Reminder — Bay Bridge Closed for Race Sunday Morning

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Readers who need to travel across the Chesapeake Bay on Sunday, Nov. 5, should be aware that the Bay Bridge will be closed from 7 to 9:30 a.m. for the annual Chesapeake Bay 10K race. Traffic may be affected for some time after the conclusion of the race.

Some 20,000 runners are expected to take part in the 6.2-mile race, part of which is run on the bridge itself. The race, officially dubbed the Across the Bay 10K, is an annual affair that includes a full weekend of events including a kids’ run and an after-race party for runners, friends, and families. The race benefits several local charities including Hasa and Operation Shooting Star.

Click here for full details on the race, related weekend events, and road closings.

Autumn Fire by Nancy Mugele

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We lit the first fire of the season in our fireplace last weekend and breathed in its warmth and comfort. I love a glowing hearth in the evenings, and now that we have started, there is no turning back until spring. Not only do fires warm my toes, but the cozy fireside always warms my soul. Gazing into the dancing flames I can reflect upon my day, organize my thoughts, and recharge.

Not that I am in a particular rush to see Daylight Saving Time come to an end this weekend, especially considering how much earlier it has been getting dark these past few afternoons, but with thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s invention in the 18th Century, the dark evenings are definitely made brighter by a crackling fire in the family room. The added benefit, of course, is that the fire reduces our heating costs.

I don’t even need a roaring fire to relax and unwind. I just need a small fire to last a few hours as I read or watch television. Candles suffice in the summer months, but as soon as the weather changes, the flue is thrown open. (Our flue stays in the open position for months, but that is another story.) The fire is my companion on evenings when Jim returns home late from his office in Towson. And, for Jim, it is literally a warm welcome home.

I am pretty handy with the fireplace tools and can light a paper log with the best of them. But the art of stacking wood in the proper way to bring the fireplace to life is Jim’s gift (it is also James’ gift, but since he lives in Montana it doesn’t help me). When Jim is working on getting our fire going I can’t help but think of the phrase “light my fire” made famous decades ago thanks to a song by The Doors.  “Light my fire” is, among other meanings, a metaphorical way to say “inspire me.” Fires, in our oversized cooking fireplace, (made in the Dutch design, much wider than taller), inspire me.

Student writing also inspires me and this quarter at Kent School I will be teaching Creative Writing in Middle School Explorations. Four times during the academic year students can select an elective from a menu of offerings to learn something new, fuel a passion, develop a hobby, discover a potential future vocation, or contribute to student life via Yearbook or our Kent School News video production. This is my first experience teaching an Explorations class and I am really excited about it.

In preparation for my writing class, where I will focus on journaling, blogging and writing poetry, I have been reviewing my personal favorite resources. I will use Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. Both provide lessons on the basic mechanics of writing, as well as exercises and thoughtful prompts to awaken creativity. When I came upon this Mary Oliver excerpt, it struck a chord:

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

Fires for the cold – I had never looked at a poem that way, but yes, now I see. Poems are literary works in which “special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm” (Merriam Webster). Autumn fires with their special intensity can capture the heart as only a poem can, and they certainly have a rhythm as the wood catches.

On Monday our Middle School students will select their elective for the next two months. I hope some of them sign up for my session. For those who do, I hope that I can inspire them to share their special intensity through the written word.

Poetry and warm, autumn fires. Both will continue to inspire me as this fall season turns to winter.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Letter to the Editor: Enforcement of Critical Area Regulations in Kent County

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A Kent County News report on August 23 was headlined: “County to ease enforcement in Critical Areas” and reported the County Commissioners had voted to “order the planning office to stop issuing fines for what they see as lesser violations of state Critical Area regulations.”

Commissioner Ron Fithian initiated this action by trivializing fines issued for two Critical Area violations, claiming, “This is petty stuff,” and adding, “This makes no sense.”

