What the Wild Things Do by George Merrill


What wild things do is filled with primal wisdom. Their doings may seem inscrutable but you can be sure they’re informed.

Job, of biblical renown, believed the earth, including its creatures, would teach us what’s important to know about life. ‘Speak to the earth and it will teach you,’ he said. His message was simple. Let nature guide our ways.

In the fall, when the sun’s declination lowers as it makes its daily trek across the sky shadows grow longer. I’ve noticed, too, how the sun’s rays highlight anything that can glitter, the way shining a light beam flush to the floor reveals tiny shards of broken glass.

My studio is about a hundred feet from the house. Walking to it one morning this fall, I spotted a single silk thread shining, one end fixed to a porch stanchion and the other end to a magnolia tree in front of my studio. The single strand stretched over a hundred feet. How it survived wind, rain and birds on the wing is remarkable. It’s inspiring to see how such creative and delicate art, such as spiders weave, can survive in a world that has become so violent. At the most primitive levels, nature teaches us the art of living.

Spiders weaving webs is a task filled with uncertainty. The spider affixes one end of a strand to something solid. She manufactures liquid protein, which solidifies into threads as she lays each strand. The spider then lets the loose end play out and wind currents take it. Where the other end sticks becomes the first strand from which all the others proceed, like the first sentence in a paragraph.

Just why images of the spider’s web, joined witches riding broomsticks as Halloween’s premier spooky icon, I don’t know. From my point of view, a spider’s web is pure art, an engineering marvel and I would add, an inspiring statement of patience and persistence.

Often, the voice first heard in a crowd is a whisper. Gentle words influence others more profoundly than harsh ones. The spider web’s gossamer and flimsy appearance belies its resilience. Those silken threads have a tensile strength that’s astonishing relative to their weight. The web’s threads rival steel and Kevlar, the material used to make bullet -proof vests. Paradoxes abound in the natural world. Appearances deceive: There is great strength in what at first appears weak and fragile. Consider butterflies wings, as thin as tissue paper, and they can travel half way around the globe.

I watched a Monarch on the wing the other day. She darted this way and that, up and down, but always in a southwesterly direction. Soon another flew by and within an hour I must have seen at least fifty all fluttering feverishly, many erratically, but ultimately going in one direction. They were off to southern climes, probably Mexico over two thousand miles as the butterfly flits. Some can travel 265 miles in a day. Considering they don’t fly in a straight line, I suspect the mileage count gets doubled. Inclement weather is a constant threat. It is a long and hazardous journey they undertake, beginning with the same uncertainties that beset a spider’s web productions, namely fragility and vulnerability. What the spider and the butterfly teach me is how important it is to go about my business focused, patient and persistent. As a writer, remaining focused, patient and persistent takes about all the energy I can muster.

While writing this essay my wife asked me to go shopping with her. We left Bozman for Graul’s on the St. Michaels road. I noticed a green leaf bug had settled on the car’s hood just in front of the windshield. He was about an inch and an inch and half long. The leaf bug was bright green. I was sure he’d jump off when we started. He didn’t. Instead he stayed put for the long haul. I don’t know how he did it.

On the St. Michaels Road I was doing between fifty and fifty-five miles per hour. The leaf bug first faced to the side, but gradually aligned his nose with the direction the car. His two antennae, in length as long as he was, streamed behind him like reeds bent low in a windstorm. He was instinctively trying to minimize wind resistance. How, I thought, could he possibly stay fixed securely on the hood of a car? How could he gain sufficient purchase on such a slippery surface to stay put and resist the force of the wind? He did just that and remained as firmly rooted as if he were bolted down like a hood decoration. He did shimmy and shake some – but what else could he do? He was, after all, like a leaf in a hurricane.

For all that, he appeared nonchalant, unconcerned that he might be blown away. He’d move his foremost right leg deliberately and place it slowly forward to his face as if he were trying to keep the wind from his eyes. At times I was up to about sixty mph, but he held his own on the hood. In the parking lot at Graul’s, I took a closer look at the leaf bug. He made no effort to leave, but turned slightly, positioning himself perpendicular to the sun as if trying to get warm now that he was out of the wind. When we returned to the car he was still there waiting. I assumed he was insisting we take him back home where he had been so unceremoniously shanghaied.

We returned home. Before taking the groceries into the house I took a closer look at him. He had only five of his six legs. An accident? Combat? I had no idea. His right rear leg was missing. He’d extended his left rear leg to the hood’s edge, lying just where the windshield extends upward from the car. If he’d been a boat in a storm, he’d effectively have secured himself aft with single stern line and with his other four legs rooted firmly to the hood kept his bow from being upended in the wind.

The lesson? When the ride gets rough, and you’re out of control, and you’re sure you’re going to be blown off, best to simply hunker down and hold on tight.

It’s what the wild things do.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.


