Four Bridges by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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From time to time, I work over on the Western Shore. To get back home, I count four bridges: the Severn River Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the Kent Narrows Bridge, and last-but-hardly-least, the Chester River Bridge. With each crossing, I exhale a little more so that by the time I’m home, I’m at peace and all is well.

Bridge facts: The Severn River Bridge was built in 1920 and is officially known as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. It’s much larger cousin—the one we call the Bay Bridge—is really the Governor William Preston Lane Jr Memorial Bridge. Approximately four and a half miles long, the Bay Bridge first opened to traffic in 1952; a second (now westbound) span was added in 1973. The Bay Bridge can make for some nerve-wracking crossings: its height, narrow traffic lanes, low guardrails, and susceptibility to wind have given the Bay Bridge the dubious reputation of being one of the scariest bridges in the world. Be that as it may, the Bridge opened Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the world, changing forever—for better and for worse—the relative isolation and beauty of the Land of Pleasant Living.

But having crossed the Bay Bridge, you’re still in limbo on Kent Island. The true Eastern Shore doesn’t begin until you’ve crossed the Kent Narrows Bridge, the one that spans the waterway connecting the Chester River to the Eastern Bay while also joining Kent island to the Delmarva Peninsula. Holly’s used to greet you on the eastern side of the bridge, but now Holly’s is just another Royal Farms. Sad.

There’s still one bridge to go: our own dear Chester River Bridge. Only 1465 feet long, this charming little bascule structure built in 1930 connects Queen Anne’s County to Kent County and for those of us on the Chestertown side, it’s a constant source of gossip and speculation. Does it need repair or maintenance? Will it be closed for a few weeks?? You mean we have to go all the way to Crumpton to cross the river??? Serious questions for our town and its little concrete lifeline to QAC and the great beyond!

But wait: there’s an elephant in the room. It’s the specter of yet another bridge, a potential new span across the northern Bay that would form a direct connection between Tolchester in Kent County at the eastern terminus and Harford County and the northern Baltimore suburbs at the western terminus. Opponents cite the project’s staggering cost (at least $7 billion), along with problems like unholy traffic congestion, environmental degradation, unchecked development, and disastrous changes to the farms and serene pace of life here in Kent County. Proponents point out the merits of badly needed economic development, an expanded tax base providing for improved schools and services, and the potential for regulated and carefully planned development. No matter which side of the bridge debate you’re on (no pun intended), a new crossing would constitute a massive political, economic, environmental, and cultural undertaking with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for those of us who live here now and for generations to come.

But I’m not here to fight that battle today. As you might guess, I’m looking at bridges and seeing metaphors. I like bridges because they make connections; they join two sides; they span differences. So I wonder: why can’t we just build a bridge that crosses the aisle in the halls of Congress? Who could build a bridge that would span the wide political gulf that seems to surround us on all sides these days? Just wondering…

When I drive here, west to east, I count my four bridges like mile-markers along the way. When I finally reach this side of the Chester, I know I’m home.

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 published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

New Steps by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Rob built new steps for our house last week. I “supervised.” I watched him measure twice and cut once. I watched him level the job to perfection—not a simple task given the way things slant and lean around here. I watched him drill holes, drive nails, and set screws to create a solid, stable platform on which to stand or (as is often my wont) to sit. I watched him bull nose the treads and paint the risers…I thought I had a momentary vision of DaVinci, flat on his back, working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And when he was finished, he stepped back and looked upon what he had wrought and said, “Nah; off by an inch.” And he started over.

Rob would be the first to admit that he’s a perfectionist. It’s a quality that I greatly admire but don’t remotely share. I can live with imperfection which, in my case, is a good thing. Still, a craftsman like Rob doesn’t earn his stellar reputation by producing shoddy work. The same is true of my friend Eggman the painter. He’s an old-fashioned miracle up on a ladder, sanding, scraping, taping, priming, laying on a first coat, then a second, before he details and touches up his work. Even then, for Rob or Eggman, the work isn’t done: saws and tools and brushes need to be cleaned and stored, everything returned to its proper place, ready for the next job. That kind of organization and care is another quality I admire but don’t share. I put down my screwdriver and five minutes later I can’t for the life of me find it.

