Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brothers (#171)

I was reading a newspaper last night. Yep, despite being a hep guy plugged into the interweb, I still get much of my news via the newspaper.

It was, in fact, the Toronto Sun, my paper of choice, and not solely because it features the incisive, witty, extremely funny writing of that gorgeous and brilliant entertainment columnist, Liz Braun. And I’m probably not saying that just because she reads this.

I was catching up on the international news, still dominated by the horrible natural disasters in Burma and China, when a picture caught my eye.

And held it. And held it. And I found myself returning to that page again and again to look at it.

The photograph was by Andy Wong of the Associated Press. This is it:

(If you’re reading this online you can click the picture to see a larger version.)

The caption said: A young earthquake survivor feeds his baby brother with noodles at a refugee camp in Yongan town, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Beichuan county in southwest China's Sichuan province, Sunday, May 25, 2008.

I was struck by many things in the photo. Not the least is the focus in the older boy’s eyes. His furrowed brows indicate he is taking his job very seriously. His lips are slightly pursed, his mouth prepared to mimic his little brother’s upcoming gape when he fully accepts the noodles. (I learned long ago, when watching someone feed a baby, to keep my eyes on the feeder, not the baby. It’s hilarious how they contort their mouths with every spoonful. And yes, I know I did it too. Pretty sure it’s one of those autonomic reactions, like knee jerks and hanging up on telemarketers.)

The little brother’s attention appears to be on his hands more than on his brother, or the chopsticks. To me, his distraction is indicative of the confidence and trust he has in his sibling. He can afford to focus elsewhere because he has faith that his brother will look after him.

Could the faceless woman in the background be their mother? I hope so. But something tells me she would be feeding the baby if she was the mom.

The colours in the photo are warm and vibrant, adding much to the gentle beauty of the scene.

If we were to zoom upwards from our view of this peaceful tableau, we’d likely see thousands of people packed into refugee camps. We’d see mile after mile after mile of rubble. We’d see rescuers pulling bodies from the ruins. If we could hear, I’m sure there would be moans from the wounded and wailing from the bereaved. If we could smell - we’d wish we were just about anywhere else.

I’m sure that Mr. Wong’s camera has recorded many photos that would make us recoil in horror. He’s clicked on scenes of near-unimaginable misery. I’m deeply appreciative that he snapped this one. If I had one, it would get my vote for a Pulitzer.

We can’t take over that little boy’s job. We can’t hand-feed those who need it. But most of us can afford a few dollars to help buy more noodles.

Mr. Wong’s picture is a gentle reminder that we are all our brothers’ keepers and that man is never more ennobled than when he is helping others.


Hilary said...

Beautifully expressed. I can't begin to imagine the horror of the surrounding scene, but the Mom in me wants to just hug and protect those boys. 'Tis an absorbing image for sure.

the Bag Lady said...

What a beautiful and touching post, Frank! Wow.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Thank you for helping me truly "see" the picture. I would have skimmed over it, thought "oh, how sad," and missed all the nuance.

And you're right, there are so many people we could help with something as simple as money... perhaps it's time to get out the checkbook.

Very moving post.

Leah J. Utas said...

Frank, thank you for writing about this compelling photo. By itself it is an eye-catcher, but I would not have seen it the way you did.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks Hilary. Kids sure are resilient eh? When did we start losing that?

Thanks Bag Lady, Crabby and Leah. I appreciate your visits and comments. :)

MagnoliaGirl said...

What a perfect example of a photo capturing a simple, beautiful human moment - and your insights are "spot on", my friend!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Frank.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, insightful post. You have the eyes to write, it seems.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks Sandra. It sure is a terrific photo. :)

Thanks Meredith. :)

Spider63 said...

Maybe I have watched too many martial arts movies, but I have a feeling he is saying:

"Eat quickly Kwai-Chang, or I will pull out your eyes with the chopsticks. We must avenge the death of our parents. We begin the march to Peking in the morning. The Party leaders must die. Our parents will be avenged!"

In a few months you will see news that the party leaders died mysteriously in an accident. You have to read between the lines. There is more going on here than anyone realizes.

Frank Baron said...

Spidey, there's always room for different interpretations and I gotta admit - I like yours. Thanks for the vist and the new, realistic slant. ;)

Hilary said...

Happy Birthday, Frank.. and happy two years of not smoking! :)

Kappa no He said...

I like the noodle drapped over the baby brother's hand. I can feel his annoyance with it.

Reb said...

Frank, thank you for sharing this beautiful photo and your insights. You have a wonderful gift to be able to read the photo like that.

Frank Baron said...

Terrie, I hadn't noticed that. :)

Thanks Reb. You're almost too kind. ;)

Jeanne said...

Beautiful picture and I love your interpretation of it.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks Jeanne. :)

Frank Baron said...

Hilary, thanks for the b-day wishes. That cake you baked for me was awesome!

In an imaginary kind of a way. ;)

And Happy Birthday your own self. :)

Jo said...

Beautifully written, Frank, as are the sentiments. Thank you for sharing this photo...I can't really express what it makes me feel--there's such lightness in the heavy.

BIRTHDAYS??? Jiminy Cricket! Happy Birthday to you both!!! I could've baked you guys a double-whammy cake & photographed myself eating it in your honor. Oh, and congrats on the smoke-free anniversary!

dabrah said...

A beautiful picture from the depths of a terrible tragedy. Your post was very much to the point.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks Jo. Maybe we can take you up on your fine, cake-eating offer next year. ;)

It is indeed a beauty Dabrah. Thanks for the visit and kind words. :)

poetinahat said...

Frank, that was sensational. I was expecting funny, and I got beauty and nobility. I'm impressed with your observational skills and insight - which I've seen in evidence before.

Splendid, splendid. You're an excellentguy, and an excellent writer.

Frank Baron said...

You're too kind Rob. But that's to be expected from a talented bard sporting a classy chapeau. Thanks. :)

CrazyCath said...

An excellent post Frank. You are so right. That picture speaks a thousand words and is so full of... love. Plain and simple, love.

Thanks for sharing it.

Frank Baron said...

Yep, there's love there all right. Thanks Cath. :)