Food Friday: Avoid the Pumpkin Pie Spices


With falling leaves come clattering acorns and thumping pecans. Fall also heralds the marketing of all things pumpkin spice-y. It is much too early to consider the pumpkin, or the pumpkin pie spices, now a seasonal meme. Wait for November. As a matter of fact, wait for Thanksgiving. We’ve got another month before we have to bake pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads or anything vaguely related to that large orange gourd, except Halloween. Until then, lets just eat cake.

Once again the New York Times provided the temptation: Lemon Spice Visiting Cake
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018963-lemon-spice-visiting-cake (recipe in full below)

I topped off our warm slices with a generous schmear of lemon curd, which should be a required condiment placed on every table, right next to the catsup bottle. Yumsters.

Our cake lasted through the work week, with slices for dessert for lunches and dinners. Toward the end I even had a nice slab toasted for breakfast one morning. It is the perfect cake for a week of fine dining, as well as being a good traveling cake, if you are inclined to bake one and bring it to share it with anyone.

Martha has a recipe for a lemon pound cake, which make two loaves. So you can keep one at home for those midnight snacks while chilling and watching Netflix, while still selflessly giving one away. If you are that kind of person. Martha’s recipe also doesn’t have the expensive spices found in the New York Times recipe. I was shocked, shocked at how expensive the cardamon was at my grocery store – and I was NOT shopping at Whole Paycheck. There were two from which to choose, and I picked the less pricey, $7.79 tiny, little bottle. I will have to find a lot of uses for cardamon this holiday baking season.


Epicurious has a nice and easy recipe for Honey and Spice Loaf Cake – with spices we all have on hand, like cinnamon and ground ginger and ground cloves; perilously close to being pumpkin pie spices. If you are anything like me you will reconsider the wisdom of including raisins. (In our house we don’t bake healthy oatmeal raisin cookies, we prefer the much more palatable oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. To each their own!)

Consider what is really in your pumpkin pie spices. Not pumpkin. According to Wikipedia, pumpkin spice contains:

18 parts ground cinnamon
4 parts ground nutmeg
4 parts ground ginger
3 parts ground cloves
3 parts ground allspice

And now take a gander at this NPR story from 2014: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/11/19/365213805/just-what-is-in-pumpkin-spice-flavor-hint-not-pumpkin

My $7.79 bottle of cardamon is looking good!

Lemon Spice Visiting Cake

Butter and flour for the pan
1 ½ cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ¼ cups (250 grams) sugar
1 large (or 2 small) lemons
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup (120 ml.) heavy cream, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 ½ tablespoons (77 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup marmalade (for optional glaze)
½ teaspoon water (for optional glaze)

1.Center a rack in the oven, and preheat it to 350. Butter an 8 1/2-inch loaf pan (Pyrex works well), dust with flour and tap out the excess. (For this cake, bakers’ spray isn’t as good as butter and flour.) Place on a baking sheet.

2.Whisk the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, cardamom, ginger and salt together.

3.Put the sugar in a large bowl, and grate the zest of the lemon(s) over the sugar. Squeeze the lemon(s) to produce 3 tablespoons juice, and set this aside. Using your fingers, rub the sugar and zest together until the mixture is moist and aromatic. One at a time, add the eggs, whisking well after each. Whisk in the juice, followed by the heavy cream. Still using the whisk, gently stir the dry ingredients into the batter in two additions. Stir the vanilla into the melted butter, and then gradually blend the butter into the batter. The batter will be thick and have a beautiful sheen. Scrape it into the loaf pan.

4.Bake for 70 to 75 minutes (if the cake looks as if it’s getting too dark too quickly, tent it loosely with foil) or until a tester inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a rack, let rest for 5 minutes and then carefully run a blunt knife between the sides of the cake and the pan. Invert onto the rack, and turn over. Glaze now, or cool to room temperature.

5.For the glaze: Bring the marmalade and water to a boil. Brush the glaze over the top of the warm cake, and allow to it to set for 2 hours. The glaze will remain slightly tacky.

6.When the cake is completely cool, wrap in plastic to store. If it’s glazed, wrap loosely on top.

“Debbie had to get up and slice me a thick piece of cake before she could answer. And I do mean thick. Harry Potter volume seven thick. I could have knocked out a burglar with this piece of cake. Once I tasted it, though, it seemed just the right size.”
― Maureen Johnson

Winter is Coming: Got Your Flu Shot?


by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Have you had your flu shot yet?

The beginning of flu season is rapidly approaching, and now’s the time to get this year’s flu shot. I got mine last Thursday at the Kent County Health Department at 125 South Lynchburg Street in Chestertown. It was fast, about a five-minute wait with only one person ahead of me. There was only virtually no hassle, just one quick form to fill out.  Bring your insurance or Medicare/Medicaid cards and the cost is covered with no co-pay, in most cases.  So it’s basically free and the vaccine gives me a good chance of getting through the upcoming flu season without any of the all-too-familiar symptoms of the virus.