I disagree. Protecting the Chesapeake Bay is not “petty stuff.” As every landowner in the Critical Area knows, their property is subject to extra regulations that aim to shield the Bay from further degradation. If these owners flout the law, they’re likely to find themselves facing a fine, and rightly so.

The commissioners’ vote to weaken Critical Area enforcement should concern everyone. But, here’s the rest of the story.

To an inquiry from me, an assistant attorney general at the Department of Natural Resources replied: “While Kent County has some discretion in enforcing its Critical Area program, any changes to this provision of the County’s Critical Area program must be submitted to the Critical Area Commission for review and approval.”

The letter further states: “At this time, however, the County has not submitted any text changes to the Critical Area Commission for review or approval. Furthermore, the County has continued to effectively enforce its Critical Area program by citing violations when they occur in the Critical area and continuing to assess fines.”

So, for now, fines remain in force and Bay protections are intact.

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

Educational Forum on Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO)

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At the bill signing in 2018. That’s Jen Pauliukonis, President of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, standing, 3rd from left. Seated at the table, center, is Maryland Governor Hogan. 

A new state law went into effect on the first of October that gives individuals and law enforcement the means to protect loved ones who are in crisis. Come learn how it works on Tuesday evening, October 30, at 7:00 pm at the Chestertown Universalist Church.

The Extreme Risk Protective Order is a tool that uses due process to remove guns from individuals in crisis, who are dangerous but may not meet the criteria for involuntary hospitalization.

Panelists:

  • Adrian Baker, Chestertown Police Chief
  • Cheryl Brooks, gun violence survivor and mental health nurse
  • Bryan DiGregory, Deputy State’s Attorney, Kent County
  • Yasmin Fletcher, attorney for Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • Shannon Frattoroli, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

The Marylanders to Prevent Gun violence (MPGV) Educational Fund works to inform the public about many aspects of gun violence prevention. This past legislative session, MPGV worked with other advocacy organizations and survivors of gun violence to pass the Extreme Risk Protective Order. As an advocate, MPGV works to ensure individuals are aware of the laws and policies available to them to help prevent gun violence.

According to the MPGV website, the Mission Statement is as follows:

“We’re working to reduce the number of senseless deaths that occur at the hands of guns through education and legislative advocacy. Our efforts are designed to challenge the culture of violence, influence public policy and encourage Marylanders to take action to make their state safer. Our primary focus is on the state of Maryland with an emphasis upon the shooting deaths and injuries that occur in urban Maryland. We are aware that the epidemic of gun violence extends beyond state lines and that many of the struggles Maryland faces is a direct result of neighboring states’ weak laws. We advocate on both the national and local levels for lifesaving gun violence prevention legislation, such as handgun purchaser licensing, to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible and dangerous individuals. We also believe that legislation and education can save individuals at their most vulnerable times by preventing suicides.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at 7 pm

Held at Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River

914 Gateway Drive, Chestertown

Sponsored by Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence (MPGV)

For additional information, contact:

Elizabeth Banach, 646-228-9053 liz@mdpgv.org

https://mdpgv.org

Skeleton Keys by Nancy Mugele

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This past summer I lent a student my well-worn copy of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. The story follows Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy as they search for four keys that unlock a wooden box delivered one month before Jeremy’s 13th birthday. The box is from Jeremy’s father who died a few years before. If you have not read it, do, it is unforgettable. The book also has a connection to this year’s All Middle School read at Kent School, Every Soul a Star, also by Wendy Mass. The author will be one of our endowed Kudner Leyon Visiting Writers this year, and will speak with our students on March 25, but that is another story.

The reason I am sharing this is that on the first day of school a shiny gold skeleton key, and the returned book, were left on my desk. I was not in my office when they were delivered, and when I walked in and spotted the gleaming key, I was so touched. The book had obviously made an impact.

The key sits on my desk and nearly once a day a student picks it up, turns it over longingly, and asks about it. I like to say that the key was given as a gift by a student and it symbolizes opening the door of learning or unlocking learning. This always brings a smile to the face of the student standing across my desk.

