Fossil records suggest cranes have existed for over 35 million years. Today, 15 species of cranes still grace the world, and the near-extinction of Whooping Cranes inspired action to protect these large, beautiful birds capable of dance.
Writers explored the charisma of cranes — their ability to capture our imaginations through art and preservation. As usual, the phrase remained open to writer interpretation.
The following are based on the May 10, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story defining “the charisma of cranes.”
PART I (10-minute read)
Sarus Crane by Irene Waters
Hearing the engines of the American F-4 jets we scattered but there was nowhere to go. The bombs fell, followed by huge explosions. A fireball engulfed everything for miles. The burning tar clung to the skin of those in the open. Those undercover coughed from the deadly carbon monoxide cloud that robbed the atmosphere of oxygen. Who were the Americans fighting? The Vietcong or the Environment? The tallest flighted bird in the world took off taking hope with it.
The Americans destroyed and then rebuilt in collaboration.
“Look. There! See that large bird!”
“Hope has returned. See the red head.”
Homecoming by Anne Goodwin
Henry watched from the attic window as the yellow crane dipped its neck towards the earth. Strange! Hadn’t they finished the foundations last week?
A bird crossed the sky above the building site; it seemed much larger than the usual pigeons and gulls. Quieter too. And beautifully balanced. A heron would fly with its neck tucked into its shoulders, but this was cruciform. Symmetrical. Could it be a crane?
Hadn’t those charismatic birds died out in this part of the world? If they were returning, perhaps his sister would too. The new houses, hitherto unwelcome, would summon her home.
In the World of Cranes by Roger Shipp
“Chichi.” There was no response. “Papa, if I wouldn’t have designed it, someone else would have.”
“This was built on the park where I courted your mother. The park where we picnicked with you as a child. The cranes that we treasured for our family’s good fortune… It was their home.”
“It still is, Chichi.” Taking his father’s hand, Tsuru continued turning the pages of the photo album.
“I remember my namesake’s stories. Look, Chichi. The Sasaki Medical Complex is in her honor. We reclaimed the fouled marshlands. Reestablished walkways and shelters. Chichi, the cranes, are safe once again.”
The Charisma of Cranes by Kay Kingsley
I leaned against the pole overlooking the boardwalk and chuckled to myself as I took another drag from my cigarette. In a way, it was like watching poetry in motion, a dance of jest, an innocent flirtation (if you could call it that) as he paced passing couples, children, and women. He didn’t say anything and instead impressed them with juggling, twisting balloons into animal shapes, and spontaneously extending paper flowers to the single ladies walking by. He blocked paths long enough to be playful, leaving passersby smiling. He had the charisma of cranes, and I couldn’t look away.
New Cranes, Old Memories by Paula Moyer
After the Wall came down, Berlin was a flurry of new construction. Huge cranes punctuated the landscape everywhere. The noise was its own buzz. Everywhere were fences around the sites. Boards with sketches of the respective projects.
After jetlag had settled, Jean and Steve couldn’t take their eyes off them, the sheer modernity, buildings popping up everywhere.
Away from the big tourist draws: the New Synagogue, rebuilt in 1995, 57 years after Kristallnight. Jean first saw it in 1980. Fenced off, a sign telling the story, ending with the words: “Never forget this.” Glass still tinkled as it fell.
Cranescape by Juliet Nubel
They were changing the face of the city. Dozens of them standing high over the wastelands, their spines tall and straight, their long necks stretching out over the green plains. They were of all different colours, colliding and merging in the brand new skyscape. How many could the eye take in at once?
Some found them charismatic, bringing life to the town. Others detested their metallic structures, so out of touch with the ever-receding beauty of the surrounding fields.
Daily, men climbed the ladders to reach tiny cabins, then looked down upon the concrete boxes growing beneath their feet.
Crane by Floridaborne
“I love cranes,” Emma said, looking up at the sky.
“They are magnificent,” Lester smiled.
Her hair glistened midnight at him, eyes so dark a universe lived inside. He loved their first date, her eyes closed to enjoy Debussy’s La Mer. Her impeccable manners at the city’s best restaurant, an ability to hold intelligent conversations about politics…he’d hoped she’d be the one.
