How long could you put off eating, sleeping, mating?

Two Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis), flying ...
Image via Wikipedia

A longtime dream of mine has been to experience a migration of one of the earth’s animals en route. When I see flocks of birds passing overhead, swooping and circling patterns in order to regroup and move forward in their journey, I get a thrill. I wonder at the planning; filling themselves with extra calories beforehand, the stop-locations used for centuries, the ability of these animals to see the larger picture, and of course their uncanny ability to put off short-term rewards like eating, sleeping, and mating, for the common good of the flock. How many of us could say such a thing?

Sandhill Cranes fly from West Texas to Russia, with stops that include the Platte River in Nebraska, to meet up with their brethren, sometimes as many as 500,000 at a time. I have been told that Monarch Butterflies take two or more generations to make their journey, meaning that no one is showing them the way, it is set instinctively. Talk about planning; no single butterfly makes the whole voyage; young ones are born on the way, taking up a portion of the journey; a sort of relay race across generations.

If we wrote books like this, My great-grandfather would have picked out the genre and started the title page, grandmother would then choose the characters, and possibly the plot line, my father would figure out the climax and resolution, and I would work on revision, leaving the editing to my children. Only my kids would see the destination, the finished work. But each of us would have had a hand in getting them to that place.

Thinking about the big picture, a novel, and putting off short-term rewards like pay, (won’t consider eating, sleeping, mating), for the good of the project, is hardly admirable compared to a Sandhill Crane’s, or Monarch butterfly’s experience. But, just as with the animals, the writing magic seems to happen on the journey. Sure the goal, instead of Russia, is a finished novel, but the ride is a blast.

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