But does a flu shot really help?  Many people say that they got the shot one year but still got the flu. Yes, that happens.  But the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does a study each year to determine how effective that year’s flu vaccine was and how it compares to previous years.  What they have found is that, while it varies from year to year, vaccination reduces the chance of catching the flu by between 40% and 60%.  Thus there’s no guarantee that you won’t get the flu but you have a much better chance of resisting it than those who don’t get the flu shot.  For every one hundred unprotected persons who get the flu, only 40-60 vaccinated persons come down with it.  So with the vaccine, you have a decent chance of avoiding the flu.  Without it, you may be sniffling and missing work for one to two weeks – or more.  So, yes, the flu shot helps.

The flu hits suddenly, no gradual buildup of symptoms like the common cold often has. You don’t wonder if you might be coming down with something; you know when it hits.  Fortunately, the severe symptoms usually last no more than 2-3 days.  However, other symptoms such an intermittent low fever, cough, weakness, and fatigue may last a week or more. Sometimes, there is a lingering dry cough that lasts or returns again and again over the course of a few months.  Catching the flu can end up with you not feeling up to par for the whole winter. So avoiding the flu is really a good thing!  And the flu shot improves your chances.

Peter Heck, your intrepid Spy reporter, receives his lollipop from  Rita Kulley, RN, program manage of the Flu Clinic, after she gave him his flu shot. (As proof, note the band-aid on upper arm.) 

The Kent County Health Department is holding walk-in flu clinics every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon through the end of December.  No appointments necessary. Tell ’em the Spy sent you.

Regular flu shots cost $30; while high-dosage shots for seniors are $50. But in most cases, it’s free, no money changes hands. Medicare and Medicaid pick up the entire cost while most insurance companies pay all or most of the cost. The clinic accepts Medicare and MCOs for payment, as well as cash, checks and credit cards.  MCOs are the Managed Care Organizations that provide services to Medicaid recipients.

The strains of flu virus in circulation change each season, so last year’s inoculation is unlikely to be effective against this year’s bugs, which the current vaccine is tailored to protect you from. October and early November are the best times to get your vaccination. That way your immune system can develop antibodies before the flu season kicks in around Thanksgiving. Good idea to develop immunity before those big family gatherings followed by the frenetic shopping and festive parties of December. There’s no better time to visit a qualified health care provider and get your shots updated than now.

In addition to the Health Department, flu shots are available at many local pharmacies. No appointments are needed, just walk-in.  Usually there is no or very little wait.

Rite Aid Pharmacy in Chestertown offers the shots Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, Sat 9 to 6, Sun 10 to 9.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Chestertown offers the shots from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 8 to 6 Saturdays and 10 to 6 Sundays.

Edwards Pharmacy at 102 S. Commerce St. near the Centreville courthouse, offers the shots from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. weekdays, 8 to 2 Saturdays.

Edwards has just opened a pharmacy in Chestertown but they are not yet geared up to offer flu shots. Next year, they said, Edwards Pharmacy Chestertown will have flu vaccines.

Prices tend to be similar to the Health Department; most insurance plans pick up the entire cost. For those without insurance, the standard shot is around $30, and $50 to $60 for the high-dose senior shot. Bring your insurance cards when you go for the shot.

Rite aid Pharmacy in Kent Plaza shopping center in Chestertown at the intersection of Washington Ave. (Rt 213) and Morgnec Rd. (Rt. 291) Flu shots available M-F from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat 10:00 am-6:00 pm. Sun.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Chestertown at the corner of Washington Ave. (Rt 213) and Morgnec Rd. (Rt. 291)

It’s also possible your family doctor can give you the inoculation. But the point is to get it. It takes about two weeks after the injection for the vaccine to become fully effective, so getting your shot before the flu season begins is important.

In fact, everyone older than six months should get a shot, unless they have a life-threatening allergy to the vaccine or one of its ingredients. A flu shot doesn’t just protect you — it also helps protect the community as a whole, a phenomenon called herd immunity. The more people who have immunity to this year’s virus, the less likely it is that a dangerous pandemic can get a foothold.

And make no mistake — flu can be a killer, especially to those in vulnerable segments of the population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this group includes children under 5 years and adults over 50 years old; anyone with chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disorders; pregnant women; residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; American Indians; and anyone who is extremely obese. Family members and caregivers of those in the vulnerable categories should also be sure to get immunized so they don’t expose someone at high risk for complications to the disease.

Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu are helpful in mitigating flu symptoms once a patient is infected with the virus, but they are not a substitute for the vaccination. Nor do they prevent the infected person from spreading the virus to others around them.

Kent County Health Department at 125 South Lynchburg Street in Chestertown.  Walk-in flu shot clinic on Thursday mornings 9-noon.

