Friday, March 31, 2017

Juan de Fucca Strait and Thoughts on Lafayette, the Hero of Two Worlds

It was a beautiful day and we sailed on the ferry across the Juan de Fucca Strait from Victoria, Canada to Port Angeles, Washington.  We have been spending about two months studying the American Revolution through historical documents and documentaries, old journals, poetry, and paintings.  Finally, we arrive at Lafayette.
French aristocrat Gilbert du Motier or better knowns as simply "Lafayette" was only 19 when he defied King Louis XVI's order and braved the Atlantic to assist the rebellious Americans in 1777, somehow convincing the Continental Army to commission him as a general.  Though wounded in his first battle, he provided great relief in the war effort, blocking Corwallis from escape to force the decisive Siege of Yorktown.  Years later, with the help of Thomas Jefferson, he helped pen The Declaration of the Rights of Man which framed France's revolution and a social republic.   After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, he was awarded an Honorary American citizenship by Congress.  Furthermore, at the age of 72, he took charge of the French National Guard and rushed to the aid of the French revolutionaries after King Charles suspended the Free Press in 1830.  He is buried in Paris with dirt from Bunker Hill and presented with the title: The Hero of the Two Worlds.
I talk so much to my daughters about living a great life, I sometimes forget... to live my own.  Standing on the deck today, wind in my face, crossing the strait, there's happiness in my heart.  Here's to being the Hero of your own story!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tea at the Empress HOtel

(I don't want to talk about Valley Forge, about men suffering and starving and dying in the snow.  This is a poem I read with my kids.  We watched the movies, we read the articles, we outlined the vocabulary, we wrote the reflection papers... they get it. Valley Forge was rock bottom for General Washington... and I hope your rock bottom is nothing like his.)

"O'er town and cottage, vale and height
Down came the winter, fierce and white
And shuddering wildly, as distraught
At horrors his own hand had wrought." -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(What I'd much rather do is talk about the exquisite tea service at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada.)

"In vain the hearths were set aglow
In vain the evening lamps were lighted
To cheer the dreary realm of snow
Old winter's brow would not be smoothed
Nor the young year's wailing soothed."  -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(I'd much rather discuss the awesome shopping centers and cool architecture the city has.)

"But wilder, fiercer, sadder still
Freezing the tear it caused to start
Was the inevitable chill
Which pierced a nation's agued heart...
Where every blast that whistled by
Was bitter with its children's cry."  -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(I'd much rather tease my youngest daughter for how 'hangry' she gets when her miso soup is late.)

"Where every path by a soldier beat
Or every track where a sentinel stood
Still held the print of naked feet
And oft the crimson stains of blood
Where famine held her spectral court..."  -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(Or praise the merits of sharing an umbrella with a pal.)

"She ever loved a camp or fort
Beleaguered by the wintry skies
But chiefly when disease is by
To sink the frame and dim the eye." -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(I do not want to discuss the merits of taking a paddle boat through freezing Victoria harbor.)

"Such was the winter that prevailed
Within the crowded, frozen gorge
Such were the horrors that assailed
The patriot band at Valley Forge."  -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(Especially when there are so many wild totem poles to climb.)

"It was a midnight storm of woes
To clear the sky for Freedom's morn
And such must ever be the throes
The hour when liberty is born."  -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(Or bagpipe players to harass.)

"The chieftain, by his evening lamp
Whose flame scarce cheered the hazy damp..." -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read
(We all have our own Valley Forges to pass through... so enough.  I will say, leaving Victoria by ferry... felt pretty darn good.  See ya, Canada!)

"Sat trolling o'er some giant plan
With maps and charts before his spread
Beholding in his warrior scan
The paths which through the future led."  -Valley Forge, Thomas Buchanan Read

Things I saw in Victoria and Washington Crossing the Delaware to Trenton

(I saw many things cruising around Victoria, Canada.  I saw this cool street mural.)

"On Christmas Day in Seventy-Six
Our ragged troops with bayonets fixed
For Trenton marched away
The Delaware sea!  The Boats below!
They lights obscured by hail and snow
But no signs of dismay."  -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(I saw the inside of this pub...believe me, this photo is better.)

"Our object was the Hessian band
That dared invade fair freedom's land
And quarter in that place
Great Washington he led us on
Whose streaming flag, in storm or sun
Had never known disgrace."  -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(I saw this awesome James Joyce street poster... Beer and Bloomsday!)

