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.

Maryland 3.0: A New Kind of Garage for the Car Lovers of the Mid-Shore

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One relatively recent trend on the Mid-Shore that sometimes goes unnoticed in comparison to the region’s passion for such things as sailing and art, is the remarkable growth in historic cars and the collection of specialty automobiles. From the annual Ridgely Car Show to the fancier Concours d’Elegance, and more recently, the opening of the Classic Motor Museum in St. Michaels, the Shore is booming with car collectors.

To date, some 2,000 vehicles in the five-county area are considered “historic” by the Maryland DMV, and one can easily doubles that number if including the hundreds of performance and other rare cars that are not old enough for that designation.

The challenge for all those car owners is where to safely keep their pride and joys.

For the very wealthy, the answer is an easy one; simply build more garage space. And perhaps for those on the lower end of the scale, its simply replacing the family sedan with one’s beloved 1970 Volkswagen convertible for example.

But for a significant number of Mid-Shore car enthusiasts, there were very few options in-between for secure storage facilitates that would not only keep these unique museum quality automobiles safe but also well maintained.

That was until now.

Just a few months ago, Mike Kealy, owner of Bay Hundred Auto in St. Michaels which specializes in the maintenance and repair of rare cars, partnered with a customer and friend to solve this gap. Their solution is now open for business in the back of a nondescript commercial warehouse with the appropriate name of Prestige Auto Vault.

The concept is simple enough. Customers park their cars there until they feel the urge to drive them. But unlike many other storage facilities, the Vault takes a few extra steps to ensures the autos are not only secure but also frequently maintained.

Every month, each car in the Vault has a service check. All fluids are inspected, tires are properly inflated, batteries charged, all for the sake of making sure that the vintage car actually works when the client does have the impulse for a Sunday drive in a thirty or forty-year-old car.

The Spy talked to Mike last week to understand more about this entrepreneurial experiment.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Prestige Auto Vault please go here.

Why Do Christians Put Up With Trump? By W. David Montgomery

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“How can practicing Christians support a President as immoral as Donald Trump?” The question has become a popular one in certain literary circles, and more important to me it is one that serious friends ask me.

The answer to the question seems quite simple:

Donald Trump offered the hope of making right what was going horribly wrong in our country. Alternative candidates stood for policies that would make things worse, and were beset with deep character flaws of their own.

Candidate Trump was unabashedly pro-life and willing to defend religious freedom. He stood for a stronger national defense after 8 years of appeasement and neglect. He understood and stated clearly that Western Civilization is under attack from Islamic militants. He supported Israel unreservedly and was willing to lead from the front. He saw how excessive taxation and regulation combined to give us the worst recovery from a recession on record.

His brash style was not only attractive to those alienated from mainstream politics, but also provided a deeper resonance that he understood their feelings of being left behind economically, of increasing government intrusion into their lives, of schools that taught children things that parents did not believe and put them at risk to sexual deviants, and of being ridiculed by celebrities, media and his opponent.

I hold that Trump was wrong to promote the myth that immigration and imports kill jobs and hurt Americans, and I have already written enough on that. We can try to convince him on those topics over time.

Turning from policies to words and personal behavior, his denunciations of Hispanics, tasteless remarks about women and sex, and marital infidelities were also negatives for many of us who voted for him. On the other hand, we support his efforts to scrutinize entrants from countries that breed terrorists as prudent policies not evidence of some personal bias against Moslems.

Allegations about Trump’s lack of truthfulness have been rampant but remain unproven. His obvious willingness to exaggerate facts and numbers in support of his own opinions contrasted to Hilary’s memorization of the most minor detail and skill at devious answers, and for that reason was probably as much a successful tactic as a character defect. “It was a feature, not a bug” to quote Microsoft.

Commentators differ on whether this is a reasonable point of view or evidence that conservative Catholics and evangelicals have become homophobic, xenophobic and otherwise deplorable. My conscience is clear in supporting Trump for these reasons.
There are enough positives and negatives in my own assessment that this result was not pre-ordained. Despite efforts to caricature him, President Trump presents a complex picture of sound and unsound policies and personal virtues and vices.

Some might claim that I am myself co-operating with evil by concluding that President Trump’s actions as President on balance advance the common good and violate no moral laws. That is not how my moral education sees it. For this I take guidance from Pacem in Terris by Pope Saint John XXIII, who discussed at length how in this world most leaders do not share the moral framework to which we as Christians adhere. That makes it necessary to work for as much good as possible in public affairs, recognizing that we must as Christians settle for less than perfection and work with the moral infirmities and motivations of those in power. While at all times trying to change their moral framework.

