A blinding blue sky arcs the vault above me. I am tethered to the earth by my imagination of gravity and a mass of billion year-old anorthosite forming the Sawtooth mountains. Glaciers have tried to erase these mountains and left them old and rounded like me. A cool high pressure cell holds me lightly and guards against clouds.
I close my eyes to listen. I hear the gentlest breeze in the jack pines, a distant crow, the light twerps of a nuthatch, and then a red squirrel scolding. On the edge of my consciousness, there is another sound I ignore. Like the hum of the earth, it is beyond senses. My heart beats, I breathe. I sink into the rock beneath me.
Again, a thin thread pulls me upward. If I concentrate, the sound is gone so I play a game ignoring it. I will not win. It teases me, a note here, then silence, then another note until it is a sound unto itself. It is a call, a song, and now a chorus. A muted distant trumpet of cranes, a migration above me. I open my eyes.
They tear up at the brilliance of the sky. The sound is getting slowly louder. Insistent. It is saying, we are here. I scan the sky for five minutes, then ten. I turn my head trying to discern direction. Then I see them almost directly overhead, a V formation so faint it strains my eyes. Sandhill cranes, headed south from Hudson Bay, their necks stretched, their long stick legs trailing behind. And now I am falling into the sky.
We are ten thousand feet above the earth, headed out over the vast silver expanse of Lake Superior. Ninety miles to the far shore. Thirty of us, pushing the thin air with six foot wings in a two beat rhythm, idle chatter among us. Time stretches out in front of us. We have been on earth for two million years. Will we last another fifty? Not a question we consider. Just how far we will go? Perhaps three hundred miles today. There is nothing ahead but sky and air and water. The earth no longer exits.
Their sound fades as I glide back, and I am left with both a sadness at being left behind, and with hope. In order to understand the earth, like children, we sometimes have to disengage with it and simply imagine where we are going.
It has been a good day.
We Are All Connected. Savor the Earth!
L. Hobart Stocking