Old Crane Woman is thinking. Sitting on her nest, thinking, thinking. She’s thinking about all kinds of things, Old Crane Woman, but right now she’s thinking about beauty. Beauty, you laugh, and Old Crane Woman hears you. You think she’s ugly, Old Crane Woman? With her sagging skin and knobbly knees, hair all matted and tattered and grey? You think you know what beauty is, boy? You think it’s the blandness of youthful skin, the softness of plump young flesh, the innocence of bright young eyes?
You ask Old Crane Woman what beauty is. Old Crane Woman will laugh. Yes, she’ll tell you, beauty is all of those things. But beauty isn’t just one thing. You want to know what else beauty is? Look again at Old Crane Woman. See how she rises there from her nest, stretching her bony old arms, arching her long, thin neck. See how still she stands, how still. See how her skin shines in the starlight, skin that is thin, transparent, and worn. You want to know what beauty is? Look again at Old Crane Woman; hear her cracked, croaking song. Beauty is a body bowed from the weight of a life fully lived. Beauty is hair bleached in the light of a life fully loved. Beauty is the angular, bony edges of a life fully risked. Look into Old Crane Woman’s cavernous black eyes: you’ll learn a thing or two about beauty. Listen to Old Crane Woman’s song: you’ll learn a thing or two about beauty. Listen to Old Crane Woman laugh in the long, cold dark. Listen to her weep in the fragile light of dawn. Listen to her joy in the pain of giving birth. Are you learning now about beauty?
You think she cares what you think? You think she cares, Old Crane Woman? Old Crane Woman is hatching an egg. She’s the watcher in the dark, the keeper of the tales. She’s the guardian of the gate, the crystal in the cave. She was here before you and she’ll be here after you, Old Crane Woman.
You pay your respects.