Out of Eden Postponed

I was practicing my daily self-torture by reviewing the numbers out of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. I realized that as of the time of this writing, there have been more than 1,900,000 reported deaths worldwide. That’s an horrific number, made even worse by the fact that it’s probably on the low side.

Suddenly I sat up straight in my chair, thinking, “My god. Where is Paul Salopek?”

I’ve blogged about Mr. Salopek a few times before. He’s the guy being sponsored by National Geographic to do the Out of Eden walk, and write dispatches along the way for our reading pleasure. His path follows the migratory route of humanity, and started in January, 2013.

He began his walk in Ethiopia, where humans first evolved. From there he went to Djibouti and crossed the Red Sea. That took 5 months. From there he spent 14 months walking through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. It took him a further 20 months to make his way through Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. From there he crossed the Caspian Sea and traveled along the Silk Road, through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That took him 22 months. From Pakistan he went to India, and into Myanmar. That was a further 23 months, and then (insert sound of record scratch) he was stopped cold by the pandemic in March, 2020.

He’s been in Myanmar ever since. I was glad to see that he’s alive and well. At the time I wrote this, his latest dispatch was only a few days old. He’s passing the time by writing a book.

Salopek must be the world’s most patient man. Personally, as much as I adore travel, after about 12 days, I want to go home. For him, it’s been nearly 8 years, and he still has a long way to go. The entire journey was only supposed to have taken him 7 years.

His plan, from here, is to go up through Asia, across to Alaska, down the west coast of the United States, into Mexico and Central America, and then all along the West coast of South America, ending in Tierra del Fuego. But first he has to wait out this pandemic.

What must it be like, being away from loved ones that long, and only having the friends you meet along the road as you’re passing through? What must it be like to live with only what you can carry on your back? What happens to your concept of stability and permanence and home?

That, and his feet must be killing him.

Just as with the rest of us, I’m sure this pandemic took Salopek by surprise. But he seems to be coping with it. In the meantime, he has a lot of fascinating stories to share. I highly recommend that you check out the Out of Eden website and enjoy his journey vicariously just as I have done.

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I Am My Mother’s Mother

Recently, I watched an amazing movie, Life Itself. I highly recommend it. It’s a multi-generational tale, and it shows how the actions of one generation impacts the next and the next and the next. We all are intertwined, part of a legacy. We each carry with us the choices of our forefathers. Here’s a quote from one of the characters in the movie, Elena Dempsey-González:

I’m not sure whose story I have been telling. I’m not sure if it is mine, or if it’s some character’s I have yet to meet. I’m not sure of anything. All I know is that, at any moment, life will surprise me. It will bring me to my knees, and when it does, I will remind myself that I am my father. And I am my father’s father. I am my mother. And I am my mother’s mother. And while it may be easy to wallow in the tragedies that shape our lives, and while it’s natural to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees, we must remind ourselves that if we get up, if we take the story a little bit farther… If we go far enough, there’s love.”

This got me thinking about my own family. I’ve written a lot in this blog about how, at age 49, I moved all the way across the continent to Seattle, a place where I had never been and knew no one, just to start over. People tell me that this was brave. I just thought I had nothing to lose, and it turned out that I had everything to gain. But I am not the first person in my family who has taken a leap like this. Far from it.

My mother, at age 48, moved us all from Connecticut to Florida. She, too, felt she had nothing to lose. I wish, for her sake, that that risk had worked out as well for her as mine did for me. I landed on my feet and then some. Her situation became much, much worse, in terms of finances and lifestyle and location. It’s really heartbreaking to think about. She deserved so much better.

Her mother, my grandmother, came through Ellis Island when she was 23. She learned English on the way over, using an English/Danish dictionary and the Saturday Evening Post. She had $10.00 in her pocket, and she was met in New York by a Danish minister. Her husband, my grandfather, worked his way over on a Danish ship.

My great grandmother and my great great grandmother on that side seem to have never left their home places, but my great great grandmother’s husband committed suicide, leaving her with seven children, and that must have been a challenge all its own.

