Senior Nation: Preparing for Memory Loss and Dementia with Integrace’s Dr. Tabassum Majid

The data speaks for itself. One in three Americans who are 65 years or older are facing some form of significant memory loss or dementia. This factoid is a sobering forecast for many seniors, but it also is a important reminder that it is better to be prepared for this inevitability rather than ignore it.

That is what Dr. Tabassum Majid is trying to make clear with her work as the Executive Director of Integrace Institute when she visits the Integrace Bayleigh Chase campus in Easton. After leaving the world of academia with a degree in biology and molecular medicine, which emphasized the translation of diagnostic indicators to the bedsides of older patients and their families, Dr. Majid is now using those skills to test and implement innovative, person-centered studies to enhance meaningful living for older individuals and families who face hard choices after the diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimers.

As part of her mission, Tabassum is starting a free educational series for family caregivers in Maryland, including  those on the Mid-Shore, to present evidence-based, practical information to help those caregivers understand the latest findings in dementia research, and the newest advancements in care to better navigate their loved one’s journey.

The Spy had the opportunity to talk about much of this a few weeks ago at Bayleigh Chase after her latest workshop to talk about the unique needs of families and professionals alike who are eager to maintain a high quality of life for loved ones and patients.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Integrace Institute or the Integrace Bayleigh Chase please go here.

Chesapeake Film Festival’s Reel Gems: Five Questions for “Swimmers” Director Doug Sadler

Editor’s Note: When the Spy heard news that the Chesapeake Film Festival’s spring program, REEL GEMS, at the Oxford Community Center would be screening “Swimmers” directed by Oxford-raised Doug Sadler, we thought it was the perfect excuse to reach out to Doug to talk about this highly acclaimed film. Sadly, it turned out Doug was in New York City working on another project. So we have used our second best option and sent Doug five questions about “Swimmers.” 

The Spy: Of all the plots and stories you might have selected, why Swimmers?

Doug Sadler: The short answer is I don’t know. The longer answer is that it’s a mix of ingredients. My family discovered and explored the Eastern Shore by way of the water – we were living on a sailboat at the time- so I had both a love of life on the water and also a very direct introduction to the unique landscape that is the Chesapeake Bay. Through trips to Smith Island and all over the Bay by boat, I became more aware of the lifestyle and tradition of watermen and appreciated the beauty of workboats on the water at dawn, not to mention seafood itself. A lot of those things stuck with me as I went through college, film school in Los Angeles, etc. Like probably every filmmaker ever, I was interested in telling a story about growing up, about the loss of innocence and the shifts that happen in life.

The life-cycle of the Maryland Blue Crab – which in order to grow sheds its’ shell leaving it soft and vulnerable for a period of time – resonated with those themes. In the film, each character is going through a period of growth and vulnerability – a “soft shell” period if you will.. Telling it all through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl was both a nod to director Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven) and my way of getting closer to innocence and instinct and connection to nature. And then there’s the fact that the Greek name for Maryland Blue Crab translates as “beautiful swimmer” – which is also the inspiration for William Warner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Beautiful Swimmers”… so from that whole stew of influences, the film was born.

Spy: Do you think Swimmers has special meaning for those of us who live on the Eastern Shore?

DS: I hope so. I think most people who live here have a special appreciation for the nature and lifestyle of the Eastern Shore. So, I hope seeing it on screen helps people appreciate both the beauty and vulnerability- and also get ready for summer crab feasts!

Spy: Was it hard to produce the film in Talbot County?

DS: While there were many, many challenges to producing the film, shooting in Talbot County wasn’t one of them. Although we did face a hurricane and housing crew here increased the cost, I don’t think it would have been the same if we’d shot in Canada. And the local community – from many, many individuals to the fire department and police in Oxford, the police in Easton, the Bixler’s of Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, the Tred Avon Yacht Club, locals and watermen whose boats we rented, restaurants, hotels and also people outside Talbot County like Jack Gerbes and the Maryland Film Office, Jed Dietz, and the Maryland Film Festival – everyone was incredibly supportive.

