There’s a Japanese legend that says if you make one thousand origami cranes, you’ll be granted your wish for peace, luck, or good health.
My lack of fine motor skills wouldn’t serve me well in an attempt to make a thousand origami cranes—not even a single origami crane, for that matter. So instead of paper birds, I enjoy the real thing this week: thousands of sandhill cranes flying over the prairie.
For a woman who had never seen tallgrass before, discovering a prairie for the first time almost two decades ago was an epiphany. Big, blue skies. Solitude. Riots of wildflowers in the summer.
And then, the cranes.
So loud! New to Illinois, I assumed they were a species of geese until a neighbor clued me in. Now, their migrations south in late autumn and north each spring are an irreplaceable part of the soundtrack of my suburban life. Their dependable rhythm bookends the transition between the hot and cold seasons.
My friend Karen, who recently migrated to Florida, shared the above photo of two cranes and their chick with me this spring. Florida has resident sandhill cranes all year round. But the large flocks of cranes they host in the winter months are from the Midwest and Canada. These are the ones I see now, flying north.
As the cranes scribble their ballet moves across the sky, writing their flight in cursive script, I think of the headlines that have dominated the world this week. Tragedies. Hatred. Dirty politics, discrimination, and mud-slinging. Words and actions that polarize us and accentuate our differences, instead of helping us find common ground.
Then I watch the cranes flying so high; clean, bright and beautiful.
And I make a wish.
(All photos except sandhill crane family, by Cindy Crosby: Top to bottom: Sandhill Cranes, Springbrook Prairie, Naperville, IL; pale purple coneflower and bee fly, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL: sandhill crane parents and chick, courtesy Karen Bilbrey, Brandon, FL; after the burn at Springbrook Prairie; Indian Hemp, Springbrook Prairie.)