But back to our new steps. It doesn’t take a genius to see their metaphoric value. The old steps were worn out. The wood was rotting in places, the paint was chipped; truth be told, they were an accident waiting to happen. As a portal to our porch and house, they sent entirely the wrong message: this house is tired, it has lost its charm, it isn’t loved and cared for by the owners. Talk about fake news!

We all need new steps from time to time. It’s so easy to follow old, familiar patterns, or to overlook problems, or to take the easy way out of banal responsibilities. Why not put something off until tomorrow? Maintenance isn’t sexy; let’s just buy something shiny and new and never mind those old porch steps. We’ll get to those someday…

Of course, there’s this, too: new steps lead in new directions. That journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step. It may be a hard one to take sometimes, but unless that initial stride is made, there is no progress, only decay. I can’t honestly say I was thinking those thoughts as I watched Rob labor away on our new steps, but the message he left behind after he packed up his tools and drove away is crystal clear: new steps lead to new beginnings.

Be like Rob: make new steps.

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 published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Lord Stanley’s Dilemma by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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About this time every year, two teams, two cities, and two legions of crazy fans vie for the honor of hoisting the Stanley Cup, the holy grail of professional hockey. This year, it’s Washington (a franchise that has never won a Cup) versus Las Vegas (a franchise that didn’t even exist a year ago). Talk about theater of the absurd!

Be that as it may, this year’s Finals puts me square in the middle of a dilemma. You see, I grew up in Pittsburgh, a.k.a. the City of Champions. My Penguins have won a total of five Stanley Cups including the last two. But this year, the Capitals sent the Penguins into early estivation in the second round of the playoffs and so I have had to adopt my wife’s hometown heroes, the Washington Capitals, if I am to maintain even a modicum of interest in the chase for the Cup. That means I have to don something red every time the Capitals play, a false flag operation I use to deflect my wife’s attention from the truth of my black-and-gold heart.

 

Today’s Stanley Cup didn’t start out that way. It was originally commissioned in 1892 as the Dominion Challenge Hockey Cup and is the oldest continual championship trophy in professional sports. The Cup was rechristened to honor Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada who donated the Cup as a yearly award to Canada’s best amateur hockey club. The Montreal Hockey Club was the first Cup recipient in 1893; professional teams became eligible to compete for the trophy in 1906 but it wasn’t until 1947 that the Cup became the celebrated prize of today’s National Hockey League. Oh—and by the way—did I mention that the Pittsburgh Penguins have won the Cup five times? I did? Oh well…

It turns out there are really three Stanley Cups: the original Dominion Challenge Hockey Cup Bowl, the Presentation Cup given to the winning team, and the Permanent Cup which resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The one we see annually hoisted at the conclusion of the Final Series—the Presentation Cup—is some serious hardware: it’s made of silver and a nickel alloy, stands nearly 3 feet tall, and weighs almost 35 pounds, but it must seem weightless to the players on the team that finally gets to lift it. The Cup’s present configuration dates to 1958 and contains a replica of the original Cup and five bands, each band capable of containing the names of players on thirteen championship teams per band. When a band is full, it is retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame and a new band is added.

The Cup’s provenance is officially regulated not by the NHL but by two appointed Trustees who serve until their death. Serious business to be sure but there is plenty of tomfoolery, too. Each championship team is allotted one-hundred days to enjoy the Cup during the off-season. During that time, each member of that team gets his own personal day with the Cup. Players have been known to sleep with it, drink from it, swim with it, use it as a dog bowl, or even baptize their children in it. I wonder what I would do with it on my day. Hmmm…

This year, I’ll admit that I have enjoyed watching my wife and her large family of rabid fans root for the Caps. As I write this, the Caps are up three games to one in the final best-of-seven series so this may well be their year. We’ll know soon enough. If it is, I’ll be happy on the outside. But on the inside is another story: revenge is a Cup best served cold with a champagne glass of wait-until-next year.

