Out and About (Sort Of): Military Missteps By Howard Freedlander

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 6.30.54 AM

After reading recently in The Baltimore Sun about the demobilization of a Maryland Army National Guard unit in Annapolis and its reorganization as part of a sophisticated military intelligence battalion, actions carried out in light of deep personnel cuts in the active-duty Army and smaller ones in the National Guard, I question the detrimental effect of congressionally mandated budget reductions.

The article mentioned that the Regular Army will decrease its size from 570,000 troops during the peak of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, to 450,000 by 2018. The Army National Guard will go down from 350,000 soldiers to 335,000 by the end of 2017.

The Armed Services seemingly have no choice but to cut its personnel numbers. What’s bothersome to me is the consequent loss of exceptional middle-management service members, those who now are captains and majors and non-commissioned officers. What inevitably will happen is our nation will find itself embroiled in other conflicts and find that its leadership ranks are sadly diminished.

What is the cost of loss of talent? What is the cost of budget-driven decisions?

Most citizens simply may not care. Some might think the money might be better spent on other governmental priorities. And I understand that. I just wonder what’s more important than our national security, except our economic security.

This downsizing occurs far too often when U.S. participation in foreign conflict comes to a temporary hiatus, when we fail to understand history and the periodic and sometimes urgent need to strengthen our military forces—with our backs against the wall.

Far too often, those who can and should lead our military forces are no longer in uniform. Their professionalism and experience are lost due to senseless budget cuts.

Another thing troubles me: while the Pentagon dispenses with people, it builds up its weaponry and technology. It decides amid budget crunches to invest its money in glamorous weapons systems and high-tech devices. Retention of people becomes secondary to the procurement of gee-whiz equipment.

Our federal government has spent millions and millions of dollars recruiting and training the dedicated, skillful men and women who fight our wars. But that doesn’t seem to matter. In response to ill-advised budget cuts by Congress, the Pentagon then decides it’s more important to focus on jazzy equipment, instead of competent people.

That’s how I see it. It shakes my fragile faith in our decision-makers.

The competition between the procurement of enticing weapons systems and high-tech equipment and retention of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and Coast Guard members is an age-old conflict, at least in modern times. People often seem to come in second place, unfortunately.

While bemoaning the state of the military, I belatedly must commend the Maryland National Guard on its superior performance during the Baltimore riots at the end of April. Service during domestic disturbances is exceedingly difficult and sensitive, requiring citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen to confront their neighbors, preferably in a deliberate, controlled manner.

Additional confrontation in the street of Baltimore is still a real and unpleasant possibility, dependent on a court decision related to the five police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray–or another act of alleged police brutality. The Maryland National Guard must remain ready to respond again amid frightening chaos and rampant lawlessness.

Hopefully, should riots recur in Baltimore, the Baltimore City Police Department will be better prepared, better trained and better-equipped. The National Guard is an adjunct, not a primary law enforcement force.

While federal budget cuts and Pentagon reductions may seem distant to us, they evidence themselves in our hometown units, some of which find themselves with new missions. They also may be smaller in personnel numbers. They also may be gone.

The impact of actions in Washington often is felt in towns and cities throughout the nation.

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.

The Talbot Boys Conversation: Statue Part of County History by Dirck Bartlett

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 6.40.16 AM

I read the recent letter to the editor and the recent editorial of The Sunday Star) and wanted to share my thoughts regarding the Talbot Boys statue.

The readers may recall that the Frederick Douglass statue, as originally proposed, included a larger statue as well as a large paved area with sign boards and other educational text describing the life of Frederick Douglass.

At the time, I was president of the Talbot County Council and I recall that we had a consensus to build a statue honoring Frederick Douglass.

The basic problem was that the monument, as proposed at the time, was too large and the proposed impervious paving that would have potentially damaged the adjacent Wye Oak tree. In addition, the scale of the proposed statue and other educational placards was simply too large for the courthouse grounds.

