Daughter of the Cranes by Sara Wright

When I see them
I enter the Dreaming.
In the background
 a jagged coat of barren
reptilian mountains
 frames bountiful bodies
standing on stilts as
 undulating necks,
 crimson crowns
beaded eyes
dive below the surface
in search of last year’s grain.
Each deliberate step is taken
in syncopated rhythm
with those of nearby neighbors
Each three toed talon
pierces still waters.  

Picture of cranes in water 

Ruffling six foot wings
clasped close to form,
 serpentine ropes dip and sway.
Cranes leap into thin air
when encountering old friends.
Parachute back down.
Relaxing into the calm mirror –
each one casts a silvery shadow
 trilling, rattling, rolling, whirring,
brurrring with excitement
   when greeting relatives.
 Circling around before
making their descent,
cranes bounce off the field
as they land! 

Always in communion
the echo makers converse
with others in nearby ponds
in the hushed chamber
of the lowlands-
a Bosque of Cottonwoods, lakes,
and reeds –

Cranes are always listening.

 No wonder one can trust them.

As twilight deepens,
 they fall soundly asleep,
thin billed domes
nestled deep in warm flesh,
 scaly feet sunk under oozing mud.

  They dream an ancient language
 tapping into fields
 of primal patterning
 Indigenous knowledge
 Earth’s current keening.
Cranes know that
only by attending will they survive.
During the night,
One bird stands sentry… 

Next month
 they will begin
the great migration
a bi -annual flight made
year after year for millennium.
  Cranes return to the same locations
thousands of miles traversed when
 ‘North Country’ calls them home. 

  Upon arrival, the birds
 paint their plumage brown
  blending into last year’s
  wetlands to escape detection.
Mothers hover over two eggs
  sinking onto nests
 braided out of reeds.
 A most attentive Protector
scans horizon and sky.

One chick might
survive to make the return journey…

 But for now
these sentient Beings
celebrate community
by the thousands,
 feeding in winter peace…

The tranquil ponds echo
with a symphony of sound so
compelling, so enchanting
 that I am swept
into the Heart of Creation,
 folded into feathery down,
 cupped by Primeval Wings
fringed ashen cloaks –
 immersed in Natural Grace.

Working Notes: 

The cranes are called the “Echo Makers” by the Anishinaabe who are culturally related Indigenous peoples that live in Canada and the northern United States. The tribes include the Odawa, Chippewa, Ojibwe Potawatomi, Cree, and Algonquin peoples.

There are seven primary clans of the Anishinaabe people; loon, crane, fish, bird, bear, marten, and deer. Note that birds as a whole are included separately. Traditionally, the Loon and Crane Clans worked together as leaders and eloquent storytellers respectively. 

These tribes have a wonderful tale about a girl who is standing alone in a mountain meadow when the Sandhill cranes are passing overhead on their journey  south. They circle around the young woman and gather her up in their great gray wings and fly away with her. She becomes a ‘Daughter of the Cranes’… and this is why before arriving at their northern location each spring the cranes circle around before they land. They do this in memory of the girl.

When I first read this story I recognized myself. I too am a Daughter of the Cranes.

Many Indigenous peoples believe that humans were once cranes and will be so again…


Cranes are receivers; they are always listening. Most westerners lack an ability to receive or to listen because most do not inhabit their bodies with any degree of awareness, if at all (this includes folks who spend time outdoors using the land instead of listening to her). The price for this inability is a split between body and mind, one that privileges mind, while dismissing body as irrelevant except as a machine. This makes humans very difficult to trust. It should be mentioned that because our feelings are carried in our bodies when we lose access to them we lose ourselves as well as being unable to be emotionally present for others in a meaningful way.

Being with Sandhill cranes allows me to enter their world in some non-ordinary way. I experience this oneness the moment I enter their field of influence; and the haunting crane calls – whirs, brring, trills, trumpeting – contribute to, and intensify this oneness. Whenever I am with them I am fully in the present moment. Nothing else matters. Although they are birds of the air I experience Cranes as being able to bridge the false western dichotomy that splits earth from sky to embrace/embody the Spirit/ Soul/Body of all there is. 

Cranes are also prehistoric birds, 60 million years strong. It seems to me that they have access to truths on a level we can’t even imagine. It doesn’t surprise me that it is believed that they foretell the future or act as guides between worlds… They have for me.



Categories: General

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19 replies

  1. Beautiful. I love cranes as well. Thank you, Sara.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So beautiful, Sara! I have never witnessed the Sandhill Cranes. Your poem brought me into their midst. Thank you!


