Every year in late summer and early fall, the Hummingbirds begin their reverent and frantic fight for the nectar of the Hummingbird feeder I have on my back deck. Where once they were graceful and delicate in their feeding habits, they become argumentative and frenetic, chasing away their rivals from the feeder, barely taking any time to gather some themselves. They spend so much time chasing one another, I worry that they’ll get enough to keep them presently let alone store up enough extra to take them on for their imminent journey south.
The squirrels increase their activity as well. Leaping and bounding from tree to tree, gathering nuts and burying them randomly in spots of soft dirt wherever they can find some. Of course, they will only ever uncover a small portion of the nuts, and I will be the one to remove the little shoots come spring. But squirrels, like the Hummingbirds, are very serious about what they are doing and they do it with a sense of urgency.
Storing up food for leaner times, or planned adventures, is something that all species seem to do, including us. The problem with human beings is, however, that we think we’re smarter than the rest of God’s creatures. We think we don’t need to prepare for leaner times, simply assuming that the future will always hold “more”, whatever “more” is. And so we spend whatever we have at the moment, whether it is money, energy or love.
But there will always be leaner times, as animals of all kinds know instinctively. I have the feeling that we know this. Also, should we choose to tune in to what our instincts are telling us. The “nesting instinct” is an example of what expectant mothers experience, and often ignore, of the body’s inner drive to prepare for the future. Or, the burst of energy right before delivery when Mom’s instincts tell her it’s time to make last minute preparations.
Could our desire to move to Florida and warmer areas of the world as we age be similar to that of the Hummingbird? Our bodies may know they will be producing less warmth and require more sunshine and light and urge us to seek out such a location. It may not really be about being on a permanent vacation when we retire.
I wonder if the tendency of aging women to reconnect with one another is an instinct, an inner drive to which we should pay attention. Perhaps it is telling us to shore up of our defenses and support for leaner times ahead. We are caretakers by nature, and when we are done with the caretaking of our immediate family, we will be needed elsewhere. Women just know that sort of thing. And statistically speaking, the female will be left to fend for herself more often than not. She will need the support of others in the not too distant future. Who better to have around you than the other women who are likely to be in need as well?
As we age, I wonder what other things our instincts might tell us, as we age, about what we really need to help us through the leaner times that lay just ahead. Once again I am reminded of the importance of listening to our inner voice, paying attention to the truth the nudges us when we take the time to listen, and setting our course using the most reliable compass we have to guide us - ourselves. Should we take the time to still the noise that assaults us from without, and from within, it might just be possible to hear that voice a little more clearly. Then, we just need the courage to follow it.
We are not like the Hummingbird or the squirrel. We are not driven beyond thinking to do what is best for us. We can turn our back on our instinctive drives and our inner voice that wants to lead us in the direction we should go. We can assume we know better, or someone else knows better, or that the future does not exist. We can drown out our truth, our guide, our compass. That is, of course, is what makes us uniquely human. But we can also choose to listen.