Autumn is Rolling In

The Autumnal Equinox is here, Summer has ended. The days are getting noticeably shorter. There is a coolness to the nights promising an end to the stifling humid summer air. Swimming pools have closed, school buses are rolling and the rhythm of daily life is settling in.

With every seasonal change a sense of anticipation rises. What will the season hold for us? Change drives us forward or dumps us backwards. Are we prepared? Autumn is historically a season of preparation. It is a reminder that nothing stays the same and darker, colder days lie ahead. If we want to survive them, we must prepare.

The Neanderthal survived in a much harsher climate than we have faced. The changing of the seasons held life and death for them. To live, preparation had to be thorough and focused on pure necessity. Warmth, some type of food preservation, and shelter that could withstand the bone-chilling cold of their winters. The taming of fire and the shelter of limestone caverns made survival possible. The preparation for the long cold winter carried out over the warmer seasons made survival probable. Without a deep intrinsic knowledge and understanding of the world and environment they inhabited, they could not have possibly lived the centuries they did.

Autumn is a season of transition, a time of evaluating where we have been, how successful our efforts have been and where we are headed and if we have what we need to get there and survive it. We still have time to get things in good order before winter. In my lifetime this season of transition has taken on more of a mental and emotional flavor centered on celebration of the harvest season without actually having to physically harvest anything.

As we move through this season of transition, it would be in our best interest to understand the world we live in and see it through eyes unclouded by the miasma of conflicting information birthed by conflicting ideologies. Reality is where we live. Reality is what we walk into when we set aside our TV and devices and interact with our physical environment. It is our neighborhood, our interactions with folks, our jobs, our families, our churches our communities. Reality is where we shop for food, where we toil, where we hug one another and laugh and cry.

The cold, dark days of winter are coming. We must prepare our hearts and minds. During this glorious season of cooler weather, hay rides, pumpkin spice everything and beautiful displays of color in our mountains let us embrace the change that is inevitable and claim it. We have the most influence on what is ours, this time and season belongs to us!

An Introvert Pretending to be Extroverted, Vending at Festivals.

Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is never easy. The higher the motivation and greater the passion for the thing that drives one to expand one’s horizons; the easier it is to take that step into the unknown. Stepping into the unknown is a venture that inevitably leads to personal growth. Growth can sprout from obstacles and difficulties surmounted or disasters one must learn from then recover from. Almost everything about starting a business and building a brand from scratch has been a challenge promoting personal growth.

One of the things we have been doing to get our merchandise out there for people to see is setting up at different vendor events around our area. Needless to say, I am most comfortable with my own company, there is nothing better than curling up with a good book. When I go out adventuring, I like getting out on the trails and soaking up the peace and nourishing atmosphere of the backcountry. The in your face, constant need to speak and interact with strangers, that defines public sales is a challenge I am slowly growing into. I, like our business, am a work in progress.

Each event is its own little biosphere. The layout of the venue, the focus of the festivities, and the group of vendors sharing the space contribute to the atmosphere. I always go in with a mixture of expectations and fear, hoping to do well and fearing that we will not. It’s an adventure with no guarantee of success and it’s different each and every time. So many variables influence the outcome, from foot traffic to weather, that setting up and laying it out there is fraught with uncertainty. I sit or stand with my offering as people flow by. When people stop and look, checking out our wares, I engage, my enthusiasm sometimes catching. The interest and encouragement we get is as important to our mental and emotional well-being as the funds are to keeping our fledgling enterprise afloat.

Learning the best way to present the merchandise to the ever changing audience has been another challenge. One size does not fit all. The exact same setup has different results depending on where you are and who is coming around. Modifying the setup to engage folks becomes a necessary ritual at every event. I have fond memories and despairing memories. Some events I just knew when I booked us in were going to be great, they were not. Some of the events I went to just knowing it wasn’t going to amount to much surprised me. We took away different lessons from each of our events learning what works and what not to waste time on again.

I have learned much and I am still too new at this to be entirely comfortable. The support of my family and friends has been and continues to be one of the pillars that keeps the venture viable. I am looking forward to all the challenges arising from this undertaking. My goal is not only to establish a company that might grow into something great, but to live my life in a manner that touches others with something positive. I refuse to be satisfied with getting by. There are places to go and things to see and things to be experienced. Thank you for being a part of it.

