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June 10, 2010 / howardmestas


American Robin On Headstone Perch

Although the bemused Robin in the photo cares little of the complicated condition of his two-legged visitors, his curious perch tells a fascinating story.  The marker on which he has landed is a final resting ground for many Jews who died fighting for America in the Revolution.  By itself, this would be memorable story, until you realize the cemetery is on the Lower East Side of New York City; on property right next to an Irish Catholic church on ground that used to be Little Italy, but is now called Chinatown.  Long ago the area was used by English farmers who claimed the land from their Dutch predecessors who called the land the Bowery, or land of farms.  In fact famed Dutch West India Company commander Peter Stuyvesant’s Bowery was not far from this very location.  For about a century these surroundings were interspersed with the forced labor of slaves from West Africa and the Caribbean.  And, of course, before that there were the Native Americans.  During the American Revolution, this area was a desperation escape passage for George Washington’s troops who hastily retreated from Brooklyn Heights across the East River.  Eventually the British would occupy this area for seven long years until the war was over.  Over the next two centuries the area would see millions of newcomers from every conceivable corner of the earth; all seeking to improve their station in life before advancing beyond when the opportunity was right.  This is a cycle that has repeated itself many times and will continue long after our brief interlude on earth has passed.   

And so the Robin just like us, is a fellow time traveler sharing a borrowed space; as will the multitudes that will surely follow.  As humans we live in a perplexing world with the combined gift and curse of knowing our mortality; we should be envious of birds.   




Leave a Comment
  1. history591twenty3 / Jun 12 2010 10:47 am

    Hi Howard,
    The use of the Robin on the marker a clever way of an introduction, this had me wondering what the rest of post was about. Maybe you can use this in your classroom as the way an area changes such as the Revolutionary War the area changed hands and the burying of the dead at times side by side.

    • howardmestas / Jun 13 2010 3:09 am

      I just like finding any excuse to take pictures of birds Dolores! Long after were all dead and gone there will still be nature. I felt that was a good way of putting things in perspective. Isn’t this an amazing trip?

  2. marksims / Jun 12 2010 3:43 am

    I was right with you when you pointed this bird out and took his/her picture. I was wondering if it would turn up in your post and if it did how you were going to use it. Nicely done.

    • howardmestas / Jun 13 2010 3:14 am

      I remember you were there, and by the way the bird was a him because only make Robins are red breasted…I know these things because I am a birder. I do have other hobbies besides drinking beer and being a history geek. Can you believe the spot we were on was the place where Washington’s army escaped to save the Patriot cause. I remember when David McCullough came to Pueblo and he thought that was some of the most sacred ground in America. If he had just waited 100 years they could have come across the Brookly Bridge! I enjoyed that day, except for Katz’s.


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