The Kent County Health Department also has numerous other services for individuals.  They have informational pamphlets in both English and Spanish on almost every health issue.

Flu clinic forms are available at the Health Department website or at the clinic. Call 410-778-1350 ext. 3 for more information.


Old Oysters, New Corn


Environmental art installation by Howard and Mary McCoy currently on the lawn outside the KCAC Buliding across the street from the Post Office.  Photo credit: Peter Heck

Howard and Mary McCoy, Queen Anne’s County artists, were at the Town Arts Building in Chestertown, Sunday, Oct. 15, to install their environmental art piece, “Old Oysters, New Corn.”

Sited on the lawn next to the building, across the street from the post office, the piece is constructed of centuries-old oyster shells from a Native American midden and newly harvested corn, both from their farm near Centreville.

Twelve stakes form a circle around an interior circle filled with old oyster shells.    Photo credit: Peter Heck

The artists began by sketching out two circles on the lawn; the inner circle was filled with the oyster shells, then 12 stakes were set in the outer circle for attaching the corn stalks. They began with the four cardinal compass points – North, South, East and West, then went around the circle clockwise beginning at the north.

The corn stalks, a modern variety genetically modified to resist the herbicide Roundup, still have ripe ears of corn on them. “The squirrels are going to love this sculpture,” said Howard.

The sculpture, Mary told us, while reminiscent of ancient harvest customs, is not based on any particular tradition.  Rather, it is “a meditation on the bounty of this fertile region and the ever-changing ways humans have used its resources.”

The sculpture will remain in place through the end of the month for the RiverArts studio tours, which take place on two weekends,  Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29, at sites throughout the area. The large exhibition space in the Town Arts Building will also host exhibits by several artists who wanted to take part but couldn’t make their actual studios available. The McCoys will have an exhibit along the wall overlooking the lawn where their sculpture stands.

Artists Howard and Mary McCoy, with Kent County Arts Council Director John Schratwieser (center) Old Oysters, New Corn” environmental art installation by Howard and Mary McCoy. Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The Kent County Arts Council, which owns the Town Arts Building, obtained permission to install the sculpture on the lawn adjacent to its building from the Chestertown Mayor and Council. The property belongs to the town, which received it in a gift a number of years ago.

Old Oysters, New Corn” environmental art installation by Howard and Mary McCoy. Photo credit: Peter Heck

The installation’s sign notes, “Oysters were an important food for Native Americans. Over the centuries, the shells they discarded built up in layers several feet deep, but because of their small population, this food source remained sustainable. More recently, due to disease, pollution and over-harvesting, oyster populations have plummeted.

“For nearly two decades, the corn grown in this area has come from seed genetically modified to withstand spraying with the herbicide glyphosate, also called Roundup. Promoting efficient weed control, this farming practice helps boost harvest yields but is controversial in terms of the safety of genetic modification, as well as glyphosate’s possible hazards to human, plant and animal health.”

Howard, Mary and John play “scrarecrow” by the corn field.

Howard and Mary McCoy are collaborative artists. Much of their work is created directly in the landscape and is based on archetypal motifs concerned with the earth and how people have approached their own relationship with the earth through the centuries. Made primarily of natural materials, their work aims at honing viewers’ awareness of particular environments.

In addition to their ongoing site-specific installations created as Artists in Resident at Adkins Arboretum, their installations have been shown in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.

Howard McCoy has a B.A. in art from Georgetown College and an M.F.A. in painting from George Washington University.

Mary McCoy

Mary McCoy has a B.S. in studio art from Skidmore College and has written on art for several publications, including The Washington Post. She also writes for The Chestertown Spy.

“Old Oysters, New Corn” is part of RiverArts’ upcoming Studio Tour weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, Oct 21- 22 & 28-29, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, rain or shine. This free self-guided tour on the picturesque Eastern Shore of Maryland includes close to 50 artists, many of them nationally-known, who will invite you into their studios to talk about their art, demonstrate their techniques and offer original art for sale at studio prices.



Food Friday: Quick Pickles


It is finally starting to cool down, at night at least. I have artfully stacked a couple of festive pumpkins on the front steps, hoping that they do not rot before Halloween. I have replanted the window boxes with chrysanthemums and some decorative kale. I doubt if Martha is going to come inspect our neighborhood, but I will be ready for her just in case. We are ready to greet fall, whenever it finally shows up.

We had a good summer, even it it refuses to depart entirely, and I can look back on it fondly. I have readjusted my thinking, and am getting used to being back in the kitchen after a lovely hiatus of a summertime of backyard-grilled veggies and meats. One way to revisit the golden haze of summer is by pickling vegetables.

I like the immediacy of quick pickling, which reveals my dependence on shopping at the grocery store instead of relying on the CSA or the seasonal foods at the farmers’ market. Forgive me my fondness for cucumber pickles. Load me up with some thin-skinned Kirby pickles. Yumsters!

