Once I was hiking under the George Washington bridge in a gorgeous little park. You can walk to the top of the palisades and then back down again. On the way up you’re only seeing the rocks of the path and lots of plants. Its a very well kept trail. On the way down you continue to seek views of manhattan, as you are able, or better sneak views at a certain risk. Once down on the asphalt service road, the river stretches wide to the New York side and leaves a little bay. Much of the lower park was probably the result of the left over mud and sludge from building the bridge, its landfill of the best kind. On holidays people are always partying with their families, barbecuing and eating.
Well I’m looking into the bay and see a merganser doing some fishing. Somehow he’s gotten a hold of a snake and he’s tussling with it, mind you they’re both struggling on top of the water. The merganser lets off occasionally and the snake tries to get away. Without fins or legs I imagine its hard for the snake to build up enough speed to clear itself away from the merganser. So there’s a dance going on where the merganser lets the snake go and then grabs it with his beak again and reels it back in. The snake is dangerous too. He flogs around and strikes back as best he can. At one point I can see the merganser realizes he’s either got to eat the snake or let it get away. It was strange because I felt like I could really sense the hesitations and the returns. I was with both of them. I could see the merganser was reticent to eat the snake live and would rather kill it first, but he didn’t have enough traction or counter force to pull it off and the snake was struggling mightily too. It lasted maybe some minutes and the merganser realized he’s just going to have to eat the snake live and suffer the consequences, which he does before my very eyes. It was such a sight to behold. The bird just swallowing down a thin 18” snake.
But that wasn’t the all of it. The snake didn’t stop just because it landed in the merganser belly. The struggle didn’t stop. The bird was twitching and shaking ever so often, waiting out the period where the snake would finally lose perch in this world either through its wounds or because of the inhospitable stomach of the merganser. After several intervals with time lapsing between, the merganser’s regret seemed to subside into the sense of the commitment of swallowing it. It was over and done.
I can’t help but be reminded of this story as they put a feeding tube down my nose and into my belly. It was hard going down and very uncomfortable to have it inside me. Little by little I got used to it and it got me through most of the Memorial Day weekend (thank god no hospital stay), until about midday on Monday whenI had a sneezing fit. The hose just kept tickling my nostrils and I sneezed and sneezed until whoops there was some snaky looking thing in the kitchen sink. I was shocked to realize I had sneezed the damn thing out. I can’t say I felt at one with the snake in the belly, but I felt sympathies for the merganser as he twitched and winced with each turn of the snake. In some ways we couldn’t be more different in other ways I am grateful to have an empathetic response to another being.