In the Balance
March had pushed itself into late February. The little snow that had fallen was dry and powdery so what was still on the ground had seemed to evaporate more than melt during a week of springish days and mild nights. The lake ice was puddled and growing thin around the edges. What geese had stayed the winter were beginning to fly out to farm fields in search of waste grain.
Then in a hard turn, winter returned and covered everything with six inches of heavy wet snow. The morning after I stepped outside to clear the driveway and was greeted by the trumpeting call of sandhill cranes. I was surprised. But my wife Michelle confirmed that she had seen three sandhill cranes gathered at the edge of the conservancy pond just to the west of our house as she drove past them.
I wouldn’t have been surprised; in fact, I was expecting to hear cranes any day when for the past two weeks winter seemed to be on retreat. But now, with the overnight storm, I suspected that they would stay several hundred miles to the south until conditions were more favorable. The fact that they were calling in the early morning attested that they had likely flown through the tail end of the snow during the night.
You have to wonder what would have driven them to fight through the snow to arrive at a still-frozen-over pond, and a wetland area and surrounding farm fields freshly covered with snow. All their food sources were cut off. To make matters worse, just a few days later another heavier snowfall swept across the state: no doubt pushing back spring’s arrival, and making the crane’s situation somewhat precarious. Surely they would have had good fat reserves before heading north, but they would have exhausted much of those in the long migration flight.
Yes, nature is resilient. It is also true that winter can be harsh and bleak for wildlife that battles through it for survival. But those animals all have some adaptation that makes staying alive in winter a decent wager, although it is even for them extended meagerness. It is in these transition times that lure these early arrivals only to then silence the dripping promise of melting snow and ice with north/northwest winds from the arctic that are the real threat to survival.
We may grumble at the forecast and complain of lagging winter as we look out the window, but we should also say a prayer for life that is held precarious in the swaying balance of winter and spring, for God looked at all that he created and pronounced it good.