My mother favored a small butcher shop just around the corner from our house. It was the kind of place that stocked bread and Saltines and penny candy as well as the hanging slabs of meat kept cold in an old-fashioned wooden cooler at the back of the store. While we waited for our pound of cubed steak and a pound of sliced American cheese, we were sometimes allowed the great treat of selecting a pickle out of the large barrel located near the front door. They were huge, manatee-sized pickles, which we ate sitting on the step of the shop, with juice running down our arms and onto the sidewalk. In retrospect I wonder how my mother decided they would be a treat for us, because she didn’t like pickles. Every year she would put out a tiny WASPy bowl of sweet gherkins for a relish dish at Thanksgiving, but I never saw her eat any.

I enjoy a cool cucumber salad, with slices of sweet Vidalia onion, and a scattering of Maldon salt is the perfect summer meal. Quick pickles are almost as good as a summer salad, or sitting on Benny’s Butcher Shop front step, chowing down on a big, honking pickle, watching the neighborhood parade by.

We all have such busy lives that few of us can spend a day learning how to ferment pickle the slow, traditional way. I am always afraid of ptomaine poisoning or exploding jars. Quick pickles can give us a little sunshine on the dinner table when fall’s cooler temperatures and darker nights make us long for summer’s warm sunshine.

Cheater’s Pickles – From the New York Times

2 English cucumbers
2 tablespoons sugar
Handful of ice cubes
¼ cup rice vinegar, Champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Several pinches of flaky salt, such as Maldon
Several grinds of black pepper, optional
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill, mint or chives, or a mixture, optional
½ Vidalia onion, sliced into thin half-moons, optional

1.Cut off the ends of the cucumbers and use the tines of a fork to draw long stripes down their lengths. Slice the cucumbers like bread-and-butter pickles, about 1/8-inch thick, and pile them into a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the cucumbers and stir in well. Scatter the ice cubes over the slices and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Chill in the freezer for 1/2 hour.

2.Drain the cucumbers in a colander and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Put the cucumbers back in the bowl, sprinkle the vinegar over them evenly, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper, if using, and stir well to combine. Toss in the herbs and the onions, if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve. They will still be good the next day, though not quite as crisp.


Vivian Howard knows busy. Here is her recipe for quick pickles from PBS’s A Chef’s Life:


Of course, our friends at Food52 have the answer for quick pickles, too: https://food52.com/recipes/18162-spicy-dill-quick-pickles

And here is a super quick recipe from Alice Waters for a medley of cucumbers, radishes and watermelon meant to be consumed immediately. Hurry up! Get going!

“The perfect weather of Indian Summer lengthened and lingered, warm sunny days were followed by brisk nights with Halloween a presentiment in the air.”
― Wallace Stegner

A Wave and a Sail — Broad Reach Sculpture Dedication Oct. 14


Broad Reach sculpture representing a wave and a sail, by artist David Hess. Photo credit: Jane Jewell.

The Town of Chestertown and the Chestertown Arts & Entertainment District invite the public to the Saturday, October 14 dedication of the David Hess sculpture Broad Reach, which is being installed in Wilmer Park as the first artwork commissioned under Chestertown’s Public Arts Master Plan.

The ceremony will begin at 4:00 p.m. and will feature music by Jigs and Reels, poetry by Meredith Davies Hadaway, greetings from the artist, and a Chester River blessing of the large-scale steel sculpture. A reception will follow at the site.

Broad Reach pays tribute to Chestertown’s nautical past and strong connection to the Chester River with a 20-foot-tall sail, a breaking wave and grassy berms that mimic a ship’s wake.  In it’s article “Point of Sail”, Wikipedia explains the nautical term “broad reach” “When the wind is coming from the side of the sailing craft, this is called reaching. … In a broad reach, the wind is coming from behind the sailing craft at an angle. This represents a range of wind angles between beam reach and running downwind.”

The Sandbox on Cross St. in downtown Chestertown in 2015.  The program moved to the Washington College campus in 2016.

The artwork is being dedicated in honor of artist and arts advocate Alex Castro, who broadened Chestertown’s artistic and cultural horizons during his time here as a resident and Washington College faculty member.  At the college, Castro lectured in Art and was for several years the director of the Kohl Gallery.  Castro was the driving force behind the Sandbox, a creative arts program of Washington College.

The stainless steel sculpture, which was constructed in Washington, Pa. came to Chestertown Oct. 2 on two large trucks. The concrete foundations had already been laid by Yerkes Construction, and a large crane arrived around 1 p.m. to hoist the metal pieces into place. Hess and several of his workers, including his son Eli, were on hand to perform the installation, and Hess remained in town for several days to polish the metal and oversee other details of the process, including building the earth berms around the base of the sculpture.

