We Named Our Hummingbirds Janet and Doug


Here is a Roederer quirk: We’ve given names to all the animals that show up regularly in our yard. I’ve written before  about our sweet bunnies Rosa and Lita. But we’ve named other critters too.

Last year, two pesky groundhogs kept showing up. We named them Turnip and Spinach. (That’s what they liked to eat). This year, a younger groundhog has shown up from time to time, and we named him Son of Spinach. By the way, it is especially satisfying to yell Son of Spinach! from the house when we see him in our yard.

But of all the names we’ve assigned, perhaps my favorites belong to the hummingbirds –  Janet and Doug. They’re such silly hummingbird names! Daily, these two frequent our hummingbird feeder and Rose of Sharon bushes. This morning, their presence woke me up to a realization I needed.

It’s this: That tiny piece of land behind my house is so complex and so beautiful. It takes up so little space overall, but it is an absolute miracle. I spend so much time hoping that the big picture things will be miracles — that they will provide meaning, connection, and transformation. . . that they will impact real people. . . that the way will be clear for them. And while we can all lean into this direction and participate in big picture things coming into being, none of them are up to us alone. We need others, and in my tradition, we say this is ultimately God’s work. It’s not up to us, and it’s not all about us; but in a beautiful paradox, we also participate in it fully, and it is for us.

Janet, Doug, and their precious flowers reminded me of this. The small details that surround us are absolutely complex and miraculous. And I needed to remember that. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself lately. It’s easy for the best big picture narratives to be replaced by alternative, big picture posing narratives. They can feel larger than life, but they are not the spacious, life-giving directions to which we are called.

These alternative narratives can take many forms, like. . .

. . . when we become obsessed with having our life-direction all figured out

. . . when we seek to prove that we aren’t who those others said we are

. . . when we are terrified of failure

. . . when we chase money and recognition

. . . when we carry the impostor’s syndrome wherever we go

It seems that many of these alternative narratives are caught in pride or shame. Both are distortions of who we really are — beloved, finite human beings, created as miracles, who are called to participate in the big picture changes needed in our world. We are no more than that (pride), and we are no less than that (shame).

We can easily get stuck in these narratives, but sometimes, the small, miraculous details wake us up and root us. Most of all, they remind us that we need to be rooted in the source of it all. The mysterious one who created the tiny hummingbirds also created the cosmos. And us. Tiny, yet beautifully loved and significant us.

Renee Roederer


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