Sparks of Life


Sand hill cranes have dominated my twelve-day stint at the Anchorage writer’s school. No moose or bear sighting yet. This morning, at the mouth of a slough that drains into Cook Inlet, two cranes foraged on a small island of reeds. Yellow legs scurried over the surrounding mud. When another crane called, one of my pair stretched its long neck to full height and looked toward the call. I looked in the direction indicated by the searching crane, hopping to spot a descending one. We were both disappointed.


Saturday afternoon, I might have seen the off-stage singer feeding along with this morning cranes on the inlet’s mud flats. Even though they had sole possession of the flats, the cranes gave each other excessive personal space. Watching from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, I envied the cranes’ solitude. Every few seconds strolling tourists or bike riders filled the air with chatter. Some of the cyclists talked about their hope of seeing the carcass of a dead humpback whale now stranded on a beach near the motocross track. I would never see or smell the whale. Nor would the hundreds of people who poured down from the Kincaid Park chalet to hunt for its bones for it rested elsewhere. As I weaved through them, I wondered why they so wanted to see a whale that had lost its spark of life.


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