Sculptor David Hess (left) with his son Eli at the site in Wilmer Park on Oct 2, waiting for the sculpture to arrive.

Hess, a Baltimore-born artist and engineer, has designed public art for sites all around the country, including several in Baltimore and vicinity. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he works in a number of media, both large and small sculpture and works on paper. He studied with realist wood sculptor Fumio Yoshimura, whose humor and precision made a strong impression on him. His exhibit, ‘”Gun Show,” 80 sculpture-assemblages constructed from “found items” like vacuum cleaner parts and gas station pump nozzles to resemble guns, appeared at Washington College’s Kohl Gallery in February 2015, shortly after his design for Broad Reach was selected to be installed in Wilmer Park. Click here for short interview of Hess about the “Gun Show” exhibit.

Waterline by David Hess.  Visit his website to see more of Hess’s work.

In addition to dressing up the entrance to Wilmer Park, Broad Reach is meant to be a “playscape” – unlike traditional sculpture, it is designed for children (adults are allowed, too!) to climb on, slide down, and use their imaginations to incorporate it into their games and stories. At the same time, its nautical theme echoes the town’s history as a river port, dating back to Colonial days, and the thriving recreational activity along the nearby Chester River.

Castro chaired the jury that selected this first installation, which was presented to the Mayor and Council in January, 2015. Broad Reach was one of a dozen designs from artists all around the country submitted in response to the town’s request for proposals. The jury, made up of seven local arts professionals, made the selection based on appropriateness to the town and the site, functionality, feasibility, ease of maintenance, safety and fun. The installation was originally planned for a site nearer the center of the park, but the site was changed to make it more visible from the road and to provide more shade when children are playing on it.

Alex Castro

Castro was also an integral part of the Public Arts Master Plan process. His friends and admirers raised the majority of the funding to make Broad Reach a reality. Other large donors include the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program, the SFW Foundation, the Chestertown High School Class of 1967 and many other groups and individuals who contributed funds and services.

While the funding of the artwork itself is complete, the Town still seeks gifts to complete the landscaping, site work and installation.  For example, the piled earth berms around the sculpture will be landscaped.  Tax-deductible donations can be made online at Go Fund Me – Ctown Sculpture or by check marked “Broad Reach donation,” made payable to Town of Chestertown and mailed to 118 N. Cross Street, Chestertown, Md. 21620.

Below is a gallery of photos from the installation, from Oct. 2 to the date of publication, Oct. 11. Photography by Kees de Mooy, Peter Heck, and Jane Jewell.

The two trucks arrive at the corner of Maple Ave. (Rt 213) and Cross Street.

Photo by Peter Heck

Passing the old train station. Photo by Jane Jewell

Concrete pads poured by Jay Yerkes Construction in preparation for Broad Reach. Photo by Jane Jewell

Photo by Kees de Mooy

Up it goes! Photo by Kees de Mooy

The Wave imitating a blimp coming in for a landing. Photo by Kees de Mooy


The Sail makes landfall. Photo by Kees de Mooy

The Sail swinging into place. Photo by Kees de Mooy

Drilling bolt holes. Photo by Kees de Mooy

Securing the Wave. Photo by Kees de Mooy

photo by Jane Jewell

David Hess, the sculptor, arrives. Photo by Kees de Mooy

Kees de Mooy, Chestertown Zoning Administrator, pitches in to help cordon off the installation site. Photo by Jane Jewell

Installation of Broad Reach sculpture accomplished. Waiting for Dedication Oct 14, 2017. Photo by Jane Jewell


Sign in front of Broad Reach installation site in Wilmer Park. Photo by Jane Jewell




Chestertown Futures: What If Something Amazing Happened on Morgnec Road?


While the Town of Chestertown and Washington College have been rightly focused on the future of the Chester River waterfront, which includes plans to enhance the downtown experience, add more residents, and improve its retail sector, there is another part of town that might provide another excellent opportunity for improvement; the use of the land along Morgnec Road, between Upper High Street and Washington Avenue.

Morgnec Road may not instinctively be seen as another critical part of Chestertown’s long-range plans, but it should be. The axis that runs approximately one mile is currently shared by the College and a few commercial buildings, is not only an ideal gateway into town, particularly with its rail-to-trail access, but shows excellent promise for affordable living within a sustainable, mixed-use community.

This might sound ambitious, particularly given the number of private parties that have interests along Morgnec, but that hasn’t stopped other communities from forming creative alliances to maximize land use and preserve local quality of life.

One reason we know comes with our familiarity with the consulting work of PLACE, a Minneapolis-based firm that has been providing assistance to the Easton Economic Development Corporation and their long-term plans (think twenty years or more) to create an integrated strategy to unite Easton’s downtown along Port Street with its waterfront on the Tred Avon River.

