It was early Autumn when a Hummingbird entered a garden and hovered next to a Trumpet Creeper, drawn by her orange-red petals and intoxicated by the scent of her nectar.
“Hello Trumpet Creeper!” the joyful bird announced. “I bring you stories from afar to lift your spirits and am here to keep you company.” It was customary for hummingbirds to announce themselves to flowers this way. And flowers welcomed hummingbirds saying such things as, “I’ve waited for the tingling breeze your tiny wings make and hungered for the sight of your slender bill coming to drink. Stay. Have some nectar and tell me what you’ve gleaned from your travels.”
But this Trumpet Creeper had prepared no welcome.
“Be gone,” she blared. “My nectar belongs to me. I decide who, if any, will enjoy it. If I choose to share my drink, it will be on terms I set, if and when I set them.”
Hummingbird flew backward on hearing this.
“I have traveled far and am thirsty,” he complained. “Our benevolent universe drew me to you for sustenance. It is my calling to carry your pollen that you may procreate and I will eat any insects that threaten you.”
“Try the Salvias and the Bleeding Hearts,” Trumpet Creeper scoffed. “Maybe they’ll enjoy your colorful tales and consider sharing their ambrosia with you. I have no interest in multiplying and I see no threatening insects. If it’s all the same to you, I will keep my precious nectar and do with it whatever I please.”
“But, beautiful flower, how can you fulfill your purpose if you hoard nectar?” Hummingbird asked. “It is meant for the good of the world, not to be rationed or withheld. Ours is to share what the Universe bestows on us. The nectar is neither mine nor yours and the sweetness you deny the world will be your bitter end.”
“You talk too much!” she scoffed. “I regret it if my beauty and perfume grabbed your attention. But there’s nothing here for you. Now go!”
Trumpet Creeper folded her succulent petals together. Hummingbird gazed with sadness and bewilderment upon the shuttered flower before vanishing.
At the next sunrise, Trumpet Creeper instinctively tried to unfold in hopes of attracting birds, insects and honey bees, but her petals had fused shut overnight. Days passed and nectar began collecting inside, some of it dripping down the vine and dampening the ground near a bustling ant colony. Soon the tiny pests were gnawing through her petals for access to the sugary fluid.
“Be gone!” she cried, but her voice was locked within her petals.
The teeming insects had no ears to hear like Hummingbird, nor did they observe ancient customs like those forged between birds and flowers. As she wondered whether Hummingbird would return to remove the excess nectar and chase the insects away, a steady stream of ants marched into her core with military precision and drank until nothing was left.
Days later Hummingbird entered the garden, hoping to persuade Trumpet Creeper to honor the ancient ways and rejoin the joyful harmony of their shared Universe. On his approach he passed Salvias and Bleeding Hearts swaying in the gentle breeze, their colors and perfumes attracting birds, bees and insects.
He scanned the lush grounds; he could not find the familiar red-orange petals nor catch the scent of the reticent Trumpet Creeper. For a moment he hovered near a silent, wilted flower. A ravaged and brittle petal fell to Earth, the coveted nectar that once kept it supple now reduced to a fine dust by the Autumn sun.