Changes

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

There is a sense of timelessness when standing looking out over the Mountains rolling away into the distance. They seem like they go on forever. It is with a deep sense of awe I contemplate the scene before me every time the Vista opens up or I come to an overlook on one of my many hikes. I feel the tug on my roots and the Mountain air smells and tastes like home. It is hard to imagine the mountains being subject to the same forces that dictate our daily lives. They seem so large, so permanent, so solid and yet a study of their history details many changes.

From Paleo Indians to the Cherokee, indigenous peoples tended to live more in harmony with the natural world. Co-existing with nature, living on the fruits of the land, hunting, trading and practicing early agriculture, groups would build villages near streams and rivers where the fertile land provided. They roamed the mountains and valleys and left their mark on the land. Early settlers were more inclined to cultivate the land in larger swathes and they cut the trees to build houses and fences and changed the landscape with their activities. Thriving communities grew in the foothills and in the hollers. Remnants of these communities can be seen in the buildings preserved by the National Park.

There was money to be made in the mountains. The loggers came and the giant old trees fell to the saw. Great logging camps sprang up all around the Smokies. My own grandfather worked on a logging crew. The terrain changed. When people began to realize what was being lost to the advance of civilization, efforts were made to preserve the land. The Great Smokey Mountains is the most biodiverse park in the National Park system, according to articles on the NPS webpage. The number and variety of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms is extraordinary. With the effort to protect this environment the formation of the National Park changed this land once again.

My grandfather went from logging to working for the CCC to build the trail system that I enjoy today. When that ended, he went to work on Douglas Dam and settled in Jefferson County. Change…it marks us and defines us from generation to generation. If you consider where you are now and where you have been you can see how change has brought you here.

The Neanderthal were victims of change. Their species evolved to survive in a certain climate and when it changed the effects were devastating. Change can affect each of us the same way. If we fail to adapt to change it can indeed be devastating. Looking back over my life, some changes were sought after and the effects expected. Other changes came unexpectedly and turned my world upside down. When this happened I had to decide to pick myself back up and make the best of what I had left.

Starting a business is a big change for me. I have never done anything like this and it is intimidating even as it challenges me to bring my best efforts to bear. I look forward to the changes it will bring as it grows and thrives. None of us have ultimate control over our lives, there are too many variables that affect us, too many interlocking pieces upon which we have little or no control. Each person we interact with, each task we do, every place we go, they all affect us and none are static. It is my desire that those who interact with me leave me with something positive to show.

Family

Glacier National Park

Neanderthals lived in Nuclear Family groups. Evidence from excavations indicate that these groups of 13 to 15 individuals were mixed with all ages from elders to small children. To survive in the world they inhabited, they had to depend upon one another, work together for the security and safety of the young and old. Without the support of their family groups their very survival was in jeopardy.

,Some excavations being studied look like gathering places for family groups where they could trade, share the bounty of hunts, acquire tools and weapons and, like all other human beings; catch up on the happenings in the greater world. Survival depended on cooperation between the small family groups. People with an invested interest in one another can accomplish much more than an individual alone.

An amazing thing happened after we released our first Face Book video introducing The Original Neanderthal to a wider audience. I received a message from my first cousins on my paternal side of the family. Like many folks of my generation, generation X, I grew up a latch key kid after my parents divorced. I remember that as a small child up through middle school years we had strong family ties. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all close by. When the divorce happened it was like we divorced a whole side of the family and I lost touch with my paternal relatives. I would see them mainly at funerals and I would promise to be in touch and the years passed.

The messages from more than one cousin came on our Face Book page. They told me they were intrigued by our new venture and wanted to see our products and they wanted to support us. I loaded up a couple of tubs of our merchandise and rolled to the family farm where I had spent my early childhood. Much had changed, but the things that mattered the most had not. I spent the afternoon catching up on too many years gone by. I left warmed by their enthusiasm and wondering how and why I had let that side of my family alone for so long.

There is warmth and truth to be found in close family ties that should provide a shelter for our battered souls. There is a common past from which we spring that should be a foundation for our growth and a bastion for our preservation.

Our society has, for reasons unknown, devalued the Nuclear Family unit, and as the schisms grow our very survival as a viable culture seems in jeopardy. It used to be that family was the one place where they had to take you in. Now the family unit itself is in danger as radical ideology runs rampant through popular culture.

When the day ends and you look up from your tasks, who do you see? Who cares? Who has a vested interest in your well being and success? Who do you love? Who loves you? Families were the backbone of our Nation and we were strong. As the family unit weakens we jeopardize what matters most.

The extinction of the Neanderthals tells the tale of deteriorating family life. As the climate became harsher, family groups became more isolated, food became harder to acquire and interbreeding weakened the species. The appearance of Homo sapiens didn’t help matters for the Neanderthal either. With the rise of modern man the Neanderthals faded to history. We should embrace what made them strong and avoid what contributed to their decline. Embrace your family.

There is Beauty in the Day

Sunrise in Stanley Valley Tennessee

Life can throw curve balls at us when we least expect it. In 2016, I was thrown completely off the rails and set adrift in a life I had never imagined. For 28 years I worked for a company I believed in so much I encouraged my children to work there, and then one day I was caught up in a Rif and escorted out the back gate and the bottom fell out of my existence. If I had been paying closer attention would I have noticed signs that this might be my fate? I don’t know. I remember feeling hollow as I pulled away from the place I had invested so much of my life and self worth into.

Over the next few months I sank into a dark place. I struggled to find some kind of purchase and right myself as I careened around a world that looked the same in many ways but wasn’t the same. My brain had a hard time wrapping around my change in circumstance. I found a job that didn’t suit and tried my hardest to do something I wasn’t cut out for. I worried about a future that looked nothing like the one I had envisioned for so long from the security of my well paying job.

Eventually, I lost the job I wasn’t suited for and found one more in line with my skill set and slowly began to adjust. One morning, I was walking out the driveway and as the sun rose it caught my imagination and I took the above photo with my iPhone. I took a deep breath and realized that I was all right. My story wasn’t over. A chapter had ended badly but I had not. My self worth and future were mine. They didn’t belong to anyone else to determine. I breathed in the clean country air, and stood in the rays of the rising sun, the gentle heat warming my skin as it rose and I chose to see the beauty in the day.

There is beauty in every day and each one of us has the opportunity to embrace that beauty. We are sold a tale of fear and darkness on a daily basis. But the sun rises, every day we draw breath, and everyday we draw breath we get to choose what we dwell upon. As long as we are breathing we can embrace hope. The story isn’t over.

In fact, here, at the Original Neanderthal, it is just beginning. Don’t let circumstances define you, my friends. Live Free of doubt and fear. You have more influence over your path forward than any other force. Circumstances won’t always be great. Things will happen that change your world in unexpected ways. Know in your heart that you are more than anyone dared to believe you could be. Step out, embrace the beauty in each and every day!

Live Free

Charlies Bunion GSMNP

To live free is an opportunity and a privilege. At The Original Neanderthal we encourage everyone to explore what it means to live free as we celebrate this holiday.

Our forefathers came to this land in search of the freedom to worship the creator as they saw fit. They escaped a repressive society to establish a community where they could freely express their religious views.

Our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence asserting the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They sought to establish a government that ruled by the consent of the governed not by power over the people.

In both of these contexts, the idea of freedom led to radical changes. And in both these contexts the idea of freedom existed within the constraints of moral and ethical Boundaries.

We have many freedoms in this country not enjoyed elsewhere. We are free to choose our path forward, we can get an education and apply our abilities and energies towards personal growth and excellence. We have freedom of speech. We can share knowledge, debate, disagree, and be OK with that.

And yet, some how the idea of freedom has morphed into ‘I am a free person. I can do whatever I want. I am not bound by any constraints.’ In this context society trends towards anarchy and chaos as there are no moral or ethical boundaries to keep us from indulging our most selfish hedonistic proclivities.

On this Independence Day let us come together, clear the debris off the common ground, and encourage one another towards excellence. We are by nature social animals. We cannot grow, innovate or excel without one another. We have the opportunity to choose our path forward. The future will be determined by the choices we make during this trying time. Will we choose resilience? Or will this great nation become a footnote in history?

Fun Facts About Neanderthals

This is a fun adventure and it is moving forward slowly but surely, Check out our Face Book page, The Original Neanderthal. We are also introducing merchandise as we accumulate it into our inventory. Over the past few weeks, I took some time to research the Neanderthals.

