Friday, May 18, 2007

The Jamestowne 400th Anniversary Celebration

Historic Jamestowne Fort. These palisades represent where those of the settlers stood. Originally they were not going to build any because they were to trade with the local Indians. Captain John Smith worked hard to forge a good relationship with them, and was accepted as family by Chief Powhatan and his daughter Pocahontas. Unfortunately for the settlers, they had arrived during a 7 year drought, and the Indians were less inclined to share their meagre harvests. The English did not realise that the Indians were hording because of poor harvests, and forced them to share. Or rather, Smith did :) When he was injured and sent home, the colonists endured a few years of starvation, and a few attacks from the Indians before the drought ended in 1613. Coincidentally, this is the same time John Rolfe manages to grow tobacco, saving the fledgling colony! He later marries Pocahontas, who became a Christian after she was kidnapped by the English (another attempt to get the Indians to share food... the English were TRYING to trade, the Indians would not do so). Pocahontas, who's real Indian name was Matoaca, is renamed Rebecca, and her marriage to Rolfe enforces a good relationship between the English and the Indians. The English and Indians interacted quite a lot, as is evidenced by archaeological finds, and there were even 'marriages' between them.

WE began the day fairly early. We wanted to get the most for our money, as the tickets were not exactly cheap (especially since we get in to the Historic Jamestowne site for free normally). So after a rather nice drive (no traffic) we park in our allotted satellite parking area, and proceed to the shuttle bus. I was not particularly pleased with this arrangement, as we had been assigned the furthest lot, the weather was hot and our bus was not air conditioned. All the schools in the area had been given the day off so their buses could be used. What would normally take about ten minutes for us to drive, took half an hour on the bus.

View of the swampland at Historic Jamestowne. Is this what the settlers saw?

We arrived in good time though, and passed through the security and on into the settlement.

Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum just down the road from the fort, with a number of great exhibits, a replica of the fort and of the three ships that came over; The Godspeed, The Susan Constant and the Discovery.

The Susan Constant, with The Godspeed and The Discovery behind her.

They had re-enactors there in the replica fort, and a number of activities. You can go inside many of the replica buildings... and even try out some of the replica furniture :)

Rebel trying out a replica joint stool.

Jacobite in a convertible table-chair.

M'Lady in a colonial hat (for which she received many compliments, and comments from other little girls regretting their lack thereof!), on a replica bench.

We ran past the church as the bells were being tolled (with a number of schoolchildren aiding the bellringer!).

Two gentlemen of the fort.

A young man (o.k. woman as a young man ;))

We petted the fort chicken, spoke to the ladies getting ready to bake bread, and visited the doctor!

The fort doctor.

After inspecting the military supplies, and tobacco barn, we went to visit the ships.

The tobacco barn.

On the way we passed the herb garden and the three sisters garden, planted according to the Algonquian Indian instructions... corn, beans and squash to one hill. These were just beginning to sprout and were planted rather earlier than the instructions in the link I sent, as the weather down here in Virginia is rather warmer than the instructions indicate. Here you can plant the corn at the end of April/beginning of May.

The herb garden. Not too different to mine!

A hill of corn, beans and squash!

The ships in the distance.

The family boat ;)

Walking around in the heat was thirsty work though! After walking around the settlement, we stopped for an outdoor lunch, where M’Lady threw some bread for the waiting birds… only to nearly miss a man. The look on his face was priceless!

Then it was a rather long wait for the shuttle bus to Historic Jamestowne where we were able to see them getting ready to cut the ribbon to the new museum/entrance area… and where we saw the archaeological dig of the original site and the governor and other dignitaries fill the time capsule.

Dr. William Kelso, oversees the archaeological digs at Historic Jamestowne.

There we saw the archaeologist who discovered the fort, Dr. William Kelso himself. We also got to see the archaeologists digging up a cache of weapons they had discovered. If you look closely, you will see the basket hilt of an old sword!

A recently discovered cache of weapons at Historic Jamestowne. Top middle of the photo is the basket hilt of a sword.

Archaeological students and teachers volunteer to dig at Jamestowne, a couple of them were working when we went. Weekday trips nearly always allow you to see the digs progressing, and you are often able to talk to the archaeologists there.

The old fort is delineated by a structure of sticks to give a ghostly impression of the original. It travels along the lines of the old fort, which have been re-buried since their discovery, just a few years ago. In fact, we have visited the site fairly regularly, and the discovery of the actual walls of the fort are very recent! Of course, the inspiration has always been the quadricentennial... they actually wanted something to show for a change!

They could have had this painting of Captain John Smith from 1617, by John de Critz. Unfortunately they didn't believe us when we offered it to them on loan. Their loss!

They have a brand new archaearium, a beautiful building with all the finds from Historic Jamestowne on show inside. M'Lady was most impressed with the skeletons, and has since drawn me a skeleton on my mother's day card, begged to go back to see the skeleton and repeatedly told me about the skeleton!

A century apart! These are the Jamestowne Honor Guard (17th century) and the Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps (18th century)... think settlement and revolution!

The opening ceremonies were started off by the Virginia Indian Tribes. I think they said 8 tribes were represented there.

Having visited the archaearium, we wandered back towards the front of the site, to discover that there was an event at the stage. People were gathering for the opening ceremonies... Welcome America I. We were welcomed by the Virginia Indians (their term) of a number of different tribes. Then various senators, dignitaries and the governor got up to speak... and the time capsule was filled with interesting goodies... including the Jamestowne stamp, and an English flag.
The Jamestown Commemorative Stamp is triangular to represent the triangular fort.

Filling the time capsule.

M'Lady got restless during the speeches, and started dancing.

Dancing girl.

After a bit she was just TOO restless, and we left to go over to Anniversary Park.

Anniversary Park was a special area made up of numerous booths and stages, acts and events.
It was very interesting... the delegation from Kent, England, were there (I used to live in Kent... I went to school there even ;)), so were various representatives of websites, travel agencies and Virginia companies and people. For instance, there were a few representations of America in this booth with the HUGE Clydesdale horse. He was 19 1/2 hands tall!

An American Horse. I am not sure what this exhibit was! ;) M'Lady liked the horse though!

NASA was there... they gave out some stickers and pencils, and did a photo of Rebel as an astronaught! He loved it! They also had one of those wooden astronaught things you can stick your head through... unfortunately it was pointing into the sun!

See, this is why the astronauts have sun visors!

After a snack from one of the many vendors, we sat to enjoy the symphony in Welcome America II... the Virginia Symphony and the Richmond Symphony had joined forces for the day.

Waiting for the music to start, Rebel decided he was big enough to hold his sister. It lasted about 10 seconds :)

First we had a performance of the Williamsburg Fife and Drum corps, then the Jamestowne Honor Guard performed for us. After that was a procession of all the flags of the USA.

A parade of the state flags, followed by the Virginia and National flags.

Once they left the stage, we were let in to sit in the seats near the stage. With two kids, who are rather young, we chose the back, although we could have got a view nearer the front. Luckily there were huge screens up for the kids to watch if they preferred!

The governor speaks again. Our view was better this time, and we are closer than the photo looks like we are :)

Once more the dignitaries spoke... and for the second time that day we hear the governor speak, one of the state senators spoke too.
Then we heard former chief justice Sandra Day O'Connor speak, then the music began.

Former Chief Justice O'Connor Speaks. You might notice the cameras in these photos... it was filmed to be shown everywhere sometime soon on your local PBS station. I will be the lady in the straw hat at the back... with the recognisable M'Lady on my lap :)

The conductor, Mark Russell Smith tells us about the pieces to be played just before he conducts. He is a talented and entertaining conductor!

The second conductor was JoAnn Falletta of the Virginia Symphony. She was a most interesting conductor to watch... she was really moving with the music, and it was quite easy to tell what she wanted them to do :) Here she is with one of the composers (I think it is Duffy)... although it is a little dark to see :/

Now we were in for a treat... FOUR pieces got their worldwide premier that night. FOUR pieces commissioned for that night. The pieces were by John Corigliano, John Duffy, Adolphus Hailstork and Jennifer Higdon.
Corigliano's work was Jamestown Hymn, and was the first of the four presented. It was beautiful! John Duffy presented Indian Spirits... a magnificent piece which starts out as a 'traditional' Indian piece and is rounded out with a full orchestra. It was our own personal favourite of the four, and just wonderful! Adolphus Hailstork’s Settlements was a travel through time, beginning with a flute solo to represent the Indians alone here, then with a jarring fanfare to show the English arrival, before becoming a medley of the flute and the orchestra showing the merging of the cultures. His explanation really helped the visualization of the music... my second favourite of the new pieces! Jennifer Higdon's piece Spirit, was a brass fanfare, and although a favourite with critics, it did not measure up to the others in our estimation! It was amazing... they also play Dvorák's New World Symphony in full. I was so please to get to hear this wonderful piece of work performed live. It was lucky for us that the weather was balmy... it had been in the mid to upper 80's during the day, so the evening was wonderful!

Photos can't do justice to the fireworks. They were playing music while we watched... and it was wonderful!

M'Lady was restless, but the after music fireworks were spectacular... and then we went up and met one of the composers -John Duffy. I wanted to meet Adolphus Hailstork too, but Jacobite was trying to find Sandra Day O'Connor! This was the first time we got to go hear music in an age... and the first time either of the kids had gone to the symphony. 4 Hours was really stretching it, but that was why we were at the back! They were superb, and DH and I were ecstatic that we could do something 'adult' for a change with paying babysitter fees :)

More fireworks!

A quick trip to another stage to see some tiny kids, the Dillon Junior Fiddlers (from Montana) 'fiddling', and then we caught the bus back to the car... arriving home around midnight. M'Lady was already out like a light, but Rebel, who refuses to "nap", was hungry. We gave him some food, then sent the poor pink-eyed boy to bed!
And that, folks, was our trip to the Jamestown 400th Anniversary celebrations!
If you would like to learn more about Jamestown, check out the homeschool resources here:
History at Jamestowne.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gardens and History!

First... gardens: I have been offline all week, or I would have mentioned that Jennifer has hosted the Loveliness of Gardens of which I am honoured to be a part :)

Take a look at my Garden Blog for an update on my own garden!

Secondly, History:

We go to Jamestowne Tomorrow. Yes, we have tickets to the first day of the 400th Annviersary of the nation… what could be more exciting?! With luck the weather will be fair, the traffic not so bad (although we have to park miles away we can get a shuttle bus!!) and the entertainment good.

The Richmond Symphony is supposed to be there, along with 5 other stages of music, food, entertainment and all sorts. I will be packing my camera and the kids, and will update you on the fun and frolics afterwards!

Goodbye Mr. Blair

I see Tony Blair is stepping down from his role as Prime Minister of England. I know many of my fellow countrymen are glad to see him go, but I am a little sad. I have been a staunch follower of Blair, and a supporter since I used my very first vote to get him elected as Prime Minister. And I never regretted it!

There are so many people that seem to think his term has caused England to deteriorate into a nanny state or that his actions caused the 7/7 attacks in London.

I disagree. Those people are submitting to the whims of the terrorists, they are showing fear that we caused them to react. I am sorry folks, but we cannot make other people do such evil deeds. That is their choice not ours.

I have great respect for Mr. Blair. Unlike the president of the United States, he knows when to apologise, and when to accept the blame. He does so with great humility. I was proud to be an Englishwoman who had voted for him.

10 years is a long time though, and everyone knows that Mr. Blair never wanted to stay too long a time in the government. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. I can’t say that I know much about Gordon Brown, but I do not find him as charismatic as Mr. Blair. We shall see. This year promises to be an interesting one as far as world politics—one election down in France, and one to go in England!!

Friday, May 04, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende

Better Off is a fascinating and well written account of a year amongst an Amish-like community somewhere. Brende recites with a natural talent, his (and his wife’s) experience living in the ‘Minimite’ community.

The Brendes were not fans of technology, believing the machine to have become the master, rather than the other way around. In search of something better, they spend a year among the Minimite community, and the lessons they learned.

Ultimately, you will find yourself wanting the simpler life- something many of us are already striving for. And while Brende ultimately does not live with the Minimites forever, he takes to heart the lessons he learned there… lessons on how to be a member of a community, how to ‘out-think’ hardships and how ultimately, our reliance on technology, makes life harder and leaves us with less time.

Well written and well spoken!

* * * * 4 Stars.

BOOK REVIEW: Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear

This is an astounding and comprehensive biography of the talented Miss Potter. Lear uses Potter’s own writings, first her coded diary, then her copious correspondence, to give a glimpse into the life and times of this talented children’s author.

Potter was obviously smarter than her time was ready for, and a dutiful daughter to rather difficult parents. Her personality shines through the pages of this book (not as long as it appears, since there are copious notes at the end) and we really get a taste for what she was really like.

I am not usually a biography reader, because I have a dislike of the inevitable ending, but Lear gives a wonderful rendition of the life of Miss Potter, later Mrs. Heelis. She takes us from the adolescent writings, through the mature end of life correspondence. We learn of the likes of the irrepressible author; from her initial fascinating with mycology (the study of fungi) to the farm-life she adopted in later years, and her lifelong aim of preserving the natural beauty of England. This book is a great read, and well recommended.

* * * * * 5 Stars!

BOOK REVIEW: The Birth House

The Birth House: By Ami Mckay

The Birth House is a well written account of a country midwife at the beginning of the 20th Century. The main protagonist, Dora Rare, is the narrator who takes us on a journey from her apprenticeship, through her early days as a midwife, and on to her latter years. The topic is quite interesting, although the description of life and events ‘back then’ lacks cohesiveness… the heroine, Dora Rare, is captured in a number of historical events (improbable) which serve to illustrate the time. Mckay has given Dora a definite modern feminist slant, which I cannot like, because of its unrealistic quality. Definitely a ‘feminist’ book. Points do have to be given for narrative quality though:

* * * 3 stars.