The hummingbird and the fire

January 13th, 2010

A terrible forest fire broke out one day, and all the animals fled their homes. But one hummingbird zipped over to a stream, got some water in its beak, and rushed back to the raging fire. The little hummingbird tried to douse the flames with a few drops of water, then back to the stream it flew to retrieve more water. The other animals watched in disbelief. They asked the hummingbird what it was doing – one tiny bird would not make a bit of difference. The hummingbird replied, “I’m doing the best I can.”

I’m getting ready to go to Scottsdale for this weekend’s Mother’s Plunge and by getting ready I mean I’m not getting ready. I’m slouching around in my pjs, drinking coffee, resetting the clocks after last night’s power outage. Making beds, unloading the dishwasher, groaning over the shopping list that means I’ll have to go to Target before I leave.

Last night at bedtime I had a scary thought: What will I tell these women? Oh, for sure I have a general idea, but I don’t do anything based on a general idea. Those of us who gather will have never come together before and likely won’t ever again. Our once-in-a-lifetime meeting, like every moment of our lives, is the culmination of a vast and unknowable past and the seed of an infinite and unimaginable future. It’s magic, I tell you. There’s nothing general about it.

There are more women attending this Plunge on scholarship than any one before. When I asked for donors, there was such an outpouring of unselfish generosity, met by an equal torrent of unabashed need, that I stand in pure amazement. Pure amazement, I tell you. Aid comes not because any of us is lacking, but because all of us are rich. So rich in love that it pours out of us.

Prepare to be doused.

If you’re anywhere near our little fire, come for water. If you’re not, choose a bigger one to quench and do the best you can. It’s impossible to do otherwise.


The hummingbird and the fire is a Japanese folktale, but you might like to hear it told or read about the kind of inspiring people who believe it here.

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  1. I am attending the Mothers Plunge in Scottsdale. I saw the information (through a post in Shutter Sisters) right when I needed it. Instantly, I felt I should go. I found you before I knew I was looking. Thank you for coming.

    Michelle P

    Comment by Anonymous — January 13, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

  2. Michelle, I love you already!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 13, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  3. I live in Scottsdale AZ and am curious about your visit. Where, when , what is it ?


    Comment by Trina S. — January 14, 2010 @ 5:56 am

  4. I am so looking forward to this!

    Comment by Sheryl — January 14, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  5. I just read your essay in Shambala Sun Magazine. Now I understand all the laundry stuff!

    Have a lovely Mother's Plunge in the sparkling Southwest.

    Comment by 6512 and growing — January 16, 2010 @ 3:21 am

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