Mississippi River Blues by Al Sikes

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I grew up just miles off the Mississippi River, blissfully unaware of the vast economic consequences of living or farming in or close to a flood plain. I do, however, remember my father telling me that we lived in an area which once had been a swamp. The drainage ditches that crisscrossed the farm land just outside of Sikeston, Missouri had been part of “land reclamation” (euphemism for fighting nature), and I enjoyed both hunting and fishing in them.

Awakenings happen; mine was early and occurred in Missouri’s state capitol which was on the banks of the Missouri River. It was circa 1973 when the newly minted gubernatorial administration of Kit Bond found itself face-to-face with widespread flooding shortly after the new governor took office.

My awakening happened because the Department of Community Affairs, my responsibility, had among other programs statewide land use planning.  After the flood waters receded, we began to plan for lessening damage potential by restricting building or rebuilding in the Missouri river floodplain.

Landowners were outraged as were the construction, agriculture, and real estate industries. It seemed at the time that every state legislator, regardless of which river valley they were in, was incensed. Cautionary planning was not a hit in 1973.

This was not my only brush with political extinction. Later on, my responsibilities included statewide implementation of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. If a river, and there are well over a dozen spring fed ones in the Ozark region of Missouri, was designated under the program then a land buffer was required along its shores, and the State had to enforce it. Many landowners fought each river’s inclusion.

In short, Americans, or should I say most who either live on or exploit environmental features, do not want to be restricted. They do, however, want the government involved in their affairs. They want financial protection to lessen their risk. All other Americans pay the bill through a broad spectrum of reclamation, insurance, dam building, flood relief and water quality, programs.

Now I know this sounds unsympathetic to those who have just suffered damage. But, all those who are concerned about America’s balance sheet, and that should be all of us, need laws that don’t fight nature. America’s private and public relief organizations are often heroic—better that we don’t need quite so many heroes while actively reducing avoidable and unfunded risks.

We cannot afford, through a range of subsidies, to shore up lands that often redefine where shores stop and start. Attention needs to be paid to natural sponges such as marshes, swamps, and bogs which have often been paved over to make way for the latest development. And, the problem is not limited to flooding; in the West this summer wild fires have been especially destructive to homes built on the edge of the woods.

President Trump is a real estate developer whose properties populate environmentally sensitive areas including the island of Manhattan. I would not expect him to take leadership on this issue. But, I for one find a Trump hotel in Washington much less threatening than the ownership of much of the political class by those who have an economic stake in fighting nature.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

 

Coming Attraction — Movie Theater to Reopen!

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The old Chester 5 Theatres will become the new Chesapeake 5 Theatres – opening late November 2017

The movies are returning to Chestertown!

Chesapeake Theaters, Inc., a new company, has formed to re-open, refurbish, and operate the old Chester 5 Theatre in Washington Square in Chestertown. Their license application was submitted to the town yesterday and immediately thereafter work began in the theater building.  The company expects to have the theater open in time for Thanksgiving when theaters traditionally do a large share of their annual business.  At the latest, it should be open for the Christmas season.  It all depends on the progress of the construction.  The new complex will be named Chesapeake 5 Theatres.

The old chairs ready to be carted out.

The renovation began yesterday,  a representative of the company told the Spy on Wednesday, Sept.20.  The seats are already unbolted from the floors in 4 of the 5 theaters in the complex.  In the next week or so, he said, the entire theater will be essentially gutted – drapes pulled down, carpeting ripped up.  Then the remodeling and refurbishing can begin. When finished, the theater will have new floors, carpeting, seats, wall coverings, marquees, projection screens — “new everything,” the representative said. The restrooms and concession stand will also be brand new. ‘It’s not going to look like anything you’ve ever seen.” he said.

The new rocker chairs – 44 inches from floor to top of headrest – with padded arm-rests and headrests.

The five new theaters will be in the same spaces as previously – no walls will be removed. Each theater will have brand-new, 44-inch high rocker-chairs with padded arm-rests that can be raised or lowered.  Each arm-rest has a cup holder.  Initially, all the seating will be rocker-chairs.  However, the company has special luxury recliners on order.  When those arrive, in approximately 2-3 months, the rockers will be removed from the back half of each of the five theaters and the recliners installed.

