The four o’clocks volunteer every spring. As late summer’s heat bears upon them, they will become brown and leggy, but now at midsummer the plants are dark, plump, and glossy-green. Their flowers are fresh and bright, inflamed and sunny. Hummingbirds feast at the funneled amphoras. They drink voraciously, stopping only to chase other hummers from the stash. Their window of opportunity is short; there are only so many blossoms to go around. By mid-morning, those there are will close in upon themselves, remaining shuttered until the cool of dusk teases them apart.
I water the plants by hand. I have left the hose trickling while I go inside to get coffee. When I come out, I stoop for the hose. A female Anna’s buzzes by my ear. She feeds on a pink blossom less than a foot from my head. I stay bent. She darts from pink to yellow, yellow to pink, thrusting her needly beak into each flower, gorging quickly, nimbly. She turns from her feast to beat the air in front of my eye. I hope she doesn’t find it’s blue inviting. Apparently she does not, for she revisits the flowers, each in turn. Satisfied for the moment, she zooms into the bee-humming cover of the pepper tree.
I straighten and begin to spray the plants. My thumb on the nozzle creates a shimmering arc of diamonds and rubies, emeralds, sapphires and topaz. The hummingbird drops from the pepper tree. She hovers before the display, a queen considering her jewels. I, the queen’s devoted handmaid, hold the hose perfectly steady. The queen lifts her white-trimmed gown and steps forward into the dazzling bath. She pirouettes, wetting her back, her front, and then her back again before flapping with wettened wings back to her tree.
I finish watering and return to the porch. I sip coffee. The flowers close. Hummingbirds doze. The bees drone on.
Grace is given.