Rev. Jim Ryan, M.Div., Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
The leaves are fallen. Last week’s wind and rain put an end to them. The atmosphere has stabilized (for now) with an extended period of High Pressure and the Jet Stream has arced southward. That’s all the alert that cranes need. Two days this week at mid-day the sky was deep and royally blue, hardly a cloud to be seen except on the southern horizon. This is the time when you hear the cranes before you see them high above. It is a sound of screech on screech like Schoenberg dissonance. It’s a sound of mayhem, otherwise referred to as a din.
When you look skyward long enough and with great intent, then, ah then, you see them. Depending on how the sun shines on them they come in and out of sight. It’s a true gaggle – winged bodies seemingly in a jumble, careening every which way. There is no pattern to this melee. After 2 days, and only on those 2 days of total blue providing limitless sight I think I learned the lesson that cranes answer best their inner call to migrate – doing what nature requires of them – when the sky makes possible clear and unobstructed vision. Also, they sounded and appeared to be enjoying themselves.
But then this happens. From out of the jumble of soaring and interlacing bodies, formation starts. Yep, you can see the vector taking shape; cranes aligning in that V-formation that aerodynamics and their inner knowledge says makes for the most untroubled flight. And sure enough the V heads south – even the noise gives over to the single call of the leaders. The V’s break off in groups of 8, 10, 12 and then the final V – extended with 2 trailing lines – shapes up and, what else, also heads south.
It happened twice this week. I have seen this before both times with my dog alongside (first, Seamus, and now, Connor). Neither one of them expressed interest in this sight. I’m guessing it has something to do with yet another interspecies lesson humans do well to abide by. When one’s connection to nature – as in life directions and species survival – calls, it’s no big deal. It just happens. This mere human has yet to catch up, so I watch the cranes.
The second lesson I think I learned from the cranes is the recognition that survival – some just might say common good – requires a reduction, even a set-aside of the individual crane’s self-interest. What I really love about the cranes annual migration is the height in the sky in which they do it. I love hearing them before seeing them. Up there they can enjoy each other’s company apart from we humans with our traffic and destruction of habitat. Up there cranes become magnificent – no longer gangling and skinny. Up there they trade their earth-bound mating dances for open sky and yes, the prospect of moving to a warmer climate. So, my southern human friends when these lovelies land give them my best.
Now, lest this paean to the Crane be dismissed as a fluff piece on ecological balance; lest the reality not reveal itself for the metaphor it is, let me be clear.
Here goes. In the aftermath of an election that included the two largest vote-getters in the history of Presidential elections, namely, Joe Biden with roughly 78 million votes and Donald Trump with roughly 71 million votes, an election that reveals our deep divisions as a nation, we are asking questions about ourselves.
How will it be possible, we ask ourselves, for us to unite to do even the most necessary of things for the good of ourselves as a people? How might it be possible to acknowledge and live with differences while building on the historical fact that diversity makes its own kind of unity? And it’s not only in church that we wonder whether our multiple generations will ever come to a level of interactive life-giving communications.
It takes, it seems to me limitless and unobstructed vision to live (dare I say, fly) with hope. How far above the morass of media and the “rumor as truth” reports do we need to get to recognize each other as sharers in one life? Cranes fly high above it all to respond to an inner call of connection and common purpose.
While covid seems to overtake us, what will it take to see that clarity of life and death? We know it has all the markings of hopelessness. Did you see the report of the Nurse in South Dakota who was caring for a dying covid patient who, while dying, told the nurse that covid is a hoax? Is there anything more hopeless than that? Cranes fly high into a clear path and form their V shapes because of common purpose. These are the lessons I have learned from cranes.
If death and life situations don’t alert us to the lessons of flying high for clear vision’s sake and of setting aside self-interest for the sake of the common good – then maybe it’s the cranes that deserve survival.
I love this piece, Jim, about the cranes. Though I haven’t seen them in flight, I do stop and gaze every time I pass a pond and they are there.
Grateful to you,