Vale of Three Mountains

2

July 21, 2017, Harpers Ferry- After experiencing the intensity and blood-echoes of Antietam, I headed the back way southward, through tourist-clogged Shepherdstown, to slightly less congested Charles Town, not to be confused with the West Virginia capital, Charleston, which lies a good 3 hours to the south.  There, I spent a restful night, on the outskirts of town.

This morning, after driving past the even more-overpopulated Harpers Ferry KOA, a mini-city, I opted to first take a ranger-guided tour of the approach to Lower Town.  Ranger Michael gave us a fully- detailed visit to what had been Storer College, an institution of higher learning, founded in 1865 and aimed at training African-American teachers.   The school closed in 1955. It is now part of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, with a National Park Service Academy (Mather Training Center) and Lockwood House, a Union Army hospital and later headquarters for Gen. Philip Sheridan.  When Storer College was founded, Rev. Nathaniel Brackett made Lockwood House the administration building.  It is now a research facility for the National Park Service.

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Behind Lockwood House lies Harpers Ferry Cemetery.  Michael led us through the burial ground, en route to Jefferson Rock.

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Thomas Jefferson stood on this rock, in October, 1783, and was extremely impressed by the view.  From that point on, the rock has borne his name.

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St. Peter’s was not there, back then, but you get the idea.

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We walked past the ruins of an Episcopal Church, which was there in 1783, before Michael bid us farewell, so he could conduct another tour.

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I took the shuttle bus back to the upper parking lot, and drove back down, for further exploration of Lower Town.  I stopped, for about twenty minutes, at the headquarters of the Appalachian Mountain Club, this being the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail.  The staff and several through-hikers were encouraging of my pipe dreams of someday walking that venerable long path.

Here are a few scenes of the business district and Virginius Island. These are the ruins of Shenandoah Pulp Mill, built at Halls Island, by Thomas Savery, in 1887 and destroyed by the Great Flood of 1936.

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These days, Virginius is popular with swimmers, along the Shenandoah River and with the ubiquitous deer.

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Thankfully, it is only accessible by footbridge.

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I walked on down, to Lower Town, and gazed at the confluence of the Shenandoah, with the Potomac.

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The small fire station, which once served as a “fort” for the abolitionist John Brown, faces the two rivers, at the edge of Lower Town.

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The last stop, before heading out towards Harrisonburg, was The Coffee Mill, where the heat of afternoon called for a root beer float.

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Harpers Ferry certainly had a hard time being hemmed in by two rivers and three mountains, during the strife of 1850-1865, but it has found a place in the hearts of grateful citizens, in this day.

 

The Red Cornfields of Indian Summer

7

July 20, 2017, Antietam-

Visiting the site of the bloodiest single day battle in American history was not something I particularly relished, but in these days of sanitizing history, I am doubly determined to not ignore any lesson- nor will I pretend the horrors never happened.

Antietam Creek, the farms that surrounded it and the rowdy townsfolk who, then and now, challenge those from somewhere else, make for a difficult and compelling story.

I arrived here, right around 1:30 p.m.  A twenty minute walk around the Visitor Center, and its immediate surrounds, gave me a sense of the field of vision that was afforded Generals McClellan and Lee, as they prepared for the horrific face-off of September 17, 1862.

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The most intense initial fighting took place around a church- shades of Brandywine.  Like Birmingham Hill Friends Meeting House, during the Revolutionary War, the Dunker Church served as a makeshift hospital, for wounded of both sides.

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Many of the states which sent troops to battle have monuments at Antietam, just as they do at Gettysburg.  Here are photos of several monuments, from both sides. Pennsylvania, followed closely by Ohio, has the largest number of monuments here.  The Philadelphia Brigade’s monument is the tallest of any at Antietam.

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Indiana’s monument is also quite formidable.

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New York has several, including two which align with one another.

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The Texans, who fought perhaps more ferociously than most, have their state memorial, across the road from the New York pair.

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Georgia, likewise, has honoured its soldiers,with a monument facing those dedicated to the Union cause.

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The reality of defeat, along with the vow to regroup and press on, is signified by these stacked rifles of the Pennsylvania regulars.

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There were several farms in the area, all of whose owners stood with the Union.  At the Popfenberger Farm, however, Clara Barton set up a full field hospital, to treat the wounded of both sides.

