Once more, in their dumb unknowing, sandhill cranes are pulled to a place they must again and again get back to. I lean on a rake and scan the sky for their small Chinese brush strokes arrowing blue. But it's their wild, wondrous sound that pierces me, their high trill more thrilling than two young deer that at dawn incised our lawn with their slender hooves, lured by the dwarf apples' windfall. Wherever the cranes' journey ends, some shoreline probed by assiduous tides, my garden's just another particular and less important than the prairies, hills or rivers the cranes clamor over, all breath and bellow and creaking pinions, their passage as compelled and unyielding as the thump a ripe apple makes falling. And quick as that sound, the cranes are here, then not. I'm left with dirt and rake. As a child, I lay awake in the colorless dark and waited for dawn's oncoming freight, its whistle's single mournful whine. How that last reverberating note, especially when it was cold, hung in the air of my room, our house, above the river thick with ice, the hills beyond. I didn't understand but knew. Not the sound, but the ache of after. Deborah Cummins