Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Off To Sea

My older son Nathan (he's 10) is spending the next two days on a sailing ship, the Californian, which is moored in San Diego harbor. They even get to help sail it tomorrow. He's pretty excited because he gets to be a mate, which in this case means he has his own crew to boss around. He's been spending the last week learning to speak nautical (port, starboard, block, tackle, fo'c'sle, etc.) and practicing his knots. This is so much cooler than the field trips we had when I was in 5th grade. I think we went to the Eckrich meat plant. I haven't eaten baloney since.

His class has been studying the American revolution, so they're trying to simulate the culture of the late 18th century during the trip. Part of the experience involves reading "letters from home", which are written by the parents. Writing the letter was harder than i expected. I tried to emulate the tone and style of letters from the period, but i chose to ignore the orthography and i eliminated any formal thees and thous. I tried to weave in some of the family history by inventing a family living in the Indiana Territory who had moved from Connecticit (i had ancestors in Danbury long ago, who did in fact move to Ohio). I found a historical tidbit about Henry Hamilton leading troops down the Maumee River to meet George Rogers Clark's troops at Vincennes in 1778. I figured this might be something that would be observed by local settlers, so i included something about this as "news" about the war.

Yesterday Nathan's school orchestra gave a concert (he plays cello). It was not easy to listen to. The music had been reduced to very slow, scale-like passages so that the players could manage to stay together. Since Nathan plays in a far more advanced string ensemble he was visibly bored. Anyway, it started me thinking about Aubrey and Maturin in the Patrick O'Brian series of books about the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars. Aubrey, the captain, plays violin; and Maturin, the ship's surgeon, plays cello. They'd bring their instruments on each voyage and play together to entertain themselves. I was explaining this to Nathan, and i noticed he looked panicked, so i had to assure him that i wasn't going to make him take his cello with him on the trip.

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