Food Friday: Summer Bounty

We are suddenly overwhelmed by the burgeoning of our half dozen tomato plants. We planted them early in May in the raised garden bed on the side of the house, where they would get lots of afternoon sun. We also planted a row of zinnia seedlings in the front, and another line of hollyhocks behind them, thinking the hollyhocks would provide a colorful background wall, planning ahead for my Instagram feed. We hadn’t planned on Nature running its own headstrong course.

Because of the serendipity of a week of rain, good soil, an attentive neighbor who watered when we were out of town, and a practically weedless growing environment, the tomatoes and the flowers are now enormous. In the two months since they were planted, the tomatoes have spread their wings and fully occupied the small enclosed space. There seems to be competition among the plants to see which can grown the tallest first.

And then there are the tomatoes. The tomatoes are coming in waves. In spurts, in drips, in rivulets, and in quick succession. I promise you, all I did was go out and coo at them a couple of times a week, and now they are the sorcerer’s apprentice of fruit. We have a bowl full of crimson orbs on the kitchen counter, another six or seven resting on the window sill as they ripen, and a bulging paper bag waiting to be delivered next door.

I thought we overplanted last year, when we had tomatoes, beans, peppers and basil all elbowing for space. This year the basil farm lives on the back porch, and we gave up on peppers and beans altogether. The tomatoes are rushing to the sea. The tomato cages are listing under their weight. Now it is time to get practical in the kitchen.

Yesterday I had my first tomato sandwich of the season, thinking fondly of Harriet M. Welsch, (a.k.a Harriet the Spy) the eleven-year-old snoop and scribe who carried a tomato sandwich to school every day. Living below the Mason Dixon Line as I do, I am supposed to slather on the Duke’s mayonnaise – but Hellmann’s is what was on hand. I dusted the slices of juicy tomato with a little Maldon salt and some black pepper and enclosed all that deliciousness between two slices of Pepperidge Farm bread. The result: nectar of the gods. And today I will repeat the process. But that only uses up one tomato. I need to think exponentially.

The eager beavers at Food52 have gone a wee bit overboard, I think, with their tomato sandwich variations:

Thursday night we had Tomato Pie.

On Friday night, which is Pizza Night, we will be grilling some Big Love Pizzas. The dough is rising in a big bowl, and there is plenty of basil wafting in the breeze on the back porch.

Big Love Pizzas

1 pound tomatoes, you can eyeball this, depending on how many people you are feeding – because if you need more, you know where to go.
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella

Pizza dough
Flour, for dusting
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, torn
Garlic – at least 1 clove for each pie

Seed and chop tomatoes

Oil and then heat up the grill – we used a gas grill which has 3 bars, using the 2 outside bars. The fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds. We lowered the heat once the dough was on the grill.

Divide the pizza dough into 2 and roll it out.
Oil the side that goes on the grill.
Toss with care onto the grill.
Grill for 2 to 3 minutes and then flip with tongs.
Cover the cooked surface with tomatoes, garlic, pepperoni and mozzarella, drizzling it with a little oil.

Close the top of the grill to let the cheese melt.
The dough will rise, and when you start to smell burnt bread it is time to take it off the grill, about 3 minutes.

Add the roughly chopped basil just before serving.

Experience matters. We discovered that it is easier to combine the oil and garlic and tomatoes in a bowl first and then distribute that mixture on the pie. Lots of burned fingers resulted when putting all the ingredients on by hand.

And since it is Friday night, a celebratory glass of wine, please.

Don’t forget you can always whip up a batch of bruschetta, or make a panzanella salad, too.

We seem to have made an initial dent in our ever-growing stash of tomatoes. It looks like it is going to be a nice, long summer of fine eating.

“In this world of uncertainty and woe, one thing remains unchanged: Fresh, canned, pureed, dried, salted, sliced, and served with sugar and cream, or pressed into juice, the tomato is reliable, friendly, and delicious. We would be nothing without it.”
– Laurie Colwin

For the Love of Adkins Arboretum

What’s not to love about a 400-acre arboretum less than 30 minutes from your door for most of us living on the Mid-Shore? Nothing. But what is hard is to decide what you love the most about the Adkins Arboretum just outside Ridgely, Maryland.

