Oh, Just Forget It


The mind is an amazing thing. Having dealt with the effects of epilepsy all of my life, the gringa finds the subject of memory particularly fascinating. Amnesia is a typical side effect of intense seizure activity. Not only have I experienced amnesia, but often I will have some limited recall which is like taking a memory and making  a meal of scrambled eggs. I get it all wrong.  Having a blank space of time may sound frightening but I have learned to live with it. I simply have to shrug and move on. It even comes in handy from time to time if I have behaved particularly bad because I can then always say, “Really? I had no idea. I’m terribly sorry. I was simply not myself at the time.” I’m not sure the caveman is buying that line after all these years but, at the very least, he usually goes along with it.

So, the gringa has experienced the effect of seizure related amnesia as a cause for my creating false memories. Fortunately the caveman is understanding and does not believe that his little wife is a big, fat liar but just sick and confused. I am happy to know that I am not alone. In fact, none of us are. According to research by Shari R. Berkowitz and Jennifer Sumner, both assistant professors at California State University, all humans create false memories. Their studies revealed that it is actually very easy to implant false memories through different suggestive methods:

  • People were given a list of words that had something in common: pillow, sheets, bed, nap. The common link, sleep, was not on the list. Once the list was removed, the word sleep was suggested as being on the list and subjects agreed that they remembered seeing the word sleep on the list.
  • Participants had a dream interpreted. Days later it was suggested that the events of the dream were a real occurrence. The dreamer would recall the event as something that actually happened.
  • Study participants listed 4 interesting events like football games, political speeches, etc. and then read corresponding news stories related to the events. Of the news stories offered, one was bogus yet the participants invariably remembered the event occurring. Having a strong interest in a particular subject actually increased the chances of creating a false memory. Consequently, because the person considers themselves well-versed in the subject, they are also less likely to accept they are believing a false memory.
  • Rich memory events are false memories of something fantastic happening like being possessed or kidnapped.

Now, for the gringa, this rich memory theory is of particular interest. When I was a little girl the earliest memory, or, at least, what I thought was a memory, was of being a toddler and playing on the back porch of our home with our cat. I distinctly remember a group of Native Americans crossing the creek beside our home, entering our backyard and shooting me with an arrow.

As a child I was convinced this was a real memory. It was not until I was a teenager that I would recall this “memory” and realize I was wrong. But what made me believe such a thing? And why did I have no fear or animosity toward Native Americans? In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was fascinated with their history and fantasized of a romantic alternative life as part of a tribe. This would seem contrary to the typical psychology that would have resulted from a trauma. So what the heck happened to the gringa?

I blame my father. He was always making up fantastic stories to drive my sisters and I crazy. For example, I was very freckled as a youngster. He told me they were bird spots. That, because I liked to play outside all the time as a little girl, I was always getting pooped on by birds and those were the stains left behind. He even had a favorite bird species to mention in this explanation of freckles, buzzards. Not very nice, I know, but in my Daddy’s warped mind he thought he was simply hysterical and clever.

So, as for getting shot with an arrow, the gringa’s dear readers must understand that my Daddy grew up in an era of zero political correctness many years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He grew up in an America where white supremacy was the law of the land. So, he thought nothing of it when accusing Native Americans of shooting his little girl to explain why I had a navel. As a lover of old western movies, of course he would tell such a tale. That fantastic story had such an impact on my young, impressionable mind, I actually believed that I had a memory of a Native American Indian tribe raiding the back yard of my family home during the era of the Vietnam War.

And that, my dear readers, is why such research is so very important. Not just to get history correct, but to recognize that eye-witness testimony in criminal cases is often very flawed. Often times young people who undergo therapy to re-capture memories are not remembering actual events. This could result in ruining the lives of not only the falsely accused but by creating a victim who is actually not a victim.  If we can rely on anything when it comes to memory, it is that it is simply not reliable.

