Searching for Sandhills
It’s time for southern migration in the Pacific Northwest. Our family has
watched the Vaux Swifts move through Portland every September for the past seven years. A sense of magic fills the evening as hundreds of locals view thousands of little birds as they whisk through the sky in swirling clouds and dive into the Chapman School chimney on their way to delicious southern insects and warm winter digs.
I recently had this feeling in my bones that there were also migrating Sandhill Cranes hovering in the countryside, and I wanted to see them. I had watched them from afar on Sauvie Island a few years ago, but I wanted to be more up-close and personal.
On Tuesday we headed to the National Wildlife Refuge in Ridgefield,
Washington, a favorite spot of ours where last spring we identified thirty-seven different birds from our car.
Alas! Due to the government shutdown, we couldn’t get in.
Where were those cranes? Were they all huddled behind the closed gates of
the refuge? Surely not.
We went to Vancouver Lake to try our luck. Purposely uncut rows of corn
in a field just for cranes were not luring in my friends on this rainy day,
although I might have spotted one leaving the area.
Heading for home, we stopped for one last look at the Columbia River
and a sandy inlet leading into the lake. I heard a diesel truck engine idling
nearby and thought it odd that, when I turned around, I saw no truck. Then I looked up. The sound was coming from thousands and thousands of geese and ducks and cranes and even crows, soaring and whirling and diving and hovering and banking over the surrounding fields. It was astounding. Then, over our heads, I saw a half dozen huge flapping brown paper bags gliding by headed toward the noisy mayhem in front of them. Majestic and determined, the Sandhill Cranes moved fast. They quickly melded with the others – an indecipherable, blended mass of seeming chaos with a message beyond my understanding.
For me, it was an unexpected, delightful wonder. Despite politics, some
shows can’t be stopped.
Last Sunday I went to church and lost my sole. Really.
As I walked into a meeting room, my right foot crunched down. Because I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing, after the crunch, I proceeded to walk. Now it felt as if something huge was stuck to the bottom of my shoe. That wasn’t the case. In fact, the bottom of my shoe was leaving me behind. My heel had crumbled (nothing could heal it), and I had lost my sole – in church.
I go to church to restore my soul, and this usually works. Music, words, prayers, and good people uplift me.
Regardless, as I entered the room, my sole had let me down.
English is not the only language that has puns. Even American Sign Language is filled with them. I’ve heard punning called the lowest form of humor, but people who love wordplay think they are punny wonderful, and in my experience, these people are relentless.
Homophones give us a laughs and headaches. If the past tense of read is read, why is the past tense of lead led and not lead? For instance, we have the expressions “get the lead out of your pants” versus, “he was led by the seat of his pants.”
As writers, when we are dancing with the muse of story and wonder, who wants to think about these things?
Other dilemmas: Facebook’s Grammarly recently asked, “If the plural of man is always called men, why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen? If I speak of my foot and show you my feet, and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?”
I say, “Call the editor!”
Some people are good at dancing with the muse and getting words on paper – rich, full words that feed the soul. Others of us are good at
cleaning up the homophones and weird spelling rules and questionable punctuation conventions of our language. It just might feed an editor’s soul to be called to work. It may help the authors among us, too.
When my grandparents moved from the farm to a tiny home in a tiny Iowa
community, my grandmother no longer had the room or the energy to garden, can,
and preserve as she had for decades. Nonetheless, every time we visited, the
table was replete with golden canned peaches, homemade apple sauce, and, in summer, fresh tomatoes, okra, green beans, and corn that had made their way in boxes onto the back stoop.
At the end of an abundant meal, my grandfather would push his chair back and say, “Thank you, mother. That was a fine meal. We can’t cultivate our garden anymore, but we can cultivate our friends.”
As a kid, I usually lived around water: the Black Hawk River; the five
lakes of Madison, Wisconsin; Green Lake in Minnesota; and the Illinois River. We had a boat, and I loved it. Last Monday night, I was gifted with a boating outing on the Willamette River canal. What a night. It rained, and then it didn’t. The sky was dark, and then it was clear. The great blue herons dined along the shore and then flocked overhead to roost for the night. I needed to be by the water, and I needed some help from my friends because they had the boat, and I didn’t.
I view editing the same way. When I work on someone else’s writing, I
feel I have the chance to make something already worthy, better. I provide a little help as a friend. Isn’t that what we do for one another?
So a new webpage has been born. I did hit publish a little prematurely, though, so we are in the neonatal unit receiving oxygen and being handled with care. Expect more soon.