The Hummingbird's Hollow
Today was biggest day of my life. I should have been excited, but I wasn’t. I was dreading what was to come. But today I learned a lesson: Never let anyone live your life for you. Let me tell you what happened:
My grandfather, Old Squirrel Johnny, told me that dancing was the cure for sadness--but dancing was in his blood. He was the lead dancer of the Flying Squirrels, twisting and hopping and standing on his front legs. He didn’t care about anything else except for his dancing--and me, of course.
Although now I’m not so sure about that. Grandpa loved me, there was no question about it. But he didn’t care about my dreams and hopes. He didn’t care that all I wanted to do was join the nut-farm, harvesting hazelnuts and acorns for the winter stash.
Instead he wanted me to become a dancer.
Grandpa trained me, nine hours a day and two hours a night. My free time was either used for sleeping, cleaning or eating.
I wasn’t good enough to be a lead dancer, like Grandpa wanted me to, and so he put me as a backup dancer inside his dancing group. He let me in just the day before he got eaten up by a panther.
And so I was stuck.
The Flying Squirrels wasn’t very popular--true, we danced at inns and hotels, cafes and BBQ parties. But it wasn’t until a whole band of hummingbirds wanted us to perform at their giant annual Christmas party that we got our big break.
And that day is today. Hooray...
The squirrels and I danced away into the night, practicing harder than we ever had before. The hummingbirds that lived in the West side of the meadow were very large in number, and their party was a huge honor to attend, let alone perform.
And me? All I wanted to do was have some time to relax. I just wanted to take a break from all this dancing, not go on tour to some big fancy hummingbird field. Our new lead dancer, which had been replaced after Grandpa died, said that we would stay in Hummingbird Meadows for a few weeks after the party, just to see if they had any more gigs for us.
My fellow dancers were counting on me. I had to be there for the performance, no matter how much I needed some time to relax. If I didn’t show up, our whole routine could be ruined.
“Hup! Get in a single V formation! Circle, circle, circle!” We were practicing right before the party, and our choreographer was on his wit’s end. He shouted random instructions and chattered his teeth angrily when we didn’t get something right.
“Rowan! Get. In. FORMATION!!!” he shouted at me. I bowed my head and tried to keep up with the line, but my mind was on other things.
“IS THIS WHAT YOU CALL GETTING IN FORMATION?” the choreographer stamped his foot. Startled and angry, I scampered away from the little clearing in which we were practicing. Yes, I was running away from my big break. But if I didn’t get out of there and calm myself down...
I could hear the hummingbird party in the distance. Crickets in groups sung as loud as they could, and various birds squawked excitedly. As I ran away, deeper into the wood, the sound faded.
I climbed the first tree I saw easily, hoping to find a cozy branch to settle on and watch the party. Surely the group wouldn’t miss me. I was only a mere backup dancer. Who cared about those?
“Why, hello,” I heard a deep, comforting grandmotherly voice come from inside the tree. I jumped slightly but didn’t lose my seat. Turning around, I saw that there was a hollow in the tree I had climbed on. And inside was an old hummingbird.
“Won’t you come in?” the bird asked. “It is quite lonely in here. As long as you don’t make a racket, that is.”
I slowly walked inside the hollow. It was large and circular, with a comfortable carpet of dried leaves on the ground. The hummingbird nestled in a corner, smiling.
“What is this place?” I asked her. The hummingbird smiled.
“This is The Hummingbird’s Hollow. I made it myself. Isn’t it cozy?”
“But...” I turned my head in the direction of where the other hummingbirds were having their party. “Shouldn’t you be at the celebrations?”
“Shouldn’t you?” The hummingbird pointed out. “I daresay we’re both not made for loud Christmas traditions, are we?”
“No, ma’am,” I said politely.
“Why aren’t you at the party, anyway?” The bird asked. “Come sit down and explain all about it, my dear.”
I sat down beside the bird. Her feathers were soft and she felt like the mother I had lost when I was so young, due to a hunter that stalked us through the forest.
“Well,” I began, “I’ve just spent my whole life doing so much work. I never have any free time, you know? I just want a moment of special time, just for myself. Nobody ever lets me do what I want. I didn’t even get to pick my career!”
The hummingbird looked at me with kind eyes. “My dear,” she said softly. “You can’t let other people choose your life for you. You do what you want, you got it? Don’t let anyone stand in your way.”
“Right,” I said. “I should have a choice. I will have a choice.”
“You can make a choice right now,” the hummingbird said, laughing softly. “You can sit here with me for Christmas Eve and enjoy a hot cup of acorn tea, or you can go dance.”
I didn’t question how she knew I was supposed to dance. I just had a feeling that it was best left alone. “That tea sounds good,” I said with a smile.
The hummingbird laughed. “Put the kettle on, then,” she said merrily. “And I’ll tell you a story.”