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The Mumma Farm was a key supplier of provisions to the Union Army, and as such was a thorn in the side of Robert E.Lee.  His troops took possession of the farm, in midday, and burned it to the ground.  The Mumma family had, of course, fled to a church, six miles away, well before the Confederates arrived.

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A sunken road, to the south of the property, built by Joseph Mumma, served as a trench for the Rebels, and became known as Bloody Lane, for the thousands of casualties that occurred there.

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The David Miller Farm, west of the Mumma property, was likewise, a key supplier of the Union effort, and was also the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the day.

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As I continued on, to the southern and western segments of the Battlefield, just southeast of Bloody Lane, there is a tower, from which one can spot twenty miles, in any direction.  This was built in 1890, to provide such a bird’s eye view,

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Here is a southeastward view, from the tower’s observation deck.  The town of Sharpsburg is seen, eight miles away.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Irish Brigade, composed of  immigrants from that country, has its own memorial, at the base of the Observation Tower.  It was commanded at Antietam, by Gen. Thomas Meagher (“Marr”), a refugee from the United Kingdom.  This unit also formed part of the Zouaves, who have their own, collective monument, on the east side of Sharpsburg.  Here is the Irish Brigade’s monument.

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Lastly, here is a look at Burnside Bridge, named for the Union general, Ambrose Burnside, who miscalculated the difficulty of crossing Antietam Creek, just to the south of the bridge, and cost his troops a chance to ambush the Confederates, who were waiting in Mumma’s Lane.

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With the end of the day, there was a consensus that the Union Army, by staving off Lee’s invasion of Maryland, had turned the tide of the war.  Although the Confederates would go on to attack Gettysburg, PA, a relatively short distance to the northeast, a year later, Lee’s army would never again have the upper hand.

The legacy of war is often more war.  People can’t be forced to change their hearts, though I am certainly glad that government-sanctioned slavery, at least, has been brought to an end.  Having had enough of the Civil War for one day, I found a place to rest, in Charles Town, WV,

NEXT:  Harpers Ferry

 

 

Charlottesville

0

August 13, 2017, Prescott-

It’s rather ironic, that my journey series has reached the point where my next few posts will be about Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Harrisonburg/Lexington and Olive Hill, KY.  I did not visit the seat of the University of Virginia, this time out.  It is my late wife’s alma mater and Charlottesville is the first place where Penny heard about the Baha’i Faith.  There is a strong Baha’i presence there, to this day.  Were my fellows in faith to be given charge of this weekend’s gatherings, they may well have had white and black extremists cordoned off in one area, as was done at a Baha’i gathering in Orlando, several years ago.  It taught more than a few of them the absurdity of their positions.

Fear has a lot to do with what went on, on both sides.  Fear makes people do prudent things, like staying aware of their surroundings, watching where they put their hands and feet, not picking fights with those who could seriously cause harm.  Fear also can make people do stupid things, like assume a person, who has certain physical features or styles  of dress/adornment, is dangerous or argue a point, that they know is ridiculous, “could possibly be right.”

I believe every life matters, too.  I believe it is right to learn from history and that it is wrong to try and erase history.  There was once an emperor of China, who tried to expunge the record of every ruler who came before him.  He wanted to rewrite history, in his own hand.  It’s said that history is written by the victor, but that didn’t turn out so well, for said Emperor.  Others kept records, then, and others will keep records, now.  Those who remove our statuary are not being honest with children.  They are no better than those who gave short shrift to the legacies of people of colour, over a nearly 200-year period.  History needs to be full and balanced, if we are to learn from our errors, as a nation and as a species.

I am very saddened by the needless and premature death of Heather Heyer.  This wanton act of murder had nothing to do with a certain number of Antifa members being mixed with the anti-Nazi protestors.  Ms. Heyer was not with Antifa, nor was she “bused in by George Soros.”  She was a Charlottesville resident, employed as a paralegal.  It had everything  to do with the killer’s being an impressionable young man, of questionable emotional stability, being influenced, to some degree, by the words and taunts of a good number of Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party members.  The reactions of many of the alt-right protesters does indicate they were not out to kill those who confronted them.  The obscenity-laced comments filling the air- on You Tube videos- did, however, set some people off, including the errant driver.

It’s  long past time to start serious, but respectful and frank dialogue.  Let’s do it, anyway.  It’s long past time for the President to set a strong tone of domestic leadership, aimed at getting differing sides together, peacefully,  but nose-to-nose, if necessary.  The air needs to be cleared of the noxious.  Citizens, however, as was said this evening, at a candlelight vigil here,  also need to set the moral tone, at their level..  No far-off politician can do all the heavy-lifting, nor should a local demagogue be allowed to stir up the passions of one segment of the populace, as happened in Charlottesville.