The Frederick Douglass Honor Society was formed to lead the project and to assist the county council in honoring Frederick Douglass.

Our solution back then was to allow for a new statue that would approximate the size and scale of the existing statue located on the opposite lawn area of the new Frederick Douglass statue. Our design consultant, and the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, recommended that it be scaled to the size of the other existing monuments.

In addition, we were renovating the Talbot County Free Library and we thought that a room dedicated to Frederick Douglass would certainly be appropriate and would give visitors to the area a place to go and study about or learn more about the life of Frederick Douglass. The library is directly across the street from the courthouse, so it was certainly an appropriate place for anyone who visited the statue.

We decided to dedicate the old Maryland Room as the space that would offer reference materials, etc., for anyone interested in learning about Frederick Douglass.

After all, one of his most important contributions was his message regarding the importance of education and learning to set one free. This room was subsequently dedicated the Frederick Douglass Reading Room and exists to provide visitors and scholars with valuable reading materials and other resources describing the life of Frederick Douglass.

Turning our attention to the Talbot Boys, I realize that the statue may offend some. The history of this area, however, included families split between the North and the South. Like it or not, it is part of our history here in Talbot County.

The statue of Frederick Douglass was a triumph for many people who thought that Talbot County should honor its most famous son. The Frederick Douglass statue stands in proud contrast to the Talbot Boys statue, and we cannot deny our history nor change what happened.

When I traveled to East Germany in college, I visited one of the Nazi Concentration Camps. I was sickened by what I saw and yet I am glad that these camps were preserved so that we would know what happened in World War II, lest we forget the history of what happened. Likewise, here in Talbot County, our past tells a story.

In summation, I suppose we could follow the trend of political correctness and remove the Talbot Boys statue. The editorial board has expressed its obvious opinion to remove the Talbot Boys statue.
I would hope, however, that we would pause to consider the contrast it represents. The victory of the life of Frederick Douglass cannot be viewed in proper context without the contrasting fight to end slavery and the victory of a great education.

The Talbot Boys statue reminds us that the Civil War tore families apart and young men went to war and died fighting against, in some cases, members of their own family. If it were removed from the courthouse grounds, the observer might never understand that our county faced an internal struggle of its own during the Civil War.

This struggle can likewise be viewed at St. Stephens Church in the village of Unionville, where African-American soldiers are buried, who fought for the Union and who returned to Talbot after the war.

There are so many stories to tell, some happy and some sad.

These monuments are made to remind us of our historical past, and we should not be so arrogant to think that we can correct the mistakes of history by removing the monuments of the past.

Dirck Bartlett is serving in his third term as a member of the Talbot County Council. This has been reprinted with Mr. Bartlett’s permission from the Star-Democrat from July 1.

Fashion is Our Folly by George Merrill

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 7.02.12 AM

When my granddaughters were very young, they liked “dressing up’ when visiting us. They would put on their grandmother’s old dresses, hats and jewelry, and pretend they were princesses, or just grown ups. It was pretend time and great fun for them . . . and us. Fashion is fun. Fashion can also be folly.

Speaking of dressing up, some years ago I noticed several horses in a field. They wore coats. I knew that horses are shod and wear shoes, but not that they wore coats. There are good reasons for horses wearing shoes– they’re almost always on their feet. I hope the coats were for warmth and not some fashion statement.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 7.02.19 AMI think dressing animals up for showpieces is insulting to the animal species, as though we were saying that somehow nature failed to do her job. In New York City I’ve seen fur bearing society type ladies walking groomed poodles that wore bright plaid waistcoats and bow ties. Considering what the occasion was that brought them out there to the curb, I thought both were decidedly overdressed.

I often found the circus disturbing for that reason. I’d see monkeys wearing dresses and carrying handbags, while others were dressed to the nines in tuxedos. Keepers would place on their heads of the majestic elephants silly little party hats that looked like dixie cups. I thought it was frankly demeaning. I don’t ever recall seeing lions or the tigers dressed up like that, or snakes either; it was enough that the trainers could safely coerce lions or tigers to jump through hoops on command, and coax great poisonous snakes to slither around its keeper’s body: those trainers were wise to leave well enough alone and not try dressing up their show pieces.

