|THE INVASIVE by Michael Hodges.|
I struck up a bit of a friendship with one writer. He will here remain nameless because, frankly, I haven’t heard from him in many years. However, out of curiosity I looked to see what he was doing since his name was absent completely from the rolls of published authors nowadays.
Back in my youth, though, his stories seemed to be just about everywhere. Well…everywhere but in the pages of the top magazines. He never could quite crack the barrier of the bigger markets, despite the fact that many of his stories were pretty darned good. There was just something that kept him out of the higher paying markets. As I began to work in comics, and sell stories to magazines and anthologies he just stopped communicating.
Several years zoomed by. One day I saw his name pop up on the Internet and I was able to get in touch with him. In a bit of a coincidence we found that we shared the same literary agent. He couldn’t quite sell a novel, and neither could I. Eventually, that changed for me, but not for him. Someone told me that he did finally self-publish some stuff, but if it was any good it sank into the vast sea of self-published shit from which it is almost impossible to escape.
Later, I heard he was trying his hand at poetry. Then someone told me he was making an attempt at doing pen and ink artwork.
More years passed and I heard nothing from him or about him. He seemed completely vanished from the world of creative writing. Someone told me that he had given up writing and had decided to try his hand at making movies, scripting and directing some short efforts. Self-promoted, of course, on YouTube. He seems to have hit the wall there, too.
The thing was, he gave up. And I don’t blame him. Trying to get to a point where you can make your living solely from being an artist is damned near impossible. It’s just a very difficult thing to achieve. Despite moments of professional success, I never have been able to do it, and I’ve been at it for decades. But in the case of my old pal, his problem seemed to be frustration that would end in fueling a journey down a different path of creativity that each ended in the same way as the first. I don’t want to use the word ‘failure’, because I can’t say that his work failed at what he was trying to say with it. But he obviously felt a failure because each time he met frustration he changed ships, not direction.
Writing. Illustrating. Directing. Acting. Painting. Sculpting. The faded friend seems to have tried them all. Few people can make their living at any of them. But in my experience you focus on one thing, or fail at them all.
But what I often discover is that a lot of people I encounter refuse to acknowledge the fact that ancient cultures were also guilty of wiping out the large animals that once wandered across vast swathes of land in the paleolithic world. There are several reasons for this stubborn refusal to see the facts as they stand. One of these is a certain kind of inability to think of Stone Age people as being capable of wiping out large numbers of big mammals, reptiles, and birds.
But humans armed with stone tools, spears, darts, atlatls, and fire were quite capable of slaughtering tremendous numbers of big animals in a short period of time. And when you factor in that detail that people were spreading across the world and moving into areas where such animals had no experience with humans…it was a recipe for mass extinction. People with throwing sticks tipped with razor sharp spears were extremely efficient in slaughtering big animals.
The other reason I for resistance from people who won’t seriously consider the facts is that they have a picture in their minds of ancient people being beatific, of living in some kind of perfect harmony with Mother Nature. The noble savage. The human who only takes as much from the Earth as it can provide, and who gives back as much as he takes.
This is bullshit.
Ancient humans were as rapacious as modern ones, albeit in a different way. If they were hungry and figured that they had to run an entire herd of horses or bison over a cliff to feed one hundred people, then they would gladly force a thousand prey animals over a precipice to their deaths, even if they were unable to consume but a tiny percentage of the tons of meat produced in such a slaughter. They thought only of their immediate needs, just as humans often do today. As Homo sapiens moved across the lands they discovered, they killed off many of the animals that they encountered.
People like to think that the Aboriginal people of Australia lived in harmony with the land. And this may have been the case of the tribes the Europeans found when they first arrived by ship to that huge island. It’s quite possible that the Aborigine had learned after tens of thousands of years how to maintain something like a balance with the ecosystem that remained to them after killing off so much of it. But when you look at the fossil record you will see that the mass extinction of the megafauna of Australia coincided with the arrival of the native humans. As they sped across the land they killed off many of the big animals they found and cleared them out to the last individual. There were bellies to be filled.
Similarly in North America you see the arrival of the first people and then the demise of Mammoths and Mastodons and American lions, Saber-toothed tigers, Megatherium, Glyptodons, Castoroides, Camels, Horses, the Short-faced bear, and on and on. Humans had to eat. And eat they did. Only animals who could reproduce in sufficient numbers stood a chance.