This proves to be a difficult choice for the thousands of annual visitors and members of this natural Eastern Shore gem adjacent to the 4,000-acre Tuckahoe State Park in Caroline County. And it is particularly challenging for the Adkins staff who provide an extraordinary range of programming that includes nature, gardening, visual arts, music, poetry, and environmental education throughout the year.

All of that has not stopped the Spy in asking a few of the Adkins team what they loved the most of this “living collection” of more than 600 native plant species and natural forest. We sat down with Ginna Tiernan, its Executive Director:  Jenny Houghton, Assistant Director; Kellen McCluskey, Membership; and Emily Castle, who works on the Arboretum’s Funshine Garden, to confess their top choices.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Adkins Arboretum please go here.

Spy 7 Files a Report: Knightly Provides Night to Remember for Plein Air Easton

The 2019 Plein Air Easton Meet the Artists event over the weekend brought several hundred people to the historic Knightly estate on Leeds Creek off the Miles River. Alice Ryan received a warm standing ovation during dinner for hosting the event at her beautiful 81-acre farm and estate. 

Guests were invited to arrive a few hours early to wander around the estate and engage with the Plein Air artists who were pressed to complete their work by 7 PM. During the reception and dinner, guests were encouraged to purchase the just completed works and well before the evening concluded, the red “sold” tags were abundant.

This week-long annual event organized by the Avalon Foundation provides a remarkable opportunity to view artists at work and, of course, to enjoy art. But, remember, the message: The best way to ensure the future of Plein Air Easton and the Health of your Arts Community is to buy art!

For more information and a complete schedule for the week: 


The Big Picture by George Merrill

Of late my mobility has been limited.

The more anchored I am in one place the more I see of it. What’s been revealing to me is that my front yard, which should be as familiar to me as my toes or my fingers, I’m seeing as if for the first time. Just sitting still isn’t so bad, after all.

And so, the other day I put a chair where I could overlook my yard and the cove. I sat there just waiting. Waiting for what? That’s the thing; I didn’t know for what, but I did know I was waiting.

It was one of those grand days that have visited the Shore in the last week or so. Not too hot; a hefty breeze and a deep blue sky filled with clouds, but uncharacteristically different kinds – the wispy ‘mare’s tails’ of the high-altitude cirrus, and in the distance cumulus clouds – I never think of them as celestial bedfellows – I’ll typically see just one or the other in the sky, separately. Everything shimmered with vitality while I just sat. I laughed at myself; “What a slug you are,” I thought, while shamelessly enjoying my immobility. I call it a no-agenda moment, not going from here to there as I always do – but just nesting here.

A small plane flew overhead. It circled around in the sky in broad swaths, like hawks do, not appearing to be going anywhere in particular but just out for a spin. I thought the pilot and I were both enjoying the same landscape; the pilot’s take on the landscape, however, would be far different than mine

Perspective alters perception.

I thought about the way I assemble my world view by shuffling around the disparate pieces life throws at me. I arrange them into customized compositions of my own. From there, I conduct my affairs as if my constructs were a reality. At best, perceptions of reality are an iffy business, usually hits, misses, and many course corrections.

Reality, like a freshly caught fish, is slippery, hard to hold firmly for any length of time. It slips from your hand or you get pricked by its spines. Reality keeps slipping from my hand; it pokes me, too. Once having held it for a minute or even less and it has poked me, I know how it feels before it gets away.

My wife, Jo, is a jig-saw puzzle enthusiast. I am not. For Christmas, she received a two-thousand-piece puzzle. The thought of two thousand pieces intimidating, but the enormity of the number of pieces energizes her. Different perspectives. To me, the complete picture displayed on the box lacked distinctive shapes and colors. Both color and form just morphed from one to another without boundaries. I considered the puzzle ominous and fiendish to put together since all the pieces seemed to lack identifiable distinctions.

Generally speaking, Jo creates a visual reality from defining the boundaries first – initially completing the puzzle’s edges and then, finding a place for a particular piece within those boundaries.

