Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky

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9781595264213: Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky
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Few women and children sailed to Jamestown in 1609. But to Joan, prosperous Virginia sounded promising. Even when she was forced to leave a daughter behind. Even that Joan could bear. But the hurricane, the Starving Time, the Indian Wars.

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Prosperity in Virginia sounded promising. Then Joan learned she would have to leave a daughter behind in England. Even that she could bear. But a hurricane at sea, the Starving Time, Indian wars...

The Queen's head was tilted upward, her eyes to the afternoon sun. For a moment--just a moment--she dropped her eyes toward me. I stood transfixed. I remembered seeing hatred in a brave's eyes, but how much more poignant were these eyes filled with grief.

She does not mourn her own death, but that of her children, I thought. In that brief melding of gazes, we were neither white nor red, English nor Paspahegh. We were but two mothers.

Would that I knew a native word for grief or sorrow, but, alas, I did not. Yet I understood a mother's heart. As Annie Laydon said, the men folk fight and the women folk bear the brunt. This woman had borne the burden of war between her people and my own and had paid the highest price any mother can pay--her children. My eyes filled with tears for her loss, and for the loss of all the children and all the mothers from these wars.

No, I had no word for sorrow, but I lifted my fist to my heart and let the tear run down my cheek. Your sorrow, my sorrow. We are both women, and we are both mothers.

In return, she gave the barest of nods, an acknowledgement. Yes, it said, thank you.

She had allowed me to share her concealed grief. She then turned her eyes upward to the sun once more--lest any soldier think her afraid or that she was any less warrior than they themselves were. I knew she would not cry out upon her death--natives never did.

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Mulberry Island, Virginia

August 1649

Marking My Fortieth Year in the Colony

Most times when folks come to visit Mulberry Island, they have questions. The first one is, "Begging your pardon, Mistress, but why are you toiling in the garden at your age, when you have servants to help you?"

Well, my bones do well for a body nearing seventy. Some women are embarrassed about their age--not me. When you've lived as long as I have, and seen as much as I've seen, you consider it a blessing to be here still. There aren't many walking this colony today who remember its founding. I do, praise God. There are less still who remember the days of our Queen Bess. I lived through her reign, and the reigns of King James and King Charles, even unto the tragic beheading of Charles this spring. I never thought I should live to see an England without a king or queen. I am nearly beyond my time, I suppose, like a relic.

However, not in the grave yet.

So I'm not shy about it. I tell all Virginia I shall be seventy in the spring. Moreover, I plan on being here to mark the occasion!

As for why I still work outside--I work outside because I like it. I believe in keeping oneself busy. Don't wait on me, I say. I tell them firmly, I work outside because I can. Because Virginia bird calls, the feel of the earth, and the tumbling river currents are soothing to me.

Now, forty years ago, I never would've told you any of this was soothing.

This always leads to their next question.

"Begging your pardon again, Mistress Peirce, but how did you do it?" they begin.

"You've no need to keep begging anything from me, young lass, but I appreciate your manners," I say. "And how did I do what?" It's a bit of a game, since I know exactly what they mean. But I politely wait for the second part of the question.

Now I have thrown them somewhat. "How did you, a woman alone with a young child, survive that horrible Starving Time when so many others--even so many men--died, back at James Town? And--pardon me if I'm prying, Mistress-- but what made you decide to come at all back then? Virginia was but an outpost in the wilderness in those days--scarcely a woman to be found."

"You mean, why was I so foolish as to come, and why was I so lucky as to survive anyway?" I ask in return, feigning indignation.

They take a step back, fearing they have offended me.

Then I smile. I am not offended, for I have heard these questions many times before.

And if I am so inclined--if the weather is breezy, and I can hear the mourning doves and the river rushing past the fields, I might gesture to a chair.

"Have a seat, then," I say to my visitor. "Do you truly want to hear an old woman's tales of the upstart James Town colony, and what the Starving Time was truly like? Few enough remember it any more. Well, I am of a mood to tell my secrets today, and I will share them with you. I am marking the fortieth year since my arrival, and...well, it is right close to St. James Day, isn't it? Aye, the 25th of July is just past.

"Then indeed I will tell the story, because it was on that day forty years ago the great hurricano struck our ships bound for Virginia. I knew at that moment I'd made the mistake of a lifetime. That I chanced to carry a pilgrim badge from the tomb of St. James mattered not. It appeared the Spanish saint would devour our ships in the hurricane on his day. `It is Spanish territory--go away!' he seemed to cry in the howling winds."

But I suppose I should start at the beginning.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780983398219: Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky

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ISBN 10:  0983398216 ISBN 13:  9780983398219
Publisher: Greyfox Press, 2012
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9781933626079: Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky

Llumin..., 2006
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