Sandhill Cranes and God

My ears strain to hear
the singular trill of Sandhill cranes
high in February’s cloudless sky,
above wind rattling through dry beech leaves
and wind chimes jangling on porch.
Ah! There they are!
“Angels I have heard on high!”

Celestial beings,
barely discernible with naked eye,
a perfect v-formation,
calligraphied across the skies.
The delightful construction
so much higher than the dance
that flew over yesterday.
Those trilled and chortled,
just above the leafless trees,
outspread wings silver-edged
in late afternoon sun:
“Sweetly singing o’er the plains,”
and these Southern Indiana hills.

The Sandhill cranes
set me thinking this morning.
I grew up with warnings
to listen for,
pay heed to,
obey the voice of
I toed the straight and narrow line
for more years than I care to admit.
If the voice of a supreme being—
one worthy of worship and adoration—
had been presented to me
as the song of Sandhill cranes,
as that soul-lifting music from above,
I might still believe in God.

The voice of the judging, jealous,
megalomaniac God,
that supposedly loved me,
got old,
lost its tyrannical hold,
when I learned to love myself.
Apparently, this love affair with oneself
needs to happen,
for a person to leave
an abusive relationship.

And who wrote the Bible?
No, not God, with his brilliant big toe.
Men in a decidedly patriarchal,
tribal society,
where women were chattel—
sisters of cattle, sheep, oxen—
and a handy means to provide
sons to continue the bloodline,
and daughters for more chattel.

In all fairness,
how could God have been written
any other way,
when the typical man of the day
was made of the same inflexible fiber?
How could they imagine
a supreme being
other than male?
demanding, invincible!
Obey! Bow!
Kiss my feet
or burn in hell!

They started off pretty fine
with the “all-loving” line—
maybe their hearts
were in the right place…
for a moment—
then they got carried away.
“All-loving” got trampled
under the gargantuan feet of:
All powerful!
All seeing!

They cast God
in the image of man,
or, what man aspired to be.
Too big for his britches,
if you ask me.

Yes, things might’ve been different
if God had been cast
as a Sandhill crane,
or as hundreds of thousands
of Sandhill cranes!
Tall, elegant, silver-gray birds,
with crimson-capped heads
and bustle-like rumps;
long, black legs that dance
exuberant mating invitations
with gangly grace.
I would definitely offer
my body and soul
to such enthusiastic,
would-be lovers!

And their bugling calls!
Their songs!
Their whimsical trilling
above the clouds!
A Bible verse I learned as a child
spirals through my heart and mind:
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
And I do—
I stand perfectly still.
I lift my face toward the heavens,
toward the flock of Sandhill cranes,
and sing my silent, sacred prayer:

Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse
(February-March 2016)


2 thoughts on “Sandhill Cranes and God”

  1. Glenda, this is one of the most gorgeous hymns I have ever encountered! I especially love it against the backdrop of other writing by you about your early religious teaching and experiences.

    One of my favorite discoveries in Indiana been Sandhill Cranes, and I now listen eagerly for their ‘Gloria’ twice yearly.

    Thank you for your words. MKP

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