February 28, 2010

The raven and the butterscotches

One more Vancouver-related post before the Winter Games close:

The University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology sits on a wooded promontory above the Pacific, far from the bustle of downtown Vancouver, and it houses an important and arresting collection of totem poles and art of the Pacific Northwest's First Nations.

Giant carvings and massive totems rescued from abandoned First Nation villages fill the Great Hall, where sunlight streaming through 45-foot glass window-walls lights the art and warms the visitors.

During my British Columbia visit, as you know if you caught my last post (see below), I was preoccupied with fulfilling the food needs of the baby I was carrying. Adam's in utero culinary likes and dislikes were so rigid that they presented a nearly zero margin of error: give the baby what he wants when he wants it, and nothing else -- or else. My entire British Columbia experience revolved around limiting and managing nausea and regurgitation. (I imagine the bumper sticker: "I vomited in Victoria")

I found the Museum of Anthropology a comfortable and comforting place to hang out. Adam always sent signals about the day's food requirements in the morning, and on the day I'd planned to visit the museum he'd decided that Coca-Cola and butterscotch hard candy would be the foods du jour. I went to a market and stocked up.

There were discreet "No food or drink" notices posted here and there around the museum, so I surreptitously sucked the butterscotches, covering my moving cheeks with the collar of my coat and retreating to the safe haven of the ladies' room to down a few bottles of Coke.

My favorite work -- indeed, one so universally admired that it adorns the Canadian 20-dollar bill -- was Bill Reid's "The Raven and the First Men," a spectacular sculpture carved from a giant block of cedar. The raven is a potent figure in First Nation myth, and Reid's sculpture depicts the Haida legend of human creation: Raven, alighting on a beach, spies a giant clam shell inside which human beings cower, afraid to leave the shell and enter the world. Raven coaxes them out, and man is born.

I spent a long time with "The Raven and the First Men." It was a glorious sculpture, but it held another attraction for me. It was housed in a round room called the Rotunda. The sculpture was floodlit, but the room itself was darkened, allowing me to move my lips and cheeks while polishing off multiple butterscotches. As long as I didn't make smacking sounds, no one was the wiser.