When I’m Away by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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When I’m away from Chestertown, I feel like there’s something missing or that I’m missing something. It’s not a sharp pang, more like a tingling sensation, a very mild form of the phantom limb pain experienced by many amputees. Or maybe more like a heartache—the empty feeling one gets when a very dear friend is too-long absent; or the way a sunny day suddenly becomes moody when the clouds roll in; or like the regret one feels when an opportunity is missed and gone forever.

When I’m away from Chestertown, the clocks all seem to run faster. It’s harder to keep up the pace. There’s more traffic, more noise, more stress, more items on the to-do list; less conversation with friends, less starlight, less time for sitting on a friend’s dock watching the river roll by.

When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss my porch, my neighbors, all my friends about town; my Thursday martini nights at the Kitchen and my Saturday rounds of golf at the club. I miss the river, Hebe and her fountain, the farmer’s market, the clock that strikes the hour from the top of Stam’s Hall. I miss Wilmer Park, the ballet of regatta sails and the smooth power of racing shells. I miss a deadrise heading off to work through the early morning riversmoke and the Martha White at graceful sunset anchor.

When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss watching an osprey dive for a fish or a bald eagle soaring overhead. I miss seeing Sultana under sail and the River Packet under a full moon. I miss napping in my hammock, catching the flash of a hummingbird, or picking crabs in the backyard.

When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss my chefs, my bakers, and my bartenders. I miss our writers and photographers, our potters and artists. I miss the downtown shops: the Wine & Cheese Shop, Bookplate, Finishing Touch, Empty Hangers, Gabriella’s, Twigs & Teacups, Welcome Home, Village Shop, Women in Need, Blooming Wild, Dockside Emporium, and She-She; I miss the Garfield, CRYCC, Washington College, and the White Swan. I miss JBK; my wife misses Tiny Tots.

When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss my four-legged pals: Tessa, Daisy, Glenn, Matilda, Dixie, Sweet Potato, Lullaby, Barkley, Millie, Sammie, and Franklin; I miss Keke the bookstore cat.

When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss a happening First Friday and the friends who spontaneously end up on our porch, the buzz surrounding one of our big weekend celebrations—Tea Party and Downrigging—and a quiet Sunday afternoon. I miss artists painting the town. I miss all the parades. (I’m a sucker for parades.)

When I’m away from Chestertown, a part of me remains here and a part of you goes with me. But when I’m in Chestertown, the shoe fits, all harmonies converge, and everything in the universe is as it should be. I’ve never been quite sure whether I found Chestertown or Chestertown found me, but however it happened, I’m glad the match was made. Whether we’re from here or came here, when we’re here, we’re home.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A new collection of essays titled “Musing Right Along” will be released in June. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

That Amazing Song by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Way back in 1970, Judy Collins released an album (remember albums?) titled “Whales and Nightingales.” One of the last tracks on that album was a little known piece of plainsong written by an English clergyman named John Newton. Before he took to the cloth, Newton had been pressed into service in the Royal Navy and subsequently became an officer on a civilian vessel (The Greyhound) engaged in the slave trade. He was a notoriously profane man, popular with his shipmates because he loved writing ditties that mocked the captains under whom he served. But in 1748, the Greyhound was caught in a fierce storm and foundered off the coast of Ireland; fearing for his life, Newton called out to God to save him, the inception of a profound spiritual conversion. A few years later, he gave up slaving to study Christian theology. He was ordained in 1764.

Newton, aided by poet William Cowper, transformed his penchant for writing ditties into one for writing hymns. To illustrate his New Year’s Day sermon in 1773, Newton (likely with Cowper’s help) published several verses of a poem without any accompanying music, perhaps intended to be simply chanted by the congregation. Never particularly popular in England the poem was associated with a variety of different melodies until 1835 when it finally settled on a tune known as “New Britain.” It was called “Amazing Grace.”

“Amazing Grace” is a hymn about redemption, forgiveness, salvation, and hope. It is now sung or performed more than ten million times a year. While Judy Collins’ version on “Whales and Nightingales” popularized “Amazing Grace” as a folk song, its roots quickly spread to every imaginable genre of vocal and instrumental music: country and western, rhythm and blues, gospel, classical, even pop. When a bagpiper in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards first heard Collins’ rendition, he knew the tune would fit his melodramatic instrument like a glove.