What I do is Who I am

We start out life with the building blocks of genetic and familial traits. These are the most rudimentary building blocks that we have to work with as we develop our personality and approach to life. Many things go into the mix that makes us into the person we become.

Our immediate family has tremendous influence, but outside influences like what we read, watch, and listen to; along with our associations with others go into the mold that shapes us. Who we choose to befriend; who we decide to admire; even who we decide to dislike all influence our behavior. As we grow these internal and external influences guide our values even if these decisions are unconscious. In fact, our culture molds us even as we define our culture in a circular relationship as old as civilization. What we esteem drives our ambitions. And our ambitions drive our activities.

In our thought life we have an image of who we are. That image also influences and guides our activities. Unfortunately, our activities do not always reflect the image we have created and cherish. What we believe internally and what we project by our words and actions may often be so at odds that the world around us does not even recognize us as the person we hold dear in our heads. This creates a good deal of the conflict in our relationships. Reconciling how others treat us with our expectations of how others should be treating us, based on our self image, creates a lot of discord in our hearts and minds. It can be difficult to live up to the ideal we have created. Good intentions and large egos aside, in the end what we do is who we are.

To get up and face each day as a genuine person is a challenge. The clearest way to grow is to embrace everything that is within us, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. We are all of us not as good as we think we are and better than we believe we are. Accepting that one is less than this complex mixture of conflicting ideals keeps us from growing. Honestly appraising and accepting our weaknesses and the darkness that is within each of us opens the way to growth.

How are you holding up as the world tilts on its axis? So much of the foundation I grew up on has crumbled and the struggle to stay upright has me floundering. The strong, positive, unflappable personae I was sure defined me has been stripped away by reality. I find myself reacting too often and my reactions are too often proving unhelpful. I do not always behave rationally, I find myself slipping and treating others poorly. I make my excuses to justify why my behavior falls short of my ideal , but excuses are just that. What is done is done, what has been said cannot be unsaid. In the end…what I do is who I am.

The best thing that can be said of this is that each day I get an opportunity to redefine who I am by what I choose to do with what is laid before me. My circumstances are far from ideal. Welcome to the real world, right? Each day, I choose to get up and enter the fray; I will not fail due to a lack of effort. I want the world around me to be a bit better because I passed through it. That won’t happen just because I am this great and wonderful person, it will happen because I chose to say kind words, I chose to do the right thing, I left the excuses behind and acted with thoughtfulness and integrity. It will be the ‘little’ things that see us through the difficulties and cause a better person to step out the other side. I am seeking to act like the person I want to be.

Every Day is Another Chance

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Every day is another chance. Our stories are being written, until that day we fail to rise, we have a chance to make a difference, to influence things for the better, to learn something new, to make mistakes, to correct our path, to entertain a grand new vision or accept what is laid out before us. Nothing is predetermined. Nothing is written in stone.

In the Gorham Cave in Gibraltar excavations are on going and discoveries are being made. The last dated Neanderthal populations lived and died in these caverns. According to a BBC article much is being discovered about how these resilient peoples fared towards the end of the line. Climate change drove them from their historic hunting grounds and the close combat hunting tactics that served so well in a different environment did not work so well on smaller faster game. A collaborative, close knit, cohesive society struggled under the strain of environmental pressures and falling birth rates.

When life becomes a battle for survival culture and innovation suffer. The world narrows down and everyday becomes another chance to survive. Distinction should be made between a hard, difficult life and a life lived and molded by a harsh difficult environment.

Our physical environment today is not the harsh frozen landscape faced by our close kin Neanderthals. The environment we face is harsh in other ways though. The mental and emotional climate we are confronted with is tyrannical in its constant onslaught of negativity. A palette of different shades of gloom and doom is offered up with hysterical glee. How do we dodge the push towards the edge of of the pit? How do we declaw the predator that would consume our hearts and minds?

There are forces at work in this world that would have you believe that all is lost. The turmoil and chaos ramping up globally can overwhelm a body. They can leave one feeling helpless and hopeless. We live in a world that is increasingly dark and dangerous and we have little to no control over the narrative that we are exposed to by a 24/7 news cycle feeding on clicks and sound bytes. What we do have control over is how much of our limited time and temporal life we give to feeding that increasingly malevolent beast.

