Greater Sandhill Cranes are sojourners in Tennessee, caught between summer nests in Wisconsin and wintering grounds in Florida. Their rattling call is a trumpet in the skies. They gather at their staging area near Birchwood and call me to watch flights and arrivals. Three friends and I traveled to Hiwassee Refuge to watch the red headed dancers proclaim a restless domain on the shore, gray wings jostling like aggressive shoppers on Black Friday. Cold air bit my nose and cheeks; sent needles through my gloves. Warm air and tang of Barbecue revived me at the program hall.
Cranes line windy shore
Lift and call across cold water
Homeward then we fly
Herons stood as still as dead trees, snags in the water, hunting fish and frogs.
Breathe through water gills
Swim beneath the glassy surface
Gone to striking beak
I once stood on this same spot and watched a male Harrier (Marsh Hawk) work the far shore of this inlet off the Hiwassee River where cranes now stand.
Gray wings glide low
Lift for each patch of brush
Death to grasshoppers
At the school, some wildlife specialists gave a program on preservation of birds of prey. They had non-releasable birds of several species. I have watched Bald Eagles and, on at least one occasion, Golden Eagles from the viewing area near the refuge.
Circle over pond
Dive for fish or hunt wounded prey
King of sky and sea
We parked the car at the Cherokee Removal Memorial, hoping to avoid the parking issue at Birchwood School. We rode a shuttle bus to the refuge and to the school.
Loaded onto boats
One fourth of them died on route
Westward Trail of Tears
From the overlook at the memorial, we saw a group of White Pelicans far out on the Hiwassee River.
North from Florida
Stopping off at Hiwassee
Westward to build nests
I have made several trips here. I hope to return each year that I am still alive. The first paragraph and haiku in this entry appeared as a haibun in The Weekly Avocet. I added other memories later. The seventeenth century haiku master Matsuo Basho transformed haiku and the haibun journal form from an intellectual exercise much like a puzzle to a form with depth of meaning. I thank him for his inspiration. I hope to capture the sense of mono no aware he cherished.