Well, we’re home. The adventure is over. It was so amazing that I’m still processing a lot of it. I saw places with my own eyes that I’ve read about and written about for over a decade. I ran my fingers through the sand at Omaha Beach and Sword Beach. I wove through a real trench from the WWI Ypres Salient that was once surrounded by shell craters and mud, but is now surrounded by a bustling, modern-day city. I stood on 100-year-old battlefields that still bore scars I could both see with my eyes and feel with my heart. I navigated the chilled caves of Fort Douaumont where French soldiers withstood unimaginable bombardments and lost thousands of soldiers in the First World War. I stood at the mole on Dunkirk Beach, once mobbed by 330,000 desperate soldiers trying to cross the English channel. I walked through beautiful cities across Europe and heard their bell towers chime. I stood atop the highest peak in Germany, and I also beheld the gorgeous summit of Switzerland’s Titlis Mountain. I took a picture on the same stairs where the Von Trapp children learned Do-Re-Mi. I walked down the vast aisles of churches that were hundreds of years old and heard their massive pipe organs echo. I met and spoke with people from all over the world, some of them I even stumbled my way through in French or German. I walked across Pegasus Bridge both the original and the new. I stood in graveyards that had seas of stones and wept for people I never knew but somehow feel so connected with despite the years of time between us. I saw way too many graves marked with the words “Known Unto God.” I hiked through the heat but also froze in the snow. I ate so much Belgian chocolate I got sick to my stomach, and I also had no regrets. I paid homage to a dearly departed friend by finding the tiny town in Belgium where he fought in WWII. I stepped up in ways I didn’t know I could at times, and crumbled with exhaustion at other times. Then, I sat bedraggled and frustrated for two days at an airport terminal in London and could only think of one thing. Home. I learned so much about the world and myself, and I cannot wait for the next big adventure. Read More
The story of Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine, and their heroic stand on Little Round Top is one of the most famous from the battle of Gettysburg. While entire books have been written on the subject, a basic summary is this. On the burning hot day of July 2, 1863, the second day of fighting between Lee and Meade at Gettysburg, the slopes outside of town dubbed “the Round Tops” came to the attention of Union General Gouverneur Warren (pictured below). At that time, he was the Chief Topographical Engineer for the Union Army. He immediately realized the value of these tree-covered slopes, since they overlooked the entire battlefield. Whoever possessed them would have the ultimate advantage. Union troops were rushed to the slopes to keep them out of Confederate hands.
Welcome back to the Poetry Break and the poem epic that I fell way behind on posting! I do apologize to those of you who were waiting for the next segment. I kept getting distracted with new finds and historical places that I was excited to write about, which I suppose is a good thing. To those of you just tuning in, this is the latest segment of a 21 part poem epic that I wrote a few months back (you may find links to an intro for the series and the previous segments below). I hope you enjoy this segment about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Once upon a boring Saturday, my husband and I retreated to the Echo Mountain hiking trail located in Alta Dena, California. The workout and the views left us breathless, but there was so much more. I’ve always believed that somehow, history finds me. True to form, when I wasn’t even looking for it, I stumbled on some amazing history on that mountain top. Right on that summit rested the remains of a California mechanical marvel known as the “Railway in the Clouds,” or, the Mt. Lowe Railway.
Do you ever wonder what it’s like to go back in time? I think about it a lot, as I’m sure many history enthusiasts do. Over the years, I have accepted that physical time travel might not happen. But fear not, I have found another way. Because there are places where the past comes to me. Ancient ruins, battlefields, preserved monuments – places like these are time portals. When you go there, all it takes is imagination, and you can move about on the timeline. I found one such time portal in Arizona – the Tumacacori National Historical Site near Tucson.
The history of this place starts hundreds of years ago. Back then, the O’odham Native American tribe inhabited the Santa Cruz Valley. They lived peaceful lives of hunting, gathering, and farming. They grew beans, squash, corn, and had their own irrigation system to fuel the crops in the hostile desert climate. Bent branches covered in mud served as their homes. Conflicts with neighboring tribes flared up once in a while, but most gatherings by the O’odham were peaceful and resulted in dancing, feasting, and spiritual rituals to celebrate nature.
In 2016, a life-long dream came true when I visited Northern Ireland for the first time. I had always wanted to see the sprawling green countryside, the charming cities, and the beautiful ocean views. I also wanted to soak up the history and culture of Belfast. My travel buddy booked us a cab tour so we could learn it all in the comfort of a nice car.
The next morning, Patrick, our friendly Belfast Tours guide, picked us up at our hotel. As the tour began, I quickly realized this wouldn’t be a typical showing of historic buildings and local hot spots. Patrick instead steered us through a series of violent events in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles.”
The Troubles? Just when I think I can call myself a history buff, I find this whole other battle going on. And believe me, it was a battle. Since that tour of Belfast, I have struggled to get a grip on the Troubles. I think anyone who knows about them can agree it’s a complicated subject. But here are the basics, or at least the basics that I can wrap my head around.
As promised, here is another portion of the 21-segment poem epic I wrote recently. The segments are divided into three parts, and this is the second segment of Part I. Part I covers many different angles and viewpoints of World War II.
I hope you enjoy -and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!
LET ME TELL YOU HOW I DIED
PART I – SEGMENT 2
It was a daring move, a stroke so bold
We thought the victory would be pure as gold
But it was just one of Hitler’s many lies
When we went into Russia, we got a surprise
In the year 1861, a man named Wilmer McLean owned a farm in the beautiful countryside of Virginia. A charming home that he shared with his family, with spacious grounds situated along a bubbling creek called Bull Run. All was well…
…Until the bloodiest war in American history opened right in his front yard. When the first shots fired off at Manassas, the armies poured in, and McLean’s tranquil home fast descended into chaos. Confederate General P.G.T commandeered the place as his headquarters. Masses of uniformed men hurried about, barked orders, and trampled McLean’s parlor to pieces. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the house also sat in close range of the Union guns. A shell crashed through one of the windows and thudded into the dining room. Luckily, no one was hurt.
Still, the whole experience left McLean shaken to the core. Terrified for his family’s safety, he vacated the Bull Run farm and took his loved ones into the country– “where the sound of battle would never reach them.” He found what he wanted in the sleepy town of Appomattox. It was two miles from the nearest railroad, had no supplies or armaments factories, and had nothing else to give it any military value. Surely, on the tranquil hillsides there, McLean had found the perfect safe haven. He moved his family into a lovely manor in the middle of town and started a life free from the guns of war…
When I was in high school, my brain was a fountain of poetry. I wrote poems about everything. Things that bothered me, events in the news, things that made me angry, or things that gave me joy. I had files and files of poems, limericks, haikus… you name it, I probably wrote it. Then, that well seemed to dry up. Especially after I graduated college. I got caught up in the many struggles of a young adult trying to establish herself, and as the years went by, I stopped trying.
Alright, I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. First of all, it’s too close to my birthday. It also doesn’t help that for many Valentine days, I was single. There are few things more annoying than watching everyone celebrate a day for lovers when you don’t have one yourself. I managed the pain by going to the store the next day, and enjoying the chocolates in the half-off bin that, like myself, got left behind on February 14.
Once I found myself a nice fellow and got married, I still didn’t warm up to Valentine’s Day. Something about the whole thing just felt off to me. The over priced flowers, the boxes of chocolate bigger than my head, the aisles and aisles of pink and red cards… I just couldn’t get into it.
Perhaps it was my inner senses tingling. Trying to tell me that, like most things in history, Valentines Day has a much darker side than pretty flowers and cards. So, I finally dug into it. As it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s had a streak of rotten luck on the biggest day for romance.