I have a couple of paintings in mind and one is easier at least to visualize than the other so I’m starting with it, maybe today (Oh Boy!!!!) 😃

I was happy a couple days ago to find that before I started working on the illustrations for An Alphabet of Place I’d done a sketch for that painting. Still, I need to get back in the studio or out in the world and draw so I did a pencil drawing of a crane from below, some lines whisker thin. I just went with the first pencil I picked up and it wasn’t a soft-leaded one.

Then I realized that going totally from memory on the rest of the scene would be very difficult, so I took Bear out for a walk. Any excuse, right?

Here’s the painting (in words)…

In Spring 2020, when we had no crane festival and the crane tourists all arrived on their own, there was (comparatively) a lot of traffic out there, people wanting to see the cranes. Nature had a hard row to hoe in 2020 everywhere, and the Refuge was no exception. One very windy day Bear and I headed out to find several cars and people with dogs. OH WELL. We have an alternative road we can take when that happens, so we went that way, a dirt road lined with old cottonwood trees.

The wind was brutal with gusts up to 40 mph (60 kph). There were thousands of cranes at the refuge and they, too, were struggling with the wind, partly because when it gusted, it changed direction. A couple of times I had to turn my back to the wind. Bear and I had some gentle arguments about who was protecting whom. ❤️

Then I heard them purring overhead. Hundreds of cranes above me, seizing the lull between gusts to make it across the main road to their barley field. For a moment the wind stopped completely, and I heard the taffeta rustle of their wings.

That’s what I’m preparing to try to paint.

Bear and I walked on that road yesterday. She loves it because there are a LOT of smells. It’s lined with cottonwood trees, fallen leaves, and hiding places for small animals. I found a feather, I think from a Great Horned Owl. They hang out in those trees.

Across the main road is a tumbled-down farm. The biggest house is like many houses in early 20th century western America (I didn’t take a photo of it). It’s a a little frame box of a house often built around a fire place or wood stove. My grandmother lived in a house like this. Plumbing had to be added to it and in my grandma’s case, my uncles built her an indoor toilet off her bedroom. Behind the main house is a smaller frame house with a wonderful south window (below), probably from the late 19th century. I could picture myself sitting in the light of that window in the winter, looking over the valley. I’m sure there are two more windows like it in back of the house but probably NOT on the north side.

I looked for a third house, the original house. Most of the tumbled-down farms I see have three houses, one of which is a log cabin but there is none on this property. I wondered if maybe this little frame house was the first building they lived in. BUT behind THAT structure is the most interesting and most mysterious building. I took photos of the farm — finally, I’ve meant to for a while — hoping when I got home I could zoom in on that mysterious building and see what it’s made of and what it is, but I’m still not sure.

The shape is that of a potato cellar, but it’s not a potato cellar. I can’t tell for sure what it’s made of — stones? Sod? but I think it was their first house. I’m not sure about the white stuff, but it could be adobe or stucco. And there is the blessed south facing window, a pretty important thing in houses in the San Luis Valley. My house has five — basically the whole south wall is windows. There were six, but Teddy made sure that a windowed front door wasn’t happening here.

I’m sure the building is now home to foxes, raccoons and snakes, but once? I’d love to know.


Bear and I headed out on this beautiful afternoon for a saunter. The leaves on the mountains are continuing their magical transformation to gold. The air was cool; the sky covered by low, fluffy clouds. Seldom does the sky here in the Big Empty feel so close. The light changed continually. It was perfect.

As we were walking back to Bella, a brand new Hyundai stopped. The driver rolled down his window and Bear jumped up to say “Hi!” which the vast (meaning everyone but this guy) majority of crane tourists encourage and enjoy and which the man did not like at all. Good grief! She could scratch the paint! I apologized and lifted Bear’s feet from the car thinking the guy’s priorities were messed up. Then he said, “Have you seen anything?”

I was thinking, “Everything. There’s all kinds of everything around here.” I thought of another tourist a while back who, when I asked if he were looking for cranes, said, “I’m happy to see anything.” I also thought the paint on a car is meaningless compared to experiencing a joyful, friendly, giant-breed white dog jumping up to meet you. We might try not to be judgmental, but I think we fail a lot at it. I fail constantly.

