Zhang: Thrill of the hunt

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Illustration by Carly Shulman

Dani Zhang, Columnist

I never understood why some people feel the need to hang up a deer’s head in their home. The entire concept of taxidermy, of displaying a wild thing as suitable wall decor, confounded me. That is, until one day, when mom and I were driving back home from a barbeque with her college friend’s family. Mom thought I had a crush on their son, and I was slumped in the car listening to the sound of her thoughts whirring about. I looked out the window. The sky was beginning to transition into night. Off in the horizon — what little of it that wasn’t blocked by skyscrapers and apartment buildings — streaks of orange were beginning to form in the sky. The show was about to begin.

“Mama, you can drop me off here,” I told her without glancing back. She didn’t ask any questions, and I didn’t provide any explanations. Pretty soon, we pulled over on a red light at the intersection of Burrard and West 4th. I left the car. The light turned green, and she drove away. I took a deep breath in and felt warmed by the evening sun, which hugged me from an appropriate 150 million kilometers away. One of the few hugs that can abide by social distancing measures.

It was 7:33 p.m. — almost sunset. I had to hurry if I wanted to make it in time. There was a gas station across the street, and I went inside the store to browse for some mid-screening snacks. There were bags of gummy candy wrapped into funnel shapes for $2.99. Briskly, I purchased the candy and exited, walking down the street onto Burrard Bridge. I didn’t have to walk for long, but I wanted to sit down as soon as possible.

There is a seat that is never high on demand, for a show that people never pay for. Yet, to me, the seat is more valuable than a reservation at a restaurant on Christmas Eve, with a better view than a dead-center, front-row seat on Broadway, and better yet — it’s open even during quarantine. It will always be open and available to everyone without discrimation.

At the midpoint of Burrard Bridge is a singular bench facing west. I can’t reserve it, and young couples sometimes beat me to the punch, but on that day, it was unoccupied. I sat down, took out my funnel bag of gummies, and looked out at the view of sunset.

In the distance, wisps of cirrus clouds flippantly floated about, already exhausted from a few hours of existence and soon to buckle against the breeze’s blow. A rim of neon orange raised up a body of pink, like hands beneath a boulder, supporting it amidst a cumulus cluster of dark purples and blues. For a moment, the sun was behind a large cloud, and rays burst through its center like divine spotlights — whose moment is it on stage?

I’ve videoed clouds on DSLR, photographed them on 35 mm film, drawn them on paper, but nothing ever comes close to the joy of watching them in the sky, live in real time. I intend on painting clouds, on embroidering clouds, on using acrylic and watercolor and gouache and sumi black ink to try to illustrate their simple yet elusive beauty. And then, once I’ve captured all their lights and darks, their philosophical beckonings, the metaphors and the poetry, I will hang up my clouds, one by one, on my apartment wall, as a declaration of ownership.

Dani Zhang is a Communication sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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