Yesterday evening I received a somewhat frantic phone call from my mother. It seemed that a hummingbird had managed to get itself into her garage, and was flinging itself against the skylight. Mom had opened the door and tried to shoo it out, but it was intent on escaping through the clear plastic ceiling panel instead.
I only live a few miles away from her, so my fiance and I went down to her house to find her balanced on a chair in the middle of the garage, waving a broom at the hummingbird. She was trying to get it to land on the broom so she could lower it down to the door and set it free. By the time we got there, the bird was so exhausted that it had finally landed on the waving broom head.
She lowered the bird ever so slowly down to me, and I was able to pick it up off the broom and carry it outside. It sat in my cupped hand like it did things like that every day, utterly calm (though more likely too tired and battered to do much more).
I have never felt anything so fast as that bird's heartbeat. It pittered against my fingertips like a runaway train made in miniature. I wasn't quite sure what to do. The bird seemed content to just sit there, cradled in my palm, emerald feathers trembling in time to its racing heartbeat, eyes blinking open and shut like a sleepy child's.
Finally I found a safe place to put it, in a tiny swinging birdbath that Mom never kept filled. We watched it, anxious, afraid it had flung itself too hard against the ceiling and wouldn't survive. But a few minutes later its eyes popped open, and it hopped onto the edge of the bath, fluffing itself and fanning its wings, slow at first, then faster, even faster, becoming a blur in the twilight until it lifted and flew away.
I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of that bird's heartbeat in my hand.