A Treasure Trove

Well, it was preordained we weren’t going to the gardens today. It is raining like it only rains in the Pacific Northwest, as though the slate-gray clouds are settling an argument with the mossy paths, or the sky is doing some house work, sweeping everything clean, washing the floors down on earth. I have always wanted to go to the Museum of Anthropology, at UBC campus.

Artifacts from all over the world are stored there, but my favorites were pieces of native art from our area. The designs are very familiar to me, as I have lived on the culturally rich West Coast all my life. I sometimes like to imagine that many years ago, boats set sail from Japan, seeking that mythical ‘something’ beyond the horizon, and ended up meeting North American Native peoples of the coast, maybe the Haisla, Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, or Coast Salish perhaps. Maybe the colors and patterns used are one of those ‘universal human ideas’, like the bow and arrow, spinning spindles or dresses, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that in order to get to the Americas, people had to walk across the icy bridge from Asia. To my eyes, there is a hint of an idea of ancient Japanese art. Don’t you ever play the game, ‘this reminds me of that, which reminded me of this’. Its very addictive, and can lead your mind to interesting places.

Vivid mask (click to enlarge)

When I was younger, I used to pour over the National Geographic articles, reading everything I could about explorations in dry, dusty lands, looking for traces of a by-gone civilization of terrible splendor. I wanted to join the archeologist, wearing khakis and toting my paintbrush for moving small gravel, and a magnifying glass, and a whole lot of patience and imagination. I since have decided that I don’t think I’d like to disturb the final resting places of kings or civilians, but still would like to help dig a city from layers of silt. I figure that the people obviously believed passionately in their religion, and the manner of their burial was often crucial to their journey into the afterlife or great beyond. This seems a silly thought for someone who spells Atheist with a capital ‘A’, denoting it like a religion. I can only imagine all the hours it took to collect all these artifacts, and preserve and label them with care.

Southern India, deity sculpture

Anyways, it was fated that it rained today, because otherwise we would not have seen an incredible beautiful place, or had a wonderful encounter with a stranger.

We didn’t follow a specific path around the museum, so we saw a smattering of everything. There are hundreds of thousands of artifacts, so we couldn’t have seen everything even if we camped out in the grand, glass-roofed hall. Our path was chosen for us by avoiding the large inclines. Tiny placards next to every artifact meant that, of course, not wanting to miss anything, for the first quarter of an hour, I wanted to stop and read each one. Quickly Mum and I both sensed the scale of the building, and begun touring at a more brisk pace. If I had had the energy, I’d have liked to stay there from opening time till closing, but we still had to catch the ferry. 

Drums in varying pitches

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