"In silent march we passed the night
Each soldier panting for the fight
Though quite benumbed with frost
Greene, on the left, at six began
The right was led by Sullivan
Who ne'er a moment lost."  -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(I saw, yet another, Sasquatch... enough with this big hair ball already.)

"The pickets stormed, the alarm was spread
The rebels risen from the dead
Were marching into town
Some scampered here, some scampered there
And some for action did prepare
But soon their arms laid down."  -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(I saw a cool old jalopy.)

"Twelve hundred servile miscreants
With all their colors, guns, and tens
Were trophies of the day. -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(Then I saw another cool old jalopy.)

"The Frolic o'er the bright canteen
In center, front, and rear was seen
Driving fatigue away."  -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(Then I stood for a long time looking at this old miner with a Steve Martin arrow sticking through this skull wondering where the world 'jalopy" came from?)

"Now brothers of the patriot bands
Let's sing deliverance from the hands..." -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(Until finally I gave up and saw this nifty T-shirt shop... and went looking for Wild Things.)

"Of arbitrary sway
And as our life is but a span
Let's touch the tankard while we can
In memory of that day."  -The Battle of Trenton, Anonymous
(Let the Wild Rumpus Start!)

The Battle of Trenton was a small but important victory during the American Revolutionary War when George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River in the early morning of December 26, 1776 and captured the Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton.  It was a much needed boost for the Colonial army.  The indelible image of Washington crossing the Delaware is burned in the minds of many Americans to this day.  I often think about Washington, doing what must be done for the sake of his country.  He is a very personal inspiration to me.

British Columbia George Washington Cherry Tree

"Never did the wise Ulysses take more pains with his beloved Telemachus, that did Mr. Washington with George, to inspire him with an early love of truth."  -The Life of Washington, Mason Locke Weems 1809

For a guy with three young daughters who is still in the (cough! cough!) prime of his life... I sure spend a lot of time with dead people.  I have a library full of them.

"'Truth, George' (said he) 'is the loveliest quality of youth.  I would ride fifty miles, my son, to see the little boy whose heart is so honest, and his lips so pure, that we may depend on every word he says.'" -The Life of Washington, Mason Locke Weems 1809

The thing about reading dead authors and pouring over the past through the eyes of those long since withered away... is that it gives you a certain perspective about the living.
"'Pa, (Said George very seriously) do I ever tell lies?'"
"'No, George, I thank God you do not, my son; and I rejoice in the hope you never well.'"  -The Life of Washington, Mason Locke Weems 1809

Contrary to popular belief, the dead don't stop being stubborn or mischievous or ornery or flat out deceitful after they have passed.  In fact, the dead lie more than anyone else I know.  (Yep! Pun Challenge Accepted) Case in point, that historical rascal, that pox of fallacious fallacy...  George Washington.
"One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother's pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English Cherry-tree... the next morning the old gentleman finding out what had befallen his tree..." -The Life of Washington, Mason Locke Weems 1809

My kids loved reading the famous yarn of young George cutting down the cherry tree and then fessing up to his tree-hugging Pa  because he's so blamed honest and truthful and forthright and presidential and whatnot.  They liked it in the same way they enjoyed Columbus discovering the world was round or Newton getting domed from a falling apple or Einstein flunking math or Franklin with his kite on a stormy night.  You know, they love to accept the Big Historical Lie... and boy!  Do I love it too.
"'I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie.  I did cut it with my hatchet.'" -The Life of Washington, Mason Locke Weems 1809

History is choke-full of scholars pouring over letters and documents and artifacts and new wonders are discovered every day. Things thought lost. Mysteries solved.  It's almost as if the dead try to grasp on to their secrets until their bones turn to dust.  The living do this too.
"'Such an act of heroism in my son, is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold."  -The Life of Washington, Mason Locke Weems 1809

We all hold on to our secrets so tight, so afraid someone might actually know us.  It forever divides us and keeps us from being our truest self.  So yes, Jefferson owned slaves...and Paul Revere didn't ride alone... and Washington had teeth made of hippopotamus bone... and Adams despised both Franklin AND Jefferson... and what's your big secret?  Oh, right!  That's asking too much, isn't it?  Suddenly, living in a fairy-tale world of cherry trees choppings doesn't seem so bad after all.  Oh yes... give me the big lie every time.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Crossing Ferry to Victoria and Washington's Delaware

