Preparing the Thanksgiving feast usually tests our patience, and this year was no exception. For the first time, Judy and I served our daughter’s family from our apartment’s cramped galley kitchen. Add to that the fact that her whole family came down with a violent form of stomach flu just before we started to prepare the meal, and it became anything but a day to relax, reflect, and give thanks.

In the midst of it all, I lugged a 50-gal. bag of garbage to the dumpster to give us a bit more elbow room. That’s when I heard them: From high overhead and behind my back came the throaty chirruping of a flock of sand hill cranes.

Shielding my eyes, I spotted about three dozen of the long-legged blue-gray birds, circling in a thermal and drifting our way.

I dashed inside to grab our binoculars. “Come quick,” I told Judy. “Sand hill cranes!”

She didn’t need cajoling. For the past two years, I had seen flocks of the spectacular birds soaring overhead in the pale sunlight of late autumn, but she had not been able to get outside fast enough to see them. This time she left the gravy on the stove, grabbed her jacket, and darted out the door right behind me.

The birds were now directly overhead, wings fully extended, languidly floating on the thermal. The glasses brought them up close. For half a minute perhaps, we swapped the binoculars back and forth, watching these holiday travelers soar over Indianapolis.

“Thanks for calling me,” Judy said and returned to her gravy pan.

I looked again and they were gone.