A Leica for Losers by George Merrill

Have you had days when you feel you don’t do anything right? I have. Then I’m sure I’m a loser. I feel like the man who once complained, “Even when I’m eating canned grapefruit I squirt myself in the eye.”

As a boy, a friend and I went with my uncle to the New Jersey countryside. We were going on a painting outing. My uncle was French and an accomplished artist. His paintings were stunning. He provided the materials. We left home and arrived at a lovely meadow. A red barn stood in the field surrounded by cattle, a rustic fence, with a farmhouse nearby – the lovely ambience typical of rural America. We soon got down to our task. I noticed how my uncle and my friend were rendering charming images with ease. My colors were lusterless, the perspectives stilted and my painting began looking more like a chemical spill than a country scene. My uncle and my friend were kind and encouraging but I burned with humiliation. I felt like a loser. I wanted so badly to paint like my uncle.

There’s good news for those of us who have ever felt like losers. As of June 7th this year, we can now rejoice that being a “loser” has not only lost its insulting connotations, but ‘losers’ have earned a distinguished place in one of the world’s unique modern museums. In the town of Helsenborg, Sweden, The Museum of Failure officially opened. Admission is 100 Swedish Kroner, about eleven dollars, a small price for those of us who may feel like losers and are sorely in need of a morale boost. The museum, by its exhibits, showcases an enlightened understanding of the realities governing human affairs.

Forty-three year old clinical psychologist, Samuel West, conceived the idea while on a holiday and quickly purchased the Internet domain name. In applying, West accidentally misspelled “museum,” a sure sign, he believed, that the project would, well, succeed.

One journalist writing about the museum called the exhibit “Top of the Flops.” Catchy and descriptive. The museum is a commentary on life as a primarily dynamic, fluid, and ongoing process rather than a patchwork of static and unrelated incidents, such as a winner/loser paradigm suggests. Nicolai de Gier, professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts commented on West’s museum: “It’s like the other part of trying is failing, so it’s just a very natural thing and a very important thing.”

Some flops were nonetheless imaginative. The motorcycle giant, Harley Davidson tried its hand at marketing cologne for men. It was an elitist excursion into the macho world of bikers. The cologne was packaged and labeled with the Harley logo, identified delicately as “Eau de Toilette.” It was promoted as having a “leathery smell” and was called “Hot Road.” Plucky concept, but real bikers apparently don’t do cologne. The product failed.

The mouthwash and toothpaste empire Colgate, tried offering packaged frozen beef lasagna to the public. I’m not sure why except perhaps that it was an attempt to take over more of the household market via the kitchen as it had successfully done with the bathroom. It didn’t work.

The Edsel was touted to be the car of the future – an attempt to make Ford great again. The car was a disaster, but Ford learned from its mistakes and landed on its feet. Today Ford is one of our country’s automotive giants.

Failure is a familiar story in the American experience, indeed, in the human experience. Innovative attempts and high hopes from long standing industries fail regularly: McDonald’s Arch Deluxe, Pepsi’s Crystal Clear and Caffeine Free, Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water and Frito Lays WOW, all went bust. The companies today, wiser for their failures, still thrive. In one sense, there are few if any winners who did not first endure the humiliation of failure to get there.

I felt badly about my painting failure since I had an innate desire to create visual images, but developed no skills to render them. It was like having all the letters, but not knowing how to arrange them into words. As it turned out, that same uncle liked photography. He owned one of the classic Leica cameras of the day. I’d watch him at family gatherings as he took candid shots of relatives. The Leica intrigued me, in the way that little boys find gadgetry alluring. I asked him one day if I might use it and take pictures. I went through a roll of film. He processed the negatives for me, printed them and later showed me what I’d captured on film.

As you might expect the pictures were hardly museum quality fine art photographs. The fact that I selected this one particular scene or that one specific person to photograph, and through the medium of the camera actually created acceptable images, exhilarated me. A year later, in 1948, I found an old camera, took pictures with it, processed the negatives and printed positives. I discovered myself in a place I never thought I belonged. There was something of the artist in me and I needed to try and fail until I could find the means to express my yearning.

Via a hurtful failure as a painter, I found my way to photography. Photography has given me sixty-nine years of pleasure in picture taking, of presenting photographic exhibits and seeing my images published in various publications.