“You mean cranes?” I said.


“It’s not the best time of day, but they’re around.” I told him and his wife where I thought they were most likely to be (near the barley fields). We chatted for a bit and I seriously plugged the wonders of the Crane Festival in the spring, and explained that while there are a lot of people, most of them like the tours in the school busses because they are sure they’ll see something and they get a wildlife biologist riding along to show and tell. I explained that crane tourists are not like other people, that they’re interested in cranes and very kind and respectful. They got the idea that coming back in spring might be a good idea. They only live 3 hours away so they could do that. Then I explained that there’s more crane activity at dawn and sunset. His wife chimed in with quite a bit more warmth and charm. It was a pleasant, pretty typical, conversation with crane tourists.

We went on our way and here came an old guy (my age) on a bicycle. “Hey, he said, “you dyed your hair to match your dog!” I laughed. He commented rapturously about the “perfect day” and I heartily agreed.

And this is what we saw (along with a Harris hawk and young bald eagle hunting).

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.

Home Again

I’ve had an intense couple of days. As you may remember, an important acquaintance died while I was up in Colorado Springs injuring my shoulder. I hadn’t been able to go see his wife, my friend Louise, at the Rio Grande County Museum in Del Norte until — wow, day before yesterday. I knew the visit would be intense and sad and everything that conversation is. It was all that. Louise asked if I could design Thank You notes for her to send to everyone who sent flowers and donated to the Alzheimer’s foundation. “What would you like?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”

Then I thought — and spoke, “Do you want your painting?” I meant the painting she and her husband had bought each other for Christmas last year.

“Yes,” she said. Then she reached for her purse.

I said, “No,” and I meant no, but I followed it with, “I don’t know what it will cost me to print them yet.” Actually that doesn’t matter.

After an hour or so talking, I got back into Bella and headed back “over the hill.” (There’s a hill between the town of Del Norte and Monte Vista) and I had the feeling that for the first time in at least a year I was back home. I don’t know where I’ve been in the past few months, but I haven’t been home. On the crest of the hill, Mohammed’s Radio began to play Psychedelic Furs, “Heaven,” and I said, “Yeah. It is.”

Yesterday morning the drain plumber was going to come out and clean the sewer lines in advance of winter because, you know, shit happens. (sorry) I was sound asleep when he got here right at 8. The dogs barked, he knocked, I heard NOTHING. He called. It must have awakened me because a few minutes after his call I was awake and calling him back.

“It’s all good. I’ll swing back later.” He returned about 2 hours later after a couple of jobs in the nearby town of Saguache. He cleaned everything out and inspected everything — important after the bizarre events in my sewer line in 2020. We talked. I learned he’d been a rodeo rider, riding broncs. He’s a young guy, maybe 35, with a wife and two kids. I learned about all his injuries and saw some of the scars. I like rodeo. I know it’s dangerous and a little insane, but it’s been a small part of my life since I was a baby. Rodeo cowboys are athletes; in a way it’s like mountaineering.

We talked about injuries and doctors and I said, “I thought I had good scars, but I got nothing.” He laughed.

I seldom have anything but deep conversations with people. I don’t know why, but it’s always been that way. Pretty soon we’re talking about life and death and why we love the San Luis Valley. I said, “I love it and strangely, I think it’s requited.”

“It is. I feel that too. People down here are real.” When he’d finished and was coiling up the cord to the machine he said, “The way I see it, if we can’t be nice to each other, what’s the point of living?”

Exactly that. That’s what’s been in my mind and has been my struggle since January 6.

The day wore on and the water heater stopped working. My kind neighbor came over to see if he could light it, but no luck. I called my favorite non-sewer line plumber and they said, “Four days.” I said OK. I lived without hot water for a year. It is really not the end of the world. The water heater is relatively new — 7 years old, not a rusty relic. I was hopeful it could be fixed.

Then the wind came up, the sky darkened, and I knew the golden hour had arrived. Bear and I got in Bella. The Refuge was empty, the light was golden and miraculous. We started out in a cool breeze as a storm cell slowly made its way over us. At one point Bear stopped, looking into the distance and soon I saw why. A dozen sandhill cranes calling out flew over us. I was so happy to see them. On our return the storm cell was centered above us and it rained. The cell moved on and I turned around, to see a rainbow stretching across my refuge.