Spy: Do you think there are universal messages in the film that everyone can relate to?

DS: Of course I hope so. It’s a story about characters facing particular challenges, and so the theme operates on a subtle level … but part of the message in there is that growth and change are constants that require a measure of vulnerability and if that’s resisted or forgotten, well, both life and nature have a way of delivering wake-up calls.

Spy: Is there anything you would change or alter about the film if you had the opportunity?

DS: Not particularly, though I suppose as the father of a teenager there are one or two scenes I might tone down a bit for a younger audience – or at least to make things a little more comfortable for their parents.

Swimmers will be shown on April 20 at 6pm. For more information about Reel Gems and tickets please go here.
Photo of Doug Sadler by Chris Moore

Swimmer Credits 

WINNER – Best New American Film, Seattle Int’l Film Festival
WINNER – Best Director, Best Feature, Savannah Int’l Film Festival
WINNER – Best Ensemble Cast, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
WINNER – Best American Film, Festroia Int’l Film Festival (Portugal)
WINNER – Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Cartagena Film Festival (Spain)
FINALIST – Humanitas Award



The Academy Opens the Door for World-Class Photography this Spring

There are, no doubt, countless numbers of Mid-Shore photography lovers who hoped this day would come. Recently, the Academy Art Museum doubled down on their goal to build up their commitment to the growing world of fine art photography by offering their first national juried show this April.

With prize awards ranging from “Best in Show” at $1,000, and second and third prizes at $500 and $250, this competition yielded the kind of response the Academy was hoping for. Over 1,800 images were submitted and will be judged by one of the best photographers in the country today.

Sarah Stolfa, who leads the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, is a working fine-art photographer and educator herself. She has an MFA in Photography from Yale University School of Art. In addition to teaching at PPAC, Stolfa has taught at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the University of Delaware and Drexel University. She currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Spy spoke to Anke Van Wagenberg, the chief curator at the Museum, to talk about this unique competition and found some examples of some of winning entries yesterday before the exhibition opens on April 14 and will close July 15, 2018.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here

Introducing Chesapeake College’s Sixth President Cliff Coppersmith

While Cliff Coppersmith has yet to move into his office in Wye Mills to begin his tenure as the sixth president of Chesapeake College, that didn’t stop the Spy from finding time with him for a quick chat on campus yesterday.

Dr. Coppersmith, who will officially assume his role in May, was in town briefly to meet with his future colleagues and pin down the logistics of moving from Montana, where he is currently serving as the dean and CEO of City College, the community college branch of Montana State University.

Coppersmith comes from a particularly unique background in community college teaching and administration, starting when he, himself, graduated as a young man from a community college in upper-state New York. Over the course of his career, he has spent nineteen years with the Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University; and Utah State University – Eastern, formerly the College of Eastern Utah.

The Spy caught up with Dr. Coppersmith at Chesapeake College’s new Health Professions and Athletics Center to talk about his experiences in higher education, some of his priorities for Chesapeake College, and his excitement in returning to the East Coast to take on the vital task leading the Mid-Shore’s community college into a new decade of service.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake College, please go here

What Price Privacy? By Al Sikes

It was the beginning, 1994. I was in Dallas for a meeting of magazine editors and publishers and met with Jim Clark who was raising capital for a company called Netscape.

Clark had recruited the technology group headed by Marc Andreessen at the University of Illinois. Andreessen and colleagues had invented the first web browser, and Clark was eager to have “content companies” publish on what was then referred to as the World Wide Web.

My job as President of New Media for the Hearst Corporation aligned with what Clark was doing. I was working on digital expressions of what Hearst did so well in the traditional media world.

Hearst invested in Netscape, achieved a very high return on that investment and became a leading “traditional media” company offering digital content.