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 published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Angels and Horses by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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One of the great things about living over here on the Eastern Shore is the variety of experiences that abound. Like last week when three couples boarded Dress Blue and cruised over to Annapolis. We motored under the Bay Bridge and anchored in the mouth of the Severn amid a flotilla of spectators to watch the Blue Angels dazzling air show. Six friends for six planes on a bluebird day; it just doesn’t get any better than that. Or so I thought.

If you don’t already know, the Blue Angels are the Navy and Marines premier air acrobats. They’ve been around since 1946 and perform about 70 shows a year to the delight of as many as eleven million spectators annually. Blue Angel pilots fly McDonnell-Douglas F/A Hornets often split into Diamond Formations (four aircraft) flying at speeds of around 400mph. Think that’s fast? Lead and Opposing Solos (two additional aircraft) execute a series of maneuvers—high speed passes, tight roles, and very tight turns—at speeds of up to 700mph—that’s just under Mach 1, the speed of sound. Near the end of the show, the two Solos join the four Diamonds to form a signature Delta Formation, making a series of passes wing-to-wing, belly-to-belly, or back-to-back, upright and inverted. It’s ear-splitting, heart-pounding, and breath-taking all at the same time. And not without risk: since 1946, 27 pilots have been killed in shows or in training—10% of all the pilots who flown throughout the squadron’s history.

Fast forward to the past weekend and Tea Party, Chestertown’s annual celebration of its colonial heritage and revolutionary roots. There are parades, all manner of food and drink, music, demonstrations, vendors selling crafts—all leading up to the glorious reenactment of the original Chestertown tea party when our patriot ancestors, weary of paying a tax on English tea, marched down to the river, boarded the Geddes’ (a role played flawlessly by the Sultana) in broad daylight, and dumped its cargo of fine tea overboard in 1774. “Did it really happen?” you whisper. Does it matter? It’s as good a reason as any to celebrate who we were and who we’ve become, for better or for worse.

But some locals opine that as stirring as Saturday’s reenactment is, the real highlight of Tea Party Weekend is Sunday’s raft race, the perfect showcase for the town’s penchant for creative genius and outright silliness. In any other year, those folks might be correct, but this year, the superstars of the whole shebang were a show-stealing octet of giant horses—the beloved Budweiser Clydesdales.

Cue the music. Whether in one of their endearing Christmas cards or memorable Super Bowl commercials, the Budweiser Clydesdales have clip-clopped their way into our hearts. They got their start with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and in one early advertising coup, they even delivered a case of beer to President Roosevelt at the White House! They’re one-ton divas on four hooves, groomed and pampered by a dedicated crew of handlers who travel with their charges from one of three home stables in St. Louis, MO, Fort Collins, CO, or Merrimack, NH. Despite their enormous size and strength, the horses seem to be gentle giants; in the parade, they pranced down High Street pulling the old Bud beer wagon complete with a smiling Dalmatian on top, and then patiently posed for photographs with thousands of adoring fans in Wilmer Park or (on Sunday) out at the Worthmore Equestrian Center.

By the way, it’s not easy to be a Budweiser Clydesdale. To qualify for a hitch, a horse must be strong, even-tempered, stand at least 18 hands tall, and weigh between 1800 and 2300 pounds. They also must have a bay coat, four white stockings, and a white facial blaze. Budweiser owns a total of about 250 Clydesdales; 15 new foals are produced each year.

So there you have it. Angels one day, horses the next. Where else but here?

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 published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Higher Ground by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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We had several days of rain recently, and I don’t know about you but I was beginning to feel a little soggy. I suppose I could spout (so to speak) the usual platitudes about rain—it’s good for the crops, it knocks down the pollen, it has such a soothing sound, the gardens rejoice—but I’m sorry: I missed the sun.

