I saw a crane tonight.
I walked with my dog to a little creek that runs through nearby mountains. Dealing as I do with nuclear issues, I like — no, I need to get out in nature to remind me what it is I’m fighting to protect. This small stretch of gently rushing water serves as an almost sacred getaway. It certainly doesn’t feel like Los Angeles.
As I settled myself down on the bank to think, there it was, about 20 feet away: a slender bird of purest white, elongated beak and featherless, stilt-like legs, maybe a foot and a half tall. It stood in the middle of the stream staring at me and my dog, trying to ascertain the danger.
I called my dog back before any drama could ensue. With the two of us at a safe distance, the bird resumed its slow strut back and forth in the water, occasionally ducking its head to secure a tasty morsel, then fluffing its feathers in satisfaction. I watched with a deep sense of joy. Here was nature-as-nature-intended, a wild creature feeding itself, keeping itself safe, yet not running away from another species when it sensed no harm intended.
I’m unfamiliar with California fauna, so I wondered what kind of bird it was. Egret? No, they belong in Florida swamps. Stork? Not exactly, but definitely stork-like. I continued to search my mental database, but not too strenuously.
The bird and I stayed in close, companionable silence for about 20 magical minutes. Then it flashed to the sky and took off on impossibly long wings, framed against the sunset, fading, fading… gone.
It occurred to me that perhaps my fellow traveler was a crane. Weren’t cranes symbolic of something?
Then it came to me: Cranes are a positive omen. A spirit animal, as Native Americans might say. A symbol of happiness and long life held especially sacred in Japan.
In one of those cosmic moments when suddenly the pieces float together and the soul sighs, “Ahhh…,” I felt the Universe coalesce and reveal itself:
The blessing of the crane.
The anti-nuclear work I’ve been doing.
This Sunday, March 11, marks the first anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and the start of the ongoing nuclear nightmare that is Fukushima. On that day, I’ll join with other activists outside the San Onofre Nuclear Generating facility – I invite you to join me. Among the speakers; two Fukushima mothers talking about the difficulties they face. It’s not a pretty picture.
Beyond that demo, I’m in discussion with a minister at Rev. Michael Beckwith’s Agape church about putting together a program discussing the ongoing problems in Japan. I have an upcoming conversation with Tim Dang, the Producing Artistic Director of the LA-based East West Players, about how his Asian-oriented theatre might incorporate programming dealing with Fukushima. I continue to produce the weekly Nuclear Hotseat podcast; I co-wrote and recorded public service announcements for Physicians for Social Responsibility; have started doing talks to local civic groups.
In other words, I’m doing what I can, when I can, and always, it feels like it’s never enough. At times I speak directly to God/Spirit/Universe/(fill-in-the-blank) and ask for a sign that I’m doing the right thing, that I need to keep going. I did that just the other day, in a moment of despair, then released the thought and forgot all about it…
Until I saw the crane and my mind made the connection to Japan. In that moment of cosmic alignment, I felt peace and love and blessing wash over me. The magic lingered as a sweetness in my heart. Now wanting to break that precious spell, I stayed by the creek as long as I could, well into dusk, before I reluctantly left the scene of my little miracle.
Back home, I Googled “crane, japan, symbolic meaning” and found this:
Cranes are an expression of sympathy, a symbol of happiness, good fortune and longevity. A thousand cranes are a prayer for peace and blessing, healing and hope during challenging times.
A prayer often spoken throughout the ages by mothers seeking the protection of cranes has been:
“O flock of heavenly cranes
cover my child with your wings.”
The children of Fukushima are being sacrificed to the greed, incompetence and face-saving lies of the Japanese government, TEPCO and those who support the international commercial nuclear industry. Children have not been and are not being evacuated from the radiation zone. Rice deemed too radioactive to be safely sold in the marketplace is bought up by the government to subsidize the farmers… and then provided as part of school lunches. Mothers who pack safer lunches and try to protect their children from radiation are ridiculed, their children bullied.
There is much, much more.
Already, a third of more than 3,000 tested children in Fukushima are showing nodules on their thyroid glands; no one is yet calling the lumps “tumors.” These are still the early days, when those who can believe the lies… do so, because they need to hold onto normalcy, even if it’s all pretend. We will not know for generations the true impact of this horrific nuclear accident on a people, a place, and the rest of the Earth, including us, but it already looks like genocide is being conducted by the Japanese government against its most vulnerable citizens.
Then there are those of us who already grieve and mourn. The mothers of Fukushima. The children of Japan. The worldwide network of aging anti-nuclear activists who struggle to be heard over the billions of dollars spent on PR and politicians to drown out our voices. We know the Truth. We know the danger. We are fighting for the future of the Earth and all its life forms. We go on fighting, struggling against depleted hope, ebbing energy, failing heart, a lifetime of accumulated bruises as the nuclear perpetrators seem to get their way over and over again.
But then… but then… there comes a crane. A single emissary of hope, but behind it, just beyond the seeing, I believe there are 999 more, and more than that, enough for us all.
“O flock of heavenly cranes
cover my child with your wings.”
Each of us is that child. Each of us needs protective wings.
I wish you many cranes.