My great great grandmother on my grandfather’s side was born in Sweden but moved to Denmark in her 20’s. That may not seem as extreme, but back then, I’m sure it was still a huge transition into the unknown. It would have been a language change. She went there looking for work. She most likely brought the BRCA1 genetic anomaly to our family as well, and many of us have been paying for that ever since. (Not all legacies are good ones.)

I don’t know as much about my Father’s side of the family, but I do know that his mother came to America from Ireland, young and single, and hoping to make a better life. She met my grandfather because she was a waitress in his restaurant. He liked to say that he only married her so he could stop paying her. In any case, he left her with 4 children to bring up on her own, which was far less than she deserved.

We each carry on a legacy. We each add to that legacy. I come from a long line of strong, risk-taking women. Sometimes those risks worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. But I’m grateful for all of them, because they led to me.

leap-of-faith-3238553_1280

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A Senseless Monument to Ego

Even as you read this, bulldozers are plowing a trench through some of our most precious landscape. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is theoretically federally protected, but it’s the federal government that is doing the plowing.

Why? For Trump’s border wall. Because he wants to get re-elected, he’s trying to score political points. Never mind that this is a designated International Biosphere Reserve that is recognized by UNESCO. Forget that it will go right through one of the oldest inhabited places in North America, and the ancestral home of the Tohono O’odham nation, which has existed on both sides of the border since at least 1450.

According to this article, this 30 foot wall will impede the migration patterns and habitats of mountain lions, javelinas, the endangered pronghorn, and countless numbers of bird species. And talk about draining the swamp. This will impede Arizona’s last free flowing river, and as aquifers are drained to make the concrete, it will decimate the habitats for the endangered Quitobaquito pupfish and Sonoyta turtle. It will also cause light pollution with its continual spotlights, in a place where you could always see millions of stars in the night sky.

Trump has waived countless laws to make this travesty happen, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. He claims this is a national emergency. Pfft. This area sees about 5 percent as much human migration as the Rio Grande Valley in Texas does. This catastrophic monument to Trump’s ego is poorly thought out, a taxpayer drain, and an environmental disaster, all for an emergency of his own construction.

I’m so angry right now.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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Crazy Like a Fox

According to this article, Scientists recently put a tracking device on a female arctic fox that was less than a year old, and discovered that she traveled 2,176 miles in 76 days. That’s an average of 28 miles a day, but apparently on some days she covered more than three times that distance.

Many creatures migrate even farther than that, and with global warming, some creatures are being forced to migrate farther than ever before. But I’m impressed with this little vixen. For me, she’s a symbol of adaptation, survival, determination, strength, and abilities beyond my comprehension.

We have so much more to learn about the natural world. Maybe we might want to try not to destroy something that we know so little about. There’s a thought.

arctic fox.jpg

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Ancient Wisdom

It amazes me that so many of us are wont to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is this view of ancient wisdom that seems to go like this: “Everything from long ago was inaccurate and based on myth and magic, so it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

We come by that belief honestly. No doubt about it, a lot of what was considered truth hundreds of years ago has turned out to be bunk. Bleeding people by hand or with leeches, when they are already weak from illness, generally will not have a happy ending. Dumping sewage into waterways is not a good idea. No sacrifice is required during a solar eclipse in order for the sun to come out again. Drilling holes in one’s head is more apt to scramble the brains and introduce infection than relieve the pressure. Backbreaking child labor does not make for strong, healthy adults. Not every tooth that causes you pain must be yanked from your mouth. Killing all the predators in your area causes unexpected consequences. And yes, sometimes there are answers that are less extreme than amputation.

Those things mentioned above are the bathwater. Feel free to throw those habits out. But, now, more than ever, we need to take the babies where we find them. We need good ideas if we’re going to survive.

For example, I don’t really understand why so few westerners are willing to try acupuncture. We may not understand how it works, but it’s been around for centuries. I’ve written about this before. I swear by it, and I know a lot of people who have had positive results with acupuncture when no Western medicine seems to be working. So why not try?

I’ve also written about bee pollen. I recommend it to people all the time. But I’m usually ignored. Which is a shame, because I haven’t had an allergy problem in 5 years, and have only had two colds. That’s saying something.

And as this article attests, there’s a lot of native knowledge out there that we’d benefit from if only we took it more seriously. For example, having a holistic view of the ecosystem, as aboriginal peoples do, is very important to species survival. They know that an increase in beaver populations will reduce spawning habitat for salmon and that means less prey for whales. The great web of life should not be ignored.