The concession stand will offer a much more varied menu than the previous theater. Along with the usual popcorn and candy, the new expanded menu will include pizza, hamburgers, fries, mozzarella sticks, and chicken tenders. There will be special trays that fit into the cup holders on the theater seats so patrons can eat while watching. Alternatively, they will be able to sit at a table in the dining area of the lobby while waiting for their show to begin. The company representative said the theater might apply for a liquor license at some point but has not made that decision yet. One of the reasons cited for the closure of the Chester 5 complex was the availability of beer and wine at the competing Middletown theaters.

The new theater has already re-hired the former manager for the Chester 5 Theatres.  According to their representative, they will be looking to hire about a dozen more employees.

The principals of Chesapeake Theaters, Inc, a small independent company formed to operate the new theater complex, have had substantial theater experience, including operating other theaters in Maryland. The company representative said that they are very impressed with Chestertown and want to be a community-oriented company.   They are also open to holding fund-raisers for community organizations, especially anything that benefits children, such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

The old Chester 5 Theatres closed Sunday, June 4, 2017, without any advance notice. At the time, theater manager Charlene Fowler said business had been slowly declining for about five years. She attributed the change in part to competition from the newer movie theater in Middletown, Del., which had a more up-to-date facility and a liquor license.

Let the show begin!

Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell.  Special thanks to Chestertown Spies Alexander and Emma for their hot tips and timely info!

Old Chester 5 theatre room

Old seats partially dismantled.

Mid-Shore Art Review: “frag-men-ta-tion” by Mary McCoy

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Perhaps the most fundamental error of our times is our habit of seeing the world as a collection of unrelated phenomena. On view at Massoni Art through October 8, “frag-men-ta-tion” examines the anxiety so many of us are feeling in these unsettled times of divisive politics and failing ecosystems.

It’s a diverse show, but if there’s anything its eight artists (plus a few gallery artists) hold in common, it’s a profound awareness of the ongoing nature of change. Darlys Ewoldt’s patinated copper sculptures evoke dynamic swirls of energy, Shelley Robzen captures the fleeting gesture of a wave in pure white marble, and Catherine Kernan describes the complex interweavings of watery ripples and reflections. The dazzling array of facets angling across Kenneth Schiano’s abstractions seem caught in the act of constantly adjusting to one another’s presence, while both Grace Mitchell and Alessandra Manzotti conjure ever-shifting swaths of atmospheric light flooding surfaces scarred by weather and time.

There’s a thread of optimism running through this show that lies in the thought that when things fall apart, possibilities open for reassembling the fragments to form a new and better whole. Larry Schroth literally used fragments of his own work, cut up and collaged together into new compositions as the basis of his richly textured archival digital prints. For encaustic artist Karen Hubacher, the process was more painful. After a devastating studio fire, she retrieved beeswax tinged gray with ash and created worlds within worlds with layers of labyrinthine textures inspired by the mold that grew in the wreckage.

Grace Mitchell, “Mountain Meditation VII,” oil on panel, 30″ x 24″

But it’s the exquisite beauty of Grace Mitchell’s luminous landscapes that pulls most on the heartstrings and breeds a specific longing for the health of the earth. Each glowing panel is a reflection of earth’s own beauty. Composed of many, many ultra-thin glazes of paint that Mitchell repeatedly scraped, sanded, gouged, and daubed with casually descriptive strokes of paint, they radiate deep saturated color and an equally deep sense of the successive changes wrought by time. Creative and destructive forces are palpable in these paintings, with their visceral references to mist and rain, verdant growth and decomposition, plays of sunlight and darkness, and the injuries and scars that are part and parcel of life on earth.

Landscape painting has long shaped our collective view of the earth and its beauty. Both in the West, particularly in 19th-century Romanticism, and the East—think of ancient Chinese mountainscapes, this genre has defined the beauty and spiritual presence of the earth, water and sky, affirming how the complex interconnections of topography, light and atmosphere give rise to particular feelings from elation to foreboding.

In an era when nearly everything—from food, clothing and fuel to news and entertainment—is provided by multi-national corporations that draw on sources and influences too various to easily comprehend, it’s a great tragedy that we no longer recognize how all the elements of life are related across both the physical and spiritual realms.