I suspect we need to first be losers in life to win, the way some of us must face our mistakes in internships in order to become professionally competent.

Of the thirty-six frames on the film in the Leica, only twelve came out. One was a portrait of my dog. My lifetime journey of a thousand photographs began with these first twelve.

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.

Food Friday: Sangria!

This is a column from the Spy Way Back Machine. I am out of town for a week. Happy Friday!

I used to listen to a sporadically produced podcast called “Crimes Against Food”. It was a hilarious and irreverent take of making, growing, buying and eating food with two whack jobs named Gloria Lindh and Mia Steele. They podcast from Leeds, in Western Yorkshire, England, and are the polar opposite of some of the toffee-nosed podcasts I usually listen to on the BBC. They are young, and sometimes hung over. Their unscripted chats are peppered with words that we would not use in front of our mothers, but these occasional gaffs make for their cheeky charm. (I am certain I have heard one of them smoking once). I always imagine them sitting in the front room of a small urban flat, with window boxes of herbs, discussing the greater food issues of the day. Periodically there is a siren in the background. They advocate buying local, eating healthily and foraging for fallen crabapples, yet they have also gone on at great length about the mystical properties of bar snacks. Clearly, they are my kind of women.

Beside the subject of eating disorders they also discussed a universal topic: the weather. They nattered on about how miserable a summer it has been in England this year; nothing but cold and rain since June began. But looking on the brighter side they opined that winter should be there soon, so then they will have had 18 months of winter. Poor Gloria. Poor Mia. I would send them some of our heat if I could. Instead, I will channel them, and what they might like to drink if they came stateside this week: Crimes Against Food

Sangria is generous and forgiving and easy peasy. You don’t have red wine? Use that stash of cheap white wine, which is our personal fave. No lemons? Those peaches are going to work very nicely. You can use what is on hand, and what is in season. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries. Just be sure you have plenty of wine and an abundance of ice. Everything is more delicious in Sangria.

Basic Sangria (from Spain)

3 1/4 cups ( 26 ounces) dry red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1 cup (8 ounces) club soda

Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda in a large punch bowl or serving pitcher, mixing well. Refrigerate overnight. Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda for added fizz. Ladle into cups with ice cubes.

Emeril Lagasse’s Sangria

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled
Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or glass pitchers. Cover and chill completely, 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the sparkling water.


In this baking heat I cannot think properly about cooking. Tonight we are going to have Panzanella Salad. Doesn’t that sound appropriately exotic and labor intensive? “Ha!” I say. A trip to the Farmers’ Market for cukes, tomatoes, sweet onion, bread and mozzarella. I usually toast the bread or fry it up into croutons, but I am avoiding the stove this week. So I will just cut the bread into chunks and let them get a little stale in the nice, hot summer air. Peel and chunk the cucumbers, quarter up the tomatoes, cut the onion up into generous wedges, and deal with the mozzarella (or Feta, if you prefer) any way you like. Add a little oil and vinegar, toss in the newly stale bread cubes and pour out the Sangria. Find a shady spot in your back yard and wait for the evening breezes to roll in off the water.

“Summer bachelors, like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.”
– Nora Ephron

Making it Work on the Shore: Reinventing Downtown Easton with Ross Benincasa

In years past, the role of a director of a downtown association would consist of managing and promoting a series of special events created to encourage retail shopping. Special days like “First Friday” and free concert programs have become the standard practice to bring residents and their families to their downtown districts, but is that enough in a country that soon can expect same day delivery from internet sellers?

The answer coming from Ross Benincasa, the Easton Business Alliance’s director, is a definite “no.” While special events remain important strategies, the work of promoting downtown shopping has become increasingly more sophisticated as Ross notes in his first Spy interview.

Specifically, Benincasa, the EBA Board, and Easton’s Town Council are now looking such things as downtown “walkability” improvements and studying pedestrian navigation patterns to significantly improve the experience of shopping. In fact, through Ross’ initiation, the town was the recent recipient of a $145,000 grant from Google to implement its new store view program, allowing app users to peek inside stores, restaurants, and public institutions like libraries and museums, before actually stepping into those venues. The grant also provides Easton a generous advertising budget to go into Washington and Baltimore media markets with its message.

