Jan 22

The Skull

As we walked through the great doors, wonders beyond description emerged before us. Enormous bears loomed overhead - a wall of matted hair, hooked claws and teeth rearing up to emphasize the vast space of the great Victorian hall. We continued along the first floor, my mother and Mrs. Pudvah occasionally stopping to admire the sheer menagerie of scales, feathers, and fur. A golden eagle perched here, a buffalo in mid-graze nearby, a family of opossums hanging there. Having seen the exhibits before, I kept walking. Senior photos were due by the end of the coming month, and there was a certain space in the museum I wanted my picture taken. Soon we found an odd little nook, its stairwell winding up to the second floor, its curved wooden expanse like that of a ship’s deck. Like a deck, the floor creaked with nearly every step, producing the only noise, save for some side conversations and children playing downstairs. Creaking past displays of faded photographs and curious artifacts, I noticed soft light shining from behind a corner, contrasting with the brown cherry backdrop. I headed over to the corner and before I knew it I was standing still. My determination had paid off.

Looking back at me were a pair of hollow eye sockets, set deep in a long face that sloped into a wide frill adorned with a crown of spikes. Protruding from the top of its nose, a long nasal horn formed like robust sword. Below the horn gaped a beaked mouth, full of flat, serrated teeth. Before me was the extraordinary skull of a horned dinosaur, signage behind it labeling the creature as a Styracosaurus.
Precariously balanced on a wooden frame, it was a gnarled relic of another time. The creature was familiar to me, yet different.
An animal, nonetheless - but one of a different world

As humans, we typically think in relation to the span of our own history. Years. Decades. Centuries. Millennium is sometimes mentioned.
We are used to categorizing hundreds of years and thousands of years as vast amounts of time.
They all mean nothing to the great skull.
Paleontologists and enthusiasts of prehistoric life study organisms that are hundreds of thousands of years old. Though most of the time they are even millions of years old.
That Styracosaurus there? Over 75 million years old.
Rare is the occasion to behold such an ancient being. So is the reason behind my passion for old, dust collecting bones sitting inside museums. Of all the wonders of the natural world, few were as vivid, or as profoundly fascinating as the Styracosaurus. Its existence alone is enough to challenge our concept of time. And so, it will remain: patiently waiting to surprise whoever comes across it.
It will be sitting there in its own quiet niche, among the grandiose collection of the Fairbanks family.