Where are you spending your time and energy? What are you filling those hours with?

I have cut down news time of all kinds. I am focusing on spending quality time with my family. We go places, we do things, we work out, we laugh, we cry, we work and we play games. We live our lives based on the things we have direct contact with, not some nebulous disaster that may or may not happen within our sphere of influence. We are not blind to the difficulties, we just try to make sure that we and those around us are OK.

Reach out and touch a life and uplift it in some way. Battle the agents of despair with kindness. Defy the miasma of doom with a smile and genuine encouragement of one another. We are the authors of our tales. Let us be that knight in shining armor!

Stepping Outside the Routine

Sometimes a body just needs to do something on the spur of the moment. Just wake up and look at an invitation and say all right let’s go! Road-trip!

Before the pandemic I travelled every year to someplace, sometimes more than one someplace. There are places to go and things to see in this grand world that beckon me to explore! I have the ‘bucket list’ and it is an ever evolving list as I stretch the possibilities into probabilities.

Since the world slipped off its hinges and travel was curtailed and the economics became more difficult to manage, I have only travelled close to home. That’s not a bad thing; if your radius is to be limited, there are worse places than here in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. I have so many beautiful destinations to choose from I can’t always narrow them easily.

Another complication to traveling and hiking and exploring the natural wonders around me is my work schedule. I am working extra hours as our company suffers the same lack of help as many others. Those of us who show up have many opportunities to show up even more. I am feeling the fatigue that prefaces burnout.

When my friend sent me a text that she ended up with extra space at her accommodations at the beach, I considered it Thursday night and decided against it. Friday morning, I woke up and asked my spouse, do you want to make a quick run to spend a day at the beach? And just like that we were packing and putting out extra grub for the pups.

It has been a long time since I went to the beach. The drive was extended due to traffic mishaps and congestion on our route, I also plugged in the wrong address so we had to get that sorted out before we at last landed at our destination. We had a fold out couch, a balcony view of the ocean and the sound of the waves. I felt the fatigue and burdens I’ve been carrying lighten. There are few sounds as soothing as the ocean lapping the shore.

We only had a day and we spent half of it sitting on the beach. The water was ice cold, but I could not resist the pull on my soul. I waded out and let it roll across my feet and legs until they went numb, then I walked along the edge the waves rolling across my feet and receding as I covered ground. I made a conscious effort to be in the moment and absorb the comfort and promise of eternity carried by the susurration of the waves. There are spiritual forces at work here and in all things that are bigger than the things and their purpose is unknowable unless it is yours to know. If these truths are yours to know then the knowing will inevitably change you and your relationship to all you think you know now.

I am walking on the edge of great changes and I am trying to make peace with the universe that has thrust them upon me. I thought I knew, I did not. I thought I had been through so much to get me here that I could handle anything. Alas, I cannot. All I can do is treat each day as the gift it is and try not to tarnish the gift.

I lay in the sun, the chilly breeze blowing off the ocean, a happy mix of heat and cool for the most part and I reached out towards the heavens and reached inwards towards my heart and sought a balance between the person I could be and the person I am. The gulf is real, but it is not impossible to cross. I am on that journey now. Nothing in this world is static. It is always better to pursue a goal than just drift along to end up wherever.

We spent the rest of the day eating seafood and then spending time with our friends. Good friends are important to have in this crazy world.

Our return home was a much more pleasant drive and the adventure has helped me recalibrate and I am refreshed and ready now! We have big plans for The Original Neanderthal this summer.

The Struggle is Real

Each morning or afternoon (depending on what shift I am working) I roll out of bed, and the time stretches before me and I must fill it with something. What will the day bring? At that foggy moment as my feet touch the floor so much is determined about the progression of my day. The circumstances, the events, and the responsibilities of my life do not have as much an affect on my day as my attitude when my feet hit the floor. Much of how my day is going to go is determined by what is going on inside my own head.

There are a lot of things happening in the world at large and in my own back yard that I have absolutely no control over. As the days pass and the circumstances continue to develop both nationally, locally and in my own household, I find myself struggling mentally and emotionally. What happened to those days when all I had to worry about was getting to work on time and how to divide up my paycheck between all my creditors and still have enough money to do a few things like buy groceries and gas? When did those days become the good old days?