I am not any kind of supremacist.  I am not any kind of ideologue.  I have lived long enough to know that we lose, mightily, by excluding any group, based on any physical characteristic, faith or creed.  So, on we go, without the vivacious young paralegal, who just wanted to love her community.

To My Newest Friend

7

August 12, 2017, Superior-

You approached me,

as one adult to another,

from the get-go, this afternoon.

I felt your need to let the music,

that is inside you,

be given voice and melody.

We talked of a way,

in which I might help,

in that regard,

and next Saturday,

I will bring that help.

You are strong,

brave,

honest.

One can never have

too many friends.

I’m glad to have you as one,

and honoured

that you’re letting me be one,

in return.

The Margins of Ways Long Past

2

July 20, 2017, Hagerstown-

I left Philadelphia, yesterday evening, with minimal trouble.  It seemed that, at some point, there were more people coming INTO the city, than were leaving.  I drove through the northern third of Delaware, bypassing Wilmington, going through bustling Newark- seat of the University of Delaware (both cities are on the itinerary for July, 2018) and across Maryland’s northern tier, through Thurmont (not a  sleepy, bucolic town, but a modern, virtual bedroom town of Frederick- itself a bedroom town to Baltimore and Washington) and Frederick, where I stopped just in time for a police car to head to its emergency.  I continued a few miles further, and stopped for the night in Hagerstown, intending to spend the morning exploring this city that once signified an enclave of antebellum Southern thinking, just shy of the Mason-Dixon Line.

I heard that there is still a lot of progress to be made here, in race relations.  That is pretty much how it is everywhere.  Human relations always need work.  I am not in favour of demolishing relics that we might find disturbingly reflective of outmoded ways of thinking, but I do believe we must USE such monuments and artifacts to educate people on the excesses of the past, so that we may, as a people, do better towards one another, now and in the future.

Hagerstown does not maintain any sites that pay homage to racist thinking, and in fact promotes visits to sites that commemorate Black History in the city.  I have kept a brochure on the subject, for a future visit.  Meanwhile, today’s visit focused on the north end of downtown and on City Park, with its duck pond, acres of beautiful woods and its art museum.  Jonathan Hager House, with a small historical museum, sits on the north end of the park. It was closed today, though.

Let’s start with a look at the north end of downtown.

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The nice ladies in this Welcome Center provided me with a wealth of information about the historic sites in the area- and gave directions to Antietam, which will take up my afternoon and evening.

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Street art is not common, at this end of town, but what there is, is upbeat and colourful.

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There were two windows, devoted to the dissemination of wisdom, in this building.  The saying on the left has pretty much been my credo, for many years now.

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The above left could have been said by Honest Abe, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers- or Ed Wood.

I proceeded to note some architectural gems.  Here’s St. John’s Lutheran Church.

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The fire station has endured a great many storms.

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Every town, that has an active theater troupe, is blessed. This is the Maryland Theatre’s centenary.

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It was time for lunch, so I took my deli stash, and headed for City Park.  Nothing beats a picnic table, overlooking the water.

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There are water fowl galore here, and the pond is well-stocked with fish.

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The forest is healthy, and well-populated, by various animals.  I came across a couple of fellow humans, washing their hair at a water pump.  Those who do live in the park, pick up after themselves, quite nicely.

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The trail to the museum wends past the ducks and their happy home.

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The upper picnic area is well-suited for larger groups.

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This purposeful being greets the visitor to Washington County Museum of Art, founded, in 1929, by William and Anna Singer.  Diana, accompanied by her trusty dog, was fashioned by Anna Hyatt Huntington.

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The museum features a full range of artistic media.  There are two cases of exquisite blown glass.

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I have selected only a couple of scenes, inside the facility, as this is already a long post.  One painting, among the many fine pieces, stood out to me:  Hugo Bailin’s “Earth Forces”.

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One of the loveliest features of this museum is its Saturday Morning gallery, which showcases the work of area children.

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Lastly, here is the delightful Atrium.

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I am providing links to the places I visit, from here on out and will see if WordPress will allow me to back-edit, and provide links to places I have visited thus far.

Here is: http://wcmfa.org/, which, unfortunately you’ll have to type in yourselves.

