I saw my first spring migrant Monday: a Red-winged Blackbird. 
      I shouted across the kitchen and dining room to Willson or Bob, whoever could hear my happiness. I'm not really sure how to explain this spike in my heart, this connection, the meaning of that one individual's appearance that is itself wonderful and also signifies that there is a hole in the dam of winter, and spring is starting to spurt through. 
     Maybe glee is the right word?
     The Monarch butterflies are roosting in Mexico right now. They overwinter in a small area of cool montane forests, clustering densely on Oyamel fir trees like orange cloaks. Until 1975 no one knew what happened to Monarchs in the winter; no one knew that most of the Monarchs from across North America funnel into this hidden, miraculous place and layer themselves over each other, tens of thousands on a single tree, for nearly four cold months. No one knew that the Oyamel fir - Abies religiosa or Sacred Fir - was so perfectly named not just for being the source of Christmas greenery but for being the bearer of so much fragile life and beauty. 
photo from Wikimedia Commons
      What happens when we discover these miracles? When you see a Monarch in your garden in Maine and realize it is dependent on a particular Oyamel in Mexico? When one of the first migrating blackbirds chooses your apple tree outside your kitchen window to rest and find food? It's connection, and to be connected to the living, natural, miraculous world is arguably something we all desire, deep down. There is actually a biological hypothesis about exactly this called biophilia, first introduced by the great scientist (and my hero) E.O. Wilson in his 1984 book of that name (Biophilia). 
     Back to the Monarchs: read this excerpt from a letter by a local Mexican woman visiting the Monarch sanctuary last week:
"Twenty or more Oyamel firs majestically held the weight of enormous clusters - wonderful copper-gold and dark brown. The beauty was overwhelming, and could make anyone in the spectator’s group just cry silently...  Turning each others’ eyes around and seeing many kind eyes and silent responses to one’s own, made us feel, I can assure, one of the most wonderful moments of life’s divine contemplation." (Estela Romero for Journey North)
     Do you feel it?  
     Bio = life, philia = love for   
     It's pretty much one of my favorite words.

     Almost a month ago I was in Arizona sitting among thousands of Sandhill Cranes. They come at midday from their morning forays to congregate in a shallow wet pan called Whitewater Draw. We waited and a few drifted in. We waited some more and more came in. It was getting noisy, and awe-inspiring. The birders came and went, and Bob and I stayed, unable to pull ourselves away.
And then more, and more, and more came in, squadrons appearing on the horizon in our binoculars like thin lines of smoke at first and then more clearly becoming a formation of cranes. Right behind, another squadron would emerge from nothingness. They came in like planes lined up in the sky for landing, separating into ones and twos for the final approach. Long legs extended, 
wings arced upward to break the forward motion, they hovered for a moment over the landing spot then dropped to make contact with a single bounce like a hop. Then they folded their white wings with a little shake, and stood erect on the mud or in the ankle deep water, looking like a sleek visitor from the dinosaur age.
     But literally, there were thousands of them, tall and squawking to each other with their red crowns. To be surrounded by that sound was mesmerizing. And humbling. And... biophilic. I was among these marvelous beings and I mattered not a whit to them. What a sense of completeness I had. I was part of, not separate.

     It doesn't take being among thousands of cranes, or journeying to a mountain refuge deep in Mexico, to make the connection with the creatures of the natural world that we crave. It just takes paying attention with an open heart.
     Biophilia. It's not really a new idea. The Lakota people have a prayer phrase "Mitakuye oyasin" which holds the sacred understanding of the oneness and harmony among all forms of life. But I am not Lakota. So I will stay in love with biophilia, and offer prayers of gratitude for my place here, connected with all life.
To get a really good sense of the biophilic quality of sitting among thousands of cranes, listen with headphones on and full volume. They were loud.