“There’s a fund-raiser for Whooping Cranes next week…”
“I’m a structural engineer,” Emma said, pointing to the skyscraper under construction. “That’s the only kind of crane I like.”
Plymouth by Jack Schuyler
As we walked through the yard, daylight shone harshly from the multifaceted car wrecks piled around us. The smell of diesel and sunshine drifted over an unbearably dry breeze.
“You’re looking for a 1955 Plymouth?”
I nodded affirmatively to my grease covered guide.
“Lars! Crane to lot 44!”
A long shadow flashed over us, and the grind of metal on rusty metal filled the already acrid air. A large magnetic hoof dropped obediently from the sky, landing atop a mountain of metal husks. Rising slowly, it pulled my dented Plymouth from the heap.
“There she is! Beauty ain’t she?”
The Naming Of Parts by Geoff Le Pard
‘Do you believe that stuff about boys instinctively wanting guns and girls dolls, Logan?’
‘Yesterday, my nephew used his Lego to build a gun.’
‘It’ll blow up in your brother’s face if he doesn’t avoid gender-specificity.’
‘Is that even a word?’
‘It’s two, Morgan. Look at you, anyway. Your parents gave you boys’ toys I bet.’
‘What was your favourite toy?’
‘A lorry and trailer. Called Derrick.’
‘Derrick? You named your truck Derrick?’
‘It had a crane on the back; when Dad saw it, he said ‘Derrick the Crane’ and it sort of stuck.’
‘Explains a lot.’
His Secret, and Hers by Liz Husebye Hartmann
His long spatulate fingers, joints knobby as cherry pits, cup a bouquet of fresh dwarf roses. He shifts from foot to foot within the grove of birch trees, anxious over his late arrival at the graveyard.
For twenty years he’s delivered a secret miracle to a grieving woman. For her part, she’d never remarried. He honored her devotion.
His pale blue gaze darts, beady under heavy brows. He swallows and decides, Adam’s apple pitching up, then down. He swoops, scooping up dead roses, replacing them with fresh, breathing a prayer.
“I thought it was you,” she whispers. “I hoped.”
Be Mine! by Di @ pensitivity101
I am gorgeous, am I not?
We are two of a kind, you and I.
My blue eyes can see what you’re thinking, and I understand.
Do not be fooled by appearances.
My legs may be spindly, but they are surprisingly sturdy and strong.
I can keep up with the flock.
My crowning glory shimmers in the autumn sun.
I am smitten by your beauty, as you are stunned by my prowess.
We will make such beautiful chicks together.
We cranes mate for life.
Be mine forever, and I will follow you to the edge of eternity and beyond.
Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle
The stern countenance of the old warrior looked peaceful despite the wails and lamentations of the women of the village. The feathers of the blue crane, or indwe, stuck out of his hair; a startling contrast to his lined and worn features.
During his life, he had been proud of this illustrious decoration. The feathers had been bestowed on him by the Chief of his Xhosa tribe at the ceremony called ukundzabela. The great battle at which he had distinguished himself would always be remembered by his descendants. He had been one of the men of ugaba or trouble.
A Little Neck Stretching by JulesPaige
Summer – she stretched her neck to see the Great Blue standing, poised and posing on the rock near the south bend. There was once a pair, thrived here peaceably dining on what the fisherfolk who did catch and release, left them.
Somewhere she has a memory of that scene in digital form – she also has a small copy of the photo on the bird wall in her home.
One of fisherfolk she spoke to this spring saw a pair within the last few years. Might just be a new pair – since the bird’s life expectancy is only fifteen years.
The Boldness of Cranes by Peregrine Arc
Cranes tell us the delight of crisp pickles, bring us babies at prearranged appointments and adorn rice paper bordered with poetry. The birds fly and swoop, skirt ponds and stand in water effortlessly still. Their reflections add milk to still waters, twirling in eddies like bizarre espressos of Lake Michigan.
They march in single lines, chanting, strutting their wings in constrained fury. The air is theirs, they declare; the seas and lakes, too. Their feathers brush against the winds, bouncing up and down rhythmically. A black eye fixates on you. They are aware of your presence. Are you, too?
The Crane by Ritu Bhathal
Meena watched, hypnotised by the sight of Jin Su’s hands, deftly working that piece of paper.