By nature animals aren’t clotheshorses. Somehow, they escaped some of the consequences of the fall, and feel no shame in conducting their daily lives in the altogether. For all occasions in the critter kingdom, one suit fits all.

We have trouble accepting animals the way they are.

I went to a dentist, once, who had a family practice. To make office visits as agreeable as possible for children, his office walls were covered with a cheerful print wallpaper, picturing all kinds of jungle animals, all of which were smiling: not a single one had teeth. That animals are more lovable without teeth is an odd message for a dentist to send. The wallpaper tried to reassure children of the friendliness of animals, but by making them into something they weren’t.

Yet most of us began visualizing animals from illustrations in children’s books, books like Winnie the Pooh and the Wind and the Willows. I recall them fondly. In those books, Ernest A. Shepherd, illustrated particular animals dressed up like humans but not others; just why one and not another isn’t clear. In the Wind and the Willows, only Otter, Old Grey Horse and the Field Mice are depicted au natural. Others, like Mole, Rat, Badger are dressed for their adventures, often nattily, like Mr. Toad, the bon vivant who’s always dressed to kill in flashy sport jackets, cravats, coats, hats and gloves and on one occasion even stands in front of a public house smoking a cigar.

Some 18 years after the Wind and the Willows, The Pooh Story Book appeared. Of its cast of animal and bird characters, now only two were clothed, Pooh and Piglet; the rest like Tigger, Roo, Owl, Kanga and Rabbit appear unclad. It was as though time had loosened the social constraints of the dress code. Come as you are was beginning to come of age.

Today, dressing down is definitely the fashion. You see evidence of it everywhere. People now travel in public wearing wrinkled sweat suits, attend weddings in jeans and tank tops– not unlike the top Pooh wears– appear in church wearing shorts and tee shirts, and eat in restaurants with their caps on. On beaches, many bathers wear, if anything, little more than Tigger or Roo. And Tigger and Roo wouldn’t care a hoot about tan lines. Unlike real animals who don’t fuss about what to wear for that day, dressing down for us humans, however casual or relaxed it’s meant to look, is in fact very calculated, a deliberate way of making one’s statement. Jeans are bought brand new, faded, and full of holes, on purpose! Shirts are bought brand new designed to look wrinkled. Animals are exhibitionistic but only while mating: humans show off all the time whether in heat or not.

All this preoccupation with dress may be atavistic: a primal reaction to the fact that unlike most animals, when we are hatched, we enter the world with neither the hide nor the hair to protect us from wind and weather. We spend our lives changing, putting it on and taking it off but not, as animals do, naturally shed their fur or hair during hot weather and thicken it during cold weather. I see men wearing shorts and tee shirts in January and knitted woolen hats in August.

Our dress habits are not about staying cool or warm. We dress for fashion and that’s folly. I believe that all fashion’s pretenses result directly from the fact that few of us are able to be comfortable in our own skin. We’re not really putting on clothes; we’re putting on airs.

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.

The Talbot Boys Conversation: Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson


It seemed inevitable that once Nikki Haley, the very conservative, very Republican, and very dynamic South Carolina governor, announced last June that the Confederate flag should be removed from the statehouse grounds, every other state and town which had any connection to the Civil War would be looking very carefully on how those governments, directly or indirectly, have honored their own Confederate veterans in the tragic war between the states.

This certainly is the case with Talbot County. Over the last few weeks, in letters to the editor, at civic meetings, cocktail parties, and in the coffee houses of Easton and St. Michaels, the community is indeed having a real conversation about the future of the “Talbot Boys,” the memorial which honors the fallen local men who had fought for the South’s secession to preserve slavery, which is located on the front lawn of the historic Talbot County Courthouse.

