Saturday, January 2, 2010
In his book "House of Rain," Craig Childs attempts to connect clues to the mysterious disappearance of the ancient puebloan cultures of the Southwest (aka Anasazi). Their dissolution is most often thought to be due to a combination of drought, civil unrest, disease and overuse of resources. But another factor comes to light in his own extensive travels: chronic movement. In other words, these people just liked to move around a lot. Since they couldn't carry everything with them, they often left behind villages full of household goods and food, taking only what was necessary for their journey at the time. Traces of their travels are evident in the pottery they did bring with them, and the new pottery they made wherever they went, importing particular designs and styles to other regions.
Having just completed a 700 mile round trip journey to Zion National Park and back, I'm thinking about those folks, toting food for the trail, a change of clothes, a blanket and a few other essentials such as fire-making tools, some hunting gear, and maybe some medicine. For us, it is much the same: we travel with a bag full of snacks, some clothes, sleeping bags, a lighter, and enough cash to purchase food at the next town (that's our hunting gear!). Some ibuprofen and bandaids. We left our house and refrigerator back at home full of many other worldly goods.
In the event that we decided not to come back, or couldn't, we could certainly figure out how to go on without all the loot we left behind. We would just start over. Anyone who then entered our house once it was realized we weren't returning might wonder why we left so much behind. But we wouldn't have disappeared. We would have migrated.
This makes me think about how rare it is for any family to stay in one place for more than a decade, much less for several generations, as some of the ancient puebloans seem to have done. Our society is certainly afflicted by "chronic movement" in more ways than one. Not only do we tend to change dwellings many times during our lives, but we move around each and every day at paces and distances that are far beyond the norm for most people on the planet. In our culture, traveling is regarded as glamorous, adventurous and mind-broadening.
But I have to wonder at times: Could it be that the most radical act a person could do is to stay home?