When a flamingo accurately describes your life options

“Oh em gee, do you see it? Do you see the flying flamingo? I didn’t even know flamingos could fly. It looks so graceful, like a ballerina. I mean look at it… so cool.”

That was more or less my reaction when I first saw a flamingo gliding over the water during a visit to Zeekoevlei in the Western Cape. Seeing the flamingos was a surprise in general; seeing them flying sent me over the moon. Perhaps I should be getting used to the surprises South Africa has to offer; previously uneventful excursions have ended in photographing shipwrecks and Bollywood music videos, still I was very much surprised; enough to remember it like it were yesterday when sorting through the photographs.

Recently I decided that the back of my bathroom door is in need of a mural, and after many iterations I have subsequently concluded that the mural should be made of flamingos, thus beginning my search through photos and memories. As usual, the memories were paired with a bit of deep retrospection; on this occasion I could not help but notice how the two photographs below accurately summed up the two biggest choices in my life, despite the fact that thinking about the sex lives of mushrooms had previously shown how rarely I actually make big decisions to begin with.

But back to these photos of big decisions: On one side you have a fairly well-crafted photograph of a flamingo, surrounded by what are presumably friends against the backdrop of the glistening lake, with all the details in focus. On the other is a mostly-bad photograph of a single, flying flamingo…fuzzy, grainy, with part of the bird washed out and the out-of-focus mountains behind. But what of the decisions?

I grew up with every intention of being flamingo one. I was going to have a well-crafted life with manicured gardens and matching towel sets, surrounded by family and friends in a mostly predictable situation made admirable by the quality with which everything was going to be done. If flamingos are always pictured standing as in the photograph, by golly, I was going to stand well.

But then something inconvenient happened; I kept seeing exciting moments filled with entirely new things as in the photo of flamingo two, and I kept choosing flamingo two. But new number two is a less skillful picture, if other people don’t notice it’s fuzzy, I certainly did. You start to wonder, is it as good of a picture? I’m looking at whole mountains now, but am I looking at them “well.” I can’t craft this when I don’t even know what “this” is. My garden is full of weeds, and despite it being a whole year now I still have not gotten over the glue someone randomly spilled on my one, not-disappeared towel because good grief, in spite of it all can I not at least have fluffy bath linens?


And yet, in it all its not-fluffy-in-a-good-way-fuzziness, flamingo two is still attractive. Exploring the adventurous unknown in fun and fantastic ways is attractive, in spite of the fact that sometimes, especially in very tired moments, it would just be nice to be comfortably focused, like the first flamingo.

Perhaps life is always a little of both. Perhaps I should trust my decisions more and learn to appreciate the gifts that come with skill and discovery, to see them working together rather than in defiance of one another. Perhaps more patience is in order, or more acceptance, or maybe just an indulgent trip to the home store. Or maybe…maybe all that’s really needed is to enjoy the snapshot of the moment and to love, in that moment, the flamingo in the photograph.