Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Museum of Natural History

We boarded a train in the early morning heat and humidity to rendez vous with the nephew and his dad. Into the steaming NYC we went, passing the smaller towns leading to larger suburbs until we entered a tunnel and came out in NYC, Penn station.
There is a point, in Queens, where you can start to see the sky scrapes from the scratched train windows. I thrill at the sight of the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building.
The train station is crowded and bustling. In a city with so many people and so few cars, people tend to carry everything through the sub way system.
At Pennsylvania Station, I saw dogs panting and being so nonplussed at the chaos surrounding them as they walked in a good imitation of a heel on their masters left sides. People push or pulled luggage carts with produce, groceries, ironing boards, air conditioners, clothing, one man raced by in flip flops carrying a beach umbrella and a cooler with a beach chair over hsi shoulder on a strap. I love Penn Station.
Then to the sub way. It is so hot and close here. It smells of people and tar and oil and ozone. Trains rumble by with a predictable frequency as the platforms shake and the very loud CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK of the rails on wheels and undercarriage supports.
We ride in a blissfully air conditioned car up to 82nd street? where we leave the train and walk right to the underground, subway level entrance to the Museum.
Very little english is spoken. We are in line with people from all over the world. I hear french and german and I think farsi or arabic, yiddish... I can't tell you, there was just too much.

The Museum is so busy with people pushing baby strollers, children running around and harried parents trying, somewhat ineffectively to herd them toward the exibits.
The first room is dark and cool. It is geology at its best. Depictions of ejecta from vocanos, layers of sediment and transformed rock that are polished on one side, to show the detail of the inside compositions, and rough hewn on the other sides. you can touch them all, feel the anciant stone in the modern air conditioning. I turn a corner and here is a picture of a familiar formation. It is basalt from the giant basalt flow that makes up eastern Washington State. I reach out and touch a piece of my home 3000 thousand miles from home. I am home sick.
A whirl up a spiral ramp depicting the big bang to the present in universal growth and development. Intelligent design my ass. God started it all billions of years ago and pushed where it needed pushing. But the universe. I fervently believe, is billions and billions of years old and we are just a passing gnat to it, so small, so insignificant, so trivial.
Then a room that defies my concepts of display. A long high wall with branches of the Kingdom Phylum Species Order of biology. A display of crustaceans and shell fish, clams, shrimps, lobsters, crabs. A line of mamals and at the top is my most treasured creature, hidden in a case next to an aardvark or armadillo. I see the first specimen of platypus, ornithorhynchus anatinus. God's spare parts animal and so humble, so far away but right in front of me.
It is now I discover my new camera has killed its battery. No pictures. I run to the gift shop and buy batteries abut they fail so fast. Maybe they are old, maybe my new camera has a short in it that kills batteries so fast. But I can't waste time on this now... soo much to see.
We enter a room so large, so vast that I have seen theaters smaller. Across the cieling is a life sized model of a blue whale. I am back to feeling small and insignificant again, humbled. We look at the sharks, the sea life in displays, listen to wave noises and whale song.
Lunch next in the cafeteria which was crowded noisy and surprisingly good.
Back into history. We are here for one thing, really. K wanted the blue whale, I need the dinosaurs. My ornithorhyncus anatinus was a sweet surprise, but I need to see my child hood love. Here a pteranadon, there an ancient tortoise or turtle so large as to be thought a fakery. A towering lumbering sauropod, used to be called a brontosaurus, now called a brachiosaurus, the menacing Tyrannosaur and the ancient cousin the allosaur. But then, the mammoth and the "irish deer" the largest deer species ever discovered looking like a love child of a moose and an elk.
I am so over loaded. SO much history, so many wonders that I am growing numb to each new discovery. How many times have I sworn under my breath at the seeming impossibility of the wonders I behold? How many times am I reduce to "oh wow" which is no honor or justice to the pageant before me.
A quick trip through a hall with pictures of birds, my favorite, on the walls. An osprey with two rainbow trout, one in each taloned foot, a double breasted cormorant, a coopers hawk with a kinglet in its feet, two bald eagle fighting for a scrap of food, a white tailed eagle being shadowed by a gull awaiting scraps from a kill. But the centerpiece is a majestic and haunting pair of yellow eyes looking straight ahead, at me, with long downward swept wings ending with the first primary wing feathers bent upward form the force of air displaced, an arctic snowy owl flies right at me. I stop and stare and become over full.
The Museum.

C

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