All summer, it’s a chore. Not a big chore, just something that must be done, like groceries and cat’s pans and mowing. It’s on the list.
But when the sun hits the equator to signal the start of Fall, which it does today at 4:44 p.m. EST, my chore becomes a ritual – sacred because it will soon be no more.
I pick my favorite pot, the small one that belonged to my roommate Eileen back in the seventies. I fill it with exactly two cups of water and watch as the liquid comes to a boil: round rolls that are at first full and viscous turn to thin bubbles snapping and spitting.
As the steam rises, I measure one-half a cup of sugar — honey-colored, raw, organic sugar — and pour it into the water, stirring with a well-worn silver teaspoon that belonged to my mother, the woman who taught me to love nature and to talk to animals.
I add a few ice cubes to the pot and set it by the sink where the red plastic containers soak in white vinegar and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Peppermint Castile soap, the scent of which graced every good hippie group home back in the day.
Mom used Ivory Liquid.
I scrub the plastic with a toothbrush to remove every spot of dirt and mildew, rinse well, and then carefully pour in the sweet water.
By now the hummingbirds are hovering around their vacant feeding spots outside. They look puzzled, shiny heads tilting first this way and then that, examining the empty hanger from one direction, then buzzing over a few inches to see if things might look different from the other side.
It was here a minute ago.
“Coming, coming,” I say, as I moisten a paper towel with Avon Skin-so-Soft and wipe the tops of the feeders to repel the lines of ants that also await my return.
The red feeders are still dripping, and a sticky sugar trail trickles across the kitchen floor as I head out the door.
I never know which will be the last feeding, the last time I’ll see the hummers before their long flight and before my long winter devoid of their bejeweled company.
Have a blessed Autumn!