Plastic bags

Do you remember the scene from American Beauty, where one of the main characters films a plastic bag caught in an air current? Light as a feather it goes round and round. There is a beautiful allegiance between nature and man-made. The thin plastic is vulnerable and calm, peaceful. Like a butterfly it dances at the mercy of the wind.

Recently I finished Kazuo Ishiguro’s amazing novel Never Let Me Go. Without spoiling the plot, it is safe to reveal that the main character Kath looks at plastic bags on the final page:

All along the [barb wire] fence, expecially along the lower line of wire, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. Up in the branches of the trees, too, I could see, flapping about, torn plastic sheeting and bits of old carrier bags. That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing. […] I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up. (pp 263, Faber and faber 2005)

On the windy Plateau of Tibet, a few years ago, I got quite a bit melancholic looking at all the plastic bags caught in the thorny bushes. Glimpses of bright, man-made plastic, stuck in the vast, empty brown-ness of the plateau, in the middle of nowhere.

Nepal - Tibet - China - Mongolia 033


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