The River James in Twilight

It was that going-to-nowhere thing with Manang Josie and Clint, a couple I have had the privilege of company since Sunday, at the start of our work--Manang Josie and I--in Williamsburg.

Clint, of course, had always been our gracious host for all the things that we needed including him looking for the better places to go soon after we were done with our work.

Our idea of 'better places' hews on what history has left of them, or the memory of a by-gone era relived, revived, reconstructed, fossilized in time for tourist to get an education on how to build a nation from a dream of a revolution to gain independence from a mother country.

So, where to this time? he asked us, Manang Josie and I.

Could we go to Jamestown, the river where the settlers first anchored from the Atlantic? I asked him.

Since I got to Williamsburg, I had been immersed in this world of my imagination--of the Jamestown that the first settlers founded out of vision to live in religious freedom and dignity.

I entertained in my thought how the first settlement looked like, how that river could have borne the weight of time and the troubles of all migrants and pilgrims and settlers from many places in order to spring from its currents and tributaries and refreshing waters a new lease on life--or what could be properly called one.

Yes, I went there this morning, Clint said.

We figure we could go to West Point first before going to Jamestown, all of us in the belief that we could retrace the steps of the former President Fidel Ramos when he spent some years here forming his mind and consciousness on leadership, governance, and some abstract notions about security and nation building.

Going through West Point is every colonial soldiers' wild dream as it affords him the opportunity to brush elbows with the future leaders of other countries' military organizations, the Unites States' included.

In my mind was a quiant town, a queer city, a rustic place, with only the hummingbirds breaking the silence of the forests strewn in mountainsides.

Which was so as we navigated two big rivers, one on its banks a huge gravel and sand and cement processing plant, its towers like guards standing watch of the river's banks, its flora and fauna, its waters turning dark green in the fading light of a late afternoon.

It was eight o'clock and we were running to the Jamestown Settlement in the city of Jamestown in Virginia, some miles away from Colonial Williamsburg.

More so, it was twilight: the time when the dark gathers here and the canopy of trees serve as stage for the fireflies to have their show.

And the fireflies did not fail us.

First, the huge trunks of trees vomitted the fireflies as if the abode of all the light came from these trunks that only centuries of patient waiting could have formed. These mute trunk are witnesses to all that had happened here in this lonely settlement now reserved for tourists.

Second, the fireflies gave generously of their gift of light, lighting the forest as if in a dance, as if in the fleeting glow of light that seduces and temps, the fireflies saying goodbyes, as plural as one can have, but never leaving, not at all.

They formed all geometry of shapes and wonder, their glow feeding on the dark, the dark feeding on their glow until the dark has finally gathered in the forest and only the outlines of tree trunks are visible, only the outlines of their crown against the dimming lights of the skies.

The road got to be narrower as we moved away from the freeways and in some portions of the road to the settlement place, a one-line country road was the come-on, some kind of a well-thought out strategy to keep the commuters slow, and sacredly slow, so that those memories of faith lived simply and in freedom are forever etched in the leaves of trees, in the flowers growing in wild abandon on river banks.

Far ahead, you stopped for that roadside show: the wild river ducks coming into a late afternoon formation as if in a military parade, graciously wading in the darkening waters of the River James, the waters ending up in the Atlantic, and then coming home again to the same river by the virtue of the storm, the wind, the dream.

In 2007, Jamestown celebrates its 400th year. Four hundred years of memories boggles me; I do not understand the meaning of years.

I sat still on the green grass on the river bank as I watched the duck parade.

I looked at a flower shooting up to the heavens as if in an eternal oblation, erect and proud with its pistil of yellow and some other hues, its petals the sign of hope, like arms outstretched, awaiting benediction and blessing.

I thanked my God for this chance to come over and see for myself what dreams of freedom are made of.

They are, these dreams, made of sterner stuff, like the dreams of every migrant in this im/migrant-land.

A. S. Agcaoili
Jamestown, VA
June 30, 2006

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