Writers Find Inspiration In Sandhill Crane Migration

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Visitors are turning a vision that only happens in Nebraska into words. With those words, writers participating in the Honoring the Sandhill Crane Migration Tribute Festival and Retreat hope will continue to preserve the legacy of the cranes.

These writers say they've found inspiration in the blinds of Central Nebraska.

"It's a moving experience," said Greg Kosmicki, poet and publisher of Omaha's Backwaters Press.

"We do several viewings together, night, morning, night, morning, night, morning until the cranes actually have had the thread-like impression on you so when you close you're eyes you're still seeing the cranes and then we begin to write," said Allison Hedge Coke, University of Nebraska at Kearney Reynolds chair.

Hedge Coke has been bringing writers here from around the world for the past three years - writers who have never seen a sandhill crane migration.

"It's just been spectacular being able to watch the birds, and the way that they move, and really see the magnitude. I had no idea," said Lee Ann Roripaugh, poet and University of South Dakota professor.

It's a dance civilizations have been writing about for thousands of years.

"There's this long history of writers here impacted by this and we're trying to sort of revive that," said Hedge Coke.

Even today, writers can relate to these feathered visitors.

For Roripaugh it summons memories of her own families migration.

"We had a wood block print of a woman riding a crane that was always over our sofa, and I think when I was a very very small child I had assumed it was a portrait of my mother and that's how she immigrated to the United States was that she flew across the ocean on a crane," she said.

"To see them moving in those gigantic flocks and to realize that the way they behave is a lot like we behave too. There's a lot of connections there," said Kosmicki. "A lot of time they sound like a big crowd at a football game."

But the sandhill cranes resting on the Platte River outnumber fans flocking to Memorial Stadium on a Saturday by more than six times.

Hedge Coke hopes by writing about the migration, more people will come out to view the sandhill cranes.

She says a book with literary works from these retreats is expected to be completed by next spring.

The works will also be published in the Platte Valley Review on March 28th.