Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The Mayflower

   At daybreak on November 19, 1620, the Mayflower passed the headland of Cape Cod and found herself in peril.  The shoals were dangerously and she had to turn back northward.  Finding a favorable wind, the Mayflower and her human cargo enter the protected waters of the Bay and stared out onto an unknown land.  This was the Pilgrims new home.  After 66 hard days at sea and winter approaching, those faithful English Separatists faced the Winter of 1621.

Plymouth Colony

   The first winter for the Plymouth Colony was filled with loss and longing.  More than half of the 102 Pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower.  Food was scarce.  Hunger and disease plagued and weakened the people.  Cold and harsh conditions wore down moral.  Prospects for the new colony were weak.  The actions of smart men and the sacrifice of brave women contributed to the survival of the Pilgrims.

The Mayflower Compact

The Social Contract

   President Lincoln once remarked that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  The Pilgrims knew this principle to be true.  English Separatists were not the only passengers on the Mayflower.  Of its 102 passengers, only 37 were Separatists.  The remainder were craftsmen and sailors.  There was even one soldier, Miles Standish.  The men of the ship met and came to an accord as to how to run their temporary colony until some guidance came from England.  This accord was call the Mayflower Compact.  The document served as a written promise of the men present to each other and to God for the sake of the survival of the new colony.

The making of the compact

   In the absence of the Compact, allegiances and community would have been lost in the need and instinct for survival.  After the 41 colonists signed the compact, a leader was elected and under this leader authority was given for the organization and establishment of the colony.

A Place to Rest

   As winters go in Massachusetts, historians describe the winter of 1620 as a mild one.  However, for unfamiliar newcomers, the weather conditions were inhospitable.
   The ground was hard, frozen and covered in snow.  The wind was blustery and there was a great deal of rain.  For a ship full of people, very sick people and low on food, the conditions were harsh.
   While the sick were being cared, able bodied men, such as William Bradford, braved the condition to scout the New World.  Luckily, the Pilgrims were not the first Europeans to wander these lands.  Men such as Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame and explorer Samuel de Champlian, had arrived more than a decade prior.  Champlian even created a navigational chart which the Pilgrims used as a Guide.

Miles Standish

   By using the map, the Pilgrim scouts were able to explore the areas on the shores of the Cape Cod Bay.  After several trips to shore, the Pilgrims had located an advantageous site for building their community.  With the break in the weather, there was hope of building adequate shelter for all those aboard.  On Christmas Day, they began to build.
  Finding the Plymouth colony with a good fishing lake and an ample harbor and an empty camping spot was the second bit of good luck for the Pilgrims; the first had been not being hit by the arrows and safely ending the first minor battle.

Men of Action

   Under the authority of the Compact and planning, the Pilgrims began to build.  The pilgrims had not selected a wooded area to begin work.  Instead, through their surveys and exploration, some of the men had found a clearing.  The clearing had once been the site of the Pawtuxet village.  The tribe had one roamed the area, but had died due to disease.  The location for the colony was found on Christmas Day, the Pilgrims began building the Plymouth settlement.
   The sick were taken off the ship and able-bodied men lead their families to build.  19 families in all began to build their shelters.

   Those that could be spared also built storehouses and a church.  Even more scouted for food to supplement the merger rations remaining from the Mayflower.  And, when the time was necessary, others took up their muskets to hunt and to defend the other Pilgrims.

Sacrifice of Mothers

   While the men offered leadership, the strong women of the colony provided just as much in support and care.  Of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower, 18 were women and three boarded the ship pregnant.  They had endured the treacherous journey across the sea, but their work had only begun when it was time to settle in the New World.
   Women managed the meals, cared for the sick, and cared for the 30 Pilgrim children.  They helped the children gather food and offered basic instruction to the children.  The women's sacrifice is best told by their numbers.  Many opted when food was scarce to give their portions to their children.  Of the 18 women, only 4 survived the winter.

   The fact that the Pilgrims did survive the harsh winter of 1620 is a testament to their resolve and their faith.  The New World was to be their Promised Land.  On their arrival, one could hardly see the promise.  However, through the foresight of planning, leadership, hard work and ultimately personal sacrifice, the Pilgrims, nearly half of their number, survived to build the Plymouth Colony.