PLACE is a nonprofit project that assists towns like Easton to design and build vibrant places for people to live and work. Their projects across the United States have created extraordinarily successful models for this across the income spectrum, using efficient environmental design, and the empowerment of the community to participate in every aspect of the development process.

Through these experiences, the PLACE team has developed some significant opinions about the future of community development not only about the make up those projects but the financing of them.  They’ve worked with Native American tribes and colleges, art centers and community gardeners, all in search with models that allow residents to live and work in the same place.

The Spy sat down with PLACE co-founders Chris Velasco and Elizabeth Bowling to talk about what they’ve learned about big projects in small communities. Both Chris and Elizabeth share their collective experience about what works and how new strategies are being deployed to create a more holistic structure for housing and employment.

While their comments can only be seen as broad and generalized, with no significant knowledge of Chestertown, we felt our readers would appreciate the optimism they bring to the concept of 21st Century living even in small towns like ours.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about PLACE  and their projects please go here



Hogwarts for a Day!


The 4th Annual Chestertown HP Festival kicked off Friday evening, Oct. 6 with a dance party in the Garfield Center, attended by more than 250 festival-goers. Based on the popular Harry Potter fantasy novels by J.K. Rowling, the festival drew attendees of all ages from the entire middle Atlantic region.

For the festival, High Street was closed from Queen to Spring streets, with various vendors and exhibits along the way. In Fountain Park, a number of vendors offered Harry Potter-related items — such as Meckley Brooms of Lancaster County, Pa., which brought a selection of authentic-looking witches’ brooms. Vicky Meckley, whose husband is among the fourth generation of broom makers, said the 120-year-old company has been to a number of Potter festivals over the last year and frequently sells out its stock. The company also produces brooms for everyday use. She and the other family members at the booth took turns walking around town and enjoying the historic district.

The park was the site of a number of festival events, including a “Defense Against the Dark Arts” display where participants created giant bubbles to represent their “patronus” or magical protector.   The costume contest was also held in the park.  At other points around the downtown area, events included a “Magical Hall of Talking Portraits” at Kidspot, a Charms Class at the Sultana Education Center and a showing of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” at Kent County Public Library. Everywhere you went, there were people in Harry Potter-related  costumes, both young and old, dressed as wizards, goblins, and dozens of Harrys and Hermiones, .

Goblins and Galleons, The Goblin Bank

At Olivander’s Wand Shop, AKA Bob Ortiz Furniture Studio, wizards could purchase a variety of wands from five different vendors. Michael and Ramona Liles of Philadelphia, selling at the Vele Cruce table, said they were attending their first festival.

A popular feature was the scavenger hunt, in which participants visit businesses all over the downtown area searching for clues. Those who found all the clues and returned their form to the booth in front of the Garfield received a prize. Each of the participating businesses was renamed after an equivalent locale in the books — so that the former Chestertown Bank building, now the headquarters of KRM Development, became Goblins and Galleons, with a clue hidden in the old bank vault, and Book Plate became Flourish and Blotts Bookseller.

This year, there were enough successful participants that the festival had given out all its prizes by 3 p.m. — an hour before the official end of the hunt!

Wilmer Park was the setting for the Quidditch tournament — a team sport with similarities to soccer and basketball. There were several competing teams, from as far away as Philadelphia and Washington. The sport differs from the version in the Harry Potter books in that none of the players are flying on broomsticks — although they are required to carry a symbolic broomstick between their legs during play. There were a good number of spectators picnicking in shady spots around the park — with food provided by several vendor trucks, many of them local.

The Quidditch Goals – Three Rings

Stretching Before the Game


Hogwarts faculty members Professor Dumbledore (Jim Landskroener), Nearly Headless Nick (David Ryan) and Professor Lupin (Zac Ryan)

The Garfield also offered “The Hogwarts Experience,” a chance for young festival-goers ages 8-12 to take part in a re-enactment of one of the key elements of the Harry Potter world, the famous school of wizardry. In two different sessions, 40 participants entered the theater where they were greeted by Headmaster Dumbledore and a panel of wizards. Each came to the stage to be sorted by the traditional “sorting hat” into one of the four Hogwarts houses — Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. They were then sent to tables where faculty members instructed them in magical arts, from the use of wands to cast spells to the detection of hidden properties of objects — such as the taste of different colors of jelly beans. The actors playing the faculty wizards gave enthusiastic performances, and the young students clearly enjoyed the experience.











In these “magic classes,” students get to take out their wands and practice repelling a “boggart,” a magical being who takes the form of your worst fear.  With courage and heart – and just the right magical words –  students learn to vanquish their own personal boggart, a handy skill to have.











The close of the festival was marked by another dance, the “Azkaban Prison Break Party.” named after the key event in the third of the Harry Potter novels.