The story of a great flood is as old as time. Literally. The deluge myth is an ancient and multicultural narrative in which a great flood is sent by the gods (or, if you prefer, by God) to destroy civilization in order to rebuild it better, purer. It’s an act of divine retribution for a world gone astray, a cleansing of humanity in preparation for its rebirth. Most deluge myths also contain, in addition to lots and lots of rain, a hero—someone who not only deserves to live but also must live so that humanity can be reborn. For many of us, that hero was Noah and, of course, his ark. For forty days and forty nights it rained and, according to Genesis, the waters covered the earth. Thankfully, in the end God relented and Noah, his family, and his two-by-two passengers survived to make a new beginning. To seal the deal, God displayed a rainbow—His promise to never again judge the earth by flood.

In fact, there may be some good science behind all the great flood stories. There is credible evidence of great flooding in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) as far back as 3000 BC. Some scientists have speculated that around that same time, a giant meteor crashed into Earth in what is today the Indian Ocean and the resulting tsunami had disastrous effects on the surrounding coastal lands. Even before that, almost 9000 years ago, think of all the water left behind after the last Ice Age. As the glaciers receded and melted over the centuries, all that scree and rock and water scoured the earth, cleansing it if you will, creating an entirely new landscape like the one that we’re all very familiar with: the Chesapeake Bay.

Whether you’re inclined to myth or science, you must admit that any kind of apocalyptic story has a dreadful fascination to it—so much so, in fact, that it has even become the stuff of advertising. Think I’m kidding? Have you seen the current commercial for an automobile with so much cargo space that not even a meteor speeding toward Earth can deter a young married couple from desperately trying to stuff it full of all their millennial possessions before escaping? More provocatively and much more real, what about the Trump administration’s recent decision to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a sorely misguided political calculation which, although not technically a deluge myth, just might summon up a series of cataclysmic events that could well result in a modern-day version of Armageddon? Farfetched? Not to Palestinians who have nothing to lose.

But no worries: that scenario is a world away. Back here, we’re on higher ground, just stuck indoors, waiting for the sun to come out again so we can go back outside and play.

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 published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Thank You Very Mulch by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Some things just go together: peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, Mother’s Day and mulch. Wait! What?

It’s kind of a long story in our family, but Mother’s Day has become intertwined with the annual springtime chore of weeding and mulching the garden and so my wife declared that last Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, was Mulch Day. Kingstown delivered and stacked fifteen big bags of jet black mulch this year, my wife and I supplied the wheelbarrow, a rake, and some sweat. Load, distribute, dump, and spread. Slowly but surely, the garden began to take on a more tamed aspect as all those blemishing weeds disappeared and a warm earthy aroma enveloped the backyard. There was even a little leftover mulch so my wife planted a row of white impatients under the boxwoods out front. By day’s end, our backs were a little sore, there was dirt under our fingernails, and the washing machine was working overtime. But there was also the satisfaction of a job well done. The red rose buds, the white peonies, and the purple wisteria seemed to like all that shiny new black footing; the day lilies, lavender, and hydrangea are just awaiting their cue so they can show off all their summer finery, thanks in large part to all that lowly mulch.

Mulch is simple stuff, nothing more than a layer of decomposed material added to the surface soil to help preserve moisture by reducing evaporation, or to regulate temperature, control weed growth, or just add healthy organic material to fertilize the mix. Mulch may just be background material with no fanfare but it’s absolutely essential to a healthy garden. OK; maybe there’s also a little cosmetic value to mulch, but after that first application, it goes about its work pretty much unnoticed, doing its task silently and thanklessly. It’s the overlooked tech crew that makes a Broadway star shine, the string section of the orchestra that gets taken for granted in a symphony, the harmonic drone that underlies the flashy notes of my bagpipes. (Sorry; couldn’t resist.) The point is that mulch does most of the work and gets none of the credit; it’s the unsung hero of a healthy garden.

I know a few people like that here in town; I’m sure you do, too. They are the ones who shun the limelight; the applause meant for others is more than ample reward for all their behind-the-scenes toil. They find satisfaction within; theirs is a secret smile. I admire them beyond measure for they are the foundation upon which we continue to build this town. Without them, the garden that is this place wouldn’t be nearly so healthy and bright.