Of primary importance, President Trump’s policies are consistent with moral laws regarding the taking of innocent life, sex and marriage, and freedom of conscience, no matter how his personal life may differ.

His policies on the economy, foreign policy, immigration and healthcare do not directly run up against moral absolutes, and are matters of prudential judgment of how best to accomplish what moral law prescribes.

Applying the tests of adherence to moral laws and practical effect, I conclude that President Trump’s policies contain no grave moral errors, do some practical harm and achieve a great deal of practical good. Far better than I could have expected of anyone else.

But the question about supporting the President, once all this is out in the open, reverts to his personal, allegedly immoral behavior. Put this way, the question suggests that Christians are hypocritical in supporting someone who blatantly violates their moral prescriptions. A writer in the National Review put it that “Christians had good reasons to vote for Trump but that does not mean they had to join his tribe” and goes on to express dismay at religious leaders appearing with, praying with, and complimenting the President.

It is not that Christians are indifferent to sexual immorality. As one theologian put it recently, “The premise of the Sexual Revolution is antisocial, and its effects are socially destructive, as every pope since Leo XIII has shown, including Francis.” This includes sex in any form outside of marriage, pornography, and the entire LGBTQ agenda.

There is no question that we believe that the acts of which Trump is accused are gravely immoral. Ironically, those who are most preoccupied with President’ Trump’s alleged sexual immorality have for the most part been vocal supporters of the sexual revolution and demanded freedom for consenting partners to engage in any kind of genital activity they enjoy. The question is what our faith and moral compass require us to do about it.

Those who question how “conservative Christians” can support Donald Trump seem on the most part to be working with a caricature of Christian moral thought. Many of those who raise the question are Social Justice Warriors who themselves call Trump supporters “vile human beings” and condemn every utterance that might contain a micro-aggression or expression of hostility or condescension to some “marginalized group.” unless they are directed at someone who voted for Trump. They seem to expect Christians to behave in a similar way, by judging, denouncing and ostracizing any public figure who violates the Sixth Commandment.

That is an ignorant and biased picture of Christian morality and even more offensive than their hypocrisy about sexual license. There are at least three admonitions that prevent us from condemning others as sinners. They also apply to other personal vices that do not have consequences of public concern.

First, “judge not that you be not judged.” In the parable of the adulterous woman, Christ shamed their accusers with the challenge “he among you is guiltless, should cast the first stone.” The point is that we firmly believe that many matters are between a man, his spouse, his priest and his Maker, and that we should mind our own business unless directly affected.

Second, “God’s ways are not the ways of men.” David had Bathsheba, yet is still honored as the greatest of the Kings of Israel and the ancestor of Our Incarnate Lord. Trump never sent one of his future wives husbands out to certain death in battle so that he could marry her. More broadly, God does not necessarily select saints to carry out his plan for the good of his people – as the sexual infidelities of honored Presidents like Kennedy, Eisenhower, and FDR and leaders like Martin Luther King attest.

Third, the whole point is that “We are all sinners.” I am far from perfect, and I cannot expect more of anyone else. Some are more virtuous than others, but that rarely seems to include successful politicians. One of the most infuriating misconceptions is that Christians see themselves as perfect and judge the morals of everyone they encounter. No doubt some do, but they violate the explicit command of the Head of our church. We know that President Trump has not been accused of anything we have not been tempted to do.

So lets get over the hypocrisy bit. Church attendance is not virtue signaling.
We do not go to services to show off how perfect we are, we go because we are sinners seeking to do better. More precisely, since Jesus walked the earth we have been enjoined to do the latter and not the former.

Thus I feel no moral obligation to condemn or defend the President for carnal sins.

I am instead convinced that we who voted for Trump did so for valid and urgent reasons, that as President he has done a remarkable job in delivering what we hoped for, and that our concerns and Trump’s policies are consistent with Christian morality and social ethics.

His personal failings, and likewise mine, will be judged by a Higher Authority than even The Atlantic magazine.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

The Physical by George Merrill

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I’ve often wished that I had the temperament of one of my dearest friends. He is faithful in all that he undertakes. He eats sensibly, exercises regularly, never smoked, drinks moderately, prays often and at specific times of day. He never seems put upon when others ask him to perform tedious tasks on their behalf. He is as virtuous a man as I have known – very credible – and although it does him no honor for me to say this, I do envy him his God-given disposition. He has an amiable relationship to himself. Mine tends to be more erratic.

