At first blush, themes touched on in Michelle’s blog and
those of my new book, The Mighty Mastiff
of the Mayflower, would seem to have no common ground. Michelle’s passion
is teaching kids about nature, expanding their horizons so that they come to
know the world and its cultures beyond their own. "Muck about. Meet the locals.
Expand your world." Three phrases, commands almost, that also very succinctly
sum up the well-known pilgrim story as told through the eyes of the mastiff Grace,
the main character of my book.
The pilgrims were very much “mucking about” in several
senses of the word. Most of the passengers who boarded Mayflower in 1620 for
the now famous voyage were traveling neophytes. The had little experience will
sailing ships, dealing with the endless details of purchasing supplies for a
new colony, and the machinations of business men and their dealings. Leaders
like Cushman, Martin, Bradford, and Carver were certainly mucking about. They
would get bogged down, have to slog through and ultimately get a little dirty
learning the ways of the business world.
Having safely made the ocean crossing, the pilgrims were
still very much mucking about. They spent nearly a month, in a very literal
sense, tromping about the wilds of Cape Cod looking for a settlement location.
With an intended destination of the mouth of the Hudson River, the pilgrims were
very much out of their comfort zone. They explored by foot through streams,
over dunes, and across low tide mud flats. They explored by shallop, (an open
rowing and sailing boat), across Cape Cod Bay and ultimately into what is now
Plymouth in the midst of a snowstorm.
Although their primary focus was on finding a place to
settle, they gathered information about the natural world. They mention the
abundance of whales and fish in the bay. They find caches of seed corn,
evidence of a healthy growing environment. They marvel at the flowing fresh
water streams and the oaks, pines, juniper, sassafras, and other sweet woods
growing right down to the sea itself. The kind of observations any budding
observer of the natural world would be proud to record.
“Meet the locals,” the pilgrims did indeed. The first
encounter of the pilgrims with the native populations was not as friendly as
the image of Indians teaching pilgrims to plant corn with fish we all learned
in grade school would suggest. Several times prior to 1620, other Europeans had
touched at Cape Cod. Their visits resulted in the kidnapping of over twenty
Natives from the Nauset area alone. When the pilgrims arrived, these events were
no doubt still fresh in the minds of the local population. Very early one
morning the pilgrim exploration party was awoken by shouts of natives followed
by arrows flying into the pilgrim encampment. Pilgrim men shot off their
muskets, shouted their own war cries and hurried away in the shallop with no
injuries recorded on either side. It is truly a testament to the individuals on
both sides that a treaty was later hammered out that provided peace to the
early colony, at least for the first fifty years or so.
There can be no question that the pilgrims expanded their
horizons. For many of the passengers, the voyage to North America was a voyage
to a new world. They had to leave behind the comforts of family, familiar
surroundings and the security of knowing what to expect from each new day. In
New Plimoth, every day brought new experiences, new understanding of their
surroundings and the realizations that without continuing to learn and grow
their very existence would be in jeopardy. These are lessons, Michelle’s blog,
Polliwog on Safari, continues to teach today.
Peter Arenstam was born on a farm in western
Massachusetts and grew up near the ocean in Plymouth. He works at the living
history museum Plimoth Plantation where he cares for the reproduction ship
Mayflower II. He is author of the four book series, Nicholas, A
Massachusetts Tale, published by Mitten Press, and co-author of National
Geographic's, Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage. His most
recent book, The Mighty Mastiff of the Mayflower, published by The
History Press, was just released. Peter is currently pursuing an MFA in
writing for children at Simmons College in Boston, MA.
From Michelle: The Mighty Mastiff of the Mayflower is perfectly suited to readers in grades 3-5. For those who live in Massachusetts, it dovetails nicely with grade 3 Social Studies curriculum. Beautiful full-color illustrations by Karen Busch Holman bring Peter's wonderful words to life.
For those who live in eastern Massachusetts or may be vacationing in Plymouth, "America's Hometown," please come to Peter's book launch party. It's being held July 28th, at Mayflower II in Plymouth, MA from 1-3 pm. I'll be there with my kids. How about you?