All in all, it was another successful Festival.  This year the festival was re-titled The HP Festival because the organization had received complaints from Warner Brothers’ legal department. But that didn’t throw a blanket over the fun – the magic was definitely there for this year’s festival.


Dumbledore, Professor & Headmaster of Hogwarts (portrayed by Jim Landskroener)

Nearly Headless Nick (David Ryan)








The Faculty of Hogwarts – Left to right: Professor Sprout- Madeline McSherry, Professor Trelawny – Amelia Markosian, Professor Dumbledore – Jim Landskroener, Nearly Headless Nick – David Ryan, Professor Lupin – Zac Ryan

A Goblin works at His Desk in the Bank

Merkley Brooms 

4th Annual HP Festival

Diagon Alley










Diagon Alley is the Wizarding World’s Shopping District that is magically concealed from muggles’ eyes in London and  in Chestertown is located in the Old Mill alley just off Cross St near the old train station.

The Evergrain bakery and coffee shop became Wizardgrain for the day. A wonderful place for young witches and wizards to introduce their parents to butterbeer and everlasting gobstoppers.

Choosing a wand at Olivanders (Bob Ortiz Studio)

4th Annual HP Festival






Food Friday: Squirreling Away


This is a story from the Spy Test Kitchen’s venerable Way Back Machine. I’ll be back with pickles next week!

Luke the wonder dog and I have been enjoying our daily walks around town quite a lot these days. I am thrilled not to be sweating and panting from the merciless heat of summer. He, being a happy kind of guy, is just glad to be out of the studio and in a world of swirling smells and sights. And then there are the squirrels. The squirrels are everywhere!

Luke is a mutt of indeterminate parentage. We adopted him from the Humane Society four years ago when he was just a wiry black, brown and white pup. Since then we have learned that he sheds about a bale of fur every day, his favorite spot in the house would be smack in the middle the white sofa if he were allowed on it, he does not like the UPS man, he loves to play ball, and his heart’s desire is to catch a squirrel.

Luke is a short hair something. Passersby often comment that he looks like a blue tick. Or a short Doberman. Or a tall beagle. Or something else with papers and lineage. We think he is a true American mongrel – our own mid-sized mélange of a dog. He is not a water dog, although he loves to swim – but only if he is retrieving his ball. He is not a retriever, until you hurl his ball though the air, and then he goes tearing across the field like a race horse, intent upon catching his ball. He is a snob. No common tennis balls for him. He is not a Lab. Only orange and blue Chuckit!® balls for Luke.

Luke is not nearly as fussy about squirrels. He is pathetically comical when he sees a squirrel. Suddenly he assumes his cloak of invisibility and cartoonishly slows his pace, as he tiptoes, silently, toward his intended. The squirrels will sit, unblinking, staring back at Luke, munching on their nuts, until the dog is inches away. Then, in a tiny furry flash, the squirrels pivot and exit the scene, often vertically. Keep in mind that I am part of this scenario, every time, as Luke and I are attached by 6 feet of heavy duty leash. In the cartoon that is our life, I am the dust and debris behind Wiley Coyote and the squirrels are the Roadrunner.

Fall is a marvelous time for the squirrels. There are acorns and pecans and dogwood berries pelting down from the trees. We squashed our way through some ripe-smelling ginkgo fruit yesterday. But the best part of fall for the squirrels (and for Luke) seems to be enjoying the Episcopal church pumpkin patch. We walk by the pumpkin patch a couple of times a day. This morning it was swathed in a cool wispy fog. Yesterday it was sunny, and before the church ladies arrived to set up their cash box, the church yard was buzzing with busy squirrels, grazing on the pumpkins and gourds. We saw one squirrel who was enjoying the buffet with a dinner plate-sized slice of pumpkin while sitting on a flat gravestone. It was a tasty looking breakfast. The squirrels had nothing to fear from Luke, because they were behind the wrought iron fence, and Luke was on this side. He paused often and poked his nose through the rails, sniffing, willing his luck to change. Luke is ever vigilant and ever hopeful. With almost a dozen squirrels to consider, surely the odds would tip in his favor eventually.

Back in the real world we are enjoying the notion of fall. As we turn back into the kitchen to prepare warmer meals for the cooler days, I am like Luke, and always hoping for a tasty schmackeral or two. I’m not hanging out at the churchyard, hoping to catch a squirrel for dinner, but I am always looking for something deelish and easy. Fall means the return of root vegetables. Get down to the farmers’ market this weekend, and load up on some local produce. Squirrel some away for an easy dinner (or two) this week. Roasting vegetables fast and easy, and you can take a little leisure time walking through the fallen leaves, watching the squirrels stock up for winter.



“Experiment to me
Is every one I meet
If it contain a Kernel?
The Figure of a Nut
Presents upon a Tree
Equally plausibly,
But Meat within,
is requisite
To Squirrels,
and to Me”
-Emily Dickinson