Saturday, November 6, 2010

Contrasting Views of Sealife

The mermaid has been a fascination of many for centuries. Odysseus encountered his Sirens, ancient mariners told tales of encounters with aquatic women. The Irish had stories of the selkie, a seal that shed its skin and became human. Often this legend is traced back to the now rare sea cows that dotted the salt marshes of many coastal waters around the world.

At the field museum. I came across a diorama of manatees feeding on see grasses. This exhibit was tucked away from the normal exhibit halls, in a dining area where people can purchase vending machine meals or venture to an on-site McDonald's and get their fast food fix.

In the fluorescent lights of this ill-respected portion of the museum, I had to wonder why this had-been mermaid, no longer deserved the respect of a more famous mermaid on exhibit in the hall of gems.

This Tiffany stained glass image of a mermaid is the more contemporary ideal. And it is presented in a room of treasures; gold, jade, diamonds, onyx. Tiffany works are renowned world wide for their craft and beauty, but it seems strange to contrast the rarity of these two pieces.

The manatee, the living mermaid will surely go extinct in the next few decades. And it is the progenitor of the mermaid myth. More Tiffany glass pieces exists than manatees in the world. But one belongs in a food court; one belongs in a room of precious stones and metal.

Something to think about when pondering treasures.
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