Spring crane sightings prompt reminiscing
May 1, 2020
"Look! Look! Look!" I excitedly exclaimed to my almost 16-year old son as I pointed to the field on our left. We were driving past one of the many grain fields in the Matanuska Valley where we live. I would drop him off for his last day of school in a few minutes.
He looked up from reading the all-important sports page of the newspaper. "What? Birds? I don't care about birds," he said with disgust. He went on with his reading, ignoring the four sandhill cranes foraging in the field. I wonder if he would have been impressed with the sight of the 46 sandhill cranes I had observed two weeks ago driving home on the same route. But I didn't ask.
Soon I am lost in thought. I grew up in Glennallen and our family drove the 187-mile one-way trip to Anchorage at least once every couple of months. Sometimes we would even go in once a month or more often, depending on what supplies were needed. The groceries were less expensive in Anchorage and many things like auto parts or household items just weren't available in Glennallen. The long weekend trips or one-day marathons were something I grew up with and tolerated. I didn't really enjoy them, especially in my teen years, but didn't have a choice.
It was on one of these trips with my parents, two younger sisters and younger brother, when Dad or Mom pointed out another moose, caribou, sheep, the sun on a mountain, a field of fireweed, or an eagle in the air, or whatever. I remember thinking "for crying out loud, what is the big deal? We see this stuff all the time!" Only, I never dared express my thoughts aloud.
Sometimes we (they) kept a running tally of the wild life for each trip. We didn't see bear very often. Now, that was one item even I could get excited about. Dad had moved to Alaska from Montana, Mom from New York. Their eyes were always open to the impressive Alaskan beauty, and being enthusiastic about it, pointed it out to their children. As a teenager, I was blind to this beauty. After all, I had grown up with it. I was used to it. I took it for granted.
But now in the present, on our drive to school, I feel great disappointment that my son doesn't share my enthusiasm over the sandhill cranes this morning. I can't be too hard on him, though. After all, he reminds me of myself at the same age. Perhaps, someday, he will wake up to the Alaskan beauty surrounding him and maybe 15 or 20 years from now, he will be the one to point out the sandhill cranes while driving down the road with his children. I can hope.
Close to thirty years have passed since this interaction with my son. I am happy to report he very much appreciates seeing birds and wildlife in their natural habitat... even if that habitat has been Colorado for the past 20 years.
Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.