It seemed like mere seconds before that flat sheet of paper, took the form of a magnificent bird, a crane.
“Wow! How did you do that, Jin? Teach me!”
“Sure, grab a piece of paper and we’ll go through it step by step.” Jin Su waved his hand towards a pile of origami paper.
A little while later she stood back, surveying her handiwork.
Not so much charisma of cranes as crane catastrophy!
“I think I’ll leave this folding magic to you, Jin.”
Cranes by Kate @aroused
Sally embarked on her school project with more enthusiasm than usual because she had a passion for cranes. Her mother watched on in interest as she applied herself diligently.
“Cranes are majestic creatures who deliver babies and symbolise good fortune and longevity. Over time they have become the symbol of hope and healing so many fold paper cranes.
I love to see them strutting about, and it is my prayer that Aunty Charli has a complete recovery and stays with us for a long time as she is our very best friend.”
Miss Martinelli’s Present by Luccia Gray
‘We’ve come to see Miss Martinelli,’ said Sally.
‘I’m afraid, my daughter isn’t receiving visitors,’ Mrs Martinelli said, wiping her eyes.
Sally pointed to a group of children holding a chain made of coloured paper. ‘We’ve brought her a present.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Miss Martinelli is our art teacher. She taught us origami, so we’ve made a thousand paper cranes to decorate her room.’
‘How beautiful, but why?’
‘She told us about an ancient Japanese legend which says if you make a thousand paper cranes, the Gods will grant you a wish. We all wish her to come back.’
Paper Crane by Heather Gonzalez
George folded the edges of the paper. He had already finished his test, so he decided to make a paper crane. His grandma taught him how to fold different kinds of animals, but her favorite had always been the crane. When he visited her in the hospital a few days earlier, she told him that one day when she is gone, she will come back to see him as a crane.
Just at that moment, a breeze came through the open window, and George’s crane lifted from his desk and took flight out the window.
“Goodbye, grandma,” he whispered.
PART II (10-minute read)
The Charisma of Cranes by Debora Kiyono
“What do I do?” – she asked, frozen by fear.
After a moment of silence, she heard the duet call of cranes above her head.
Attracted by the sound, she watched the birds’ flight mesmerized by the beauty and elegance of their dance. A smile made her body feel peace.
Following their direction, she went back to the cliff with steady and decisive steps.
Feeling the earth beneath her feet and the breeze caressing her skin, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Allowing the body to fall, she dove, surrendering to her flight, into the refreshing river.
“Be the Crane” by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer
Osha’s essence soared in the celestial expanses of his spiritual quest. His soul maneuvered through the ebony cosmos littered with sparkling pulsars guiding him toward his goal.
A crane, outlined in stars floated before him in the macrocosm. This bird was his spirit animal associated with royalty, balance, grace, and longevity.
The crane spoke, “Do not express your opinions, protect your family, and keep balance in life. This is the charisma of the cranes.”
Osha felt the oneness opening, and he became the crane. In the Menominee tradition, Osha claimed his new name, Atokngyam, belonging to the Crane Clan.
Crane Song by Jan Malique
Crane sings his song of becoming,
Of passage of time.
Answers to the call,
Of the Three who are One.
Sacred Moon bird,
What can you see?
Your vision sees the true face of all.
Seer of the Three who are One,
Your words are hidden in mystery,
Meant for ears that hear true,
And hearts that are pure.
You weave Magic,
Usher in times of change.
Speak with the voices of those beyond the Veil.
Crane sings his song of becoming,
Of the passage of time.
Answers to the call,
Of the Three who are One.
Charisma of Cranes by Michael Grogan
The “Charisma of Cranes” stood in the foyer of the gallery as a greeting to all who wandered by. It never failed to stop visitors who’d stop to gaze mesmerised by the work. Three aristocratic cranes offset against each other with the third one, with captivating eyes, drawing you in and thus being the thrust of conversation.
The cranes, painted by the legendary artist, C Mills, were featured staring out at those of us looking on. It was agreed, through an extensive survey, that the third crane was the most prominent in looking directly at you. Because it was!
From the Left Hand of Wallace Williams by Elliott Lyngreen
Wallace Williams drew on pulp one crane, grandiloquent among thousands of ashen pulps.
