Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tears in the Field

Tears in the Field

My first call as a parish minister was to El Paso, Texas. Neither Meredith nor I had lived in the Southwest. Our first November there the two of us went on a camping loop that swung through Bosque del Apache (Apache Woods), a wildlife management area that offers winter habitat for many species, most notably waterfowl and Sandhill cranes. This stop was an obvious no-brainer for us both. I delight in watching other people discover birds and sharing with them the beauty of winged life. My spouse Meredith delights in watching me watch him watch birds.  


As we drove around the refuge I couldn’t believe the diversity and abundance of birds we were seeing. I was ecstatic and Meredith was being a good sport trying to understand how this place was a slice of heaven for me. On a dirt road next to a flooded field we came within 15 meters of a flock of croaking Sandhill Cranes. Not taking his eyes off the birds, Meredith also croaked: "What are those?"

"Well, those would be Sandhill Cranes." Silence followed until he whispered, "And those browner ones – are they a different species?" "No, those are their babies, on their first migration from the winter nesting areas."


More silence. I turned to Meredith. Was he bored? Distracted? He stood transfixed. Tears streamed down his face. Joy had surprised him. He broke into a weeping laugh.

Since that day, he looks for birds on his own without me and always reports back what glory he was gifted to see. And every time I see a crane – the most ancient of all bird species – I remember their power to transform and grow us into happier and more aware beings.

I now live in North Florida and soon the cranes will arrive here, echoing across the skies throughout the winter their haunting quesitons:  When have you been surprised by joy? How has your life been changed by unexpected gifts that interconnect you to all of life?   


Photo Credits:  


(Jerry Friedman at Bosque del Apache)

(close up)


  1. One of my favorite birding spots in the world. And it used to be 3 hours from my home.

  2. A touching story. My wife and I saw our first Sandhill Cranes on New year's Day this year and we both hugged each other with joy at seeing these lovely creatures.