Butterflies, lady bugs and hummingbirds fascinated me when I was a child. Raised by my grandparents, who were avid gardeners, I still mark my year by the growing seasons.
Hummingbirds especially piqued my curiosity. For unlike butterflies and lady bugs, you could never get close to hummingbirds. They are fast moving little birds whose tiny size no doubt requires this speed for their own safety.
While growing up in East Los Angeles I never once saw a hummingbird land in my grandparents garden. Or anywhere for that matter. Not during the thirty years I lived in the neighborhood I was born in. I saw many, probably hundreds, but not a single one ever landed. In a neighborhood full of half feral cats and psychotic dogs not to mention more than one BB gun toting juvenile delinquent, landing probably didn't seem like a safe proposition.
There was a lot about my old neighborhood that wasn't safe. About the time that I left for San Diego in the early 90's the murder rate, gang activity and crack epidemic were peeking. At least that's what I read in a recent LA Times article. At the time I didn't know or care because I was so wrapped up in all three of those things (It was the killing of Peter that broke me).
I left the violent streets of East LA to settle in a bucolic section of San Diego's back country called Dulzura. It was a rather lush, peaceful place, for the first few months. Then the Clinton administration started Operation: Gatekeeper. During the next ten years I watched as the area became a full blown military zone, complete with redneck militia's (I'll never forget my run ins with 'The Christian Militia') and brutalized immigrants (The blood stained undergarments are burned into my psyche for eternity). It had become a place of violence. Just like where I was born.
Our garden during that decade in Dulzura was beautiful but still no hummingbirds landed. They came, they fed, but they never stopped to rest. They just didn't feel safe I guess.
When I fell in love with a gal from Tijuana and decided to move there, we bought land in the most desolate, isolated section of Tijuana's eastern foothills that we could find. It was all dirt and wooden shacks. Not a green leaf in sight. The first thing we did was plant a garden. That was some five years ago and today a pretty little garden grows in what is called the most violent part of TJ.
The reason I am writing this story is because a headline in last months Tijuana daily La Frontera proclaimed that Pacific Beach was the most violent section of San Diego. I work for the French Gourmet in PB and I spend a lot of time there (I still hear the words of the three skinheads who were sizing me up in the wee hours after work).
If the article is correct, then I was raised in one of the most violent sections of a violent city (East L.A.), then moved to a violence plagued back country (Dulzura), then moved to another violence plagued city (Tijuana) and took a job in still another violence plagued community(Pacific Beach).
I could row a boat on all the blood and tears I've seen in my life. Much of it my own doing. Sometimes in our desperate search for sanctuary we create a hell. But I know there's hope. You see I got a message just the other day. A HUMMINGBIRD LANDED IN MY GARDEN!
It was an adolescent female. I could tell by her miniscule size and drab coloring. Although when I saw her sitting on one of the wires supporting my grape vines she shone like a gilded statue.
Nowadays, she's a regular on that wire. She must really feel safe and secure in my garden. I hope she considers it a sanctuary. It's why I'm building here.
I'll be turning fifty come January. Five decades of searing violence. I sincerely hope that my next fifty years on mother earth are ones of joyous peace. But I won't hold my breath.
Some people want to be rich. Some people want to be famous. Some people want to be powerful. And some people want all of the above. Me, all I ever wanted was to live where hummingbirds land.
"Coffee's Ready, Gotta Go!!!"