Mark Seth Lender – Sandhill Cranes

Mark Seth Lender, writer, photojournalist, and environmental advocate wrote the following while visiting the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Preserve in New Mexico where thousands of sandhill cranes winter before migrating to the Western shore of the Hudson Bay every spring. When he read it aloud on Living On Earth radio show I was so struck by it I wrote it down as best I could. It sounded like a poem but  I had no idea how the stanzas should be constructed. (I later found it in the Living On Earth transcript in the form below)

Patient, elegant, sandhill cranes linger upon the flooded plain. Patient and austere. Here by night for the shallow safety this boundary of water provides, they stop to rest a while. For the sake of the food they found nearby, they linger, and pay homage, a temporary domicile, a temporary feast. Turning toward the East they form a long and upright line, and prepare their Salutation to the Sun.

They are in shadow, below the worn down mountain that looms, and like the landscape though weathered and tread upon by boundless heat, by bottomless cold, cranes persevere. Waiting. Then walking one by one they arrange by reference to the low steady wind. Barely ruffling, they slowly bend, like stalks of wheat heavy with seed. Watching. Stillness heavy in the air they breathe. Then comes the golden scimitar of sun. And catapult themselves into the glare – and they are gone.

Two remain. Only two. They lean as if their muscles are spring steel. The ice in bracelets crackling at their feet, stepping high they break clean away, loping slow they gain ground and speed, wing beats so deep they kiss the crystal clear beneath, until at last they rise. The long turn down the lake, a shadow play in tandem not a meter below their elegant forms. These two, among all others, truly mated pair.