There is a dark edge to my thoughts at times that would lead me down a pathway I don’t want to explore. There are things happening in my world that are redefining my life in ways I never anticipated nor wished for. I am struggling in my microcosm even as the world at large seems to be convulsing and thrashing about remaking itself into something not quite recognizable. There is no plan, no preparation, no hedge against the forces at work that will promise a good outcome. There is only me and my determination and my attitude standing on the edge of the abyss.

What can I do? I know what I cannot do. I cannot control or affect events transpiring in far away places, no matter how many hours of media I consume. I cannot control what is happening in my own life beyond trying to insure that I deal with it with empathy, and compassion even as I try not to become embittered and resentful. Every day I will face this challenge and I am discovering every day that I will not always rise to the challenge. Some days I leave the field, head bowed in defeat, crushed by my perceived failures. Other days I stride confidently towards the end of the day knowing I’ve got this, I can do what needs to be done. I have yet to find that middle ground where life just is and this is what I do.

It’s all in my head. My perception and my thoughts will determine my course through this. What I feed my psyche will strengthen or weaken me. We must use care in this world full of so much knowledge. Knowledge is power and what we consume is fuel. Feed well and do not starve the heart of the truths that matter most.

Be kind, do not envy or be full of pride. Do not let the world provoke you. Be aware of your thoughts, do not rejoice in evil. Seek the truth and be patient with yourself and others. Find Hope and believe in goodness. It still lives in this world. We may have to endure for a while, but that steadfastness will prove that the darkness is ethereal and can be navigated. Nothing in this world lasts forever. In that statement there is heartache and promise.

Survival in the Ice Age

Ice ages occur when long periods of colder global temperatures lead to the creation and expansion of glaciers. The cooler temperatures of the ice age cause the snows that fall to stick around and year after year glaciers grow and expand as the snow fall collects and does not melt. There have been at least 5 significant ice ages in Earth’s history and the ice ages themselves are broken into glacial and interglacial periods defined by the glacier coverage over the planet’s surface. Glacial periods denote when glaciers cover great swathes of the land and overall temperatures are lower. Interglacial periods of ice ages are when the glacier coverage retreats and ocean levels rise and overall temperatures rise across the globe. We are actually in an interglacial period of an ice age right now as we still have the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets intact. With all the screaming about global warming, that is a fun fact I did not know. We are in an ice age…

The most recent glaciation period known simply as the Ice Age lasted for 50,000 years reaching it’s peak some 18,000 years ago before giving way to this interglacial period. So global warming has been a thing for some 18,000 years now. At the height of the recent glaciation the ice grew to more than 12,000 feet thick as ice sheets spread across the globe and sea levels plunged and global temperatures dropped.

The Neanderthal were adapted to survive in a colder climate and lived mostly in Europe and Asia. Their bodies were suited for the life they lived, they were powerfully built, short, sturdy and strong. Their increased muscularity was beneficial in generating heat. Their hunter lifestyle led to very physically active lives that required lots of calories and protein to support. The game they hunted provided all that and more. Their nasal passages were adapted to optimize breathing in cold climates as tall narrow passageways increase mucosal surface area warming the air coming in.

Survival for these folks involved contending with a harsh climate, they adapted by living in the many limestone caves that dotted Europe and Asia. They had strong family groups that cared for sick and debilitated individuals. The family groups cooperated in large hunts and shared between them the bounty. The Neanderthal lived through many glacial and interglacial periods and evidence from excavations show that they adapted to and made use of the conditions they were living in. Glaciation significantly changes the land, so diets and hunting techniques and even food sources had to be adapted to over time. These major changes take years even generations to occur so one individual lived and never noticed that things were ever any different from what they encountered. The world they inhabited just was and they found ways to survive.

Looking forward from where we are, we can theorize about the changes that will occur if global warming continues. There have been instances in the history of the planet where there were no ice caps. There has been at least one ice age that totally engulfed the globe causing the earth to be one giant snowball in space. Our planet has seen extremes in climate all along its existence. The Earth is a huge complex ecosystem that our species has spent its entire history exploiting for our benefit and survival. The idea that global warming spells the end is a stretch. It may mean the end to how we do things now, but we are a creative, adaptable, imaginative people.

