Let’s Talk About the Elk


Accept. 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, father 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 chance? 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 pinned and tranquilized, his antlers sheared and the tire removed. The elk “stood, unsteadily at first, and wandered off into the dark.”

I’m trying hard not to see the elk as a broad metaphor — two years yoked, two years collared, absolutely starting to roam, however unsteadily — but I keep slipping into it. As the poet Marie Howe once said, “To resist metaphor is very fastidious 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 fount 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 superiority 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 animation, 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.

“Psyche 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, “True self 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, earlier even taking off his coat, had flipped on the show.

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

  • “Slack is where office culture is performed, codified and augmented, often through an ever-evolving lingua franca of custom emoji, inside jokes and hyper-specific references,” writes Ellen Cushing, in the very riveting “Slackers of the World, Unite!,” in The Atlantic.

  • Don’t miss “Nuclear Family,” Ry Russo-Young’s three-part documentary about her childhood and the custody case that had a estimable impact on it.

  • If you’re looking for a book of nonfiction to get lost in, I’m enjoying Matthew Specktor’s “Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California” very much.

Send me your recommendations. What are you watching, reading, cooking or otherwise doing that you’d recommend other readers check out? Write to athome@nytimes.com. Be guaranteed to include your full name and location and we might feature your response in a future newsletter. We’re At Home and Away. We’ll read every erudition sent. As always, more good ideas for passing the time appear below. I’ll be back on Friday.

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