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I’m grumpy on high pain days and not the world’s most cheerful hiking companion, yet one moment with the hummingbird whisperer can transform misery into joy.

Hummingbird, Butchart Gardens, B.C. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

The backstory: I was scrambling down a dirt path to reach a river, caught up in my own pain. It wasn’t from hiking — exercise usually improves most of my symptoms — it was just the old chronic pain, the one lodged in one leg that shoots straight to the brain.

After short hikes in Northern California and Southern Oregon throughout the day, I was hoping the pain would ease. It didn’t, so my mood darkened. No amount of cheerful “self-talk” or gorgeous scenery or perfect weather was helping.

But this was supposed to be a romantic adventure, and I was trying to keep my misery to myself, by staying quiet. (Everyone who knows me will laugh at this.)

Never works. (Again, with the laughter …)

My lover, well-attuned to this “pain = stupid attempts to be cheery”, was doing his best to clear the way for me, literally and figuratively, through redwood forests, then scrub grass, then this dirt path. It was a bit tricky for my disabled self, trying to balance on uneven terrain littered with small rocks.

We reached the river, sat on the grassy edge, and just breathed.

Watching the water, and listening to crickets, we relaxed for awhile, before deciding, reluctantly, that it was time to go home. We still had a couple of hours of driving ahead, and it was nearing dusk.

Scrambling back up the little hill, I was using my husband’s elbow as a guide, and was a bit annoyed when he stopped suddenly. We listened.

He pointed to a wild olive tree, yet I couldn’t see what had snagged his attention. He pointed again, and I heard a trademark buzz. Hummingbird! Here?

The tiny bird darted our way, with its trademark ‘tsk-tsk’ warning, then hovered as we gaped, delighted.

It was so special, I was glad we weren’t carrying our usual cameras.

We moved on, laughing at how many times this has happened to us this year, from Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. to Morro Bay, California.

Even in places where we wouldn’t expect to see hummingbirds, my most constant hiking companion always spies them first.

Truly, redwood forests?

This was the only high pain day of any of the hummingbird whisperer’s discoveries, yet still the most memorable of them all. I am grateful every moment for the joy of hiking with him.

Thank you, my love.