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  • Writer's pictureJenny Dunaway

The Tempest and Irene

We all were sea-swallow'd though some cast again,

And by that destiny to perform an act

Where what's past is prologue, what to come

In yours and my discharge William Shakespeare

(This post is another excerpt from my child's book, Cattail Express, about the adventures of our canoe.)

"Just stopping by to check on you, Cattail." Mikinak called as he paddled into Oyster Creek from the Rappahannock. "It's already rough out there and the storm isn't even here, yet.

"I'm okay, Mikinak. I don't love being upside-down but it's supposed to rain a lot. I guess I'm in the best place I can be right now, considering...

"I have never been one to underestimate the power of a storm, Cattail. My ancestors heard stories the People passed down from Princess Pocohantas and her husband, John Rolfe. Would you like me to tell you that story, Cattail?"

"Yes, please, I love your stories, Mikinak." The old turtle crawled out of the water and settled on the salt meadow hay beside the canoe.

"Her given name was Matoaka which means a flower between two streams and she was Chief Wahunsenaca's favorite daughter. Folks today call him Powhatan but that was actually the name of the tribe. The People spoke of the enduring love between the chief and his daughter. When Matoaka became of age, she was fondly called Pocahontas after her mother who died in child birth. Her beauty and laughter reminded Wahunsenaca of his beloved wife. Pocahontas was cherished and respected by the Powhatan as she grew into a young woman. The dedication of both Chief Wahunsenaca and Pocahantas to the safety of their tribe came at a tremendous cost to both.

In 1609 the newly built Sea Venture left England for Jamestown. In order to avoid possible encounters with the Spanish, the ship headed across the Atlantic instead of going by the West Indies. Only days away from their destination, the Sea Venture encountered a mighty storm. They discovered that the caulking of the new ship allowed water to seep through the cracks and the ship began to sink. Even after they released their cannons, they were still taking on water. The captain and crew battled the hurricane for three days. When land was sited, Captain Christopher Newport ordered the landing of the ship on the reefs of Discovery Bay in what is now Bermuda.

All 150 souls and one dog survived the shipwreck. They were marooned on the island for 10 months before the tradesmen constructed two new vessels and sailed successfully to Jamestown. John Rolfe, the future husband of Pocahontas, was onboard the Sea Venture. He often told the story of their battle with the tempest to Wahunsenaca after he married Pocahantas four years later. It was the quiakros (priests) of the Powhatan tribe who actually taught John Rolfe how to cure the tobacco grown by the colonists. Without the sacred knowledge of the quiakros, the highly prized tobacco would never have been considered a money crop."

As Mikinak finished his story, the wind picked up. Cattail couldn't hear Mom's wave chimes on the back porch because the fury of the wind drowned out the soft tinkling sound. "So they survived the hurricane? Maybe there's hope for me," Cattail shuddered. "Will you stay here with me, Mikinak?

"I will for as long as I can, Cattail."

"You said that Pocahontas and her father, Wahunsenaca, protected their people but it sounds like there is more to the story."

"And there IS more to the story, Cattail. I believe it broke their hearts."

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