I felt peace inside for the first time in months.

Anyway…the water heater is up and running. The plumber was here by nine and out by 9:10 after explaining what happened and telling me how to fix it myself next time. He spoke in an accent I don’t normally hear in the San Luis Valley and I recognized it instantly. “You’re from New York,” I said.

“Yeah. Long Island.”

“I love it,” I said. “I don’t hear that much out here. One of the best friends I’ve had in my life was from out there. It’s nice to hear.” His arm was inked with Celtic knots and various other signals of his New York Irishness. We talked a bit about how he ended up here and he basically echoed what my sewer line plumber had said and what I feel.

If we can’t be nice to each other, what’s the point of living.

De-compressing, continued.

I spent the morning cleaning up half of the front yard before the wind came up. Tomorrow is supposed to be chilly again so Bear and I will be free. While few cranes remain in the Valley, a few flew over me this morning.

As I have been maybe subconsciously involved in decompressing from the past five years, and the last year in particular, I’m sometimes overcome with realizations of what’s happened and the emotions that go with them. Today it was the realization that more than half a million people died in this country from Covid-19. That’s an incomprehensible number. That statistic — like a lot of other things — I pushed down inside because there was nothing I could do about it, no way to change it, no way to understand, no useful way to express my anger at Trump for his cavalier handling of the virus (i.e.“And I said to my people, slow the testing down.” -Donald J Trump, April, 2020), no way to provide knowledge to the people — doctors and nurses — who were struggling to save lives and comprehend a new and unpredictable illness at the same time. How must they have felt when their ignorance led to deaths? And it did, through no fault of the doctors or nurses. When my cousin got sick, it was late enough in the disease’ trajectory that the hospital knew pretty well what to do.

A friend I was talking to earlier said, “Remember Anderson Cooper when the number hit 200,000? His face was red, he was so angry and so sad.”

I do remember that, though, like a lot of things over this past year, it was pushed away in the bin of “SEP” — the “somebody else’s problem” forcefield from the Hitchhiker’s Guide, a forcefield that renders things invisible. It’s a useful tool when there really is NOTHING you can do to ameliorate a situation or solve a problem and it’s really NOT your problem, but I’ve had to use it too much in the past 12 months. Along with the “problem” I hid my feelings from myself.

Yesterday morning, I went looking for my copy of Goethe’s Faust. My thought was to write about Easter as depicted in the opening act of the play. It’s beautiful and Eastery, but as soon as I started reading, I knew I wasn’t going to post about that on Easter, and I didn’t.

I haven’t read Faust in many years. As I plunged into it yesterday, I felt a real sense of calm. This is good work written by a man with serious questions struggling with fiction/drama using an ancient “hero” (Faust) to confront a lot of big questions. One of the questions early in the play is the limits of human knowledge. Faust’s father was a doctor (as is Faust) and when the public thanks him and his father (posthumously) for the good work they did in saving people from the plague, Faust backs away from their gratitude, telling his student, Wagner, that he is sure his father and he killed more people than they saved, not out of malice but out of their ignorance.

“The medicine was there, and though the patient died,
Nobody questioned: who got well?
In these same mountains, in this valley,
With hellish juice worse than the pest.
Though thousands died from poison that I myself would give
Yes, though they perished, I must live,
To hear the shameless killers blessed.”

It made me sad to read that.

If you know the story of Faust, he ended up selling his soul to the Devil to finally find out the ultimate truth behind the phenomena of nature. Christopher Marlowe’s Faust hasn’t stayed with me except as a good story well-told and entertaining. Goethe’s is, I think, more complex. Faust struggles with the fact that the Devil turns out to be a pretty superficial little shit who leads him into temptation without helping him understand anything or get closer to the answers he seeks.

Goethe’s love of nature shines in everything I’ve read, and so, here is this beautiful, resonant thing that is the truth about humans and why, maybe, we thank the doctor for having done the best he/she could and we move on, letting the dark pain emerge when and as it will. Anyway, it speaks for me as did the small group of late cranes calling out as they flew over me this morning, above the low clouds, where I could not see them.

