And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Years and years ago, I saw my first sandhill crane. I don’t know how I missed them; I lived in northern Minnesota from the age of 6 until I was twelve, and I’ve been in Wisconsin ever since. It seems like they’ve become a lot more prevalent in populated areas in the last decade or so, and now, I not only see them, I watch for them.
I’m terrified of birds, to the point of ducking whenever I hear them, which is often. The other day, the bushes lining my chiropractor’s office was filled with chittering, cheeping creepy little birds, and I nearly had to call the office to ask someone to walk with me. Instead, I plastered myself against the wall and slunk-ran as fast as I could. Then, I had to find my way back out. I flat-out ran.
But the sand hill cranes always held a fascination, an admiration, for me. They move ponderously, like they’re thinking great things. And in flight, they’re just a ballet. They never seemed threatening to me, despite their size and prehistoric appearance. I’m not saying I’d go out of my way to stand right next to one; but I almost always pull over my car when I see them, just to watch.
For quite a few years, I had a student, a poet, who took workshops at AllWriters’, my studio, and also worked with me one on one when she wanted to write a children’s book. I think we spent as much time talking as we did working. She was a joy to know. She supported me and my studio and cheered as the studio grew and grew and grew.
I walked her out to her car one day and, across the street, there stood a pair of sandhill cranes. We leaned against her car and admired them. She filled me with facts I didn’t know:
*they are among the oldest living birds on the planet,
*they stand at 3 to 4 feet tall, but their wingspan is 6 – 7 feet,
*their flight reaches 25 – 35 miles per hour, and they can fly up to 300 miles a day,
*they mate for life.
“And they’re just so elegant,” my student said.
That word, elegant, has stayed with me all this time. When I see sandhill cranes, I think, Elegant.
“Do you know the legend?” she asked.
“When poets die, they are carried to Heaven on the back of a sandhill crane,” she said. She smiled at the couple across the street. “I like to think of that,” she said. “I look forward to that. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful life.”
That stuck with me too. I like to joke that when I die, it will take about 20 of those elegant cranes to haul me up to Heaven, if that is indeed the direction I will go. But while I joke, I also always think, They’re magic. I will fly on the back of one magical crane.
Yesterday, I heard that this special, gentle, elegant student passed away. At first, I was awash in sadness. Mostly, I realized, for my own loss.
And then, the oddest, most wonderful thing. On the day that I found out about my student’s death, March 23, yesterday, Facebook, which likes to remind everyone of what they’ve said and posted on that particular day, but over the years, told me that my blog, at that time called Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News, was about sandhill cranes. It was on March 23, 2017.
And I remembered.
When poets die, they are carried to Heaven on the back of a sandhill crane. I like to think of that. I look forward to that. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful life.
She earned her ride. I hope it was every bit as joyous as she expected. I hope it was as wonderful as she was.
And now? Every time I see a sandhill crane, I will think, Elegant. And I will think of that ride. I will think of, and remember, her.
She is not lost to me.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
(Because the first year of the original moments have been published in a book, Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News; A Year Of Spontaneous Essays, they no longer appear on this website. But if you have the book, you can see the original sandhill crane post on March 23rd. To order the book, go to https://www.amazon.com/Todays-Moment-Happiness-Despite-News/dp/1684331293/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1648152852&sr=1-4