In good times and bad, “Amazing Grace” has found a deep and abiding place in the soundtrack of our lives. In “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Tom sings three verses (two by Newton and one added by author Harriet Beecher Stowe that was passed down through the African American spiritual chain). Civil War soldiers knew all-to-well about the many “dangers, foils, and snares” of the third verse.  It became an anthem of both the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War movement in the Vietnam era. Played on the pipes, “Amazing Grace” became the common mournful dirge for the police, firefighters, and first responders who gave their lives in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It still pays tribute to many soldiers killed in battle. In 2015, President Obama soulfully and spontaneously performed the song at his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, the slain pastor of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Secular and sacred, “Amazing Grace” touches our hearts in mysterious ways. It’s a song that transcends any one religion and appeals to all faiths, Christians and non-Christians alike. It heals us, restores us, inspires us, and lifts us up when we need it most. It’s impossible to say whether it’s the melody or the lyrics that resonate so deeply within; maybe it’s the song’s acknowledgment of our common longing for grace or its promise of the joy and peace to come.

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound!”

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

 

Pilgrims at Augusta by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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According to that modern font of wisdom known as Wikipedia, a pilgrim (from the Latin peregrinus) is “a traveler (literally one from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place.

Typically, this is a physical journey (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system.” Leaving aside the “on foot” part, I’d say that last week, my friend Key and I were poster-pilgrims.

The object of our journey was a small town just on the Georgia side of the Savannah River. There is a cathedral there known as Augusta National Golf Club, a place blessedly central to those of us who practice the particular religious belief system known as golf. Every year about this time, the archbishops of this cathedral conduct a holy rite of spring known as The Masters Tournament that draws pilgrims like Key and me to Augusta like moths to a flame. To say the very least, it did not disappoint; to say more, we have been restored. Hallelujah!

The archbishops of Augusta Cathedral all wear robes—well, jackets—of emerald green. To commemorate the consecrated site of their cathedral which was originally a fruit tree nursery (and before that, an indigo plantation owned by Belgian Baron Louis Berckmans), the priestly hierarchy decorate the close with thousands of flowering shrubs and trees: Azalea, Pink Dogwood, Redbud, Flowering Peach (after all, this is Georgia), Magnolia, Carolina Cherry, Flowering Crab Apple, Camellia, and Yellow Jasmine (the list goes on), all watered by a natural spring of holy water known as Rae’s Creek. It is said that that when the 365-acre property was optioned in 1930 for the princely sum of $70,000, the sainted Bobby Jones who along with the sainted Clifford Roberts had always dreamed of building a golf cathedral in northern Georgia, looked out over the land, saw that it was good, and murmured, “Perfect!”

To realize their dream, Jones and Roberts hired Dr. Alistair McKenzie of Scotland who had already built two other cathedrals (Cypress Point and Pasatiempo) out in California. For Augusta, McKenzie imagined high hills and deep valleys, spires of tall Georgia pines, long, narrow aisles of manicured fairways, and altars of subtle, undulating, and devilishly fast greens. He even envisioned a unique little chapel within the cathedral that would come to be known as Amen Corner, a place requiring lots of pious prayer from the supplicants passing along its beautiful but rugged way. Construction of the cathedral began in 1931; the first service was held in January 1933. Today, the cathedral is only open to a small band of members a few months each year because during the long, hot Georgia summer, it lies in quiet repose, each blade of grass, flower bed, and tree lovingly tended by gentle hands.

Fortunately, however, during the first week of April, Augusta Cathedral opens its doors to weary pilgrims like Key and me. (Key has made the annual journey more than twenty times; this was my novitiate year.) We bathed in the font of memory and watched in awe as the ordained high priests of our beloved game returned to worship at the shrine. We were welcomed with gracious southern hospitality and adhered to the ancient rites of etiquette and decorum. We marveled at the efficient conduct of the services and the modest cost of the succulent offerings of food and drink: pimento and cheese sandwiches and glasses of sweet tea. Except for the angels whispering in the treetops and the birds singing in the choir, the nave of the cathedral, even packed with a few thousand fellow pilgrims, was miraculously hushed and still. (Cell phones are not permitted in the cathedral.) Pine straw incense perfumed the warm Georgia air.

