Hummingbirds and Pineapples

No Hummingbirds Allowed

The Inverted Pineapple

Pentecost 93 & 94


Note: This post was originally supposed to be two posts but I feared one would get read without the other so today you have two posts combined.


We’ve all heard the old saying about a “fish out of water”.  It is a figure of speech used to describe something or someone that is out of their element.  A book entitled “A Fish Out of Water” was written by an author as she completed a six-week stay at a hotel while her home was being renovated.   Many thought this was the impetus for her book until she jokingly referred to her final draft as the 9, 373th version of the book”.


This book was actually based upon a short story written by the author’s husband, published eleven years earlier as a short story.  With written permission from her husband, Helen Palmer Geisel published her book eleven years later, expanding on husband Theodore’s original premise of a fish that is fed so much it grows too big for its fishbowl in his short story “Gustav the Goldfish”.  Most of us know her husband better by his pseudonym – Dr. Seuss.


In the book format, the fish is purchased by a young lad who received instructions for his care and feeding from the pet store owner.  The young boy overfeeds his fish, however, and soon must call the fire department to assist with his fish that has grown much too big for not only his fishbowl but also the family bath tub.  The fire department takes the fish to a local swimming pool and the pet store owner is consulted.  He dives under the water with the fish and eventually surfaces with the fish its original size. He again tells the young boy not to feed his fish improperly and this time the young lad listens.


While people have assigned morals to many of Theodore Seuss Geisel ‘s works, those of Helen Palmer seem to stand on their own for what they were published, beginning children’s book that encouraged young readers.  On most of the book jackets of her writings, Helen Palmer is said to be married to an eccentric writer listed as “LeSeig”, the name Geisel spelled backwards.


Theodore Geisel said he wrote to entertain but many of his own books have been used in educational contexts.  The lesson of Gustav, as the fish is called in the original story, or Otto, the name given in Helen Palmer’s book, illustrates the dangers of taking a fish out of its natural habitat, giving it something more than what it needs.  Nature is precariously balanced on such a premise.  Take for instance, the hummingbird.


Hummingbirds are delightful to watch as they “hum”, beating their wings up to fifty times each second.  They originated most probably in Europe and Asia about forty-two million years ago. Considered a New World bird, they migrated to the Western Hemisphere and found themselves firmly established in South America twenty-two million years ago.  As they evolved, a taste receptor developed which allowed the hummingbird to locate nectar.  Within the past ten million years over one hundred and forty different species of hummingbirds have developed.  Three years ago, a fifty-million –year-old fossil was discovered in Wyoming which is considered to be a predecessor of the hummingbird so obviously history on hummingbirds continues to be written,


One place they are not found, however, is in Hawaii.  It is illegal to import them to the fiftieth state of the U.S.A.  There they are not only considered to be a fish out of water, they are not wanted.  Most of us, if we are honest, would admit to feeling like that at times.  Whether it is at a party or other event or just because we are new, we feel we don’t fit in.  Sometimes it is something as simple as wearing an outfit that did not fit in but sometimes, we feel it is because of who we are, who we truly are.


So how does this relate to pineapples?  Pineapples are the reason one cannot import hummingbirds to the Hawaiian Islands.  Hummingbirds drink the nectar of flowers and by doing so, they have changed pollination of these flowers forever.  Sometimes we meet people who want to be social but are afraid of people.  Many breeds of dogs suffer anxiety issues when their owner leaves although the dogs themselves are not particularly cuddly animals.  The pineapple is a bit like that.


You see, pineapples seeds need pollination but the presence of seeds can harm the quality of the fruit of the pineapple.  A herbaceous perennial, one pineapple can produce as many as two hundred flowers.  Then the individual flowers join together to create what we call the pineapple.  The hummingbird can disrupt this cycle so it would definitely be a “fish out of water” in Hawaii.


The fruit of the pineapple is protected by its thorny exterior which is how it got its name.  Early explorers from Europe came upon these plants in the Americas and thought they were pinecones due to their similarity to the seeds of pine trees.  As people we too can create for ourselves a thorny exterior to protect ourselves.


We need to realize that we each should soar in our lives.  Much of this series discussing how to make the ordinary extraordinary has been about helping others.  When we help others we also help ourselves.  Some of it has been about showing thankfulness, expressing gratitude.  We do, at times however, need to look inward and take care of ourselves.  There are elements of that that no one else can do.


In order for us to soar, we should not continue to seek what makes us uncomfortable just because it is trendy.  We need to seek out what is right for us and then do it in such a way that no one else is harmed but all benefit.


Earlier this week the skin of an anaconda was discovered in Maine.  Anacondas are not native to Maine and if one is around in the forestation of the area, it will not survive the brutal cold of the winter season fast approaching in the area.  At first it was thought to be a prank but experts have verified that the skin is indeed that of an anaconda, recently shed as they are wont to do at this time of the year.  The large non-native, fish out of water reptile is most likely a pet that someone has abandoned.  Wildlife authorities are searching for it in order to save its life. 


We need to follow our own path and not just follow the trends.  No friendship is worth losing ourselves.  Ralph Waldo Emerson explained it best how not to end up a fish out of water:  “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”


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