Hazlett: Quieter life makes way for nature's hum
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Hazlett: Quieter life makes way for nature's hum

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Hazlett

It wasn't too long ago (or maybe it was?) that I made a mad dash from the curb at Central Illinois Regional Airport to the ticket counter, dragging my carry-on behind me.

After a quick kiss, I left my husband and briskly headed toward a flight which would take me to a business meeting in Las Vegas. Checklist in hand, I scanned all my to-do items, noting I had completed everything except a call to my folks.

I pulled out my phone.

My stepfather answered, “Hello?”

“Hi! I'm at the airport. I'll be back Thursday so I'll see you on the weekend. If anything comes up, just text me. I'll be in meetings from 7:30 a.m. until dinnertime, OK?”

There was a pause on the line and I wondered if we'd been disconnected.

Finally he spoke.

“There's a hummingbird at the feeder. You should see it!”

What?

“I'm at the airport,” I repeated. “I'll be gone for a week. I'm super busy at work and packed my suitcase at 3 o'clock this morning. I didn't even have time to dry my hair after I got out of the shower ...”

Another moment of silence.

“I put sugar water in the feeder,” he said. “They just love it.”

Water was still dripping down my neck, and he was talking about bird watching. I suppressed the urge to scream.

“You have the hotel information, right?”

“Yes,” he said. “Good luck with the meeting!” Then the PA system announced it was time to board. I ended the call, jammed the phone in a pocket and grabbed my luggage.

Hummingbirds! Seriously? Who has time for such things?

The answer to that question during a global quarantine is: I do.

Yesterday morning, with binoculars in one hand and cellphone in the other, I reported the hummingbird activity to my stepdad.

“Would you believe we have seven at once at the feeders?”

“That's great!” he said. “Aren't they wonderful?”

Before the stay-at-home order, I never gave much thought to birds. In fact, I usually looked out the window only to see if I needed to wear a raincoat to work.

Our neighbor has had a feeder in her yard for years. She predicted the birds would appear around April 15, and just like the taxman, they did. We raced to put out our feeders the next day.

“I've had four hummingbirds today,” she texted.

“We've seen seven!” I replied. Who knew bird watching could be so competitive? Maybe ESPN should fill its show lineup with hummingbird watcher playoffs.

My husband and I created our own backyard entertainment system by erecting two hummingbird feeders. Originally we had just one, but a single, territorial bird kept all the others away, so we added another feeder to allow more customers. Now the yard is busy with the tiny, buzzing birds.

Let me tell you, hummingbirds are noisy buggers. The first time I heard one, I thought the oven timer was going off. And you have to watch your head; these crazy birds dive bomb each other.

It's like having our own nature channel without the cable bill.

The backyard visitors are entertaining, but the appeal of bird watching for me is the calming, temporary distraction the hobby provides. For a few moments, I can escape my worries by watching beautiful creatures in their element, unaffected by the pandemic.

Studies have shown bird watching can actually reduce anxiety and depression. During this time of extreme uncertainty, who couldn't use a little stress relief?

“I just saw a ruby-throated hummingbird!” I told my stepdad.

“Are you using a guide book?” he asked.

Yes, “Bird Watching for Beginners.”

Or maybe I should rename it,“How To Survive Shutdown Stress – Nature's View Hums With Relief.”

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 205 N. Main St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.

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