Each year, many aspiring supplicants come to test themselves at the cathedral and from them, one man of sound character and steady nerve earns the right to be inducted into the sanctum sanctorum of Augusta. He is venerated, given an honorary robe (ok, jacket), and a place at the locker room table. This year, it was a Spaniard, once a gifted boy but now a grizzled veteran of many legendary battles, who became champion and was joyously anointed into the mysteries of this special place.

Bishop Nance annually reminds us that The Masters is a tradition “unlike any other.” The same must be true of the cathedral we know as Augusta National Golf Club for it is the only golf course in America that has never been rated. It never will be. I guess heaven must have a higher standard.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

The Harbingers of Spring by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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As light returns and the days begin to lengthen, we rouse from our self-imposed cold storage, shake off our winter numbness, and look around to find all manner of wonderful things. Just the other day, I saw a hundred turtles sunning themselves on the bank of a pond and while I’ve yet to glimpse the flash of a ruby-throated hummingbird (should happen any day now), I’ve already smelled the sweet scent of silvery Russian olive (Elaeagnus, wonderful name!) in bloom and stared in awe at a swatch of wild forsythia in vibrant yellow or a graceful twig of red bud in shy magenta. Our lamprocapnos—common Bleeding Heart—out by the shed is poking up out of the ground and the three tiny Chinese lantern plants I put in the ground a few years ago to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday (two weeks hence) look like they will be appear on stage right on time. The lilac and hydrangea along the garden wall are in bud; our colorful wisteria and clematis vines are not far behind. The crepe myrtle that now overlooks the neighbor’s fence is swelling. The hammock is out of the shed, ready and waiting. Spring has us squarely in her sights.

But of all the harbingers of a Kent County spring, I love ospreys best; it’s their annual return from Central or South America in the last days of March or the first days of April that truly signals the imminent arrival of spring in town. Their piercing keening call—cree! cree!—reminds us of our place in the natural order of life along the river. Soaring overhead or warily watching us from their nests, ospreys must think us pretty small trespassers; after all, they were here long before God started draining the swamp for the first time and they’ll be here long after we’re gone. To them, we’re just a nuisance living on borrowed time.

Ospreys are unique among North American raptors because of their diet of fish and their ability to dive into water. We’ve all seem them hunting on high or with a fresh trophy dripping from their sharp talons heading home to feed the kids. Once in peril, their numbers have begun to increase following the banning of pesticides containing DDT—let’s hope that’s one thing that doesn’t change because of the current winds blowing out of Washington!

Compared to humans who depend on lines or nets to catch fish, ospreys are excellent anglers. They have a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. They also have barbed pads on the soles of their feet to keep a slippery fish secure and when they fly with prey, they line up their catch head first for less wind drag. Because they can’t dive down more than three or four feet, ospreys prefer shallow water. According to the scientists and ornithologists who make their living observing such things, they’re very efficient predators: they catch about 70% of the fish they dive for—that’s a lot better than me with my fly rod! I’ve spent hours trying to catch a fish, but it takes an osprey about twelve minutes to make good on a fishing expedition. Hmmm…

Male ospreys hunt; females (larger than males) aggressively guard the nest. Since eggs in the nest don’t all hatch at once and older chicks feed voraciously, life can be difficult for newer arrivals. In times of plenty, that may not be much of a problem, but we humans know all-to-well that times aren’t always plentiful. Fortunately, around here, the fishing’s pretty good and the osprey population is thriving.

Fledglings make their first flight 7 or 8 weeks after they hatch. If they survive their first migration, young birds remain south for a year or two before returning home. Ospreys don’t breed until they’re about 3 years old, but once they do, they’re monogamous. An osprey will live about twenty years and over the course of a lifetime, each bird may log nearly 200,000 migratory miles; think about that when you trade in your next car!

There will come a day in the fall when the sky falls silent and we’ll know winter is coming. But that’s then; this is now. Look up; listen. Spring is back!