The Spy caught up with Ross at the Bullitt House, where the Easton Business Alliance has their offices, to talk about the future of downtown Easton, its current challenges, and a very encouraging forecast that Easton is well positioned to adjust to this changing climate and maintain its position as one of the Eastern Shore’s most popular shopping hubs.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Easton Business Alliance please go here.


Spy Profile: Telling the Story of Veterans with Word and Music

The powerful synergy between the spoken word and music has been the source of some truly extraordinary moments in the history of storytelling. From symphony orchestras playing as the backdrop to poetry to prose interjected into rap songs, the human need to combine these powerful forms of communication into one is a time-honored tradition.

This form of fusion seems to have unlimited applications, but nowhere does it triumph more than when pairing the flexible range of jazz to a human being’s very special, and sometimes horrific journey after being at war.

A recent example of this merger can be found in Modern Warrior, a musical drama of a soldier’s journey towards post-traumatic growth. In this case, Dominick Farinacci, the gifted jazz trumpeter, composer and favorite performer at Chesapeake Music’s annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, connects through mutual friends with Jaymes Poling, a returning vet, to explore how Farinacci’s music may work collaboratively with the narrative of Poling’s moving war and postwar experience.

The early results of this teamwork appear to be a stunning success. Through the support of benefactors, many of whom make the Mid-Shore their home, Dominick and Jaymes have already created a “pilot” for the musical with a premier expected in New York City, and later Easton, at the end of the year.

The Spy caught up with the co-creators of Modern Warrior at Bullitt House last week to talk about the project.

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

A Glimmer of Hope by George Merrill

In a book I’ve been reading about Christianity and its “struggle for new beginnings,” I saw a passing reference to God as the creator of humanity. It quoted a fourteenth century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, who stated that we are made, not “by God,” but “of God.” I found the switching of the usual preposition “by” with “of,” striking. That God might have made us – the typical religious teaching – suggests an important connection but a discrete difference like the sculptor who fashions his sculpture from marble while he remains a creature of flesh and blood.

Being made of God offers a different thought; that we are fashioned from the same substance as the creator, one manifestation of the very stuff from which God is composed. To be human then, and being made of God – and not to be impious – I’d say is simply affirming that we’re all chips off the old block.

The way things are going today you’d hardly ever guess it. But then there are those transformational moments that offer us glimmers of hope…

Religion today, like politics, gets the public interest not when it acts sublimely, but when it behaves badly. Ears go right to the ground when the muck is being raked. But every so often something of essential goodness transpires and I, for one, find myself moved to tears. In those moments, circumstances conspire such that I become more conscious of my “of-ness,” and our “of-ness.”

One such moment occurred recently on June 14th following the shooting at the congressional baseball practice in D.C. At this writing, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Four others were wounded. The shooter was killed. His motives were vague political discontents.

Given the kind of political posturing that usually follows these tragic moments, things took a very different turn and in my judgment, a hopeful one. The spirit of the moment became one of claiming our national as well as our human solidarity rather than vilifying the perpetrator and swearing he will be caught and punished. In one sense our “of-ness” was the issue not someone’s “other-ness,”

Paul Ryan addressed the House shortly following the incident. He said: “An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us.” He went further to state passionately that, “…there is one image that this house should keep. And it is a photo (as shown above) I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after the news.”

He added that “We are a family…these are our brothers and sisters.” Finally he pleaded with the House: “I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together…to lift each other up…and show the country – show the world – that we are one House.”

I felt moved. I didn’t see this kind of response coming.

The next evening on PBS, Judy Woodruff interviewed House Representatives Joe Barton, R-Texas and Mike Doyle, D-Pa. The interview took a remarkable turn. They had been long-term friends in the Congress. During the incident Doyle was at the field with his Republican colleagues while Barton practiced with the Democrats. In reiterating the frightening experience of the shooting and also speaking of his friendship with Barton, Doyle was clearly on the verge of tears. At that point, Barton placed his hand on Doyle’s arm in a spontaneous gesture of affection. There was no mistaking its authenticity. The gesture was the kind of human softness that exhibits our greatest strengths, that is, our capacity to care for others.

As I watched the interview, Isaiah’s visionary statement of a world reconciled to God came to mind: “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw with the ox – they will do no evil or harm in all My Holy Mountain.”

Imagine, if one day the elephant and the donkey might have drinks and dinner together after work, and would dwell and graze together and do no evil in “all My Holy Mountain.” If that isn’t the slam dunk formula for making America Great, and I don’t mean great again, but greater than ever, then I can’t imagine what is.