In preparation of the first public meeting, now scheduled for next Wednesday at 4pm, with the Talbot County Council and local representatives of the NAACP discussing the status of the memorial, and to support what promises to be an important community conversation about race, history, and how we honor the courageous, the Spy starts our own series on the Talbot Boys.

The Spy starts this new project with Anglican Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of The Chesapeake. A local leader in race relations since he arrived on the Eastern Shore twenty-five years ago, Bishop Johnson also currently chairs the Talbot Association of Clergy. Through these special experiences, he shares his perspective on the future of the Talbot Boys.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length

Spy Tip: The Accidentals in the Stoltz Room

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.21.42 PM

Labeled by Billboard as a ‘breakout act’ at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, multi-instrumentalists Katie Larson and Savannah Buist and drummer Michael Daust are creating quite a name for themselves among music lovers of all genres.

The Accidentals have released two albums, scored a pair of indie movies and are at work on record number three with the great songwriter Marshall Crenshaw.

Jonathan Frahm of YAHOO Voices says they are ‘one of the most ground-breaking musical experiences one might just have in a lifetime. If you’re looking for a new indie folk band to get into, you couldn’t do much better than The Accidentals.’

Find out what the buzz around this exciting trio is all about when they come to the Stoltz as part of their national tour.

The Accidentals
Friday, July 24, 2015
Doors: 7:30 p.m.; Show: 8 p.m.
Stoltz Listening Room  $20
Go here for tickets

Profiles in Recovery: The Mid-Shore Adds Opioid Treatment Center


Heroin is cheap, available and often mixed with other dangerous drugs.

The result has been catastrophic nationwide for an ever-rising wave of opioid addiction and death by overdose.

In 2014 alone, 37 Marylanders died from heroin laced with the synthetic opiate fentanyl, according Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Eastern Shore has fared no better.

According to the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council for Talbot County, Talbot ranks fifth in the state for 12th     graders who have used heroin one or more times in their lives (8.5%).  Over 22% of students have used prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet.

Death by heroin overdose continues to rise yearly and has caught the attention of Maryland’s Governor enough to create a Heroin and Opioid Task Force and dedicate $2 million to the task.

Enter Dr. David Hill.

Hill, a Talbot county resident and businessman—he developed William Hill Manor and was Chairman of Easton Bank and Trust—wants to address the opioid addiction problem head-on and will soon open the doors to Chesapeake Treatment Services, an opioid addiction treatment program that includes maintenance dispensing of short and long-term methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone), hand in hand with individual and group counseling, support, treatment planning and other rehabilitation services.

Although methadone is not without its detractors—those who believe that abstinence if the only path to recovery—it is becoming more apparent that detractors are on the wrong side of research.

Just today, in the New York Times, Maia Szalavitz writes “in the scientific literature, however, there’s no question that maintenance works. Every expert group that has ever studied it — from the Centers for Disease Control to the Institute on Medicine and the World Health Organization — has determined that, for opioids, ongoing maintenance is superior to abstinence. That’s because maintenance is the only treatment known to reduce drug-related mortality, which it cuts by more than 70 percent.”

In this video Dr. Hill and Melissa Bishop, Chesapeake Treatment Services board member and consultant, talk about creating an optimum opioid treatment center and what it means for the Mid-Shore.

Out and About (Sort Of): Another Hughes on the Shore By Howard Freedlander

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 6.50.27 AM

Thinking back nearly 40 years, I found myself unearthing a memory about a guy named Hughes. No relation to our own Harry Hughes, a Denton native who served two terms as governor of Maryland.

This fellow, Harold Hughes, was a politician who conquered alcoholism to become a three-term governor and one-term senator from Iowa and then gave it all up to become a lay worker and establish a religious retreat at Cedar Point, outside Easton.

I interviewed him as a Star Democrat reporter. In his autobiography, “The Man from Ida Grove: A Senator’s Personal Story (1979), he wrote about finding God and giving up drinking just as he prepared to commit suicide by gunshot. His epiphany came as this heavy-drinking and decorated World War II veteran was about to blow his brains out. His resurrection came, as it so often does, when his despair nearly overcame his desire to live.

