Daughter of the Cranes

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When I see them

I enter the Dreaming.

In the background

a jagged coat of barren

reptilian mountains

frames bountiful bodies

standing on stilts as

undulating necks,

crimson crowns

beaded eyes

dive below the surface

in search of last year’s grain.

Each deliberate step is taken

in syncopated rhythm

with those of nearby neighbors

Each three toed talon

pierces still waters.

 

Ruffling six foot wings

clasped close to form,

serpentine ropes dip and sway.

Cranes leap into thin air

when encountering old friends.

Parachute back down.

Relaxing into the calm mirror –

each one casts a silvery shadow

trilling, rattling, rolling, whirring,

brurrring with excitement

when greeting relatives.

Circling around before

making their descent,

cranes bounce off the field

as they land!

 

Always in communion

the echo makers converse

with others in nearby ponds

in the hushed chamber

of the lowlands-

a Bosque of Cottonwoods, lakes,

and reeds –

Cranes are always listening.

 

No wonder one can trust them.

 

As twilight deepens,

they fall soundly asleep,

thin billed domes

nestled deep in warm flesh,

scaly feet sunk under oozing mud.

 

They dream an ancient language

tapping into fields

of primal patterning

Indigenous knowledge

Earth’s current keening.

Cranes know that

only by attending will they survive.

During the night,

One bird stands sentry…

 

Next month

they will begin

the great migration

a bi -annual flight made

year after year for millennium.

Cranes return to the same locations

thousands of miles traversed when

‘North Country’ calls them home.

 

Upon arrival, the birds

paint their plumage brown

blending into last year’s

wetlands to escape detection.

Mothers hover over two eggs

sinking onto nests

braided out of reeds.

A most attentive Protector

scans horizon and sky.

Nearby.

 

One chick might

survive to make the return journey…

 

But for now

these sentient Beings

celebrate community

by the thousands,

feeding in harmony…

 

The tranquil ponds echo

with a symphony of sound so

compelling, so enchanting

that I am swept

into the Heart of Creation,

folded into feathery down,

cupped by Primeval Wings

fringed ashen cloaks –

immersed in Natural Grace.

 

Working Notes:

 

The Sandhill cranes are called the “Echo Makers” by the Anishinaabe who are culturally related Indigenous peoples that live in Canada and the United States. The tribes include the Odawa, Chippewa, Ojibwe Potawatomi, Cree, and Algonquin peoples.

 

There are seven primary clans of the Anishinaabe people; loon, crane, fish, bird, bear, marten, and deer. Note that birds as a whole are included separately. Traditionally, the Loon and Crane Clans worked together as leaders and eloquent storytellers respectively.

 

These tribes have a wonderful tale about a girl who is standing alone in a mountain meadow when the Sandhill cranes are passing overhead on their journey south. They circle around the young woman and gather her up in their great gray wings and fly away with her. She becomes a ‘Daughter of the Cranes’… and this is why before arriving at their northern location each spring the cranes circle around before they land. They do this in memory of the girl.

 

When I first read this story I recognized myself. I too am a Daughter of the Cranes.

 

Many Indigenous peoples believe that humans were once cranes and will be so again…

 

Postscripts:

Cranes are receivers; they are always listening. Most westerners lack an ability to receive or to listen because most do not inhabit their bodies with any degree of awareness, if at all (this includes folks who spend time outdoors using the land instead of listening to her). The price for this inability is a split between body and mind, one that privileges mind, while dismissing body as irrelevant except as a machine. This makes humans very difficult to trust. It should be mentioned that because our feelings are carried in our bodies when we lose access to them we lose ourselves as well as being unable to be emotionally present for others in a meaningful way.

 

Being with Sandhill cranes allows me to enter their world in some non-ordinary way. I experience this oneness the moment I enter their field of influence; and the haunting crane calls – whirs, brring, trills, trumpeting – contribute to, and intensify this oneness. Whenever I am with them I am fully in the present moment. Nothing else matters. Although they are birds of the air I experience Cranes as being able to bridge the false western dichotomy that splits earth from sky to embrace/embody the Spirit/ Soul/Body of all there is.

 

Cranes are also prehistoric birds, 60 million years strong. It seems to me that they have access to truths on a level we can’t even imagine. It doesn’t surprise me that it is believed that they foretell the future or act as guides between worlds… They have for me.

 

Field notes of one of my crane experiences appear below:

Notes from Bosque:

“We found the cranes nearby and we left once and returned this time staying until sunset glorying in “the Echo Makers” – cranes coming in from all directions, one family at a time, and oh the sound was hypnotic – the air was still – the water like glass and the cranes were walking about feeding, brrring, trumpeting, rumbling, parachuting down with cupped wings onto the glassy water and leaping into the air calling to each other, welcoming mates and family. There were 3 areas – the first just to the front of us – one to the far left, and one far behind the larger pond all reflecting silvery light like a mirror -and with groups flying in for about two hours, some circling and dropping in front of us, some going to the left, and all in conversation – brrring, bugling, whirring – the sound was amazing and the birds in front picked their way through the shallows with heads sunk into mud, some in pairs and some isolated but all so peaceful – how did those flying in decide where to land? Great circular descents with those feathery fringed wings spread and legs dropping below them toes spread – they cushion landings by hopping back in the air – one was with a group that kept on flying towards the cranes gathering on the far left, but after a loud brrr from the ground, this one turned around in mid air and landed squawking. Another smaller crane immediately joined him and then another – do some fly separately during the day to different feeding places and then land on their return when they hear their mates/ family?…And all the time this intoxicating sound is resonating through my body. I am One with the experience of Crane, totally embodied, my mind recalling lore and mystery – “I love you,” I cried out at last to the darkening sky when we left. I loved it that the cranes were separate from the geese because I could hear “the Echo Makers” so clearly, each group’s conversation merged into a collective symphony and it wasn’t my imagination that the music came from every direction including the sky. We started out with about two dozen cranes and by the end of the day there were hundreds- maybe thousands, and oh yes, so many stayed out of the water huddled up on the far side of the marshes…. by nightfall my impression was that I was experiencing a world composed of these ancient birds, still waters, and sky and nothing else. Oh, those gray robed monks who stand in such stately grace – and when we left even more were flying in – it’s so open that even deep twilight is kind to the cranes. They must “see” through silver mirrors…..the sky reflects above and below – when the cranes move through shallow water they use a precise high stepping walk that seems so deliberate that one has the impression that it is has a syncopated rhythm especially when two or more cranes “high step” together. When in flight both head/neck and tail seem somehow equal in length and my impression is that in flight they appear white underneath…”

I haven’t heard the one group of 14 cranes that have stayed in Abiquiu for the winter for a few days. But whenever I write about them they come. As soon as I stopped this writing I heard them brrrring in unison -They reinforce the (heretical) truth that we are all interconnected and have the ability to communicate telepathically.