Here are several interesting things I gleaned from the Internet Search I did using Wikipedia.com, donsmaps.com, and Natural History Museum http://www.nhm.ac.uk. There are many other articles from the Smithsonian, Science magazine and other sources on the Internet for a more in-depth investigation if interested. For this blog, following are some of the Fun Facts gleaned.

  • The original Neanderthal skeleton was discovered in the Kleine Feldhafer Grotte in the Neander Valley in Western Germany.
  • Neanderthal means Man from the Neander Valley.
  • The discovery of the Original Neanderthal bones is now considered the beginning of Paleoanthropology.
  • The bones of over 400 Neanderthal individuals have been identified.
  • A distinguishing feature of the Neanderthal is the prominent brow ridge.
  • The skull size of the Neanderthal is well within modern skull size for Homo Sapiens.
  • Oldest known date for Neandertal remains is 430,000 years ago.
  • The last known date for a Neanderthal discovery is 40,000 years ago.
  • These folks were around on this earth for over 390,000 years.
  • They ranged from Western, Central, Eastern and Mediterranean Europe as well as Southwest , Central and Northern Asia.
  • Neanderthal technology was quite sophisticated with a stone tool industry, the ability to create fire, cave hearths, adhesives, simple but effective clothing, sea travel, medicinal plants and the ability to treat traumatic injuries and sickness.
  • They were robust, adapted to conserve heat in a cold environment.
  • Their total population remained small.
  • As hunter gatherers they lived in small extended family groups.
  • They lived in a high stress environment with high trauma rates.
  • They were intelligent and accomplished humans.
  • They were proficient hunters and able to communicate well.
  • They looked after their sick and buried their dead with simple ceremony.
  • They completely disappeared from the fossil record around 40,000 years ago, it is believed that rapid and dramatic climate change along with interbreeding due to small family groups contributed to their extinction.
  • Many modern humans have Neanderthal DNA.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Neanderthals that are being shattered as scientists discover more about these interesting peoples. Hang with us as we go forward with The Original Neanderthal LLC introducing merchandise and sharing ideas.

It’s Launch Time!

Hello! It is time, launch time! This is a soft launch to be sure, but it is our first effort to get our concept out there sharing it with as wide an audience as possible!

We can’t do this on our own. We would like to invite you, our family, friends and those discovering us on line for the first time, to share our Face Book Page. Read our blog, share our story.

The Original Neanderthal LLC is an effort on our part to take something that was intended as a denigration and turn it on its heel. We want to take something meant as an insult and make it into something fun and positive.

As human beings we have an immense capacity to determine our state of mind. We do not have to accept the intentions of others as we make our way through the days and nights of our lives. This journey of ours has many twists and turns and we often decide which direction to take.

We would like to invite you along with us. We have tee shirts with our company logo on them in many different colors, we have magnets, stickers, keychains and vinyl all weather decals for your ride. More than that we have big plans. Follow us on our journey, grab some merchandise and support us. Then let us know when and where you spot our favorite Neanderthal and what he is getting into!

Beware the Road to Nowhere

Road to Nowhere GSMNP

Ah yes, my friends, be very wary of the Road to Nowhere. It can be very alluring. It starts out looking like many another road. Paved with promise, the signage urges one forward. It features nice landscaping with a few pretty flowers, but not a single hint of what awaits. Unfortunately, the Road to Nowhere is paved with all those dreams that never survived the rising of the sun. The end game, where it leads, is an empty, dark place where the whispers, “I wish…” and “If only…” drift along rancid, pungent, and stagnant air.

Sometimes it can prove hard to get past the turn off to the Road to Nowhere. There is a powerful draw to the place. Promise and potential shine at its entrance. Ephemeral, they dance just out of reach and tease one to the point of desperation. Reaching for them, pursuing them, one can easily lose track of the true path. And then one day, realization hits, the promise was false, the potential negligible.

The road that was smooth, fresh asphalt has become a cobblestone path, twisty and bumpy. It is so far off the beaten path it leaves one feeling lost and out of sorts. A little trickle of fear crawls up the spine and one wonders if there is even a way out of the murky pit all that promise has collapsed into. The signage has changed.

“I wish I could…” “If only I had tried…” “I really meant to but…” “It’s just easier not to try…” “What ever made me think this idea would work?” “Nothing ever works out for me.” “I’m stupid.” “Everybody else makes it look so easy.” “No one will like this.” “I am wasting my time.” “Why bother?”

