The wind chill was minus 4 degrees when I woke up before dawn to set up her feeders, in what I was sure would be a useless exercise. The wind had been howling relentlessly at 20-25 mph all night, our coldest night of the winter so far. I remembered all too well the website I visited during the last cold snap, a website that proclaimed rufous hummingbirds able to survive to 4 degrees, given a reliable source of food and other protective factors. Before going to bed, I had checked the weather. The windchill was 1 degree.
I dreamed of Emmy while I slept. She was inside, in the kitchen, hovering near me. I raised my hand to her, and she immediately alighted on my index finger. I was enthralled! She was light as a feather, and so sweet - looking around and totally at ease. She then dropped over, hanging upside down from my finger like a bat. I watched in wonder and amazement as she rubbed her head against my finger, much the way a dog would to show affection. I was awestruck, and filled with joy. It was so very real, in that way of dreams. Even now, I can remember how her little feet felt, grasping my finger.
When I awoke, the happy feelings from the dream clung to me, even though I had a sense of foreboding that she had died. How could it be otherwise? Nevertheless, I ventured out into the wind, plugged in the heat lamp and stood by the window, waiting for dawn. I didn't want to put the feeders out too soon - the nectar begins to freeze so quickly at such frigid temperatures. I would wait until the other birds showed up to feed, since that's usually when I first see her. But I stood by the window, watching, just in case. Then I spotted a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. Shock, disbelief and hope jolted me...what was that...a leaf? I stared. Within seconds she was back, hovering in front of the heat lamp, looking for the feeder. I almost tripped over my own feet in my haste to get that feeder out there.
Factoring in the windchill, it has warmed up to 1 degree now, at 9 am. She sits in the rose bush, feathers ruffled in the blowing wind, an emerald green winter warrior. And I defrost hummingbird feeders every 25 minutes or so, immersing each frozen feeder in a shallow pan of warm water until the icy nectar melts. Tomorrow will be warmer, and there will be less work. Until then, well... I know what it's like to hold a hummingbird on my finger, and that makes me smile.