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Saturday, February 9, 2019

"Into this world we're thrown..."

According to Craig Childs research in his latest book, "Atlas Of A Lost World," people were migrating to North America before they even knew it existed. Why?
Why indeed. Why would our species push north and east from longtime "cradles of civilization," especially during brutally harsh ice age conditions? 

According to Childs, recent creditable evidence suggests the "true discovery" of North America is placed more than 40 thousand years ago instead of previous theories of 25 thousand years. Further more, some came by the Bering Sea "land bridge" (because during Ice Ages sea level drops by hundreds of feet). Others came across frozen Bering seas, and evidence continues to mount that still others came by boat...originally constructed from bundled stems of hollow reed, then stitched animal hides stretched over an assemblage of mega fauna bones (wooly mammoth, whales, etc.) then eventually stretched over wood or some combination of bones and wood. Again, why?    

Childs suggests a hypothesis for "why." It's called heeding the "call." Imagine taking on such risky migrations that go beyond a search for food or avoidance of war. 

Paleo anthropologists recently discovered an increased genetic presence of D4, a dopamine receptor that highly correlates to restless behavior...a "marker" and possible explanation for why adventurous, novelty seeking types embark on constant quests to sate the need for "something new."      

"A genetic study of more than two thousand prehistoric individuals worldwide, ranging between one thousand to thirty thousand years old, found that this pronounced D4 marker is more prevalent among those who migrated as as compared to those who maintained a long genetic history in one place. Among Native American genomes and those of their ancestors, the presence of D4 is correlated with an individuals distance from the land bridge. North America, with the closest access to the land bridge, shows 32% of samples with D4 elongation. Central America comes in ahead with 42%, and South America reaches an average 69%, as if people needed that much more (D4) oomph to reach that far south."

This causes me to wonder what levels of D4 might be found in, say, astronauts? You know, those "types" that volunteer to attempt landing on the moon, or these days, Mars! 

Though it pales in comparison to the moon or Mars, my own genome must contain at least a little D4. I am born of restless parents who sold a hard-won thriving business in Ohio and a fine home in the country with a creek babbling through their backyard, ripped two reluctant children out of school and me from my black nanny at the tender age of nine month old, piled us and a few scant possessions into a '49 Ford, and left everything in their rearview mirror...friends, family, security...all because they had some inexplicable throbbing impetus to "migrate" to a blazing hot desert in Arizona, a place they'd never even seen nor been. 

Such were were the "breadcrumbs" of passage into a "brave new world," with the aid of a dusty ole '49 Ford that served as their "umiaq" (the traditional "skin boat" of prehistoric indigenous sea hunters). 

Left to right:  My Brother, Dan, Dad (Everett), Sister, Sally Jo and me.. Must have been a Sunday-after-church drive since Dad is dressed in white shirt and tie. I'm guessing this was somewhere near Phoenix. Judging from my size, maybe a year after we moved west.
Me and Mom, in front of the 49 Ford...a convertible!
My pushing 60 years-old Dad, somewhere in Kansas or eastern Colorado—still roaming, still  following his "calling," this time headed west, back to Arizona from Missouri, looking for a place to park his "home." Photo taken by Mom.
This comes as no surprise to me. I've lost count of all how many times we moved while growing up in Arizona. I even got pulled from 2nd grade when Mom and Dad decided it was time to take their "salvation show" on the road (insert Neil Diamond song here). We lived for nearly a year, squeezed into a 16 foot Shasta travel trailer like sardines...small enough that if someone farted, you knew it as well as who done it. 

Soon after each "landing," it didn't take long for dad to pull out his collection of free gas station maps. With me gazing over his shoulder, he'd finger-trace western "blue highways" and wonder out loud what it would be like "there." 

I feel like I was born in motion. I can't remember ever settling down in one place for long. According to Childs they couldn't help it...the D4 was literally in their blood and genes. As if to prove Childs right, there's certainly no shortage of D4 in our family. They are all globetrotters, drawn by horizons, "blue highways and the promise that something better awaits over "there." Kinda like dad, when he would stir my imagination by pointing to a tattered old map and wonder out loud what it might be like to live "there." 

Having found Lovely Ouray, I stem the eternal tug of outgoing tide by spending a good deal of my time knocking around in Rv Goldie. It's a compromise, blend of "hearth" and "road" that quells to some extent all the wanderlust and D4 that lies so restless within my genome. 

Childs has similar childhood stories to tell, perhaps not as far reaching as my uprooting parents, but a just as restless mom.

In "Atlas Of A Lost World," Childs recalls one of his childhood migrations. He was in the backseat of his single-mom's old VW Bug, or "umiaq," as he now refers to it...

"We moved frequently, sailing across the Southwest like mariners...I was four years old...asleep in the back seat near Nutrioso, Arizona...Maybe Mom nodded off...a tire caught the edge of the asphalt and we flipped...crashed though a wood-pole fence and rolled a few times into a field...pummeled. 

"I remember the pecan pie: It fell out of the upside-down vehicle onto dry pine-needled ground and a dog came up and ate it. We caught a ride into town in a postal truck. Rain had just started to fall...and the Arizona highlands smelled cool and crisp with pines..."

"This is from my own origin story...a trail of breadcrumbs marking my passage. It is how I know who I am. Going ahead without stories or family is like falling off the edge of the earth."

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm...
Jim Morrison's last recorded song, shortly before his death in 1971

Peace out,
Now go answer the call of your D4.
mark and bobbie


  1. I think my D4 must have skipped a few generations to me. It calls constantly. You and Childs are both excellent storytellers.

  2. That should just about clear up the mystery of your yearly travel adventures for one & ALL. It certainly makes sense, Im not sure about all that D4 stuff but hey I had enough sociology to know our parents are the biggest influencers on our lives. If you ask me I would say "you lucked out", cause you are having one ADVENTURESOME LIFE.
    Great Post

  3. I am pretty sure I found Craig Childs thanks to you, Mark, and will find this book now thanks to you. That quote hit me hard. I do love my own story, and it is also a bit crazy, but after 73 years has become somewhat mystical.

  4. Those poppy fields are so pretty! No flowers here, just the threat of snow....

  5. I like that whole idea of D4 correlating to wandering. I’ve long felt that there was more to early human migration than just looking for food. Makes sense that something in the dna keeps us nomadic, even when comfortable where we are. Chris

  6. I read "Atlas of a Lost World" a few months ago, as I've read most of Craig Child's books. I've thought for quite some time Humans are wired to be curious, nomadic, inquisitive, etc. In the vein of "well, what is over that ridge, what is on top of that mountain, where does this river go?" So I see it as an inevitability we will go to Mars and beyond; we HAVE to. Many decisions we think we are consciously making are in fact driven by our DNA and genes to survive, reproduce and flourish those very genes. "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins gets at this.
    It kind of blows your mind if you think back on all the decisions we've made in a lifetime and begin to wonder that we weren't/aren't in as much control as we think.

    1. A sobering thought. We are just biological "machines" fulfilling our missions...but for whom? Interesting, Ed.

  7. speaking of books and authors--------how is YOUR book coming along?????????? getting pictures should be of no problem to gather as well as well written rants!! keep me posted on progress! steve wiscoooonsin cheesehead

  8. Fantastic Post And Amazing Photos. Just Out Of Curiosity, Have You Had The Pleasure of Attend A Craig Childs Dark Night Show??? Sure Hope So.



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