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Groundhogs and Geese by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 7.53.33 AMI don’t put much stock in the weather-forecasting ability of small, furry, hibernal animals. To wake up a grumpy groundhog on February 2 is asking for trouble, never mind that the statistics say that Phil has only been right 39% of the time over the years since he first had his moment in the sun, so to speak. To my knowledge, burrows don’t have windows so anything above ground must look pretty enticing to a groundhog that has been dozing for several weeks. Plus: after his performance on the stump, Phil goes right back to bed and whether he sleeps for six, seven, or eight more weeks…what difference is it to him?

But geese are different. Theirs is an aerial perspective, much closer to weather of any kind. This morning, two days after Phil retook to his bed, I saw a large flight of Canadian geese heading due north. “Aha!” I thought. “Spring is on its way.”

If you think about it, geese have a lot more reasons to pay attention to the weather. They’ve got a lot further to go than a groundhog that has never even applied for a passport or heard of something as remote as the arctic tundra. Moreover, those geese that have made it through another hunting season have every reason to want to get out of Dodge; the pickings are getting slim and the memories of companions missing in action must be quite painful. But on one morning that looks not all that different from any other winter morning, instinct knocks and Mr. and Mrs. Goose and all their friends answer. It’s time to load up the formation and head home, back to Canada. Somehow, they do the math, calculating exactly when to leave so as to arrive several weeks and a thousand miles hence at precisely the right time when food is on the table up north.

One more thing: groundhogs may make some small noise, but they don’t speak a language I understand. Geese, on the other hand, are noisy critters: I heard the formation this morning long before I actually saw it. Geese announce the imminent arrival of spring like the herald on the loudspeaker at Grand Central station: “Now arriving on track 9…” Good; now I can finish up all those indoor tasks I’ve been putting off and sharpen the blades on my lawn mower.

It was Paul Simon who sang “I get all the news I need on the weather report.” I bet it was a goose, not a groundhog, that gave the forecast the morning he penned that line.

Getting the Shot with Photographer Anne Nielsen


When Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” he might as well been speaking about Centreville-based photographer Anne Nielsen. For more than twenty years, Anne has made photos of her beloved Eastern Shore but not in any typical fashion. In 2010, Nielsen decided to photographic Native Americans on the Delmarva but instead of a standard camera, she chose instead the use of a wooden camera and an 1864 Voigtländer lens, painstakingly uses the same techniques that were found in the 19th Century, which results in a single image that has taken minutes, rather than seconds, to capture.

Fast forward to 2016, and she has updated her camera to a digital one, but she has not removed the complex nature of her photography. In her short interview with the Spy before Friday’s opening of her work at the Massoni Gallery, she describes the enormous length she takes to get the right shot, with the right model, at the right time of day.

This video is approximately two minutes in length

Ms. Nielsen’s work can be seen as part of “SPARK” a mid-winter exhibition opening at the Carla Massoni Gallery on Friday, February 5th. For more information, please go here

Checking in at the Library with Jackie Adams and Barbara Macbeth


With a ribbon cutting set for February 8 to celebrate a major renovation of the Kent County Public Library in Chestertown, representing close to $200,000 in direct and indirect costs, KCPL Director Jackie Adams and President of the Kent County Library Board of Trustees Barbara Macbeth certainly had something to crow about in their check-in session with the Chestertown Spy last week.

With new furniture, bathrooms with ADA compliance, and an impressive reception desk, these capital improvements marked a considerable success story in assembling critical support from Kent County, the State of Maryland, and most importantly, the Library’s two private philanthropic support groups, the Kent County Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library. But beyond the actual physical improvements this has made in the life of the Chestertown’s downtown library, what Jackie and Barb wanted to stress in their chat with the Spy was how these fit into a much larger vision of building a regional library system for the 21st Century.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Kent County Public Library please check here



Good Call: Jeff Horstman Named New Director of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy


As of January 1, 2016, Jeffrey Horstman has been named executive director of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC). Horstman will continue in his role as the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, assessing, monitoring, and providing a voice for local rivers. For the past two years, Horstman has also served as MRC’s deputy director. “I am very proud to be taking a leadership role with such a dedicated group of professionals committed to a better community and cleaner water,” says Horstman. “I look forward to continuing to build programs that protect, restore, and advocate for our local rivers.”

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Jeffrey Horstman

MRC Board President John Kelly has been involved with the organization for the past five years. Horstman and Kelly share a mutual appreciation for the outdoors, cycling, and the importance of giving back to the community. “We could not have asked for a better leader to step into the executive director role,” says Kelly. “Jeff is knowledgeable, and he has the energy and the drive to lead MRC in advocating for healthier Midshore rivers.”

Horstman joined MRC’s board in June, 2010. He was served as chairman from June 2011 through 2013, providing key guidance and support in building MRC during its formative years.

Horstman grew up near Queenstown on the Wye River, and is a 1982 graduate of Washington College with a BA in Political Science. While attending college, Horstman worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources helping to integrate Wye Island into a State holding.

