Trying to be mindful, having been absent-minded


I had several things on my ‘get done today’ list and was working my way through them until about 2:45 today. If I were looking to blame someone other than myself, I would have to say it was the fault of the hummingbirds. They have been quite fiesty lately, and drinking the nectar in all of the feeders in only a day or so.

Last night I watched four of the little buzzing birds drain the feeder on the living room windows in about 30 minutes, chirping and shooing each other away. They don’t seem to be very good at sharing!

So, on my list today was to make more hummingbird feed to refill their drinking troughs. I made the mixture mid-day and let it sit on the counter for awhile to cool. Since it was over 90 degrees today, I certainly didn’t want hot nectar in the feeders. There would be little chance that it would cool down. Around 2:45 I went to gather the feeders for refilling. Two birds buzzed me as I went to retrieve the one on the front porch, retreating to nearby trees until I returned with the full feeder. One bird hovered around the window as I refilled the one off the back porch. That only left one more — the one on the balcony off of my bedroom.

I went to get the feeder. It was filled with ants. The other two had been relatively ant-free this time, but this feeder, which hasn’t seemed to attract too many this season had dozens of dead ants in the bottom, floating on the remains of the sugary feed. I stepped out and removed it from the hook on the door. Not wanting those creepy crawlies in my house, I stepped over to the edge of the balcony to shake the dead ants into the woods below the balcony. Just as I shook the last one out, I heard the wind catch the door. I knew immediately that I had not checked to see that it was unlocked!

My house is located at the top of a small ravine. The house is only about 45 feet from the road, but it is well above the road, and hidden in the trees. The neighbors’ houses too are equally shrouded in trees, and they each face away from my house, one to the west, the other to the north. The street, which apparently gets quite a bit of traffic at 3 in the afternoon, is the closest to the balcony. But, with the heat, most people didn’t have their car windows rolled down. Calling wasn’t likely to draw attention to me.

What was I to do but sit and wait. I had an initial, but brief, panic when I realized that my husband, knowing that I was going out this evening and leaving before 5, might go out to dinner and not be home until 7:30 or 8. I tried calling to cars a few times, and once to a biker, but nobody seemed to hear. Where were those high school cross-country runners that usually seem to run by the house in the afternoon? Probably having their first meet of the season, I thought.

I picked up a broom — why was that nasty, rotten thing there? — and swept the leaves and seedlings off the balcony. It was a task that has needed to be done for several weeks. It wasn’t on my list, but I could add that to cross off, I thought. That killed about 5 minutes.

I tried to unfold the folding chair that has also been on the balcony for awhile. Eww! Old leaves and an abandoned wasp’s nest. Good thing it was abandoned. I looked at the gutters — they look in good shape. The trim on one of the windows (I had already verified that it was locked) is looking weathered and there is a piece that should be replaced rather than painted. I thought about the painter. Contacting him wasn’t on today’s list, but now that it is September, I do need to follow up with him to find out the exact dates they are going to paint. Another 5 minutes gone.

Finally, I had nothing left to do but to sit, wait, think, watch the birds. Amazing how antsy one can be doing that when it is the ONLY thing one has to do. The hummingbirds buzzed the balcony a few times. Once or twice they checked the feeder placed by the door on the balcony deck, abandoned in two pieces.

I gave into watching the birds, wondering where their nests were. I watched a few bees fly by. I thought about how the leaves on the trees will start to fall in a few weeks. I looked at one of the trees on the other side of the drive, a little way up the hill, that is nearly dead, its bark peeling away from the trunk: probably that Emerald Ash Borer that is invading the county. I wished for some water. I thought about how lucky I was that I would have water when I got back into the house. I realized that I was lucky to have a house to be locked out of. I was thankful that the house is air conditioned. I’m glad that I’ve never had to be in jail. Being imprisoned would take a lot to get used to. I don’t want to equate my 90 minutes on the balcony to being in prison — I’m sure it can’t compare — but, I did have a small, momentary feeling of what it is like to be somewhere, by yourself, that you can’t escape from, where you can know of life nearby, but you cannot be a participant in it, where you can only observe, and not be seen. I thought about how in my life there is always some way to communicate with someone, even when I don’t want to. Though I sometimes talk about being more mindful of my surroundings, of trying to cultivate a routine quietness during some part of the day, it isn’t something that I do very often. It wasn’t bad being on the balcony; not having any control over it, though, was unpleasant.

Finally, I saw a man walking two dogs down the street. I had to yell several times before he could figure out where the voice was coming from. I’m sure it was odd for him to hear “Hey, man with the dogs, come here please! I need your help! Here, UP HERE. Walk up the driveway & look up.” I think he thought I was nuts!

I gave him my husband’s cell phone number and told him that he had to ask him two things: to come home quickly so he could let me in …and not laugh too hard at me. Turns out, he couldn’t reach my husband. Next he tried my mother. I have no idea what she said to him. She told me later that she didn’t understand what he was talking about and asked a few times “Which daughter?” Finally she understood, then sent my brother-in-law over to help me. I suppose I could have given the man with the dogs the codes to open the garage and to disable the alarm, and then have him walk through the house to open the door. But, in addition to that not being the safest idea, I have no clue where to find the manuals to figure out how to recode the alarm system.

Next time, I’m checking that door lock at least two times before I step onto the balcony. Tomorrow I think I’m buying a Hid-A-Key Rock.

Here are some hummingbird pictures I took recently. Sadly, my camera was only about 3 feet away from me today. On the other side of the locked door, of course.

Hovering at dusk

Sitting in a tree, at dusk, guarding the feeder nearby.

Posing sideways, showing off her feathers.

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4 responses to “Trying to be mindful, having been absent-minded

  1. have you ever seen a hummingbird walk? seems like they must take a step or two every once in a while. if you ever get a photo of that, i’d love to see it.

    • Actually, I have seen them sort of hop on tree branches. Once they are regular visitors, you learn where they fly to when they leave the feeders, and then you can begin to pick them out when they are sitting on tree branches, or on top of leaves. They’re well camouflaged, so it takes some time. I’m surprised at how quiet they get when it is dusk, or when it is really hot, like today when it reached 100.

  2. What an ordeal! I can see why your thoughts go to those in prison. And your mother’s reaction… this is such interesting writing, not to play down your experience. I’ve enjoyed reading your account and then at the end, photos of the hummingbirds. They are lovely, and oh, I know how it feels when your camera is separated from you only 3 feet away by a locked door!

  3. My husband has locked us both out of the house twice about two summers ago and we had to call a locksmith both times. Being locked out and trapped on a balcony though would be even more frustrating. Glad you didn’t have to spend hours out there. Gorgeous hummingbird photos!