543: The Hummingbird

543: The Hummingbird

543: The Hummingbird


I am Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I know that we talk here about slowing down, about paying attention to small things, but there’s also something to be said for stopping. Stopping entirely. Not just easing up on the gas, but stepping out of the car. Running for the hills and collapsing in the green grass to just breathe.

So often my brain is full of a frenzy that I’m used to, accustomed to, and it feels like that’s my natural state of being. Full throttle. Think of everything. Miss everyone. Notice everything. Be present, be mindful, be gathering, gathering, gathering. It’s what we do as artists. We absorb and take in and turn everything over in our minds like Sisyphus but instead of one boulder, it’s a million marbles rolling around in some sort of messy swirl.

It’s not a bad way to live, but it makes everything more. I add a little weight to everything. A little sticky line from me to everything I’ve experienced. In the early 2000s, I remember seeing a sign in Brooklyn by a construction site that said simply Built for Collapse. And that’s exactly how I felt, built for collapse. I loved the swirl in my mind, every thought linked to another thought. It felt like work, like creative work, just being in my own mind. But somewhere, back at the base of my brain, I knew collapse was coming.

One fall, I was recovering from shoulder surgery in my small Brooklyn apartment and I realized that I just had to sit, to just stop. I couldn’t even answer emails, or write. And, forgive me for stating the painfully obvious here, it wasn’t until I was forced to stop that I realized how fast I had been going, how fast the mind was going. It feels significant that it took surgery to make me stop. I had to be out of commission entirely in order to take stock of how fast my life was moving.

What seemed important grew less important and things I took for granted (showering, shopping for food, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth) took on a new quiet pace. Things take time. But the biggest thing I realized was that when I took myself out of the workplace, took myself out of the city commute, slowed down the brain, I realized the world did not fall apart. All this time I thought I was holding everything together with my own grit and it turns out, that wasn’t true at all.

In today’s stunning poem by Blas Falconer, we see how sometimes when we stop, we realize that everything we think is true, is not true at all. Sometimes the blur and rush isn’t so enormous when it comes to halt.

The Hummingbird
by Blas Falconer

A blur in the periphery,
like the mind if the mind

were airborne, a buzz among
leaf and orange blossom,

the long beak pressing quick
into flower after flower, high

on each sweet center, and 
each iridescent feather shines

hard— a thought, half-formed,
charged, a hum before it lights

on the branch—and you
see it clearly—dimmed, now,

small, no longer what it was.

"The Hummingbird" by Blas Falconer. Used by permission of the poet.