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

The Dream by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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I dreamed I went to Florida. One freezing, dark minute, I was on my way to BWI in a sudden snow squall, the next I was on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico wondering if SPF 15 would be a good place to start. There was a palm tree or two, a beach with blue-green water and downy soft sand, and a delicious concoction in my hand. I said to my wife, “Please don’t wake me up.”

Dreams come and go, but this one went on a week. There was hardly ever a cloud in the sky. The weather—good from the get-go—improved every day. We saw old friends and made new ones. We ate from the sea. We rode bikes. One evening, we went to a concert to hear the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (on its first US tour in 35 years) and violin prodigy Nicola Benedetti—google her; you can thank me later. There was a round of golf on a course redesigned by Jack Nicklaus, a minimal but obligatory amount of shopping, a nap or two (usually with the sound track of the sea in the background), and—most blessed of all—the gift of time together sans cell phones, FaceBook, lost keys, post-nasal drip, or any of the other petty dramas of daily living back in the “real world.”

Now remember: this was a dream.

In this dream, I lost twenty-five pounds. I broke par. I swam with a dolphin. There were two adjoining seats at every bar, each delicious meal was free, and I never felt a bit crunchy the morning after. My wife did not get a nasty cold. Nicky Benedetti winked at me.

Some people don’t dream in color, but I do. This one was tinted with soft pastel tones—pink, coral, aqua, and turquoise—with some dazzling notes of emerald and sapphire thrown in for good measure. There was bright bougainvillea everywhere, orchids dripped from the palm trees, and the air was scented with frangipani or was it just a touch of garlic? We found perfect sea shells along the shoreline. We rescued a baby turtle who distinctly said “I love you!” in Italian. The almond croissants at the local coffee shop were sugar-free and to-die-for. The front page photo in the newspaper showed President (Michelle) Obama signing a bill, passed unanimously by both houses of Congress, that would provide comprehensive health care to all Americans under a single-payer system. The American Express bill got lost in the mail.

At one point, I woke up and told my wife about what was happening. She laughed and said, “Honey: turtles might be able to speak Italian, but a single payer system? You must be dreaming!” I went back to sleep.

But maybe that old wizard Prospero was right all along: we really are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little lives are rounded with a sleep. If so, then maybe—just maybe—what passes for waking is only ephemera and one day turtles will speak Italian and all our other dreams will come true.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

All Things Being Equal by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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We just passed the vernal equinox, that moment of celestial equilibrium when daylight and darkness make an almost perfect pair, the sun crosses the equator and climbs back into the northern hemisphere, and the earth spins on into spring. I don’t know about you, but I say it’s about time!

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are reminded that there is a time for this and a time for that, in fact, a time for every purpose under heaven. For my wife and me, it was time to go to Florida for a few days of sun, sand, and blue water. We left Baltimore in a snow squall; we arrived here to find clear skies, cool breezes, and conch fritters. I love conch fritters!

OK, so maybe we were just a tad impatient. But spring on the Eastern Shore can be a fickle friend. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were basking in 70-degree weather. Then winter boomeranged, and we were sent back to January like bad children banished to the principal’s office. So Kat and I bolted south to jumpstart spring, and I won’t lie: I didn’t pack any socks. (More on socks later.)

The vernal equinox has been noteworthy to humans for millennia. It’s a central theme in Greek mythology: Persephone, reluctant bride of Hades, returns from the underworld about this time every year bringing with her the fertility of spring. Not to be outdone by their Greek neighbors, the Persians and Babylonians used the vernal equinox as the beginning of their new years. Makes sense. (However, for those of us who profess allegiance to the Julian calendar, the 16th Century reforms necessitated by the recalculation of the earth’s annual journey around the sun resulted in adding about three-quarters of an hour to the calendar every four years; that must be very confusing for Persephone’s timetable!)

Many religions give a respectful nod in the direction of the vernal equinox. Pagans have always marked it as a cardinal point on their Wheel of the Year. In the Jewish tradition, Passover is celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox while Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after that same event. And there are more profane celebrations, too, like World Storytelling Day and World Astrology Day (both commemorated on March 21) and, closer to home, the annual Burning of the Socks festival enjoyed by boaters in Annapolis. (Now you know why I didn’t pack any socks!)