Climate change will affect us, everything in our environment affects us. The end of the Neanderthal has been attributed partially to climate change. Before it broke the last glaciation caused the European continent to became a frozen tundra that shrank the herds of available food sources and an already small population couldn’t over come the food shortages. By the end of the second wave of freezing temperatures the fossil records of the Neanderthal end and Homo sapiens moved in.

Our future as a people is being shaped constantly by our environment. We are being influenced and shaped by the world we inhabit, and by the things we do and consume physically, mentally and spiritually. Our ability to choose how we interact with the world around us and what we consume gives us the tools we need to persevere, overcome and even excel as individuals and as societies. The future will be what we make it. That is our power as a people.

Plans for the New Year

Fortune cookie

Here it is 2022. Hello! I ate at a local Chinese place and when I cracked open my fortune cookie I was happy. My present plans will be successful. Yay!!! Now…just what are my present plans?

I rolled this around my head a few times and it bounced off a few things and ended up in this nether region unaffixed to any particular outcome. Plans take, well…some planning. And I have always been a bit averse to well-laid plans. I am more of a let’s get through the day kind of person. Unfortunately, this has caused me to end up in a few places I never expected nor wanted to end up. We need a purpose to give us direction or else we drift and end up where-ever. Having been where-ever a few times, I really do not want this venture to end up there.

With The Original Neanderthal, I have been sitting down with my family and we have been laying out plans…what we want to accomplish, where we want this thing to go, how we want to connect with the world in general and at times I feel overwhelmed. I have so many great ideas…and we have so many things we want to accomplish. The pacing is of a necessity slow as we try to lay a solid groundwork from which we can go forward. Connecting with community, the local community and the community at large, those who are interested in what we are doing, is our current objective. We are reaching out on various Social Media platforms and our FB page is growing steadily. We are encouraged by the support and interest.

The Neanderthals also had to be master planners, their very survival depended on them planning a successful hunt. The coordination, and communication necessary to accomplish a kill with as little injury to the participants as possible was impressive. One miscommunication, one misstep and many would go hungry and some would die. Luckily, we are not so vulnerable to mistakes in this venture. This is a good thing, because we are still on the steeper side of the learning curve.

To be able to have a successful plan one must have some idea what success would look like when it arrives. Some of my plans haven’t been too clear on that. We are still throwing the end game for this year back and forth as we brainstorm and lay out a direction. There are many variables that will play into our success also, some are under our control and some are not.

What does success look like to you? Is it something you think about? Goals are nice, but the goal may be so nebulous that the more important thing is to have a path forward, a process that will gain you net positive results. We are focusing on this now, doing things that will set us in the right direction. Growth will occur because of the actions we take, the process we use and that growth will lead us towards success.

For now, I believe that success will be having a positive influence in a world so filled with negativity. Success will be establishing a brand that folks will appreciate because it made them smile or made them think. Success will be increasing our presence in the market place. And success will take a while in getting here, but I firmly believe it will be ours!

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year…or is it?

Life continues, day follows day and we sleep and we wake and we go about our life doing the things we do. Lately, it seems like just accomplishing the simple things in life has gotten complicated. We have been living under the fear of a pandemic that seems to have no ending for going on 2 years now. I have even heard folks say, welcome to the new normal…like this is something that we are just going to have to grin and bear.

In 2020 we met Covid and in 2021 it hung over the world like the hand of doom, and here in 2022 it appears that its not going anywhere, no matter how we behave. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask…get the vaccine, don’t get the vaccine, the virus is doing what viruses do. It is mutating and carrying on, while we stagnate and stumble along in its wake. My mom went to the doctor with the ever scary upper respiratory symptoms and was encouraged to get the booster….Omicron is the current variant, but according to her doctor…he is hearing that another variant event is on the horizon. For those who have been going along to get along trying to wait it out to get back to normal, that statement should go a long way to convincing folks, that it’s not going to go away…the pandemic is now endemic and as a people we are going to have to learn to live with it even as it gets a little less deadly and more contagious. It’s what viruses do after all, it is how they survive and thrive.