Skeleton keys hold a certain fascination. (Jim carried one in his pants pocket as a young boy for many years.) Skeleton keys are mysterious. We wonder what treasure or secrets the key could possibly help us discover. A skeleton key (also a passkey) is special because it can open numerous locks. This, of course, only adds to their allure and intrigue. While some believe that a skeleton key is so named because its top resembles a skull, the name signals that the key is stripped down to its most basic parts.

Skeleton keys, therefore, are simple, yet highly effective tools, which also makes them powerful symbols. After all, we say that our true love holds “the key to our heart.” Nothing could be greater than having one essential key to unlock one special someone’s heart.  I am sure that is why jewelry designers love to use skeleton keys in their pieces. And, then there are people who are presented with the “key to the city” as a symbolic gesture of leadership, friendship, and goodwill.

Imagine my surprise this week when I learned that my dear friend, California artist and painter Deborah Martin, has a painting in the Circle of Truth exhibit at the New Museum of Los Gatos opening tonight. The oil on canvas entitled The Key (2012)  is a hauntingly beautiful portrait of a skeleton key poised in a door lock. An excerpt from her artist’s statement is as follows:

Skeleton keys represent talismans that can get one through a time of change. The skeleton key or passkey is a powerful symbol as this key can open more than one lock.
The key placed in the door is a symbol of hope for the future and freedom of choice to move forward and appreciate the spirit of life.

Now I will have a different response when students ask me about the skeleton key on my desk. I can confidently affirm that the key is a symbol for the entire student body, our hope for the future, especially as Kent School begins its journey into its next half century.

If you find an antique skeleton key you are not using anymore, I will gladly take it off your hands. Don’t tell Jim, but I plan to start a new collection!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Op-Ed: Jesse Colvin Best for the Environment by Kate Livie

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The counties in Maryland’s District 1 sprawl awkwardly across the map from Ocean City to Smith Island to Carroll County. But there’s one big thing we all share—access to the Chesapeake Bay. Our counties collectively possess more of the Bay’s shoreline than any other district—something that’s given us a front seat to the surges of sediment, freshwater and debris that’s pulsed down the Susquehanna and through the Conowingo Dam all summer long.

It hasn’t been pretty. Any waterman, boater, swimmer or homeowner can tell you that. Our wetter than average spring and rainy summer—the wettest in a century— has sent record high flows down the Susquehanna, causing the floodgates at Conowingo Dam to be opened multiple times throughout the summer. Behind the dam was the largest collection of garbage and floating detritus in 20 years. Although Exelon removed 1800 tons of trash from behind the dam, the rest poured into the Chesapeake in a thick brown torrent, rich with all of Pennsylvania’s topsoil and fertilizer.

District 1 watched it happen. This summer, we feared for our oysters, our waterfront, our maritime traditions, our tourism as we drowned in Pennsylvania’s waste. Meanwhile, our troubles here in Bay country have failed to motivate our leadership to make a change. Our current representative, Andy Harris, has made a few token votes for the Bay’s environment while also voting scores of times to undermine national environmental standards. Clearly, Harris cares far more about currying favor with his party than helping the people he’s been elected to represent. He’s weak on the Chesapeake environment in a way none of his constituents living close to the Bay can ever afford to be.

Now, more than ever, it’s time for a change. We need a strong District 1 leader who is willing to work with the northern states in our watershed to address our imperiled Bay. A leader who believes in a healthy Chesapeake environment and economy—one who is willing to champion a comprehensive, commonsense, non-partisan approach that’s about what’s best for us here in the Bay’s communities.

I believe wholeheartedly that leader is Jesse Colvin. Colvin’s position is clear—if elected, when a bill crosses his desk in Washington, he will put the needs and values of his District first. Colvin has strongly committed to Chesapeake advocacy, and will work across the aisle to build critical relationships. Colvin’s approach is something we desperately need if a watershed-wide effort to maintain the Bay’s economic and recreational vitality is ever to be accomplished.