It’s not often that a reporter meets a person who faced his demons and then candidly and courageously disclosed his attempted suicide. I may be going out on the limb a bit when I opine that admissions such as Harold Hughes’ were not as common 40 years ago as they are now. I don’t believe that “tell all” books were as common then as they are now.

As I’ve learned over the years living in Talbot County, our community draws many exceptional people, highly accomplished in the worlds of business, law, politics and civic engagement. Every once in awhile, you hear the stories and realize the lives lived by these folks shatters your small-world perspective.

Though his stay in the county was a short one, four decades ago, Harold Hughes ranks as one of the truly extraordinary people who spent some time on our part of the Eastern Shore.

What I learned primarily from the interview was that alcoholism is a disease, a chemical dependency difficult to combat. Up to that interview, I thought that alcoholism was a personal weakness; beating it simply called for self-discipline and an aversion to self-destruction. Harold Hughes patiently disabused me of that misconception. Though my memory is a bit vague, the view of alcoholism as a disease instead of a personal flaw has taken time to establish itself.

I learned something else from the interview and Sen. Hughes’ autobiography. With luck and perseverance, you can gain a second or even a third chance to turn your life around. His spiritual rebirth provided him the strength to become a trucking executive, a Democratic political leader in Iowa and a U.S. Senator once even considered for the Presidential nomination in 1972.

As a U.S. senator from 1969 to 1974, he led the effort to enact the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act of 1970, which established the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Originally a strong supporter of the Vietnam War, Hughes became an outspoken opponent, creating a rift with President Lyndon Johnson. The estrangement solidified when Hughes gave the nomination speech for Eugene McCarthy at the 1968 Democratic Party National Committee.

When his term ended, he became a lay worker for two religious foundations based in Washington, DC and established a religious retreat in Maryland. That’s where I met him. He returned to Iowa in 1981, opening the Harold Hughes Center for the treatment of alcoholism in a Des Moines suburb. He died at age 74 in 1996.

I suspect that, except for political junkies from the 1960s and 1970s, few have heard of Harold Hughes, whose political roots were in Iowa, not Maryland. His journey from near suicide to political leadership in Washington, followed by his spiritual activities after resigning from the U.S. Senate, bespeaks a man of incredible courage and character.

Harold Hughes offered me not only a good story but a primer on alcoholism.

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. 

A Peek at Wye Woods: The Architecture of Edward Larrabee Barnes


If the average Eastern Shore resident has only one memory of the Wye Woods Conference Center these days, and that’s a big “if,” it would be October of 1998 when Bill Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Yasser Arafat spent four days there to produce the “Wye River Memorandum” on West Bank and the Gaza Strip settlement issues. While that international moment was a remarkable high point for its current owner, the Aspen Institute, it was not the first time Wye Woods has made history.

In fact, since 1965, when Arthur Houghton, chairman of the Wye Institute, commissioned Edward Larrabee Barnes to design Wye Woods, the conference center has not only hosted presidents and foreign heads of state, but Supreme Court justices, congressmen, countless numbers of CEOs. as well as Nobel prize-winning writers, philosophers, poets, and public policy experts of all kinds.

But it was also a base camp for university and college faculty, public school teachers, and nonprofit organizations for intellectual and strategic planning retreats during its almost fifty year run as one of the East Coast’s most important meeting venues.

Architects Peter Newlin and Jeff Halprin review Edward Larrabee Barnes blueprints for Wye Woods Education Center

Architects Peter Newlin and Jeff Halpern review Edward Larrabee Barnes’ 50 year old blueprints

But perhaps the lesser known of these remarkable moments was in its first role, which was the first fully integrated camp for the Eastern Shore’s most gifted and talented young people which opened in 1966. As Houghton envisioned it, the camp allowed boys, (later to be co-ed) aged 13 to 15, to be on an “voyage of discovery… accompanied by enthusiastic, articulate, experienced guides who themselves have made the journey.”

