This week we have done some waiting.
Birders in Door County informed us that a whooping crane has been spotted amongst a crowd of sand hill cranes. This is unusual, rare, and would make perhaps, the first sighting of a whooping crane here. The time and place was arranged for us to meet; we caravanned to a farmer’s field, walked stealthily to a spot where we could watch as the cranes came in. We were there ½ hour before sunset to wait and watch when they flew in to roost for the night.
And fly in they did. I have been glad, all summer long, to see the occasional set of cranes in the field; I have stopped to take pictures of a set of three or four. Little did I know, there is a place they gather in the hundreds.
And so we watched and we listened for over an hour as these magnificent, large birds soared in; twenty, then ten, then forty, then five until their party was over six hundred. For the entire progression of dusk until dark, they soared in above us from every direction. With their strange rattle-y call, they announced to us and to each other their appearance, and sometimes the noise seemed reminiscent of a crowd of humans at a football stadium. I loved the show; hundreds of birds gathered near a pond where they felt safe for the night, and I was glad to be watching.
The renegade whooping crane, however, never showed. Perhaps he had flown in with one of the final groups in the near dark and landed in the distance in the farther fields, too far away. Or perhaps he found some other spot to land, away from us with our scopes and our binoculars and our chairs all set up waiting for him. Some people, more seasoned crane watchers than we, were a bit disappointed, but I was more than satisfied with the gathering-of-cranes show.
By the way, if you’ve never heard the rattle-y call of a sand hill crane, watch this: Sandhill Crane-Youtube
And more waiting last Friday; Lake Michigan was calm. And though we have had some days already that felt like fall, Friday was warm and balmy with summery blue skies. So we went fishing. (Actually, Dave fishes; I just go along.) Fishing, I’ve decided, is nothing except waiting. One can have the gear (which, believe me, Dave has) and one can listen to the advice, (just where to troll, how deep to cast) but it still comes down to waiting.
It is a big lake.
We were out for hours, and we had the lines in for hours, and Dave, I think, was doubting whether fish actually exist.
But the weather was glorious. He is five months in to retirement; being in a boat on Lake Michigan on a Friday was something he could be pretty happy about, catch or no catch. However, on this day, at least, his waiting paid off: a steelhead trout.
And then the night before last, we waited for the super moon, the red moon that was expected to rise large and then eclipse. A few hours before dusk, clouds gathered and the sky became overcast, so our moon view was in question. Friends came to the beach to watch, to wait, to hope; perhaps the clouds would part? We sat on the deck, bundled up against the wind, eyes on the sky. The moon never showed, but how could we be too sad? On an only slightly chilly evening, waves battered the sand in the fading light while we told stories, heard news, watched waves break.
Sometimes we get the things we wait for; sometimes we don’t.
There are psalms about waiting. I like Psalm 130, especially. “I wait for the Lord. My soul waits. And in His word I hope…..My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
I picture those watchmen waiting for the morning, and of course it is cold. Cold is never as good as warmth; and the dark is scarier and lonelier than the light. Even when we know morning is coming, we would rather have it now, not later.
Waiting is universal, as is the pain it can cause us. We wait for dinner, wait in line, wait for Christmas, wait our turns. Dave has had chronic pain for many years, and we have longed for, asked for, looked for, waited for change. I have single friends who would like to be married; they have waited a long time, through countless dates and hours on e-harmony, all to no avail. An acquaintance waits to hear about a job, worrying about unpaid bills in the meantime. One niece and her husband are infertile; they have waited for pregnancy and waited far too long to adopt their daughter. Most of us wait for something. Some of us long for something our entire lives.
There are metaphors to be drawn here, of course, between my waiting for the crane and the fish and the moon and the waiting for the big things we long for in life.
In each of these events this week, there was beauty all around while we waited. We had made the effort to go watch, and there was something good in that: being still, being away, being together. We were on a boat for hours on a blue-skied afternoon instead of inside at work on a computer. We didn’t see a whooping crane, but boy, we saw other cranes. Wind on a beach, with waves crashing? Moonrise or not, it’s still a show.
So in the big things that we wait for, for the things we don’t yet have and may never have, it’s good to look around. Whether we get what we want or whether we don’t, surely there is beauty nearby.
What is it that you wait for, long for, hope for? What are the metaphors that describe this waiting?