I ended this Hagerstown excursion with a look at the closed Jonathan Hager House.

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NEXT:  Antietam National Battlefield

 

The Art of Durability

10

July 19, 2017, Philadelphia- 

Whilst waiting for some family members to meet me at downtown Philadelphia’s Cafe Ole,

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A brief walk showed that this belonged to a museum and art gallery, the Center for Art in Wood.  I spent about an hour, in the astonishing museum, which showcases both the traditional plank art of northern Europe and several contemporary pieces, from around the globe.  Several variations use the root word, Mangle, meaning cut, as their base.  Below, is a Danish piece, called a manglebraette.

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Bear with me, I am taking the liberty of interspersing the traditional ware with contemporary pieces.  This one, by an American, Michael Scarborough, celebrates Buddhism.

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Australian artist, Ashley Eriksmoen, presents this Judeo-Christian piece.

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Who wants a wooden sheep?

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These Icelandic pieces are examples of that nation’s trafakefli traditional craft.

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Sweden’s variation is known as mangelbraden.

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Norway’s woodcraft, mangletraer, is displayed at the front of the exhibit.  Some pieces are in glass cases.

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Finland adopted the art form, as well, and is the easternmost country in which the mangleplank tradition took root.  Its form is called kaulauslandet.

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Surprisingly, it is the Netherlands which is credited with originating the art form.  Merchants of the Hanseatic League spread it to the Nordic lands.  The Dutch form is called mangelplanken.

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The variety, in both styles and uses, of woodcraft could capture one’s interest for hours, I think.

Here are a couple of other contemporary pieces.

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I will definitely be back here, next summer, at the very least as a customer-for one of the gallery shop’s more utilitarian pieces, while learning more about plank art.  I, who whittled as a child, could possibly fashion something of use, one of these fine days.

Philly On The Water and Celts Above the Freeway

4

July 19, 2017, Philadelphia-

In the past, we would drive along  and bypass the large cities of the East Coast, Boston and Washington being exceptions.  I have continued to do so, pretty much, since Penny’s passing.  With Philadelphia being the venue for a major family event, next summer, and with my brother and sister-in-law being here for a visit, I made my way into  town for two days.  This was the second day.  I was on my own until 4 PM, as the family had to tend to planning activities.

So, after saying farewell to my nephew, at Brandywine, some downtown Philly time was in order.  My first stop, after parking the Hyundai, was Penn’s Landing.  Here, William Penn did disembark his boat, after sailing up the Delaware River, in 1682.  He’d be amazed at what is there now.  I walked along the pedestrian bridge and along the overlook, watching people in the pop-up amusement park, below.

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After purchasing a bottle of water, from one of the ubiquitous vendors, who line Penn’s Landing, in summer, I found I-95 park, perched above the freeway.  It is a shady place of comfort for those living on the Near South Side, and has several remnants of what dominated the area, before the City of Brotherly Love.

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It also has a couple of statues honouring the people of Celtic descent, who provided so much of the labour for building the cities of the megalopolis, from Boston to Norfolk.  This statue pays homage to the Irish immigrants.

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Next to it, another statue tips its collective hat to the Scots, who were so indispensable to shipbuilding, a Philadelphia mainstay.

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This sculpture depicts a family walking past Tun Tavern, a key gathering place in early Philadelphia.  This marker commemorates the site of the old public house, founded in 1686, and named for the Old English term for beer barrel.

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Moving on, from I-95 Park, I spotted this early Twentieth Century office building, which may or may not have had a predecessor in this spot, which may or may not have been used by Benjamin Franklin, during one of his breaks from planning the Indian Wars, at Tun Tavern.

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The Betsy Ross House had a private event this afternoon, so I gave a pass to going inside.

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Like Boston and New York, Philadelphia is filled with little architectural gems, above doors, along windows and on walls.  This wrought iron protects the window, in a most agreeable way.

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I am most amenable to further exploration of this great city, especially next summer.  My next post, though, will focus on one of Philly’s best kept secrets: The Center for Art in Wood.

What happened to Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six?  Nothing, I have five posts left, in that series, and will insert them between now and November 28, when 66 ends.

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXI: Brandywine’s Message

2

July 19, 2017, Chadds Ford- 

My nephew wanted to hit the trail, this morning, so after a few rendezvous snafus, due to differing GPS entries, we met at Birmingham Friends Meeting House, near the site of some of the heaviest fighting.  The battle raged here, on September 11, 1777.  Today, we were the only people on this little hill, south of Chadds Ford.  The Brandywine Valley, today, is better known for its wineries,  for the Wyeth family’s presence and for the Longwood and Main Fountain Gardens, than for one of the heaviest battles of the American Revolution.

