Crane, heron, raven…I call them spirit animals because each holds an enduring spirit that captivates me. I marvel at the heron's stillness and grace, and that exquisite stipe of black and white feathers down the throat. I smile watching ravens fly above the mountains when I hike. They sometimes seem to play with the wind, to delight in their ability to somersault and dive, even fly upside down. And cranes… here is a story about Sandhill Cranes.
In my early twenties I taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades all in one classroom. The school was in a small town along the Rio Grande river in New Mexico. Every fall and spring migrating Sandhill Cranes follow the river to and from their winter home in Bosque del Apache. Sandhills have a captivating flight call, so undeniably rich and evocative of ancient times. It can be heard up to two and a half miles away, and always thrills me. I describe it, fondly, as sounding like a squeaky swing with harmonics.
One morning early in the school year I heard a flock of Sandhills through the classroom windows. I shouted "cranes" and bolted out the door, a bewildered flock of 6, 7, and 8 year olds not far behind. They saw me searching the sky and followed my gaze. Together we found the source of the magical noise and stood spellbound… watching, listening, being present. After several more enactments of this ritual, the students took over the roll of signaler, each wanting to be the first to hear the cranes and lead us outside.
It wasn't my intention, nor did I realize it at the the time, but I was urging those children to connect to nature…to marvel, to be curious, to find joy in recognizing another living being.
I have more spirit animals to paint- horses, whales, owls, hawks, elephants, wolves..…
Inside my Heart