The Oxbow by Thomas Cole

How it All Started

The Oxbow by Thomas Cole

“The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm” by Thomas Cole, 1836. This painting is in the Hudson River School style.

You can say that I live with my one foot in the modern world and my other foot in the past.

I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was 2012 and I was attending a Catholic university. One of the requirements for graduation was to complete some service learning. The point was to dedicate your time and energy to the community in one way or another.

When I learned about this requirement for graduation, I had no clue where to volunteer. It was a tough decision because there was no end of things I could do. One day I was strolling through a beautiful park with a friend. It was a sunny day and we stopped to speak with a costumed historical interpreter. It was like something out of Colonial Williamsburg. She was sitting by a firepit with a cauldron over the fire. Whatever she was cooking smelled really good.

I said to her: “I wish I could do this. It looks like so much fun.” The older lady with the dark hair and warm chocolate eyes responded: “You can, you know.” The rest — they say — was history…literally!

Over the years I have volunteered at two living history museums. One focuses on life in the 1820s and the other focuses on life in the 1830s. I have always been a big fan of period dramas, especially adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels and other writings. In watching these period dramas, I absolutely loved the dresses and fashions of that time period. So, when I started volunteering at these living history museums, I felt like I had a piece of Jane Austen’s world.

So, what started out as a service learning experience really transformed my life. Not only was I educating the public about life in an earlier time but I was able to learn more about a bygone era.

This rich experience inspired me to learn more about the 1820s and 1830s. So often in American history, we have a tendency to focus more on the largescale events like the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. The 1820s and 1830s was generally a peaceful and prosperous period. It had a revolution of its own, however: the Industrial Revolution. This is a time period that I am passionate about. I definitely want to explore this time period in my writing as well.