Consider that the gringa can remember the telephone number of her childhood home and several childhood friends yet I cannot remember the caveman’s telephone number at work. I can list the titles of the first three novels I read from cover to cover as a little girl but I can’t remember to buy dog food if I leave my shopping list at home. I can recall the words to a song I have never performed and haven’t heard on the radio in over ten years but I can’t keep the birthdates of my children straight. What is up with that? Science says it is because there are different types of memory and they each have their own special mechanism that causes forgetting.

Doorway Memory

If you find that you walk from one room to another, forgetting why you made the trip, this is the problem of doorway memory. Walking through a doorway into another physical setting is like hitting a reset button in your memory bank.

Flashbulb Memory

Emotionally vivid events often cause people to create flashbulb memories. These accounts become so vivid that they believe they will never forget, like remembering where you were when you heard the news of 9/11 or that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. The gringa must inform you that although one would think these memories would be etched forever upon our minds, it simply ain’t so.  Although we will never forget that those events happened, we will, indeed, eventually forget where we were when we got the news. We may recall with effort where we were, but it won’t actually be a memory of the place and conditions surrounding us. It will be the remembrance of a fact we know to be historically true. Unless, of course, we were one of the victims. But traumatic memory is also tricky.

Traumatic Memory

If you were a victim of 9/11, or any other trauma, one of two things might happen with your memory. You will never forget anything, not even the smells or particular sounds. The other option is that you could forget absolutely everything, complete amnesia. If a trauma is so extreme that the brain determines that the person cannot emotionally bear the pain, the brain disposes of the memory with a deep burial process. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may very well be the result with certain events, words, colors, smells, sounds, etc. triggering an anxiety attack of dangerous and epic proportions where the person begins to relive the experience of the trauma.

Mind Erase

Certain activities can cause what is termed “transient global amnesia”.  This doesn’t mean that world travelers forget stuff. No, the gringa breaks it down like this: Transient (temporary) global (affecting a particular part of the brain) amnesia (forgetting). There is no telling who may be affected by this condition or why it happens. Basically, a person can have experience a temporary amnesia event, forgetting the entire previous day for a few hours after certain types of activity like: sex, migraines, mild head trauma, exposure to sudden temperature extremes.

Life After Access

It is not uncommon to have a memory recall event of something you believe never even happened. Something may happen to trigger the memory and suddenly a person remembers something that they didn’t even know that they knew. This can be disturbing and cause some people to believe they have been reincarnated as another person. Consider the case of a woman who suddenly remembered the words to songs she had no memory of learning. No, she was not an opera singer in a previous life. Neurologists explained that at some point in early childhood, before her brain was capable of remembering events (typically before the age of 4), she was exposed to the music and it imprinted on her mind. Later in life, something related to that event triggered the memory of the music.

Brain Injuries & Insults

This cause the gringa knows only too well. Most people think a brain injury is when a person hits their head and injures their brain. Actually, that could also be a brain insult. You see, an insult to the brain is not forgetting things because someone called you stupid. It is an injury that is so traumatic that brain matter is physically displaced.

A physical blow to the head is also not the only thing that can cause a brain to receive an insult. Certain diseases can cause swelling of the brain or fluid to fill the sinus cavities of the brain. Both events can cause physical displacement of brain matter, thus an insult to the brain.

Whereas the electrical storm of a seizure is a brain injury, it does not physically rearrange the structure of the brain like a catastrophic blow to the head. However, both injuries and insults will affect memory. And there can be seizures that have the potential to do just as much brain damage as a traumatic brain insult.

What’s The Point

So, then, what’s the point of knowing that memory cannot be relied upon? For the gringa, I have learned the importance of journaling. Not just to be able to remember the personal details of my life, but it has proven critical in managing important aspects of life, such as getting an insurance claim processed. The most common method of journaling performed today, and most people may not even realize that is what they are doing, is posting status updates to Facebook. The average American probably takes their memory for granted. Not the gringa. I post status updates frequently as well as keep an actual, personal journal.