Netscape had a short-lived run before being bought by AOL. Netscape depended on users purchasing the right to use its browser. Microsoft launched its own browser and, feeling threatened by Netscape, gave it away. Free won, Microsoft blew up Netscape’s business model.

1994 foretold the future of the Internet. In one sense, the unfolding realities in 1994 paralleled George Orwell’s novel 1984. But the developments of 1994 pointed to dominance by a business oligarchy, while Orwell pointed toward an all-pervasive controlling government.

In 1994 newspapers and magazines sold ink on paper for dollars. Today, Facebook and Google sell information, entertainment and social connection for personal information that they convert to targeted advertising inventory.

If I were to write a book, looking back, the title might well be The Seduction of Free. Free search, social connectivity, customer reviews, shipping.

The founders of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, saw the future and with copious amounts of capital delivered it. Each did what it did very well. Now the seduction is over and the morning after is not without regrets.

Rather than speculate about or repeat the lessons of others, my source will be me. One slice of life we all share is health concerns. I have researched cataracts, lower back pain, knee replacement and orthotics over the last few years. Google has a more complete profile of my health concerns than my doctors.

In this Faustian bargain, Google and its peer companies deliver. To use a marketing term: we find ourselves in a sticky relationship. Businesses love sticky relationships–repeat customers are the best. How many of you are leaving your Facebook friends?

Pre-1994 I was in the regulation business (so to speak) as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. This experience compels me to be wary about regulating Google, Facebook, and Amazon. On the other hand, we should understand what is being asked of us and how the information is used. And we should not be deceived or beaten down by pages of small font legalese.

Each company has brilliant designers of customer user interfaces. Put them to work on an interface that reveals the offer to us and presents options. The number of words used should not exceed one hundred and must be in at least 14 point type.

Also, each company has brilliant chief financial officers. Put them to work on assessing the market value of their unfettered use of our information. Convert this market value into an offer that allows each prospective user to make a choice. The choice: what price privacy—information or dollars.

And finally, the Congress should in one hundred words or less tell the two antitrust agencies that they would like to see a proposal to update our unfair competition laws. Facebook, Amazon, and Google (now Alphabet) began when venture capital was flowing, raising money in public markets was relatively easy and when the steady erosion of privacy was opaque. Scale and network effects now enjoyed by the big three give them an almost unassailable dominance. Dominance inevitably leads to excess.

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. 

Jerry Harris: A Hunter and Conservationist Who Is “Giving Back” by Kristi Moore

We are strolling with Jerry Harris on his 230-acre farm, Mallard Haven, when a group of ducks suddenly takes off from their marsh hiding spot. Harris, a committed conservationist and hunter, has created the perfect marshland habitat for migrating waterfowl for just this moment.

“Watching the birds come in, how they treat the marsh, how they fly around it, how they call—that whole symphony is quite intriguing to me,” Harris said. “I never tire of that.”

Harris, now 75, fell in love with waterfowl as a young boy when he started hunting, but has long seen the value of conservation over sport. On his farm, you shoot only what you can eat, and not one more. Those values were instilled in him from his first days hunting with his grandfather, Burr Love, at a family hunting cabin in the San Francisco Bay area.

”The first year when I was 11 or so, they felt I was too young to hunt, and so I got to pick the ducks. The second year, I got to wash the dishes, do the cooking, and pick the ducks, and the third year, I got to finally hunt.”

Over the years, Harris hunted with two other men who influenced his values about hunting and conservation: Louis Rapp, an old-time duck hunter and friend of his great uncle, and Ray Lewis, who taught him about the soil management technique Harris uses on his farm today.

“Over a period of 30 to 40 years, I hunted and gained extensive knowledge from all three of these people,” Harris said. “I was extraordinarily lucky to be able to partner with them over my lifetime.”

