November 15, 2009

installment 2.5

When I read things, my writing especially, I read in my coolest voice. Now you read in yours.


I arrive at a building with a sign in front that reads Zoologisches. I go up the steps and through two sets of glass doors and standing there in the foyer is a Polar Bear, arms up overhead, his mouth wide open. I look up, thumbs at my chest tucked beneath the straps of my backpack, my mouth open too, just a little. He’s at least twelve feet tall. I approach for a closer look. Really just a skin stretched over a foam mannequin, glass eyes glued in place, he poses no threat to me. But I imagine otherwise. Of course, in the wild, it would be different.

The polar bear, I discover, is the most carnivorous of all bears, and the largest carnivore on land. They feed mostly on seals. I learn that despite spending months of the year in the open waters, polar bears make the majority of their kills elsewhere – where water, ice, and air converge. Scientists call it still-hunting. The white bear keeps motionless beside a black hole in the ice. He waits patiently. He knows that eventually a seal will come up for air, and after a little while one does. The bear bites it by the head, flips it onto land. He drags the seal, its gleaming flesh against ice crust - drags it away from the water’s edge to where nothing else can get at it, and with his massive jaws he crushes its skull and feeds.

I slow-walk loops around all the rooms of the museum, across the animal kingdom, through varying levels of complexity, and past points in evolution. The bones of a woolly mammoth, a creature now long extinct, have been put back together again, and it stands alone roped off in a room’s center. There are birds arranged in glass boxes on branches, with pink heads and black wings and green backs and blue bellies. A fox looks alert against a wall painted to resemble the sky, and tufts of grass come up from the floor. Dozens of butterflies are pinned to a board and still absolutely brilliant in their symmetry and coloration.

After an hour I’ve had my fill and leave.

Outside the museum I see a staircase that climbs the building’s exterior clear to the roof. I take the stairs up and at the top I find all grass, a well-manicured lawn for a roof. I walk to its edge and from there I look out over Zurich, the city no longer all gray, down upon the park with people roaming, and out across the lake back toward Italy. I feel energized in a way. It’s a beautiful collection they have in there. Maybe, “a concentrated expression of life on earth.” But I can’t get over this feeling that, despite being as comprehensive as it is, it lacks something. I don’t know what exactly. But a vague sadness lingers there.

No comments: