Hundreds of Sandhill Cranes spend the winter on the marshy ponds and surrounding fields of the riparian Rio Grande in central New Mexico. One evening last week I stood at the edge of the marsh and watched a dozen of these big elegant birds feeding and socializing as the last light drained from the clear February sky. Groups took off, running a few steps to get airborne as other groups came in for a landing, dangling their long legs and splaying their feet before touching down.
In a few weeks they will be winging north to breed and raise their young in the watery sloughs of the Great Plains all the way up to Canada. But on this new moon evening, if they took to the air it was only to join a line of their fellows circling from pond to pond in the sheer artistry of flight. Those in the air called to those on the ground in a purring, descending rattle. Occasionally a pair on the ground would begin a little hopping duet that looked as if they were about to begin the courtship dance. But they would quickly return to feeding or preening feathers, as if to say, “not just yet.”
As I stood there I thought about how these birds have been coming and going on this flyway for thousands of years. People have been inspired by them and their kind as long as we have had eyes to see. Being captivated by wild beauty is good for the soul. It is in our nature to adore. The experience of adoration is one of ecstasy. The creator gives us creation to make love to us. All we have to do is receive.