The results of that work can still be seen in some of the Eastern Shore’s most distinguished alumni, including well-known local leaders as Scott Beatty, CEO of Shore Bancshares, John R. Valliant with the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Barry Griffith at Lane Engineering, as well as Dr. Ludwig Eglseder and his brother, Easton attorney Matt Eglseder. The list is extensive.

But the goals of the camp can also be found in the buildings themselves. Edward Larrabee Barnes’ campus gets well deserved credit for brilliantly encapsulating Houghton’s efforts to start integrating the Shore with the leaders of the future, not only racially but intellectually.

Barnes’ architectural handy work is a remarkable example of a postmodern return to nature, to natural materials. Its brilliance found in the gentle minimalism which forced human convergence and collaboration while at the same time opened visitors eyes to the role of nature and habitat.

With the help of local architects Jeff Halpern (Halpern Architects), and Peter Newlin (Chesapeake Architects), The Spy looks closely at Barnes’ attempt to build a rural village on 86 acres overlooking the Wye River.  They highlight the architect’s masterful manipulation of space that represented a transformational moment in American design history, similar to those found in Charles Moore’s Sea Ranch in California or with Barnes’ own breakout design at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine in the 1950s, but our commentators cannot hide their shock and delight in finding such a rare example in the deep woods of Queen Anne’s County.

And that discovery may indeed be a very temporary one.  The Aspen Institute, suffering like many other conference centers after the great recession, has Wye Woods on the market. While a new buyer can not build beyond the current footprint of the campus, they do however have the right to modify, or even tear down, the existing buildings.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length.  A full version of the interview can be viewed here.

Correction of July 21, 2015:  In the original story, the Barnes campus was incorrectly cited as being on the National Register of Historic Places. This was not an accurate statement and has been removed. 

Canticles of the Eastern Shore by George Merrill


It’s shortly before sunrise and I am sitting in my studio, watching as first light slowly reveals the contours of the landscape around my island haven here on the Shore. I’m thinking about Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudate si, “Praise be to you.” He calls upon the privileged nations to care for and heal our “common home.” He is blunt. “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow man.” He insists that ecological plunder is related to oppressing the poor. Third world nations are the first to suffer the impact of climate change and global warning. Ecological justice is our moral obligation.

Our planet is exquisitely beautiful, terribly fragile, and regularly mistreated.

The sun rises and I see deer roaming our yard. Little habitat is left for them now and even less food. Rabbits nibble grass, their noses to the ground. Squirrels leap erratically from limb to limb. A groundhog emerges cautiously from under our shed with his head raised. His nose twitches as if he can smell the light.

It’s low tide. A heron stands stone still in the shallows. She is lovely. Her throaty cry always alarms me. Could her cry be voicing the pain of the earth? The earth is very much in pain. The earth is drowning in toxic wastes and consumerist effluence.

About eight hundred years ago, the present Pope’s namesake, Francis of Assisi, was another prophetic voice long before anyone understood earth’s ecological interconnectedness. In his poem, Canticles of the Sun, he speaks of the earth and its creatures as though they’re his personal kin. He speaks of “Brother sun, sister moon, and brother wind.” St. Francis grasped the fundamental relationship between oppressing the poor and misusing the earth. “We are all creatures of one family.”

It was not until the sixties that I had any awareness of ecological processes. I summered then on the north fork of Long Island. It was mostly farmland. Yellow barrels from the Shell Oil Company filled with pesticides, specifically DDT, sat in the fields. Fields were sprayed regularly with their contents. I gave it no thought. Farmers didn’t either. It was only when one day I ran the tap and soap suds came out of the faucet that I began sensing the weight of our human footprint on the earth. Our detergents didn’t just go away. They’d begun infiltrating the water table. I wondered if pesticides, too, didn’t do the same.