As a young person living on the Eastern Shore I wonder—will my children or grandchildren eat crabs harvested off of Rock Hall or swim in the Chester River? Or will that be gone—buried under endless sediment—in my lifetime? I want to look forward to a future where I see watermen’s workboats hauling their catch to the dock. I want to see sails cutting across the Chester River. I want to see kids cannonballing off the end of their dock, catching crabs with hand lines and knowing the Chesapeake Bay that I have always held so dear.

I want Jesse Colvin as my District 1 Representative.

Kate Livie is a Chesapeake writer, educator, Kent County native, and author of the 2015 book, Chesapeake Oysters, The Bay’s Foundation and Future.

All I Can Do Is Write About It by Nancy Mugele

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With a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ballad “All I Can Do Is Write About It,” which I heard for the first time last weekend thanks to Jim, I have decided that each of us should use the written word to communicate. Talking to each other about our beliefs has not worked for quite a while now, and especially, most recently. Sadly, we cannot have civil conversations with each other about the state of affairs in our country.

Many of you know that I never talk about politics, religion, or football, but that is another story. All three of these topics are really not appropriate for a Head of School to have a public opinion about. But, I have been thinking a lot this week about the art of writing.

Author Gustave Flaubert wrote: The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. This statement truly captures my personal experience with writing. I often get new ideas for my column through conversation. But those ideas don’t become mine until I write about them. Clear prose means clear thought and, for me, writing equals thinking. It solidifies my thoughts and helps me formulate new ones. As a child, I kept a diary and later, journals filled with poetry and reflections on my life. So few people do this today. I also enjoy writing old-fashioned, hand-written letters and notes. Writing is a way for me to share love across the miles to my family members and dear friends.

Writing is also about re-writing, editing, and reflecting on your message to be sure it represents your thoughts appropriately and authentically. Even writing an email, or writing on your social media platforms could be used to help convey what you believe in a clear, responsible and civil manner. There’s no reason that a tweet or post can’t serve a higher purpose. (Check out @DalaiLama on Twitter if you want to read inspiring posts.) And, while I do think that many people feel they are achieving this, I don’t believe that most social media posts today elevate our national conversation in any way.

The ancient Chinese regarded the written word as a transformative force able to move heaven and earth and unite the reader with the source of all things, the Tao. (The Art of Writing, Chou Ping) If we all took some time to use the written word to formulate our opinions before we said them aloud, we might all get along just a little bit better. At a minimum, we would be more civil towards one another.

Everyone is a writer. Yes, to pursue it as a career takes education, special training, and endless practice. But, for most of us, on a daily basis, all it takes is time with your thoughts, and a basic desire to always do good in the world.

Write On.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Comfort Zones by Nancy Mugele

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From the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz as a young girl, I vowed never to get into a hot air balloon. I was more afraid of the balloon than the Wicked Witch of the West – or her monkeys. Why fly in an unsteerable aircraft subject to the whim of the winds, when you can simply click your heels together and find your way safely home. Seriously, hot air balloons truly frightened me. While I was not really afraid of the experience of “flying” – I became consumed with panic when I thought about the actual landing.

I was convinced that hot air balloons were not safe. After all, the heated air inside the balloon is propelled by an open flame of burning liquid propane. Seems like a recipe for disaster. And, then there is the woven wicker basket – the only thing holding you in, and holding you up. No, thank you.

Last weekend I snuck away to Napa with Jenna and Kelsy for the first of, I hope many, Mugele Girls Weekends. Yes, you guessed it. I was pressured to take a hot air balloon ride. Jenna made me do it, and she was the birthday girl who made the reservation, so I could not back out. I was petrified.

On a regular basis, we tell our students at Kent School not to be afraid to take risks. We push them out of their comfort zones with challenging academics, performing and visual arts exhibits, physical education and athletics, outdoor educational experiences on the water, overnight trips and class-bonding trust exercises. Now it was time for me to take the advice I give students and expand my own personal boundaries.

