Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Choosing a Totem

I think the hummingbird has become my new totem. I seem to have a charm of them. Not to mention a bouquet, a hover, a shimmer, a glittering, or a tune ~ all names for a group of hummingbirds.

Detail of a Painting by artist and colleague Catherine Walker

As a florist’s son I admit I’m attracted to bouquet but charm, apparently the most common group name, seems fitting for a jeweler don’t you think? (A glittering comes a close second). And too, the bird was christened Joyas Voladores or Flying Jewels, by the first Spanish arriving in the New World. Whenever I see one it reminds me of the jewel-like yet transient quality of certain experiences, a particular summer day, a kiss, a promise made, a perfect moment in love.  Hovering over a flower full of nectar, then gone in a whirr of wings.

From a long list of hummingbird facts* I learned that a hummingbird's brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. It’s a mega-mind mini-bird.

They can remember every flower and feeder they have visited and even how long it will take for a flower to refill with nectar.

My favorite and the last on the list ~ “Hummingbirds don't read books on what they are supposed to do and tend to do what they want.” Well now. While I am sure I’m not the only one to think so, they seem like a perfect totem for an artist. 

 Santa Fe fetish

  Found drawing by Paula Garrett held in trust

 Rainbow Gate (Santa Fe) coffee cup

Yuma Symposium swap pin 

Society of N. American Goldsmiths
swap pin 

Listen here to a pissed-off hummingbird chewing out another for trying to sneak into “his” guarded feeder.


  1. Link to the pissed-off hummer results in a 404 for me :(

    1. When I tested it, it seemed to work fine. Try accessing it through The World of Hummingbirds website.

    2. Second try and I found a broken link. I've re-posted it so it should work now. Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. Hi Ken! I read your Hummingbird notes with great enthusiasm as I share your fascination and admiration of the wee creatures. They whir into my garden, my work, my dreams. My horse is even nicknamed Chuparosa. (Slang for Hummingbird.) Although now I believe her new name will be Joya Voladore. Thanks for that!

  3. when our home was near Yosemite, I had a feeder in my open studio window. they'd come in and fly around. We fed hundreds of them for months. I could hold them. I had one I was nursing that would drink nectar from under my fingernail. I have quite a collection of feathers. love those fierce little birds!

  4. I enjoyed reading your reasons for choosing the humming bird as your new totem. Given the info you share, it seems a perfect choice for you. Now when I see one whirring from flower to flower, I will think of you. If this is your “new” totem, what was your previous one?