The planet, according to the Gaia theory, is a self-regulating living organism. It manages ocean salinity, atmospheric oxygen and temperatures such that they remain within the narrow tolerances that sustain life, a miracle in itself. The earth, like the cells and organs of our bodies intentionally coordinate their activities toward one end – to sustain life of the whole. Modern industrial practices also act toward one end – to ensure profits for the company. If life gets in the way, well, it’s just collateral damage. In that regard, industries behave more like cancer cells. They don’t heed that they’re destroying the body that feeds them.

The Pope’s encyclical, a bold statement and a well-established scientific truth, is being marginalized. Surprisingly, many catholic clergy did not deliver the Pope’s message from their pulpits. Also, catholic presidential hopefuls are uncomfortable with “Laudate si” and remain evasive: “religion ought to be about making us better people,” says Jeb Bush. Marco Rubio doesn’t believe that human activity “ . . . is causing these dramatic changes to our environment the way these scientists are saying.” Rick Santorum thinks we’re better off “ . . . leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at . . . theology and morality.” The lone affirming Roman Catholic voice among presidential hopefuls is Martin O’Malley. He believes, as the Pope does, that addressing environmental abuses “is our moral obligation.”

We don’t stone our prophets any more. We blow them off, or discredit them like Allied Chemical did to Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring.

I look out my window again.

I see a host of mergansers paddling along the creek like a tiny flotilla. Males stretch their necks high, rock backwards, and flap their wings demonstratively, slapping the water – the sound like drum rolls. The ducks dart directly at each other on a collision course, veering to one side just shy of impact. The females watch their suitors’ antics. I think they’re flirting. Then some, as if weary of the game, dive under. Next they all develop a diving frenzy. First they strut, patter about on the surface, feint to one side and the other, and then dive. And, as if there were more joy inside them than their tiny bodies are able to contain, the ducks reverence their Creator in as stunning a rite as any celebrated in the most inspiring liturgies of the world; they dive, strut, stretch, fuss, and finally rise again, ascending and disappearing somewhere ‘twixt the marsh and the skies.’

What can I say? I say, “Laudate si.”

Spy Reconnaissance: The Legacy of Louisa Carpenter & Easter Seals on the Mid-Shore


The legacy of Louisa Carpenter, a heir to the vast du Pont family fortune, on the Eastern Shore is an extraordinary rich one, filled with unisex couture, thoroughbred horses, fox hunting, and an active social life with the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Louise Brooks, Noël Coward, and Greta Garbo, but her most lasting impact on the Delmarva can be found a few miles west of Chestertown in the small hamlet of Fairlee.

It was there the Mrs. Carpenter restored Fairlee Manor, originally built in 1825. Sadly, her life was cut short when her private jet crashed on approach at the Easton Airport in early February of 1976. Before her death, she had deeded the property to Easter Seals in 1953 to be used as a summer camp for children and adults with disabilities.

Since that time, the numbers of those served at Easter Seals Camp Fairlee now reach into the hundreds each year, but at the same time, the camp and Eastern Seals has been a somewhat hidden treasure. While many are familiar with the name of Easter Seals, its mission of helping individuals with disabilities is not as recognized to the general public. Gone are the days when Easter Seals could raise support from the sale of “seals” to be placed on postcards and letters, but the need for support has never been greater.

Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland‘s Eastern Shore’s President/CEO Ken Sklenar wants to change that lack of public awareness. With over 5,500 individuals directly served each year, as well as support services reaching over 25,000 family members in the region, Easter Seals remains a vibrant, extremely important part of the region’s efforts to help those impacted by a range of disabilities, including those who have autism, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, blindness, deafness, visual and hearing impairments, and a host of other conditions that affect an individual’s quality of life at work and play.

Along with Easter Seals Fairlee Camp Director Sallie Price, Ken talks about the impact of Easter Seals summer programs, the organization’s challenges and future plans to continue to serve the Eastern Shore community of families with special needs children and adults.

This video is approximately six minutes in length