THE CORNCRAKE (Crex crex) is a very shy, sensitive bird, breeding and generally hiding in the tall vegetation of the British Isles, swiftly scurrying from one patch and diving into the next. It is heard much more often than it is seen. Usually the sound heard day and night is the distinctive creaking or rasping call of the male Corncrake trying to attract a mate. Widespread in Scotland and Ireland at one time, sadly the species has declined as breeders in the UK prompting extensive preservation efforts. A member of the Rallidae or rail family, the Corncrake is a long-distance migrant traveller, spending winters across South Europe and South Africa. With that as background, here's a story that stars the mysterious bird that is reputed to have the worst singing voice of all God's feathered creatures.
Unlike the elusive Corncrake, you don't have to hunt for happiness
Everything seemed to set forth a lesson of instruction for my role model alter ego, Old Humphrey. Over the years he has been a wonderful source for good homespun yarns and food for thought. Here's another one.
As Old Humph tells it, one evening as he was returning home from a walk through some British mowing grass, he stopped short on hearing the call of a Corncrake. Many times before he had heard the same sound and compared it to the creaking of a thick branch in the wind; and every time he had hunted in vain to find it. This time, however, it seemed close at hand.
"Just by that sprig of green sorrel, said I to myself as I tripped over the grass," recalled the proper old Englishman. "I shall find it; but no such thing! When I got there, the sound was in quite a different direction. Still I followed the sound, and still was I deceived. Now it was behind, and then before me; now to the right hand, and then to the left but all of no use. The moment I reached one place, the sound was to another," he explained with great expression.
"I did not discover that evening where the Corncrake was; but I found out, to a certainty, many places where it was not," he chuckled.
Without missing a beat and an opportunity to bring one of his patented lessons into his story, Old Humphrey's tone grew serious as he asked, "Perhaps you have been as much disappointed in your search after happiness as I was in my search after the Corncrake; and perhaps, too, like me you have been glad to get back to the spot whence you first set out?"
"Okay Humphrey, that was an interesting story. I was not familiar with the Corncrake. But just where are you going with this?" I questioned the bearded yarn spinner.
"Well, I was led by the Corncrake a long dance through the mowing grass, and if you are pursuing earthly happiness, you will be led a long dance too," he responded as if losing patience with me. "Hundreds of us have made up our minds to be happy -- we have felt sure that if we could do this, or get that, or obtain the other, we should have little else to wish for. Don't you understand that we might as well join in a chase after the Corncrake, as after happiness in worldly things? We are just as likely to catch the one as to get possession of the other," he hastened to add.
"We have countless blessings to be thankful for, you know my young man. The Bible tells us though that 'In the world ye shall be happy,' but it goes on to say 'In the world ye shall have tribulations.'
"It will be wise, then to let the Corncrake happiness of the world deceive us no longer, whether we hear it afar off, or whether it appears within our reach. We should give up such fruitless chases."
"Right, I see what you're saying Humphrey," I nodded in agreement. "We should stop looking so hard for happiness because generally the harder we look the harder it is to find. True enough, more often than not, happiness finds us when we least expect it and better yet, if we are patient and open to it, an even greater eternal joy awaits us at the end of our earthly journey."
"You are right about that son," my old friend said with a sigh as he closed weary eyes and drifted off, resting in the knowledge that complete and final happiness was his. He no longer had to look for it. The elusive Corncrake be damned.