Living in New York in the early 1970s, Harris would visit Maryland’s eastern shore to hunt geese, and he recognized the area’s bountiful appeal to waterfowl. And to him. Harris, his wife, Bobbi, and their three retrievers, Maddie, Rusty, and Bo, now spend their winters on their eastern shore farmland before flying west to spend summers in Montana.

Even before he retired, Harris decided to devote much of his time to wetland conservation. He has been a member of Ducks Unlimited ever since he started a new Ducks Unlimited chapter as a student at University of California, Berkeley, and he has reached out to a variety of organizations, including Delta Waterfowl, Waterfowl Chesapeake, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and of course, Ducks Unlimited to determine how to best use the funds from the family foundation he and Bobbi set up. Wanting to preserve vital marshlands and “to give back some,” Bobbi and Jerry created a family foundation that dedicates most of its funding to wetland conservation, with a smaller portion going to secondary education.

We’re trying to demonstrate how collectively we can all make this a better place and preserve some of the rich heritage the Eastern Shore—Maryland, Delaware, Virginia—has had from a waterfowl standpoint.

All the lessons Harris absorbed from his hunting friends and experiences have turned him into a teacher for new generations of conservation managers. He thinks of Mallard Haven as a demonstration farm to teach others how they can use their properties to attract more waterfowl and how his moist soil management system attracts waterfowl and feeds their nutritional needs.

The farm is a natural maze of dirt paths, cornfields, wetlands, and a long trench that serves as freshwater storage. Depending on the time of year, it might look like another grain farm in the countryside, but when he wants to beckon ducks, Harris and his farm manager, Sam LaCompte, will flood pockets of his farmland, or impoundments as he calls them. At the end of the season slowly draining the water encourages the growth of smart weeds that provide a diverse, appetizing food source to migrating waterfowl.

“We’re trying to demonstrate how collectively we can all make this a better place and preserve some of the rich heritage the Eastern Shore—Maryland, Delaware, Virginia—has had from a waterfowl standpoint,” he said.

Harris is also helping facilitate a course that shows wildlife managers and leaders how hunting can balance with conservation. He was impressed with a course on the West Coast that UC Davis conducted with Ducks Unlimited and a local waterfowl conservation group, so this past winter, Harris and Dr. Chris Williams, wildlife ecology professor at the University of Delaware, developed and ran a similar course for the East Coast on Jerry’s Dorchester farms.

The first class, which included 10 students, recently ended and Harris considers it a success.

“None had experienced waterfowl hunting or shooting and over that three-day period, they went from 0 to 60 miles per hour. We’ve just seen their review of the program, and it was very exciting to read their comments and how it had changed their perception to the role hunting plays in wildlife conservation,” Harris said. “And that’s our goal—to make sure the future managers and leaders understand the role that hunting plays.”

Harris hopes to keep offering the course, serving as long as he can as a mentor to others, much as he was guided throughout his life.

This year, Horn Point Laboratory will honor Jerry Harris with its 2018 Chesapeake Champion award for his vision and leadership in marshland restoration and conservation. “We could not find a more fitting partner in our efforts to ensure our marshlands are preserved for wildlife habitat and coastal sustainability,” said Mike Roman, Director of Horn Point Laboratory. We are delighted to honor our good friend and devoted educator, Jerry Harris.”

The Chesapeake Champion celebration will be held Friday, April 27th, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Waterfowl Armory, Easton. Tickets are $50, sponsorships are available, and can be purchased online or by contacting Carin Starr at 410-221-8408.

Proceeds from this year’s event will be used to launch a new Marsh Ecology and Restoration Laboratory at Horn Point Laboratory. The new Lab will conduct vital research into the role marshes play in: providing critical habitat for waterfowl, birds, plants and animals; providing green infrastructure to mitigate erosion and flooding; and, filtering pollutants to improve water quality.

Jerry Harris, the Horn Point Laboratory 2018 Chesapeake Champion, talks about running a Dorchester County farm, which, with careful planning and management, turns marshland into a paradise for migrating ducks.

