Saturday, March 10, 2012
Inside the museum, he sat calmly, exhaustedly in that same stroller, the fabric unzipped so he wouldn't overheat. We walked between stuffed wolves, birds and polar bears (Where did they get them from? How did they die? If I look more closely will I find the bullet hole, the diseased fur?). Of us three he noticed the whales overhead first, made to appear as though swimming above our heads--a dry little moment of Toronto-museum-aesthetic ('This is a whale. Look, it is swimming. Look, we have made it appear as though it is swimming, as whales swim. It is above your head') straight out of Margaret Atwood's imagination.
We let him loose among the dinosaur skeletons. Every skull we passed, he roared, a tired little baby roar. "WOW...," he kept repeating, slowly, drawing the vowels out. "Wow....., "gazing up at the vast dead beings, pointing at the air, at the scale. Pointing at the pterodactyls hanging in the air, he classified triumphantly: "BIRDS!" followed inexplicably by: "MINE!"
A kind-faced, messy, bald white man asked us to choose the colored box with the scenario we found most appalling. One of them stated 'the number of severe storms in your area has doubled in the last few years.' "Is it cold outside?" he asked me, looking at the baby. "Yes," I said. Flap flap.
90 per cent of sharks and other large predator mammals are gone from the oceans, he told us. Worldwide. I stared, at him, shocked. It's as though someone has casually told me that 90% of humans are now dead. How bad are things for the loss to have climbed up this far up the food chain?
We read stupid little animal books to the baby; they are filled with pictures. We patiently teach him their names. The animals are matched axiomatically to their pristine environments; they are counted off like numbers, days of the week and colors, building blocks to learning the world, a nostalgic fantasy world. Suddenly social change feels selfish; the fight for appropriate and accessible social services short-sighted, like an only slightly broader version of hankering after gems and gold, dead and useless minerals, fruit of destruction.
The animals, dead and stuffed, behind glass. The still whales, hoisted far above us. The ROM, as boring as I remember it, with the same old displays as when I was a high school student, unchanging history. Death in the real world outside, change, destruction. As with babies, the days are slow but the years go fast; the loss builds, insurmountable.
Outside, bent over in the wind, we ran down into the earth, and took the subway home. Shocked outside of want. Shocked into no.