(The Icy Waters of the Salish Sea)

On December 25-26, 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware River in a sneak attack against Hessian forced in Trenton, New Jersey.
(BC Ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo, packed like Sardines)

It was planned in secrecy, Washington leading a column of Continental Army troops across the icy water.  It was calculated, challenging, brave, and daring.
(But of course, my kids travel in style)

There were two other planned crossing in support but were either called off or not effective.
(I stood on the deck and watched the waves... let them lap up in the frozen winter air.)

Until that point, Washington had suffered a series of defeats, but capturing Trenton and the troops of Johann Rall a sign that the Revolutionary War was turning int he American's favor.
(Of course, there's always time for goofing off)

After the victory, Washington's army traveled back across the Delaware to Pennsylvania with prisoners and military stores.
(It's hard teaching the past.  Too much time spent in contemplation over things... the living care nothing about.  You have to drag people, kicking and screaming into the past.  You have to cross great divides, and it's rough seas.... but it turns the tide.  It makes all the difference in a life.)

I was thinking about Washington today... crossing from Vancouver onto Vancouver Island and making the short drive toward Victoria.  No poem or song about the General today.  Just a little reminder... to be a risk taker.  People can say what they want... but in the end, all you have our your memories. They might as well be worth it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Capilano Suspension Bridge in British Columbia

Are you kidding me?  The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park was a total surprise!
We were heading out of Vancouver and stopped by on a whim... what a great choice!
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a series of wooden bridges high in the forest over old Growth trees. 
The initial bridge spans the Capilano River in British Columbia and was built in 1889... but now has been turned into a nature park, observatory, and all around awesome adventure.
We came here on a rainy Tuesday morning, we were the only people on the course.  It was wet, slippery, cold, and miserable...
 And we had so much fun!
The staff was incredibly helpful and courteous despite being drenched.  The rangers were funny and generous with cool information and stamps for the kids... they had to complete a booklet of questions about indigenous tress and wildlife and finish a nature scavenger hunt first... but it was all worth it.
I left here thinking... this place is a world class kid adventure.  I was really impressed.
Even soaking wet parents chasing kids around 50 meters up in the tress... you will love it.  

Reading the Declaration of Independence in Vancouver Canada

(Vancouver Canada Wharf)

"When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”  -Declaration of Independence

Have you ever read the American Declaration of Independence?  Just read it to yourself out loud?
(Statue for Fallen Soldiers, Vancouver)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal… That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” -Declaration of Independence

Most people probably haven't.  Oh, you know the highlights:  The 'All men are created... ' the 'Life, liberty and pursuit of... ' but that's about it.
(Boot Corral, Vancouver)

“That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, lay its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”  -Declaration of Independence

Most people know that the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
(Statue of Gassy Jack, legendary Vancouver Innovator)

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states….” -Declaration of Independence

And depending on who you talk to... they might mention Benjamin Franklin's editing or John Adams influence or maybe even the French: Declaration of the Rights of Man.
(Vancouver Harbor and View of Stanley Park)

“He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people…. He has excited domestic insurrections among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers…” -Declaration of Independence

But regardless, it stands as one of the greatest most influential documents in world history... and America's Birth Certificate.
(Vancouver Icon, the Steam Clock)

“In every stage of these oppressions.  We have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms…” -Declaration of Independence

While traveling through Vancouver, Canada, we sat in a hotel room huddled around a small desk and read it to one another.  My three daughters taking turns... it's been one of the highlights of our American Revolutionary Unit.
(Street Art Mosaic, Vancouver)

“We therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare.” -Declaration of Independence

Whatever a person's political beliefs, it's still such an important document.  It's worth everyone's time to take ten minutes... and just read it aloud with someone today.  
(Hartenstein Girls... Pursuit of Happiness)

“That these united Colonies are, and of Right, out to be Free and Independent States, that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown…” -Declaration of Independence

We finished reading  then went outside into the rain and enjoyed a night in Vancouver.  I know, being in Canada has very little to do with our American documents... but that's where we are...and I'm a stickler for schedules.  I miss you, America.  Everything you should be, everything you still can become.