I heard the distinctive crackling cries of sand hill cranes toward the end of our morning constitutional and looked up to see a large flock of these giant birds sailing in a wide, lazy circle over the trees. Migration time. A bit late in the year, compared to earlier days when I would see them traveling in October, around the time of the balloon fiesta. They are going South to Bosque del Apache, the nature reserve a couple hours south from here by car. There, they will have a field of corn, grown just for them, that has been threshed and left to dry on the ground. They will mingle with the fat white snow geese and smaller varmints that cannot resist the sweet fresh smell of high quality food that is spread across the earth just for them, an incredible banquet.
Across the wide viewing path and boggy wetlands, the raptors will perch in giant trees. I saw a bald eagle there once, and many goldens. The memory of a brilliant male pheasant, arrayed in the height of his glory with gorgeous glistening plumes of bright feather, has stayed with me for more than 14 years. Glimpses of the timid are treasured.
Though I usually try to keep moving on my slow, shuffling walks around the property, I stood for several minutes, leaning on my cane, watching as the cranes slowly formed themselves into three parties of about 25 each. In beautiful "v" formations, following one another, they flew out of their orbit around the patch of cottonwoods and headed south.
These infusions of natural life sustain me and speak to a spot in my soul that is unnamable but gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. On the other hand, a wild sorrow grips me each time a bit of access to nature is eaten away by the dictates of government types for whom the bottom line is the ONLY priority, and the beauty of nature is irrelevant, inconvenient, or allowed only for the wealthy.
No sooner did I get inside my apartment, than the "landscapers" showed up with their infernal, roaring instruments of torture, otherwise known as leaf blowers. They blasted my front door with the vengeance, with me sitting just two feet away. The powered air forced dirt into my apartment through every crack between the door and the sill. After they covered every surface in my apartment with all the fine bits from the parking lot, they blew leaves and detritus into my garden and left me sneezing in fits, another tortured city asthmatic.
As soon as they were finished, a large machine on the golf course began chewing up the air with its artificial noise, mowing or sowing or who-knows-what. It continued for quite a long time, causing me to begin the now too familiar battle to calm nerves that have been jangled by the chaos of modern life.
Soon, the workmen that have been spackling the ceilings of the outdoor spaces will return with their ladders, their loud laughter, and their yelling to one another from one building to another. Hovering outside the windows of the many retired tenants, and slopping white spackling material all over the sidewalks, in the dirt and on the glass of the windows, they have been a constant presence for weeks now.
The building has gotten to the age where numerous repairs are required and, because the building was constructed so poorly to begin with, and the repairs are done in a slap-dash manner by non-professional, untrained laborers who do not speak English and are probably not even legally in this country, the repairs have continued for a couple of years now.
Every year, the activity in this complex becomes more and more intrusive, noisy, inconvenient and not conducive to the life of silence and contemplation of a hermit type person. Imagine, if you will, sorting oneself out so that the soul is in silence and ready to receive the Lord, and, suddenly, the place is overrun with jabbering, clueless workmen who are clanging pails and scrapers and paint brushes and thermoses in a cacophony of disorganization.
A few quiet moments of watching the sand hill cranes was a blessed (and rare) break from the mayhem of the majority of the rest of the day. I will be grateful for it and cling to it, thinking back to when life was much more like the former than the latter and how the balance has shifted so dramatically that I hardly feel as if I live on the same planet as I did in 1970 or 1980.
How will I meditate on God and say my prayers in the midst of this grotesquerie? How can one established sacred space when noise and the constant presence of strangers invades my privacy and seeps in with the dirt from the parking lot? All the icons in the world can't keep out this sort of invasion.
Please pray for me, as I pray for you.
Silver Rose Parnell
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