Once upon a time . . .
There was a meadow of marshlands and wildflowers that stretched as far as a thousand eyes could see, from the horizon on the east, across and between streams, down and around valleys, up and over mountains, all the way to the horizon on the west.
And right in the middle of everything was a honeysuckle vine.
Trumpet honeysuckle, to be exact. It was teeming with flowers that looked like orange and red party favors blown (hence the name “trumpet”) at the same time by the same breath of air. And inside each of those flowered favors was nectar, the sugar of the gods, and it was dripping down the vine the way butter does when a man eats corn on the cob at a picnic.
Not too far away, a hummingbird perched himself on the branch of a tree. He stared a thousand yards into the meadow, his eyes fixed not on the tulips or the roses or the dandelions or the garlands.
But. On. That. Honeysuckle.
His mouth watered with anticipation of tapping that, of feeling his tongue dart in and out of the flower, of tasting its sweetness. He flapped his wings and levitated off the branch, like one of those Air Force jets that takes off vertically, and made a beeline past the tree line. Within a minute he was at the honeysuckle, ready to savor its delights.
But then he stopped.
“Wait,” he said, squinting his eyes to get a closer look. “Some of these flowers have not fully bloomed yet. And the fruiting branches are at least a day away from being their most delicious. No, no, no, this will not do. I must come back tomorrow.”
Morning came and the hummingbird woke with a hunger, a big hunger, in his small belly. The wind was blowing from the meadow and towards the trees, so the waft from that flower filled his tiny nostrils. Once again, he indulged in the fantasy of those sweet juices on his tongue and launched himself into the sky, passing over flora, fauna and furry friends alike. He lowered himself from on high, like an angel would, and hovered directly in front of the honeysuckle.
Then he stopped.
“Hold on,” he said, flitting around to the backside of the vine. “The coloration here is all wrong. The green has twinges of brown in it. If I wait just a bit longer, it will be perfect. No, no, no, this will not do. I must come back tomorrow.”
The hummingbird returned to his tree, cobbled together a makeshift nest of twigs and pine needles, and fell asleep. As the night darkened, he dreamed of nothing but honeysuckle nectar, the smell, the taste, the texture on his tongue. He tossed and turned until the wee hours, hearing the familiar sounds of the meadow and feeling the familiar wisps of breeze through the forest.
This time, however, the breeze was different.
It was stronger.
The hummingbird awoke early—before the sun did—to an altogether different sound and an altogether different feel. He looked down from his nest and saw woodchucks and beavers and chipmunks and snakes and frogs marching out of the meadow and into the shelter of the forest.
He then looked up and saw a reflection in the sky of what he was seeing on the ground: Everyone was evacuating. He saw owls and eagles and robins and bats heading in the same direction.
Ahead of the weather.
Which had turned severe overnight.
As the mass exodus unfolded below and above him, the hummingbird had only one thought: the honeysuckle. He pulled himself out of the nest and leaped from a branch on the tree. He forgot to flap his wings at first, so he yo-yo’d down before yo-yo’ing back up, and then started flying the opposite direction of every other living thing around him.
He could feel the cold hitting his face. The stinging in his eyes was so painful, like shards of glass, that he shut them into slits. He could barely see where he was going.
By sheer will and dumb luck, he found himself back in front of the honeysuckle and peered inside. The flowers had frosted over. The fruit was stillborn. The vines had cracked from the frost and were now being blanketed by the snowfall. There was nothing left to eat, nothing left to wait for, nothing left to do.
And that’s when the hummingbird realized his foolishness.
Be it with birds or with business, beware the rapidly shutting window of opportunity. It’s better to have something you want, even if it’s not everything you want, than to procrastinate and wind up empty-handed… or empty-beaked, as the case may be.