JodiI was born and raised near Sonora, California, “Queen of the Southern Mines” at a time when the echoes of the Gold Rush still reverberated. My hometown, Columbia, just four miles away, was designated a State Historic Park in 1949. Restoration to return it to its heyday of 1857 slowly progressed. The town was used as the location for a host of films and TV westerns including ‘High Noon’ and Lone Ranger episodes. Sonora was very much a cultural backwater in the 1950s but it was a magical place to be a child. My fascination with history began there and was only encouraged when, in college I was fortunate enough to work on an excavation conducted in Columbia by the state archaeologist. The old Red and White Grocery store that I’d haunted as a child had been closed for many years following the death of its very tiny owner, Mrs. Eastlack. She was so short I could look her right in the eye when I was about 7. The State of California was required to conduct a salvage excavation before laying a concrete slab to make the reconstructed period building earthquake proof. When I walked into the store for the first time in about 20 years, I could tell from the marks on the floor where the ice cream cooler has stood, the comics rack, and the gumball machine – all my favorite things. In the back, on the wall where the big old black rotary phone had been, there were phone numbers, all 5 digits long, some with the old prefix, JE for Jefferson. And mine was there too, relatively close to the floor and written in a child’s hand. As the excavation proceeded, we dug down through layer upon layer of the grocery store’s history, Foreign coins, clumps of different colored hair, bar glasses melted together in a fire and clay pipe heads revealed its past incarnations as a tobacconist shop, barber shop, saloon and inn. I was struck by the perfect metaphor of simultaneously literally digging through my personal history and being another layer of the Gold Rush history of this little time warp of a town.

As a child I was fascinated by fairy tales and myths and ancient history, the older the better. My first book that wasn’t a Little Golden Book I still have, a gift from my brothers; “Myths and Enchantment Tales”. It is a child’s version of Greek myths, tenderly told and beautifully illustrated, of gods, goddesses, chimaeras, flying horses and girls who turned to gold with a touch.  The European fairy tales were often much darker than the sun-drenched Greek world and thrillingly hinted at horrors just beyond the sugarcoated wall of gingerbread.

My other obsession was the Ice Age. I pored over books about cave men and Neanderthals, marveled at saber-toothed cats, mastodons, and wooly rhinos that had walked the earth and wondered at the art left behind in the deep caves. Stories of time travel delighted me. The fascination for the intrigues of antiquity has never left me; to uncover the secrets and discover how they color the cumulative portrait that is humanity. Archaeology was a natural fit, as was Anthropology. In college I pursued both out of love, and not with any real practical plan for the future.

My father’s blindness led me to appreciate the great service provided him by audio books and I pursued that as a career, keeping ancient history always close to my heart. Marriage to another anthropology major, and two children later, my career in audio books has morphed into voiceover work. I can be heard coast-to-coast selling Buicks, mattresses, restaurants and rest homes through the wonders of digital technology. In my hometown of Portland, Oregon my voice will greet you on the light rail train. It is a blessing that I get to work from home, never have to wear painful clothing or commute through hideous traffic. And, I can devote available time to my first and best love, studying and writing about the wonders and fallacies of humankind that has led us to where we find ourselves today. “Dancing at the Edge of Death” has been a labor of love that unites my life long love of myth and the deep caves of Europe, as seen through the brilliant lens of the earliest modern humans.