We were sitting on the second story porch of a cabin built into the side of a hill looking down at a one-day-past-ten year old casting his fly rod into a catch and release pond. The mountain air was a relief to our tired Mississippi lungs used to breathing in only sticky heat. 

Hummingbirds visited the feeder on that porch most afternoons, or was it evenings? They blurred together as we figured out our meals and adventures in the moment without a whole lot of planning. 

Oh, yea, I thought each time I saw a hummingbird. Their small size never ceased to surprise me though I’d seen it a hundred times before. They really are that small. 

Our summer trip was full of joys and misadventures (have you ever used a sock as toilet paper on a trail? Seen lice re-emerge the week after all the heads and sheets and pillows have been treated? Been caught in an apocalyptic downpour on a family hike?). Though our time in the Smokies is long gone, the porch hummingbirds have stayed with me. It’s the joy of them even in their smallness. Maybe the delight of their smallness. 

I have been feeling this pull lately to make some changes– personal, professional, all the things. And maybe changes isn’t even the right word. Maybe it’s more like leaps. But before we can leap, we’ve got to get to the height or precipice from which to do it. It can feel overwhelming. It is overwhelming. Right now, the hummingbird may as well be holding a flashing neon sign at me that says “start small” or “baby steps” because those I can do. Those, I know, add up. 

I’m not into big overhauls. I don’t like before and after photos. I like to celebrate those tiny but meaningful steps we take that lead to what are sometimes invisible changes– those paper wings flapping 53 times per second, but you can’t even see it. It’s so small. It’s so fast. Sometimes it takes a thousand moves just stay right where you are. 

The hummingbird has been the theme of my current work. Some of the paintings are small and done quickly over a cup of coffee just after the sun has come up. Some are larger, and I’m planning at least one very large piece (one little stroke at a time, of course).

With August being my only wedding-free month, I have found a gentle rhythm in the daily painting that once was my lifeline. I’m finding small but consistent again. I’m seeing little efforts adding up and paths they might be clearing. 

The entire hummingbird-inspired series will be on display at the gallery for our September Gallery After Hours party, September 9th from 6-8pm and online Monday, September 12 at 9 am. Make sure you’re on the mailing list if you want first access to them. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing all the little things that have been transpiring. 

Written by Denise Hopkins

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