Crane Philosophy

Yesterday with Bear at the Wildlife Refuge I had the opportunity to speak to an older couple who’d decided to wander a little trail. The head collar on Bear looks to the uninitiated like a muzzle. They hesitated. “Is she friendly?”

“Very friendly. She loves people.” The man had a walking stick, the woman stayed behind him. Bear sat. At the right moment Bear walked calmly to the man who instantly fell in love with her. We talked dogs, dog breeds and family. They were from Texas and, I later saw, had a sticker on their car that indicated to me their politics. It’s usually impossible to know where Crane Tourists are from. They tend to drive large, clean SUVs with Colorado plates. I’m sure a lot of them are rented in Denver.

“What beautiful eyes!” said the man. “Look at them, honey.”

Then we talked about the Bernese dog. Their son had had one, and it had reached the end of its life at 6.

“They don’t live long,” I said. “And Bernese are such wonderful dogs. None of these giant breed dogs have long lives.”

“Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it. About what’s really important,” said the man scratching Bear’s ears. There is nothing like the Big Empty and its spectacular sky to make people philosophical.

It was a gorgeous March day, not warm, not cold and, strangely enough, not windy (???). Clouds floated above, enough to keep the light soft and the trail shaded, saving everyone from the powerful sunshine of the San Luis Valley. Lucky for all of these people who’d come to see the cranes.

At one spot, a small group of cranes was gathered around a pond about fifty feet from the dirt road. A clutch of SUVs had parked, and people were out with long-lenses and binoculars. Bear and I stayed back because she’d want to meet everyone and we’d gone most of our distance. A few cars passed us; drivers waved. One car had stickers that clearly delineated the politics of the people in the car. “Coexist” “Sanders for President.” I watched them pull over behind the Texans. The tall Texan with the walking stick pointed out the cranes. The driver of the “Coexist” car patted him on the shoulder in thanks. I heard laughter.

Just then a big SUV passed with Alaska plates and I wondered, “Why would you drive all the way here for what you have at home?” But as they were retired people, it occurred to me that maybe they’d wintered in Texas, as my Montana relatives had done, and were following the cranes north.

Bear and I turned around. She walked leaning against me, my hand on her shoulders until a magpie caught her eye. She stopped. She watches birds. She regarded him, perched on a three-foot tall low willow tree and the magpie regarded her in return. As I waited, I thought that maybe all we need to bring the people in this country together are Sandhill Cranes, mountains, a beautiful day and a blue-eyed, big white dog.

22 thoughts on “Crane Philosophy

  1. I get this warm, cozy picture in my head every time you talk about Bear leaning into you. Such lovely words, Martha.

  2. This is a lovely sentiment. I’m not sure if peaceful coexistence AND politics can be possible, but if it is anywhere, it sounds like you stumbled on it on a breezy, March day.

    • Exactly. I think the magic in those moments was that everyone was there to observe a truly wondrous thing in nature, and in that all other things were suspended. People weren’t looking for something to get upset about. They were looking for cranes. ❤

  3. Yes! Beauty and nature can definitely help to remind people of what truly matters. I love that Bear watches birds. My dog does the same. Sometimes she will follow a large hawk or egret flying through the sky until they disappear from view! So attentive. Enjoy those beautiful walks with Bear. They are precious moments!

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