In the interview on PBS, Doyle made what I would call a visionary statement – not a policy statement, but a visionary one, the kind that we rarely see or hear today.

Speaking of Congress he says, ”We may have differences politically, but they’re our friends, and we care about them very much. And I think all of us are reflecting on how each one of us individually can set an example for the country, too, because when people see their leaders being uncivil towards one another then you start to see the public being uncivil towards one another and towards their leaders.”

He also speaks to that prurient part of all of us that delights in hearing sleaze and scandal. In referring to congressional mud slinging he notes, “Oftentimes the media’s interested in interviewing the two that are throwing the swords at each other…the news media, too, can reflect a little bit on that and show some of the positive things that take place down there.”

Religion struggles today, as politics does, for “new beginnings,” relevance, and integrity in a world in which we see little of either over the din of the sectarian and party claims. In power struggles, the common denominator of our “of-ness,” our mutual humanity gets easily excised, in the way soldiers trained for combat learn to dehumanize their adversaries in order to destroy them.

A columnist for CNN seemed to see in the recent event, glimmers of hope. He put it this way in his column, “There’s a lot of awfulness in Washington today…but out of the awfulness (almost) always comes some good.”

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.

Food Friday: Grilling for Dad

It has been so warm this spring that I can barely think about eating, let alone cooking. I am daydreaming about nice cool, summertime foods that do not require a lick of cooking: watermelon, strawberries, icy bowls of bobbing crimson radishes, Good Humor Bars, freshly shelled peas. I am not musing about meat loaf, spaghetti, beef stew or roasted chicken.

What I do need to do is organize is a Father’s Day Sunday Dinner, one which does not involve any of my time spent in the kitchen. I will have to see if Mr. Friday is amenable to tossing some kebobs on the grill. There is nothing quite so delightful as the charred, crispy edges of  chunks of pepper and onions combined with chicken or steak.

We will gather on the back porch, where we have a few Adirondack chairs (which are never as comfortable as they are picturesque). I love the al fresco nights, when we can elude the mosquitoes and enjoy candles and strings of white lights. We can watch the last of the sun’s rays gilding the tops of the pecan trees and listen to the cardinals squabbling in the hedge. It will be time to slow down and the enjoy the lengthening purple shadows. There is no television news in the background. It is a pleasantly warm, humid summer evening.

Kebob skewers dress up anything and everything. Mr. Friday loves to cook on the weekend, thank heavens, and he says he enjoys it on Father’s Day, too. I suspect that is because he can control the menu selection. Everything he touches becomes a carefully designed and choreographed production number. On the weekends The Girl from Ipanema typically streams tunefully as Mr. Friday rummages through the fridge, taking out jars and bottles and containers of wine, mustard, horseradish, capers, lemon juice and olive oil. From the spice cabinet he selects honey, allspice and cilantro. He snatches up a hefty wedge of garlic, too. He pours everything into a glass bowl, testing the wine first, of course, and adding the chunks of chicken. (He has another elixir for steak that involves lots and lots of garlic.) That’s it – no recipe. Just instinct. (Disclaimer: once I had to stop him from using olive oil for cooking pancakes, so sometimes these impromptu food experiments do go awry.) This freedom from recipe structure leaves us time to wander into the back yard and toss the ball for the dog, testing more of the Chardonnay. Excellent planning.

Drifting back into the kitchen, Mr. Friday threads the chicken chunks onto metal skewers. (We used to try to use wooden skewers, but never remembered to soak them, so a lot went up in black puffy smoke.) He also skewered mushrooms, red peppers, green peppers, yellow pepper and red onions, separately. (Although we like slightly charred vegetables, it makes sense to cook the vegetables and the meat separately otherwise the vegetables can incinerate while the meat cooks.) And then he tosses the meat, and then the vegetables, onto the hot grill. Another moment of cooking deflection triumph.

Mark Bittman (who is about to start writing for New York Magazine! http://nymag.com/press/2017/06/mark-bittman-joins-grub-street-and-new-york-as-columnist.html) had a great graphic in the New York Times a couple of years ago – all the myriad possibilities for kebabs: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/07/08/magazine/kebab-generator.html?_r=0 You don’t have to be boring and suburban sedate like us.