Kristi Moor is the Digital Communications Manager for University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science UMCES.

For more information on the Horn Point Laboratory please go here


Out and About (Sort of): Howling at the Moon by Howard Freedlander

When will this unending winter come to a close? Chatter about an uncontrollable fact of life has become a staple of conversation in 2018.

I cannot remember another time in my life when I’ve focused so much on a season, anxious for it to end. When I’ve voiced my frustration, silly though it might be, I’ve discovered that others agree.

Are these people actually watching baseball?

When I’ve talked with friends comfortably ensconced in warmer climes, I’ve applauded their good sense. For the first time, I’ve even entertained a tinge of envy, rhetorically asking myself: why would anyone who could go south for the winter stick around the Mid-Atlantic region and endure ceaselessly cold temperatures?

Understanding that the month of March is typically a tease in its spectrum of climatic changes—snowstorms and rain—I expected that April would provide a welcome change, an infusion of pleasant, spring weather.

Not so.

Just this past Saturday, April 7, a friend and I dared to watch a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Ballpark against the New York Mets. It seemed unimaginable, but those of us who filled half a stadium were bundled up against 40-degree temperatures. Adding insult to injury, the sun remained AWOL.

Hot chocolate was for sale. It competed with beer as the beverage of choice.

There was more misery.

Empty seats show cold-weather effect.

The Nationals lost its fourth straight game, by one run. And there was one more disturbing occurrence. In one inning, the home plate umpire ejected the Nationals batter and then the manager for arguing a strike call. The Nationals manager was so angry he kicked dirt on home plate and tossed his cap.

Subsequently, the fans busied themselves screaming at the empire and briefly ignoring the cold weather. Ah, sports provide an escape from daily concerns–and unseasonably cold temperatures—in the heat of the moment (excuse my lame pun).

Now, if this were an April Fool’s column, I would suggest that the Russians were somehow responsible for delaying the onset of Spring weather. I would wonder if Russia’s President Putin and gang somehow hacked the weather gods. As you can tell, I’m really grasping for an explanation for a winter that refuses to go away.

Continuing my senseless venting about the weather, I’m anxious to eschew seaters and long-sleeved shirts for a warm-weather wardrobe. Enough is enough.

Lacking any scientific data, I would like to believe that our moods would improve, that we would smile more and resume our neighborhood conversations if the weather improved and offered us a long period of pleasant weather.

Whining about the weather seems meaningless and, yes, comparable to howling at the moon and wasting my time and energy. Yet, I can’t help myself.

It’s time for a change. The thought of 60-70-degree weather gives me hope.

Happy Spring!

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.

Moments By Jamie Kirkpatrick

Did you happen to catch this? If you did, you can skip ahead, but in case you missed it, allow me to set the scene:

On the Wednesday of Augusta week—cue the theme music—there is a unique event called the Par 3 Contest. It takes place out on the east end of the Augusta National property (formerly the Fruitlands Nursery) where nine lovely par three holes have been carved out of the azalea. A few of these holes surround Ike’s Pond and require only a moderate carry over water—I believe the longest hole is only 164 yards long, an easy wedge for one of today’s pro golfers. The tournament itself is almost always a lovely walk, not spoiled by golf. Players’ offspring, dressed in the iconic Augusta National caddies’ baggy white overalls, somersault down the slopes in front of the tee boxes or toddle onto the greens carrying miniature putters—it’s a family picnic and a celebration of the game we all love all rolled into one.

At this year’s event, one threesome featured a veritable Mt. Rushmore of the modern game: Tom Watson, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus, a walking (sometimes limping), moving tableau of golfing history that has accounted for a total of eleven green jackets. (Nicklaus six, Player three, and Watson two.) Usually the Par 3 Contest is less about winning and more about fun, camaraderie, and the enjoyment of springtime in a spectacular environment, but this year’s event produced a bit more drama than budding azaleas. Watson birdied the first four holes, added another to tie for first, then birdied the eighth to take the lead at -6. Remember: Tom Watson is 68 years old; the oldest golfer to ever win the contest was Sam Snead who was 61 at the time (1960; the first year of the Par 3 Contest). Watson only needed a par on the final hole to win by one and claim the crystal trophy; he made it look easy.