In addition to making spring a meteorological formality, the vernal equinox also reminds me of the important of balance in our lives. It’s all-too-easy to fall out of balance; the littlest pebble on the road of life—a dysfunctional tv remote, for example (hypothetically speaking, of course)—can knock us out of alignment and put us in the shop for some costly repairs. It would be awfully easy to blame these spur-of-the-moment hiccups on remote celestial events, but I bet that humbler human issues play a more pivotal role. But I digress…

So Turn! Turn! Turn! and remember: there really is a purpose to everything under heaven.

Now go burn all your socks.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Standing in Love by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Back in the 1880s, a German-American anthropologist named Franz Boaz was traveling through northern Canada studying the Inuit peoples. Among his many observations, he noted that the Inuit had multiple words—perhaps more than fifty!—for “snow.” (Among them: ‘aqilokoq’ for “softly falling snow” or—my favorite—‘piegnartoq’ for “snow that is good for driving the sled.”) While more than a century later anthropologists and linguists continue to debate the exact number of Inuit words for snow, the concept of multiple words for a seemingly uncomplicated noun can stand on its own two snowshoes: people need more than one word to describe the important things in their lives.

Back in ancient Greece, there were six words for love: eros (passion or sexual love); philia (deep, longstanding friendship); ludus (playful—puppy—love); philautia (love of self); agape (love for everyone; selfless love); and pragma (deep, abiding love). While love of any kind is worth a good muse, it’s this last form of love—pragma—that interests me most today.

The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm contends that most of us make a big deal about falling in love but tend to overlook standing in love. Passion and puppies make for easy love targets, but it’s far more difficult to nurture love’s more complicated forms and grow them into something deeper and more lasting. Married couples know this all-too-well. If Eros depends on pheromones, pragma is rooted in deeper soil: compassion, compromise, tolerance, understanding, forgiveness. To put it another way, pragma is more about giving than receiving, more about getting over yourself than about giving into your own selfish needs. Since more than a third of marriages in the United States end in divorce, pragma may be a better plot to till than eros, the stuff that gets us into marriage in the first place.

Love is a lot more than never having to say you’re sorry. In fact, it’s damn hard work. It’s easy enough in romantic candlelight or wine glow, but when you shine reality’s harsh spotlight on love, things look a bit different. There are bills to pay, chores to do; somebody needs to unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, or take out the trash. Resentments can accumulate. That’s where pragma comes in.

Pragma can be a difficult houseguest because, by definition, pragma’s visit is more than a three-day affair. In order to actually arrive at some meaningful measure of pragma, one must be willing to make a life-long commitment. When smitten by eros or ludus, that may sound simple enough, but to truly stand in love, you have to see the dangers that lurk in shallow water and be willing to risk the storms of the open sea. Or, to paraphrase Captain Brody in “Jaws,” you may need a bigger boat.

There’s an old African proverb that lives somewhere in the back of my mind. It goes like this: “If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk with someone else.” I think that’s a pretty good summation of Greek pragma.

Maybe an Inuit would put it this way: pragma is the good kind of snow for driving the sled.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Padraig by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 7.14.07 AMWe’re closing in on that one day in the year when you’re either Irish or pretending to be; when you wear something green even if it’s not your color; when even teetotalers take a sip of something a bit stronger than their usual fare. My real Irish friends refer to St. Patrick’s Day as “amateur hour,” but I believe they’re secretly proud of the fact that for one day each year, everybody wants to be like them

In case you happen to be the one person in the world who doesn’t know this, Padraig—St. Patrick as we more commonly call him—is the primary patron saint of Ireland. He was actually born in Scotland in 387 but at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain named Milchu who happened to be a Druid priest. It was while tending Milchu’s sheep that young Padraig encountered an angel who turned his heart toward God. The rest, as they say, is history.

Somewhere, somehow, I fit into all this. My surname—Kirkpatrick—means Padraig’s church and my own family’s origins are in Scotland, near Dumbarton, the place of the good saint’s birth. My seven times great grandfather—James Kirkpatrick (I’m not making this stuff up)—was my direct ancestor who arrived in America in 1763. He found his way to western Pennsylvania where he was the last settler attacked by Indians. Presumably he survived the encounter or you wouldn’t be reading this.