Our house might be different. Happy families and all, the father you fête on Father’s Day might like a little fuss. Think of the tofu, mango, okra, eggplant skewers you can present to your dad on Sunday night. Yumsters!

“Ah, summer – what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”
– Russell Baker

Taking the Mystery Out of Easton’s Quality Health Foundation with Dr. Molly Burgoyne

There is one “big box” building at the Waterside Village that is not easy to identify. Among stores like Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Harris Teeter and BJ’s warehouse store, the large home of the nonprofit Quality Health Strategies remains a bit of a mystery for most who that drive by it on Marlboro Street.

Dr. Molly Burgoyne, chair of the Quality Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of this extremely successful and locally founded health care services provider, wants to fill in that gap of local knowledge.

While QHS and its subsidiaries has grown to over 500 employees (130 of whom work in Talbot County) since it was founded decades ago by a small group of local doctors, it has always been modest in showcasing its innovative work in developing best practices for health organizations and sophisticated  integrity systems to safeguard against fraud in medical billing.

More importantly, particularly to Dr. Burgoyne, the “profit” of these enterprises goes right back into the community every year in the way of charitable grants. In fact, since 2006 QHF has awarded grants totaling more than $4.5 million to 66 organizations in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The Spy spent some time with Dr. Burgoyne, who is best known locally as a highly regarded rheumatologist in the region, to talk her work with the Quality Health Foundation and its remarkable impact in reaching the neediest in our community with medical coverage and care.

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

Mid-Shore Art: Howard and Mary McCoy in the Woods Again

The forest is an unending source of inspiration for environmental artists Howard and Mary McCoy. On view in the woods at Adkins Arboretum through Sept. 30, their show of site-specific sculptures is called Suggestions because each of its ten works was directly suggested by what they found there. They will lead a sculpture walk during the show’s reception on Sat., June 24 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Since these two Centreville artists first began creating outdoor sculpture at the Arboretum in 1999, their work has become more and more directly inspired by the trees and vines along its shady paths.

“This is our tenth biennial show,” said Mary McCoy. “Over the years, certain places in the forest have become so familiar, they’re like old friends. We want to draw attention to them and help other people to get to know them, too.”

When the artists were walking through the forest this spring planning their show, they stopped at a favorite pine tree unusual for its three trunks. Howard McCoy began to think of “Accumulation,” a sculpture from their 2015 show, in which the artists had suspended a massive pile of branches in the lower branches of a tall pine tree.

“So we created a kind of inversion of that,” he said. “Instead of the branches being tucked around the tree, we inserted branches between the trunks of this triple-trunk pine.”

Although the McCoys rarely use any materials other than the natural ones they find in the forest, two of the show’s works include words either printed on cloth or written directly on a fallen tree.

Mary is both an artist and a writer who has published reviews and articles on art since the 1980s. During a quiet walk alone in the forest, she listened to what the trees might have to tell her. Two short poems came from this visit. One of them, “History of a Tree,” is just four words long: “Earth, Sun, Rain, Wind.”

“I was thinking about what caused this tree to be lying here in the forest,” she explained, “how it grew up from a seed in the ground, matured and finally was blown down.”

The two artists had also wanted to make sculpture with some grapevines swooping high into the trees along a path to the Arboretum’s Nancy’s Meadow. Directly across the path was another site that interested them, a sweetgum tree that vines had pulled down low to the ground in a graceful arch.

“‘Linear Elements (Free Form)’ was suggested by swooping vines that were already there,” Mary said. “We added more long, curving vines. And that sweetgum arch was just begging to be sculpture, so for ‘Linear Elements (Structured),’ we decided to point it out with a row of straight sections of vine that suggest not only architectural elements but also the straight, vertical tree trunks in the forest.”

“It’s interesting how when we’re working in the woods, we’re always using basic art principles,” Howard commented. “All the formal things from drawing class, like balance, composition, texture, movement, all the things we learned in class that now we’re applying out there in the woods.”

