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Happy Birthday, Tom!

March 31, 2010

March 31, 2010 – Tom is 65 today! Wow! How time flies. We were highschool sweethearts Senior year in Germany.  That’s something worth remembering!

This morning I took myself on an artist’s date. I wrote my morning pages and finished them just before the sun came up. I bundled up and set out to find the sandhill cranes. I have been hearing them the last few days and even seen a couple sailing nearby. I drove down the road to the corn stubble field where I had seen jillions of them last year. None. And no sound of them.

I went past the dairy. Oh, such a sad, muddy sight. So many dairy cows crowded in tiny pens with nowhere to lie but in the mud. It’s amazing that the black mud and gunk doesn’t get into our milk. 

Saw a bald eagle, at least I think it was one. Solitary and shining white head and flying just like one. Can’t think of what else it might have been. Wasn’t expecting to see one because I was looking for cranes. Glad I had my eyes open.

Turned left after the lambing farm. Had no idea there were so many sheep down the road.  This was not a bucolic scene of “sheep safely grazing.” Rather it was a sand lot – bland, gray, bare – that went on for acres. I need to remember this the next time I cook lamb. 

Then I saw a pair of cranes flying toward me. They circled over the car and headed back toward my house. Wonder where they would land.  I lost sight of them.  I kept on going toward a field where I’d seen them a couple of years ago.  Heading down the road a ways I began to hear cranes. Such a unique sound that you can hear them when they’re too high to see.

I pulled off the road to listen and saw scores of them coming from the south in lines like geese stretching across the sky. A little further on, I could really hear them to the left and to the right, but they were too far away to photograph.

I parked at a dirt road, got out, and headed toward what vaguely looked like darker bumps in the corn stubble. Then I saw them. Standing straight and alert to my intrusion they didn’t move. I stopped walking and they seemed to settle down.

Do cranes graze like alpacas? They sure seemed to — head down and walking.  I snapped pictures as I walked.

Sandhill cranes in Idaho

A large herd, gaggle, flock, was down a ways behind a huge John Deere tractor that I used for cover. Slowly walking, I got close enough for some decent pictures, I hoped. I really wanted pictures of them opening up their wings an flapping, but I was never quick enough. 

Lots of squadrons flew by and I snapped and snapped. The morning sun was so bright and at an angle that kept blinding me. I’d pan with a group and then hit the sun in one eye, flinch, then get it square in the other eye.  By the time I recovered, the line had flown too far to catch on film.

Crane silhouettes

My last attempt at photos was very selfish on my part. I came out from behind the tractor and began walking closer to the cranes. With each step one or two would complain, then take flight. Finally, when there were about a third of them left, I headed right toward them.  They lifted their wings like conductors’ batons and, as one, took flight. I was in heaven.

Fly away! Fly away!

Just as quickly as they left, the field was deserted. The activity of their feeding and visiting was replaced by stillness and a little sadness.  I realized my morning was over. Nothing more to photograph. Nothing more to do.

I awoke to my body as I walked toward the car. My thighs and bottom were numb. My toes and fingers ached. And my face was icey. I couldn’t wait to turn the heat on. But I was so content. I had had my artist’s date. I had had my walk. I was ready to start the day.

Driving into the driveway, I realized, all this heaven had taken place in just 30 minutes! Imagine .  . . a lifetime of happiness in a half hour. I’m the luckiest person alive. And I am alive — very much so.

1000 cranes

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