Kumu Crew: History Tour

May 5, 2016

In from Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau ‘05

This feels like a thin place to me. People have lived and people have died here. Our accommodation looks into the belly of the mighty Chesapeake Bay where the York River empties and fills faster than we could ever swim. We must constantly check Hokule‘a’s dock lines because of this. These waters are alive.

Many bodies fell on this land and in these waters. Between the Revolutionary and Civil wars this place holds a gruesome history. There is a cave that Cornwallis allegedly retreated to. There is a French ship that met its demise under water 50 yards offshore. There are historic buildings with canon balls embedded in the bricks and stories upon stories surrounding the various fortifications around town. I was intrigued that the population back in the late 1700s in Yorktown is about the same as it is now. I learned this and more during a free tour on top of a strange, futuristic mode of transportation, the Segway.

I can't describe how awkward and enjoyable these things are but I can tell you it's one heck of a way to revisit your American history. From historic building to battle site we couldn't stop giggling as we floated on these strange two wheelers. It was truly surreal to be rolling so peacefully and carefree over a land once plagued by war.

Atop a hill the tour guide began talking about some special fortification where at some point a whole lot of soldiers died. Meanwhile a bald eagle landed on a branch overlooking the river nearby. This was the closest I had been to one this entire trip. My mind drifted from the war stories to the Eagle as my numb hands fumbled to get a decent photo.

I pondered the Eagle's thoughts as I stood on my Segway below with helmet on and a half-spilled coffee in hand. Why does this beautiful bird look so much wiser than our guide? Her family has seen a lot of human behaviors around here from the rise and fall of the Powhatan people to the major shipping trade of tobacco to the thousands of roaring cannon balls to today’s historic Segway tours.

I hope she smiles from her tree as she rests her wings between each hunt. I hope she trusts us to keep these trees there for her family to be on for years to come. I wonder what she thinks of all the fortifications, battles won, battles lost, blood spilled and declarations signed. Independently perched she sees something far away below in the water I cannot see. I wonder if she would give us permission to use her families' face as the image of the nation that governs the tree that she rests upon on this cold day in May. I wish I had some of her wisdom.