Mitchell’s “Mountain Meditation” series underscores this shortcoming of vision. For millennia, mountains have been universally symbolic of ascent into sacred space. Inspired by 11th-century Chinese paintings of the Zhangjiaje mountains in the Hunan region, Mitchell painted a strangely vertical peak again and again in shifting guises of color, light and mist. It’s a place of bewitching beauty, yet it is weathered and scarred. Coming on the heels of her previous series of mountain paintings exploring the devastation left by the coal industry, Mitchell’s images of this peak are lovely but poignant. Whether by the hand of man or by the ravages of time, it is clear that it will ultimately be worn away and disappear.

The inevitability of change is a subject Mitchell has profoundly considered as the titles of two of her other series illustrate. “Solastalgia,” a term coined by the Australian philosopher, Glenn Albrecht, refers to a particular psychological distress suffered by those whose familiar environment has been dramatically changed or even lost, notably observable as more and more people are affected by our changing climate. The other term, “Epoquetude,” defines what Mitchell calls “an antidote” to the disquieting realization that we are destroying our environment and too many of its species, possibly including ourselves, by offering reassurance in the knowledge that the earth will ultimately survive us, as it has survived countless cataclysms in the distant past.

Change is the only certainty in life, and this show reminds us that what holds true within a painting or a sculpture also corresponds to the larger world—every element, large or small, affects all the others. By reordering these elements, even in subtle ways, we ultimately change the whole. Whether for better or for worse is an open question.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys the kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.

CFF Preview: Kurt Kolaja’s Wild Ponies of Chincoteague

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As with the case with most documentarians, who tend to need very long production times to make their films, the Spy had not heard from Kurt Kolaja for a few years. The last time was when we interviewed Kurt was in connection with the hugely successful and charming documentary on the Kent County Marching Band in 2011.

Audiences found that film to be extraordinary in sharing the humor and the fun that goes hand in hand with local community marching bands, but also the very real, and sometimes complex, personalities of the band members themselves. Six years later, Kurt has used those same skills to capture another part of Eastern Shore culture with his new film entitled the Wild Ponies of Chincoteague. While the theme of this new production is certainly putting a well-deserved spotlight on the extraordinary habitat of these wild horses, it also drills down into the community itself and those unique individuals that play a critical role in a historical legacy that is found on the lower Eastern shore.

The Spy caught up with Kurt at the Bullitt House in Easton last week to talk about the film which will be premiering at the Chesapeake film Festival in late October.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here 

My Three Weddings by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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My wife and I are at that stage in life when the children of our good friends are tying the knot. Just in the last month alone, we’ve been to three weddings, each unique, each fun, and each a destination affair. That seems to be the thing these days; destinations. In our case, that meant Cape Cod, Rehoboth, and just this past weekend, Austin, Texas. I guess nobody gets married at home anymore.

Weddings these days aren’t simple affairs culminating in a nervously whispered “I do,” a sip of champagne, and a little polite dancing. Destinations require more thought and planning: places to stay, a welcome party (two days prior to the actual ceremony), a rehearsal dinner, a reception, a day-after brunch…oh wait…I forgot the main event—the wedding itself. Might be in a church or at a country club, or as was the case this past weekend, on a Texas ranch complete with longhorn cattle. The officiants these days are different, too: we had one priest, one uncle of the bride (a minister), and back down in Texas, the bride’s best friend, newly “ordained” by the Universal Life Church. The ceremonies were all very personal, full of stories of the brides and grooms, told by scrubbed and (mostly) clean-shaven groomsmen and coifed and manicured bridesmaids. There were cute ring-bearers and shy flower girls (including two of my own grandkids) who almost stole the show. At each of the three weddings, fathers gave away their precious daughters to handsome young men full of hope and glory. And at each event, the new in-laws all appeared to get along well enough which in a way is too bad because sometimes those nervous toasts or awkward new family photos can be pretty funny.

There were a couple of common denominators (like Pachelbel’s Canon in D) but each affair even had its own special destination aura. Out on misty Cape Cod, that arm bent at the elbow sticking out of the body of Massachusetts, there was plenty of New England charm and mystique to go with the lobster rolls and clam chowda. There was a picture-perfect round of golf at the iconic Hyannisport Club, the boys sporting lots of Nantucket red while the sun-tanned girls wore their best Lillys. All very Scott Fitzgerald and John Cheever. The newlyweds left the church in an old woody beach wagon and got their wedding pictures taken just before a squall blew in off the Atlantic in that might have dampened lesser spirits, but not ours. The band kept the party going until the stars came out just before midnight.

