I have been living in Florida for over five years now. I wouldn’t say that I live in the country, but I do live in a “country-ish” location. There is abundant undeveloped land in my community and the surrounding area. It is certainly more rural than anywhere else I have lived. I’ve seen more types of wild animals than I can easily count. I have had numerous opportunities to watch the cycles of nature play out over time. You’d think I would be used to the aftermath of the circle of life by now. Not so. I saw something a few weeks ago that brought me to tears.
I’d say the wild mascots of our community are the sandhill cranes. I’ve written about them before on this blog (http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/coping/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/05/cranes-in-my-cranium/.) If you don’t know what a sandhill crane looks like, you should google it. You should also read my prior blog to get a sense of how I tend to anthropomorphize them. They are so much a part of our community; it is hard not to.
Sandhill cranes mate for life. They have babies once a year and those babies stay with their parents for about 10 months. The time of the year when we start spotting the baby cranes is noteworthy. Facebook comes alive with notifications of baby crane sightings. People pull over on the side of the road to take pictures. There is one street not too far from here that posts official-looking, professionally printed signs proclaiming “Caution! Baby Sandhill Crane Crossing.” We watch those babies grow from little fuzzballs on stilts to mature cranes that are indistinguishable from their parents.
What we don’t think about is what happens at the end of that ten-month raising period. I never thought about it until recently. Sure, I’d noticed that our little trio and quartet families of cranes were back to being couples around Christmas each year. It happened gradually, so it wasn’t something that signified anything to me. I lived in a little fantasy world where the juveniles had a graduation party and went off to crane college or something. They literally left the nest.
A few weeks ago, I saw the darker side of the Sandhill crane life benchmarks. As I drove down the street towards the exit of our community, I saw one of the crane families on the side of the road. One of the adult cranes was charging the juvenile. There were furiously flapping wings, hissing noises, and gnashing beaks involved. Clearly, the adult was running the juvenile crane off his territory. It made me so sad. How could these creatures who carefully hatched and raised their babies turn their backs so callously on their progeny? How could the creatures, who mourned and cried when a baby got tangled in a telephone wire and died, now snarl and spit to drive away their remaining offspring? It just broke my heart to think how confused and sad those maturing cranes must feel to see how emphatically mom and dad want them gone. Where will they go? Won’t they be lonely and scared? The entire episode really bummed me out.
I know that there is a circle of life and that last year’s nestlings must make way for this year’s babies. I know that the newly emancipated juveniles will likely find their own mates and begin exciting new lives of their own. I know that the Sandhill cranes likely do not take stock of their emotions as humans do, so probably don’t feel as betrayed as I would feel had my parents decided to cut off all ties with me when I turned eighteen. The logical, rational side of me understands that there is no tragedy involved in the launching of the juvenile Sandhill cranes. My heart, however, can’t wrap itself around the idea.
I know it is important for children to become independent and live their own lives. It is extremely difficult for each generation to accomplish their own goals and achieve societal evolution if that generation is still occupying the last generation’s nest. Just as the very act of struggling to emerge from a cocoon strengthens a butterfly’s wings and prepares it for life in the great unknown, I’m sure the struggle of leaving the nest strengthens children of all species and prepares them for life in their own great unknown. Still, that Sandhill crane approach to launching their children seems unaccountably harsh.
Those chicks did not just leave the nest; they were pushed!
What experiences do you have of “leaving the nest?” When you or your children left the nest, was it as harsh as the Sandhill crane emancipation? What was the result? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an exciting day!