Friday, April 8, 2016

Hiking where the Chumash gathered


The steps down into what we think is a recreation of a sweat lodge were steep enough that I needed to give myself a boost by partly pulling myself.
Tumblrs: Oakbrook Regional Park

In May of 2015, all I could do was look on from the outside.
Oakbrook Regional Park was occupied by Chumash Indians as long ago as 12,000 years ago. The appeal for the Chumash and us was the hundreds--probably thousands when they were there--of magnificent oaks.We love their sculptural, twisty-turny trunks. The Chumash were undoubtedly drawn by the acorns, a dietary staple for them, as well by the area's seasonal creek.

The Chumash Indian Museum manages the park, and they also built a recreated Chumash village,
which looks like it receives a regular stream of schoolchildren on outings. On our first outing to the park, I brought both my hiking sticks and my Hurrycane. On the way up, I used the cane, and as an experiment, on the way back I used the sticks.

Even though I was already tired, I found I could travel much farther with less energy with the hiking sticks. Thereafter, I began using the hiking sticks exclusively.

Even so, I was so tired that I lunged for the first
bench we found. This time, it was Joella's turn to lust for the chance to rest. I've gotten so strong that I barely noticed the incline that had so exhausted me on the first visit. But it didn't escape Joella's notice
My welcome rest in 2015.

But we knew she would love the park's magnificent oaks, and we were right.

As usual, after the portion of our walk with Joella and a nice picnic, we headed off to a more vigorous hike. There we hiked in an oak forest that looked like it had barely been altered since the Chumash roamed it. Well, besides the road, of course.

You could almost imagine the Chumash gathering the acorns and grinding them into a mash that they would leach of its tannins and turn into a flour.

In fact, don't those flat rocks look like grinding rocks? No, it's probably our imagination running away with us. Perhaps they were caused by erosion instead.

But I couldn't get the rock out of my mind. When we returned to Joella, I slipped into the Chumash Indian Museum to ask an employee about the rocks.

Yes, she told me. Those holes were made by the Chumash.


Wow, very cool!

All told, we hiked 2.74 miles though the former home of the Chumash, who gathering acorns blissfully unaware that they would be one day shunted off their land into reservations.

The Chumash now own a casino, while a small museum pays tribute to their nearly forgotten culture.

On that sad note, here's a bonus pic of a huge, burned-out tree smack dab in the middle of the parking lot. It's hollowed out, yet it still survives, much like the Chumash.


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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.