Our second event was almost a home game. We typically spend a couple of August weeks in Rehoboth so for this affair, we only had to pack an extra dress or two and several pairs of heels for Kat and a suit, tie, and real shoes (not flip-flops) for me. We watched bride and groom pledge their troth (whatever that is) as the summer sun lowered itself gently into Rehoboth Bay, the end of one day and the beginning of a new life for Mr. and Mrs. The dancing went on late into the night in Rehoboth, too.

Number three was a Texas treat. Austin is a funky, hip place, full of live music, cowboy hats and boots, craft beer, and out-of-this-world Mexican food. (The fare for the rehearsal dinner was Bar-B-Q; the wedding feast was tacos.) Some longhorn cattle were pastured one fence over from the venue; the Shiner Bocks afterward were icy cold. And here, too, the band played on: a little MoTown and Michael Jackson for us old folks, a little funk, a little rap, and some Bruno Mars for the younger crowd. Kat and I thought about going out for some post-reception two-stepping down at The Broken Spoke, but common sense and an early morning flight back home sent us home to bed just after midnight.

Weddings are promises made, families united, friends gathered in joyful celebration. For those of us who watch these new chapters in young lives, we’re reminded of our own stories, the wins and losses, the joys and sorrows. I know one thing for sure: weddings make me count my blessings and repledge my own troth—whatever that is.

I’ll be right 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, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 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 collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Out and About (Sort of): Storms Offer Wake-Up Call by Howard Freedlander

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It was nearly impossible during the past few weeks to avoid paying rapt attention to the destruction and disruption of lives caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Many of us knew people in the paths of these two shattering and stunning storms.

I know people whose primary home is in Houston. Fortunately, they were here in Talbot County, in constant touch with loved ones. They patiently responded to expressions of concern from their Eastern Shore friends.

No sooner did Harvey ceased its fury that Irma followed in its path, visiting its devastation upon the Caribbean and Florida. Again, we had friends and family dealing with flooding and power lost to high winds and broken trees.

It would have been too easy, if not foolish, to disregard the possibility of storm surge on our low-lying piece of Planet Earth. It would be equally silly to ignore the impact of global warming in enhancing the intensity of Harvey and Irma. Media reports rightly focused on the dire plight of residents of Houston and other Texan towns and cities, as well as Key West, Miami and other cities in Florida. I suspect that scientists will contribute their analyses at some point.

All of us should pay attention to the human dimension of the recent storms, specifically on the correlation between global warming as caused or aggravated by all of us on earth and the frequency and powerfulness of storms in recent years.

I will refrain from my typical exhortations about global warming and climate change. Instead, I will spend a few paragraphs addressing preemptive steps, long-discussed, to minimize the impact of storms. My source is Brian Ambrette, coastal resilience manager at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC). For full disclosure, I sit on the ESLC board of directors.

In his frequent electronic newsletter, Ambrette wrote the following, with which I totally agree:

“Why do we wait for tragedy to occur before planning for it? The answer is probably as psychological as it is political and best left to the pundits to debate. To break the disaster-then-prepare cycle, sea level rise is the next clear scenario to consider. A prudent course is to model hurricane flooding with educated assumptions about how much higher the sea will be in future years. Those results can inform zoning and building codes so that the housing stock built today is prepared for the storms of tomorrow. On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the country’s third most vulnerable region to sea level rise, communities are collaborating via the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation partnership on proactive responsible planning to reduce the cost in lives and dollars of future storms. Likewise, federal leadership must prioritize and fund planning for the next storm, not the last one.”

As I’ve learned about Brian Ambrette and his patient work to encourage communities to adapt before a calamity, he offers a common sense approach to the devastating and destructive impact of storm surge. His words and thoughts are devoid of political recriminations or unproductive denial. This ‘pundit” does not feel so restrained.

If denial of global warming is steeped in politics—however much I question such errant thinking—then I believe that “adaptation” in the form of stronger, realistic building codes might provide a common ground for constructive action and unified agreement.

As Ambrette wrote, “Now Harvey has introduced a new challenge for disaster planners: formerly incomprehensive quantities of rain. With luck, communities will become better prepared for city-swallowing rainstorms thanks to the suffering heaped on millions of Texans (and Floridians).

Media coverage continues to illustrate the resilience of our fellow citizens in Texas and Florida as they seek to recover and reestablish the normalcy of their lives. Tales of neighbors helping neighbors and disaster relief agencies working feverishly to restore power and clear streets and highways of trees, cars and debris are heartwarming and reassuring.

