Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Bishop's Sea: St. Nicholas


St. Nicholas, Washington Irving tells us, was first seen by a Dutch scouting party checking out Manhattan. Shipwrecked on its shores, they had a vision in which good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children." St. Nicholas becomes the founding father of New York, which is why he is the patron of he New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804, and to which Washington Irving belonged when, in 1809, he published this in an extended parody of Samuel L. Mitchell's Picture of New-York, the publishing sensastion that was Irving's History of New-York. The history of Santa Claus being a crowded field, especially at this time of the year, I'll leave the rest to silence except for the confusion of dates for St. Nicholas' advent, whether on the 6th of December, the 24th, 25th, or New Year's Eve, and the indigenous North American parallel that seems relevant  here, Le canoe volant, or, as the Wikipedia entry more primly has it, La Chasse-galerie, which in the story carries voyageurs home to their loved ones on New Years Eve. And, as always, I should acknowledge the brilliant connection that Lauren Golf makes between the legend of the flying canoe and the Sullivan Expedition, or boats floating above the flooded countryside in general. 

But "the first Christmas" in North America was at the second permanent European colony in North America, Port Royal, Nova Scotia. It was celebrated by Samuel de Champlain, Membertou, the sachem of the Micmacs, and Champlain's Order of Good Cheer, more than two centuries before in 1605. 


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Postblogging Technology, September 1952, I: Vixen Crash

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

We are in a little hotel just outside of Maastricht, which I know was not in our itinerary, but we were having so  much fun cycling on the Rhine that we decided to make a trip down the Moselle and extend our stay by a day, returning via Rotterdam aboard Cebu Queen, as what is the point of being an international shipping heiress if you can't get a berth on short notice. We have  many pictures to show you, but none taken after dark, which threatens any minute due to brownouts, which are not one of the things about Europe that I will miss. I will talk to you about our meetings with the captains in Rotterdam when we get back. Not much to worry about, but there were some concerns expressed, mainly about an expected increase in traffic from the mainland due to Mao being increasingly erratic. Or so I'm told, anyway. 

Your Loving Daughter,


Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Bishop's Sea: Newfoundland to Tolerance: The Fall Line


The Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line is one of those things that everyone talks about and nobody explains. The Wikipedia article has it as a "900 mile escarpment where the Piedmont and Atlantic coastal plain meet in the eastern United States." To save the reader the bother of clicking through, "the Piedmont" is defined as a plateau region between the same coastal plain and "the main Appalachian mountains." The Fall Line is also the boundary between a "hard metamorphised terrain" and the sandy and flat alluvial plain to its east, consisting of "unconsolidated sediments."

In other words, the plain is the bit with no rocks, which was probably fairly important to the Neolithic people who lived along that coast, and always puts me in mind of the execution of John Ratcliffe by vivisection with mussel shells, which seems like some kind of ritualistic statement about a paramount chief's obligation to trade for workable stone. Or maybe that's just because I was sucked into watching clips from Maximilian on Youtube when I should have been writing this. 

The map of the Fall Line here, apart from being very colourful, ends at the New Jersey/New York Palisades and therefore omits the palisade over which the Mohawk tumbles to the Hudson in New York, the rapids that powered the mills of Springfield and Lowell, Massachusetts, and the ones on the St. Lawrence upstream from Montreal that blocked Cartier and Champlain's way to Asia.