Horstman has continued his passion for conservation interests, serving on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s President’s Advisory Council and as a board member of the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT). “We are thrilled to see Jeff move into this role,” says Jana Davis, executive director of CBT. “We have been so lucky to have had Jeff on our board and on an advisory group for our Chesapeake Conservation Corps program over the years. He is going to be fantastic at the helm of MRC.” In addition, Horstman currently serves on the boards of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc., Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and Aspen/Wye Fellows.

Horstman will continue to work alongside Tim Junkin, MRC’s founder and former executive director. Junkin will remain on staff and as an advisor at MRC. “Jeff is an unusually gifted leader and advocate,” says Junkin. “I couldn’t be more pleased to have him step into this role. I have every expectation that Jeff will continue to build MRC as a force for clean rivers, river advocacy, and a healthy Chesapeake Bay at every level.”

On Mailing a Letter by George Merrill


I walked three miles to mail a letter. Although it happened a couple of years ago, it was a memorable event. The letter was a birthday greeting to a friend who was turning ninety-one. I wanted to be sure she received it on time.

At the time, I was staying in Puerto Rico, and the post office, although minutes by car required a lengthy walk along a beach that would take me close to an hour. A hefty trek for such a small task.

I made my way along the beach– and with nothing else on my mind, I became aware that I was walking; simply putting one foot in front of the other. How many years of my life had I actually spent walking, I wondered? At seventy-eight, then, considering I’ve slept away a third of my life and spent possibly another third sitting around, walking was a prudent choice. As years mount, every step counts.

The sand was russet hued and course, like the beaches that I recall from my boyhood on Staten Island. My steps sunk into the sand making the walk laborious. Having to lift and place my feet so deliberately annoyed me at first. I wished for a harder surface, one easier to walk on.

Being barefoot I noticed how the sand yielded to my steps and although slowing me down, it warmly caressed each foot as it sank in, as if the earth were welcoming me, the way in ancient times our ancestors once received their guests by first washing their feet. It pleased me that the earth still welcomed me. Recently the earth’s inhabitants, myself included, have been trashing the planet, overwhelming her with plastics. Sea glass has become almost obsolete.

I found my toes regularly unearthing plastics of all kinds – bottles, bottle caps, toys, plates, knives bowls, forks and a Frisbee. I remember beach combing from my childhood. Then plastics were rare. On beaches then, the ocean washed up varieties of used and broken glass but the sand and sea transformed them, even beautifying the glass by fashioning new and lovely creations from what were old, useless castoffs. Plastics, seem deathless but lifeless, too, eternally young, resistant to time and transformation.

When she turned ninety, I remember my friend commenting on death. “When I’m no longer useful, I want to be out of here.” She added, “First, though, I want to go up in a hot air balloon.” She preferred ascending to walking.

Leaving the beach, I put on sandals, and walked a macadam road up a steep hill to the post office. I liked the firm certainty of the macadam underfoot but trudging up the hill I missed the intimacy my feet enjoyed with the beaches’ sandy ground: macadam’s efficiency displaced the sand’s hospitality and I wasn’t walking the earth, anymore. I was hitting the road.

I found the post office and gave the postmistress the letter. She spoke in Spanish. I understood enough to understand I just missed the pick up. My friend would get the letter a day late but I was sure that was time enough.

Returning, I saw two women on the beach; one elderly and the other I surmised was her daughter. The old woman – my contemporary, I wondered? I don’t reckon ages well any more. She was on a walker, intently negotiating the sandy beach and as she slowly placed each foot in the sand, her daughter stood apprehensively at her side watching each step. The daughter behaved like a mother, hovering and protective, and the mother like a child, lost in her own play, oblivious to all else.
The Evangelist John once wrote that when we’re young, we go where we want. When we’re old, someone else carries us where we don’t want to go.
The old woman wanted to walk the beach, I was sure of that; she seemed into it. She felt her toes in the sand, experienced the sensuality of being alive, the simple pleasures we never forget, like the caress of sand underfoot or watching a balloon rise in the air.
How much longer can she choose to place bare feet on the earth and have them welcomed and embraced, as they were on this day and when she was a little girl? I passed by her slowly, and in my heart, silently cheered, yes, yes.
Shall I, one day, be taken where I don’t want to go? I don’t want to go and sit in plastic and chrome chairs in rooms where the flooring is composed of synthetic compounds and smelling like disinfectant, floors hard and unyielding underfoot, preventing my toes from feeling the warm earth. I’ll leave no footprint behind on floors like this.

And should that be my lot, there will be no more long walks to post letters, anymore. I’ll have pick up and delivery to my room every day, from those who still remember who I am.

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.

