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So I’m working outside today and I hear those familiar sky-sounds that announce the coming of spring – the beautiful bugling calls of huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes soaring overhead.
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I look up.
Hundreds of majestic giant birds dot the blue yonder, in V- and U- and Y-formations, flying toward their Alaskan nesting grounds. Every year, a month before the vernal equinox, I can count on the fact that thousands of Sandhill Cranes will migrate northward over California – and talk to each other the whole way.
“Hello, friends,” I say out loud.
Have you ever seen this magnificent display, or heard their raucous distinctive discourse as they fly? It’s a sight to witness, and a symphony to listen for, because Sandhills conduct clamorous, trumpeting discussions in the air. Skyward, they never stop communicating. Constantly.
You can hear them from right here on Earth.
Sandhill cranes mate for life and migrate together with their partners and their offspring, a bi-annual voyage of thousands of miles. As they wing their way the pairs cry out or sing or maybe just have a conversation with each other, the males calling once for every two calls from the females, in a synchronized vocal duet. Ornithologists call their cries a “unison call,” and believe that they reinforce the pair’s monogamous bonding. I like to think they do more.
Ever take a road trip with loved ones, and get into really deep discussions? Yeah, like that.
All that conversing sure seems like love. You can see it, too, when Sandhill Cranes court each other – they dance, first bowing to one another with outstretched wings, then leaping high off the ground as they circle their mate and call out passionately. Some gyrate with abandon, fall down in ecstasy, grab sticks or pieces of corn stubble and toss them into the air over and over, their elaborate courtship waltz remarkably human in its choreography and intensity.
It can almost remind you of romance.
I’m not a birdwatcher, but Sandhill Cranes amaze me. The haunting language they use, the longevity of their species, and the nobility of their faithful lives seems so foreign and yet so familiar. No older living species of bird exists, perhaps descended from pterodactyls. Fossils of these cranes date back more than 10 million years, so they’ve made their migratory trips for much, much longer than we modern humans have been around. Four feet tall, with a seven-foot wingspan and a distinctive red-crowned head, these expressive monarchs of the skies can fly 500 miles a day.
Wings outstretched, dancing or aloft, their magnificence can stun you if you really look.
I have so many questions. They migrate to the exact same places – how do they navigate, and know where to go? Do they learn from following their parents, as we do? What makes them fly the exact same route at the exact same time each year? Why do they instinctually leave their winter habitats just when the warm weather approaches? What inspires them to dance? No one knows.
Except, perhaps, their Creator.
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If you ponder, even just a little, the astounding majesty and wonder of nature, you soon recognize its power and its perfection. Darwin, Einstein, and just about every naturalist and scientific explorer who ever studied life ultimately discovered this gorgeous mystery:
I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God … – Charles Darwin
Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. – Albert Einstein
The Baha’i teachings rhapsodize about this perfection. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, described the Creator’s incomprehensibly flawless creation:
How all-encompassing are the wonders of His boundless grace! Behold how they have pervaded the whole of creation. Such is their virtue that not a single atom in the entire universe can be found which doth not declare the evidences of His might, which doth not glorify His holy Name, or is not expressive of the effulgent light of His unity. So perfect and comprehensive is His creation that no mind nor heart, however keen or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of His creatures; much less fathom the mystery of Him Who is the Day Star of Truth, Who is the invisible and unknowable Essence.
Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, wrote:
… look into this endless universe: a universal power inevitably existeth, which encompasseth all, directing and regulating all the parts of this infinite creation; and were it not for this Director, this Co-ordinator, the universe would be flawed and deficient. It would be even as a madman; whereas ye can see that this endless creation carrieth out its functions in perfect order, every separate part of it performing its own task with complete reliability, nor is there any flaw to be found in all its workings.
In yet another place, he said:
Nature is subjected to an absolute organization, to determined laws, to a complete order and a finished design, from which it will never depart – to such a degree, indeed, that if you look carefully and with keen sight, from the smallest invisible atom up to such large bodies of the world of existence as the globe of the sun or the other great stars and luminous spheres, whether you regard their arrangement, their composition, their form or their movement, you will find that all are in the highest degree of organization and are under one law from which they will never depart.
No “flaw to be found in all its workings,” the Baha’i teachings describe the world of nature “under one law,” as a “perfect and comprehensive” creation.
One natural system, whole, flawless, perfectly-ordered, each element interconnected – every one of us, and all living things, cells in the body of the universe.
As I shift my gaze into the sky when winter wants to become spring, and hear the Sandhill Cranes carrying on their primeval airborne conversations, I behold and bow before the wonder and beauty of our astonishing creation.
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