As an essayist, I put together a big picture differently. My mind seizes some scrap, disembodied, if will, not apparently connected to anything else. I will have no idea what it is. Then I try to hook another fragment up to it, something which seems likely to fit. It’s hit and miss, and frequently I stall out. When I occasion to make connections and the connections form a larger and coherent picture, I feel euphoric. I’m reassured once more, that my world, however fragmented it can seem, is of a piece, made of trillions of other pieces. I guess I like composing a spiritual ecology.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century Christian mystic, said some remarkable things, particularly about connections and the big picture.
She said: “(God) showed me a small thing . . . a hazelnut . . . round as a ball . . . I looked at it with the eye of my understanding . . . What might this be? . . . and it was answered thus: it is all that is made. It shall ever be for God loveth it.”
Seems like a stretch, at first, but, looking closely, it’s a portrait of connections.
How can anything so small and still be so wholly inclusive, leading us from a tiny nut to the outer limits of the universe. All we know about are beginnings and ends. Do you suppose the universe has no boundaries at all?

For a minute I thought I was the earthbound nut (hazelnut, I mean) and the pilot high above me was comprehending all that there is. We belonged to the same reality, viewing it from different places.

A day later I sat on my dock. I watched a jellyfish. They go with the flow (current) and yet constantly try to ascend vertically, slowly flapping their gelatinous bells so they ever so gently break the water’s surface. That’s as far as they get. I’ve thought that they too, deep down, know that they belong to a universe far larger than the creek they inhabit. They strain to see beyond the constraints by making their vertical ascents. They never fully succeed but then, they never quit, either. Do airplane pilots feel that way? Astronauts? Is seeing the big picture what drives them?

I’ll bet the whole world yearns for a glance of itself beyond the familiar boundaries that contain it.

I think that’s what yearning is; I think it’s a universal hunger, and a hunger for the universal.

I lost an old friend recently. A nun. I knew her as Maria, her professed name. We were faculty together at Loyola. We became intimate friends. I thought of her as one of those ‘spirit people’ whom you sense instinctively walk closely with God. I’ve found such people infinitely approachable, even earthy, but there’s no doubt that they keep their eye on the big picture.

I underwent several medical diagnostic procedures recently. One included a bone scan for which I wasn’t greatly concerned. I felt mostly inconvenienced.

During the procedure, but of nowhere, I had a powerful sense of Maria’s presence, so much so that I felt of rush of goose bumps and an urge to weep, not from fear or distress; I had the distinct experience of momentarily grasping a reality, namely that when we are loved and love others, we can never be separated from this love despite, as St. Paul says: “life or death, principalities and powers.”

The big picture’s total far exceeds the sum of its parts.

The pilot made one last lazy pass over where I sat and headed north, disappearing from sight. I was alone – not really alone but solitary in the small space that I, at least for this duration, I call home.

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: Metropolitan Ice Creams

It is shaping up to be a hot summer. Which is a good thing. It gives us something to reflect upon fondly when we are scraping ice off our windshields in February. Mr. Friday and I will remember the week we just spent vacationing in New York City, where the heat was hellish, the sidewalks were soft and sticky, and there was an endless parade of cooling, delicious summer ice creams forever strutting before us, beckoning us, luring us with chilly, sweet siren songs. And as good tourists, we obliged by eating as much ice cream as we could.

July is National Ice Cream Month. Thus our gobbling up ice cream was not only good manners, it was patriotic. Since we missed this week’s ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory lap, I’m glad to say we celebrated the international competition of ice creams with gusto. Cautionary tale: since coming home, I have taken my plump little self back to the gym every damn day. But it was worth it.

On our first day in New York we ambled over to the west side, up on the High Line, and under the hulk of The Vessel, the new M.C. Esher-like landmark built for photo ops and tourist initiations to pedestrian challenges. The Vessel stands in the once industrial Hudson Yards, where Long Island railroad cars are stored before they make their return journey. Now there is a sleek urban mall with hideously expensive residences which rises above the trains, in a city that already has much of the world’s chic and pricey shopping. Take heart – not every shop is as tony as Neiman Marcus or Cartier. In the lower level you will find the bustling populist world of José Andrés’s Spain.

Our first steps into Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain fed us right into colorful whorl of people, murals, maps, small plates, hams, breads, wines, food cases, and this display of ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. I could not think of anything more divine than these cubic feet of frozen delight. For a more detailed description of this Iberian food paradise, please read Rachel Sugar’s New York Magazine piece:

I admire José Andrés’s World Central project where he and his people feed folks who have been stricken by natural disasters. His good work is a lesson to us all. And so I felt justified in supporting him by buying an extravagant ice cream sandwich – before meeting friends uptown for dinner. (Mr. Friday, in the meantime, scarfed down a large plate of paella, in case you wondered.)

