Heaven, Still

I heard cranes flying overhead in the morning and I knew I had to get out if the weather would let me. The wind whipped up in the afternoon, and Bear and I seized the day. It’s so wonderful to be out there again. I have missed the horizon — and it’s immense out there in the Big empty — the changing light, the shafts between the clouds lighting the mountains, the clouds themselves, the wandering storm cells, all of it. I let Bear take me on her favorite little trail, keeping her close when I couldn’t see around the bushes of blooming chamisa for snakes. “Stay close, Bear,” I said, shortening the leash a bit. Bear didn’t mind at all. A storm cell passed over us, and we were blessed with a few cool sprinkles before it passed on in a hurry. I didn’t see cranes but it’s OK. There were no people, either, which meant we didn’t have to hurry or wait or do any maneuvering at all.

We were free.

The San Juans

This morning I looked at my Facebook memories because back in 2014 I was involved in selling my CA house and in moving here. Sometimes there’s an interesting story or photo of something I found in the garage. What appeared today was this:

My friend Lois, who lives in Colorado Springs, had taken her grandson to the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver and had taken a photo of this exhibit and shared it on my FB wall. I hadn’t yet even seen a crane. It was in the future. I didn’t know how it would be here in Monte Vista or where I would live. It was still on the horizon of my life.

I love the cranes, partly because their presence here marks the beginning and ending of my favorite seasons. For a very short time in winter they’re not here, though I’ve seen them in January and February when they are allegedly “wintering” in New Mexico. Their winter presence seems to depend on whether there is any open water. They are here in larger numbers in spring than in fall, but there are also a lot more people (crane tourists) in spring than fall. I’ve had the opportunity to be a crane tourist, then a crane tourist guide, then what I am now — a person who hangs out with the cranes. In summer they’re up in the Yellowstone region. 🙂

The cranes have taught me a lot — big lessons last year about the importance of survival, stoicism and joy. I’ve watched them get used to me which has been pretty amazing. For a long time last fall I would be out there with Bear walking and looking around and a group of cranes would approach in the air. Inevitably, they would separate into two groups above me. Then came a day when they didn’t do that any more. I can’t say for sure, it might just be a fanciful wish, but I believe my consistent, non-threatening presence and the cranes’ incredible ability to evaluate their environment came together to inform them, “This lady and her dogs are no threat to us.” Now they fly over us, and I love the sound of their wings against the air.

15 thoughts on “Heaven, Still

  1. Where we live it’s the elk. They understand, if it’s just me and the dog, they have nothing to worry about. We are very content to just stop and let them pass. They are curious about my camera, but it isn’t a big deal. The relationship has become one of my favorite things.

    • I understand that — I “had” a small herd of deer for a while but they began to be too curious about me and Bear so I had to tell them “I might love you, but I’m not your friend.” Somehow they understood.

  2. We live on their flight path; a large flock settled here in late Sept to glean for a couple of weeks before they head on to your country. I love seeing and hearing them, too. Giant bullfrogs. 🙂

  3. Cranes are elegant looking birds. I wish I could say about crane tourist. Every year here in Stanley Park, Vancouver, the cranes return for mating season in April. It’s such a wonderful experience to watch them.

  4. I love that you love the cranes and that they have accepted your presence! I have never been particularly close to a big bird (with the exceptions of having an Emu eat a bug off my shirt in 3rd grade and more recently having a great heron strafe – laying down a heavy line of poop – the picnic table with a low flyover). With my luck I’d be covered in bird poo! Still I’d love to see them in person!

  5. Alas I don’t think we are on the migration path… I’ve only seen herons. And geese. And turkeys. The wild turkeys are pretty big but I’m not sure whether I’d prefer to tangle with them or the geese!

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