Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thoughts on a rainy day....

Now that our fall weather pattern has set in, temperatures have moderated here in the plains. I hunker down through summer every year, waiting for fall and winter. Soon there will be no more flies and mosquitoes, no gasping-hot days and smothering nights. Today, with cool breezes blowing through the windows surrounding my computer desk and the first frost just around the corner, I'm celebrating life.

A couple days ago I started reading 1491 by Charles C. Mann. He provides a compelling picture of North and South America before the arrival of Columbus, de Soto, and the subsequent influx of immigrants from other lands. I must admit the North American Indian tribes interest me more than those in South America. So far, the book provides more questions to pique my curiosity instead of answers.

I'm surprised paleontologists and archeologists don't know more about the North American Indians. Granted, they did not build huge pyramids and cities made of stone like their cousins in the southern hemisphere, or create objets d'art out of gold, but their accomplishments were amazing. Perhaps the lure of finding gold treasures buried with bones adds interest to digs in South America? And stone cities don't deteriorate like those of wood, thatch, and animal skins. Mann proposes that millions of indigenous natives populated the North American continent, living in well organized cities, before the advent of European diseases. I want to know how they lived and what they thought in the millennia before the first European arrived. I want to know why they actually welcomed people they viewed as weird, smelly and unwashed instead of killing them the second they touched ground in the new land. How and why did the Indians see those first explorers as fellow humans and treat them as such?

Where I live now was at one time a lush river valley and crossroad of an ancient indigenous highway. Long before fertile grasslands were broken by plows, Native tribes set their tipis in riparian forests along the river. Game was plentiful here -- bison, antelope, turkeys, pheasant, quail, fish and fresh water clams. I wonder what their lives were like before explorers and immigrants arrived, in the centuries when only tribes with tradegoods from the east and west walked these trails? Maybe I'll find answers yet in 1491. I'm only halfway through the book.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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