Thursday, November 16, 2006

A serendipitous moment

Today I took off work (sorry, CC, coudn't be your virtual office pal today since I wasn't in the office) to help chaperone a field trip that Fausto Jr.'s 5th-grade class took to Plimoth Plantation, the historical museum that re-creates the daily life of the Plymouth Colony circa 1627.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm quite taken by the notion that the original Pilgrim congregation still exists as First Parish Church in Plymouth, the oldest congregation in the UUA. (They were first gathered in Scrooby, England, in 1606, 14 years before the pilgrimage, and celebrated their 400th anniversary this year.) I'm especially intrigued by the idea that certain defining characteristics of our oldest congregations have spread to and survived in our other congregations and our general denominational attitudes right down to the present time, so I'm always happy for an excuse to visit the Plantation.

Today wasn't much of a religious history outing, though -- more of a babysitting assignment, trying to keep a troupe of rambunctious pre-teens from getting lost and/or hurting themselves. We met and chatted with Plymouth settlers Edward Winslow, Fear Allerton, Francis Billington, Martha Brown, Miles Standish, Stephen Hopkins, Bridget Fuller, and others. When asked why they came, most of them said it was to be able to own their own land or to escape the threat of war between Spain and Holland, rather than for primarily religious reasons. (The students were amazed to learn that the great-to-the-umpteenth-generation-grandmother of their present-day school principal, Mr. Fuller, was perfectly happy to allow her name to be spelled four or five different ways. Upon our return, I told him that with such careless spellers in the lineage it was no wonder the Fuller family took so long to finally produce a decent teacher. He wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment.)

The museum maintains not only the reconstructed Pilgrim settlement but also a nearby Wampanoag homesite. The "native" interpreters don't assume specific historical identities, but they do dress the part, and the kids watched dugout canoes and an indigenous rabbit stew being made, and imagined sleeping in a communal wigwam.

On the way back from the Wampanoag site to the English village, a sudden rainshower broke, and we ran to a thatched-roof barn for shelter. The sun emerged again behind us as the dark clouds rolled past and out over Plymouth Bay. As we ventured back into the main street, now lit bright with sunshine, a grand rainbow formed over the bay, perfectly framing the village. The sight was as majestic as it was unexpected, and as ephemeral as it was majestic. The shower dissipated and the rainbow faded too quickly to be able to frame and take a photo, but imagine the scene above with dark clouds over the water, a golden glow reflecting from the wet street and fields, and a perfect, unbroken radiant arc of colored light rising from the water on the left, reaching its apex directly over the axis of the street, and descending back to the water on the right.

Glory! You could almost hear the angels.


At November 17, 2006 at 9:12:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said:

"I told him that with such careless spellers in the lineage it was no wonder the Fuller family took so long to finally produce a decent teacher. He wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment."

Of course he wasn't. "Yo mama" is still "yo mama", no matter whether you reach back across only one generation or five centuries, no matter whether she first came over on a slave ship or the Mayflower.

At November 20, 2006 at 11:06:00 PM EST, Blogger Publia said...

I have dedicated my blog week to the Pilgrims. Unlike the folk of Plmymouth I know the Pilgrims weren't just looking for a business opportunity. Please stop by and have a look. It would be nice if you would leave a comment on the "Are you a Mayflower Descendant" entry.

At November 30, 2006 at 7:45:00 AM EST, Anonymous geode said...

I'm from near Boston, a descendant of Stephen Hopkins (by a very circuitous route) and didn't know about this?! Something to put on my list of things to do. Thanks, Fausto.

At December 2, 2006 at 2:41:00 AM EST, Anonymous kim said...

re: rainbow:

"so quick bright things come to confusion!"

(one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare -- thanks for the opportunity to use it.)

At January 18, 2007 at 7:41:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

confused, no.
wounded, yes.

At February 2, 2007 at 6:07:00 PM EST, Blogger PeaceBang said...

I LOVE Plimoth Plantation.


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