Sweet! Andy Goddard Selected as RiverArts’ New Director


The RiverArts Board is excited to announce the selection of Andy Goddard as RiverArts’ new Executive Director to replace Jodi Bortz, who announced her resignation in December. Mary Jo McCulloch, RiverArts’ Board President, shared how thrilled she is to have Andy join RiverArts.  “Andy is a wonderful choice as RiverArts’ next Executive Director, because she has expertise in running a business, excellent organizational skills, demonstrated ability to collaborate with diverse stakeholders, deep knowledge of this community and a remarkable capacity to galvanize effective partnerships.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 8.23.14 AMWell known as the owner of Andy’s restaurant, bar and music venue for over 20 years, Goddard currently serves as Events Coordinator for the Garfield Center for the Arts. Chestertown RiverArts is a member-supported, non-profit organization dedicated to engaging our community in the creation, appreciation, and support of the arts. We are a dynamic group of artists, art lovers, and people who believe the arts enrich us all, both as individuals and as a community. Through programming for children and adults, exhibitions, classes, and more, we strive to excite the creative spark in everyone.  Andy shared, “I am thrilled to be working with such a vibrant, visionary organization as RiverArts, and I look forward to adding my interest in music to the RiverArts community.”

Andy says she fell in love with the Eastern Shore when she arrived to attend Washington College and, aside from five years in Baltimore, has called Kent County home for over 30 years. In 1987 she returned to Chestertown and opened Andy’s, a restaurant, bar and music venue, with a mission to create a comfortable atmosphere in which to listen to original live music. It quickly became a desirable stop on the east coast acoustic music circuit, attracting regional and  national acts, as well as becoming one of the town’s social centers.  

After closing the business in 2009, Andy turned her focus to two other passions: promoting sustainability and all things local – especially local foods. She is a member of the Chestertown Environmental Committee, and has organized farm to table dinners and various local food events, including the popular Taste of the Town.  She also served as Associate Publisher & Editor of the Chestertown SPY.

She currently serves as Events Coordinator for the Garfield Center for the Arts, and has been instrumental in organizing many events at Garfield including creating the popular Blues at the Garfield series.  


Director’s Cut: Pat Patterson Talks About “Dinner with Friends”


One of the remarkable aspects of the phenomenon of community theaters like the Church Hill Theater are the participants themselves. Actors, stage technicians, wardrobe assistants, and, most importantly, directors come from all walks of life to volunteer endless hours of rehearsals and constructing sets to bring live theater to small towns each year.

One perfect example is Chestertown’s Pat Patterson, who is currently directing “Dinner with Friends” this weekend. While Patterson has amassed a considerable amount of experience as both an actor and director, including a degree in theater from the University of Michigan, his real life profession before retirement was in the United States Air Force and the diplomatic corp of the State Department. In fact, for the last twenty years with the U.S. government, he was assigned to some of the most dangerous parts of the world, including Iraq, to represent his country’s interests.

With that background in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that Pat turned to community theater for a real break from the demanding tasks related to his day job. And even in retirement, he has not lost that urge to participate.

Case in point is his current assignment directing the Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer-prize winning play “Dinner with Friends” this month at the Church Hill Theatre. In his Spy interview, Pat talks about this comic and poignant play of two married couples who have been friends for years learn that one couple is separating.

This video is approximately four minutes in length

Dinner With Friends
By Donald Margulies
Jan 29th – Jan 31st
Fri & Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Adults $20, Members $15, Students $10

Sultana Prepares for the 2016 Children’s Program with Way Cool Video


Sultana – Summer Programs from Aloft on Vimeo.

Accompanying the announcement of its 2016 children’s Summer Program schedule, the Sultana Education Foundation released a new promotional video produced in partnership with Aloft-Imaging, a video production company with offices in Kent County. The video features some spectacular extensive aerial footage of the schooner SULTANA, filmed over the course of the summer of 2015, along with interviews with the Foundation’s staff and crew.

“Marc Porter and the entire Aloft-Imaging team did an incredible job putting this video together,” said Sultana Vice President Chris Cerino who was on-hand for much of the filming. “The Aloft crew spent several days sailing on SULTANA last summer with our students, often launching their fleet of drones from small boats in the middle of the Cerino had the unenviable task of being the official “drone catcher” for much of the production. Donning a pair of protective Kevlar gloves, Cerino’s job was to stand on the bow of the pitching 18-foot chase boat used for filming and catch the video drones as the remote pilot brought them in for a landing. Any small error or unexpected roll of the boat easily could have sent the multi-thousand dollar drones into the Chesapeake, or even worse, into Cerino’s head.

Fortunately, production wrapped up without incident and the resulting video gives the viewer a true glimpse of what it’s like for students to spend a summer week sailing and learning on SULTANA.

Sad News: Kent School Founder Joan Merriken Passes


The Spy is saddened to announce that Joan Merriken died Monday evening at Calvert Manor Nursing Home in Rising Sun, MD. Joan, a longtime member of Emmanuel Church and founder of The Kent School, was 86 years old and has been in ill health for the past few years.

A memorial service in Celebration of and Thanksgiving for Joan’s life will be held at Emmanuel this Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 1 p.m. with a reception to follow. Visitation will be at Fellows, Helfenbein and Newnam on Friday evening, January 29.