My favorite museum in New York is the Museum of Natural History. I especially love the hall of North American Mammals and the hall of African Mammals. I love standing in front of each incredible diorama and imagining what it would feel like to be transported directly into the natural scene in front of me, into real wildlife. I love looking at what other smaller animals cohabit with the larger mammals, or what animals are their prey. I love the carefully painted backgrounds that make the dioramas feel like they extend far beyond the museum’s walls. Walking from diorama to diorama in the dark halls feels peaceful and meditative – which is sometimes surprising given the number of loud schoolchildren who are constantly being herded around the museum in large groups. But these halls somehow stay quieter, and reflective.
The diorama I love most is the Wolf Diorama. It depicts two wolves chasing an unseen deer at midnight near Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. The northern lights are visible in the background, and the snow reflects the light of the moon. It feels mystical. If the museum were in a location where I walked by it randomly, which it’s not, I would go in just to look at the wolf diorama for a few minutes.
Last week when I visited the museum, I went to The Butterfly Conservatory for the first time. It felt incredibly special to get to spend time around these delicate and stunning insects. The conservatory is also very warm and humid, making it a lovely contrast to the cold, windy air on the streets of the upper west side. I feel like I could spend days wandering around and watching the colorful butterflies flutter their wings around the tropical plants. They seem so alive and courageous, despite how fragile they are. One landed on my cheek.
As I prepare to set out on a trip around the world, it was lovely to spend a day in my favorite New York museum, and to be reminded how grateful I am to live in a city that is full of wonderful things to discover.