Of course, without the battle, which showed the British victors that the war was far from over, it’s likely that all the beauty of this valley would be under entirely different auspices, today.  We spent the first forty minutes of our visit, in and around Birmingham Friends Meeting House and its Peace Garden. First, though, here are a couple of views of the area that was the battle zone, 240 years ago, next month.

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What is the province of grazing cows, today, was a harrowing encampment, for men on opposing sides, but all far from home.  The hospital where all, regardless of loyalty, would be treated for their injuries, was in this modest building- then and now, a Quaker Meeting House.

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Many of their fallen comrades would be buried, in a mass grave, on the south side of this cemetery.  Hundreds lie here, with no regard for their ideology. All were viewed as humans, by the farmers of Birmingham Hill.

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This plaque announces the Peace Garden of Birmingham Hill.

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Again, the serenity of the day- with the distant echo of muskets and cannonade.

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This verse, by John Donne, is one of several cogent quotes, placed carefully, throughout the Peace Garden.

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William Sloane Coffin also offers a simple comment on the world of today.

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A poignant expression of love, from a local farmer to his departed wife, signifies the ongoing daily life, around the battle and its aftermath.

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After time for reflection, we headed to Brandywine State Museum, and spent an hour or so there, before walking to Washington’s Headquarters. The museum offers detailed exhibits of muskets, British rifles (which were largely responsible for the Royal Army’s early successes) and cannonry.  It is, like the Museum of the American Revolution, a well-balanced institution.

In the nearby woods, this long-abandoned gazebo tells of how nature regards the vagaries of war.  It grows over the remnants, and challenges us to unearth them.

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This was Benjamin Ring’s root cellar.  Mr. Ring was the host to General Washington, and his troops, who camped in the fields.

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The Rings most likely stayed in this “servants’ quarters”, during the Revolutionaries’ encampment.

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Here is the main farmhouse, where the General and his staff planned what turned out to be an inadequate strategy.  Much was learned from the battle, though, and it was the hubris of the British, combined with French and Polish support for the Americans, which led to the rising of the Revolutionary forces, after Valley Forge.

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With this, my nephew was off to pick up his little girl, from pre-school, and I was headed to Philadelphia, after a fabulous lunch, at this bustling, somewhat friendly establishment.

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Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LX: Freedom, Borne of Fire

4

July 17-18, 2017, Philadelphia-

After treating my mother to breakfast, at Saugus’ downtown cafe, Hammersmith Inn, I bid farewell to the town of my childhood, and headed towards Pennsylvania, and more family bonding.  My middle brother spent a good many of his working years in Pennsyvania, lastly in the Main Line precincts of Chester Springs.  Two of his children still live in the Philadelphia area.  He and my sister-in-law were here visiting, so this was a natural stop, for a day or so.

I took my now customary route, south and west, stopping first at Newtown, CT, where I have been intending to visit the small reflection area, where Sandy Hook Elementary stood, at the time of the massacre of 2012.  I was, of course, unable to do that last year, with my car trouble.  No such issue rose this year, so I stopped, prayed and reflected, with the new Sandy Hook Elementary School behind me, and many people carrying on the business of summer school.

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Freedom allows people to make some odd choices, as those who threatened the lives of the victims’ families did, in the wake of the tragedy.  Thankfully, no harm has come to any parents or siblings of those slain.

I drove down I- 84 & 81, at one point having to detour through Middletown, NY, ironically the place where I first took the dying Nissan, last summer. Again, there were no issues with my trusty Hyundai. I continued to a place which has come to feel much like home, these past six years:  Glick’s Greenhouse, Oley.  After a lovely welcoming dinner and some quiet time, I was honoured by this sunset:

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The next morning, with a breakfast to match the dinner, I bid farewell to my Oley family. For those who remember Cider, the Glick’s old collie, Manny- his successor, is getting the hang of greenhouse life.

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I headed south and east, into the Main Line area, and connected with my Georgia siblings, at their hotel, then went to a deli-style restaurant, in the town of  Wayne.  Nudy’s Cafe is a thoroughly tasteful establishment, with wonderful food and attentive, well-dressed servers.