“Our body grows no wings and cannot fly,
Yet it is innate in our race
That our feelings surge in us and long
When over us, lost in the azure space
The lark trills out her glorious song;
When over crags where fir trees quake
In icy winds, the eagle soars,
And over plains and over lakes,
The crane returns to homeward shores.”

Goethe, Faust Part I

Watch out for the Dinosaurs!!!

We got a TINY bit of snow, but the “snowpocalypse” that filled the news was never expected to hit the San Luis Valley. Hopefully the day will remain ugly enough that Bear and I can go traipse around without encountering earnest crane tourists with their dogs.

I got a little miffed yesterday (impotently so, as always) seeing a photo on the Monte Vista Crane Festival group on Facebook in which it seemed the photographer had gone “out of bounds.” She had captured a very interesting thing, though, hundreds of cranes lined up like soldiers in preparation for a very orderly flight — in shifts, or waves. She asked what was going on. I had a good idea what might have been happening, and I ventured a response. Later one of the wild life biologists chimed in and said I had been right. I felt like it was a little victory somehow, not just for me, but, strangely, for Goethe who advocated for direct observation vs. laboratory experiments.

The biologist also chided the photographer for having been in a closed area and mentioned the cranes’ behavior could have been caused by the photographer intruding into one of their hangouts.

Last spring as I was walking through the Refuge for nine millionth time, I realized that one of the the yellow-headed blackbirds who was often closest to the trail was no longer flying away when Bear and I approached. I understood, again, that predictability is safety for wild animals. I’ve learned this over and over in my hiking/walking life. At the end of crane season last spring the cranes were no longer avoiding flying over me. Not because they had grown to like me, but because they saw me as part of their place at a certain time of day.

For most of us humans, wild animals are a novelty. I think any wild animal we encounter wants to know what we’re going to do to them. Some of them shoot first and ask questions later. Even cranes. They are large, powerful birds with big feet and sharp pointy things at the ends of their toes. Essentially, they are velociraptors.

Like other animals, humans are acquisitive, and people who come to see the cranes are really here to acquire photos of the cranes. I have been that person, too, and I love seeing the wonder that the cranes inspire. But I think it’s important to realize that 1) these are wild animals who can hurt you (and would), 2) they deserve distance that the wildlife biologists — who KNOW things — have provided for them, and 3) sometimes a camera and what it represents (the future) comes between the human and the object of the photo, keeping the human from really SEEING what they’re taking photos of in this all-to-brief, passing moment.

Anyhoo… along with the cranes are large phalanxes of Canada geese and several kinds of ducks. It’s funny that though these are splendid birds, too, people don’t take their photos.



Small squalls came moving through the San Luis Valley yesterday, and just as one hit Monte Vista, I corralled Bear and loaded her into Bella. Bad weather is best, if you’re ready for it.

We headed the six miles out to the Refuge. South of town, the landscape was bathed in March sunshine and peace. From a distance, I saw that several cars were tooling along the drive-tour and I was sure from a clutch of SUVs in a particular spot that the Sandhill Cranes were being obliging to those undaunted souls with their long lenses. I’d already figured out a walk to take with Bear that wouldn’t — probably — put us in anyone’s way. There’s a small frontage road that runs parallel to the highway. Not my favorite route, obviously, but I’ve seen some lovely things from there, and I was sure we’d be alone.

We took that route. Before we’d gone very far, the squall was close enough that the sun had gone and we were hit by a 40 mph/60 kmph gust. I took Bear a few feet off the road, away from the dead trees, and turned my back to the wind. We had a soft argument about who was going to shield whom from the wind and graupel. For the moment, I won. The wind blasted my back, the graupel shot straight at us, but above? Something had inspired the cranes to take flight from the refuge and head across the highway to the barley field. Whether it was the squall or a predator or something else, I don’t know.

Thousands of cranes (and one duck?) were fighting the wind. Bear and I stood there blasted by bbs of graupel. The cranes flew over us, their voices all but lost in the tumult. As the squall moved on, we turned around, stopping now and again as a gust came up. Then, turning my back to a gust I looked up, and low above a dead cottonwood tree, a V of twenty or so cranes approached. The wind stopped, summoning energy for the next gust, and in the silent moment, I heard the concert of wings brushing the air above me.

