Museum dioramas were a source of conflict for me; the artistic presentation of the natural setting was highly appealing and increased my childhood determination to move “Out West” Dioramas are a lie of course; a false sense of timeless peace and tranquility is created that simply does not exist for wild animals. Animals are continually challenged by threats to survival and by necessity, by immediate movement toward food and water.
The color palette of museum diorama painting has always been my personal favorite and it truly exists in Wyoming and other western states. The light and colors are real, that is, what one sees is the light.
_________________________________________________________________ Once upon a time my life was scheduled. It’s been twenty-four years since my time was sliced up to any degree between what I need to do and what I want to do. I can remember as a young child balking at “required future thinking” but I liked school and went along with being transported here and there – parents and adults mostly control our time and location as children.
It was in fact big events that caused anxiety: School field trips were planned and announced well-ahead of time, which placed a huge roadblock ahead. Being trapped in a bus for the long drive to a giant institutional building (usually a museum), which would be crowded with half the kids in Chicagoland, on any given day, was an ordeal. Once the busses unloaded, there would be the screeches of hundreds of children; the sharp clatter of “hoof beats” on concrete or marble floors, compounded by the shouts of teachers echoing along cavernous hallways. There was the threat of getting lost.
There were dead animals trapped behind glass, with glass eyes in place of real eyes, and insufficient time to stare at wondrous things like minerals and fossils, and no exit from the awful smell of commingled chemicals; preservatives, paints, floor wax and human sweat, from thousands of years of decay and creatures resurrected, by what was to me, a ghoulish obsession with death. I could smell the molecules of decayed wrappings and ointments that escaped Egyptian mummies encased in glass showcases.
Why on earth would anyone literally “gut” a dead body, as one would a do to a hunted animal Scrape out it’s “useless” brains and store the shell for eternity? Why would anyone want to dig up such an object, haul it to Chicago and display it in a glass case? My bet was that if archaeologists could meet the corpses as living Pharaohs and Queens, they would be disgusted by egomaniacs who diverted an entire region’s energy and resources, for thousands of years, to imaginary immortality. Surely there were better things for people to do here and now?
Perhaps I began to associate “schedules” with uncomfortable things. I know that I got tired of people telling me that they didn’t hear or smell anything unusual, as though I was making it up, hallucinating, or just being contrary. I got tired of adults pointing to “normal” children and saying, “look at the other kids. None of them is complaining about sounds or smells; no one else smells anything.”
I do remember that at some point during high school, I discovered that if I took care of obligations first, then I could be free to do as I pleased. After fifty years of following this simple algorithm (Do I have to do this today? / Yes or No. If Yes, just do it; if No, do what I feel like) it still works for me. This “lifestyle” enables a life that would be good for anyone. Every minute of every day must be scheduled. Not a minute “wasted” on living, contemplation, study unrelated to making money. Is that any way to live?