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Essay: On the nature of creation

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. Photo by QT Luong/

A miracle dwells in a forest cathedral buttressed by soaring cottonwoods draped with garlands of wild grape. In a willow amidst a thicket of wild plum and rose, the miracle — a hummingbird — sits on a downy nest no bigger than a demitasse.

This dainty, winged grace — at once iridescent and dun — hunkers against the rain and guards her little treasure.

I, too, hunker in the rain, sharing a breath of wind, a patch of forest, a moment of being, with this tiny miracle. I watch her shake off the rain and nestle back onto her clutch, and my heart swells and I cry a little at the blessing of being in this moment.

A hummingbird at rest is indeed a magnificent thing — more so, perhaps, because a hummingbird in motion is so admirable.

I’m reminded that I, too, am rarely still. That I — like so many of my kind — race through life, insistent, impatient. It’s not often enough that I walk alone in the woods, quiet, observant, breathing as part of the landscape. In my haste, I often miss the miraculous.

But then, nature puts a hummingbird on my path and I stop in my tracks and remember other simple miracles … the late afternoon sun striking through the cool slate of an autumn sky to gild a vast, undulating prairie. The warble of a blackbird, the rich color of mountain bluebells and the fresh, sharp smell of pine and snow.

I’m reminded that I am just a small thing.

I believe with the fullness of my being that the hummingbird amidst the wild roses, the moments of revelation and spiritual renewal I experience in the natural world, are gifts from God.

And, I believe that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive. Consider the divinity in a life form that can become, over time, almost anything. That from a single source sprung insects, algae, birds, fish and flowering plants. That our planet was sowed with a seed of life that could undergo millions of iterations over millions of years and somehow become me, or the hummingbird.

What perfection in the origin.

And here I stand in the perfection of a moment — chill rain running from the brim of my hat — considering the little bird on her downy nest, listening to the patter of raindrops and breathing deep of the damp greenness rising from the forest floor.

I pluck a tart plum and eat it. And when I am full of the moment, I take my leave. As I go, I thank the hummingbird. And I thank God.

Chelsey Baker-Hauck (BA ’96) grew up on Colorado’s Western Slope, where she lost her heart to the San Juan Mountains and Uncompahgre Plateau. When she can she still heads to high peaks, but closer to home she enjoys nature walks in Chatfield State Park, where last summer she observed this essay’s nesting hummingbird.

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