Teachers Write: Hummingbirds on a Wednesday

Guest author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater joins us today with a guest post on a very important part of writing: Inviting Hummingbirds!  Amy lives on Heart Rock Farm (The Poem Farm) in Holland, NY. Her first poetry book, FOREST HAS A SONG, will be published by Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Spring 2013) and her second book, READING TIME, will be published by WordSong/Boyds Mills Press (date TBA). In addition to poetry, Amy has written local NPR commentaries as well as a column for EDIBLE BUFFALO.

The other morning, as most of the house slept, our ten-year-old son Henry came running downstairs with wild eyes,

“There’s a hummingbird in my room!  There’s a hummingbird in my room!”

I followed him upstairs, rubbing his back, smiling about my boy and his hummingbird dreams.

When we reached Henry’s bedroom, I heard the truth before I saw it.  There, whirring against the inner screen of his skylight darted a little green beauty.  This was not a dream.  It was better than a dream.  As I gently caught Zippy in a polka-dotted sheet, Henry cranked the window above his headboard.  “I must have left it open all night.”  Laughing in wonder, we walked downstairs and onto the deck, opening this delicate sheeted gift to our morning, sending Zippy back to her life.

Writing is full of hummingbirds, surprises that we almost miss or think aren’t real enough to matter.  And these hummingbirds are whirring too; sometimes we just need to still ourselves enough to hear them.

When I get to a stuck spot in my writing, I invite a hummingbird. 


 I turn off all phones, lie on the couch, and close my eyes.  I breathe deeply and wait.  And you know what?   A hummingbird always comes.  It might be a memory of curling dandelion stems in dish soap or a memory of sweet Mr. Clark singing “Once in love with Amy.”  It may be the sound of a skipping stone or a recipe for cardamom bread or  the feel of milkweed silk or a word that’s fun to say…like flibbertigibbet.   A hummingbird.

When I am writing in rhythm, daily and with daily goals, there are days that my page and mind need to wander in colorful meadows before walking across a blank page.  And so I still my body and hold out my hands, trusting….always…in surprises.  And then, bird in hand, I go back to my desk.

Have I ever fallen asleep?  Yes.  And you may too.  But dreams, too, inform our writing lives. 


19 Replies on “Teachers Write: Hummingbirds on a Wednesday

    1. Excellent post! Great reminder of the importance of not pushing it but relaxing and letting it come to you! I will definitely remember this! I look forward to my future hummingbirds 🙂

  1. What a sweet story, Amy. I love that you were able to rescue Zippy, too, and imagine Henry will remember this hummingbird visit for a long while. Just thinking, quietly, does help. Love your idea of resting the mind to invite the stories in.

  2. I love this post. I just recently put a hummingbird feeder out in our yard after visiting my inlaw’s cabin in Colorado. They love hummingbirds, have feeders all around and hummingbird art all around. I kept complaining to my husband that no hummingbirds were coming into our yard after I put the feeder up. But maybe I need to do as you say to attract my own “mind hummingbirds”. Thank you so much! This sounds enticing!

  3. Amy,
    I know it’s late and this is the end of a long day-a lot going on today. But I had to come back and share a quick note to let you know that I have had 2 hummingbird moments in the last 2 days-Wow-once when I was drifting off to sleep-I gave up trying to decide what my Tuesday Slice was going to be about-I was slowly drifting off and then BAM! I got the idea “A Slice of Apple”-you can read my post about that here (if you want)…http://theamyrudder.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-slice-of-apple.html
    And then, I had another moment in the shower-I was trying to think about my parallels to Opening Minds-and other p.d. I’ve had-another BAM-I called my article “Parallels and Intersections”-woo hoo! Thanks for this inspirational post-now I know what to call the BAMs! Hummingbird Moments!
    Amy 🙂

  4. Late to the party as well, but I found my hummingbird late in the evening. A full moon that could not go unnoticed.
    Amy, once again you deliver a post that is inspiring and personal. I love that about you! Thanks for helping me find my whirr!

  5. I was smiling from start to finish. Such a refreshing post after a long day of Drs. appts. and closet cleaning with Mom. Ahhh…. gratefully awaiting my hummingbird. With thanks, M

  6. I am working at a sleep away summer camp this week with just moments between crafts and juice making and tuck-ins. I am now standing in my quiet cabin with this wee phone, reading your kind words and feeling joyful about hummingbirds everywhere. Thank you! And yes, what a MOON! Wow. a.

  7. I am catching up on posts this week. I’ve had lots of hummingbird moments this week-very sentimental ones: raking blueberries at the family blueberry barrens and thinking back to the “olden days” when I started going every summer and the old folks sat around and visited by the old trucks while rakers sweated and filled boxes with berries. Nowadays, the old folks have passed on, the rakers are gone and replaced with mechanical harvesters. Last year, I wrote about it and turned it into a whole multi-genre project. Each year, it’s still sad to go back to the “new” ways.
    I am trying to have a hummingbird moment to write a special poem for a young student that just lost his dad. I am writing about all the things I remember about how much his dad loved him during my interactions with him. That’s a hard one to write, but your post is giving me the energy.

  8. I love this story for a few reasons. How cool is it to wake up to a hummingbird in your room? Also the metaphor hummingbirds to writing is neatly threaded by Amy whose pen flit, flutters and flies with imagination and care. ALV Power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!