Like many apartment complexes in LA, mine has a courtyard. Unlike a lot of complexes, though, this courtyard is a gathering place, a place where many of us stop and chat, exchange stories, hang out. It reminds me sometimes of an LA version of Armistead Maupin’s 28 Barbary Lane — with colorful and endearing characters — young and old, artisans and conservatives, naive and sophisticates all inhabiting the same space. There’s L, the 70-something retiree who playfully nags me like a mother; G, my Margaret-Cho-ish writer friend who teaches inner city kids; D, a playwrite who appears in Honda commercials; J, a pet-groomer who secretly dates his bosses’ 30-something daughter; B, a nurse and parent to a parrot named Rocky; and DB, an artist and manager at a health-food store who feeds every stray cat within a mile radius watching over our precious parking spaces like a guard dog barking at those who dare to park where they shouldn’t.
A few years ago the courtyard was much more of a public space. I’d sit on the sofa during vacations, chatting the day away. We’d have shared adventures and the occasional party. Recently there’s been less to tie us all together, with long-time neighbors moving out to cheaper and larger spaces. Those of us old-timers left who are at home during the day visit and remain close, but we miss the people who used to hang with us, those who had flown the coop. Sometimes it even seemed like there was less to bind us together, save our reminiscences about the past.
That is, until the hummingbirds came to nest.
It must’ve been about 3 or 4 weeks ago that DB & B noticed the nest. We’d had doves nesting in the trees before, but they never made it. They would usually be eaten by the stray cats or crushed by the careless gardeners (despite our entreaties to go gently with the pruning or power-washing.) B had put up hummingbird feeders all around the courtyard and we’d have a few flying around, but this year a hummingbird actually chose our courtyard to make a nest. We all were united by the excitement that comes from seeing something so wonderful in a city so crowded unfold right outside our doorsteps.
The nest was barely noticable at first. She was a wise one, our hummingbird, choosing a tree with a thorny bark which the cats wouldn’t dare climb. Her nest was like a fortress — a round cocoon made from twigs and fluff, completely encasing her eggs.
Every day we’d come out and look. At first, there was only the nest. Then, two beaks poked out, looking like two antennae feeling their way into the world. Next there were two little birds sitting ever so quietly in the nest, an unusual sight given the fact that hummingbirds seem to constantly be on the move.
Finally at the beginning of last week our baby birds took flight. Not too far at first — only out to the front gate, resting their delicate little wings as they watched their proud human parents buzz around them with excitement. Mamma would feed the little ones with nectar from the feeder and watch over them ensuring that they were okay.
Three days ago, mamma returned to the nest. At first we thought she’d lay a few more eggs after the success she’d had. But it wasn’t meant to be. Within a few hours she’d already dismantled the nest. Tearing down something that was built so lovingly and meticulously in the blink of an eye (or the flap of a wing, as the case may be). She sat there looking directly at me as if to say…
“Thank you, my human friends for letting me nest here, keeping me and my babies safe. Maybe someday we’ll meet again.”
Then she flew away.