Sudden brake lights are unexpected halfway through an on-ramp, and my dogs slammed into the back of my seat as I smashed down on my own petal. A saw the flashing yellow lights as I leaned out the window to discover the cause of the delay. Animals are an important part of my life, and so I took particular interest when I saw the green truck turned sideways on the ramp was that of a game-warden.
My smile revealed my inner-dork as I watched him urge from the road to safety the beautiful family of Sand Hill Cranes. The two parents frantically pranced about, doing their best to “protect” the two juveniles (called colts) from the silly looking uniformed man, dancing in the road and waving a towel to shoo them across to safety.
Sand Hill Cranes (Grus canadensis) display a behavior we humans would consider most unusual, even odd. They are monogamous, they mate for life, and never choose another – even after death. This was a primary reason why they are considered a threatened species – these magnificent creatures live for over 20 years, and if one of the pair is killed, they other will raise the kids by himself (herself), and then be alone for the rest of its life.
I remember the empty, nearly teary feeling I felt one day last year as I drove on a Narcoossee Road, in Lake Nona. Ahead I could see a crane dancing so elegantly, rising and swooping and spreading his huge wings, as he pranced back and forth in the road. As I neared I could see that his was not a courtship ritual, nor one of proud celebration. Whether for protection from further oncoming traffic, or out of grief, this was a very different display, as he frantically leapt, back and forth over his mate lying lifelessly in the road.
(Not surprisingly), I pondered these two scenes for the next hour, as I drove to work. Clearly, the mate for life thing merits mention, and I’d assume most of us would agree its a good idea, perhaps a lofty ideal. But not exactly practical in the real world. I mean there’s job stress, money struggles, midlife crises, and cheating spouses to consider. It’s just not very practical in this day and age, living in the “real world.” What do a couple of stupid birds know? We’re so lucky we don’t have to be bound by ridiculous outdated rules.
But a second notion comes to mind.
If the cranes are us and our relationships, the oncoming traffic is the real world and societal pressures, then I suppose the wildlife officers are… the few (unfortunately) people in our lives that care enough about us to stand in harm’s way to protect us, and (in this case) our commitments and relationships. They hold us to a high standard. They push us, and even shake some sense into us as we wander. He doesn’t share porn, pay for a lap dance, or “high-five” his buddy as he leaves after drinks with his non-wife on a fishing trip. And she doesn’t look the other way at work as her co-worker comes back disheveled from a 3 hour lunch, let her drunk friend leave the pub with a hook-up, or laugh vicariously as she listens gleefully to her cheating friend. What would a real friend do?
Mind your own business, and watch your friend’s life swirl down the drain? Remember that the next time you see the real victims, their children. Perhaps we shouldn’t mind our own business, perhaps we are “our brother’s keeper.”