Another day of walking the Museum Mile found us battling Stendhal Syndrome: an overwhelming, heart-stopping abundance of gawping and wonder. What can you do? Why not have a gelato or two? After a morning spent in the Planetarium, whizzing around the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and mingling with dinosaurs, the great blue whale and a few grizzly bears at the American Museum of Natural History, we strode across Central Park, and into the Mecca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked with the Egyptians and sallied into the American Wing to pay obeisance to my favorite painting, John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. The only thing to do after that humbling experience is to find ice cream. As the crush of humanity to get into The American Wing Café was unbearable, we perched on some uncomfortable chairs wedged into the Chinese porcelain collection in The Great Hall Balcony Café and spooned up some fortifying gelato. There must surely be a special place in heaven for the inventors of ice cream! Grazie molto!

On our last night we got gussied up and strolled around the Lincoln Center complex, sad that we had not booked tickets for My Fair Lady. Instead we watched little girls in tulle tutus chasing each other around the spouting fountain, while member of various orchestras rushed by, clad in black, hauling their instruments across the marble plaza. Then we ambled north to our restaurant, Café Luxembourg, for a final night of cosmopolitan living. I had a French 75 cocktail, which is always best when served on a silver tray by an obliging waiter.

Mr. Friday had Wellfleet oysters and classic moules frites; I had steak frites, because there was not going to be any frite sharing, I can promise you. But we did split an adorable serving of profiteroles, which were made with ice cream, and not the crème pâtissière we had expected, and it was a sweet and cool way to end our vacation. Tired and happy, heady with wine and frites and sweets. We loved New York.

(And thank you very much, Chef Andrés, for this helpful culinary hint:”Buy the best quality sorbet or ice cream from a local ice-cream maker. It’s the perfect ending.”)

“What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them?”
― P.G. Wodehouse

Plein Art Easton Founder Nancy Tankersley Looks Back Fifteen Years

Nancy Tankersley has a good chuckle when remembering the first time she started talking to people in town about doing a Plein Air festival in Talbot County. She had just returned from the famed Carmel, California Plein Art event in 2004. And with a new gallery and studio opening on South Street in Easton that year, she felt the entire region could get a significant boost if Easton had its own.

And while everyone she met was polite, there was some humorous puzzlement, and a bit of a pushback from some local leaders before Nancy, with the help of Al Bond and Plein Air Magazine publisher Eric Rhoads, was successful in her making her case.

No one is baffled anymore.

After fifteen years, Plein Air Easton has turned out to be a remarkable major event for Talbot County and the surrounding area. With hundreds of artists in residence for days at a time, and twice that number of patrons eager to follow one of the most significant art movements in modern history, Nancy Tankersley prediction that it would be a net gain for the community proved spot on.

But even Nancy would be the first to tell you that no one back in 2004 could ever imagine the current world of Plein Air’s popularity and its impact on the contemporary art world.

The Spy sat down with Nancy at the Spy’s Easton studio to talk about Plein Air Easton’s roots and impact before all its artists start arriving next week.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length. For more information about Plein Air Easton please go here.



A Shore Mother Navigates the New World of Transgender Policy in Talbot County

It is relatively easy to have a conversation in the abstract about transgender identity in such fields as health, religion, or government policy, but it’s an entirely different matter when it comes to the everyday challenges of navigating the rights of individuals with accommodations such as restrooms and locker rooms.

And it’s also a very different story when it’s your child needing to be accommodated.

That was the case with Lynn Brennan and her family when a daughter became a son between the seventh and eighth grade in the Talbot County Public School district a few years ago. At a time when state and local governments had not developed guidelines for transgender students, Lynn’s family was the first locally to enter into this new and complex terrain for public schools, teachers, and students.

In her interview with the Spy, Lynn tells the compelling story of her family working with a St. Michaels school principal to thoughtfully prepare for this significant cultural change. And a lot of progress was made to respect her son’s access to bathroom and locker room facilities.

But all of this was before the Trump Administration’s rollback of Obama-era civil rights safeguards, or more recently, the Supreme Court weighing in favor of transgender access in Doe v. Boyertown Area School District this May.

