Monday, 2 May 2658 - Cambridge, UK
In my last blog I told you would be gone the next few days to take six students working toward becoming a temporal anthropologist into the wilderness to “live in the past” with no modern conveniences.
Now, I’m back from the Yukon. The long weekend went well. Everyone survived the “Deprivation Tank”. It’s what a student nicknamed the cabin years ago. I did not anticipate anyone throwing in the towel this time, but on occasion we have had medical emergencies.
You will remember the six I introduced you to in the last blog. They all showed up wearing clothes from the periods they will be studying. Since the ancient Nubians did not have winter gear, Taharqa Mayardit had to cheat a bit with a wool tunic and fur cape. Brigit Fitzpatrick teased him that he looked more Irish than Kushite since she was wearing a tunic and fur cape herself. Dawn Owhi wore a fringed deer hide dress with a buffalo robe. Ropata Hahona wore a woven Maori cape and Henri Luc Pétaintall cavalier boots and a broad brimmed hat with a plume. Archie Cocker rounded out the group in a Victorian sack suit, bowler and overcoat. I could tell they weren’t completely comfortable with their new outfits yet, but I told them they looked like proper Temporal Anthropologists.
There was still snow on the ground when the hovervan dropped us off in the mountains of the Yukon, so we had to dig our way into the cabin. It was nearly May so the snow was melting. Tarhaqa had not had much experience with snow, and was quite fascinated by the white stuff. It’s a pity the snow was too slushy for a good snowman. He tried making a snowball and only manage an iceball. Thankfully he threw it at a tree instead of my top hat.
I could not have asked for better guests. They were all polite and doing their best to make the most of what had to be to them an uncomfortable situation. My biggest problem was not finding volunteers for chores, but having to divide them up so everyone could get a chance to experience the joy of fetching water or doing dishes. This was all a new adventure for them.
We already had a good store of food and firewood, but everyone wanted to add to it so they could say they chopped wood. After the necessary tasks were done, we had a lot of time to talk. They each told about why they wanted to be temporal anthropologists and what they had already done to prepare. None of them have yet been subjected to the rigorist training the Institute of Time Travel will put them through.
Dawn said she built a real tule hut like her ancestors. She said on the Columbia Basin it got very hot in summer and very cold in winter. The vegetation is just bunch grass, sagebrush and brittle basalt, so the natives there had little to work with. They would make frames out of drift wood and then pile on mats made of tule reeds. In hot weather they would just put the mats on top to create an open sunshade. In the winter they would cover the frame with several layers of mats until it was nice and warm inside.
I pointed out to them all this was a good example of human ingenuity. Remember no matter how primitive people in the past might seem, we are really no more intelligent now, just more technologically advanced. It’s very likely this structure was invented by one woman who came up with this brilliant idea.
Dawn sighed ruefully. “My idea wasn’t so brilliant. I thought maybe I could make a hut to learn to live like my ancestors did. I picked a spot away from all the houses, made a teepee frame and covered it with mats. Of course I had to show it off. I told my family I was going to spend the summer there. All my cousins wanted to join me, and they brought their modern camping gear, their computers, their junk food--I might as well have been sitting in my living room!”
“Maybe when the novelty wears off they will let you have the place to yourself.” I tried to cheer her up.
Archie smiled at Dawn. “At least your family didn’t have a fit. I’ve been trying to learn to shave with a straight razor, but my mother always stops me. She’s afraid I’ll cut my throat.”
“Yes,“ I said. “My mum did the same thing. Wait until you show up one day on their doorstep, and they find their little boy is gone and all they have is a chap from the 19th century.” I looked around the room. “Or someone from the 17th, 8th or 2nd century B.C.”
“Isn’t that suppose to be BCE?” Ropata corrected me.
“They said BC in the 19th, so I do, too. I don’t even own modern clothes. I don’t feel right in anything but Victorian. I feel more at home in the past. You won’t be the same person after you are ingrained into your period of study. Well, deep inside you will be the same person, but your family is going to see this stranger from another time. My Dad’s family does their best to tolerate me, but they usually act a bit uncomfortable around me. As for my Mum’s side, they don’t even speak to me. I’m no longer their Wendell, and they see me as the man who done him in.”
All their eyes got big. They hadn’t considered this possibility.
Henri brought up another problem. “Is it true temporal anthropologists have to be celibate?”
“Only in the field. We aren’t allowed to get involved with anyone in the past, least we change their lives. You can’t even make friends. Think about it. All your close friends have probably left an impression on you. You can’t leave an impression on anyone in the past least you change their life and history.”
“But you can have girlfriends in the present, right?” Henri looked scared.
“Of course, but good luck. It’s hard to maintain a relationship if you are seldom home. I’ve heard of temporal anthropologists getting married and with the right person it can work. But it is never easy. They usually end in divorce.”
“And we can’t take anyone back with us.” Taharqa pointed out.
“No, unless they are licensed time travelers and you are all discovering how difficult that is to get. A few are lucky enough to find a time traveling partner. Once in a while I get to go back with another temporal anthropologist on certain projects. Let me tell you, those rare occasions are a treat, just to have someone you can talk to. It can get very lonely in this line of work. It’s the major cause of burnout.”
They all looked disheartened at that thought. Then Brigit spoke up. “In early Christian Ireland, there were few martyrs killed for the faith. The Irish called them “Red Martyrs” and actually felt jealous of them. So they invented other types of martyrdoms. The one considered the noblest of all was “White Martyrdom.” That meant you had to leave your family and your home to travel to a far away place never to return, all for the sake of God. Aren’t you a bit of a “White Martyr,” Dr. Howe? You’ve given up family and home to bring back the truth for the sake of all of us? Isn’t that what we all will become?”
I looked into those shining green eyes. “That was beautiful, my dear, although I don’t think I rate up their with the saints.” I looked around at all of them “There is one compensation, though. You look in the eyes of someone who has been ingrained to fit ancient Rome or the Aztecs and they should seem alien. But they don’t. Temporal anthropologists may all look so very different, but we aren’t inside. Few people will ever experience what we do--to travel back in time and gaze upon the faces of their ancestors. Temporal Anthropologists are a tight knit group, a brotherhood. You won’t truly be alone.”
They looked at each others clothes and then at their faces and smiled. They were already feeling that, and they weren’t even time travelers yet.
“Just remember, whether you can hang on for fifty year, or get burnt out after five, any information, any artifact, any video you can bring back is a priceless treasure for the entire world. It’s worth the sacrifice.”