By Georgie Bright Kunkel
Remember last year when I waxed poetic about a visit to the Cedar River?
I was excited when I was invited to experience that wonderful place again, this time sharing it with not only my special friend Emil, but his son and partner Mary Louise and her parents from England who had heard about my visit to the Antiques Road Show. They watch the British version and wanted to hear all about my chance to show my pottery on camera.
But before they arrived with the picnic fare, we had gone ahead to see what havoc the storms of winter had created for us to clear away. After typing in the code to open the gate and parking the car, we were met with tall undergrowth and a path completely blocked by limbs which had fallen. My friend was prepared with branch cutters and a weed whacker. At last we made our way down the steps to the picnic area but there we were faced with branches which had fallen on the platform above the river and more fallen branches near the picnic table.
“I’ll clear the deck while you do the weed whacking,” I remarked. After my vigorous cleaning episode I fell into a deck chair and rested to the sounds of water gurgling over the rocks in the fast moving river. Soon I heard voices of those making their way down to join us. Huge cedar, fir, and maple trees surrounded the picnic area and rose high on the bank across the river. “I want to wade across the river,” my friend’s son remarked but it didn’t take much to dissuade him from this adventurous thought. However, it brought up memories of earlier times when my friend’s children floated in the river on inner tubes, sometimes being tossed dangerously about, once tossing this son into the swirling water. My friend remarked, “Many people have been killed on this river.” How exciting it must have been to test the waters of this rushing river knowing that others had not survived their float trips.
At last the picnic fare was laid out and after satisfying our hunger we moved to the rustic deck and shared stories. I remarked that an ancestor of mine was John Bright of England. I learned that a book had finally been written about him just this summer and was now available. I had heard about this relative and had read about him in a 1903 biography of Queen Victoria that I had inherited from my mother. One chapter related that John Bright had stood up in Parliament and defended the queen when others complained about her spending too long a time grieving her dear Prince Albert. I was proud of him for being so sympathetic to the grieving queen. It seems that he was a student of Milton and the Bible. It must have trickled down to my father as in my father’s effects were the writings of Milton and he also preached sermons up in the hills of Lewis County where there was no minister available.
John Bright stood against war when war sentiment was high and was voted out of Parliament but later was voted in again. I cannot wait to read about this ancestor who had values of serving all levels of his constituency during his service. I feel closely akin to his value system so some of his sentiments must have also trickled down to me. After all, we are each what we were born with along with what our parents impart to us with an essence of what comes from our ancestors. Fascinating to contemplate that we carry on the culture that has gone before and add something meaningful of our own.
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com or 206-935-8663.