before the stars came out

tree climber

It had been a long day. We’d gone for a walk through the ravine to see the trees our grandchildren like to climb. We spent some time doing stuff — chess with Henry, an attempt at origami with Kelly. I’d brought her origami paper and I thought, How hard can it be? It turns out I have no gift for paper folding. We kept searching for YouTube videos for the very simplest of things. We tried a bunny. We tried a hopping frog (considered basic, requiring little or no skill) and ended up with something that couldn’t have hopped if its life depended upon it. There was frustration on the part of a granddaughter who imagined (I think) that I could do anything. There were tears. We tried the crane that everyone is supposed to be able to make.


On the other hand, the chess tournament was wonderful. Henry turned 6 a month ago and has been playing chess for that month. John said in wonder, He is amazing. The two of them sat at a little table in the back yard and moved the pieces around the little Radio Shack computer board (computer turned off) that Brendan received for Christmas when he was about 9. Kelly watched and advised and sometimes we tried just one more origami creation with absolutely terrible results.

For dinner we ate lamb burgers under the Manitoba maple on the deck we helped to built in 2017. The light was fading. And what was that? A noise like the squeaking of wooden wagon wheels. Look up, look up! Sandhill cranes flying south! So many of them, very high in the darkening sky. We watched them move in and out of formation, we watched in wonder, and then we heard another flock (or construction or dance or siege, all collective nouns for cranes) slightly to the west of the first group. How high? 6 or 7 thousand feet, or 13 thousand (I’ve read). They can fly 400-500 miles a day during the migration. We heard them calling back and forth, one of the oldest species of birds on earth. (Fossils of the species date back 2 million years and 6 million year old relatives of the sandhill crane appear in the fossil record.)

Our rumpled attempts at folded cranes were nothing in comparison to the beauty above us in the falling light. Before the stars came out, before the waxing moon appeared in the sky to the south of us, the one that guided John and me back to our room a few blocks away, before the reply to my earlier desperate email to my friend Amy who can fold paper into the most beautiful intricate creatures, anyway, before her reply arrived:

Yes, I will show you. I learned in Miss Pollack’s grade 5 class. She was really mean. Which probably explains how she managed to teach 25 kids to crank out 1000 paper cranes! Tell Kelly you’ve got this.

4 thoughts on “before the stars came out”

      1. I have a feeling that your many other skills more than make up for the lack of origami, Grandma!

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