Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crane Festival

Bhutan's Annual Black-Necked Crane Festival begins November 12th, in Phobjika. A good place to begin your research into the matter is the Bhutanese Royal Society for Protection of Nature website, where you can find a brochure to download, and various other links of interest.

The festival is held at the 16th century Gangtey Monastery. Rather remarkably, every year on precisely the same day, a group of black-necked cranes arrive from Tibet, to winter in Bhutan. They are usually preceded by an advance party (can we get away with calling them petrels?), which arrived on October 29th last year, and again on October 29th this year.

Cranes are unusual creatures, and I had an incredibly singular experience with one. Actually, I do not know what to make of it. I am still sorting it out.

Three years ago, I knew that I wasn't well, and I knew in advance this would become very serious. So serious, that I had occasion to communicate with a monastery in Asia where I have some  specific, beneficial connection, telling them, in essence, "this is it." Shortly after making this communication, I stepped into my orchard, feeling somewhat emotional, and began saying a prayer. It was around eleven in the morning.

As I stood there, a tremendous crane suddenly flew down from the sky and stood only a few feet away from me, staring at me inquisitively. What made this a bit unusual was I was in Southern California at the time, where such cranes are never seen! The distance separating us was no more than six feet, if that. Seen up close, these are huge birds, very tall, with a tremendous wingspan.

We both stood motionless, looking at each other for quite some time. Given the exigencies of the situation, I rather felt he was an emissary from the monastery with which I had just communicated.

After an interval, my monkey mind took over, and I fished around in a pocket for my cell phone camera. The crane then hopped up on an outbuilding, as I managed to take a rather blurry and unsatisfactory snapshot. He continued to look at me from his perch, then shook his head several times, and flew up into the sky. He circled around me, and then took off in a straight line toward the northeast.

Not long after, I had a major heart attack, and they took me precisely along that same route, to the hospital where, by an almost miraculous sequence of fortunate events, doctors managed to save my life -- even though the reports from this event explicitly state, "the likelihood of mortality is very high."

Ever since that experience, I take cranes and their doings very seriously.

So, the twelfth is an auspicious day to extend many prayers for the cranes, whether they are in Bhutan or anywhere else, and no matter what sort of cranes they happen to be. People say that cranes are symbols of longevity. So, my prayers are for the long life of the cranes. People also say, that if a crane calls to its young, even in the midst of a vast forest, the young cranes will immediately recognize and distinguish the parent's voice. So, my prayers are for their keen listening.

You may believe this strange, but I sometimes think that being human is actually a test, and part of the test is how compassionately we are able to treat birds, animals, fish, insects, and so forth. Perhaps this is a silly thought, but if even a grasshopper can't trust you, then who can trust you?

If you owe a crane some face, you should give it.

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1 reader comments:

mr frodo said...

i appreciate this post very much. i have seen cranes and herons on and off from southern california to washington over the years since i was a child and believe their presence is a good sign in general.
i also agree with your thought very much that being human is a 'test' to see how compassionate we can genuinely be towards other sentient beings we share this planet with (even those we deem to be the 'lowliest')..i agree with such a 'strange' and 'silly' idea.
i wonder, having seen white herons at a fish liberation, is it considerably auspicious- particularly for those we may spefically offer that ceremony for?