    • Oh Elizabeth, seeing these cranes is a must… whenever I write about them I fall short of the wonder I experience… these are such ancient birds and so focused on community…. just a few minutes ago I witnessed about 25 or so flying over the house. A small group stays here during the winter but it’s at the Bosque del Apache that the experience is overwhelming… i don’t know where you live but there might be a place to see them not too far from you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, Sara. I have bee checking on sightings in the Hudson Valley, NY region. Looks as though people have seen them but not in any great number and not clear where. I will be visiting some bird sanctuaries.

        Liked by 1 person

        • If you ever go down the east coast on vacation, there is an animal park sort of thing (better than a zoo, but still) around Jacksonville or St Augustine if I remember correctly, where many cranes live freely — they can come and go as they please. You can see them flying around the region and also carrying on from the edges of their large human-free area. Not the dignity of wild, but not demeaned, given our massive encroachment on their world.

          A plug here for the International Crane Foundation too. They do fantastic work to facilitate appropriate regional responses to our encroachment — alternate paths for cohabitating.

          Liked by 3 people

  3. This is wonderful…I rarely have experienced these beautiful birds, who still bring their young to the same neighborhoods in Florida. That people have made subdivisions out of the feeding grounds doesn’t stop these ancient ones from walking in their beauty and eating the insects that rise from landscaped grass. They just cross roads in slow grace, and the lucky inhabitants of the airconditioned block homes are mostly unaware of them, unless they happen to walk their dogs at the same time. Thank you for all you said about them!


  4. Cranes are beautiful. When I lived near Crab Orchard Lake in southern Illinois, I used to see them frequently. The lake was a regular stop along the migratory path. I think Long Beach must also be a stop, for I see cranes here, too, from time to time.

    There’s a wonderful PBS documentary called Earth Flight, which is about birds migrating across the world. Cranes are among the birds in this documentary.,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I have that DVD… and you are right about the cranes – there are some in your area. I believe their flyways are shifting – they are being hunted in most states. A small group from the eastern flyway has split off and is now nesting in Maine. not far from where I live… everyone has a spirit bird – and these are surely mine!


  6. What a beautiful poem and I am so happy to learn more about the cranes. Though I knew that they are considered to be messengers in several cultures, I was fascinated to learn how important they are to the Anishinaabe people. I particularly liked the way you embedded their proclivity for attending and receiving in your poem. One of the things I love about poetry is the way that the specificity of images can ground the larger concepts in our inner wisdom. I think you’ve been very successful in accomplishing that in this poem, at least for me. Thank you so much for sharing your observation and insight.


  7. Sara, I so love this post. Thank you.
    I work with crane imagery about 50% of all studio time, feeling deeply connected to them just as you describe. I didn’t know it was said that humans used to be and will return to being cranes. That makes total right-brain sense.

    Not to be self-promoting, but I remember you saying you’re and artist too, so just want to share one series I’ve done because I think you’ll appreciate the underlying concept. I’ll post the link as a separate comment in case it takes a while for approval, but you can just go to my eponymous website>portfolio>perirrhanteria


  8. Oh I will enjoy seeing your work tremendously – some of us seem to have such a powerful connection to these birds….This morning about 30 flew directly over the house – i ran out the door in bare feet just to hear those cries – oh they are such magnificent birds…. just after the flock passed by one crane appeared above the house and he was headed in the opposite direction! Wouldn’t I love to know why!


    • How wonderful!!

      Somewhere in one of my books is an account, reproduced from the early 20th c., of a white explorer who had hired two young indigenous people to take him by canoe type vessel through northern N.A. wilderness. They came upon a crane pair and the two boys rowed up close then started using whatever was handy to make a particular rhythmic song, their Crane Song. The cranes began dancing to it and the event went on for many minutes! How fabulous, and also how close to the idea that we were/will be the same.

      I’ve searched for that passage a couple of times, if I ever find it I’ll come back here and cite the original source.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A number of Indigenous tribes in this country still do a crane dance – and if you have ever witnessed this display it takes your breath away. Cranes are holy beings for many – throughout the world…I love the idea that when we are no more the cranes will be dancing…as a naturalist I have hope for this species because they evolved so long ago and have changed so little – suggesting to me that their ability to adapt may surpass that of other species allowing them to live on.regardless of human stupidity – oh, I just heard some “brrring” over the house – Oh.!!!


        • “I have hope for this species because they evolved so long ago and have changed so little – suggesting to me that their ability to adapt may surpass that of other species allowing them to live on.”

          … Agreed!
          Two people I am close to who live in different heavily populated areas in the west of Florida witness cranes daily, being as much a part of their ecosystems as crows and pigeons can be elsewhere (maybe there too).


          • Yes, Florida has its own stable population and these birds don’t migrate which helps because many many Sandhills die from being shot each spring and fall. I believe that some of the Sandhills are changing flyways because of hunting pressure – there’s evidence to support this idea. There is reason to be hopeful…


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