When a plastic ring shuts your beak
What does a stork do when his love for junk food ensnares his beak in a plastic ring? Picture his paradox: he finds himself on a mound of opalescent packets containing the very stuff he craves for—colorful junk food trashed generously by his human friends? The trap is so effective that he can't eat anything. However, that doesn't mean he can't smell. And the redolence only fuels the irony as it keeps tightening the lifeless plastic. Unlike the typical noose, it won't kill him quickly. His death may be nigh, but the process will be slow. Glacially slow.
Does he introspect, tracing back the chain of events that got his beak caged in the ring? Or does he start praying—negotiating a trade—resolving to quit junk food forever in exchange for a chance to escape the annular trap? Nah! He is addicted.
According to a Hindi idiom, when a jackal gets scared to death, it runs towards the city. Trouble is alluring. Emulating the jackal, the stork flies inland, towards the very source of the good stuff. Unfortunately, he gets nothing but disappointment. People either hide junk food inside their homes or dump it on the shore, far away from the city. Both are unreachable now. He has starved for days. He looks frail, almost sedentary. More importantly, he has become more noticeable.
One day, a clasp around his shrunken body wakes him from his slumber. In that moment of half-consciousness, it occurs to him that this may very well be the end, and he may not even have enough time for proper introspection. He thinks perhaps this is what death feels like—you become weightless, and even the grip of your predator somehow seems like a tender caress.
Anticipating the inevitable, he closes his eyes. The ring slides out of his beak, and he smells fish flakes. He doesn't quite like the raw taste, but that's all right. Of course, he'll fly back to the mound for a feast as soon as this lady stops caressing him.
The pictures I could never take
“When I got my first camera at fifteen, a hand-me-down 35mm Canon from my uncle, I eagerly took pictures of everything I laid eyes on in suburban New Jersey. ... But I also became obsessed with the pictures I missed. The more I thought about documenting what I saw, the more keenly aware I was of the moments I failed to apprehend.”
I had a similar feeling yesterday: Saw a swarm of moths lit brilliantly by their destination, that halogen street-lamp just outside my balcony. I had seen something similar last year, perhaps during the same week, maybe on the same day. Those bright spots moving disorderly near the lamp convinced me that the moment was worth capturing. I imagined it would make a nice long-exposure image, somewhat like the archaic structure of the atom that Ernest Rutherford had proposed. And then I noticed the bats! Must have missed them last year. Navigating the invisibility of sound, they showed up at this source of light to catch the poor insects with spectacular ease and grace. Countering chaos with order, they flew like arrows to seize their prey. Before going inside to get my camera, I lingered on in praise for half-a-minute more than I should have. And then I wasted two more in swapping lenses. That was just enough time for another lesson about the ephemerality of such precious moments. The bats had disappeared, and the swarm was nowhere to be seen. The moment had gone. Maybe I’ll do better next year.
- Lucy McKeon (The New York Review of Books, February 2018)