then through Golden Gate Park. At mile 13 my feet began to feel tender. We walked a little slower. When I got home, I looked up the significance of the hummingbird.

From this site:

The hummingbird generally symbolizes joy and playfulness, as well as adaptability. Additional symbolic meanings are:
•    Lightness of being, enjoyment of life
•    Being more present
•    Independence
•    Bringing playfulness and joy in your life
•    Lifting up negativity
•    Swiftness, ability to respond quickly
•    Resiliency, being able to travel great distances tirelessly

I don’t know if I’ll see any more hummingbirds between now and when I depart for Spain. I’ll remember today’s message, though – to be present, enjoy life, and celebrate joy.

12 thoughts on “The Gift of the Hummingbirds

  1. Hi Lori, aka the hummingbird, I’ve been hankering to do the Camino, too. Love your sense of adventure and am looking forward to getting all your advice when my turn for the adventure comes. Xo

  2. Wow. If you can cycle through Cuba and take on work in Kuwait without any preparation, at least physically speaking, the Camino will be a breeze! What I loved about the Way was the mental, emotional, and spiritual journey that accompanied the walking. It sounds to me like you’re on target for distances, no problem, but you *can* prepare your heart and soul in the same way people walk up and down stairs with packs full of rocks.

    The hummingbird sounds like a beautiful and edifying spirit animal for you and your 7-year flit. Buen camino to you, peregrina. May you find everything you seek and more. ❤

      • Everyone is different, but I spent a fair amount of time writing–in my journal at first, but then also on my blog–about the calling I heard to walk it, why it seemed important to do at this point in my life, what I hoped to learn, how I hoped to be changed by it, what I was afraid of, and about signs I noticed that validated the calling.

        I also wrestled a lot with my relationship to the apostle whose cathedral (if not actual remains) awaited at the end of the journey. What did I think of James? What did I resist about him? Why are so many of us hearing his call, giving up perfectly comfortable lives to make ourselves so profoundly uncomfortable? I didn’t really “get” James until the very very end of my journey. I’m not deeply religious, but as the patron of the Way, I wanted to understand what he was about as I walked toward “him.”

        The simple answer to your question is that I asked a lot of questions and wrote about them. 🙂 The resulting clarity of inner purpose before leaving really impacted my pilgrimage. I was also deliberate about stepping out of all my home-based roles. With help, I was able to pay no bills, do no work, and not preoccupy myself with anything but the journey itself. These to things together made it a profound and life-changing experience for me.

        Your receptivity to messages and messengers will serve you well, no matter where you walk! ❤ Buen camino!

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