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.