My family and I were supposed to be in Colombia right now, heading into the last week of a trip we’d excitedly booked on Christmas Eve, 2019. I’m reminded of this every time I see my business name and remember that, had it not been for 2020, I might have been in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta right now, spotting hummingbirds in the flesh.
And on Colombia, not only is the country home to a huge variety of hummingbirds, it’s also where I heard one of the most bittersweetly poetic myths about the hummingbird and why he spends all his days going from flower to flower (searching for a lost love from his previous human incarnation, a story I intend to set to paper myself one day). There are many such myths from across the world, with hummingbirds being powerful symbols to many cultures throughout human history.
For my business, the connections with the hummingbird are numerous, but there are three main ones.
First, the hummingbird is an empowering symbol of my professional journey. It comes from a reassuring metaphor and story Elizabeth Gilbert shares about the human hummingbirds of the world and what they contribute. (In short, those of us who flit between different jobs and may be feeling increasingly anxious we haven’t yet found that ‘one thing’ we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing, before we start to realise, as we get older, how increasingly powerful and valuable those broad life experiences become.)
But as well as this bigger-picture-life-stuff, in terms of my copy-editing in particular, the hummingbird also represents that sometimes the tiniest things can be the most powerful. That the smallest tweaks – when added up – can transform a piece of writing from lacklustre to brilliant, making my client’s work shine. (That’s why the hummingbird’s body in my logo is actually a comma or apostrophe!)
Finally, as someone who’s always flitted between an equal love for the most non-concrete, abstract, something-other-than-us concepts in this life to the most rational, logical structures of things – all the while believing there’s a sacred connection between the two and, in that belief, instinctively rejecting the cultural notion that we need to necessarily be one and reject the other – hummingbirds are a perfect symbol of these two worlds and how they intersect in my work.
Hummingbirds are just as evocatively beautiful to me from a mythical perspective as they are a technical one. After all, according to an article in Science magazine, hummingbirds are the “only type of bird that relies solely on its own strength to hover in the air” and “a hummingbird flapping its wings requires more mass-based mechanical power output than any other form of locomotion.”
This beautiful combination resonates for me on two levels. First, it reflects how grateful I feel to work with such a broad range of professionals and organisations, who invite me in and entrust me to immerse myself in their areas of expertise so that I can do justice to writing on their behalf. From human rights and solar energy to geotechnical engineering, mental health, psychology, water infrastructure and IT to everything in between, I get the opportunity to learn about it so I can write about it. Secondly, hummingbirds remind me that, though we may be but little, we can be fierce.
And I hope that inspires you too.