It’s unlikely that Great (x7) Grandfather Kirkpatrick came to America directly from Scotland. We think he was part of the largely undocumented wave of immigrants known as the Scots-Irish, Presbyterians originally from Scotland who emigrated to Ulster (Northern Ireland) in the early 17th Century to avoid being forced into the Church of England during the reign of Charles I. Eventually, these Scots-Irish re-emigrated to America where the promise of religious freedom was greater. The rest, as they say, is my history.

But back to Padraig. Saintly as he may well have been, he has certainly become the stuff of legends. Like: he used the lowly shamrock to illustrate a parable about the Holy Trinity. Like: he banished all the snakes from Ireland (never mind there never were snakes in Ireland). Like: he walked throughout Ireland with a staff made of ash which he thrust into the ground wherever he preached. In one village, so the story goes, it took so long for his message to get through to the hardheaded locals that the staff actually took root and became a tree. (That town is now known as Aspatria, the ash of Padraig.) All that may or may not be history, but it’s awfully good blarney.

Which brings us to March 17: St. Patrick’s Day, the supposed day of Padraig’s death in 461. I don’t think one should take all this “history” too seriously. There are lots of theories about the real Padraig including one called the “Two Padraigs Theory” which suggests that many of the works attributed to Padraig were really accomplished by Palladius, a bishop sent by Pope Celestine to minister to Irish Christians in 431, a year or two before Padraig arrived on the scene. But I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. In fact, if I were you, I’d find something green to wear and at least for a day, be Irish.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Spring Fever by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Here we are on the last day of February and for a few days last week, it was beginning to smell like spring. It has been an uncommonly mild winter and while I sincerely believe in global warming and climate change, I’m not above being thankful for Persephone’s imminent arrival. I’ve already played several rounds of golf out at the club (in shorts, no less!) and rechristened the porch with morning coffee and evening cocktails. We even took down the Christmas tree. Furthermore, I’m given to understand that since there has been no winter kill this year, 2017 will be the Year of Good Crabs around the Bay. It seems like we’ve traded Richard III’s winter of discontent for Pope’s hope springs eternal—a really good deal by any standard. Life is good over here in the Land of Pleasant Living.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to plant any vegetables or throw down any grass seed just yet; March will still be it’s dysfunctional lion and lamb self and even good old April may have a surprise or two up its foolish sleeve. But we’re over the hump. Punxsutawney Phil, that feisty little rodent who hit the snooze button four weeks ago, will soon be waking up for good. Closer to home, in fact just over my neighbor’s fence, croci and daffodils are poking their heads out of the ground in wary disbelief. The geese fled town a week ago and just in the last four days, the ospreys moved back in, two weeks ahead of schedule. They know things we don’t and that’s good enough for me.

More harbingers abound. Yesterday, a robin took a bath in my front yard and a friend saw a red-wing blackbird out by Lynch The forsythia in front of Stephne Manor is in blooming yellow, the flowering crab apple in Fountain Square is bright pink, and there are tiny green leaves on the weeping willow by the pond. There was even a sheen of pollen on the windshield of the car yesterday morning. If all that is not proof enough, last night, I saw a man at the bar in The Kitchen order a gin and tonic…but then I realized I was looking in the mirror.

Farther afield, baseballs are getting whacked all over Florida and Arizona. (Speaking of dysfunction, Cubs fans are thinking about a repeat instead of their perennial disappointment; climate change must be real!). Down in New Orleans, folks are in full Mardi Gras mode. Meanwhile, over in Augusta, Georgia, they’re getting ready for the azaleas to bloom and for that golf tournament that’s unlike any other. (When you hear that theme song, you know spring has really sprung!)

I know that in a few short months, we’ll be grousing about the heat and humidity, but for now, I say it’s OK to revel in spring, even if it’s just the faux variety. The coming of spring means the great cosmic mandala is still turning, that the circle is unbroken, and there is wholeness in life.

After all we’ve been through lately—you know what I’m talking about—that’s enough to keep me going for the next few months.