Novelist Christopher Tilghman on Family Tales at the Hermitage


Given writer Christopher Tilghman’s talents as a storyteller, it should come to no surprise that his books constantly find themselves on the New York Times bestseller list. What is surprising though is his literary reliance on his multigenerational family home on the banks of the Chester River for his inspiration for those award-winning historical novels.

The Hermitage is a manor house that has stood in the same place in Queen Anne’s County since being built in 1659. The product of the first of many Richard Tilghmans who made their mark on the Eastern Shore, the Royal Navy surgeon, arrived to the new world in 1650, and set into motion the construction of what was known as “Tilghman’s Hermitage.”

And for countless generations, the Tilghman family has painstakingly maintained this historic property, ensuring that the numerous houses on the site are kept up for future Tilghmans to use and to continue the stewardship of one of Maryland’s most historic properties.

The University of Virginia Creative Writing teacher still makes the summer trek to return to the family homestead, but these frequent visits not only refresh memories of when, as one of his brothers coined the phrase, “I grew up coming here,” but it has allowed him to channel century old family stories into a framework for three novels and numerous short stories.

The Spy sat down with Chris at the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford for a quick chat prior to his talk on his most recent novel, Thomas and Beal in the Midi, hosted by the Mystery loves Company bookstore.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. Christopher Tighlman’s books are available at Mystery Loves Company and the Bookplate in Chestertown and, of course, Amazon

CBMM Celebrates Women and Boats


It seems fitting that while the Rosenfeld family’s photography is considered epic on so many levels in the world of art, it had to be pointed out to the legionary father and sons by a woman that they had documented the incredible 2oth Century arc of cultural change that women experienced as they transitioned from occasional passengers on board boats to literally taking the helm by the end of the 1900s.

The good news for the Rosenfelds was that this woman was Margaret Anderson Rosenfeld, the daughter-in-law of Stanley Rosenfeld. And through her meticulous research, Margaret, professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, has curated a remarkable collection of her family’s images at all stages of this progression.

First shown at the Mystic Seaport, and now on view at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, “On Land and On Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection” is an outstanding narrative of women and their relationship with boats and the sea.

The Spy spent some time recently with Pete Lesher, chief curator at the CBMM, and its president, Kristen Greenaway, to better understand the exhibition of their observations about women and maritime history.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about “On Land and On Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection” please go here.


Looking Back: Lawrie Bloom and 34 Years of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival


One of the Mid-Shore’s best examples of having good luck was the serendipitous events that caused the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival to be created thirty-four years ago. And it begins with a Navy engineer with a love of sailing who decides to buy a summer home in St. Michaels in 1985.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy here except for the fact that Ralph Bloom, the new homebuyer, had a son who was a classical musician who happened to be affiliated with some of the best symphony orchestras in North America. And when he discovered that his family had a new home in St. Michaels, the first idea that popped into his head was how Talbot County would make a wonderful venue for a new chamber music festival. That musician was J. Lawrie Bloom, and in the thirty-four years since that moment took place, he and his friend and co-founder, Marcy Rosen, have built one of the most prestigious summer music programs of its type in the United States.

Now, after years of commuting from Chicago, where he is the bass clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a professor of music at Northwestern University, Bloom has decided to step down from his role as the artistic co-director of the Chamber Music Festival this season and, to his great joy, will be replaced by violinist Catherine Cho, who will join Marcy Rosen in running the music program each year.

The Spy thought it was a good time to talk to Lawrie about the early beginnings of the festival and how it grew not only to be a first-class musical event but eventually became Chesapeake Music, which now sponsors its own jazz festival, a children program called First Strings, and the International Chesapeake Music Competition.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival and Chesapeake Music please go here




Mid-Shore Arts: Kevin Fitzgerald and the Art of Landscapes at the Troika


There is a noticeable wince in artist Kevin Fitzgerald’s face when he is reminded that a significant number of his paintings are now hanging in the homes of celebrities including the home of Barack and Michelle Obama’s home in Washington, D.C.

