The healing power of a hummingbird

March 15, 2020, marked the first day I worked from home due to the COVID pandemic. Everything about that day was different. I fired up my computer and just stared at the screen.

As COVID raged, schools, businesses, churches and transportation hubs of all kinds suddenly shut down. Stores ran out of supplies. Goods ceased to flow to and from ports. Streets and towns were eerily empty. People got very sick, and in the end, millions died. Not just faceless people in far flung places in the world. People we knew. Our family members and friends.

I recall how oddly quiet it was in Hinsdale during the early days of COVID. No large trucks, FedEx deliveries, school traffic or airplanes above. Nothing but the sound of birds, the breeze and maybe a dog barking. Otherwise, pure silence.

As a creature of habit, I'm not adept at navigating dramatic changes in my work-life orbit. In my mind, the world was coming apart and it felt apocalyptic.

After a few months of home confinement, I got a bad case of cabin fever. In my search for balance and a modicum of sanity - outside of watching "The Last Dance" on Netflix - I'd often sit on my back porch overlooking my garden. Years ago I fell in love with gardening; there's something soothing and creative about it. I'm not a pro by any stretch, but I enjoy trying new flowers and plants to see what works - in particular, flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

One late spring morning I noticed a hummingbird flitting about the garden. Tiny, green and very purposeful. It hovered effortlessly and darted from flower to flower with remarkable speed. It frenetically lapped up every bit of nectar. I never noticed one before, but now in the quiet there it was. Sometimes, two hummingbirds would appear and spar over the best flowers. I don't know why, but my hummingbird fascination grew. I enjoyed every minute of its visits. It entertained and mesmerized. I was contented by the faint whirring sound of its wings on perfectly still days. What a gift, I thought. Every day for several months I would sit on my deck and watch for it to visit. If the hummingbird came, I told myself, there was hope that things would be OK. That sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but that's how I felt. My ritual continued through early fall, until the weather turned, and the hummingbird stopped visiting.

The full effects of COVID won't be fully understood for years to come, if ever. I know my physical health isn't quite the same since my bout with the virus. And I'm certain it took an as of yet undetermined toll on my kids. But I smile thinking about the smallest of small birds getting me through some profound rough patches four years ago.

It's funny how nature works. Its beauty, resiliency and healing powers are awesome. Even against COVID.

- Kevin Cook of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].