A psychiatrist I know understands envy in this way: if the virtues that we see and admire in others were suddenly bestowed on us, we’d have no idea what to do with them.

I thought about this recently after my annual physical with my primary physician and cardiologist. Overall, I’m doing well. A problem has arisen in the last few years: I weigh more than I should, now to the tune of about twenty- five pounds. Of the invasive and other undignified diagnostic procedures I have been subject to over the years, including the universally loathed colonoscopy, the diagnostic prescription I find most difficult to hear is from not just from one but from both of my physicians; I must eat less and exercise more. At least in undergoing a colonoscopy, I’m out cold so the doctor can say anything and it wouldn’t bother me.

I find ‘eat less’ particularly hard to hear from my cardiologist. I don’t mean that he is not kind and competent. He says pretty much the same as my primary does. It’s just when he holds up one hand, points to the palm of it and with the other hand, inscribes a tiny circle, indicating this should be the size of the portions I need to be eating, I despair. I’m sure his hands are as large as any adult male but when he illustrates this particular prescription, like some ominous signing to a deaf man, I cringe. His hands seem to suddenly become diminutive, like a doll’s, and I think to myself how can he expect so much from me when he promises so little.

Both physicians recommended more exercise, one, advising specifically that walking one hour a day was best. Now this prescription did not please me much either but it was one I thought I could get behind far more than the starvation diet that the cardiologist advised. In one sense, I was prescribed two pills to address my ills; eat less and exercise more. I chose exercise over diet simply because I love to eat. But wait – isn’t contemporary medicine encouraging us to be a pro-active voice in designing our own treatment, tailoring it to the way we wish to live?

I write this to demonstrate how our unruly wills and affections can seduce us. Habits of the stomach for the aging can be even more compelling than those of the heart for the young. My reasoning: far better to burn those calories away in exercise than never to have savored them at all. I see it as unconscionable to waste their sweetness. And then, too, the calories would be gone for good that way, and would not remain available to compromise someone else’s’ health. Actually I’d be serving others.

Here’s the rub. Now, already two days successfully into my new resolve, the issue has come down to how much mettle my resolve actually contains. My challenge lies, not so much in knowing what has to be done, but in the showing up for the doing- boots on the ground, if you will. Am I really exercising for the right reasons? Am I trying to avoid the issue of eating less by exercising more? Yes! Only now I have crafted a rationale.

The great essayist, Montaigne, knew all the tricks that our minds play on us. He wrote, “Virtue will not be followed except for her own sake and if we sometimes borrow her mask for some other purpose, she promptly snatches it from our face.”

I heard a story once about a man, a recovering alcoholic who has enjoyed an otherwise successful thirty-year sobriety. He told about the games his mind used to play on him when he wanted what he wanted, but didn’t want to fess up to it.

Early in his recovery career he went into a bar and ordered six shots of bourbon. He had learned from AA that the first drink is too many, and a thousand is not enough. Just don’t take that first drink was the cardinal rule.

He claimed he never did.

He’d start drinking the the sixth shot, the last one placed on the bar. Then when he was down to the first, left it, then ordered six more, again drinking the sixth one the bartender put on the bar but never taking the first one. By the time he was wasted he had eight shots left on the bar, having left only the first one’s he correctly boasted that he never drank.

Here’s as honest as I can be at this moment in my own struggle with myself. I love eating too much right now to reduce my intake to those Spartan portions that were prescribed. I think I could knock off chocolate and deserts too (by knock off I mean eschewing not chewing) without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Scrapple should go and the skin of southern fried chicken I believe I could do without.

But the immediate challenge is exercise: what about a rainy day, or an extremely cold day, or one of those hot and sultry days on the Shore that can melt macadam on the roads. Worse still, when I just don’t feel like exercising at all. Then my unruly mind and its perverse wishes will begin plotting to defeat my resolve.

It’s time like this I envy my virtuous friend.

“Be sober, be vigilant,” writes Peter in his first epistle, “for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

It’s not the roaring lion I’m worried about; it’s the whisper of temptation.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that my wife, Jo, copy edits my manuscripts for publication. She rarely challenges content, just cleans them up. She took issue with the number I claimed I was overweight. Normally she’s a great editor although she can get picky about details.

I stay resolutely focused on the big picture.

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.

Lies, Reactions, Consequences by Al Sikes

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“If everyone always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but that no one believes anything at all anymore — and rightly so, because lies, by their nature, have to be changed, to be ‘re-lied’, so to speak.”  Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, born a Jew in Germany in 1906, fled Hitler and the observation above quoted reflected her struggles as her identity was used against her and then denied to her.