Each negative affirmation is a cobblestone on The Road to Nowhere. Each doubt is a stumbling block. The further down the road one gets the more difficult it becomes to navigate.

The Road to Nowhere has a 5 star resort called The Good Old Days. If a person spends the night there, they are apt to not want to leave. They start to believe that nothing out there can ever compare to the way things were. Focusing on what was they cannot appreciate what is and they have no vision for what can be.

So, how does one avoid this trap as one sets out on a new enterprise. Recognizing the danger signs before getting too far along The Road to Nowhere is the key. Questioning what one is doing is OK, it can be beneficial; however, answering those questions in such a way as to impede progress is a sign of slippage. Letting everything that could go wrong obfuscate the vision is another sign.

At this stage in life, I have ventured down The Road to Nowhere a time or two. My advice, do not entertain self-doubt. Thoughts will randomly pop up, just because they show up in your head does not mean they have the right to stay. Do not accept failure. You will fail, it is part of the human condition. Use mistakes and failures as stepping stones. Do not allow mistakes or failures to become stumbling blocks. Do not criticize yourself. There are plenty of people out there who will take that on. Leave them to it! Do not accept criticism in a demoralizing way, treat it as a lesson if it is applicable; if it is not applicable toss it aside. It is not worth wasting precious time and energy on if it doesn’t apply. There are those who would drag you down for their own entertainment. Avoid these people if possible, if not understand it is a them problem not a you problem.

Find joy in the simple day to day aspects of doing what you do. Do things that make sense and add value. Do not focus on the goal, it may be way out there; focus on the little things that it takes to get forward mobility. Use caution if something looks too good to be true and if you find yourself on that mystical Road to Nowhere just turn around. Head in another direction. Yes, it really is that simple, and that hard. After all they say that life is a journey not a destination.

It is a Little Like Hiking up a Mountain

On Mt. Sterling Trail in GSMNP

You know in advance it is going to be a challenge. Depending on fitness level and terrain and weather conditions, the challenge will be more or less. Like a lot of things in life, the only way to get in trail shape is to go out on the trail and hike. The more frequently a body can get out on the trail the more conditioned one gets.

My first ‘hike’ was an 8 mile strenuous jaunt to Ramsey Cascades in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I had 2 of my sons, a daughter-in-law and a friend along on this adventure. I had a great idea about how conditioned I was because I worked out, actually teaching fitness classes and karate classes at the dojo. I worked out regularly several times a week.

I quickly figured out that being in shape is relative. I did what I did, and I knew what I knew, but I knew nothing about this. By the time we were coming back out I could barely walk. I had the wrong shoes, my pack was too heavy, my walking staff cumbersome and also too heavy. Each step I took hurt. It hurt from the bottoms of my feet all the way up the length of my body. It felt like someone had taken a hammer and beat the soles of my feet.

I had led the charge up the trail but now I hobbled out, my eldest son at my side, knowing I hurt and knowing my ‘pride’ was as battered as the bottoms of my feet; he walked beside me and we talked about everything but my pain. He was steady and calm as I hobbled out of the forest much wiser than when I strutted in.

Life is full of lessons, some are small, some monumental, and some are painful. Going away from this hike, I could have gone one of 2 ways. I could have said “that hurt too much and it wasn’t worth it,” or I could have and did say “the payoff was extraordinary and I am going to make a few adjustments here and we are going to do this again.”

This is my first business venture. It is proving to be a challenge. I started out a little naive here, but I am getting into business shape. I know what I know, which isn’t nearly enough, but with each step I take I am learning. There are skill sets I do not have. I don’t have to have them all, I am not alone. I have a partner. Together, we have run into a few obstacles, it seems like they pop up in the most random unexpected places. I am learning a few painful lessons. I refuse to accept that my mistakes will be the defining feature of this effort. Like that long ago hike, my partner is walking beside me, steady, upbeat and calm. Every problem has a solution. Every mistake has a correction. We are making adjustments as we go along, getting everything together and ready to roll out.

Like my hiking adventures, I do believe that if you hang in there with us, the payoff is going to be extraordinary.


Folks, this is going to be fun!