While he remains humbled by this kind of unique success, it’s evident in his interview with the Spy the day before an exhibition of his work goes up at the Troika Gallery that he wants his remarkable landscapes of the Eastern Shore and the Atlantic coastline to stand on its own after decades of concentrating on horizontal perspectives of open space and water.

As the third generation of Fitzgerald artists, the Maryland Institute of Art alum experienced a turning point in his career when his wife and a gallery owner pushed him to show his work beyond his studio in Berlin near Ocean City. With representation in an Annapolis gallery in the 1990s, Kevin catapulted to the top of regional artists that allowed him to leave his day job as construction contractor and become the full time artist he had always hoped to be.

In his Spy interview at the Troika yesterday, the artist talks about his family background, the primal urge for human beings to seek out landscapes, and the extraordinary power of the Shore to calm and restore balance with the earth’s seasons.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the artist please go here

Mid-Shore Education: In Search of a Different Kind of Diversity with WC’s Danitha Isma


A few weeks ago, the Spy profiled a few graduating high school seniors who had participated in the Talbot Mentors program. Three out of the five we interviewed had made the decision that they would be enrolling in what is known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Their reason was simple. While they had benefited greatly from their public school education, it lacked one thing they were all looking for; a setting where the majority of students were young people of color.

So it was interesting when we sat down with Danitha Isma, a rising senior at Washington College, who had received her high school education in some of the most diverse and urban schools in the country, that she desired the complete opposite experience as a undergraduate. A native of Atlanta, and now with Miami as her hometown, Danitha specifically sought out this small, rural liberal arts college to understand a culture significantly different from her high school years.

In our interview, the physics major also talks about her experience with Chestertown outside of her academic life and how she grew to love its “small is beautiful” lifestyle.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Washington College please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: The Gift of Improvisation with Joe Holt


If someone asked the residents of the Mid-Shore whom they thought was a local musician or singer’s best friend, the odds are that they would respond by giving the names of the region’s most prominent music venues like the Avalon, the Garfield, or the Mainstay. But it you asked the same question to those who actually perform music, the answer would most likely be Joe Holt.

The reason is that for some twenty-five years, Joe Holt has not only played an important role in accompanying those performers, he brings out a harmonic dialogue that pushes those artists into a realm of music that would not be unattainable on their own.

This unique act of improvisation, according to Holt, is as much a exercise of listening as it is a give and take between musicians. And like all rewarding exchanges, it allows each participant the space needed to present their interpretation without losing track of where the lead performer wants to go with any given piece of music.

And while these musicians are unanimous in their belief that Joe Holt might be the most talented pianist in the Mid-Atlantic region, Holt himself suggests this he is at his best when he can ride shotgun with those he admires.

The Spy caught up with Joe at the Mainstay last month prior to one of his popular Mainstay Monday programs which pairs his improvisation skills with both local and national talents that leaves audiences spellbound as they process these conversations with this master and his friends.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Joe Holt and his performance schedule, please go here





Better to Wear Out Than Rust Out While Aging with Phil Burgess


For the last four years, the Senior Summit, an annual gathering for seniors, children of seniors, and caregivers on the Mid-Shore, has gone out of its way to select nationally prominent experts in the field of aging to be their keynote speaker. And this year, it is no different with Dr. Phillip Burgess as their 2019 speaker.

Burgess, who has worked and lectured world-wide, has appeared on PBS, NPR, CNN, and CNBC, and his views have been reported in national and regional media – including “The New York Times,” “Wall Street Journal,” and “Christian Science Monitor.” He currently is President of The Annapolis Institute and a Senior Fellow, Center for the Digital Economy, University of Southern California. He writes a weekly column called “Bonus Years” – found in the Lifestyle section of the “Sunday Annapolis Capital.

The Spy sat down with Phil at the Bullitt House a few days ago to talk about his presentation, which is entitled, It’s Better To Wear Out Than Rust Out: How The New Longevity Is Changing Our Culture.” In a perceptive and penetrating look at retirement, he makes the argument that work, and the social interaction that comes with that labor, is the most essential ingredient for a successful and rewarding final phase of life.

This video is approximately thirteen minutes in length.

