wandering the streets: an early morning walk in colonial williamsburg

after two days of rain that were mostly spent in a car driving from house to house on our search for a place to live, i walked to colonial williamsburg.  since darry had to work, i rode in with him and left the car in the lot at william and mary and walked the mile between the university and the historic village.

it was early by most standards, barely 7am, but not early to me since i am generally at work before 4am each day.  although this was rush hour, there were hardly any cars around-something i am sure will change once classes start again next week.  as i walked along the sidewalk that parallels the university grounds, i noticed the moss and lichen covering the brick walls that border the property.  while i do not know how long the brick walls have stood along the walkway, it was obvious that they have been here quite some time.

as a gardener with a preference for shade plants, moss is something i try to encourage in my own garden.  there are methods of introducing it that call for blending moss with buttermilk and painting it where you would like it to grow but there is something magical about letting nature take the lead.

the different colors and textures blend together beautifully.

to really appreciate the beauty, one must get close up.  moss are unique plants that do not produce flowers or seeds but instead reproduce through spores.  those little brown pods are actually spore capsules getting ready to burst.

lichen on the other hand is not really a plant but a symbiotic partnership formed by fungus and an algae or bacteria.

very few places were open so early so i headed over to the local coffee house for breakfast.  it was truly peaceful out here as there were still so few people out and about.

my goal was to photograph as much as i could before the tourists descended and made a clean shot impossible.  this is the walkway into the village from merchants square.

knowing that this is a major tourist attraction, it was a surprise to learn that many of the houses are privately owned and that the owners live in them.  it is also legal to drive on the roads but not during the day when the roads are full of tourists.  another surprise was the number of runners i encountered and not just single runners but entire packs of them.  on several occasions i was passed by a group of 5 to 6 running together.

but even with the runners, walkers and occasional car, it was still quite possible to get the shot and simply enjoy the morning.

every detail in the village must look as though it has endured the centuries.  wooden gates and the locks that fasten them as well.

this little guy let me get just close enough before he dropped his breakfast and ran

the brick walkways were slightly slick with the morning dew and the cracks were filled with moss.

and if you stopped for a moment to take a peek at what lies on the other side of the fence, this would be the view.  even though it seemed neglected or perhaps just lacking plants, it still made for a beautiful view.  my gardener’s view had visions of hostas, ferns, hellebores and other deep-shade loving plants filling the beds and with my imagination, i could see azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas dotted throughout the area to create colorful focal points.  even so, there was beauty in just the patterns formed by the beds and the bricks and the moss that was filling in the spaces.

as i wandered from place to place, i encountered another walkway leading to yet another secret garden.  this wooden staircase climbed a hillside up to a brick walkway between houses.  the bright red door caught my attention and i headed towards it.

and right into a garden in the process of renovation.  my thoughts continually ran back to this; how did the colonists have time for so many gardens?  obviously, these homes were not inhabited by working class folks; they had servants, maybe even slaves which would explain how they had the time to maintain so many beautiful gardens along with all the other daily chores completed without the many modern conveniences we are accustomed to.  it also crossed my mind that a tourist attraction must be just that-attractive.  who would go visit it if it showed the signs of real life and what it was like back then before things such as indoor plumbing and sewer systems…

regardless of what it must have been like then, it was a beautiful way to spend a morning and i look forward to going back and visiting again and again as the seasons change.

churches were central parts of colonial communities.  the bruton parish church building which dates back to 1715 was no exception; it was attended by george washington, thomas jefferson and patrick henry to name just a few.  to walk the grounds which really are little more than a cemetery, is also a sobering experience.  modern medicine has made childbirth safe for women and the likelihood that a child will grow to adulthood is something we take for granted.

the inscription of this tomb reminded me how lucky we are to be living in this day and age.   young mathew whaley only lived to be 9 years old and he “lyes interred here within this tomb upon his father”

and yes, i am one of those people that like to wander cemeteries looking at the names and dates as well as the stones themselves.  this tomb grabbed my attention with a skull and crossbones on one side

and an angel on the other.  unfortunately, time has take its toll and the inscription across the top of the tomb was not legible and so i have no clue who was interred within or why they might have such an interesting tomb.

and as is customary, a lock on the churchyard gate, but i do wonder if that would have been the case back then.  there was a time when churches doors were always open for anyone seeking refuge.  honestly, i just like the hardware on the gate, the idea that someone hammered hot iron to form them makes them worth a look and a photo.

and just as my morning began, so it ended.  as the sun came up and the heat and humidity rose, i walked out of the village on the same sidewalk that i arrived on.  too hot and too bright for photos, i went to see the indoor sights of the local art museums, the dewitt wallace decorative arts museum and the abby aldrich rockefeller folk art museum, both which are entered through the old public hospital.  don’t let the name fool you, it was not a typical hospital but one where they housed the insane and treated them in the hopes of “restoring them to their lost reason…”

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