This past week John and I flew north to spend a week with his parents in Edmonton. As usual, our time included a trip outside the city, traveling across rolling prairie under the big sky, to the acreage where Ike and Millie have a small cabin, a garden, and a forest of shimmering poplar trees.
We harvested potatoes and beets, ate a picnic lunch in the fall sunshine and enjoyed golden poplars, blue sky, and red-orange virginia creeper -- and the sight and sound of what was probably several hundred sandhill cranes gathering for their migration south.
As we were getting ready for lunch, we heard a noisy clattering, and it wasn't Santa and his reindeer. Looking up, we spotted a large flock high in the sky, circling in an updraft. Millie says that both geese and sandhill cranes are about ready to migrate. Going by the height and the noise, we assume that these were cranes. If you look closely above, you can see two of the three flocks that eventually came together.
I didn't have the right video equipment to do this justice, but below is a short clip to give you a glimpse and a bit of the sound. Unfortunately the website is not letting me change the orientation to match the vertical way I recorded it, and the focus isn't as sharp as I'd like. So you may have to squint a bit to see the specks of birds circling, listen hard to hear the clatter, and turn your computer sideways to get the right orientation. But perhaps you'll be able to imagine a bit of how amazing it was.
We’re having beautiful sunny days this week and there are plenty of sparks of light to capture. It’s hard to choose just one, and why should I? Better to collect all that I can. I feel a bit like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, or (a more attractive thought) Leo Lionni’s Frederick, gathering sunrays and colors and words for the cold gray winter days.
Here’s dawn sun on morning mist, from the bike path near campus.
And the bright combo of maple leaves and morning sunlight, blazing unexpectedly above mundane cars and parking lot.
And these sparkling dewdrops weren’t on the grass by my doorstep, but close enough – they were in the prairie plantings on the Goshen College campus just across the road.
Mid-afternoon sunlight streaming into my spiritual direction room....
John and I biked out the Pumpkinvine trail for a picnic supper. In the marsh/lake beside the trail we saw three large herons – though they seemed a bit large for herons. And then they started clacking. Sandhill cranes! (I 'm guessing) And a flash of light as one spread his wings and danced.
And as we biked home, evening light and fall leaves, bright reds and yellows. There you go, Frederick!
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"