The Senior Summit will include workshops such as Rising Strength and Self-Defense; Body-Wise Gardening; End-of-Life Wishes; Increasing Resilience; Dementia: Diagnosis, Treatment and the Impact on Families; and Scams, Identity Theft, and Financial Exploitation. In addition to break-out workshops, there will be the opportunity for participants to have lunch and to visit vendor tables to gather additional information on aging issues and services.

Phil Burgess will be speaking  on Thursday, June 6, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Talbot Community Center on Route 50 in Easton, MD.

Talbot Community Connections (TCC), a nonprofit arm of the Talbot County Department of Social Services, has the mission to raise and distribute funds to help keep families together, support children in foster care, and support the elderly so they can remain independent, safe, and healthy members of our communities.

The cost of the Senior Summit is $15 for the General Public, including seniors, and $80 for Professional Social Work CEUs. A healthy continental breakfast and lunch are included in the registration fee. Pre-registration is required by May 31. For further information, contact Kelley Werner at or call 410-770-5908 or visit to download a registration form or to purchase tickets online. Registration forms are also available at the front desk at Talbot County Department of Social Services at 301 Bay Street, Unit 5 in Easton.  

Mid-Shore History: The THS Remembers World War Two Veterans


While for many living today, World War Two could be seen as distant a memory to them as the American Civil War, it may surprise many of them that there remains a number of the “Greatest Generation” still alive and well on the Eastern Shore today.

That was one of the contributing factors that caused the Talbot Historical Society to make an all-out effort to research, collect and document the over four hundred men and women from Talbot who served in WWII from 1941 to 1945 as the country prepares for the 75th year anniversary of  the D-Day Invasion on June 6 what THS’s executive director, Larry Denton, calls it, “the most significant day of the 20th Century.”

The Spy spent some time with Larry, and the exhibition chair, Ginny Capute, to discuss one of their most labor-intensive and moving exhibits ever produced that chronicle Talbot County residents who volunteered so courageously in this epic battle to preserve democracy as the forty-four young people who died in that great cause. 

This video is approximately four minutes in length. The Talbot Historical Society WWII exhibition will be on display Saturdays from 10-3 through September or by appointment.

Talbot Historical Society
25 S Washington St
Easton, Maryland
410) 822-0773


Revisiting Near Death Experiences with David LaMotte


Editor’s Note: Almost ten years ago, the Spy sat down with David LaMotte for what turned out to be a fascinating conversation about Near-Death Experiences and spirituality. Fast forward to 2019, and we asked David to reflect on the dozens of the stories he has heard from those who had experienced near death. This is the Spy interview with David from October, 2009.

Spy: David, could you remind us of what instigated your interest in near death experience?

My father was an Episcopal minister who got interested in near death experiences, or NDEs as they are referred to, recounted by people who died and came back to life.  I joined him almost 20 years ago at a conference in Hawaii put on by the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS), primarily to see Hawaii, but I became hooked on the subject after reading the book Heading Toward Omega by Kenneth Ring on the flight out and attending a few lectures by researchers.  

I remember my father saying that hearing of these experiences had brought the Gospels alive for him; that they help explain what is behind Christianity, and perhaps all religions. They opened his mind far beyond “religion,” while at the same time giving incredible importance to understanding that there really is so much more to life and the afterlife than we generally think about.

 And what was it that fascinated you the most?

For me, NDE stories give a glimpse into reality that is far more expansive than we are taught in school or church. Science could never support faith and religious traditions until quantum physics in the last century opened it up to new realizations that now begin to bridge the gap between the two pursuits, while at the same time shattering many prior religious and scientific beliefs.

I feel NDE’s, what they tell us, offer phenomenal potential to break down the religious, racial and national barriers that separate mankind.  They present a potential paradigm shift that can dramatically change the way we not only view each other but the way we see ourselves and every aspect of life.

What do you find is the most interesting in these NDE accounts?

Despite the variations of many of the particulars, NDE accounts are amazingly consistent, regardless of religious belief or any belief in a god or afterlife.  

They vary in “depth” from simple out-of-body experiences or OBE’s, such as looking down on oneself in an accident or during surgery, to the classic trips up tunnels toward a light of incredible loving magnetism, to detailed life reviews, gaining universal knowledge, discussions with deceased loved ones, being told it is not “your time,” and seeing potential future life events.

