Joyas VoladorasBrian Doyle, who died on May 27, 2017, considers the capacity of the heart—including his own. Restin peace.By Brian Doyle | June 12, 2012Andrew E. Russell/FlickrListen to a narrated version of this essay:Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. Ahummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. Ahummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. Ahummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird.Joyasvoladoras, flying jewels, the first white explorers in theAmericas called them, and the white men had never seensuch creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only inthe Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than threehundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaringin hummer time zones nine times removed from ours,The American Scholar: Joyas Voladoras - Brian Doyle1 of 512/3/18, 9:52 AM
their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear ifwe pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive atsixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can flymore than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. Butwhen they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, orwhen they are starving, they retreat into torpor,their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normalsleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barelybeating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soonfind that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, andthey cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirdswho did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in theAmericas: bearded helmet-crests and booted racket-tails,
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