Is 2022 going to be more of the same? Meet the new year…same as the old year? That, my friends is up to us. So many things that we have been leaving on the table and refusing to take responsibility for are still lying there waiting for us to pick them up and forge ahead. We are ultimately responsible for our lives. We need to pick up the tools we laid aside and begin using them to create a life worth living. We need to be critical thinkers, and question decisions that affect us directly. We need to make sure our children are in an environment which supports our core values and will learn to respect what made us the people we are and built the nation we are blessed to live in.

Have we forgotten that we are adults? We can think and we can reason and we can see what is right before us and we can make reasoned decisions based on cost benefit. We can weigh the risks of the decisions we make and we can bear the consequences of the decisions we make. When did we decide it would be better for some figure head in a far away place make critical life decisions for us individually? At no point in the history of the planet has this ever worked to the individual’s benefit.

We are individuals and at the same time we are social animals. We thrive in close knit communities with common values and goals. We need to embrace our community, support our localities, get involved in our local elections; because we are the grass roots and we live in a country that birthed a government that was of the people and for the people. Have we forgotten that we are The People that the government is supposed to answer to?

I see a building wave of change headed towards us. That change has not been totally defined, it is being fought over in the hearts and minds of us all. What will it be? Time will reveal that to us. While we go through the motions of our days, what we consume with our eyes and hear with our ears and take into our hearts and minds will determine the future of this great land, because our actions will evolve from what we consume. Not every entity in this great land is geared towards the betterment of its people. There is a ton of information out there, sifting through it and deciding what to believe is often beyond our ability because we can never know all the facts and we can never review and understand all the data being churned out. Not everyplace is like every other place either. What is good and right for a large metropolitan area may not make sense for a rural area.

Taking care of our community is the most important thing we can do. A healthy, thriving community with the support of other healthy thriving communities can support a locality. Thriving localities can support states. Thriving states can support a union. It all begins outside your front door with what you can affect directly. What you can affect directly will benefit most from all the positive energy and activity you can throw at it. Be kind to your neighbor. Buy from local businesses. Vote for local representatives, be a local representative! This year doesn’t have to be a repeat of the last. 2022 can be that year of change we all so desperately need.

Winding down 2021

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

It has been quite a year. We were born this year. The Original Neanderthal LLC was conceived as a concept in the Spring of the year and the first slogan was rolled out in April of 2021. When I took a moment for contemplation at the end of 2020 to look back and look ahead, I didn’t see any hint of The Original Neanderthal. It is cliche to say that we never know what lies ahead, but here it is, we do not.

Life is a fluid thing and it often finds its way to places a body never anticipated or even imagined. This is a good thing, flowing water is never stagnant. With all the pressure put on the population over 2020 and 2021, so much of it negative, trying to develop a positive concept has been like swimming upstream. We have struggled, and that is OK. One benefit of swimming against the current is a total physical, spiritual and mental workout and like all exercise it strengthens the targeted areas. I am not the same person I was when we started this, I am not the person I will be as we continue this journey.

The response to our efforts has been encouraging. We would like to take a moment to say a heart felt thank you to all those who supported us. Our family first and foremost, followed by close friends, and co-workers. We also want to acknowledge those who took the time to learn about us, to buy our products and converse with us online and follow our Facebook page, read our blog and listen to our new podcast. We enjoyed meeting those folks who checked us out at craft and vendor events this past year. One thing I have noticed is that the folks who get what we are trying to do, are enthusiastic. Those who don’t aren’t.

We have plans to continue growing, look for more content and look for more of a social media footprint as we have joined instagram and are looking at other social media outlets to get our content out to you. We have more slogans to pair with our Neanderthal figure guaranteed to make you smile, make you think, and encourage you to find and be the best you, you can be.

Looking back over the past few months, I am amazed at what we have accomplished. The ghost of Covid is haunting the turning of the year, it is not as big or overwhelming as it was last year. The things that we worry about are very real concerns, but I firmly believe that we are more than able to overcome the hardships facing us. The future has not been written yet, despite what the media would have you believe. As proved over this past year none of us really has any idea what the true plot will be. We will write it one day at a time by our actions and deeds. Hold your heads high. Be original, live free, be legendary and chase your future with determination. Be the hunter not the hunted!.We will persevere. There is no other option.