In matters of law, it is entirely possible that there are people sitting in jail for crimes they did not commit because of flawed eye witness testimony. This is simply a travesty now that we understand the human mind better. Wherever possible, physical evidence should always supersede eyewitness accounts.

As for those poor souls that believe they have been abducted by aliens, the gringa can only point to her navel  and offer  a facial expression of raised eyebrows. Really? Abducted by aliens? If I could believe I had actually been shot by an arrow, a victim of a Native American raid in a small town in Texas in the 1970’s, I can assure alien abductees that they, too, have been duped by their memories. Chances are they had a Daddy like mine who enjoyed titillating their imagination with fantastical stories. Like me, their impressionable minds were imprinted with a fantasy story delivered by someone they absolutely trusted as faithful and true, so, in childlike innocence they never questioned the veracity of the story and grew up believing it to be true. Alien abductee? No. Victim of a fantastic storyteller? Most likely.

Sources:

www.livescience.com

www.csudhnews.com

www.mayoclinic.org

www.neuroskills.com

www.livescience.com

Image Credit: lymeinside.files.wordpress.com

 

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Alien Airports of Nazca


Studying the extra-terrestrial link with ancient Egypt was so much fun the gringa has decided to continue along this same line but head over to the other side of the globe. Did extra-terrestrials have contact with the ancient Incan or pre-Incan civilizations of today’s Peru? Since the gringa’s beloved caveman is from Peru, this subject is especially close to my heart. I’ve always known the caveman’s a bit strange. Perhaps that’s because he’s not from around here. Let’s find out together.

One feature of Peru that is a favorite of ancient alien theorists to point to as supportive evidence of their belief that pre-Incan civilization was in contact with extra-terrestrials is the Nazca lines located south of Lima. For miles elaborate lines etched into the earth stretch across a flattened mountaintop region, covering an area of about sixty square miles. Ufologists describe it as an ancient airport for aircraft. Although there are straight lines that resemble an airstrip, there are also etched into the earth images of animals and geometric patterns. What the heck is all of this for? What were those crazy people doing over a thousand years ago? Who were they? What were their beliefs? What was their culture like?

Most people are familiar with the Incan Empire when the country of Peru is mentioned. However, the Nazca lines were not created by the Incas. The Nazca lines date back to around 500AD, the time period of the coastal cultures of Moche (Mochica) and Nazca. Their cultures are most notable for their warfare characteristics. Moche and Nazca art is filled with images of warriors.

The Moche civilization existed at the right time but they were in the wrong place, too far north. The Moche lived in a region with its southernmost border over 750km (over 450 miles) north of Nazca. Mochica territory stretched from the northern Piura Valley to the southern Huarmey Valley.

That leaves the actual Nazca civilization that had its heyday from 200BC until around 600AD. These folks were in the right place at the right time. Their most important cities were Cahuachi, the religious center, and Ventilla, the center for government, markets and residents. Cahuachi is ground zero for the Nazca lines.

Nazca civilization was known for more than just the famous lines. They also made beautiful pottery and textiles. Nazca was not just one kingdom under one ruler. It was actually a cooperative of chiefdoms who worked together in the interest of their individual groups of people with a Shaman as the spiritual leader. In all, the Nazca population is estimated to have been around 25,000 people.

Since Nazca is located in the coastal desert region of southern Peru, the evidence of wool in their textiles indicates that they engaged in trade with the people further inland of the Cusco region where llama, alpaca and vicuna were raised in the colder, higher altitude climate of the Andes. There is also evidence of trade with rainforest tribes by the presence of feathers from exotic bird species in headdresses discovered in ancient Nazca archaeological sites.

peru geology map

These geographical connections are important because many of the Nazca lines depict images of creatures that did not live in the coastal desert such as the monkey and hummingbird. Contact with civilizations where these animals exist explains why they are featured in Nazcan art. It is also important to note that many of the etchings overlap, some being created earlier and later etchings overlapping them. So, there was no clear, well-thought out “plan” of how all of the images should be arranged. Poor planning if the intent was a high-tech space-port as far as the gringa is concerned.

