While we were in Eastern Washington state to visit my father-in-law, we went to Othello to see the Sandhill cranes, which stop there every year in late March on their way from Texas to Alaska.
We found them, hundreds of them, in and above a cornfield off the highway, along with geese and a huge flock of little black birds. The field was fenced off from us, but we stepped out of our rented Minivan into the rain to watch them.
On the ground, these hundreds of birds, at least three different species, created a tremendous cacophany. But when they took flight, they soared, shape shifters in the air, seeming to mimic and re-mimic the mountains behind them.These birds, so loud on the ground among the dry corn husks, irritated, chatty, frantic, seemed in the air to have no trouble forming and reforming their lines, working within the air space, rising and then settling again.
The cranes fly from Texas to Alaska, and then back again, every year. We stepped out of our minivan to watch them.
Simultaneously many birds and one bird, they soared. These four seem to inhabit the position of the bird in front of them in the space just left, as if the image could be of one bird over time.
Not touching, in the air they communicate through sound, vision, and motion,
creating, breaking, and re-creating different alignments that serve their purpose.
Sometimes they floated in pure, effortless motion, at one with the air, the mountains, the fields, their hollow dinosaur bones exquisitely perfect for their mission, to take this long journey and to raise chicks who in turn will take this long journey. They live to move. They move to live.
How do they know where to go? How do they get there?