What is so consistent are descriptions of being in a different dimension where time and space are not like here;  amazement at seeing how all of us and everything is so connected though here on earth we feel separated, feelings of love far beyond anything ever experienced here, telepathic communication answering any questions that come to mind instantly, non-interruption of thought or consciousness (“my thoughts continued as if still in my body”), ability to travel by thought and to understand others’ thoughts — those still living and those not.  

And the aftereffects of these experiences for NDE’rs are also noticeably consistent — a change, often dramatic, in priorities and interests, a sense of great purpose to every life, elimination of any fear of death, compassion for others and all creation, and in many cases unexplainable healings, psychic abilities and new knowledge/abilities.  

NDE’rs will tell you it was the most real experience of their lives, that this life is more like a dream, and that they can remember the details of the experience as if it was yesterday, even decades later.  Initially, they are frequently frustrated to be back here, to have left a place of incredible love, a place that felt like home, and to be confined to a physical body, often in a lot of pain. Eventually they seem to appreciate being here, with a deep sense of purpose for their time here and a love of life in general.

From your studies, what part of the NDE fascinates or intrigues you most?

There are many, but I must say the life reviews are the most telling for me.  In these life reviews, they describe being able to watch and experience, again, any moment in their life, usually with a supportive entity by their side.  They describe re-experiencing significant choices they made, though they may not have seemed significant at all at the time, and best of all they experience their choices from the perspective of those the choices impacted.  Incredibly, they even see and experience the ripple effect of their choices out into time, and to others affected by those affected.

I remember one NDE’r telling me he watched and experienced himself teasing a girl in second grade. He felt it from her perspective, how humiliating it was, how she disliked school because of being picked on, and then he felt it from her parents’ perspective, how painful it was for them. And, finally, he described to me how it even impacted this girl with her lack of self-confidence in her teenage years.  

Another described how he felt every punch and the embarrassment from the perspective of a man he had beaten up, and he understood, unbeknownst to him at the time, how this man had just lost his wife, was drunk, and why he mouthed off to him at that moment, prompting the fight.

What they describe is no judgement from a god or others, but an inescapable judgement of self as we experience our choices from new perspectives.  Many describe it as the most painful thing they have ever been through, even when they are shown the positive ripple effects of many choices they made.  But the almost universal take-away they describe is that the life review is an incredible learning experience and they believe this may be what we are here for, to learn about love from countless perspectives in a dimension of imperfect love.

 In your own experience, do they share a big takeaway or a certain belief after their near-death experiences?

Although the extent of their takeaways may vary based upon the depth of the NDE, they almost universally say our consciousness or the essence of who we are survives physical death, that we voluntarily experience life in this dimension to learn about love, that we do this many times in many different roles (yes, reincarnation), that life for everyone has great purpose, though it may be hard for us to comprehend while here.  Many report being asked, “So how did you do with your objectives for this life, how well did you love and accept love?” And, thus, many say, this life, this dimension is clearly a school of sorts, an opportunity to learn the infinite dimensions of love.

So what are your takeaways, having studied this phenomenon for many years?

I’d have to say they parallel what these NDE’rs themselves feel or conclude.  I’ve read hundreds of cases and talked with dozens of experiencers, and to me we would be burying our heads in the sand not to pay attention to what they are recounting and concluding.  I think there is so much we don’t understand. I am convinced, as NDE’rs consistently say, that we are loved beyond what we can comprehend, that consciousness survives physical death, that we are afforded free will in this dimension of imperfect love to make endless choices in order to learn countless aspects of love, that, regardless of what we believe, we can’t fail at life, we are not judged, we learn from our choices and help others learn about love from our choices, be they kind or hurtful.

As my father communicated a few weeks after he died, “If anyone tells you this is how ‘it’ all works, don’t believe them. It is more grand than you can ever imagine!”

David LaMotte lives outside Chestertown, MD and is president of LaMotte Company, a 100-year old manufacturer of water testing products. He leads a group who monthly meet to discuss NDE’s and related phenomenon.



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