Everybody knows about Sisyphus, even if they don’t. Especially those of us in Crane World where the old boy is, in fact, our Patron Saint. Each of us wears an invisible medal around our neck which says, “Sisyphus, Good Luck with That.” Sisyphus was, of course, the guy in Greek Mythology who displeased the gods and was sentenced to spend eternity pushing a boulder up to the top of a mountain only to have them push it back down again… and again. Sound familiar?
On the morning of March 6th, Colleen called from St. Marks to say 4-13 (Mack) and 8-14 just took off on migration. “That figures”! I smiled, shaking my head. It was the first morning I hadn’t seen them since arriving in December. I sat instead in a cancer ward observing a dozen and a half or so patients, one of them my mother, sitting in neat rows, each physically diminished but with calm nobility, staring off into more yesterdays than tomorrows as drips of chemical hope dripped into them from IV bags hanging above.
“Happy Landings,” I said silently, as I imagined the next installment of excitement when they would magically appear again in Wisconsin. And this year, they would arrive with the special promise of renewal because they are likely to nest. They’re finally old enough and wise enough and it’s time.
The next day, Heather texted that #8-14’s satellite hit placed them all the way up in Alabama… only a few miles from one of our migration stops. Wow! Whoopers just never lose their ability to amaze! It was imaginary high fives all around, although we have long ago learned that it is unwise to tease the fates with too much celebration. They are as vigilant as they are unforgiving.
As the days progressed, our focus was on Henry and Peanut, who had happily taken up residence in and around the pen. Thought balloons containing the word, “Mine” bobbed above their heads. They spent their days in blissful procrastination, merrily foraging and wondering about, thinking about and planning for the upcoming migration… but not really. Watching them was fun. It is always fascinating how reducing the number of cranes observed… in this case from four to two… so sharpens our focus and magnifies everything about them. These were happy days indeed. Two down, two to go.
On March 23rd, Heather texted that a satellite hit for 8-14 just came in and she was still in the same area of Alabama. I felt a sudden chill. Later in the day, Bev sent a screen grab of the Google Earth hits. Though not of great quality, the hits related movement and activity but their inherent inaccuracy caused suspicion.
The following day, the long predicted perfect migration day finally arrived. Colleen called from the marsh to report that Henry and Peanut had just boarded the crane train and left the station on their migration to Wisconsin. This time I was seated in the dentist’s chair, mouth agape singing “Ahhhh” accompanied by the sound of the cash register harmonizing happily from the front desk. Since I was in Tallahassee, north of the Refuge, I ran out to the tracking van to try for a signal… but was greeted by the roar of silence. Looking up into an empty sky, the quiet prayer rose again, “Happy Landings,” as I gave the steering wheel a touchdown victory “chest bump” and ”High Five’d” the rearview mirror. Then, regaining my composure, I sat back and waited for the other shoe to drop.
And it did. The next day we received another satellite hit on 8-14 from the same area as before… as an imagined doorbell rang with two military officers standing somber faced at the front door. We would soon be driving north to Alabama.
….to be continued.