On the morning of the scheduled sunrise balloon trip, we arrived at the location in the dark. As a result, we did not notice the heavy fog sitting on top of the Napa Valley. Balloons cannot fly in fog so we were given the choice to drive 45 minutes away where the balloons would be able to fly. We decided to go, although it meant we would view the sunrise from large windows in passenger vans, and it also meant more time for me to obsess about the balloon ride and the subsequent landing.

Our balloon operator literally looked like Professor Marvel. He had been flying balloons for 28 years which was a comfort to me. Despite the fact that the basket did not have a door, meaning we had to climb into our compartment, all I can say is that the flight was magical. The scenery was breathtaking as we gently floated over the terrain. It was peaceful and the ride was silky smooth. The landing, well, that is another story. Thankfully there is no video. I may have screamed a bit, but I conquered my fear. I cannot describe the feeling of completing a task that I had never in my life ever expected to do. It felt incredibly joyful. There was an adrenaline rush I had not experienced in a long time and it was so exhilarating. I think my daughters were just as excited as I was that I went on the ride, exited the basket (with a little help), and was standing to tell the story.

I saw the same joyful expressions on my students’ faces this week in photographs from Middle School Chesapeake Bay Studies trips with Sultana Education Foundation and Echo Hill Outdoor School. There is truly nothing better than stretching yourself in a safe place. Whether in the classroom or in an outdoor classroom, research indicates that deeper learning happens when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

In Napa, I also popped a cork off a bottle of champagne by slicing through the bottle top with a saber à la Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously said, “In victory, you deserve champagne; in defeat, you need it.” I even received a certificate for mastering the art of sabrage, which I plan to display. Another out-of-comfort-zone experience I will savor for a long time. Cheers!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Social Action Committee to Interview Kent County Candidates

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A meeting of the Social Action Committee at Sumner Hall

The Social Action Committee (SAC), a group of over 100 community members that came together in 2017 to address racism in our community, has invited candidates running in the Kent County elections to be interviewed by members of the SAC. The SAC is comprised of a number of subcommittees, each with a specific focus to actively dismantle racism in the community in areas such as education, jobs/employment, politics, and community social events/observances.

The SAC has invited each of the candidates running in 2018 for the Board of the Kent County Commissioners, the Board of Education, and the State’s Attorney’s Office to be interviewed this October. Each interview will be conducted by two members of the Social Action Committee, using a list of questions related to the topic of racism in Kent County, and specific to each elected office. The questions were developed jointly by the SAC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—Kent Branch. In order to document the candidates’ responses to the interview questions, members of the media have been invited, and youth members of the SAC will videotape the interviews.

When asked to comment on the importance of the Social Action Committee’s work and its interview questions to the candidates, Wayne Gilchrest and Airlee Johnson, members of the SAC, said the following:

The Social Action Committee, a group of citizens with diverse backgrounds, a wide range in ages and ethnicity, has come together for a dialogue with Kent County residents to bring a brighter future for our children. We would like to start that conversation with you. –Wayne Gilchrest

All information we receive from the candidates is very important as we make our voting decisions. Our community has a historical system of racism and community exclusion of our different groups of citizens. It’s important for the Social Action Committee and the public to understand how the candidates will work to dismantle this system. We chose a more informal approach to our candidate interviews in a very relaxed atmosphere. Our hope is to receive more relaxed and thought-provoking answers. The candidates will be talking to 2 or 3 people as compared to rooms in excess of 50 people. –Airlee Johnson

Sumner Hall

The Social Action Committee holds its meetings on the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00 PM, at Sumner Hall: 206 S Queen St., Chestertown. The next meeting of the SAC is Tuesday, October 9th. Meetings of the SAC are open to all members of our community and are sponsored by the Kent County Local Management Board (LMB). Contact Rosemary Ramsey Granillo, Director of the Kent County LMB, for more information: Office: 410-810-2673; Cell: 410-490-6168; email: rramseygranillo@kentgov.org. You are also invited to visit the SAC’s Facebook page.