February 12, 2017
Damp dead leaves cushioned my footsteps on the approach trail to Springer Mtn. We had been planning this for so long, and now I was actually here! But even as I inhaled soft forest air, the moment of departure had not yet come. For I was hiking without my pack, accompanied by my sister, Helen, and her husband, Mark, and Jay was languishing in the Lodge at Amicalola with a pounding headache, sore throat, and sinus misery. The germs had abruptly materialized as we drove from Tennessee to Georgia. A week of recuperation loomed, for which my sister had kindly offered a refuge at her home.
Suddenly, over the hill, through the conversation of my companions, I heard a faint, garbled trumpeting, undulating through the air. “Listen!” I exclaimed. “Can you hear it?”
Helen, Mark, and I stopped, ears straining. A mixture of rattles, honks, squeaks – it almost sounded like a group of school children having a high old time with a basket of rhythm instruments! The cacaphony crescendoed, and suddenly, a flock of sandhill cranes crested the hill! The swoosh of huge wings beat the air. I wanted to lift my arms and join them, leap into the blue sky.
Yes! Head north! Take me with you!
As the last straggler of the migrating flock passed overhead to wing beyond the horizon, I was filled with a clarifying joy. Earlier this morning my parents had given Jay and me a parting blessing, the last verse from the 1715 hymn, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” by Isaac Watts. The words resounded through my being:
There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes thy glories known.
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from thy throne.
While all that borrows life from thee is ever in thy care,
And everywhere that we can be, thou, God, art present there.