The Support of Family and Friends

Mouse Creek Falls GSMNP

As the days and weeks fly by here we are finding the support of family and friends to be sustaining for us and the project as a whole. The last year has been a very challenging year for many. We are social animals by design, able to accomplish great things when we work together with a common cause. Being locked down, isolated and denied the human contact we need to thrive has had consequences on the human psyche that have not been defined on the national stage but are very present and potent to the individuals struggling with them. We were never meant to be isolated. The introvert probably fared a little better than the extroverted among us, but preferring your own company never really meant being without any companionship at all, did it?

The Original Neanderthal started out as an idea in my head, and it began to gain life when my family and friends validated it and added to it. Some gave great slogan suggestions, some gave product ideas, some just encouraged us to give it a try. As it began to get some traction, the encouragement and interest facilitated its growth into a viable entity.

I am pretty far outside my comfort zone here. I am doing things I never imagined I would ever have a reason or an opportunity to do. I am putting money at risk as I invest it on the chance that it might become something of value to more folks than just myself and the circle of supporters who encourage us. I am learning a lot of things I would never have been exposed to were I not pushing towards a goal. That goal, though still far out there moves closer with each little shuffling step taken.

We have hit dead ends trying to source product only to find another source pop up on random searches of the internet and/or discussions with family and friends. This route looks great…oh no…it wasn’t quite…so we reach out and find another. We spend some money here and then we discover there was a better way we just didn’t know about until we went down the wrong path. We discover things that in hindsight look so intuitive. I begrudge no lesson learned here, there are no mistakes just learning opportunities.

Someone suggests something and we check it out to find its great, then someone suggests something else and it is not so much, but the suggestions themselves have a value far beyond the immediate need they address. The suggestions demonstrate an interest and that interest inspires more activity and drives the little venture forward. The effort, were it mine alone, would have crashed and burned somewhere before takeoff. It is not mine alone anymore; it is a collective effort fueled by the interest and energy thrown its way. Kudos to those who ask how it is going, and then listen with interest. More kudos to those with suggestions. None are ignored as we put everything together towards launch day.

Reading an article from the Smithsonian Magazine titled Rethinking Neanderthals, I discovered that the Neanderthals were inclined to live in small family type groups of 10 to 15 individuals, that they may have had a central butchery area where big game was brought to be worked up and perhaps divided up. The small family groups appeared to perhaps work with other small family groups to survive the harsh environment that plagued their centuries on this planet. Scientists are coming to believe that the Neanderthals were not that different from modern humans; their brain size was very similar to ours. They were biologically designed to survive harsher climates in that they were more compact and physically stronger than modern humans. And evidence from excavations is proving that even Neanderthals needed family and friends to survive.

We are together going to accomplish great things!

Trademarking the Image

With the assistance of a talented graphic artist, we now have a novel silhouette of a striding Neanderthal man with a spear in his hand. We applied for a trademark with USPTO.gov, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and our application is in the process of being reviewed. This, like every thing else is going to take some time. And this like everything else has a cost associated with it. The government likes its little piece of your pie.

With all the political chatter of Neanderthals and Neanderthal thinking, our distant cohabitant of Mother Earth is receiving some notoriety.

Some of the notoriety is positive as Science uncovers more evidence giving a clearer picture of these ancient denizens. They appear to have been more like us than not. I am intrigued by the mystery of who they were and how they lived and what became of them. Why did they die out and Homo sapiens become transcendent?

I imagine Neanderthals had to be cunning, fierce, and a determined lot to survive the climate and times. They surely had to cooperate as evidence suggests they hunted in coordinated groups to kill what to us are Beasts of Legend. With sheer determination and rudimentary weapons they brought down these creatures. Evidence also suggests they cared for their ill and injured and had some kind of belief system that led to burying their dead with ceremony. They lived in a harsh, polarized climate as the ice age ruled the land.

We live in a very polarized environment. Language has become a weapon, and even when we are saying the same words to one another, we may not be defining those words the same way. Communication has become a terrain full of land mines. For this little venture, we see the Neanderthal as an embodiment of surviving an adverse environment. Adversity can lead to opportunity if we do not let it roll over us. We cannot control what happens around us, but we can control our actions and reactions. We want to introduce something positive and encourage people. There is potential and even magic in this world. From the wilderness in our public lands, to the relationships we develop with others, the potential for great things exists. With determination and care we can navigate these times and survive. With a little skill and cunning we can even thrive. Stay tuned.