Humans found New Zealand and moved across that island paradise that had been all but isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. And as they settled it from east to west, north to south, sea level to mountains…they killed off all of the big animals that lived there, wiping out almost every type of giant bird that had lived there. Of this there is absolutely no doubt. There was no living in concert with the land and finding harmony with the natural processes. They found and killed and ate until all of the megafauna were dead.
And it’s pretty much the same today. There’s almost nothing that moves on the land or swims in the sea or flies through the skies that we aren’t going to eat or kill out of a sense of competition or just plain old cruelty. Worse than that…almost no one cares.
|Life-size statue of the extinct Moa of New Zealand.|
We have done a fair amount of kayaking on the New River. And, except for some stretches we’ve rafted in West Virginia, it’s a pretty tame river. We generally have to paddle a lot since there are long stretches of flatwater that don’t seem to move much. This trip was pretty much that way, and we encountered only a couple of riffles and a single Class II rapid which was a little fun.
We didn’t carry our kayaks with us. Carole and I have been debating on what we want to have in a tandem kayak and so we have been trying out various models. On this trip we used a sit-on-top kayak and we preferred it (slightly) to the traditional kayak style. So we’ll likely end up getting one of those.
|This is the way we’ll probably tend to do the seating. Carole in front, me in back.|
|We passed several big cliffs like this one.|
|This was part of a big private estate. The owners had two picnic shelters like this one.|
|Passing under I-77.|
Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
We were both surprised that there was only one family camping in the entire place. There are no hookups for RVs, but the place does have a dump station and there are water sources placed around the campground. Also, it has several bath houses where there are flush toilets, and sinks, but no showers. I wish I’d taken a photo of the inside of the bathhouse because it had some clever decorations inside, including sinks made from galvanized tubs. Also, it charges an amazingly low price of $4 for overnight stays! There was a spot for a campground host that was conspicuously vacant. Not sure why no one would want to host the campground.
After that we headed back the way we came because Carole wanted to visit Mountain Lake Lodge where one of her favorite movies was filmed (“Dirty Dancing”). I had been past the lodge many times, but had never stopped there to walk around the grounds, which are impressive, I must admit. It’s an old-style turn-of-the-century (19th/20th Century, of course) lodge that has a lot of the charm one thinks of when considering those old places. At some point I want to stay a couple of nights there, which we may do in a few years. Time will tell.
|In White Rocks Campground.|
|I wish I’d taken a photo of the interior of the bathroom.|
|Lots of shady campsites.|
|Mountain Lake Lodge. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray slept here!|
|Set a spell.|
Following are some videos that I’ve made while hiking or backpacking through various wilderness areas (the first, ironically, along the Appalachian Trail).
But it’s almost ready to be born. Soon it will be alive, I hope.
It is the largest state in the eastern USA and it takes a long time to travel across it. In the southern low country one encounters Atlantic beaches and vast swamps and flatlands divided by vast, meandering rivers. Move inland and you encounter the Piedmont and the forests change from live oaks and water-tolerant trees like tupelos and cypress to other species hardwoods and pine plantations. Farther north and you hit the Appalachian uplands from the plateau that supports Atlanta to the rugged peaks of the Blue Ridge with their vast gardens of heath laurels and cove hardwoods.
There’s a lot to see there.
When I fled the state I really had no intention of heading back. Not even for visits.But the decades have tempered my distaste for the less pleasant aspects of the place revealing the affection that never left me for the sweeter visions that I never quite forgot.
This has left me to ponder the probability of a slow and lazy tour around the state. Likely such a journey will have to wait until I retire. But already I have begun making a list of spots I want to see again, and new areas that I would like to discover.
I want to camp on Cumberland Island again. Sometime along the way I want to spend a few days staying in Stephen C. Foster State Park where I can paddle the watery wilderness of the Okefenokee Swamp. There are farms I want to see and restaurants where I would love to eat. I wouldn’t mind venturing into the part of the state where my father was born and spent the early years of his childhood.
When I was a kid I used to climb on the vast Ocmulgee Indian Mounds. And even though I never cared for Macon Georgia, I would go there to see those ancient earthen structures left behind by the original human inhabitants of the state.
One area of Georgia that I never visited much was the northwestern corner. I would like to see Cloudland Canyon. And perhaps spend a few evenings at the legendary campground called simply, “The Pocket”.
We’ll see. Time will tell. And Georgia beckons.
|The Okefenokee Swamp.|
|The Ocmulgee Indian Mounds.|
|Ruins, Cumberland Island National Seashore.|
|The North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains.|
|Cloudland Canyon, northwest Georgia.|