I learned of you from Aldo Leopold of Wisconsin, the naturalist I never met. I read his book, A Sand County Almanac, in which he lamented the sadness of marshes that held no cranes. He saw you as a disappearing species, like your cousins the whooping cranes, cut down to just a few hundred.
You may have visited my childhood Ohio, but I never saw a crane there, not even a photograph. For me, a crane was a machine, an earthmover, or a steely blue-gray bird I would later call a heron, one Audubon calls the "heron crane."
In later years I saw you in my adopted home of Tennessee, along its mighty river. I saw your winter dance as beaks gaped open, and I heard your call from miles away as you flew over or I approached your cold-weather refuge. I wrote poem after poem of your mystic personas.
Year after year, the bird alerts tell me you have returned. "The cranes are back"—an annual event, but in the longer view, back from the brink. You fooled old Aldo Leopold and everyone else, abounding in tens of thousands beside the Tennessee, hundreds of thousands along the Platte.
You always return along rivers, and we hold a festival here, though it will not take place in the years of Covid-19. Last year, I looked out at November fog and pondered anew, "the cranes are back." Festival or no, I will drive to the refuge and seek your presence there, being older now and not knowing if another November will come.
I drove to the refuge several times that winter and cranes were abundant. They came closer with the smaller number of people to view them. I will be back with their annual return this year.
Matthiessen called cranes The Birds of Heaven, described every species named, called you "The Bird from the East," as you are known in Siberia where some members of your tribe nest, returning across the Bering Strait for winter.
But you will always be the birds of Tennessee for me. You returned as I knew you would, back from Wisconsin marshes where you appear in pairs to sing, dance, mate, and nest. Welcome home.
Please visit my website for links to my works published in Appalachian Voice, The Chattanooga Pulse, and the Hellbender Press: Home (rayzimmermanauthor.com)
I also have pages for my color and monochrome photographs, and I archive these newsletter articles in my blog: The Rains Come (rayzimmermanauthor.com)
My newsletter began as a source of online activities during the early days of Covid-19, hence the title RayzReviewz. It became a place for my rambling writings, but I am now attempting to keep the writings short and make room for information of interest to other writers here in the review section. A few current opportunities:
The Southern Festival of Books returns to in-person programming on War Memorial Plaza in Nashville, October 9–10, with virtual programming during the week leading up to the festival. Chattanooga author KB Ballentine will read from her most recent poetry collection at the festival this year. Southern Festival of Books – Humanities Tennessee
Cagibi is currently accepting submissions. The journal is online, but they published a print edition at the end of 2020. My essay, “Postcard from Hiwassee Island,” appeared in the online journal. Cagibi – /kä'jēbē/ ▸n. a literary space. (cagibilit.com)
Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry at the University of Tulsa is now accepting submissions. I have sent them work in the past but none have been accepted. Nimrod – International Journal (utulsa.edu)
Writers/South Awards is a writing competition with prizes in several genres. I have not investigated or entered the contest, but information is available on their website. Writers/South Awards – Charlotte Lit
You may have noticed some changes in my blog and newsletter. I am now working with the exemplary editing support of Red Pen for Rent. Red Pen for Rent – Writer Support Services