Thanksgiving weekend is almost over again. This year we had our own little dinner at home with a slightly dry turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, and a plethora of other fatty sides that kept us anchored in our seats until today, when we finally ventured out for a taste of some local culture.
To date, we’ve already tried reindeer sausage at a local diner, cruised around the ski lodge, walked downtown before the snow pack arrived, roamed the hills in search of a view of the Alaska Mountain Range, and sampled beer at the local brewery. It was time for us to see some art and natural history at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North.
During the last few hours of daylight Saturday, we paced the art and artifact filled corridors of the Museum, occasionally letting Margot reach out to touch pelts and beadwork when allowed. Her eyes traced the large forms of the reproduced creatures of the pleistocene era and she remained largely unaffected in her dad’s arms when they stood before an eight foot, 1250 lb taxidermied Grizzly Bear.
Margot refused to remain silent in The Place Where You Go to Listen, a designated room that plays the chorus of Earth’s seismic activity in real time– an audio visual experience you truly have to experience in person to fathom. I can only describe it as sounding a lot like God leaning on a pipe organ and sitting too closely to a theremin at the same time — except we also had a squeaky baby contributing to the experience as she tried to wiggle to the floor to explore in her own way. It was an electric experience that resonated long after we left the space.
The familiar stuffed Bison of the Museum of the North left me feeling nostalgic for the museum I visited most, The Sam Noble Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma. But when I saw paintings of the American Lion, and learned about the Japanese Occupation of Alaska in the early 1940s, I was left in a curious state — there’s a lot I learned about the people, flora and fauna of the Prairie when I lived there, now there’s much to learn about the vast regions and many cultures of Alaska during our time here.
With temperatures plunging this week, and the daylight quickly disappearing, I’ll probably be keeping warm in the reading room next to the Christmas Tree, reading up on local hikes, or native Alaskan cuisine — at least until we get past the winter solstice.