Ahh, these summer nights! There are so many wonderful and beautiful things that make summer feel so special. For me, the most beautifully pleasant is an August night with a full moon. No other force in nature has the ability to change our moods as the moon can. Here in the Kickapoo Valley, the way the moonlight touches the Earth always creates a beautiful spectacle. It can be a spiritual experience that touches your very heart and soul. When you take the extra time absorbing such beauty, the return is in benefits to your heart.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights were just such nights. Warm, sunny days with temperatures in the high 80's set the stage for the most beautiful nights of the summer. After the sun went down, the ground would cool in the River bottoms, and a light, misty fog would slowly rise as the moon climbed higher in the east. With clear, starry skies as a backdrop, the glorious luminescent moon took center stage over these Kickapoo mountains and all its residents below. The cool dampness would linger and the moonlight glowed on the dew, gently softening the landscape. A Whip-poor-will whistles from the shadows up the valley and the crickets chime in with their approval of the moon's gift to them. Alas, a falling star leaves its vapor trail plain to see as it falls behind the silhouette of tree tops.
The summer nights are for living and relaxing, to ponder and give thanks for finding serenity. It is the time of reflection, for fond moments and instinctive feelings. We all need to experience the pleasures of the moon and feel how it can adjust our basic attitudes.
A family of Sandhill cranes has wandered to the edge of the road. They know that the field of short alfalfa on the other side is a good place to find crickets for breakfast. It would be easy for them to simply leap into the air and come down on the other side of the road where they want to be, but walking seems to suit them. I slow the car way down as I approach them, then come to a complete stop to let them pass in front of me. To my surprise, they also stop, and the four of them peer in at me with curious yellow eyes. With no fear and long strides, they walk along the edge to a cornfield that borders the hayfield. This family of cranes is seen frequently in the same area, and they seem to feel they are safe. The respect the local folks have for them has made them welcome members of the community.
The adult Sandhill cranes have been molting their feathers since the nesting season began and the eggs were laid. This is when they spend most of their time on the ground because of responsibilities to their flightless young. Grounded anyway, they use this time to replace old worn-out feathers with new, strong ones. Their beautiful nuptial cinnamon feathers and royal Red cap are barely visible as they fade to an Autumn gray. The two young cranes are able to fly pretty well for short distances, but their huge flight feathers are not yet hard-pinned, which means there is still some blood at the base of the quills. This blood runs through the center vein and is what creates the new feather. In another week, their feathers will be finished growing and they will be high in the sky, following their parents over the Kickapoo River. Their migratory journey south doesn't start for over 2 months, so there is plenty of time for the young cranes to build the strength they will need to make the long trip south.
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