Learning from the Humming Birds: A Photo Essay

It’s been a wild ride the past few weeks – a major writing project to complete, followed by two weeks living in community with the charismatic Benedictines, wonderful friends who think deeply 
about life and spirituality and who teach me so much – with their words and with their wisdom. 
Our last evening together (in each of the two 2-week school sessions over the last two summers) is spent sharing stories, skits, reflections and laughter. This year, I put together a slide show with a narration. 
And I promised my friends there that I would post it in this space. 
It will not show up as a slide show here, but what I can do in this space is interweave the narration a bit better than I could with the time constraints of a 4 minute Chris Rice piano version of “Come Thou, Fount.”

Fourteen days ago, I drove myself into the parking lot
of this beautiful retreat center, 
exhausted from too many deadlines and too few hours. 
I was not exactly ‘conscious.’*
Fumbling for words, dropping things, overwhelmed by the kindness of friends, 
I took a deep breath,
looked around at the curving architecture,
the quadrangled green space,
and thanked God that I had made it.
My room welcomed me to smallness and quietude, 
and I began to feel the almost imperceptible movement
of muscles unclenching, stomach settling 
and spirit stretching. The foggy mornings helped to slow the pace, 
gently covering all the sharp edges of the landscape – 
the one around me and the one inside me, too.
Morning walks helped point me to beauty –

light and shadow;color and texture and shape; pinks and yellows and purples and reds.

circles and oblongs and heart-shaped buds;

Afternoons found me tucked away in a small side garden, where leaves,
 backlit by the western sun, 
shimmered and shook with glory.
Water soothed and stilled me, running off the edge of a nearby fountain, 
abundant and nourishing. 
A deep-seated thirst found quenching.
Surrounding the gentle circles of water was a sea of deep blue lilies, 
held aloft by long stems moving in the afternoon breeze. 
As I sat and soaked it in, those blue spires began to dance
without the help of wind,
stirred instead by fragile wings,
wings that beat 2 to 3 thousand times a minute.
Tiny feathered flyers ducked and swiveled, 

hovered and darted,


long, thin beaks dipping deep for nectar in each periwinkle bloom 

To my right was one bright red feeder, and hanging far above my head, another. 
Sometimes one feisty bird at a time, they sipped and rested – gathering nourishment for the next few minutes of fevered flight.
And sometimes, they came in gangs,
dive-bombing one another to find a seat at the table. 
One small trio shared well and drank deeply.

And so did we.

I will remember these two weeks for many reasons –
for good conversations, for stellar teaching,
for the nourishment of worship and eucharist.

But I will remember the hummingbirds, too. Tiny carriers of creation goodness, reminders of the need to inhabit my own smallness.

For to see these glimpses of glory, I, too, must become small – small enough to sit still,
to be quiet,
to listen well,

            and to trust the goodness of God.

*The word ‘conscious’ in this context was an inside ‘joke’ (very feeble!) based upon much of what we learned together about becoming persons who can be more fully present to others and to God. Learning to be increasingly aware of ourselves and our own struggles/issues/shadows is often called ‘coming to consciousness.’ It is hard work to become more consciously aware of all the stuff that churns inside of us, often causing reactivity, defensiveness, projection-of-our-own-crap-onto-others. But the kind of work we strive to do with others in spiritual direction requires us to do our own work first. Much of what we learned together over these two years was directed at helping us become increasingly aware of when, where and how (and how frighteningly often!) we are not aware, not in tune with our own spirit or with God’s. I feel like I am just beginning some days! 

I will join this with a few friends over the next day or so – most likely Ann Voskamp, Laura Boggess, L.L. Barkat, Michelle DeRusha, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Jen Ferguson.

On In Around button

And with Cheryl Smith, too – if this linky works –


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  1. What a beauty drink this is, and I loved soaking here with you. I love to see a hummingbird just. stop. and. rest. Their frenetic flight seems exhausting–yet isn’t that so often us? 

