Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mind Over Matter...with Mammoth Hunting...


























...I've been getting in touch with my inner cave man while sitting in the stultifying heat that's been hovering over town like a veil of hostility...it's brutal, my A.C.'s non existent, so I've been working out of library and at cafes but today, its so fucking hot, that I don't feel like moving...so I laid in bed for a couple of hours listening to ethereal sounds like the ones found on the Greek electro-composer Vangelis' Themes album while reading The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel...tunes like "Chung Kuo" capture the mood...




The book, the third in her Earth's Children series, is set on the coasts and steppes of the pre-historic European continent during the 10,000 year interstitial (warming trend in the climate) that occurred during the last Ice Age (that ended about 25,000 years ago). It follows the young girl, Ayla who, after being adopted by a clan of Neanderthals as an orphaned child, is raised, taught to be a medicine woman, forcibly inseminated by a Neanderthal man who despises her for being Homo Sapien and then gets handed her bearskin wrap and cast out of their cave for learning to use weapons; hunt (which women of the clan were not allowed to do). She got the hook for pretty much exemplifying traits that would eventually put our species at the top of the evolutionary food chain, heralding the end of the less adaptive Neanderthaler model-- there's a great scenario in Clan of the Cave Bear (the first in the series that was turned into a film starring Daryl Hannah back in the 80s) where she accidentally ingests a double dose of some prehistoric peyote and sees the future, the modern age...the film's ok, I guess but it doesn't do the book one iota of justice...but I'm looking back with jaded, post Matrix/ iMax eyeballs...


...at any rate, girlfriend has a death curse thrown her way and is shunned by the Neanderthals, so she leaves her half-breed baby with her sister (the birth-daughter of the woman who took her in) and strikes out on her own. She eventually finds a small, isolated cave far away from the clan on the coast and at the edge of the continental steppes...the valley of the horses, as it were which the second book was named. Alone in the valley, her survival skills kick in ( the same instincts that she was told never to pursue but, like ornery humans chicks tend to be, did so anyhow). She starts to hoard food and hunt in preparation for the rapidly approaching winter. Too, she domesticates a foal , which had never been considered or attempted, after capturing its mother in a pit trap for meat...she did so not to make it a pack animal but to have some other living thing around...for company and unconditional friendship. Later, she learns to speak words again -- Neanderthals spoke with sign language and grunts-- by a man named Jondolar who she nurses back to health after he's mauled by the mate of a cave lion she raised-- don't ask, get the book, son...

...when Jondolar's health is back up to snuff, he urges Ayla to continue on with him as before the cave lion attack (!) he was on his journey back to his homelands which lie far away, across a mile high glacier (!!), in the north...she grudgingly acquiesces because she's fallen for a man of "the Others" (what the people who raised her called homo sapiens, people like us)...the second book ends with the two fording a river on horses (again, don't ask) and crossing paths with a tribe of people who called themselves Mamutoi...Mammoth Hunters...that's the book I'm reading again right now to keep my mind off the sweltering sump...cool schieße, if told by a scribe with the expository minerals and Auel, although sometimes long-in-the-tooth with her prose, has got the hazel nuts to pull it off-- and as an added bonus, the frosty descriptions of Ayla's chilled environment has helped suspend my imagination and get my mind off of this drawer-drenching humidity that has precipitated into a body-shaped sweat-angel that has my back glued to the sheets on my bed...(I started typing this with the MacBook on my stomach, BTW)...


























...I've always liked books like this, where man's (in this case, woman's) wits are taken to task by the forces of nature from Sterling North's Rascal to the dogs 'n cat in The Incredible Journey to Jack London's To Build a Fire (and Call of the Wild ) on up to The Sex Lives of Cannibals : Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific (a super-funny book by J. Marten Troost that should be checked)...I've even slogged it through Moby Dick as a kid, after several attempts at getting through it, to learn about whaling...it's all literary gravy...if you were to ask me, I'd probably encapsulate my thoughts with a cliche of that variety...still, the scenarios inferred in the telling of all those tales made me wonder what I'd do in similar circumstances...



..."You know, ironically enough, back home my dentist's last name was Spalding"...I cackled like a hyena goofed out on skunk weed 'n whippets when Tom Hanks dead-panned that line in Castaway to "Wilson" the volley ball that his character got chatty with while stranded on an island in the far reaches of the Pacific Rim...look at him in that picture, engrossed in a full on back-and-forth with a fuggin' volley ball...good stuff, Shecky...yeah, I'm one of those eight people who actually liked that film...I think I'm jazzed on these kind of books because they speak to something that I've always wondered about: were we to lose all of these electronic/ solar/ gas operated accoutrements that our animal-pelt-wearing pre-historic ancestors managed to survive without for a couple of millennia while packs of hungry beasts chased 'em first around and eventually out of the Serengeti's Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, would we, modern man, make it? You know, with the furry, fanged and ferocious calling all the shots out on the desolate plains of a cold, cruel world...Doubtful...judging from that YouTube of that Teen Miss South Carolina contestant that's making the rounds recently, I'd wager that a huge swath of the current human population would not be here for long...bear food, I call 'em because people like that are the ones you'd hear about walking stupidly into the forest for a picnic...at night...but what do I know?...I'm sittin' here thinking about hunting woolly mammoths and walking across a sky high sheet of bluish-white glacial ice...I might be selling some other kind of crazy when I say it but I do feel a few degrees cooler...that means it's working, I guess...time to put Ayla and the mammoths down and start punching up some more of that book that I'm writing...laters...

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