Still, we must confront the ill effects of global warming. And we must prepare now for the next storm, the next disaster, the next life-shattering weather event.

We must adapt today. Tomorrow may be too late. Lives are at stake.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Swingin’ in the Park!

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Come hear the big-band sound of Swing City on Sunday, Sept 24 at 3:00 pm.  This will be the last of the summer concerts in Fountain Park in downtown Chestertown.  Originally scheduled for July, the concert was postponed due to a torrential downpour on the day.  Note that due to scheduling issues, this Music in the Park concert is not on the usual Saturday evening.  Instead, Swing City will perform on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 pm in the usual location in the park. There is no charge for any of the Music in the Park concerts but donations will be gratefully accepted.

Led by trumpeter Elmer Dill, Swing City performs all over the eastern U.S., with occasional ventures as far afield as Canada. The 35-member band has been a hit with Music in the Park audiences, drawing large crowds for its appearances in the open-air concert series. Before the evening is over, there have usually been several couples dancing on the bricks around the fountain.

Elmer Dill, founder and director of Swing City, led his first band while still in high school. He attended the University of Delaware, where he played with the university’s stage band, the Delmodians. After college, he joined the U.S. Navy and played in bands all over the world. Several other Swing City regulars share Dill’s military band background, and nearly a third are current or retired musical directors. Most of them live in the Delmarva area, though a few come from as far afield as western Maryland, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey. Members have ranged in age from students in their teens to musicians in their eighties.

Ann Morris of Swing City

The band’s repertoire includes both swing era classics from the likes of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller and stylish, big band arrangements of more modern material. The set list for Sunday features sax and trumpet solos as well as popular songs  such as “In the Mood,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and a six-trumpet arrangement of “Bye Bye Blackbird.”  Ann Morris, a favorite from previous Swing City concerts, returns as the band’s featured vocalist.

Sunday’s program begins at 3:00 p.m. and will end at approximately 4:30. Admission is free. Audience members should bring something to sit on. Only limited seating is available. Note that there is no rain date.  In case of rain, the concert will be canceled. This concert marks the end of the 2017 Music in the Park program. The summer 2018 series will begin in mid-June after the National Music Festival which is the first two weeks of June in Chestertown.

The Music in the Park series has brought a variety of musical styles, including jazz, swing, bluegrass, klezmer, folk, gospel and more, to Kent County audiences since it began in the mid-1990s. The concerts are sponsored by the town of Chestertown with support from the Kent County Arts Council and many community contributors. To help make these free programs possible, send donations payable to the town of Chestertown and designated for “Music in the Park,” to 118 N. Cross St., Chestertown, MD 21620. Donations may also be made at the concert.

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Got Your Number by George Merrill

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Recently, I thought that I’d bring a measure of order to my unruly life, the way I occasionally clean out closets or drawers. I began sifting through contacts listed on my iPhone in order to delete some. The list was long.

Maybe half were still current contacts: others had moved away, some had changed their phone numbers and email addresses, and there were others from whom I’d simply drifted apart. What was disquieting was that so many had died. But all the names and numbers, which for a variety of reasons had grown obsolete, remain listed as if auld acquaintance – whether among the quick or the dead – should ne’er be forgot. In truth, they were not. They were listed among my “contacts.” I went through most all the names. Some I’d not thought about for years, but deep in the corridors of memory they were alive and well. So were the associations I had to them and the circumstances that once connected us. Our relationship to others is reciprocal in nature; in all our exchanges, in varying degrees, we give and we get. We belong to a huge network of significance. The longer we live, the wider it grows.

Not long ago on Facebook, I received an invitation to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday, her picture smiling and happy: she died three years ago. When I saw her picture a pang of grief swept through me as though it was the day she died. How easily a ‘then’ leaps from the past to become a ‘now.’

Old phone numbers that should be lost to me from disuse often linger in my mind’s memory bank, hidden from immediate sight, but easily recalled. I remember my childhood phone number at home. It began, ‘Gibraltar 7.’ Several friends’ numbers began “St. George 7” and one had the famous “Murray Hill” exchange. These were the arcane codes by which we once dialed or directed the operator to connect us with one another. Even at my age, when immediate recollection can be unreliable, I doubt that I will ever forget my father’s dog tag numbers assigned him by the Army during WW II – 0527071. That was seventy-five years ago. In all kinds of ways, we continue doing numbers on ourselves.

