The coronavirus epidemic, coming in March, has coincided with the beginning of spring and my birthday. Certainly a memorable birthday, celebrated with a carryout dinner.
My husband and I have behaved according to the rules. We stay at home, away as much as possible from people and interesting places. Every where I look, I’m told that’s what people like me and my husband are supposed to do. After all, we are the “vulnerable.” I’ve spent a year being treated for lymphoma and my platelet count will never be normal again. My husband has a bad back and is nearly diabetic.
But I don’t feel vulnerable. Every few days I venture out, at the correct time–7:00 am to the grocery store, late afternoon for a walk. I’ve been to the post office where tapes show people where to stand so they can be six feet apart. I’ve thought about golf which for some reason isn’t closed. I could take my putter to the golf practice range near us, but that would require a walk. My knee and shoulder object to too much exercise, so I haven’t yet tried that.
I’ve had my fill of video games, bad television, and silly puzzles. I’ve watched the Coronavirus Task Force about every other day, and I’m impressed with the doctors. I worry about my son, who is a doctor, and call him every other day. He says his hospital in Ohio expects to be swamped in a few weeks, but so far they are able to handle new cases.
What to do? Spring has arrived! My daffodils, including some mysterious yellow crocus that have spread from my front yard to the woods across the street, are in full blossom. I cut a few every morning, while listening to the little birds chirping their hearts out. We’ve already seen chickadees, woodpeckers, gold finches, cardinals, mocking birds, and blue birds. I’ve also spotted a few eagles and ospreys. The little birds, tweeting very loudly, finish the feeder off every other day. Here is a picture of our feeder:
The birds have inspired me, because they make me think of poetry. How about a little poetry, to go with the new coronavirus? :
“There was an old lady from Williamsburg
Who fell into her TV
She stood next to Dr. Birx,
Wondering where the President might be.
Sure enough, he entered and said,
“Welcome to the Task Force!”
She replied, “I’m glad I’m not dead!”
He said, “Isn’t this Worse?”
What could be worse than falling into the television set and becoming a flashing image? Maybe I’ll need to add some more to this.
Since this is spring, I’m happy to announce a discount on all of my ebooks. From now till the end of June all of my historical novels will be available in the ebook version at a 35 per cent discount. Order them from ipgbook.com and use the code BMSpring2020.
I hope all who get this are safe and healthy. Stay well and follow the guidelines.
Washington’s Shadow is my fourth historical novel and probably the last. All of my books focus on American nation building in our early history. Generally early American history is not being taught in elementary schools and later grades.
I’ll be addressing the process by which I produce these books at a discussion panel at the Williamsburg Book Festival on Saturday, October 5. Nation building is a subject that has always interested me. Virtually everything I write discusses some aspect of it. The people who build the nation have to be strong enough to understand they can’t do everything alone, by themselves. They have to risk danger in moving ahead, but they have to communicate with each other. They have to build coalitions and marriages. Nations, in my way of thinking, always begin with families and extended families and how they learn to deal with individual members and each other. Washington’s Shadow is about how Washington visualized the country and how the people who followed him interpreted the idea of nation building in his image.
I’ve spent a good part of my working life in and out of government jobs. I’ve worked as staff in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. I held positions in the US Treasury Department, and the US Commerce Department. I worked for several Washington law firms and lobbies. I know how our government is supposed to work.
When I retired and moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, I met many people from outside Washington DC. I was surprised by how little most people knew about the practical working origins of the US government. More shocking was how little actual research had been done to explain and understand our history. There are very few serious books that explain the political institutions of the early colonies. There are publications, fictional and non-fictional, about Pocahontas, colonists starving, and the exploits of famous pirates. For the most part these are designed to entertain children and give little historical context.
What Americans Know About Nation Building and their History
On retirement I took a position as a volunteer docent in the museum at Jamestown Settlement. Jamestown as a city no longer exists. Jamestown Settlement, a modern park, is situated near the James River. It includes a gallery, a model fort, an Indian village, and a port holding three ships. The facility is designed to explain the founding and development of the first English settlement in the new world. I learned there that most people have heard of Pocahontas. However, many believe the three ships that arrived in Jamestown in 1607 were the Nina, the Pinta, and Santa Maria. The next Virginian most people can identify is George Washington, who lived a hundred and fifty years later.
