Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Falling icicles and fossils

Oh, Ottawans are deluded. One day of plus-zero temperatures (Celsius of course!) and they're warbling about spring coming. They wander in a happy daze, getting beaned by plummeting tusks of ice. Early this afternoon, I took the Accent Snob for a splash through the slushy puddles that make up the sidewalks on the side streets, and we were blocked by an enormous clump of smashed white snow. It took me a minute to realize that it was one of the huge accumulations on top of the shrubbery lining the posh house on the corner. It had evidently slid off in a lumpy crunch sometime during the relatively balmy morning. The dog and I made a detour around it, as I checked quickly for outstretched legs. No casualties.

A European lady whom I glimpse every few months walking her pug, greeted me with talk of spring. I told her that I've learned not to even consider it until May to shield myself from disappointment. She strolled away laughing. It was pointless to remind her that when spring comes, it will last two weeks. Memories here are as short as the winter is long.

However, it's March Break (never Spring Break here), and I've made a list of outings for younger daughter and left it by her breakfast place. She chose the Museum of Nature today, so we set off to fit it in before her voice lesson which is in the same neighbourhood.

The lady at the admissions desk asked for student identification for younger daughter, a first. Younger daughter's school gave up on providing student cards years ago, and I don't carry her report cards around with me. I will now. "She looks older," said the lady kindly, but younger daughter is petite and still looks quite younger than her actual age. As we made our way to the cloakroom, the real reason occurred to me - March Break doesn't begin until next week for the public school system, so she stood out among the handful of tiny visitors to the museum today.

And indeed, I've never seen the Museum of Nature so empty. We practically had the Dinosaur Gallery to ourselves. This meant we could use the audio-visual displays for once. I've rarely had the opportunity to appreciate just how wonderful they are. They're a blend of interviews (subtitled - a huge bonus for younger daughter), animations, quizzes and puzzles. I learned about how fossilized leaves give clues to climate and landscapes: long thin leaves mean rivers, large smooth edges mean tropical, jagged edges mean temperate, and a long spout at the tips means rain forests. I learned there was an enormous Y-shaped inland sea stretching across what is present-day North America, and that the left arm of that "Y" stretched over what is now Saskatchewan, which is why they can find ancient shark teeth in the Pasquia Hills. I suppose it will be back some day, but not teeming with the creatures suspended over the entrance - not even with their skins on.

Younger daughter carefully avoided me, spending a long time at several monitors, murmuring the text from the screens to herself. Diplomatically, I kept my distance until it was time to leave, and we walked out into the sunshine, stretching our legs to avoid the slush and puddles along Metcalfe, listening to the dogs barking and squelching at the dog park on Frank Street, on our way to the coffee shops of Elgin.

No comments: