Monday, February 20, 2017

A Pirate's Life For Me

(Mos Fish and Chips Restaurant in Florence, Oregon)

It's almost impossible to read and study the history of the Americas without spending a little time discussing the lives of Sea Captains and Pirates of the Colonial Age.  Here are some of our favorites:

1.  Sir Francis Drake (1542 - 1596)
Drake was a swashbuckling, treasure hunting, Spanish Armada sinking madman.  Aboard his ship, The Golden Hinde, he was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, even claiming portions of California for Queen Elizabeth.  The Spanish nicknamed him 'El Draque,' The Dragon!  Upon his death, he was placed in a lead casket off the coast of Panama and dropped into the sea.  How awesome is that!
(Siuslaw River Bridge, Florence Oregon)

2.  Captain William Kid (1645 - 1701)
What a life!  Kid was originally hired by the King of England to capture French ships off Madagascar.  So... instead he hires a bunch of cutthroats and starts plundering ships off the Indian coast amassing a staggering amount of ... 'What's another word for pirate treasure?'  Oh right.... booty!  His wealth and infamy became so profound, and the British East India Company was so furious, that he was arrested in New York, returned to England, and there, his body was dipped in tar and hung by chains along the Thames River to serve as a reminder to pirates everywhere.
(Mos Restaurant Wood Carving)

3.  Blackbeard (1690 - 1718)
Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach was born into pirating... darting in and out of islands around the Caribbean raping and pillaging.  He eventually captured a 26 gun French Vessel and re-named her, 'The Queen Anne's Revenge.'  A year later, Blackbird amassed four pirate ships and over 300 men when he was captured by the British Royal Nay and decapitated.  His head may have been hung on the ship's rigging, but his reputation outlines him to this day.
(Sea Captain Wood Display, Florence Oregon Old Town)

4.  Captain Henry Morgan (1635 - 1688)
Morgan was a Welsh buccaneer who fought Spain in the Caribbean colonies and captured Cuba and Panama raiding Spanish treasures and burning their cities.  Despite being arrested and known as a bloodthirsty pirate, he was knighted by King Charles II and lived as deputy governor of Jamaica until his death.

The Beauty of Heceta Head Lighthouse

One of my favorite places to visit along the Oregon Coast is the Heceta Head Lighthouse smack between Florence to the south and Yachats to the north.
There is easy parking along the sandy beach cove and a light trail through the trees.
There's even a nifty Bed and Breakfast if you want to hangout longer and watch the ocean from the front porch.  (Oh, and it's haunted.  You've been warned!)
From this little basecamp there are so many hikes and trails to wander around and become totally lost... which is kind of the point, isn't it?
Or just comb the beach like a madman and follow the streams into the trees and marvel at all this untouched natural glory.
The deeper we study our country's history, her literature ... we feel grounded in a way we never understood before, and as our modern political landscape seems to unravel around us... the natural spender and beauty of our American land becomes even more profound and impressive. We're on the road, we're happy, and we're together. That's all that matters.

Whale Watching Off the Oregon Coast. The Sea Lion Caves.

We hit the Sea Lion Caves just north of Florence, Oregon on Highway 101.

It's about mid-point on the 400 miles long Oregon coast.

A vast system of underground caves where belching and howling grumpy old sea lions and seals come to sun themselves...
And be photographed by tourists for the last century.
There sure are a lot of different Sea Lions!
We strolled the long path overlooking the Pacific Ocean and watched spouts from humpback whales spray into the air.  A pair of them, frolicking and dancing in the water for over an hour.
Then it was time to get back into the car.  It was a nice break from our study of the Massachusetts' Colony and the whaling industry of New Hampshire that pushed seamen deeper into the North Atlantic. Here on the west coast... I hope we have a different outlook on life.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Amazing Yurts at Honeyman State Park

Every so often, and especially during travel through the USA with my kids, we come across a place so weird and bizarre, that I forget completely about reading history and literature... and just marvel at how kinky and kitschy is our insane America.
One such place was the Ranger Station Yurt at Honeyman State Park.  I mean... just check this place out!
From the moment I opened the door and stepped into this weird world full of stuffed turkey vultures and beavers, butterfly collections pinned to cardboard, fossilized mammoth tusks and hanging bear skulls, awesome Bob Ross inspired landscape paintings and homespun quilts.... I felt I was in an Americana Time Warp.
There's something so uniquely American about these places. The musty smell of old wood.  The earthy dampness of the hanging tapestries.  The aroma of freshly percolating coffee in rusted tumblers.  Buildings from my childhood that lay preserved and perfected until years later for me to step into again... and feel no time has passed.  
We hung out here chatting with the rangers about hawks and bears and pinecone art... until the coffee went stale and the rain stopped outside.  It is Oregon, after all.  
Then... just like that we were off!  Racing down the sandy paths through the trees. Kids on bikes.  Dad jogging behind.  Time Warp Yurts left... for another adventure and another day.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

John Winthrop Burns at Honeyman State Park

"You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."  -Matt. 5:14

This is Honeyman State Park campground in southwestern Oregon, and this is a group of intrepid explorers.  (No, they are not Puritans).  You wouldn't know it from this picture, but these poor souls are about to spend a freezing and drenched wicked night getting poured on by a relentless Mother Nature.  
This is Princess Sparkleface.  (She is not a Puritan, either.  She's way too filthy for that and could use a good 'rain shower' scrubbing).
This is my camp stove and I'm pretty religious about it.  I'm so religious, in fact, I've started referring to it as John Winthrop.  As in, "Kids, fire up the Old John Winthrop!"  (Is that because I secretly want my kids to develop inquisitive minds? Yes.  Is that because I think by naming camping objects like .... John Calvin, the Axe; and William Penn, the Water Cooler, my kids will suddenly and subconsciously inherit a deep-seated fascination with history?  Sure.  But isn't it primarily because I want my kids to be able to rule at Jeopardy?  Busted.  It's true.  It's all a shameless attempt to pad their SAT stats).
Just who the heck was John Winthrop anyway?  Well, Johnny Boy Winthrop was a strict Puritan landowner and lawyer who emigrated from England for religious freedom and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.  He was a scientist and farmer and journaler and helped establish numerous settlements in New England, but he is probably most famous for pimping out Puritanism in America.  
What's a Puritan?  (No, these socks are nameless).  Well, Puritans were good natured, Bible thumpin' folk that turned away from the Anglican Church of England and sought to follow God's Law from His word in America.  Contrary to popular belief, they didn't always wear black or have a sour puss scowl on their face... they danced and sang and told stories and drank a lot of beer... but they did follow strict laws and codes of conduct.  Church services were mandatory, only men could hold positions of power, and girls were often given names like 'Patience,' 'Chastity,' 'Silence,' and 'Fear.'  (No, I'm not making those last two up!)  There were gallows and public stockades where sinners were locked in public squares for all to hiss and glare at, and one morose fellow in town had the job of walking around with a big stick to strike patrons who nodded off during sermons or were not working up to potential in the markets or fields.  Suffice to say... if Puritanism were truly alive today... they might have to leave America and find religious freedom somewhere safe like... Afghanistan.
One of John Winthrop's great ideas was his 'City on a Hill' notion, that the Puritan church would be a shining example, a beacon of light in the New World.  Here is an excerpt:  

"For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the word."  -Sermon Aboard the Arbella, John Winthrop, 1630

Well, let me tell you.  Last night we got pissed on!  I'm talking laying in a tent in the freezing winter forest while bucket upon bucket of godless ice water was dumped on our heads... and the only thing I could think about, while curled up next to my kids shivering and shaking, contemplating just packing it up and going to a hotel... was how good this cup of coffee was going to taste in the morning... and how splendid it would feel to say, "O.K. kids, fire up the Old John Winthrop and warm my bones."
Maybe there's something to this Puritan thing after all?  Working hard.  Never complaining.  Making the best of a tough situation.  Roughing it.  That's our code.  That's our light that shines in the night.  Who needs labels?  We have each other.

Exploring the Oregon Dunes

We made it to the Oregon Dunes...
Which roll out like freshly glazed doughnut surrounded with sprinkles of evergreens...
From high atop the dunes... you could be an explorer, a discoverer of the new world....
Henry Hudson breaking ice from his beard.  
John Cabot straining in the dark to count stars.  
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado scraping the canyon dust for gold. 
Walter Raleigh smelling tobacco leaves on his fingers.  
John Smith dripping from his breastplate, standing in the stream hearing voices in the trees.  
All the stories of these flawed men we carry with us as we ascend the dunes and beyond...
We spent the entire afternoon rolling one after another down the steep banks.  Sand in our hair. Sand in our shirts.  Sand in our toenails and ears.  Sand in Daddy's beard.  Until we dipped in the water to wash away the day... but not the memory.  No, the memory of the earth, her story, broken and split into billions upon billions of fragments...stays inside us forever.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Peanut Butter Sandwiches, The Mayflower Compact, and the Moody Oregon Coast

(The Bridge over Depot Bay)

For a native Oregonian, I feel like I have an unspoken agreement with our coast which stretches from Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south.  I know it's there.  I respect it immensely, but I leave it alone.  Because the more time I spend here, the more I never want to leave.  To its credit, the Oregon Coast is just fine with my decision.  
(Fog Rolls in at Yaquina Lighthouse)

Another great agreement was the Mayflower Compact (... whoa, sweet segue), which we stopped outside of Waldport, lathered up some Jiffy peanut butter sandwiches, and read while staring out at the ever-changing and moody, rainy then sunny then rainy again, brilliant Oregon Coast.  My kids and I spend hours talking about the pilgrims and the Mayflower.  How they exiled themselves to The Netherlands.  How they originally set sail on the Speedwell but a leaky hull sent them back to England. How a storm almost toppled the Mayflower but a 'giant iron screw' secured a cracked bean and saved them from a watery grave.  How the voyage, which previously thought would take a month, ended up with 66 days without land.  How the water was so putrid, even the children drank beer.  There were 102 passengers and 5 perished, including a vile and toxic crewman who cursed the pilgrims and whose death was seen as punishment for his sins. Also, a woman actually gave birth to a child on the rocky seas.  Imagine that!  All of these are such incredible events.    
(The Wharf at Garibaldi)

Then when they arrived, the leaders had the profound sense to write up an agreement between one another they all would honor in this new land.  How remarkable is that?  What honor is there today... in anything? Check out this passage:

"For our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony..."  -Mayflower Compact.
(Garibaldi Fishing Boats)

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just leave something alone.  Let its beauty be for everyone.  Rain.  Sun.  Fog.  Wind.  Nature changes so tempestuously.  Unfathonable life altering things will occur.  How can you ask anything of it then but to stay beautiful. Sometimes the best thing you can do is have a peanut butter sandwich and watch the waves from afar and know this is true.