Visitors coming to Williamsburg from Washington DC are often surprised by the familiarity of the old government buildings and institutions of colonial Virginia. Most people don’t know that Jefferson, who designed the US Capitol, previously served in Virginia’s House of Burgesses, as did George Washington. When they learn some facts, they begin to understand that our government didn’t somehow fall out of the sky. The American government was the product of long experience and practice. The US Constitution was written by people who knew what they were trying to do.
Nation Building and the Founding Fathers? Who Built the Nation?
The Wealth of Jamestown, The Wealth of Virginia, and Blackbeard’s Legacy are three short novels to the early 1700s. The books describe men and women, young and old, native Americans and settlers, the educated and the uneducated living almost a hundred years before the US Declaration of Independence. The characters are not European; they are American. They are engaged in politics and commerce on a grand scale. Blackbeard, the king of international trade in his day, was as much a Founding Father as Thomas Jefferson. Each of these books required at least two year’s research into original documents and obscure writings and sources.
Washington’s Shadow tells of people living at the edge of a wilderness in a time soon after the Revolutionary War. These people knew Washington. They are a later generation of Americans. They moved west to build towns and communities. They faced away from Europe with its wars and dynasties, a movement of people that began in 1607. Though taking place in 1810, Washington’s Shadow is the latest chapter in my fictional explanation of nation-building, American style.
Many people say they love history, though often they also say they hated studying it in school. What do they love about history? In fact, what do they mean by “history”?
As a former docent at Jamestown Settlement (a historical museum that commemorates the first landing of three English ships in North America in 1607), I know what people say they don’t like: names, dates, and arguments from a previous time that they don’t understand. What they like is something familiar, something they can recognize as relevant to the present. When they say relevant, they mean related, as in blood relatives.
I’ve met many genealogists, anxious to see if they had an ancestor on one of the first ships. I’ve had to tell them that those people were probably not people they’d want to meet. The settlers came to fight and make fortunes. They fought with each other and the native tribes nearby, and most of them died early gruesome deaths from starvation, disease, warfare, and simply fighting with each other. These early sailors weren’t ancestors of anybody.
Descendants of Pocahontas (there are many) are generally not the genealogists; they know their family lines very clearly and don’t have to prove anything. While their “history” goes back to 10,000 B.C., they come to the museum to see history as relevant to today. They come to see the building of the country, from sailing up the rivers, establishing plantations, trading crops for credit, and developing a way of living together among many different peoples.
About a third of the sailors on the three original ships “married” Indian women. The Indians helped to build James Fort, and Indian wives did most of the cooking. Indian-made cooking utensils have been found on the site of the original fort, and in the earliest days only the Indians would have known what was edible. The earliest surviving settlers learned a great deal from the Indians. If you date your family to seventeenth century Virginia, Pocahontas is probably your relative.
In connection with the publication of my forthcoming book, The Wealth of Virginia, I was advised to start communicating to people I don’t know with tweets on Twitter. As the non-owner of a smart phone, I am not a good candidate for tweeting, but I’ve given it a try.
I found it very difficult to find Twitter on my computer. Every time I typed “twitter-login” I received a message that the website wasn’t safe, and someone was trying to hack into my communications. I left Google Chrome for Firefox, but still couldn’t log on.
My IPAD displayed twitter immediately and I quickly downloaded a twitter “AP”. Since I’ve never been on twitter to my knowledge, I tried to open an account, and typed in my email address as my user name.
What a surprise! My email address already belonged to somebody else! I sent an email to twitter to that effect, and received a response saying I could change the password. After several tries I managed to accomplish this. My user name may belong to someone in outer space, but the password is mine, and I’m on the case. I can now tweet, but who am I on twitter? Am I myself or this other entity?
I let twitter know about all this, but twitter is very security conscious. They won’t release an email address, but they let you change passwords any time you like. I don’t seem to be able to alter the user name, so I now have the mystery person’s tweets readily available. It’s sort of embarrassing—like listening in on a private conversation.
I looked over the emails included on what is now my twitter account—all sports, basketball, and comments on who’s who in the NBA. Do you think these tweeters would be interested in a historical novel about colonial Virginia? Should I send the gang a tweet? What can I say that they would enjoy?
Now that I am on twitter, I’ve added my biography and a link to the website of my current book, The Wealth of Jamestown. I’m waiting to see if anyone on twitter notices.