Yesterday’s warmth and sun brought more sandhill cranes back to the Platte valley. I went up to the river this morning looking for cranes, and I found them!
My other experiences of crane-watching have involved groups of people as well as flocks of birds. The places where it’s easy for me to park a car and walk to a place with a good view are, of course, the same places that work well for others, and most March mornings there are several people, both local folks and bird watchers from other places, sharing the experience.
This morning, though, I was the only person at the viewing area I visited. Maybe word of the cranes’ return hasn’t spread yet, or maybe the remnants of winter are keeping people indoors. It was above freezing, but still chilly, at sunrise today, and the paths to the river were icy and still snow-covered in places. With little traffic on the nearby road, I could listen to the cranes and to other welcome sounds – water flowing where a channel has opened up in the frozen river, a red-winged blackbird, the occasional honk of geese. The cranes’ sound crescendos dramatically when a group rises up from their roosting spots on the river to fly off to spend a day feeding and dancing in the fields. As I stood near the river with lots of birds around and no people, the river and fields and sky seemed very big. At the same time, the curve of the river with the cranes flying in arcs overhead gave a sense of the curve of the Earth, a roundness that brought a feeling of comfortable enclosure despite the space, a sense of home and security, a sense of God’s love and care for all of creation.
Sometimes the signs and wonders God gives us simply appear in our everyday lives, as the burning bush did to Moses; sometimes they come to us when we intentionally put ourselves someplace where we know we are likely to see something that evokes wonder, as I did in going up to the river at sunrise. The two situations aren’t really that different, though, as both depend on our being curious enough and open enough to recognize signs and wonders when they appear.
People in central Nebraska are welcome to join us at St. Stephen’s in Grand Island at 10:30 this Sunday as we celebrate and give thanks for the signs and wonders that come to us in the crane migration.