It was well worth the visit. And yet...There is something in seeing mounted specimens that leaves me feeling bereft. Which brings me back to the dead things theme of this blog. The displays are comprehensive--growling tigers and bears, rhinoceros with long horns, a huge elephant. The monstrous bones of dinosaurs long gone from the world. It is a fascinating display. It is also static and inanimate. Right now, the critic inside my head (Zelda) is rolling her eyes and saying "Of course they are inanimate. Can you imagine an actual Bengal Tiger on display under glass with five other large cats?" I get it. Yes, of course they are.
But after having photographed live animals, I realize the difference is more than simple animation. True, I've never come face to face with a grizzly bear--and quite honestly, I don't want to-- but there is a something in the real world of animals and plants that speaks deeply to me. Today I took a walk in my local park. It was a lovely, sunny spring day and like on most lovely sunny spring days, there were bunches of turtles sunning themselves on logs in a canal near a pond. I got as close as I could to a trio of them. Two, hearing me crunch over the forest floor, dove into the murky water. The third raised his head, acutely aware of me, probably acutely alarmed by me, too, he watched and waited. I could nearly see the throb of his pulse, his head frozen and still as he stared at me. I took his picture and left him behind. I'm guessing he was relieved to see me go. The thing is, he was alive. And all around me, in the park, particularly at this time of year, there is life. Things budding, blooming, growing. You can feel the presence of life. It radiates outward and inward. It reflects the pulse of my own blood, my own life.
All of this...this life...is missing from the specimens in the museum. It makes me feel sad, as though I am witness to demise, to something majestic that used to be but is no more.
Here are some photos of my museum trip--and today's turtle, too.