Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Frozen Assets

My closest claim to being a hunter and gatherer is knowing where the meat counter is at Von's, and where the duck jerky for Sally is shelved at Gelson's. Although I am fond of flowers--Gerbera daisies, Japanese iris, glads, mums, roses--and enjoy the complexities of begonia rex, amaryllis, azalea, and camellia, it must be noted that Fred, my adolescent avocado plant, is not looking all that healthy. This bodes poorly for my being able to drop the ergo, as in, not being a hunter and gatherer, ergo, he must therefore be an agriculturalist.

In the forty-five or so thousand years since the last serious Ice Age ended and those we regarded as Cro-Magnon peoples emerged, their hair somewhat reddish, their clothing actually panels of leather sewn with ligament or muscle sheath, their legs proportionately longer than the Neanderthal, their language and thought processes markedly superior to the Neanderthal, there has developed a kind of interregnum between hunter-gatherer and farmer. It is a place where I fit with a modicum of comfort and the reasonable-but-not-overwhelming sense of earning my reindeer meat, a place where it is considered worthwhile, even necessary to record certain events and to comment on yet others. I go beyond drawing animals on the walls of caves and well beyond incising depictions of game on bones, rocks, and slabs.

But all this could easily be wiped out with a nice, steady Ice Age, nor would I be any better off if I and the persons about me did to my terrain what, say, the persons living in Chaco Canyon or Easter Island did to their respective terrains, which is to say used it all up.

If I were plunked into a TV-type reality/survival show, or if the Republicans were able to make good on their threat of complete world domination I would be cast as one who was not chosen by any team, someone who would be left to fend for himself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it simply defies easy classification. We Homo sapiens are pretty much now where we were at after that Ice Age and in a real sense derived our technical smarts from our Cro-Magnon forebears. If they'd had a need for it, they had the smarts to have come up with say, iPods, in addition to fluted projectile points or threadable needles. They had flutes, maybe even drum and items filled with pebbles or sand to keep tempo; they had those who could incise, etch, draw. Maybe they didn't quite need writers as such yet, but they, and we, were already trains that had left the station.

It is perhaps fanciful, perhaps not to project that we got some of our names from them: Lefty, Art, Curly, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Fisher, Mrs. Potter, maybe even Mr. Fields and Mrs. Cutter. And some of those lovely young ladies, Rose, Dawn, Heather, Pearl.

We certainly got our ideas from them, as in surviving to tell the tale, then telling it.

Thing is, are we so much better because we have the technology? Am I any better writer than I was with my Olivetti portable manual because I now have a MacBook. We may begin to speculate that some of the cave paintings were early attempts at search engines, or at least attempts to get some of the cultural basics down for those who had not yet left the station.

One way or another, art will and should break your heart. Because it is so damned beautiful. Because it contains the lighting you may fear in a bottle that has yet to be invented. Because you don't quite have the technique or the medium to get your vision down to where you can tweak it. Or because you can, and for a moment or two, you're so damned glad.


R.L. Bourges said...

Happy hunting, Shelly.

Lori Witzel said...

Thank goodness art'll break my heart -- that's one way of making sure my heart stays open.

Lovely post, and may your shamanic visions of where to find treats for Sally and the rest of us always steer you true.

Anonymous said...

Morning, Shelly! For the benefit of those of your readers who haven't yet met you, let me say I suppose I could see you as the Survivor Guy who isn't picked for any team and must roam the hinterland.
But it's equally likely, I think, that you will be the one doing the choosing!
Fondly, Karen.

Smiler said...

Heartbreakingly beautiful. Or is it beautifully heartbreaking? Thanks for another great post Shelly.