Jamestown: Creativity 101

I had a glimpse of what it means to fight for survival last week, when my family and I visited Jamestown, Virginia. The first permanent English colony in North America, Jamestown was the capitol of the Virginia Colony from the time of its settlement in 1607 until 1699.

There, adventurers, gentlemen, malcontents, and misfits banded together to fight off mosquitoes and Indians and struggle with hunger, unpotable water, insufficient farmland, and swampy conditions as they struggled to build a viable colony--which is to say make money for the Crown and the people who paid their passage as well as for themselves.

When tobacco became an export in 1612, fortunes turned for the colonists, thanks to the leadership of John Rolfe and his lovely wife Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy. A time of peace, prosperity, growth, and democracy ensued.

Today, Jamestown is a tourist site with three replica wooden vessels, an Indian village, and an English fort. We visited on a cold day and played at being colonists by trying on armor, scraping fur from an animal hide, grinding corn meal with a mortar and pestle, sitting in a stiff wooden church, and plugging our ears as a musketeer fired his weapon for our amusement. He wore chain mail, armor, and a bandoleer of gun powder cartridges for his weapon.

Watching all of this and desperately trying to press the shutter button on my camera with a frozen finger, I wondered what it would be like to live like this because I had no other hope--to see this swampy land of mosquitoes, dirty water, and insufficient farm land as the first and last hope to create a meaningful life. What must it be like to be so sure that the only direction is forward, the only duty, life itself?

When the rest of the world--including that former home called England--had nothing at all to offer, this continent was everything. In it, people with nothing but their two hands and the will to survive found a way to survive. From this world they made something. From what they believed to be nothing, they created something. In this way, this place is a work of art. It is also a work in progress, thank God.

Jamestown reminds me that human nature is creative; we are driven to make our lives. We are driven to make our lives together. We are driven to create. Desperation drove creativity then; it can drive creativity now. Creativity, dreaming, and doing are the source of optimism.

Comments

  1. That's a way I'd never looked at Jamestown before--great post.

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  2. Anonymous7:24 AM

    Shortly after Jamestown, there was Plimoth Plantation. Another group determined to make a go of it; another group with hope pinned on an area of which they had to learn about and figure out in the spring after a winter during which so many folks died that there probably wasn't very much hope. I can't imagine being in that situation, although plenty today around the world are.

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  3. "Creativity, dreaming, and doing are the source of optimism."

    Amen to that.

    REALLY neat post, Sandy. I'd love to see Jamestown one day; I've always been intrigued by the history there.

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  4. adversity brees greatness as one must suffer to create

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