But that wasn’t the moment. This was: in the spirit of the day, it’s not unusual for a caddy to hit a ball on the final hole—just for fun, of course. This year, GT Nicklaus was carrying his grandfather’s bag, sharing the honor with his younger sister, Nina. GT is 15 years old and (no surprise here) already an accomplished high school golfer, the “best” (at least according to his proud grandfather) of Jack and Barbara’s 22 grandchildren.

But accomplished as he is, GT had never had a hole-in-one. Until that moment. He took his one swing, flew the ball twenty feet past the hole and drew it back into the cup—an absolutely superb shot that stole Watson’s show. Not that Tom cared. When GT’s ball trickled into the cup, the crowd roared, Watson and Player jumped for joy, and Jack cried. Just think: of all Mr. Nicklaus’ memorable moments on golf courses around the world—73 PGA victories and 18 major championships—this one small family moment now holds pride of place in the Golden Bear’s bank of memories.

Life is all about moments. We’ve all had them, maybe not a hole-in-one at Augusta, but ones that are just as sweet to each of us. Mine include the births of my two children, my bride in her wedding dress, a World Series foul ball off the bat of Mickey Mantle that rolled right to me, and watching the sun rise on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Even now, thinking back on those special moments and a few others, I feel the tears well up in my eyes.

Just like Jack.

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

Ladybugs by George Merrill

Artistic types, like those who paint, write, sculpt, garden or research, spend a lot of time alone. They’re often accused of being temperamental, even flaky. I prefer to think of such idiosyncrasies as signs of their complex personalities.

Many have a loners’ streak. They find energy in being by themselves. I, for one, have to be intentional about being social. It’s not that I am a misanthrope; just a dreamer. Dreamers, in their several pursuits, work with very little outside material, as it were. They try to draw most from their own experiences – from their heads and hearts which, occasionally, can be inspiring. Of course, there are times when what they draw out from themselves bombs. When artistic types begin drawing blanks, then they know that’s the time to get out there and mix it up with others.

I do have friends, dear and devoted ones. It occurs to me they may be friends precisely because we don’t see each other that often. There’s always the danger that frequent contact might change the equation in the way old married couples are often heard to say, “For better or for worse, please God, not for lunch.”

I bring this up because of the two lady bugs that became a part of my normally solitary life in the last couple of weeks. They just showed up.

I began looking forward to seeing them each morning as I entered my studio. I now had two friends whom I did not mind being with all day. They, too, were perfectly content to have me around. I never intruded upon their routines. They never bothered me. It was the kind of presence that can satisfying, a kind of special presence that requires so little other than gratefully acknowledging the fact of who or what the presence might be.

I believe etymologists would identify my new roommates as Coccinella. Their elytra is colored deep red or orange with distinct black spots.

I could not identify gender, whether the two were mates or partners, were kin of some kind, or just good friends.

When first entering my studio, I’d look to see exactly where they were. For a while I might not see them, but as the morning wore on, I’d catch the sight of one or even both walking along a slat of the venetians blinds that hang at my windows. When I saw the ladybugs, I would leave my chair and go for a closer look. I welcomed them, and then returned to my chair, satisfied in knowing my companions were safe and well.

They had mixed feelings about being touched. On some days, I could coax one from the slat onto my finger. He or she seemed content to explore for a minute or so. Suddenly, though, it would hop; fly, really, making a soft sputtering sound, while going a short distance. It was time to leave the ladybug alone.

