Let’s Talk About the Elk

Resisting metaphor is tough.,

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Welcome. I can’t stop thinking about the elk with the tire around its neck:

“For more than two years, residents of Pine, a small town about 30 miles southwest of Denver, have been sending in reports to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife authorities whenever they saw an elk that had somehow shoved its head through a tire.”

How did this happen? Perhaps the tire was part of some kind of feeder, perhaps it was a tire swing, Colorado wildlife officials said. On Saturday night, the elk was caught and tranquilized, his antlers sheared and the tire removed. The elk “stood, unsteadily at first, and wandered off into the dark.”

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The elk wandered in front of a trail camera near Conifer, Colo., last year.Credit…Dan Jaynes

I’m trying hard not to see the elk as a broad metaphor — two years yoked, two years collared, finally starting to roam, however unsteadily — but I keep slipping into it. As the poet Marie Howe once said, “To resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason.” She’s right. It’s tough to look at nearly two years of a pandemic head on, to describe exactly what happened and is happening. To talk about the grief and loss and hope without reaching for symbols, for comparisons that might confer some meaning on it all. The elk’s predicament (tire on neck) and its remediation (remove tire from neck) are appealing in their simplicity. Real life, of course, is sprawling, abstract, unpredictable. It’s easier to say “We are all the elk” than to reckon with the bewildering particulars of Covid, quarantine and after.

“Soul Train,” he explained, is his comfort food, his shortcut to joy. He plays the episodes in a constant loop on whichever screen is closest to him. The first time we met in person, “Soul Train” was playing on both television screens of his tour bus; the last time we talked by phone, he had just arrived home from a trip and, before even taking off his coat, had flipped on the show.

–From “The Passion of Questlove,” by Jazmine Hughes.

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