I’m always amazed by timing. So often I have arrived somewhere in the wild world just at the perfect moment.

Photo: San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Not what I saw, but close enough so you can see the number of cranes. ❤ I also thought last night of putting together a little book of crane stories since the cranes and the refuge have been my pals through the tunnel of this past year. We’ll see.


February, but…

It’s just February, and not even quite Valentine’s Day yet, but yesterday Bear and I had lovely saunter in spring-like temperatures to see the cranes, those who have arrived already. Northern parts of my state are gripped in very cold weather, but down here it’s barely even chilly, just under freezing (29 F) when I got up this morning. It hit 53f (12c more or less) yesterday. Even though winter wear is now virtually weightless, and I love my Patagucci down sweater, I still felt that feeling I had as a kid when I didn’t have to wear my coat and headed out in a sweatshirt.

In other ways it was a spring-like walk, too. Bear and I had our first visit of the season with Crane Tourists, an older guy and his wife or girlfriend. The old guy explained they wanted to get here “before the crowds.” I took that to mean before the crowds of people, but he and his wife are also here before the crowd of cranes have arrived. Still, as Bear and I approached the pond where the cranes were huddled on the far side, the man had gone off trail (grrrr) to take a photo through some chamisa scrub. OH well. The cranes didn’t mind. The ground is frozen and the plants are sleeping. No way he could do much harm.

Crane Tourists in Monte Vista are an interesting breed of tourist. They are either boomers or young people. The men in both groups often sport beards. The women in both groups wear brightly colored socks. In many respects they seem like trans-generational echoes of each other both in apparent and less visible values. BUT…the older ones are more talkative. They are very sincere, ready to tell you about other times and other places where they’ve seen cranes and what the cranes do. I suppose it’s possible that I might someday get jaded about the Sandhill Crane, but right now I love to hear people rhapsodize. Godnose I’ve done enough of that myself (thank you for your patience).

So I heard from this old guy that he’d been to New Mexico at Bosque del Apache to watch the cranes, and I got a description of their sunset behavior, and a description of the crane’s dance, complete with demonstration. I totally understand crane love and the dance was adorable performed by a grizzled old guy in a baseball cap, a red bandana, heavy sweater, and hiking boots, with a big camera around his neck. Since the dance the guy was doing is a mating behavior, I wondered how his wife was taking it. 🙂

I thought again about what conversation means to people. It really isn’t only about what they say, but a mysterious thing designed to establish status and community.

Anyway, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) who manages the refuge is opening the gates to flood the Refuge as some of the ponds are already melting and the cranes have been arriving steadily. Not all that early. I was seeing them this time last year, but not in these numbers.

This year you can attend the Monte Vista Crane Festival — even if you’re in far-flung England, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, India, Spain — ANYWHERE.

Here’s how. I’ll post this again closer to the date which is March 12 in this hemisphere, maybe the 13th for you on the future side of the dateline. 🙂 (Featured photo by Lois Maxwell)

Invitation to the Monte Vista Crane Festival 2021


Learning More about the Sandhill Cranes

Last evening I attended my first ever online class. It was put on by the Aldo Leopold Foundation and called “Virtual Crane Viewing.” In fact, there wasn’t a lot of crane viewing, but there was a lecture given by an interesting and enthusiastic professor about my age. I loved it. I learned many new things and had some of my theories based on my relentless (ha ha) crane observation validated. 

Among the things I learned was that one of the things that led to cranes almost going extinct was the way farmers “shocked” their crops in the old days. From the air these shocked crops looked like birds on a field, so the cranes flew over the harvested corn that could have fed them.

Shocked Corn

Other problems — you might imagine — including people hunting them. Apparently the meat is very tasty. The professor put up a photo of a general store in Wisconsin (where the Aldo Leopold Center is) and cranes hung from the ceiling and were lined up on the counter. He was having a sale. 

The lecture talked about what kind of environment cranes prefer (flat and wet) and that helped me understand why trees have been planted along the “highway” that runs past the refuge, simply to discourage the cranes from ranging where they could get hurt. I learned about their migratory patterns and how they have spread out their territory since their numbers have recovered. It made me very happy. 

