My good friend, Emily, asked a very pertinant question in response to my last post. I thought I would take the time to answer it here, for everybody.
Emily asks, "What is it like to be so close to an animal and have it not know that you are not like it? One of these things is not like the other..."
I think about this a lot while I'm out there, but I haven't quite put a one-word label on how I feel...
I feel protective of them, responsible for teaching them how to be cranes, but most of the time I feel like I'm "Awkward Crane."
I'm constantly stumbling over stuff I can't see under the murky water. My boots sink in the mud, so I move slowly and awkwardly forward while they're passing me on the left and right. If you've ever lost a boot in the mud or in the horse pasture, you can remember how you looked when you're desperately trying to keep your boots on your feet but move forward at the same time.
I only have one "wing." Try as I might, I'll never leave the ground.
I want to forage with them, but sometimes that water is really gross. I don't want to stick my hand in it, so the puppet generally stays out of the water unless I can steal myself up to the bacteria-ridden task.
Since I wear hip-boots, I squeak as I walk, I can't run very fast, and walking gracefully is out. I more often just stomp along when we're on dry land.
When I look around, I try to imitate where I look with the puppet (as though the puppet is really the head of the body), but sometimes I'm sure it's obvious that the puppet is not looking where the body is going.
Yet they still seem happy to see me when I arrive and hang out with me when I'm around. I think they've figured out that I'm not quite a crane, but they haven't figured out what I am.
It's amazing to be so close to a wild animal and even more amazing that it likes me. It's a once in a lifetime experience and I am still enjoying my job even though it seems like I've been doing this forever. I wish everyone could do this.