We talked to Lynn a few weeks ago at the Spy HQ.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about the Shore’s transgender community please go here




Bless My Soul by George Merrill

I’ve often talked about death with aging folk. Invariably the subject of an afterlife comes up. The discussion soon revolves around ideas of a soul and whether such a thing survives after our death. The soul’s been talked about forever. It’s tricky to define and mysterious.

As a child, I recited this prayer as a nightly ritual. I knelt by my bed, reverently placed my folded hands on the covers while saying:

Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Next, I prayed for all my deceased relatives, asking God to look after them. I didn’t want them to feel abandoned, the way I did when they died.

Their souls, I imagined, were like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Like wafting smoke in its incorporeal state, my soul would one day go through walls and closed doors like Casper unconstrained by any physical obstacles and soar between heaven and earth as it chose. I wasn’t frightened in imagining the soul’s ghostly mien. In fact, I thought it was really neat.

I believed that the best time for actually seeing souls during the day was when cumulus clouds rolled overhead. Their cotton-like configurations took various forms. I believed them to be the heavenly host, particular those recently deceased. Heaven, I noticed, had a lot of old men with long white beards and there were always loads of sheep. Like the childhood myths that I once treasured and that served me well, they became less credible as I grew older. The feeling that I somehow possessed a soul, however, I never lost. I had only vague notions about what it might be.

Many people believe the soul survives our bodies. The specific formulas vary with religious and cultural traditions, but the belief that there’s life after physical death is remarkably persistent throughout all traditions. Is it a wish? Is it a fact? On our spiritual journey, at some point, we’ll wonder about it.

As children, we see the world with a clarity we might never have again. A child is always curious. What he or she hears, sees or touches is approached with an anticipation filled with wonder. The child’s fascination at Christmas is a case in point. In childhood we live expectantly, anticipating the next wonder to appear. I believe that as children or early childhood, we are closer to what I understand a soul to be. To see deeply. The locus of a soul is in the imagination. I don’t mean this dismissively, like “It’s all in your mind,” but, yes, it’s really all in our mind. I would add “and heart” to that.

There’s a spiritual tradeoff when going from childhood to adulthood. The adult mind becomes conditioned by information that, rather than enlightening us about what we see, often skews the clarity of our perception. The greatest receptor in a child’s mind is his or her curiosity and imagination. A child’s curiosity is voracious and its imagination boundless. A child encounters the world by wondering. There’s a purity in that way of seeing that’s hard to retrieve as we grow into adults. By the time we are adults, we have developed “opinions.” Opinions are the gatekeepers of our imagination. These gatekeepers admit into our awareness only what has been first thoroughly vetted or censored. The imagination is quickly compromised. I believe that the search for our souls will lead us back to our imagination. We’ll find our souls, but only after having rummaged through all the opinions that have kept them hidden from us. Our souls are the elusive agency by which we see to the heart of a matter.

Einstein, one of history’s geniuses, changed the world because he had an insatiable curiosity, a florid imagination and some wacky ideas. As a child, he loved to imagine that he was riding on a light beam. This product of his imagination became the impetus for eventually developing his theory of relativity. He liked playing with his imagination – he called it “Gedankenexperiment,” the German for “thought experiment” or what some might call head-trips. The head-trips, however, were deeply rooted in the seat of his imagination. To say the revelation he had was all in his mind is not an understatement. The mathematical computations eventually validated the science of the idea, but the revelation of it came first; it appeared to him as an image, in his imagination.

In the spiritual life, the same phenomenon is called revelation.

An old tale gets at this mystery in another way.

The gods in their celestial abode convened an emergency meeting. Human beings were increasingly encroaching on the gods’ divine attributes and they were anxious that they’d lose their powers to humans. Humans had invaded heaven with their space rockets, decoded DNA, developed computers that speak, transferred hearts from one person to another and made new limbs for the lame to walk. “They think they’re god,” one minor divinity grumbled.

The gods decided they must hide their divine spark where humans would never find it. A variety of proposals were made: hide it in the earth’s core; lose it in black holes; or place it on the highest mountain. They finally agreed on this proposal: hide the divine spark deep in the human mind (I would add, heart) and they’ll never guess in a thousand years that’s where to find it.

Ever since we first walked the earth, we’ve been searching for our souls and, bless my soul, they’ve been right there within us the whole time.

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.