I learned, also, that the legislation to protect migratory birds happened early in the 20th century. As he spoke I remembered an exhibit in the Denver Natural History Museum. It was about the Passenger Pigeon. I remember asking my dad, “What’s ‘ex-tinct’.” I was only in my second year of reading so I could sound stuff out but not know what I’d read. My dad explained it to me and told me about the Dodo. I don’t remember what I thought about it, but something about the moment lingered in my memory.

As for Aldo Leopold himself? I don’t know much about him, but I will probably learn more. A friend gave me one of his books years ago, and I couldn’t get into it. During the presentation, one of his descendants read a passage, and I could hear why I might not have gotten into his books. It was extremely poetic — rhapsodic — and compared the calls of the cranes to human orchestral instruments. It made my teeth itch. I kept thinking, “Let the cranes have their unique and definitely NOT human sounds.” And even when I understood that a main part of Leopold’s writing (and the “class”) was introducing the cranes to people so that the cranes would be appreciated, I didn’t like it. Just me. Just personal taste. 

I have a funny perspective on nature. IF nature appears poetic and rhapsodic and all that, it’s not nature’s fault, not nature’s “nature,” so to speak. At the same time, I don’t think we can help seeing, experiencing, nature (as long as it’s not killing us ha ha) in poetic terms if we love it. It’s that so much of our world is “spin” and embellishment and illusion. Nature doesn’t “spin” anything. It has no need of embellishment and in and of itself is no illusion .We might put a pretty illusion on it or a nightmarish one, but nature just does nature and fuck all. That very integrity is its vulnerability. 

I don’t even like to think of nature as something outside of myself. I wish I could escape that perspective, but I can’t. I consciously go out “into nature” as often as possible. I wish there were another way to express that because this warm house is nature, too. It’s what humans have devised through human nature. It’s not really different from cranes preferring flat, wet landscapes with a food source nearby.

One of the points the lecture brought home is one I think about a lot when I’m “with” the cranes and that is their longevity as a species. The lecturer talked about the absolute predictability of a crane’s day, how breeding pairs go off by themselves, how when a “colt” is large enough to fly the couple — family — rejoins the flock and there is much (apparent) celebration. I learned how the cranes use the thermals (as I suspected) to lift themselves VERY high (like airplanes!) to catch a tailwind so when they are going long distances they don’t have to work very hard. 

And so…survival. While I resist looking at nature through my own tendency to form poetic metaphors, I think it IS a metaphor and guidance for us, though it isn’t really a metaphor. We’re just so VERBAL and abstract that it seems to be. And that is that survival is the whole point of the choices the cranes have made for millions of years and they are good at it. They live for decades. They have small families. When they need to go off by themselves, they go. When it’s important for their survival to gather in large groups, they gather. I can’t imagine a Sandhill Crane refusing to wear a mask because, you know, “freedom.” Nature’s lessons — in all their seeming rustic simplicity — are eminently practical and wise. 

Early November, 2020, Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge

Eagles above… Late November, 2020. When I arrived at the Refuge all of this was going on.


Goodbye, Martha! We’ll Be Back in Spring

Sometimes coincidence is eerie. Monday, having realized that I have digital cameras (duh) I took one out the Refuge and got some good photos of Sandhill cranes specifically to share them on my blog with all the patient people who’ve heard — read — one crane rhapsody after another. Yesterday Teddy and I went out and found that the cranes had finally flown south to their winter home at Bosque Apache near Roswell, New Mexico.

I was struck at the coincidence. Maybe Monday was the last day of the cranes at the Refuge. Maybe the squall that passed through with some violence Tuesday night sent them packing. Whatever their “radar” that tells them it’s time to get out of here, they were gone.

The Refuge was silent. Geese and ducks — who are still here because there is still open water — don’t spend the day in conversation. It seems they only speak up when they have something to say. In a little while, the Refuge will be silent with winter. I have never walked out there in winter, so I’m looking forward to it. If we get snow, I could ski on the road. I don’t know what birdlife I will find — if any. I’m expecting to see the tracks of deer and elk. I’m also expecting some wild and bitter winds — the first tentative assault of that yesterday sent me out in a down anorak.