We Don’t Do First Person
One thing preoccupied me during the battle: what are they thinking?
What do they think while they’re marching up and down the field, and firing muskets at one another, or wandering in and out of the white canvas tents. Obviously, a lot of their attention would be taken up trying to figure out where you were supposed to be when, just because the choreography for a crowd that large has to be pretty demanding. But when they were in position, and taking aim at the opposing line, what did they think? Did they imagine themselves to be in 1812, representing a person who might actually have lived through the original version of that moment? In other words, if the battle was theatre, were they actors as well as re-enactors? Continue reading
Welcome to 1812
Reasoning that it qualified as dissertation-research (for me, that is), D and I drove down to the Niagara Peninsula last weekend to watch the re-enactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights. This event was part of a huge, national project to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, with events planned all around Ontario and Quebec for the next two years. There will be fancy-dress armies, historically-accurate food, tall ships, sea-battles, red-coats, poke bonnets. Laura Secord. Tecumseh. General Isaac Brock. The events are spectacular, and expensive, equal parts educational opportunity and vacation plan.
This event drew nearly a thousand re-enactors, many of them men who double as combatants in the Seven Years War, or the American Civil War. It lasted all weekend, with Saturday devoted to the battle, and Sunday to “Brock”‘s funeral, and a slow march in costume through Niagara-on-the-Lake. Continue reading
Last May D and I drove south to the Niagara frontier to see the Corpse Flower in bloom at the Niagara Floral Showcase and to visit Queenston Heights, because I’m working on a chapter about the battlefield. The Corpse Flower gets its own post, though, as a kind of footnote.
Queenston Heights is a park that was once a battlefield. You know it was a battlefield because there’s a very large monument to Sir Isaac Brock, the English General who led British and Canadian troops against the Americans in October 1812, and who died early in the battle. The memorial tower rises aggressively on the Canadian side of the frontier, with Brock at the very top, pointing toward the American side of the river, as though the tower isn’t only to remind us of the general’s death, but to tell us where and how to look toward his American enemies.
I spend a lot of time working in libraries and coffee shops (which is where I meet my insect friends) because D and I share the World’s Tiniest Apartment and until last week, neither of us had an office. I like working in public, most of the time. There are good days, like today, when all the noise blends into a buzz, so I don’t distinguish talk from traffic from milk-foamers from espresso machines from Starbucks Greatest Hits (lately: Joni Mitchell’s “California” which is a relief after “We Are Young” by fun. which was on repeat all last winter). I get a lot done on those days.
Other times I’m not so lucky and my brain pingpongs around the room. I can’t stop myself from listening to what I hear, and often remembering it. Long stories. Arguments. Career planning. Personal injury. In-jokes. Hook-ups. Detailed accounts of really terrible relationships. At least one very very unsuccessful job interview, and a few good-sounding ones.