Toddler Hummingbird


A young rufuous hummingbird (left) learned to drink from our feeder today and lucky me got to witness it. This morning while making tea I noticed a hummer fly in and sit right next to another hummer who was feeding.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Hummingbirds generally fight each other, not sit together.”

Then the one who flew in began to beg for food from the other. It put its little beak up in the air and opened it, hoping for breakfast. The mother completely ignored its young offspring and kept drinking. The message was clear. It’s time for you to learn how to do this.

After several attempts at begging, the little bird started jabbing its bill into the red plastic. “Dang,” I could almost hear it thinking. “This is not getting me any food.”

Then the little hummer flew underneath the feeder and tried jabbing at it. Still nothing. Back it flew to the top of the feeder and began begging again. Mom was not impressed. She kept feeding. The little hummer started jabbing its bill at the feeder again and BINGO in went its beak. The little guy got excited and started flapping madly with its beak in the hole.

“Uh oh,” I thought. “Its beak is shorter than its mothers and the feeder is only about a third full. I am not sure it’s getting any sugar water.” The two hummers flew off. I made more sugar water and filled the feeder. They were back in minutes.

Once again the whole scene repeated itself—begging, ignoring behavior, more begging, more ignoring behavior, finally success at sticking its beak in the hole and resting on the perch drinking.

Such a miracle to see one of nature’s vulnerable moments!

The bird on the left is the young. The bird on the right is the mother. The photo below shows the characteristic rufous hummingbird reddish tail.

The eighth whisper

About 10 years ago I wrote a lovely little book called The Seven Whispers, Spiritual Practice for Times Like These.  It’s a little gem: a hundred pages long, seven essays on the common sense spiritual wisdom that guides my life. The book hasn’t yet reached its full audience, is kind of an orphan out there since it doesn’t espouse any particular religion, but instead invites people to discover their own daily patterns for staying connected to guidance. I’ve never met anybody who didn’t love it. I reread it the other day, and I love it, too.

  • Maintain peace of mind.
  • Move at the pace of guidance.
  • Practice certainty of purpose.
  • Surrender to surprise.
  • Ask for what you need and offer what you can.
  • Love the folks in front of you.
  • Return to the world.

When nearing the finish line of writing, I remember calling my editor and saying, “Hey Jason… funny thing happened at the end of the book… there’s another whisper coming… what do you think?”

He discouraged me from adding to the list. “Seven is kind of a spiritual number,” he said, “It has a ring to it that “The Eight Whispers” just doesn’t have.” I let it go. From a marketing standpoint, he was probably correct. But I snuck the phrase in the book, even without naming it, and it has been a profound practice of mine ever since.

The eighth whisper is: Notice how help comes.

I’ve written that phrase in my journal dozens of times to remind myself to keep looking about for the ways that the world is trying to help me carry this strenuous and usual work forward in the world—stewarding the increasing emergence of The Circle Way; creating space for storytelling and storycatching, holding onto the foundational values of my life while negotiating a wildly chaordic environment. (Chaordic, the creative space where chaos and order swirl together and make something new.)

Notice how help comes… a tiny email that opens a large opportunity or relationship.

Notice how help comes… a phone call that leads to needed work.

Notice how help comes… a meeting that leads to support beyond expectation.

I need all the Seven Whispers, and as the world moves crazily on this year I am more and more attuned to the need for noticing how help comes, and for how I can offer help to others. On an intimate scale, help is how we make place for one another, how we experience being seen and belonging. It’s a great daily practice of giving and receiving.


Snow in May?


Snow in May?

At first glance, it looks like we got a light dusting of snow here on Whidbey Island in May. Unlike my disgruntled friends and family members in Minnesota who DID get snow on May 2, this white substance by the side of the road is white flowers from our beautiful madrone trees.

Madrone flowers on the road

Madrone flowers on the road


The madrone tree, Arbutus menziesii, is found all along the west coast of North America. In spring it creates these white flowers and in the fall it bears red berries that are much loved by local birds.
img_9834It is an evergreen tree with rich, orange-red bark that peels in thin sheets, not unlike birch trees. It is very dense and therefore good for firewood. I love the curved, sensuous beauty of its twisting trunks. One of its challenges is that the heavily populated west coast no longer allows fires, which it readily survives and thrives on.