Thursday, September 30, 2010

America...from the beginning

“Wait, slow down.”
“I wanted to read that historical marker.”
“Do me a favor, willya?”
“Just go a little faster so I won’t even be tempted to look.”
It’s hard to imagine being in a place without wondering what it was like before. While there’s plenty of interesting history to be had right where we live, spending time in the southeastern stretches of coastal Virginia and North Carolina provides a veritable treasure trove of ideas and information for history buffs like us. I, for one, revel in the kind of trivia and minutia that’s made me a terror at both Trivial Pursuit and as a Cliff Clavin-style historian, while she, a teacher to the end, wants to know, retain and share the facts. Those two interest areas are often apt to conflict, with me wanting to sniff around every historic high-and-low-light, no matter how small or unimportant, while she’d rather dedicate time to understanding and appreciating the bigger picture and more significant historic sites and events. The resulting difference in styles accounts for the the dialogue at the beginning of this column.
No matter, because there’s plenty of both to go around in the region we’ve been area one colonial Jamestown archeologist called “Ground Zero for modern America” while touring us through the original site of England’s first permanent settlement in the new world. Jamestown is far from the only place to look and learn, as we’ve discovered in a diverse collection of stops that has also included the lost colony of Roanoke Island, Williamsburg, Edenton and Ocracoke Island. It’s a tour that will continue over the next few days as we meander here and there and further north on our latest low-stress, low-budget look at America.
Some of the places we’ve seen so far are treasured national monuments, and some are little more than dots on a map. But close up, they all seem important in the formation of a nation that, today, sometimes shines and sometimes struggles to live up to that first glowing promise .
We’ve been touched in many ways as we’ve looked at the lives and homes and cultures of those early natives, settlers and slaves who came together, did what they did and created a society that started it all.
“I know we need to go to Europe someday, but there’s so much to see right here in America,” she said.
She’s right. And this is just a start.

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