Numbers are symbols. Typically they quantify by being icons of amounts and how much. The ‘how much’ can also be construed as the total depth of meaning. Take December 7, 1941. My father had been playing poker with friends. I suddenly recall sitting on his lap. I do not recollect what he said, but I could see the anxiety on his face. The dates and numbers may carry not so much a clear thought, but a depth of feeling, the chilling kind that I felt when seeing the look in my father’s eyes on that day.

For Americans, 9/11 holds a particular horror. It was the day we lost our innocence. Since perhaps the war of 1812, Americans have believed in our geographic invincibility, and our psychological invulnerability.

Then 9/11 became an infamous date. When I see the date signifying that day I recall just where I was when I heard the news. I had been standing on line in Graul’s super market and perusing magazines at the checkout counter. The headline of one tabloid announced how a woman had given birth to a frog. The tabloid included pictures – not of the birth – but mother looking happy and although hard to tell, baby frog, too. I thought at the time what a heavy burden this places on friends who are usually moved to say how much baby looks just like dad or mom. I didn’t get to read on as someone in the checkout line mentioned an airplane crashing into one of the twin towers. How quickly my world, our world, can go from absolute absurdity to total horror in a matter of seconds.

As I scrolled down looking at names and numbers, I noticed how some spanned my lifetime. Others represented chapters in my life. The names conjured up places I’d been, things I’d done, and affiliations I’ve had; there are names of fellow clergy, and people connected with college and seminary; Habitat, Talbot Mentors, PEACE, the church, the writing community, photographers and not the least a brother and sister I’d grown up with.

Years ago a friend of mine commented on relationships and how transitory they seemed to him. We move in and out of each other’s lives. A few relationships remain active and close for a lifetime, but they are few. Most are more transient and although not that close are nonetheless highly influential. The influence may not be apparent at the time. In fact the relationship may seem so casual as to be totally inconsequential. I look back at so many names and numbers, and can see in some a particular contribution to my life that, at the time, I was unaware of.

One was an artist. She’s been gone some time now. I met her when we first moved to the Shore. We were in a workshop and I remember thinking that she was a snob and not anyone I’d particularly want to associate with. As only time can weave through its web of connections, we were to grow close and become soul mates in many ways. We were to share in each other’s spiritual journeys. And how strange it is that only seeing her name on my cellphone contacts that I think of this: clouds.

My friend introduced me to a whole new way of seeing of color. She showed me a characteristic of certain cloud formations I had never seen before.

On bright sunny days with blue skies, white clouds are not really white. When I look closely I now see a variety of the subtle colors that she introduced to me. I cannot look to the sky on days like that, but that I think of her as I note the soft hues on the undersides of clouds and the journey we shared as friends.

Remembering fondly and treasuring these names and the stories/history we have shared, I decided that for now I would not delete any of my contacts.

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.

An Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Toast to Sandy Hoon

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In a few weeks, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy will be having their annual gala in Kent County to honor one of their organization’s founders, Alexander “Sandy” Hoon, who passed away a few months ago. The Spy was delighted to hear the news of the gala.

While Sandy might have been best known in his senior years as being the father of the well-known attorney in town, Philip Hoon, the legacy of Sandy Hoon’s contributions to Chestertown, Kent County, and a good bit of the Mid-Shore are not only noteworthy but truly worthy to celebrate.

While no one could never accuse Sandy of shyness, like many of his generation, it was not in his core nature to take a bow. Like many of a certain age, he never sought credit for when he and other dedicated Mid-Shore land conservationists, like former Governor Harry Hughes and Centreville attorney Howard Wood, helped formed the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in 1990.

But the results of that fledgling organization, twenty-seven years later, show how remarkable that achievement has been. Since those early days, literally thousands of acres of some of the Eastern Shore’s most extraordinary landscapes have been permanently protected in all five counties of the Mid-Shore.  Just as importantly, the ESLC has taken on a leadership role in keeping small towns in the region vibrant with such stunning successes like the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton or the transformational plans for the Cannery Building in Cambridge.

The Spy sat down with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s first and only executive director, Rob Etgen, and Sandy’s son Phil to reminisce  about Sandy and his impact on land conservation.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the ESLC gala please go here