My family had such a fun night last night. First was the monthly Old Time Fiddle Session at The Brick pizzeria in New Bedford. These sessions have been going on for three years now. They draw people from the South Coast area and beyond. It’s an open session which means that anyone can show up and play or simply come to listen (like me). All players need is an acoustic stringed instrument (e.g. fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass) and enough skills to play along. It’s casual and fun. People teach each other tunes, play together, and generally have a good time. Plus, we get to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and eat delicious pizza.
Jeff ( @rhubarb_andjelly )added a new event following the session: a free ukulele lesson open to anyone who showed up. And boy did people show up! Jeff has 20 ukes available and they were all in use. At least 6 people had brought their own, and I handed mine off for someone to play. Loads of people had heard about the event and came for it, but others happened upon all of us in Wings Court, paused to see what was going on, and were welcomed in by Jeff. Most people stayed the whole time, but some had to leave after a while (young kids who needed to go to bed, for example). No sooner would the uke be returned than a person would walk up, pause, be invited to join and start strumming on that newly available instrument. It was pretty magical. One couple was from NY. Another woman was from Wisconsin. They told me they felt really welcomed by all of us. And it’s all because of Jeff Angeley’s big heart and vision. He knows music brings people of all ages and backgrounds together. He knows music builds community. He’s building it one instrument at a time and I am grateful for that.
Special thanks to the New Bedford Economic Development Council for seeing Jeff’s vision and helping to fund these free community lessons.
If you want to know about future events, follow the South Coast Lessons page or The Old Time Fiddle Session pages.
Today’s basil harvest. From one plant. We have 10 more. 😳 #PestoTonight
It’s been a stellar #gardening year for heat loving plants.
This lovely lady came to visit us with her husband and teen-aged daughter. More than 25 years ago, she was a Rotary Exchange Student who lived with my family. We’ve stayed in touch for all of this time. She has visited a few times since then and my parents attended her wedding. When we lived in Dublin, my family of 4 flew to France to see her family of 5. (On that trip, we also visited a different, lovely French sister, @florence.pit, who lives in Paris). Watching our kids play together was a real joy. It’s always such a pleasure to have her around. #citizensoftheworld
We have friends visiting from France right now so we took a little day trip to #Boston. Here are some pics from @newenglandaquarium. (Yes, I’m always extra happy to see an octopus). #science #ocean
The newest plane by @dantecusolito #STEM #STEAM #FutureEngineer
Some photos taken around my parents’ farm yesterday. The cozy coop in front of the corn makes me smile. My nephew left it there when he visited. The egg is so small because the chicken just started laying- that was her first egg. Also, my dad grows the best corn around. #farmlife #NoFarmsNoFood
I received THE SONG OF SOLOMON as a gift many years ago, back when I was still teaching. It was the night before winter break ended and I decided to read a little before bed. 100 pages later I had to force myself to stop reading and go to sleep. I devoured that book. Next I read BELOVED. Damn, did that book challenge me as a reader. I had to work so hard to understand it. I had to lean in and really concentrate. I was so thankful for that gift- it reminded me what reading must have been like for many of my 4th graders for whom reading was not yet second nature. It made me a better teacher. And what can I say about PARADISE? Another book I had to lean in to understand due to the complex interconnected family trees. Once I was too far in, I wished I had drawn up family trees to help me remember all of the relationships. I’ve been meaning to go back and read that one and make the trees from the beginning. Maybe now is a good time to do that.
RIP Ms. Morrison. The world is a better place for you having been in it.
Our garden is super prolific right now. I’m harvesting zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, jalapeños, sweet basil, Thai basil, and purple basil nearly every day. There are loads of green tomatoes and bell peppers I’m hoping to start harvesting soon. But the zucchini and summer squash...OY! The last picture shows what I harvested THIS MORNING. And we only have one plant of each. We’ve been eating it regularly, and I’ll freeze some, but we can possibly use as much as we’re getting. (This is what happens when you use compost from your parents’ farm!) There are loads of squash blossoms on the plants. Anybody want some? Because we know what those blossoms will soon become... (Seriously local friends... hit me up if you want some squash or blossoms). #organicgardening #gardening #wondersofcompost
With his gourd banjo completed, @dantecusolito decided to make a remote controlled tug boat. Isn’t this thing the cutest? #STEM #STEAM #summertime