that surprising and wonderful moment
when you discover
there is yet one more unread book
written by one of your favorite authors
hiding in plain sight
waiting for you to pick it up.
the theory of loose parts and the right to be creative.
(kinders live this every day)
“in any environment,
both the degree of inventiveness and creativity,
possibility of discovery,
are directly proportional
to the number
and kind of
variables in it.”
-theory credit: Simon Nicholson – The Theory of Loose Parts, 1971
Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.
It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.
When these eagle-eyed volunteers began to spot the museum’s incongruous and thoroughly unscientific inhabitants, the whole thing began to snowball. The staff decided to go along with the game, adding more elves and gnomes to the museum. A ceramic elf, for example, found his way onto the Candor Chasma of Mars. And now a digital elf exists in the entrance video, cleverly concealed within a cluster of stars.
The fantasy easter eggs diversified, too; there are angels, unicorns, even a Millennium Falcon and a tiny Yoda hidden in the museum. Precisely how many creatures are hidden around the museum is an open question. The museum’s official elf scavenger-hunt guide currently lists nine. But Maura O’Neal, the museum’s communications and media relations manager, says there are about double that amount.
So even if you do go on the scavenger hunt, guide in hand, you’ll never quite know when you might spot an undocumented elf lurking somewhere, surreptitiously, in the Denver museum…
when we set out on our hike
to see what spring animals
were out there
we thought maybe
we’d see a bear
awakening from a long winter’s nap
though we most likely
scared any creature
who happened to be in our oncoming path
or most anywhere in the vicinity
with our marching and laughing and yelling and jumping
we looked closer
and at last
found an animal
passed over by many
who was not afraid of us
just waiting to to be discovered
a single ant.
“life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.”