Monday, July 8, 2013

Sandhill Cranes - May the Migration Begin

Discussion is being held once again regarding hunting the Sandhill Cranes. Today's Tennessean carries the news on the front page. Between now and August 10th public comments are being taken at Please put Sandhill Cranes in the subject line.

Personally I can't imagine hunting these amazing birds.  Their call to me is the soul's call yet I didn't even know of the cranes wintering in Southeast TN until  three years ago when the hunting issue came up the first time.  Reading of them in the newspaper, prompted us to make the two hours drive to the Hiwassee Refuge where we spent the day in the snow listening and watching.

That was three years ago and we've returned each winter since. This piece was written after that first visit and yet it is still relevant.  During the day we also discovered a memorial of which we had not heard.  I found myself pondering the connection between the two and the migration that humankind faces.  Whether we make it is up to each of us.

Thanks for reading and for sharing your views at the TWRA link above and at the stories end.  - Dawn

January 2011

This week the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will decide whether to adopt a proposal to hunt Sandhill Cranes. This disconcerting news reported by writer Anne Paine in last week's Tennessean prompted us to take a weekend road trip to visit the Hiwassee Refuge just north of Chattanooga near Birchwood, TN.

Eighty years ago there were only 25 breeding crane pairs recorded in Wisconsin due to hunting, agricultural expansion and drainage of wetlands in the 1700 and 1800's. Thanks to protections and habitat restoration these amazing birds with wing spans of 6-7 feet have gradually rebounded so that thousands winter over at the refuge before returning north.

I was quickly captured by the graceful landings of these tall gray birds whose periodic movements made the fields in which they congregate seem to come alive and dance. I was auditorily mesmerized by their trilling vocalizations remarking that it was a bit like listening to thousands of delighted Julia Childs. (No offense, Julia fans...that's a compliment.)

After two hours of savoring the sights and sounds, we drove down the road to another sight no more than a half mile away. Previously turning into the refuge, we noticed a sign for something called the "Cherokee Removal Memorial" and commented on the harsh connotation of the wording.

Arriving at the memorial, we realized the appropriateness of the word "removal" for we were at one of the starting points of the "Trail of Tears" where 9,000 Cherokee and Creek Native Americans held in stockades were made to sleep on the ground naked in the cold and rain for weeks in the fall of 1838.

Stunned and disconnected, I read the historical plaques summarizing the events that occurred. (It's one thing to read of the Trail of Tears in a book and another to actually be on the land where it began.) I found myself wondering, "How could these men force people to leave their homes and land?" As if on cue, repeated distant gun fire punctuated the quiet providing an auditory reminder of part of the 'how,' the part related to instilling fear. The Natives were forced by bayonet and gun to submit. I wondered what the wives of these men were thinking? Did any wife question her husband's actions? What role did fear and denial play in female silence during these times? I pondered today's parallel as fear is still used to separate and control us and how nearly impossible it is to have reasonable conversations about guns due to the high level of reactivity.

Now days later, I still hear and hold the beauty of the Sandhill Cranes, their graceful flight, their dance and sounds as well as their instinctually knowing when to take flight and return home. How have we become so separated over the centuries from our deeper instinct, from our inner knowing, from responses that are loving, thoughtful and relational? How might the events of the day be different if we made our way back to a deeper resonance found in our bodies from which we've been so disconnected?

Days later, I hold the beauty of nature juxtaposed to the unspeakable acts of human nature.

There is a deep and profound lesson offered just outside Birchwood, TN. Within yards of one another two very different stories reside, one of the beauty of Nature evidenced through the cranes who instinctively listen and know when to begin their migration and one of human nature at its worst as a people who lived instinctively honoring the land were forced to migrate by a people who did not honor the relational.

All things Native, the Indigenous Ones who lived here long before our ancestors, as well as the animals and trees, all of Nature, is offered to us, to reveal to us our capacities, the possibility for greater awareness or higher consciousness and awareness of our relatedness to all creation.

I do not say the following to diminish the tragedy of the Trail of Tears, but doesn't the Trail of Tears quietly continue as we live our busy lives, externally focused and separate from our body, instinct, intuition and heart?

Maybe the losses of the thousands of Native Americans will not have been in vain if we can during this time return to the relational, if we can see, feel and hear the trail of tears from our individual and collective unheard hearts, if we can migrate home to our insides, to remembering the instinct of love and in turn join with one another in a greater sense of awareness and relatedness.

May this migration within begin.
-Dawn! The Good News Muse, 8 July 2013, first posted 18 Jan. 2011

1. Say 'No' to hunting the Sandhill Cranes by emailing
Public opinion is being collected through August 10th. Be sure to include in the Subject line: Sandhill Crane Comments.

2. Click here for a listing of all TN Fish & Wildlife Committee members. Contact them but esp your own committee member!  This informative site is provided by KY Coalition for the sandhill cranes.

3. Enjoy a 40 second video of the cranes HERE.
4. Watch the movie "Fly Away Home" to see the story inspiring "Operation Migration" in which people flying ultra-light planes have begun to teach juvenile Whooping Cranes to migrate.

5. Learn about Operation Migration at this LINK. 

6. Go see the Sandhill Cranes this January/February in Birchwood, TN just off I-75 on State Highway 60 ... site HERE.
7. AND experience the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, open daily. Site HERE.

No comments: