Wild Cranes Dancing

Sansaku: Wild Cranes Dancing


Walking barefoot and half-blind in the canyon had taught Dow how to learn and listen to his body. And just as Em had taught him to swim under the pour-off passage to access the higher canyon, he was following her path again. He had faith that he could find it.

The first few steps were hidden and had to be felt to be found. But once he took them, they carried him to a ledge that gracefully crossed the cliff and then curved back again at a slightly higher level.

He thought the way would continue to spiral up, but it didn’t. He looked around for steps or a hand-hold, but there wasn’t any. He had taken a turn in the maze that led to a cul-de-sac and he’d almost decided to go back down and start again, when he heard a voice as soft and clear as a December snow.

She said his name, “Dow.” It seemed to come out of the stone itself. He held his breath and listened. “You need to trust me, like you did in the canyon. You cannot see or feel the way, but it is there. If you commit, you’ll find it. If you doubt, you’ll fall.”

He wanted to ask for more directions, but chose to take off his glasses instead. He was already barefoot. Along with the flute, he put them in his pocket. The divining-rod feather in his hair was twitching.

With her image in mind, he pushed around the corner and his hand found a deep bucket-hold in the rock. His body followed and found the steps he needed. The rest of the way was practically paved with a sculptured elegance. He thought about the kiva.

She was sitting in the middle of this plainly sacred space, with the dancing crane panel behind her. Dow’s eyes were dancing in and out of focus. She reminded him of the light that sometimes comes after a winter storm, when everything takes on a mystical glow. He wanted to tell her about a certain December day, but she put a finger to her lips and whispered. “Don’t talk, not yet.”

Dow saw the altar place near the panel with the cranes. Em had decorated the space with a few pieces of her art. He recognized her style and touch.   He wanted to offer the flute and removed it from his pocket, but the look on her face was magic. He smiled back, she didn’t need to say. He knew exactly what to do.

There’s that moment in the story, when the wild swans come to the pond in spring and the ugly duckling sees himself and learns about true nature. Em looked like a wild crane and as soon as she heard the flute, got up off the floor and slowly began to dance like one.

Dow watched her closely and carefully matched her movements. They moved together in synchrony, two wings to the one bird they formed. They had no need for talk, the flute and the dance and the look in their eyes said it all.

If Dow had learned to trust his feet in the canyon, Em had learned to trust silence from Dahl. He’s the one who suggested she put a finger to her lips when they met. He said, “Words move too fast, you’ll want to slow it down.”   She understood best slowly.

I’m remembering my first date with Chyako. We climbed up Animas Mountain together and sat on the cliff overlooking the valley. We’d arrived just in time. Two eagles were dancing. I’d never seen anything like it and I’ve never seen it again.

They coupled and tumbled, locked in a love embrace, and plunged in a whoosh together. Our mouths opened wide as they rushed toward the earth. But the eagles knew exactly what to do and showed us the way.










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