“How fortunate we are to get to explore ideas out there,” he added. “We’ve had full support from the Arboretum’s directors over the years, and some of the other programs, certainly the children’s program and the journaling class, have used what we’ve done out there as inspiration. The forest communicates with us through suggestion. All we have to do is pay attention.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through Sept. 30 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410–634–2847, ext. 0 or info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

This video is approximately three minutes in length

At the Still Point by George Merrill

From my studio window I enjoy a limited view of Broad Creek. Locals call it Saddler’s Cove. It’s a preferred landing site for birds – ducks and geese occasionally, but mostly herons. The shallow water in the cove provides them easy access to minnows and an occasional water snake. Of course, the cove is also home to aquatic creatures like fish, crabs and oysters. At first glance you think it’s a still and sleepy place, vintage tidewater ambience. However, there are times when nature gets busier than traffic does on Rt. 50 on a summer weekend. It’s a still spot, but at the same time there can be all kinds of goings on.

My mobility of late has been temporarily limited due to an injured knee. Now I spend more time in the studio just sitting and gazing out the window. The studio has become the center of my world, the still point of my universe. Too bad it takes a bum knee to settle down and be still long enough to be aware of what’s going on around me.

Looking out the window one day, not focused on anything in particular, my view was dimmed by a large shadow cast by something flying high above. At first I saw only the shadow. Then a Great Blue Heron came into full view. He was circling and preparing to land in the cove. He made a lazy pass over the site as if he were waiting for clearance from flight control. Getting the go ahead, he began his final approach. Near touchdown he arched backward, throwing his legs forward the way a broad jumper does before he hits the dirt. The heron landed effortlessly in about two inches of water.

I watched the Heron with awe. Just before touchdown, the Heron flapped his wings strategically, allowing him to substantially break the velocity of his descent. He practically parachuted to earth, legs bent forward to absorb any shock he might make upon contact.

I winced when I thought of my own knees bending backwards like that. One knee of mine feels as though it had.

What with physical therapy, two visits to an orthopedist and finally owning that I had done a number on my knee, I’ve become conscious of life’s appetite for movement in general, and my own mobility in particular.

Life is always on the move. All God’s creatures want to get up and go. They like to fly, soar, jump, swing, roll, dig, flip, or dive for the sheer joy of it. Some divide themselves into halves like amoebas or regrow a lost limb like starfish, but I suspect that’s out of functional necessity. They’re not doing it just for fun.

Recently I saw a little girl busy at the end of dock – checking crab traps I guess. When she completed her task, she began skipping along the dock and back to the land. I was mesmerized watching her. Her movements seemed inspired, a moment of pure abandon and playful lightheartedness that seizes all of us at one time or another. We just can’t resist it. Jumping for joy is a popular way of putting it. I could not remember for the life of me how I once skipped. I remember the joy I felt, though.

Amusement parks capitalize on the thrill that various forms of mobility can excite. As a boy, I remember riding the parachute jump at Coney Island.

Standing on the boardwalk, my view of the world was narrowly circumscribed by a limited horizon, the usual view for anyone who is earthbound. The world grows larger on the parachute jump.
Secured safely we began the ascent. Gradually my world opened up and I gained a bird’s eye view of New York City, Long Island, Staten Island and parts of New Jersey. The ascension is titillating, but the high point of the adventure is when we drop.

I’m secured in a canvas seat with another boy. Suddenly I feel as if it’s falling out from under us – I scream – everyone screams – some for terror, some in delight, most screaming for both. We plummet downward, delivered at the last minute by the restraining jolt of the tether attached to the tower’s crown.

Movement is the essence of cosmic energy. What about creatures that have no means for their own locomotion? Nature lands a helping hand. Consider the milkweed seed. It takes nothing more than a breath of fresh air to set these diaphanous threads aloft and soaring. Milkweed seeds need do nothing except to lie back and enjoy the friendly skies until the threads are flown to their final destination. Safely delivered with their tiny package intact, like the legendary stork, they bring to wherever they light a brand new life.

Years ago in Manhattan I entered the subway to catch the train uptown. I boarded and got seated. Across the platform, I saw another train. It, too, was stopped waiting for passengers going downtown.

In a few minutes, looking out the window I felt distinctly we were moving. But, I was unsure. Was my train moving or the other? I was disoriented. Just who was on the move. Entering a tunnel I could see then that my train was moving. I recognized the motion as mine only when I had reference to a still point.

We live in both a material and spiritual world. In the material world, motion and busyness easily become addictive. We’re on the move all the time, hurrying here and there, and fidgeting with this and that. But until we gain some access to the still point deep within us around which everything spins, it can be for us like it was for me that day in the subway, when I couldn’t be sure at all just who was moving and who was at rest.

