A mating pair of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis pratensis) lived part of the year at the back of our lot, which butted up against an old orange grove. Cranes represented long life and prosperity in old China. I have had long life and know the difference between wealth and prosperity.
Each year we looked forward to seeing them move across our back yard, at first alone and then with a pair of youngsters. They were tall birds with grayish feathers and heads that, capped in bright red, came up almost to my shoulder. They treated us warily, never getting too close.
Early weekend mornings I practiced Yang’s form of Tai Chi Chuan in the back yard. One Sunday as I slowly moved through the postures, I turned to see them approaching. The exercise takes about forty-five minutes to complete. During that time they moved to within ten feet of me, stood still, and stared. Then their wings spread, and they began some instinctual silent dance of greeting, circling around me. They did not mistake me for another crane, but were drawn to reach out to a strange dancing creature waving hands like clouds.