Polytheistic and pantheistic, The Oculate Being was the principal god of the Nazcas. Mr. Oculate could fly, sported large, googly eyes (the better to be “all-seeing” with), and had Sun-like and serpent-like features and characteristics.

 

oculate

The Nazca lines are geoglyphs etched into the coastal desert floor. They served many purposes, none of which had anything to do with spaceships. Many were connected to sacred ceremonial sites. Others designated the location of an underground water source, which, being a coastal desert, was a critical site. Many were sort of like the labyrinths of Europe. They were designed to be walked as a form of religious meditation or en masse in a formal religious procession. There is also speculation that they could represent a calendar due to astronomical orientation of many of the lines. The images were not created to entertain extra-terrestrials with clever geological art as they approached Nazca for a landing. The images were created to appease the Oculate Being who resided in the sky.

Shamans, rather than priests, were Nazca’s religious leaders. Ceremonies usually involved the Shaman getting high on a psychedelic drink. He would be costumed to impersonate the spirit or deity who would possess him during his psychedelic “trip”. A sampling of a few Nazcan rituals:

  • Using severed head war trophies in human and agricultural fertility rites
  • Music and feasting for harvest celebrations
  • Pilgrimages and marched festivals to bring offerings to the gods at their numerous shrines (shrines were not man-made temples but, rather, certain geographical features or landscapes the Nazcans considered sacred, such as the Pampa de San Jose or the Cerro Blanco mountain)

Religious rituals and festivals centered around agriculture, water and fertility. They built sophisticated aqueduct systems to irrigate their agricultural areas which are still used today. They worshipped nature, the sea, the sky, the earth and water.  Nazcans had shrines dedicated to each deity they worshipped.

With Cahuachi, the religious center, in close proximity to the Nazca lines, the gringa believes the lines are religious expressions. If the purpose of the lines was to be a spaceport for visiting alien dignitaries, it is more likely the lines would have then been closer to Ventilla, Nazca’s urban and government center.

Considering the geology of Peru’s coastal desert, the lines were relatively easy to create. But, as they are actually only visible when airborne were the ancient Nazca people capable of constructing something on such a large scale? Were they advanced mathematicians? How well did they perform where geometry is concerned?

A Canadian archaeologist conducted an exercise to prove that creating these large-scale elaborate geoglyphs is not that difficult. Being a coastal desert, it was easy for ancient Nazcans to get clear sight lines. So, working from a masterful drawing and supervised by a competent mathematician/engineer, teams of Nazcans could accurately recreate a small scale drawing upon the desert floor the size of a football field. To “etch” the line into the earth it was a simple matter of removing the surface materials that were darker due to oxidization and reveal the lighter desert floor underneath. And, judging from the ruins of ancient pyramid structures, Nazca had no shortage of competent mathematicians and engineers.

If you travel in Peru’s coastal desert regions and get off the touristy, beaten path, you’ll be surprised to find that lines are all over the place. Many of them are footpaths. They are not as distinct as the Nazca lines because they are not purposely created as the Nazca lines were. They simply form naturally as the local people tramp from one place to another. Often, walking across the coastal desert is the only way to get from point A to point B.

The caveman and the gringa visited Supe Puerto, a Peruvian coastal desert town. We tramped numerous footpaths as we explored. Below is a screenshot of a lighthouse we trekked to. It was a half day hike from town. The image is at maximum enlargement from Google Earth. However, if you peer closely, you can make out the faint tracing of the footpath hugging the edge of the cliff, following its line with a leg branching off toward the lighthouse. Later, in the middle of the night after our lighthouse adventure, the poor caveman woke up the gringa. He had a nightmare about us falling off the edge of that cliff.

Screenshot (1)

So, the gringa is pretty convinced the caveman is not a descendant of extra-terrestrials. He’s just a regular old Earthling like the gringa. But he is still strange in his own endearing ways.