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.

Food Friday: Summer Slaws

After the cool and rainy days earlier this week, you will be happy to know that summer is indeed upon us. It is supposed to be pretty warm this weekend, so we should start relying on the fridge to provide some of our meals. It is my favorite time of the year when I get to walk away from the stove. It’s strictly counter time for me – I will endlessly and cheerfully slice and dice fruits and veg. Except for Sunday biscuits and bacon, I am range-free. It is time to let Mr. Friday take over the cooking tasks – out on the grill and out on the back porch. But more about grilling when we tackle Father’s Day grilling in next week’s column. Today we explore the summer slaw.

My mother was not an enthusiastic or adventurous cook. Everything she cooked was simple, by-the-book, and bland. Things livened up a bit when she started to watch Julia Child on PBS. We were reluctant test subjects for her Boeuf Bourguignon, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA2ys8C-lNk, French Onion Soup https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw0Ij1Fxgq4, and Mousse au Chocolat. http://juliachildsrecipes.com/desert/julia-child-chocolate-mouse-recipe/. Instead of being grateful, we were childish wretches and secretly yearned for the old days, of beef stew, Campbell’s tomato soup and My-T-Fine chocolate pudding.

Not used to having fancy French meals, instead we cut out teeth on boring, dull and reliable middle-of-the-road, middle-American, mid-century meals. Everything we ate was unadventurous, devoid of spices, nothing ethnic except pizza, which was always bought at one Italian restaurant in town, until my brother was in high school, and started experimenting with homemade pizza. The Age of Aquarius introduced us to oregano and red pepper flakes, with a soupçon of olive oil.

In the summer, since the kitchen would get blazing hot with the gas stove chugging away, we ate cool, simple meals prepared in the kitchen, or scorched chicken and hamburgers reduced to hockey pucks as incinerated by my father out on the hibachi grill. Lots of tuna salad. Macaroni salads. Bowls of iced radishes. Corn on the cob. Child-churned vanilla ice cream. Cole slaw. The coleslaw that was prepared as the antidote to chargrilled meats was the same slaw we would have with pork roasts in the winter. The acidic cabbage was the perfect accompaniment to the heavy meats.

My mother’s coleslaw was made of four ingredients: shredded cabbage, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Heinz apple cider vinegar, and McCormick’s celery seed. And note the required branding – no Miracle Whip or Duke’s Mayonnaise in her kitchen! She did not taint her mixture with frou-frou shredded carrots, mustard, sour cream or cumin. I have my doubts that our little corner market carried such exotic ingredients, but I do wonder why Mom never tried Julia Child’s Coleslaw: http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/280/JuliaChildsColeslaw62651.shtml

The other much dog-eared cookbook in my mother’s kitchen arsenal was Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking, originally self-published in 1931. Obviously, my mother never ventured into the coleslaw section of the book, which calls for homemade mayonnaise.

Slaw can be any manner of sliced or shredded vegetables. Coleslaw adds the mayonnaise. https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/176167/whats-the-difference-between-coleslaw-and-slaw/

And imagine what my mother would say about our friends at Food52 and their take on summer slaw: No-Mayo Coleslaw: No-Mayo Coleslaw: No-Mayo Coleslaw: https://food52.com/blog/19756-the-no-mayo-coleslaw-recipe-coming-soon-to-all-your-picnics-and-barbecues Heresay!

Even the folks at Bon Appétit have a gussied up coleslaw recipe. Two kinds of cabbage? This is an affront to my mother’s no-nonsense New England approach to life in general, and in the kitchen more specifically: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/classic-coleslaw

The Splendid Table team could make slaw from the contents of a sock drawer, so it is no wonder that they have four slaw recipes that are exotic and definitely not made with Hellmann’s: https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/our-four-favorite-slaws

Alice Waters has a recipe that will be very tasty when you pull that three-pound cabbage out of your garden this weekend. Or perhaps you should stop by one of the many fine local farm stands and bring one home. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/5976-alice-waterss-coleslaw

Enjoy the beginning of summer, and walking away from your stove. And maybe you should just try to remember how your mother made coleslaw. It will be delicious next to the hockey puck of a burger that comes off the back yard grill this weekend.

“My greatest strength is common sense. I’m really a standard brand – like Campbell’s tomato soup or Baker’s chocolate.”
– Katharine Hepburn