Woodchips, bark, sphagnum peat, or straw all make fine organic mulch. So does composted raw food or grass clippings or leaves from deciduous trees. Even cardboard and newspaper make for a good winter mulch under a layer of snow. And just as there are a lot of ways to mulch a garden, so, too, does a rich and diverse array of people doing good quiet work add health and color to our own patch of green here along the banks of the Chester. The policeman, the volunteer fireman, the nurse, the teacher, the handyman, the waitress. I thank them all very mulch!

I admit I like bright flowers; I suspect we all do. But just remember this: without mulch, nothing grows quite so well.

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 published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Fresh Cuts by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Ever since Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett came to town, I’ve been thinking about fresh cuts. Not of meat or hair, but rather of grass and lawns. It’s that time of the year when the roar of the lawnmower drowns out early morning birdsong and the smell of gasoline hangs heavy in the afternoon air. Annoying, maybe, but there’s nothing like the lines, the look, and the smell of freshly mown grass.

Many of you already know that I’m an inveterate porch sitter. My porch of choice overlooks a postage stamp of a front lawn that, although tiny, presents some unique cutting challenges. First, there is the coracle bird bath to contend with. (In case you don’t already know, a coracle is a small round boat traditionally used by the ancient Celts. The name is derived from the Welsh word “cwrwgl”—good luck with that one. It was likely the kind of boat St. Columba used to cross the Irish Sea when he brought Christianity to Scotland back in the 6th Century; maybe that’s why the birds like bathing in it. But I digress; back to grass and the cutting of it…) Beside the bird bath, there are other front yard impediments to a crisp cut—like the rose bush in the corner that doesn’t leave much headroom for the lawnmower to get at what grows beneath, or the picket fence that protects a thin band of clover that always seems to prefer the company of the sidewalk. I would need a weed whacker to attend to that business, but that’s a tool too far so I get down on hands and knees with a clipper to finish off the front before getting back to my rocker on the porch.

But then there’s the back yard…

That’s bigger business with some contour and texture to it. Heavier impediments, too, like the hammock that needs to be moved or the outdoor table and chairs which make cutting long, clean lines impossible. One of these days, I’ll get around to putting in a flagstone patio under the arrangement so I can delete that section of the yard from my cutting routine. Until then, I’ll continue to move things around while cutting the grass in smaller sections. Whew!

Then there’s this: to bag or not to bag? That’s a good question. I have access to a mower that collects the clippings in a great sack, but then the question becomes how to deal with all that residue. Putting clippings in a great paper bag and leaving that bag on the curb awaiting town removal seems to me like a lot of wasted labor—mine and the town’s. The alternative solution involves using another mower that simply distributes the clippings as mulch which, in addition to saving some sweat equity, has some positive environmental benefits. Old grass begetting new grass, a kind of green reincarnation, if you will, that reclaims all the good photosynthetic properties of the clipped material to fertilize the next batch of grass which, of course, will have to be cut again a week hence. Round and round we go, all summer long.

But eventually, all the grass front and back does get cut and I get to go have a rewarding glass of lemonade on the front porch or a quiet swing in the hammock from which I can survey my freshly cut domain. But even as the lawnmower cools, I think I can hear all that grass regrowing, the countdown already beginning until it’s time for next week’s project.

Gotta go. I’m due for a haircut. I hear there’s a new barber in town…

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.

May Day by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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May Day goes in lots of different directions: for some (like my friend Eggman), it’s an international holiday commemorating the Haymarket riots in Chicago of 1886 that now honors all laborers and the working classes. For those in peril on the sea or in the air, it’s a universally recognized distress signal. (How did that come about?Apparently, ‘May Day’ is a corruption of the French phrase “M’aidez!” or “Help Me!) To a bell-clad Morris Dancer, May Day means tall maypoles decorated with flowers and long ribbons and another happy pagan reason to celebrate the arrival of spring. Oh—and one more: in case you’re looking for another reason to party, May first is also National Chocolate Parfait Day. Who knew?

The first of May can be moody—the photograph that accompanies this Musing was taken on May 1, 2016—but it can also be bright and sunny, full of promise, and oh-so-colorful, thanks in large part to all those lovely flowers that sprouted during those chilly April showers. May first is our reward for both patience and anticipation: patience (winter is over!), anticipation (summer is here!). As a former student and teacher who spent many years in schools on both sides of the desk, I know that we’re all still kids with an atavistic case of spring fever that always seems to hit at this precious time of year. Kids think “Summer!” but teachers dig a little deeper: May means we’re on the doorstep of June, July, and August, the best three reasons to be a teacher.

