Saturday, July 21, 2012

#534 George Washington Defaced It, Thomas Jefferson Bought It, We Visited It

  • George Washington defaced it (some say) by carving "GW" into the rock during his 1750 surveying visit.  
  • Thomas Jefferson bought it from the King of England for a few dollars, built a private home there, and tagged it "the most sublime of nature's works".  
  • The National Register of Historic Places listed it as a National Historic Landmark.
  • Herman Melville used it to as a literary device to describe Moby Dick
It's Virginia's Natural Bridge.  So we stopped by to see what all this fuss is about.

Virginia's natural beauty, lush and green, engulfs the place.  But the incredible coming together of nature's forces to create this oddment is the real story.  Tectonic plates, continental collisions, limestone's incremental yielding to the unstoppable forces of water, and poof, a natural miracle happened before we were watching.

Seated on benches facing the bridge, we heard a well-delivered scholarly description of the natural and human history of this dramatic place.  Later we engaged costumed interpreters at the Monocan village in the bridge's shadow and got a sense of the depth of their knowledge of Native American life.  These educational interludes (our highlights) were pleasant surprises given the for-profit nature of this place.

Yes, there's a gift shop. Virginia's Natural bridge - "it's easy to get to and hard to forget".

Yours in admiring Mr. Jefferson's real estate acumen,

Sunday, July 01, 2012

#533 Virginia is for Reading

Geography matters in my reading choices.   

Since moving to Charlottesville five years ago, books such as these written by or about Virginians often get to the top of my fun reading list.   

The Art of Fielding (2011) by Chad Harbach, a UVA graduate.    

Audrey (1902) by Mary Johnston, a women's rights activist from Buchanan, VA.

Big Stone Gap (2000), Big Cherry Holler (2001), Milk Glass Moon (2002), and Home to Big Stone Gap (2007) by Adriana Trigiani.
"We got a revival down in the Frog Level." 
"Don't lose it.  UVA'll have my hide."
"You make it sound like a mail-correspondence college.  It's the state university of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson.  It's not some dump."
Bossypants (2011) by Tina Fey, a UVA graduate.  
"Let me start off by saying that at the University of Virginia in 1990, I was Mexican."
"This worked out perfectly for me in college, because what nineteen-year-old Virginia boy doesn't want a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair that's permed on top?"

Christmas at Monticello with Thomas Jefferson (1959) by Helen Topping Miller.   

The Disagreement (2008) by Nick Taylor, a UVA graduate.
Historical fiction set during the Civil War at the University of Virginia.  "My sense of the University's plan was not yet firm, but from my father's engraving, I knew that the buildings were arranged in two horseshoes, one inside the other.  Service buildings such as Hotel A sat on the outer row.  The grand Rotunda, which served as the library, fit like the keystone in the top of both rows."
Innocents Abroad Too: Journeys Around the World on Semester at Sea (2008) by Michael Pearson, a Fall 2006 SAS alum.   

"Moreover, folded into its pages were informational materials from institutions such as the University of Virginia's Alderman Library, a disturbing clue that other thefts may have already taken place." 
"Officials at the Alderman Library reported that at least seven rare maps were missing, including eighteenth-century works by the cartographers Herman Moll and Andrew Ellicott."

London is the Best City in America (2007) and The First Husband (2011) by Laura Dave, a UVA graduate. 

The Right Attitude to Rain (2006), The Careful Use of Compliments (2007), and The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (2008) by Alexander McCall Smith.   
Though the Isabel Dalhousie series is set in Edinburgh, the author mentions Charlottesville in each of these books. In The Right Attitude to Rain, Isabel is asked if she enjoys living in Edinburgh and responds "I do like it.  But I'd be happy living in other places, I suspect.  New York.  Charlottesville, Virginia.  To name just two.  I'm sure I'd be happy there."

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures (2011) by Caroline Preston, a Charlottesvillian.

Something Borrowed (2004) and Something Blue (2005) by Emily Giffin, a UVA law graduate.  

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) by John Fox Jr, who lived in Big Stone Gap, VA.

When the Whistle Blows (2009) by Fran Cannon Slayton, a UVA graduate.

Next up: A Girl of Virginia (1902) by Lucy Meacham Thruston.

Yours in appreciating the long and growing literary tradition of Virginia,