After their long voyage and experiences crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1620, the Pilgrims were especially grateful as they began their new lives in America. Looking out on a very wet, windy and cold – 48 degrees the Sunday before Thanksgiving – my appreciation for this religious freedom- seeking group grows.
Much is known about the first Thanksgiving feast, from actual diaries kept by those in attendance and also the paintings by artists – some accurate and some not. The mental picture most of us share includes Native Americans dressed in beautiful, beaded deerskin clothing and feathered head adornment and the Pilgrims as prim and proper in their freshly starched and pressed white shirts and aprons with dark pants accessorized by hats, kerchiefs, boots and buckles. Together they shared the earth’s bounty. But the time between setting sail from England and actually gathering around the long wood-plank table in America was fraught with hardship. Weather conditions were more an adversary than a friend to the Pilgrims during the 65 days at sea.
Prompted by a comet sighted in the skies over Europe in 1618 signaling, many thought, the final apocalyptic battle of good and evil, this group of God-fearing people decided to leave their homeland. The plan had called for two ships, but one was not considered seaworthy so the Mayflower was chosen. She was a merchant vessel that had been used for transporting English woolens and French wine back and forth across the Channel. Instead of carrying 180 casks of wine, 102 people, including men, women (three pregnant) and children. Two dogs, a spaniel and a mastiff, came along too.
A trip that originally been planned for the balmy days of summer got a late start. Thin-walled cabins contained passengers, chests of clothing, barrels of food, furniture, rugs, and omnipresent chamber pots. Most of the time the passengers were kept below the deck, safe from the storms and rough seas. In their dark and wet confines seasickness and other illness were common. The final decision of Captain Jones to land on the shores of Massachusetts was dictated by the weather. At the time the Mayflower was passing Cape Cod, the wind and waves prompted the crew to make landfall out of danger, rather than proceed to the planned destination at New York Harbor. Weather placed Plymouth Rock on the map of history.
Back to Thanksgiving weather in the foothills 2011. Our expected rain has headed to Mexico, leaving us now with only a 20% chance of wet weather. The weekend looks clear and sunny, with temperatures in the 70s during the day and 40s at night, accompanied by gentle offshore breezes. Come Monday and Tuesday, the National Weather Service is suggesting temps the mid-80s, but November may come to an end under stormy skies. ~ Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.