Charcoal shades soft forestry. Edges of naked males swimming. Stain glass lines. Heavier horse-drawn carriages amongst ferns. Darker gables and fascia, corners, planks perfectly prominent, poles, wire sags crest rock formations. Gray layers terrain, structure fine staples, pencil-like effects. A portfolio capturing rural American 40s and 50s.
The charisma that blends the crane, however, scales this vanishing point at minute discomfort. Art Wallace Williams prepared for my grandmother. She elucidates, “..oh how he drew this. . . using his left hand due to a recent stroke.
The Instructor by Bill Engleson
“Fold the paper in half,” she says. “Like this.”
“Then this way.”
I follow her lead.
I get momentarily lost.
She is patient. “It’s easy. You’ll get the hang of it.”
I give my clunky fingers a little crane dance.
“Origami isn’t my strong suit,” I confess.
“Doesn’t have to be,” she replies.
I take a break.
“Art can be exhausting,” she cracks.
I nod agreement.
Minutes fly by.
Fold after fold.
At last, “Voila.”
“Beautiful,” I say.
“Not as majestic as the real thing, though.”
“No. But it’ll do.”
“In a pinch,” she quips.
The Fetch Game by Ruchira Khanna
“Attagirl!” he shouted as he threw a stick.
She narrowed her eyes and walked gracefully while eyeing it at times. Just then she saw berries hanging from a tree. She chose the latter, allowing the stick to land on the ground.
She was unperturbed as she continued to pick the fruit with her long neck.
He had no choice, but to wait until she was content.
Threw the stick again, and this time she caught it in her beak effortlessly.
Jack was quick to clap in jubilance, and she moved her feet and body to the tune.
The Majesty of Cranes by Reena Saxena
Molly looked crestfallen.
“What happens when a leader you worship, displays negative behavior.”
“But… “ Unconditioning was clearly not easy for her.
“The majesty of a crane lies in its ability to rise up to the challenge. Stooping down or swooping down on anybody other than aggressors earns him no respect.”
“I have been hit…. And injured.”
“He is no more a leader and no more majestic. Worship is uncalled for.”
Two weeks later, the top honcho was asked to resign. One of his female team members had accused him of inappropriate conduct in the #MeToo movement. Molly?
A Mother for Aimi by Teresa Grabs
“Why do you look so sad, Grandpa?” Aimi asked, holding his hand.
“Because cranes should not be kept in tiny cages at the fair,” Taiki replied, wiping a tear from his eye.
Walking out of the children’s petting zoo, Taiki told her the story of Tsuru no Ongaeshi.
“What!” Aimi screamed and began wailing, looking at the zoo.
Taiki hugged her and tried to calm her down, but it was no use. The man from the petting zoo walked past.
“You let her go!” Aimi screamed at him. “I will keep her secret, and she can be my mom!”
Cranes by Susan Sleggs
The business man’s suit was very expensive. When you work in a fabric shop, you can tell things like that. He was in search of cotton fabric that had cranes on it, not the machine, but the majestic white bird with a red crown. He explained the crane signified good luck and longevity in Japan where the new owner of his company would be visiting from. The fabric would be tied in a specific manner around a gift. The style of folding and knots more important than the present and the cranes a bonus. We enjoyed the cultural lesson.
Country of Cranes by H.R.R. Gorman
I poured some tea into Mr. Suzuki’s cup, but the old man gazed elsewhere out the window, then forlornly pointed. “There she is again.”
I lifted the curtains made from yellowed lace to see a large bird soaring. “Are you sure it’s the same one?”
“She is the only red-capped crane in your country.”
“It’s your country, too.”
He sipped his tea at last. “My country lies on the other side. She flies by my window to call me there.”
When I arrived the next morning, Mr. Suzuki’s body remained behind, but two cranes flew west outside his window.
Flight of the Birds by Wallie and Friend
“Some say that cranes are the spirits of the dead,” said Allie. “When you see one, it could be the spirit of a loved one watching over you.”
Allie glanced down at her son. Three years after his father’s death, Mick was stronger, but she knew the child hurt.
“Maybe it is silly,” she said. “Your daddy doesn’t need a bird to see you. He’s so proud of you, Mickey. I know it.”
“Does he miss me?” said Mick.
Allie’s throat tightened. “How could he miss you?” she asked, hugging him. “Somehow, he’s with you right now.”