After this repast, Dave and I headed to the Museum of the American Revolution, in downtown Philadelphia, experiencing relatively mild traffic, en route.  The first sight greeting the visitor, in the area of 2nd St and Chestnut, is a statue of Pennsylvania’s founder:  William Penn.

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The entrance posits the challenge that may well have been a battle cry, in the years just prior to the outright rebellion.

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I stood in front of the copper engraving depicting the First Continental Congress.

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The Declaration of Independence is adjacent to the museum entrance, as well.

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Inside, the Museum offers a complete, and well-balanced depiction of the experiences of both sides, in the conflict, and of those trapped in the middle- the merchants and the Quaker pacifists.  Most of the exhibits did not lend themselves to photography, being in dimmer light, with no flash photography allowed.  I did get a few shots, first being the Philadelphia Liberty Tree.

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The Patriots were not, at least initially, a unified force.  Disagreements between townsmen of the Northeast and woodsmen from the Appalachians and the Ohio Valley had to be mediated, with George Washington reportedly directly intervening, at least once.  The boy on the lower left recalled this, in his memoirs, later in life.

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The more iconic scene, of Washington crossing the Delaware River, is also given prominence.

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The plight of African-American slaves, who were not uncommon in the northern colonies, any more than in the South, in the late 18th Century, is symbolized by this portrait and commentary by Mumbet, a Massachusetts woman, who won her freedom in court, after her master assaulted her, for having listened to a reading of the Declaration of Independence.  This case resulted in the prohibition of slavery in Massachusetts.  Mumbet became Elizabeth Freeman, and lived out her days in Stockbridge, a town in the central Berkshire Hills.

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The American experiment is far from perfect, but has resulted in the most diverse democracy on Earth, and still has so much to share, with those who want to study our nation’s experience.  We will keep on going, experimenting, refining and retooling, hopefully so that the three generations shown below, and their fellows, will never again know oppression.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

NEXT:  Brandywine, and More of Downtown Philadelphia.

 

 

Interlude

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August 6, 2017, Prescott-

NOTE:  Those following my journey of last month need not worry- there is much more to come, from those Road Days:  Philadelphia; Hagerstown; Antietam; Harpers Ferry; Falls of the Ohio; Paducah;  Sarcoxie; Baxter Springs & Sedan, Kansas; Folsom, Cimarron & Taos, NM, and all points in between.

Today, however, is an intermezzo. I want to pause, and connect with where my heart and spirit are NOW.

You, each and all, matter greatly, dearly.

Whoever told you, dying of ovarian cancer, and sitting on a downtown curb,

asking for whatever help people can bring,

that you are beyond hope- has lied to you.

I gave you my last dollar, and have to be prudent, for a week or so, as I am running low, myself.

Yet, you matter.

Whoever told you, beautiful young woman, just trying to get a meal and catch a break,

that you are good for only one thing- has shut his eyes to everything that you are.

I’d be proud as punch, to claim you as my daughter.

You matter.

Whoever told you, strong, vital husband of an engaging, innovative woman,

that you ought to stay in the background, and let her be in the spotlight-

is cheating both of you.

She wants you at her side,

and you matter.

Whoever told you, my dearest friend and soul sister,

that no man would ever want you to be anything,

other than a source of pleasure, and his servant-

is living in a fool’s paradise.

You have taught me more, in a month’s time,

than I learned in six decades,

and I look forward to all that you have left to impart,

because you matter.

To all who may have told anyone in your life,

that he or she is worthless, a waste of DNA,

fodder for a compost pile-

think again, and hard.

You matter, in spite of your scathing remarks

and constant oneupmanship,

but so do those whom you disparage.

The black person matters,

as does the white,

the  East Asian,

the Latino,

the Native American,

the Pacific Islander,

the West Asian,

the South Asian.

Men matter,

and so do women.

Seniors matter,

as do children,

teens,

young adults,

those in “middle age”.

Homeless people matter,

and homeowners,

renters,

couch surfers.

There is no “Keep Out” sign,

at the universal level,

for anyone in the LGBTQ umbrella group,

for anyone with weight issues,

for anyone who struggles with mental health problems,

for anyone who can’t walk,

can’t speak, hear or see,

or can’t think.

This is where I am, now.

You, my female and male friends,

whose company I enjoy,

and who enjoy mine;

my neighbour children,

who love playing in my yard,

because it’s a safe place;

my students and co-workers,

who actually look forward

to being at school,

because we support one another,

I am blessed to be here,

because of you.