CIW: Comrades with Red Hats (Part 4 of 6)

At first I didn’t know your names, actually I still don’t know what you call each other. You have long, skinny black legs with a tinge of worn elastic grey, extending down to your grey webbed feet separated by three firm toes. Dull grey brown feathers cover your body, concealing the skin underneath. I wonder if it’s weathered like the skin on your legs? Your wings tuck in tightly against the torso. My eyes follow the curve of your back, guiding my gaze towards your long curved neck. It reminds me of swan’s, as it twirls up to your face. A brilliant red cap sits on top. Perhaps the red color tells your gender or maturity. Either way, you are beautiful. Your presence hypnotizes and holds my glance as often as possible.

We’re next to a small pond – Publix on one side, the Fast for Fair Food on the other. The cranes, as I learn to call them, stay with us all week long. I only see two, but am told a smaller one – perhaps a juvenile – appeared for a short time. Every so often they tug on a clump of freshly mown grass from Publix’s carefully tailored lawn. The beak holds the green tightly. YANK… body snaps effortlessly, tossing a clump of grass and fresh dirt up in the air, and chomp down… gulp!

I learn their movements and am certain the cranes are ardent supporters of the fast. They stand by the coalition with a stern commitment to non-violence, respect and dialogue.

With these values in mind, they perform a daily act of disruption, ignored by the police – vigilantly standing on the sidelines. I like to think they were our comrades, fighting for dignity – their own as well as others.

There is a six-lane road next to our camp, cars streaming by on their way to work or highway. It is important to note these birds can fly. They are not an unflying penguin type bird. I have seen their illustrious wings spread out across the sky above me, legs tucked in close. I wonder where their many feathers come from, magic in the air. Usually though, the duo strolls to the edge of the black tarmac, about to walk across; as always, every step of their long gentle legs is certain and graceful. “What are they going to do? No way are they going to try and cross!” I say to myself. Overcome by awe as I watch step onto the tarmac.

At first, I feel an urge to run into the street and wave the cars down to stop. I have seen too many dead animals on the side of the road; a cat tumbling under car after car, as I sit not knowing if he was alive during such trauma. These images raise red flags, a call to action. I control the urge. They stand there on the pavement, unflinching with their red cap, as a car rolls down towards us. They gaze calmly to the left. The car stops… miraculous! As they step once, again… and again, the bodies, residing within the car, glance at us on the sidelines and our colorful banners. The inhabitants are forced to “allow” the cranes to move freely through the (our) world, giving us an opportunity to claim their attention. Finally, the first lane clears. Whew! The cranes continue on to the next lane, as the car whizzes away.

The cars don’t always stop. They can zoom by, like the rush some make to beat a red light. When this happens they respectfully ease backwards only to start again momentarily. They are careful and confident. My running, screaming, and flailing of arms wildly would have been much more dangerous. Not too aggressive or too passive, their mood expressed through body language. In a steady tone they say, “I will cross this strange darkness. I will not allow you to hurt me, or I you. I’ll move slowly, and we’ll both reach our destinations.”

I do not know where the cranes go, or what they venture to do on the other side. Sometimes they cross, only to turn around and come back. As they do this, they command humanity to stop its speed.

To me, they embody the spirit of our action. They cross the road numerous times, and I am sure will continue to do so, just as we will continue to fight for the dignity of all.