Pining Crane by D. Avery
Turtle dreamt of journeying. With certain steps, Turtle began trudging along an uncertain path. Borne of Earth, yet bearing thirteen moons full upon her back, Turtle bore her journey with patience and faith.
After many cycles of many moons, Turtle was far from where her journey had begun. In the shelter of wise Pine, Turtle curled up to rest. Then Turtle awakened, transformed as if again emerging from a shell.
As Crane, Turtle stretched feathered wings, stood tall upon two long legs, danced a dance of timelessness; as Crane, flew high over Pine, lucidly, all past illusions clearly visible.
Living the Nightmare by Norah Colvin
The shaft of light reflecting from the mirror jolted her awake.
“What time is it?” She fumbled for her phone. “Hell!” All night she’d craved sleep, then slept through. She pulled on yesterday’s clothes, ruffled her hair and charged out.
People packed the square so tight she couldn’t squeeze through. She craned her neck but, even on tiptoes, couldn’t see. She pushed into the tiniest gap on a ledge, only to be elbowed off. But she’d spotted a cherry picker. She climbed in, pushed a button and up she went; just as the crowd dispersed. She’d missed out again.
The Cranes in Maine by Molly Stevens
“What’s that screwball woman doin’ now?” asked Chester, stretching his neck to watch his neighbor, Myra.
“Looks like she’s geared up to go bird watching,” said Ruth. “She’s a member of the Audubon Society, you know.”
“I’d sooner walk on broken glass than tramp around lookin’ for birds. And don’t she know she’s not gettin’ any younger? What she needs to do is go on the hunt for a man.”
“She told me she’s looking for sandhill cranes.”
“Sandhill canes in Maine? She won’t find them north of Belgrade.”
“How do you know that?”
“I watch the Nature Show.”
Brolga’s Dance by Sarah Whiley
Monogamous. Bonded for life. Couples are known by synchronous, trumpeting calls. The female initiates, standing with wings folded and beak pointed skyward. The male mirrors, but with wings flared. The performance begins.
One bird picks up some grass, tosses it into the air, and catches it in its bill. The bird then jumps into the air with outstretched wings, bows, struts, and bobs its head up and down.
First, the brolgas dance for their mate; then dance in pairs. Finally, they dance together as a whole group.
I observe them through my binoculars, amazed; thinking, “The charisma of cranes.”
What Do You Know of Cranes? by Aweni
Smaerd turns to me, “tell me about Cranes.”
I jumped right in, “ah, ‘Story of the Cranes,’ do you know scholars deny it?”
Smaerd looked at me, “no not that.”
I didn’t ask, just jumped right in, again.
“Oh, you mean, a thousand origami Cranes and how they make a wish come true!”
Smaerd now exasperated, said, “no, tell me of Cranes, their role, describe them, anything but the sentiments humans attach to them.”
I looked aghast, for I knew nothing of Cranes.” I hear they dance with charisma, ………” silence….. Do they fly? Do they chirp?……
Don’t you judge!😃
Dream by Tiffany Blair
There once was a dancer younger and brash, her dream to be on stage, she was determined to let nothing stand in her way, she practiced from sun up to sun down until her feet were sore and blistered until finally, her chance came.
She pirouetted, twirled and leaped, always on the move, across the stage and when bright flashes met the end of her performance she bowed, happy, for she’d finally accomplished her dream, the stage was where she was meant to be, from then on, she was determined nothing would get in her way again.
Raising Crane by D. Avery
“So many egrets.”
“Regrets? What do you have ta regret, Pal?”
“No, Kid, egrets, they’s a bunch a cattle egrets roamin’ the ranch.”
“Oh. Thought they was cranes.”
“No, egrets is more like herons.”
“Yeah, they’s here on the ranch. Cranes.”
“We do git sandhill cranes here, Kid, but cranes an’ herons an’ egrets is diff’rent.”
“Well, what’s the diff’rence then, Pal?”
“Fer one, cranes fly with their necks straight out not tucked in.”
“Seems a bold move, Pal, stickin’ their necks out an’ all.”
“Yep. Bold an’ beautiful.”
“Let’s raise cranes! At Carrot Ranch!”
“Shorty sure won’t mind.”