Last time I watched the New Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (about 6 months ago), that was still the “magic word” to make special things happen. It makes about as much sense as the Latin biographical name for mouse, which seems to be Mus Musculus. I picked up this bit of Latin quite unexpectedly in the Springfield Art Museum of Missouri, where I stumbled upon an Audubon print of mice. There is a large exhibit of “Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America” in this nice regional art center, displaying furry critters like badgers and wolverines instead of the birds usually associated with Mr. Audubon. They all looked rather menacing and exotic, made back in the day when humans thought that natural resources could never run out, before cameras could capture every nuance of an animal’s posture, before the buffalo had been slaughtered… This one was the one simple domestic exception – the bright orange cheese pulled me in like a magnet:
The tiny mice have such personalities, seeming to be listening for trouble approaching from the left, and they reminded me very much of Beatrix Potter illustrations. It was interesting to learn that Audubon didn’t do all of his own work, but had his sons and apprentices doing the drawing and hand painting from his original watercolors, and his entourage even included a taxidermist. It must have been difficult to preserve those tiny mice.
Local museums and studios and art centers never disappoint. There is always something that makes me gasp, something that makes me sigh, something new to discover and then go research. What surprises me and comforts me is that in areas where I feel like the natural environment has been so neglected and abused, I can still find those local gems where people are still people, not automatons in metal and plastic shells hurtling through soul-sucking strip malls twice daily at ridiculous speeds.
So the next time you’re road-tripping through the Land of How Fast Can We Pave our Farmland (i.e. every state in the union), jump out of your train or bus (or car) and shout, “Meeska Mooska Mouska”. Then Google the nearest art museum, take a detour, and be re-assured. Not all is lost. There is still the magic of art.
Then, as soon as you get home, write to your Congressman about sustainability. We are so far from it.