Wings on the Horizon

Ha Na and ILast week, as I was approaching one of my rural schools,Nae Dae elementary, in the sleepy town of….Nae Dae, multiple flocks of birds soared over my head like missiles in the sky.  They caught my attention and literally made me stop in my tracks.  Most shop owners still soundly sleeping with no rush to wake up for the crowds of customers, just waiting for the doors to open.  The canned and dry goods sit on the local corner shop shelf dusty and expired, while the fresh produce picked daily from the surrounding farms sit in personalized bins for their local owner, covered in dirt and soil.  The only ones who are awake were the birds flying overhead and the soldiers in the distance marching through the rice paddies resembling ants in a line.  Besides the occasional testing of bombs down the road, the world seemed harmonious and gentle.

I looked back up in the sky and hundreds of these birds formed big V’s turning the backdrop of the sky black instead of blue.  I wondered why birds came here or in retrospect where they were going?  As I looked around, the serenity of the country side comforted me.  The quiet, peacefulness that encompassed the “center” of town.  I love that this almost non existent town can make me feel that way.  But just past this town, there is an even more special attraction that I was able experience.

5 am and my annoying alarm went off.  Something about waking up when the whole world is sleeping exhilarates me.  The most adventurous of teachers were to meet at school at 5:45am to see these unique birds dance into the sunrise.  After the fall harvest season, the fields on the Cheorwon plain are littered with fallen grains, providing an abundant source of food for migratory birds.  Meanwhile, the well-preserved and untouched ecosystem of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), just past the sleepy town of Nae Dae, provides clean water and a healthy habitat, making the Cheorwon area a paradise for migratory birds.  White-naped cranes, hooded cranes and wild geese come here to Cheorwon every winter to avoid the cold weather in Russia and China.  The birds are very rare and only tens of thousands of these birds are left in the world.

I was surprised to see over 20 teachers show up!  A carpool of 7 cars drove past Nae Dae into a military base located on the DMZ.  Tired and groggy, we piled into a locals home to eat tofu, rice, kimchi and bean sprouts.  Most teachers had not had their coffee, therefore made for a pretty uneventful morning up until then.  At this time in the morning, it was a piercing 3 degrees F and all I wanted to do was crawl back into my bed or at least find somewhere to defrost my bones.  I sucked it up and we all headed up a hill to a clearing.  One side was miles of brown, brittle, dried up rice paddies and on the other side was a frozen lake with mountains hugging the outskirts of this picturesque scene.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, until I looked over to see not hundreds, but thousands of birds taking of like jet planes into the softly pink and purple painted sunrise.  Multiple wings flapping up and down silhouetted against the horizon.  A rush of energy surged through the sky for a mere 60 seconds and then it was calm again. I am not the tourist to pull out binoculars to see what species of bird or get giddy when a spotted blackfoot booby flies by, but this was a spectacular sight and moment, as it rare to see.

Although it may be for slightly different reasons (as I don’t eat the fallen grains that Cheorwon’s fields provide or require a large plain or field to fly over, in simpler terms, I am not a bird,  I am glad to share this place with all the birds that travel so far just to come here and thankful for their presence this morning as a reminder to live in the present and be grateful for a full, abundant, beautiful life here.

“Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly.”

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Robby Sonzogni
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 00:56:38

    Your uncle Bill would have you fitted with binoculars in no tiime if he were with you. I bet you don’t realize that the International Crane Federation is right here in Baraboo WI….and we have been members for years. Our hope is to preserve the habitat necessary for the cranes thruout the world….and WI is introducing a migrant whooping crane flock,too. I know the IFC has done alot of work with Korea, so it is great that you got to experience the birds first hand. Much better than a warm cozy bed……or not! Happy New Year, Robby

    Reply

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