East Coast 08, part 7: Sic semper tyrannis

For those who may be wondering, the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia shows Virtue, sword in hand, with her foot on the prostrate form of Tyranny, whose crown lies nearby. Virginia’s motto is “Sic semper tyrannis,” meaning “thus, ever (or always), to tyrants.”

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As I’ve mentioned before, we have more than our share of the world’s Truly Great Friends. This particular pair live and work in West Africa and use their home in Virginia as a base for visits and conferences, a place to work and study, and as a shelter for wayfaring friends like us. They have spearheaded the development and growth of a ministry that provides training, consultation, counseling, and crisis response for missionaries on the field in 14 countries in West Africa. Their efforts have brought strength, hope, support and community to many who work in difficult circumstances and/or face various kinds of crises.

high of 80, humidity 93%

Following a refreshing night’s sleep, we went with Darlene for a leisurely innertube trip on the James River. Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest are accustomed to rivers fed by glaciers or melting snow, and even in the middle of summer the bigger ones can be fast, deep, and freezing cold. The James River is rain-fed, and on this day the water temperature was about 80 degrees; the water level was low enough that our bottoms bottomed out on the bottom in places. Zack and I walked across the river here (on the river bottom, not on top of the water yet), although he needed to hang onto me at a couple of deeper spots in the middle.

What a great way to spend half a day: quiet, scenic, fun, interesting, restful; a perfect setting in which to catch up on news of one another’s lives. We saw fish jumping and swimming, a blue heron on the bank, and a few hawks sailing overhead. Zack’s “moo” was so convincing that he was able to walk right up to a couple of cows that had come down to the water for a slurp and pat one of them on the nose. And it was mating season for dragonflies. If you have not seen planes refueling in mid-air, mating dragonflies provide a small-scale picture of what the process looks like, but their vivid blues, greens and reds are much prettier than the man-made refueling booms.

Only two others had started with us at the beginning of our float. We heard that the weekend of July 4 had been a big one for the college-age crowd. The company that organized trips like this one had all of their innertubes – more than 800 – checked out at once. That’s why the beer cans we fished out of the water looked so new.

Back on land that evening we enjoyed a wonderful BBQ dinner and watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Recalled an episode of ‘Wheel’ (apparently not uncommon) in which a contestant tossed away $10,000 by guessing that the missing letter in ‘e_clusive‘ was a ‘k.’

high of 89, humidity 93%

We decided not to make the drive to Williamsburg the next day, but visited nearby Henricus, a small settlement near Chester, VA. Founded in 1611, the site was selected as a “healthie and sweete seate to plant a new Towne in,” a better place to live than the swampy first British settlement in Jamestown, and easier to defend against the Spanish. The reconstructed settlement sits atop a bluff overlooking a beautiful stretch of the James River. Henricus was home to the colonies’ first hospital, first college, first tobacco fields, and first privately owned land. Indeed, the place was practically a paradise, according to a pamphlet prepared by a local minister in 1612, who boasted: “Many have died with us heretofore through their owne filthinesse and want of bodilie comforts for sicke men; but now very few are sicke among us.” Waye to recruite!

Staff at Henricus Historical Park wear the attire and demonstrate what elements of early 17th century life were like for residents of Henricus: cultivating and drying tobacco, burning and carving dugout canoes, making bricks, blacksmithing, practicing musket skills, spinning and weaving, etc. Zack was instructed in and got to model some of the finer points (ahem) of using a pike, in this case a 12-foot long instrument of death. Surprisingly, there’s much more to it than merely goring one’s opponent (like the Orcs did in the battle scene on the plain between Os Gileath and Minas Tirith). In fact, we learned that it took about a year to become a skilled pikeman, but one could learn to fire a musket in a day. We got to see a musket fired at fairly close range, and that sucker was LOUD. If it was fired more than once, we didn’t hear it.

Lauren was feeling crummy and after lunch we headed back home for a little rest and air conditioning. Later that afternoon Karen took Susan, Zack, and me to Pocahontas State Park. A wonderful pool complex in the park includes adult and kiddie pools, two enclosed tube water slides, and a big old water playscape providing just about any amount and type of splashing imaginable. Zack and I enjoyed playing there until we noticed a kid vomiting in the water and decided to restrict our activities to the adult pool and slides.

We were relieved to find Lauren feeling better following a nap and a quiet afternoon. After a wonderful dinner of some favorite West African dishes and homemade fruit smoothies, we packed up and went to bed early in anticipation of a 7:00 AM bus departure from Richmond. We thought it very notable that 12 year-old Zack wanted to stay in Virginia rather than go to New York, the ultimate commentary on the hospitality extended to us by Darlene and Karen.

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