By Kathryn M. Cunningham, republished from the Catholic Writers’ Guild blog.
I think we sometimes become blasé at the idea of wonder. You know, the things that so astound us that we just shake our heads and say or think things like: “Wow, God did that,” “That beauty is amazing, only God’s hand could have done that,” “How astounding, we can’t even measure the universe,” and on. Fill in your own blank. This is one of those dilemmas of the internet. We have access to so many images that nothing really impresses us, and we also can view images which would have been impossible before modern technology. We scroll, we shoot past things that dazzle our eyes. We often stop for something that is grandiose; an amazing mountain, a dazzling view, that stunningly beautiful herd of horses, an ethereal underwater shot.
The big stuff gets our attention. These are the things that would overwhelm us if we were present in the real place and time. In my retirement, though, I have had to scale down what I do, how I do it, how I think and how I pray. The scale of God’s wonder in the world is both large as well as small and unnoticeable. Wonder is a good thing. It spurs our thinking and reinvigorates our faith and changes the way we consider belief.
All we have to do to be impressed by God is just look around us and not bother to seek or pay attention to the grandiose. In order to be surrounded by things that inspire and get our attention, we do not need to go far or live large. As a retirement activity I have become fascinated by birding. I have progressively advanced my camera skills and regularly upgraded equipment just for the sake of that rare shot. You get pulled in when you find out that rare bird from the Arctic Circle has suddenly taken up summer residence a few miles from your door. And then there’s beauty. Even in the Midwest, the colors and forms of birds will take your breath away. You wonder how that behavior, form, or color is even possible. But I got a shot of it, didn’t I?
In my opinion, more stunning than all of the other species is the unbelievably teeny humming bird. This bird is only present in the Americas and numbers 338 species. Many hummingbirds are so small you might think you’re being accosted by a large bumble bee. Most are not as big as your thumb. An average hummingbird weighs 4 grams or 1.41 ounces, less than an American nickel. When it comes to wonder and the genius of God, though, these little, hardly visible beauties take the prize. Hummingbirds have feathers of every luminescent color you can imagine and some you can’t believe even when you see it. They literally gleam in the sun and have feathers that are almost neon for purposes of attracting a mate. A hummingbird tummy must be filled every twenty minutes or the bird will die. They have the highest metabolism of any vertebrate, and while hovering, their wings beat at eighty times a second! Each species of hummer feeds on one particular species of flower, and the length of their beaks match, to the millimeter, the distance to their particular flower’s nectar chamber. A hummingbird tongue is thinner than the thinnest fishing line.
The fact, though, that got most of my attention is a bit of information about hummingbird Moms. Like all female birds, hummingbird Mom’s build the nest. Hummingbird nests, though, are engineering perfection. They are cone shaped with a perfectly rounded bowl like interior and precariously hung on the underside of a banana or other large leaf in such a way that water skips right over the nest. Mom constructs with blades of grass carried one stalk at a time and spider silk she “borrows” from a close by arachnid. The interior is lined with down and shaped by, you guessed it; hummingbird feet. Mom gets her construction materials together and then literally stomps and dances the interior until it is a perfect shape. Now, think of hummingbird feet. Thinner than the thinnest toothpicks, weighing not much more than air itself. How is that possible? It’s like trying to shape a piece of sculpture by wishing. Yet Mom does the dance with her humming bird, teeny, tiny, almost non-existent feet along with her “considerable” bulk of 4 grams!
God made these, right? Wonder tucked away in a package so small that it’s easy to ignore. Wonder is everywhere and things like hummingbird feet challenge us and remind us that we have gifts too. When was the last time you were sure you couldn’t do something God asked of you because you didn’t have the right tools or ability or courage or insight or presence? Next time that thought comes over you, think of hummingbird feet. You have a greater manifestation than 4 grams, right? Are there small actions that you could do that might change the shape of your own or someone else’s life?