I repeat, “……..lies, by their very nature, have to be changed …..” Last Sunday, after watching several interviews about Trump, Comey, Mueller and Giuliani, I recalled this Arendt line. One talking head noted, in reference to the Trump-Giuliani swirl of conflicting statements, “We now see damage control of damage control.”

In the world of damage control, this is not new. To borrow from Ms. Arendt, damage control by its very nature is intended to obfuscate.

But, Trump is President. He is not one more celebrity caught in the wrong bedroom. He is the country’s chief executive who, among other things, is responsible, ultimately, for the nation’s annual operating statement and balance sheet.

And figuratively, we (the voters) are the final signature on the nation’s payment obligations. The nation’s founders, underscoring our importance in spending taxpayer money, placed the exclusive right to begin appropriations in the House of Representatives—each House member must earn our votes every two years.

This is the point in the article when I am supposed to recite our cumulative debt and an array of underfunded “entitlements”. I’ll simply note that we are now on course to add a trillion dollars to that debt each year. America’s youth should become familiar with our unfolding fiscal disaster. My generation will likely skate through to the finish.

Or, are the financial data lies? Statistics are certainly susceptible to being the content of deception. Historically, we have depended on a wide variety of news outlets to keep us informed. Is the truth discoverable? Do reporters have the knowledge and insight to discover the truth?  After all, we are dealing with numbers, not our various programs to reshape the way people act.

Rather than trying your patience, with more detail on our fiscal affairs, let me suggest several questions that should be asked and answered often — truthfully to the extent possible.

  1.  Do our growing deficits threaten our international credit rating and foretell rising borrowing costs?
  2. Will our growing national debt have a negative effect on the widespread use of the dollar as the most important international currency? Consequences?
  3. The national debt is over 100 % of the 2017 gross domestic product (GDP). In the 2018 budget cycle the annual cost of that debt is projected to be $310 billion. What are the debt cost projections for future budget cycles?

It is never a good thing for our nation’s President to be caught up in a house of mirrors. But, our nation’s year to year and decade to decade economic strength is of far greater consequence. Economic strength or weakness translates into jobs, home equity, revenue for public initiatives and the like. We need truth — at least as close as we can get to it.

Final thought. Journalists, with economic training and insight, need to populate more than business media. They need to see their stories each day in the top papers and shows and they need to translate what they know into accessible and interesting stories. Truthful stories.

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. 

Chasing Sophie: The Search for the Real Sophie Kerr

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There are quite a few things that Washington College can hang its hat on with great pride. The easiest one, of course, is the fact that George Washington willingly allowed his name to be used in the creation of the country’s 10th oldest college. That’s pretty good stuff but it does not diminish the other remarkable legacies of this 238-year-old school, and the prime example is the Denton born writer Sophie Kerr.

A native of the Mid-Shore who eventually found her way to hosting literary salons at her Murray Hill townhouse in New York in the first half of the 20th Century, Kerr became one of the most proficient writers of her time. When she passed away in 1965, she had completed over 80 novels, hundreds of magazine articles, and a number of highly sought after cookbooks. She also left enough money in her will to allow Washington College to offer each year the largest literary prize for an undergraduate in the country ($66,000 last year) and an equally significant amount to create what is now an impressive creative writing program at the school.

Another thing she left to the two institutions she had developed a strong kinship with, namely Columbia University, where she donated most of her letters and manuscripts, and Washington College, who was the recipient of her journal-like daybooks, poems, and other personal correspondence.

But even with this extraordinary collection of primary resource material, the real Sophie Kerr remains somewhat of a mystery to both scholars and the general public. The writer took extraordinary steps during her life to keep a large wall between her and her professional writing, but that also held true even with her letters.

The forever private nature of Kerr was a common interest that united three unique partners in a quest to chase down the real Sophie. WC’s professor Elizabeth O’Connor, whose lifetime scholarship had dug deep into American women writers during Sophie’s era, was eager to fill in some important gaps of knowledge. Her student, Brooke Schultz, found in Sophie the a perfect subject for the Friends of the Miller Library to award her a Thornton Fellowship to research her work for a senior thesis. And, finally, Heather Calloway, the College archivist, who had been tasked with making sense of Miller Library’s Kerr collection, also wanted to know more about Kerr’s history on the Eastern Shore as well as in New York.

Over the last year, these women set out to find the real Sophie Kerr as a unique team project which started with a meticulous review of WC’s holdings and ended with spending three days at Columbia’s archive to immerse themselves in the author’s complete body of work.