   Pull the covers over your head.  Don't get out of bed until January 2, for your wallet's safe being.  It has happened again.  The holidays have snuck up behind and smacked you up alongside the head, taken out your wallet, spent all the money in it and maxed out your credit cards while you check your bank balance everyday to see if you can buy that last gift for someone special, who will down the road, sell it at a garage sale or give it to Goodwill.  The gift will probably never be opened, but it's the thought that counts, right?
   While you're stressed out over spending way too much money, you get blessed with an extra sense of guilt when you pass the Santa ringing his bell and you don't take all the change out of your pocket and throw it into his red pot.  You just put your head down, pretend you don't see the homeless man dressed as Santa and plow your way into the crowd merrily coughing and sneezing on each other, happily spreading and spraying germs within a 4 foot radius of each other, as you get ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays to come.

   There is no bigger joy than putting your family in the car and happily speed off to buy a dead evergreen tree, which you'll put in your house, because there is nothing like a dry fire hazard sitting right in the middle of your living room.  A hazard which sucks up water by the quarts, (if you don't spill half of it before you get it to the tree, or when you try to squeeze underneath it to fill its stand), just so the needle wont turn brown and fall all over the presents and into the carpeting, embedding themselves in within the fibers of the carpet.
   But Christmas Trees are "big business".  Isn't that what Christmas is all about!  Making money off selling dead trees.  There are over 21 million trees cut around the country each year for Christmas.  There are over 22,000 Christmas tree farms in the U.S. and they take up over 447,000 acres of land.

   The state of Oregon is happily filled with little animals escaping the sound of chain saws.  Oregon is the nation's top producer of rainy weather and Christmas trees.  Oregonians happily chop down over 6.5 million trees each holiday season.  Clackamas County alone, cuts down about 3 million Christmas Trees a year.
   Farmers make over 500 million dollars a year selling and growing Christmas trees.  The Christmas Tree industry hires over 100,00 people and 98% of all Christmas trees are grown on farms.

   Pennsylvania has the most Christmas tree farms in the United States, at 2,164 farms.  Besides Oregon and Pennsylvania, the top two states for growing Christmas trees,  Michigan, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin produce approximately 1 million trees annually also.  Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, ncluding Hawaii and Alaska.
   More than 2,000 trees are planted per acre.  On average, 1000 to 1500 trees will survive.  In the North, on average, 750 newly planted tress will survive to maturity.  When they are big enough to be sold, they are sheared to give them that Christmas tree shape.  They are usually harvested at 6 to 7 feet tall.  It takes 6 to 10 years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail, drought and infestations of insects to get to be a mature tree.

   The best selling trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pin, Balsam fir and White pine.  So when it's time for you to think about getting your tree for Christmas, remember everything that goes into the business of Christmas tree farming and what the tree had to go through to go from a seedling to a full grown tree ready to be harvested or cut down and enjoyed in your home this Christmas Season!


   The symbolism of bats varies across traditions and time.  Most famous is probably the bat's association with Halloween.  This article not only highlights reasons that bats and Halloween partner up, but also shares some others, lesser-known beliefs about bats.

   Traditional burning of bright bonfires at summer's end was common around Halloween.  The fires were meant to ward off bad energies and soften the chilly air.  The bonfires' brilliant light often attracted plentiful insects as well as their natural predator, bats.  As such, bats were a common sight at these fall festivals, and are therefore connected with Halloween's magical theme.

   In some Native American traditions, the bat was considered a symbol of intuition and vision due to it  being highly sensitive to its surroundings.  As such, a bat spirit would be invoked when special energy was needed to see though ambiguity, helping medicine people and shamans dive straight to the truth.  In addition, the bat was a symbol of communication because it was highly social with their group.  However, some groups of Native Americans such as the Creek, Cherokee, and Apache, believe that the bat is a trickster spirit.

   The bat is also a totem.  In fact, if one's totem is a bat, these people are typically extremely aware of their surroundings and are perceptive on a psychic level, especially in their dreams.  In addition, self improvement using the bat as a totem requires 100% commitment to spiritual growth.  People often wear either a bat tattoo or bat jewelry as a symbol of their totem.

   Another historical belief about the nocturnal bat was that bats could indicate the presence of spirits or ghosts.  One superstition stated that if a bat flew around a house three times on Halloween, then death would be coming soon to its inhabitants.

   Bats are also closely associated with vampires, who said to sometimes shape shift into bats, fog, or wolves.  Modern tradition connects bats with often negative associations, including winged demons.  Over the ages, however, bats were not always negatively associated.  In fact, bats were sometimes seen as protectors, warding off evil.  Perhaps this is true today as well, given the fewer mosquitoes  and other bug pests that do not exist thanks to the work of bats.