Indigenous people have much to tell us about how to cope with climate change. They know about the use of controlled burns to manage our forests so that catastrophic wildfires will not occur. They are also more sensitive to altered migration patterns, which are early warning systems of change. They also knew about the importance of biodiversity long before we even considered the concept.

It’s about time we checked our egos at the door and take wisdom where we can find it. Before it’s too late.

Ready to Dance

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Portents of Summer

Summer is only a month away, but as usual here in Florida we get it early. People envy us, until the temperature tops 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 100 percent humidity. Then, not so much. (And I want to know how it’s possible to have 100 percent humidity without having rain. Could someone please explain that to me?)

When I was a child up north, my main signal that it was summer was no more school. But I have since put away childish things and moved southward. Now I have other signs. For example, two inch long dead cockroaches start showing up in my shower stall. I have no idea why, but it is always thus. And slugs start sliding up my windows. That always adds a certain something to the view.

Back when I still owned a house, salamanders would congregate on the ceiling of my front porch. Love bugs threaten to choke our car radiators, and everything gets covered with a thick green coating of pollen. My sinuses pretty much slam shut until October. And then there’s the barking of the baby crocodiles. All. Night. Long.

As a bridgetender I get to see all the rich people migrating back up north in their sailboats, and I can look up and see the Canada geese heading the same direction. We also get even more joggers trying to run across the bridge, delaying our openings as the boats are bearing down upon us. And not one, not one captain offers me a day out on the water to beat the heat. The nerve of some people.

Another common indication that it’s summer for me is that relatives and friends start asking if they can sleep on my couch on their way to Disney World. If it weren’t for Mickey Mouse I’d probably be a recluse. It’s a small world after all.

crocodile

Small, yes, but they make one hell of a racket.

It’s Worth a Shot #1:Touching a Tiger

Ever since I wrote the blog entry about writing a bucket list https://theviewfromadrawbridge.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/a-living-breathing-bucket-list/, I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the number of things I’ve longed to do but may never achieve. Last night it occurred to me that in some cases I might achieve my goals by simply asking. So occasionally on this blog, you’ll find entries called “It’s Worth a Shot”, in which I’ll write completely insane letters to people who will have absolutely no reason to comply with my requests, but, hey, the worst they can say is no, right? And there’s also the remote possibility, what with six degrees of separation, that one of you may read this and be able to help me out. You never know. If I get any responses to these letters, or I get to achieve one of my dreams, I’ll definitely let you know in my blog! Here’s the first letter. (Some identifying information will be blocked out, because you could be a stalker. You have that look about you. )

To: xxxxxxxx, Senior Veterinarian,Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Dear Dr. xxxxxxx:

I have been a bridge tender here in Jacksonville since 2001. I currently open the xxxxxx and the xxxxxxxx Drawbridges. Sitting in one place 8 hours a day and looking out the window at the same view gives you a great appreciation for the natural world. I watch the migration of birds, and the passing of the dolphins, the gators and the manatee. The opportunity to be able to observe this makes me feel like one of the luckiest people on earth.

Having said that, and as I’m sure you can imagine, my income is a great deal more modest than I would like it to be, so I don’t get to visit the zoo very often. I also have a great many dreams and aspirations that I’m beginning to realize I’ll probably never get to achieve in my lifetime.

One of the things I’ve done while sitting up here on the bridge is create a “bucket list”—things I’d like to do before I die. Most of these things are way beyond my reach, but it occurred to me the other night that I have absolutely nothing to lose by asking for assistance in achieving some of my goals.

That brings me to the point of my letter. One of the things on my bucket list is to touch a tiger. Now, I know that the Jacksonville Zoo does not have tigers, but you do have other big cats, so I’m writing to ask you if by any chance I could be present the next time you have to sedate one of them for a medical procedure, even if only for a moment or two, to touch it’s fur and maybe take a picture. I long to see for myself if the fur of a big cat is soft or coarse. This type of generosity on your part would mean the world to me, so I’d appreciate it if you’d take in into consideration.

Sincerely,

xxxxxxxx

Cross your fingers, everybody!