Sources & Image Credits:

http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc156.htm

http://www.timemaps.com/history/peru-500ad

http://www.ancient.eu/Moche_Civilization/

http://www.ancient.eu/Nazca_Civilization/

http://archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/nazca-lines

http://www.peru-explorer.com/nasca/nazca_culture.htm

Google Earth

ww1.imagineitor.info

 

 

A Day at Nambe Pueblo


When the caveman and I took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, we spent a day at the Nambe Pueblo. I enjoyed photographing a pretty church with old mission style architecture. The highlight of our day, however, was hiking to the top of Nambe Falls of Rio Nambe and seeing a panoramic view of the Pueblo stretched out before us. The hiking paths were quite rugged and the river rushing full and muddy after receiving record rainfall just days before we arrived.

This spectacular waterfall is situated amidst 20,000 acres of high desert. A recreation area centered around the falls is open to visitors for camping, hiking and fishing. Although at the time of our visit no fishing was allowed as they were undergoing a restoration project of the fish population after a catastrophic fire affected the Nambe Reservoir and resulted in a devastating complete fish kill.

The hike to the falls is a quarter of a mile, uphill, in rough, rocky terrain so it’s pretty slow going. The nearest restaurant or food store is twenty minutes away. If you decide to go for a hike, be sure to pack a picnic and plenty of water. Also, wear good shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy. The caveman got pretty muddy and could not understand how the gringa arrived back to the car after traveling the same trails and the white trim around my cute little flats was spotless. I just say, “It’s all part of my mystery and charm.”

If you’re not too pooped out after the hike to the falls, you might want to check out the tribe’s buffalo herd. The Inter Tribal Buffalo Council has been tending their herd since 1994. When the buffalo were decimated by Europeans throughout New Mexico, the Pueblo peoples suffered greatly. To reintroduce them back into their culture has great meaning and significance and is symbolic of renewal and triumph. The traditional Buffalo Dance has taken on new meaning at Nambe. The herd is not reared simply to be seen and as a reminder of history. Occasionally the tribe slaughters in the traditional respectful manner in accordance to their traditions in order to feed the elders and tribal members. A trail loop two miles long can be traveled where hikers can view the buffalo at pasture against the stunning backdrop of the Pueblo lands framed by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Being a patio gardener, the gringa also took pleasure in the Pueblo’s community garden and vineyard. The tribe grows four grape varieties, corn and a few various other crops and herbs. The abundance of the community’s harvest feeds the seniors living on the Pueblo as well as the entire community at the harvest festival held at the end of the growing season. The community garden also provides an educational opportunity to pass down the Tewa language with the youth learning the native names for the plants and foods they help to cultivate.

The tribes settled in the northern New Mexico region have populated the Pueblo of Nambe since the fourteenth century. Situated in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains a short drive from Santa Fe, it makes a great day trip with the opportunity to appreciate the picturesque beauty of the landscape, experience living history, and bring home handcrafted textiles and pottery.

Pojoaque Pueblo


The caveman and I took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2013. While we were there we visited the Pojoaque Pueblo. The Poeh Cultural Center was such an inspiring place to visit. They have many classes available designed to restore native traditions and the native language of the Pojoaque tribe.

The art studios feature different mediums. We saw designers creating beautiful jewelry. There also was, of course, pottery and sculpture. One of the galleries featured an exhibit of a tribal member who is a fashion designer, Patricia Michaels, featured on Project Runway. The permanent exhibit “Nah Poeh Meng”, Tewa for “The Continuous Path” depicts the history of the Pueblo in seasonal divisions. I found it fascinating.

Whether we were exploring the grounds that were filled with interesting sculptures and architecture, or educating ourselves through the many historical pieces on display in the museum, we were equally captivated. The Poeh cultural center is a vital part of Pojoaque’s thriving tribal community. If you ever get the chance, you should visit.