Fri, 29 August 2008
Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Old Stone Mill. What do they all have in common besides being situated on islands? They're all mysterious stone structures that have generated all kinds of colorful legends. The first two date to ancient times, the third to Colonial or possibly even Viking times. In the old days, folks were fascinated by rock formations that were even remotely out of the ordinary, and their imaginations ran wild, weaving fantastic stories about how such formations used to be giants, animals or spirits. It is one such formation that inspired our story on this podcast, "The Legend of the Rollright Stones".
We present this tale without benefit of Zephyr, who's in Oregon attending Not Back to School Camp, an annual gathering for homeschoolers. We come to you from North Attleboro, south of Boston.
Our story selection was prompted by our recent visit to Newport, RI (our first time ever to go there, and it isn't often that we visit a place for the first time anymore), where we saw the nation's oldest synagogue, the nation's oldest lending library, and Fort Adams Park, site of the annual Newport Folk Festival, which has showcased such legendary talents as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger (a co-founder of the event) and Joan Baez. Oh yes, and we also saw the Old Stone Mill, the third stone oddity mentioned above. Nobody knows who built it or when or why, but there has been speculation that Norsemen under Leif Erickson erected it when they allegedly dropped by a millennium ago – its style is similar to that of certain Scandinavian churches. Another popular theory is that it was built as a mill by Rhode Island colonial governor Benedict Arnold, great-grandfather of the more famous (and infamous) individual bearing that name. (Supporters of the Viking theory point out that even if Arnold did use it as a mill, that doesn't mean he built it, and it could have been much older.) Still another hypothesis is that it was a watchtower constructed or used by a Portuguese explorer around 1500. Hey, maybe all three are sort of true.
We breezed through Newport on our bicycles as part of a 10-day bike marathon, starting from Norton, MA, then proceeding to Plymouth, Cape Cod, southern MA, then Newport and back up to Norton. We covered more than 320 miles in all, spending the nights in a tent and buying food at produce stands. What a great way to see the country! As long as you don't run over any big rocks.
Dennis (Farmer, Villager), Kimberly (Narrator, Fairy, Villager) and Zephyr (Marcel Marceau impersonator)
P.S. Apologies for the audio quality of the past two podcasts. We've had major technical gremlins, which we've been struggling to put back into their cages. Hopefully, all will be peachy keen next time.
Thu, 14 August 2008
"The Jester and the Straw Roof" is a trickster tale from India about a poor man who gets his due by exercising his wits - in effect, by playing a joke on someone rich and powerful, which is appropriate, since this individual is a joker by trade. But we trade the traditional concept of a court jester for the persona of Batman's nemesis The Joker, as interpreted by the late Heath Ledger, and ably imitated by our resident mimic Zephyr. We also are aided and abetted this week by our friend Cassia, since we come to you from her hometown in Massachusetts.
We talk about the tour that Dennis and Zephyr took of Valley Forge National Park, just north of Philadelphia. During the winter of 1777-78, Gen. George Washington and his men took a very different kind of tour of this property, a military stand to fight back the British invasion. It was a harsh winter and the troops worked under extreme hardships, often having inadequate clothing and little food.
Even Washington had it rough, sharing cramped quarters, with several members of his staff - although he certainly was better off than the troops. At least he was in a fine old house with servants and a comfortable bed; they on the other hand, slept in crude little log huts - or on the ground while they were constructing these!
We were able to see some very accurate replicas of these huts, and they looked anything but inviting, in any kind of weather. We also toured Gen. Washington's painstakingly restored house on the Schuylkill River, furnished just as it might have been when he was using it, down to the pens and papers on the desk.
We also mention the alternating days of bike touring that Kimberly and Dennis have been doing from Valley Forge to Bristol, CT, getting in as many as 65 miles a day - often on very hilly terrain. At least the soldiers never had do that!
Dennis (Maharajah), Kimberly (narrator), Zephyr (Jester/Joker) and Cassia (the wife)
Learn more about Valley Forge