I’ve read how sailors, making solo ocean voyages, welcome petrels or other seabirds landing on their sailboat. The birds behave like hitch hikers, riding for a short time and then getting off. Sailors describe a kind of mystical bond that develops between them and the birds. The skippers talk to them and the birds listen. Then, one morning the skipper exits his cabin, goes to the cockpit ready to chat only to find that his fragile defense against the vast loneliness of the open sea has vanished. A simple presence made all the difference in the world. Each skipper described with undisguised grief the impact made on him when his hitch hiker left the sailboat. They mourned the loss and felt lonely.

It’s odd to say but we bond not only with each other, also with other species (dogs and cats), but objects as well. Aging people, when ready to unload a lifetime of collected stuff, will agonize over surrendering an object, some trinket or a photo that has accrued a significance, far beyond its material worth. They either keep it, offer it to the kids, or pitch it and then mourn its loss.

I can understand why frequent flyers like sea birds welcome a place to land and rest. Just why the ladybugs chose to inhabit my studio is not clear. Their reputation is legendary in helping farmers rid their crops of pesky aphids and other insects that destroy the harvest. But that’s all outdoorsy stuff, working in the fields. I have no plants or any vegetation in my studio. I wash daily. Why my studio?

It’s finding a warm place to winter.

Who would want to be out in the chill and wind of winter? The ladybugs were just hunkering down in my studio like Eastern Shore retirees that go south for the winter. It’s a way of getting through the bleak days until the sun feels warm again, crops grow and eating outside is fun.

One day I couldn’t find them.

I entered my studio and went to the slats to wish them a good day. They weren’t there. I looked around but didn’t see anything. My studio is painted in white and the rug on the floor is an off-white. It shows anything that falls on it.

I took my chair as usual and then saw a speck on the rug, half again as big as the head of a ten- penny nail. I got up to see and sure enough it was one of the ladybugs.

I had the horrible feeling that I’d stepped on her. I reached down to pick her up. She slid from my fingers. I was relieved that she was intact – indicating she’d not been squashed. I’ve seen her dormant before and by picking her up she’d start exploring my finger. But she didn’t try this time as she had in the past. She was dead.

I was sad. Fearing the worst, I began scouring the studio to find the other ladybug. Nowhere to be seen. Leaving the studio late one afternoon I went to open the door, and there on the threshold was the other ladybug.

Again, saddened, I picked her up. She, too, had died.

I noticed that both ladybugs did not die, as so many insects do, with their legs pointed in the air. Instead, ladybugs meet their maker, heads down and their elytra up, their cheerful colors in the open for everyone to see.

I believe they prefer being remembered that way.

Not that strange, when I think about it. I’ve often seen photographs accompanying the obituaries of septuagenarians or octogenarians that can only have been taken forty years prior to their deaths. For Coccinella and homo sapiens, vanity extends beyond the grave.

I shall miss them.

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.


Spy Food: St. Michaels Gets a New Breakfast Place

It seems like everyone has their own notion of what the perfect breakfast place should be like. Some just want a good cup of coffee with a breakfast sandwich, others look for beautifully made croissants and espresso, while others still yearn for more of an American-style breakfast, with plenty of waffles and breakfast burritos to make it through your day.

Luckily for St. Michaels, The Galley Cafe, which is located in the old  Bank of America building right off of Main Street, they now have a hangout that might solve all those basic needs.

The Galley has been created by Jennifer Smith, a California native who sailed with her family off the coast of Newport Beach for years. She now is successfully recreating the breakfasts, lunches, and weekend happy hours that were all prepared in the tight quarters of that sailboat.  Those family recipes are now put to use again by Jennifer after close to 20 years as an industrial sales executive when she and her husband moved to the Eastern Shore and now is fulfilling a lifelong wish to have a breakfast place of her own.

The Spy caught up with her a few days ago to talk about the Galley and her plans to be open all year around.

Speaking of perfect breakfast places, what is your favorite breakfast place in Talbot County? Take the Spy poll.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about the Galley Cafe and hours of operation please go here