    And I’ve never seen a group rest together at my feeder. There are only four communion cups–but they prefer so sip alone.

  2. Diana Trautwein says

    I attempted to add a single photo to this post and all h-e-double broke out. So the formatting is weird and I lost the entire opening intro. Glitches. Hate ’em.

  3. Diana Trautwein says

    Thanks, Sandy. I am finding that my new computer is giving me fits when working in either facebook or blogger. Although most likely it is not the computer, but the operator. Sigh. I appreciate your stopping by. I’ve never seen to many birds willing to share the same space, either. They tend to be mighty territorial – but these guys made room at the table for all.

  4. I had to smile when I was looking at those photos. First, you have flowers there that we don’t have here. Gorgeous! And those hummingbirds? Reminded me of our time together at Laity Lodge. Oh, and then I had to wonder if you captured those photos because you read Sandy’s recent post about wearing a red hat. LOL! 

  5. Nope, I took those photos last week while at the Mission Renewal Center, in their small side garden. I put them into a slide show for our last night together in that place, last Thursday – before Sandy’s post went up.

  6. Diana Trautwein says

    I am pleased to say that Google Chrome proved to be the answer to all my blogging woes upon my re-entry to real life this weekend. So I have successfully added back the intro to this ost and one picture of the birds. Hooray!

  7. Which makes it even better. 🙂

  8. I agree! Love that synchronicity!

  9. It was a towel, Cheryl. A red dishtowel. On my head. I’m. Not. Kidding.

  10. Thank you for sharing the pics, they are so beautiful.  

  11. And thank you for stopping by, Leslie.

  12. Oh my word, those hummingbirds! Simply astounding, Diana.

  13. They were pretty astounding, actually. I’ve never been seated in the midst of so many – it was glorious.

  14. Those hummingbirds are incredible. I cannot believe you were able to capture them so well the way the flit and fly so fast. And I just have to mention that I too, switched to Google Chrome from Internet Explorer when I returned from my vacation and it has cured many of my woes as well. Lovely post Diana.

  15. Diana, there are many times that I feel that you are an online mentor to me.  I learn so much through your expressions of your own learning.  I am reveling in the lushness and smallness found here and around me, many miles away.

  16. You could not have said anything more grace-filled to me, Jennifer. If anyone can learn from what I learn, that is a gift for which I am deeply grateful. Because believe me – I am always learning. Always. Some things, multiple times!!

  17. I couldn’t believe it, either, Shelly. I sat there twice for about 30 minutes each time and these guys were EVERYWHERE. As long as I sat fairly still, they did, too. And I’m loving Google Chrome – everything seems much easier to do and that is a huge relief.

  18. Yes, like SHK said, “a beauty drink.” I find myself gasping aloud as I read your posts and look at your pictures, Diana. What a gift you are. 

  19. Thank you so much, Jennifer. You are very kind.

  20. The photos, the sharing, the wonderful examples of life were beautiful.  However, one phrase stuck in my head and heart… “spirit stretching”.    YES, an absolute necessity for our spiritual growth in our Lord.

    Thank you.

  21. You’re so welcome, Caryjo. Mine needs stretching regularly. :>)

  22. Handsfull says

    Just beautiful.  And two whole weeks?  I’m more than a teeny bit jealous… A few months ago I got 36hrs at a monastery guesthouse and it was FANTASTIC!  So quiet… peaceful… restful… Godfilled… and I read my first Madeleine L’Engle book there 🙂
    It sounds like you were refreshed there, as well as learning.  So glad you could do it!

  23. It was a rich and full and tiring two weeks, but I’m so glad I could do it. And it was the second summer in a row for these two weeks (required for certification in spiritual direction). I could not have done this when I was raising kids. Some can do it – I was not psychologically able to leave the family back then. It’s hard enough now! But I’m glad for it and still trying to absorb all of what I learned and experienced. Thanks for coming by tonight, Donna.