Everything seems to be in bud; that’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that pollen drifts down like snow and the sound of sneezing is heard throughout the land—or at least in this part of it. The Mid-Atlantic region and our very own Eastern Shore, in particular, are home to all manner of beautiful flowering trees and shrubs, but all that natural splendor comes at the suffering cost of allergies and hay fever. It’s the price we pay for spring.

If you’re a Taurus or a Gemini, May’s your month. If you’re born in May and like precious stones, emeralds are your thing. If you’re a gardener, think of May’s colorful palette: cornflower blue, peony pink, lily-white, lilac purple, sunflower yellow, and of course, green grass. Come to think of it, I guess it’s time to bring the old lawnmower out of winter retirement. If birdsong comes with May, so does the roar of lawnmowers. Sigh.

May is named for the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. Anglo-Saxons called May Tri-Milchi, meaning three milks because the grass was so lush and green you could milk your cows three times a day. In Native American culture, May is The Full Flower Moon, the Corn Planting Moon, or the Milking Moon. (I guess Anglo-Saxons and Native Americans have more in common than I realized!)

If you want to maintain youthfulness or enhance your natural beauty, legend has it that you should wash your face with dew collected on the morning of the first day of May. If you missed that chance, put a note on your calendar for next year. Don’t worry: you’re beautiful just the way you are!

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.

Earth Daze by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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The tea crabapple and tulip trees in the pocket park behind the White Swan are exploding. The sycamore just outside the front gate is in bud busily creating the leaves that will shade us in summer and keep us busy in the fall. There is a quiet riot of daffodils in my neighbor’s front yard, the bleeding hearts and peonies are poking up out back, there are new tendrils of wisteria climbing along the garden wall, and is that lilac I smell? A pair of industrious house wrens are building a nest under the eaves of the front porch—they’re welcome to make their new home with us. The hummingbird feeders are full and ready to refresh any weary traveler coming up from the south. It’s just warm enough to drink my first cup of coffee outside in the Sunday morning stillness and while I know full well that there may still be an uninvited snow squall or a frost warning or two ahead—we live in Maryland after all!—I think I can safely declare that spring has finally found its way to the banks of the Chester.

Spring: that most welcome of guests who admittedly arrives with some decidedly unwelcome baggage, like the sheen of pollen on the car every morning or my wife’s allergies. Nevertheless, Persephone’s reemergence heralds cool-but-not-cold mornings, warm-but-not-stifling afternoons, and fresh-but-not-sultry nights. Open windows, lingering evenings, hammock naps, and porch gatherings. Baseball games; golf without wool hats, two gloves, and multiple layers of clothing. Flip-flops instead of boots. College kids in shorts and tee shirts, the splash of water in Fountain Park, sunset cruises on the River Packet, and plans for Tea Party.

Fields are plowed and dressed and while the unmistakable smell of manure can come wafting into town on even the most gentle of breezes, soon green, not brown, will be the order of the day. Now on Saturday mornings, there are bright hanging baskets and fresh, new produce at the Farmers Market; maybe we’ll see the first hot-house tomatoes in a week or two! Big wheel keep on turning!

One of the things I most appreciate about living here is that we’re never far removed from the land, the weather, and the seasons. When I lived in that big city over on the Western Shore, it was hard to feel the subtle changes in the days or see the stars at night. Here, all I have to do is sit on the front porch or walk out in the backyard. I know I’ve said this before, but I just feel closer to God here. I feel as though I have a front row seat at a heavenly concert where I can plainly hear the music of the spheres.

I know that spring can be a fickle tease and that soon enough, we’ll be complaining about the heat or wishing it would rain or longing for cooler weather. That’s all part of the story. But this chapter is one of my favorites and I like to savor it like pie right out of the oven. Strawberry-Rhubarb, please.

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.