A vast early warning

Jeff and Matt at Jamestown, Virginia, August 2005

Jeff and Matt at Jamestown, Virginia, August 2005

“A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.”
David McCullough

“History is a vast early warning system.”Norman Cousins

Living in the “historic triangle” of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown has only sharpened my already considerable interest in history.  I’ve never understood how anyone could find history boring.  Its stories, so full of drama in the condensed versions we are able to piece together, answer some questions and raise others.  With the benefit of centuries of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see a lot of mistakes that led to tragedy, and we can always hope that at least some of them won’t be unnecessarily repeated.  At the same time, it’s hard not to be grateful that our ancestors were tough, strong and courageous enough to blaze many trails that made things easier for us today.

Few stories from history are more fraught with warnings than the settlement of Jamestown.  Without going into the details, let’s just say that it was far from an unqualified success, and the failures, suffering and death are well documented.  Yet 13 years ago, on the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, contemporary Virginians and visiting dignitaries (including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England) attended many commemorative events in a year-long schedule of celebration.

Perhaps the mere presence of descendants who are around to honor such dubious and painful beginnings is a tribute to the determination that humanity still displays when faced with opportunity and peril.  What will future generations remember about us? Let’s do what we can to leave a legacy befitting people who learned some of history’s hardest lessons, and created happier examples for our great-great-great grandchildren’s benefit.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I think I recognize that place!
    I think that as a country, we’re about to learn a historic lesson: “Pride cometh before a fall.”
    What??? Someone already said that???
    Golly, who knew? (Ouch)
    That’s a really appealing photo, and the topic is eerily relevant. Thanks for this!

    • Not just as a country, but as the world at large is learning…which will last until the next time we forget.

  2. Carol Hoyos

    Hello Julia,
    Had it not been for the Coronavirus we would have been camping in Williamsburg and going to our grandson’s USCG graduation in Yorktown right now. We’d been planning a cross country road trip in our Airstream since the beginning of the year. Alas, here we are hanging out in WA. and our “Coastie” is in quarantine in Hawaii (his dream duty station) until Saturday. What’s the saying? Life happens when you’re making plans. Stay healthy. ♥️

    • Wow, I could possibly have met you someplace! Maybe another time…On the bright side, there are worse places to be in quarantine than Hawaii. It wasn’t our dream tour but we did love it there, and that’s where I went to graduate school, a wonderful opportunity. Yes, life (and sadly, sometimes death) happens despite all our other plans, and we have no option but to adjust, and adjust, and adjust. Staying healthy so far 🙂 and glad you are too. Thanks for being here.

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