Some of the results of this work can be found in Brooke’s thesis, but, as the Spy found out in our interview with all three (appropriately in the Sophie Kerr Room at Miller Library), this intensive research project has only just begun to uncover this progressive writer’s unique personality and literary agenda.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Sophie Kerr and Washington College please go here.

Grants in Action: Pickering Creek Audubon and Women & Girls Fund Offer “Camp Like a Girl”

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When Krysta Hougen and Samantha Pitts, full-time educators at the Pickering Center Audubon Center, compare notes about their programs for young people in the Mid-Shore region, the first thing they observe is that many of these kids have never been in a wilderness setting before. While Pickering may be on only ten miles away from downtown Easton, it can seem like a different planet for quite a number of these boys and girls.

The second thing they noticed is that whenever a child, male or female, hesitated or showed caution in these new surroundings, the taunt of “don’t be like a girl” was the most common phrase used by their peers. And since both instructors happened to have been girls when they first fell in love with nature, it was a clear sign that girls needed extra attention.

It didn’t take long to realize that a girls camp, could be an excellent strategy for this and build confidence with both girls and young teens. And with the help of the Women & Girls Fund, that has become a reality with the “Camp like a Girl” program at Pickering this summer.

The Spy talked to Krysta and Samantha a few weeks go to talk about “Camp Like a Girl” as well as Susie Dillon from the Women & Girls Fund to talk about the concept and its new beginning this summer.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Pickering Creek Audubon Center, please go here.

This is the sixth in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Justice Be Served by Howard Freedlander

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This is tough to write. Since it seems like piling on.

But justice and fairness must rule.

Nearly three years ago, Bishop Heather Cook, suffragan (#2) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Baltimore, was sentenced to seven years in prison for killing a bicyclist in Baltimore while she was texting and driving drunk. She caused inestimable harm to the victim’s family, robbing a wife of a husband and two children of a father—two days after Christmas in 2014.

Why does this case matter to us on the Eastern Shore?

Because Heather Cook once served in the Diocese of Easton. Because she was involved in a drunken driving accident in 2010 in Caroline County. Because both Episcopal dioceses seemingly chose to overlook the Rev. Cook’s signs of alcoholism.

Because a 41-year-old father and husband are dead, unnecessarily so.

Bishop Cook is now seeking early release to spend the rest of her seven-year sentence on home detention. It seems inconceivable she has the chutzpah to file such a request.

The victim’s family will have a large say as to whether Heather Cook spends the rest of her sentence at home. As it should.

The Palermo family cannot seek early release from grief and suffering. It is scarred forever.

When I wrote three years ago about Bishop Cook’s killing of a bicyclist and being charged with manslaughter, drunken driving, driving while texting and leaving the scene of the accident, I thought about her apparent unwillingness to face her previous signs of alcohol-induced misbehavior. I faulted the Easton Diocese for failing to take stronger action after the Caroline County accident. I faulted the Diocese of Baltimore for failing to investigate Heather Cook’s history of drinking. And I faulted the church for its lax attitude toward priests facing addiction problems.

Guilt for inattention was pervasive.

At Christ Church in Easton, an Episcopal church, I listen almost weekly to the constant call for forgiveness. I read scripture at services and listen to sermons proclaiming that God’s will demands sympathy, even for those who defy human compassion.

When I wrote a few years ago about the Cook case, I summoned a smidgeon of sympathy for Heather Cook. I recognized the severity of alcohol addiction. I understood the excruciating pain in claiming an addiction and taking responsibility for it, deciding to extract the addiction from one’s life and soul and going about setting a different agenda and approach to stress.

Life without addiction is liberating—but not without a fight, not without a burning desire to live free of substance abuse and not without strong support from family and friends.

From what I have read, Heather Cook has shown no remorse for her crime. For me, that implies she has not acknowledged her alcoholism and its ability to destroy lives. Has 2-1/2 years in prison given her personal insight that clarifies for her the reason for her crime and the disabling nature of her addiction?

It seems not. Horrifying.

When Heather Cook prays to God and confesses her sins of commission and omission, I pray she talks honestly about addiction and apologizes for the death of Thomas Palermo. I pray she will leave prison—whenever that might be—determined to spread the gospel of self-awareness, candor about human flaws and a new-found addiction to sobriety.

I may be “wishin and hopin,” to borrow the lyrics of the old Dionne Warwick song.

At some point, Heather Cook will get a second chance, but not yet. She should treasure it and pray for a life dedicated to service to others, one unburdened by dependence on alcohol.

Justice calls for a longer term in prison—and evidence of soul-felt honesty and remorse about vehicular murder.

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.