cranes flying over venice

copper rushes

In my mailbox when I get home–The Photographs of Gordon Parks. On my iphone5, a photo of the sunset I had just driven through, posted on Facebook by the sister of my son’s soon-to-be bride. That’s my sky! I glance to the mouth of my dead-end street–had she been standing there, beneath the stand of ponderosa pine when she took the photo?

But of course not. Her sky is my sky. What sets over the west end of her town sets over my north side. I contemplate this, standing at my mailbox in four inches of slush, ripping open the brown-papered package. The pink pink gold, the gold gold pink sky deepens into shades of winter husk.

Inside each story, poem, photo–there is the hurdle of you, the would-be narrator, trying to ascertain what you truly believe is.*


Yesterday when I left the library, I walked across the parking lot rutted with a combination of thawing ice and slush. I approached Derby, my parked vehicle, just as an elderly man approached from the opposite direction. His ability to negotiate the terrain was worse than mine. He reminded me of my father, refusing a cane, a hand, a sturdy elbow. I heard him moan. Maybe it was a groan. I pretended not to hear him, putting my key in Derby’s lock just as he grabbed onto Derby’s back bumper.

Are you okay? Can I help?

But no. He waves me off, and points to the back bumpers of five more vehicles parked between Derby and the library’s front door. As long as no one moves, I am fine, he says with dignity.

I climb inside my truck and wait. Red truck, silver van, white car, black truck, green.


Which is why I drive the long way back to my office. It’s lunch time at the high school and the campus grass is free of slush. At the corner of 5th and Grand Avenue, I sit through two green traffic lights because the kids are racing across the busy intersection to get $5 pizzas at the corner pizza shop. We drivers are cautious, the students are not. To my right, a sophomore boy is chewing back his grin, hand-in-hand with a lovely young girl. Bandana wrapped around her head, flip-flops on her feet. He tugs at her and I watch them race across the grass, intent on disobeying the Don’t Walk light blinking orange at their cross walk.

We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die! She sings and squeals in delight, so young and vibrant, so sure they’re gonna live.


The man from the mountain sends me this video:  Cranes flying over Venice.  One hundred seconds of flight. One hundred seconds lifted over life. And so, this from a man who was and is sure I was/am his loon. In the way loons mate for life.

But no. I couldn’t/can’t manage that and instead, he shows up when I am least aware, this time with a video emailed from the other side of his world. I connect the speakers to my computer, turn the volume low. On my computer screen, a mother crane wing-beats above the watery world of Venice. Once a marsh to her ancestors, but now Venice is a point on our planet where she cannot land. The narrator explains in his gorgeous voice this mother crane is teaching her two young children the route they’ll have to take next year on their own.

Outside my office, the lobby is filled with the sort of  people who wait. When I hear the patter of little girl shoes, I don’t need to look to know she’s headed to the snack machines banked along one wall. It’s where all the children go.

Gramma, do you have a dollar or some money . . . I pause my video so I can listen, thinking of how she is referencing dollar and money separately. Maybe she’s only five, I think. Coin might not be a word until you turn six.

Wait . . . I mean . . . And now I look out into the lobby. I want to see the studied look on her face as she works this out.  Her dark curls tumble in static locks down the back of her hooded winter coat.

I mean, Gramma, do you have a dollar or . . . something else?


* –James Agee, Intro to The Photographs of Gordon Parks.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

18 responses to “cranes flying over venice

  1. what a stunning video of the cranes…how on earth did they capture that footage? wow! as always your writing paints such pictures…x j

    • redmitten

      janelle- i wondered the same thing about the cranes. wow! and how in the world?!?! that sense of movement, flight, transition is what i want to feel. thank you for your kind comments! x!

  2. A great collection of sights and sounds. You have a great ability to weave the pictures into story for your reader.

  3. Cranes over Venice. Now there’s an original image. Beautiful, Sherry, as always. And enlightening.

  4. Hi Sherry, I enjoyed reading this, particularly the elderly gentleman working his way from bumper to bumper into the library. I’d wait, too, to make sure he made it through the door. Have a wonderful week!

    • redmitten

      annie- my first impulse was to guide him across the ice, but knowing from my parents how important it is to do what you can on your own, i hesitated and thought, well, i will watch and make sure. but what if he had fallen? and then to drive past the teenagers so easily flying on their feet…i realized we are each in these different shoes at one time in our lives.

      • Rose Hunter

        I loved how this came together like that. So many interesting elements, inter-relating. 🙂 I like the idea of the “hurdle of you” also. 🙂

      • redmitten

        rose- when bits of life come together like this (not even on paper), this is when life hums for me. sometimes it doesn’t occur to me until afterwards, but really i think every moment in our lives are dots connecting to something we don’t realize. writing helps us sense this…you suppose? glad you like the hurdle of you! i hoped it wasn’t just me.

  5. i guess, from the flipflopped jaywalking girl to the ethereal cranes above an ancient swamp, we are all looking for a safe place to land. and the girl with her grandmother, working out what she wants……

    maybe it actually is something else.

    happy new year, sherry xo

    • redmitten

      amanda- and to you, a good year as well. i think of our planet spinning and how many ways we navigate and transition. sometimes on our feet, sometimes by wing, metaphorically at least. and the mother crane teaching her babies how to get from A to B, knowing she must teach them now because the year is coming she won’t be there.

  6. wuffda

    “As long as no one moves, I am fine…” Profound. I have often found myself thinking similarly about the world.

  7. wuffda

    just like a fella, yanking a girl with him into trouble.

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