By Albert Goldbarth
These two asleep . . . so indrawn and compact,
like lavish origami animals returned
to slips of paper once again; and then
the paper once again become a string
of pith, a secret that the plant hums to itself . . . .
You see? — so often we envy the grandiose, the way
those small toy things of Leonardo’s want to be
the great, air-conquering and miles-eating
they’re modeled on. And the bird flight is
amazing: simultaneously strength,
escape, caprice: the Artic tern completes
its trip of nearly 27,000 miles every year;
a swan will frighten bears away
by angry aerial display of flapping wingspan.
But it isn’t all flight; they also
fold; and at night on the water or in the eaves
they package their bodies
into their bodies, smaller, and deeply
smaller yet: migrating a similar distance
in the opposite direction.
Greetings from Philadelphia, home of my alma mater the University of Pennsylvania, which I am visiting with my family and my parents. We went to the Academy of Natural Sciences to see the terrific interactive exhibit on the North and South Poles, "Ends of the Earth: From Polar Bears to Penguins," plus the dinosaur hall, live butterflies (a larger room than the Smithsonian, though with fewer varieties of butterflies) and wildlife dioramas. Then we went to the Franklin Institute, where we saw the biology exhibit with the giant walk-through heart, the electricity exhibits, the space science exhibits and the Baldwin Locomotive, plus the touring Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition (we had seen it before at COSI but the kids had such a good time that we wanted to go again, and my parents hadn't seen it).
The Giant Heart is a perennial favorite with visitors -- people walk through the chambers of the heart, into the lungs and back to follow the path blood cells take in the body.
The Star Wars exhibit has artifacts like Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia costume plus R2-D2 and C-3PO models...
...as well as interactive displays on the science behind the film, such as building Maglev trains using Legos to mimic how speeders operate and a design-your-own-R2-unit section where kids can construct, program and test miniature robots.
The Academy of Natural Sciences has live specimens like this gorgeous blue morpho butterfly...
...as well as long-dead creatures like this tyrannosaurus rex...
...and models of animals like this bull moose. ("Moose in the road, moose in the road...")
After the museums, we went out to dinner downtown at a Thai-Malaysian restaurant called Aqua, which had a waterfall and absolutely fantastic coconut shrimp and mango chicken. Then we checked in to a hotel by the airport where the kids went swimming in the indoor pool. I am very sleepy after so much walking and Sunday we are going to several other places -- definitely the seaport museum, possibly the art museum and maybe one of the Brandywine Valley museums or Penn's archaeology museum -- so will post more details when I post more photos later in the week!