Years ago I was gardening in the back yard when I heard a distant and unfamiliar sound that caused me to pause and look skyward. There, in perfect V formation, was a gathering of large birds of some kind winging their way south. I was struck dumb by the sight of them so high above. It may be a familiar sight for those who happen to live in the flight path of migratory birds, but it is rare to see such birds coursing over a major city sharing airspace with jumbo jets.
Recently I learned that they were most likely sandhill cranes. One flock of about 450 birds winter in the Okeefenokee Swamp in south Georgia and return to the Great Lakes area of Michigan in the Spring. Their coiled tracheas allow them to add harmonies to their calls and to project the notes louder and farther, resulting in a loud cry that can be heard from as far as two miles away. Their unusual calls have been described as trumpeting, bugling, rattling or croaking.
Observing animals in nature often gives us an experience of transcendence, of deep joy. It lifts us out of our everyday concerns and outside of ourselves. It gives us a window into some of the majesty of the diversity of life forms, of the deep mysteries of life. Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
Can you recall an experience you had of witnessing an event in nature with deep awe and wonder?
If you can, watch a nature show on television. Check out a documentary video on an animal you find fascinating, e.g., the life cycle of salmon or the Monarch butterfly, the communication patterns of dolphins and whales, the mating rituals of birds, the social behavior of the great apes, the migratory paths of loggerhead turtles, the playfulness of otters, the way dogs interact with humans, the intelligence of the octopus, the parenting behavior of penguins (i.e., March of the Penguins).