Servant Leadership And the Fourth Of July by George Merrill

I had an uneasy reaction when President Trump recently announced he was planning a more spectacular July 4thcelebration this year in D.C. Bigger than ever, he described it: a major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite president, me!”  

Might Trump crash the party? It’s a strong possibility.

Whether he does or not, his proposal offended me. I couldn’t see Trump as remotely reflecting American ideals, particular our ideal of servant leadership. The recent funerals of Senator McCain and President Bush were poignant. Both events surfaced collective mourning for our loss of inspired leadership and revealed a national yearning to reclaim its ideals.

When nations face dire adversity, servant leaders act in the interests of the people they serve. When Japan and Germany surrendered in 1945, I recall photographs circulating at the time, two in particular. One was Berlin’s destruction, the other the Japanese delegation signing the surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri.

I was an eleven when the WWII ended.

It was a jubilant time. America rejoiced. So, did I. Bubble gum and Hershey Bars were available again, butter was back on the shelves and rationing ended. Best of all, my father returned from two years at war in Europe.

I remember how The Stars and Stripes, magazines and newspapers were filled with photographs of the desolation that Germany and Japan sustained at the war’s end. The draconian devastation of Berlin, Hiroshima and Nagasaki eventually became visual commentaries on the horrors ofwar. But how each ended the war revealed the consequences of servant leadership and of those of a dictatorship.

At least two years before the war ended many Nazi leaders knew they could not win. Some advisors urged Hitler toconsider surrender. He would have none of it, essentially ensuring an apocalyptic defeat with devastating c0nsequences for civilians. In fact, a discussion of surrender Hitler regarded as treasonous, carrying the death penalty for anyone proposing it. Even as the Soviet and American troops were entering Berlin, Hitler authorized small children to fight and defend the capitaleven as it was being overrun. The Hitler youth were massacred. What became clear to me only years later was that Hitler had no feeling for the German people but onlyhis maniacal vision of a thousand year Reich. I recall my father commenting on the terrible material destructionand civilian suffering he witnessed when his division entered Aachen. I’ve included a picture of Berlin’sdevastation.

Hitler didn’t lead, he dictated. Dictatorships are efficientoften effective but only until things go bad. His stylespawned unnecessary suffering. The people became pawns in his appetite for power and control. Interestingly, Hitler liked huge military parades and making rousing speeches, usually about his greatness. During his rants, he especially liked excoriating Germany’s ‘Untermensch the German equivalent of losers or undesirables. He vowed to rid the country of them. Sound familiar?

When the inevitable end came, Hitler blamed everyoneelse for his defeat. He and many of his key advisors committed suicide, leaving no functional leadership in place effectively abandoning the German people to suffer the brutal consequences of defeat alone.

The Japanese leadership handled defeat differently.

The Japanese held out hope for victory until Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The handwriting, was on the wall. They knew defeat was inevitable.

Their leadership mobilized to accept defeat, and the surrender was conducted with statesmanship, discipline, unusual humility and dignity. The Japanese people were included as a significant piece of the experience at that critical moment in their history. Their emperor publicly expressed compassion for them during the nation’sgreatest humiliation. He spoke directly to the people: “We must now endure the unendurable, and suffer what is insufferable.” It is believed to be the first time the emperor spoke directly to the common people. What I find remarkable is the “we in that declaration. The emperor, including the political and military leadership did not abandon the people at their darkest hour. Together, they united to “endure the unendurable.”

Our enemies can teach us.

Why I find this particularly poignant is how critical saving face is in Japanese culture. The Japanese delegation hadassembled on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri (see image.) The vanquished were surrounded by the victors, the ultimate humiliation. Japanese government officials dressed impeccably in morning clothes, white gloves and top hats and the military in full dress uniform. The leadership took full responsibility for their failure. Humbled, they remained in solidarity with their people, whom they represented honorably and with dignity.

July 4th is America’s birthday party. It’s our national blast, yours and mine. We celebrate our ideals and the famous men and women who are and have been our nation’sservant leaders.

I don’t like the idea of someone grabbing center stage at my country’s birthday party, someone uninvited and who, in my opinion hasn’t the vaguest notion of what thecelebration represents to the country.

We don’t hire bouncers at our national celebrations. We’re better than that. It could be that on this fourth, if Trump should speak, that we will have to “endure the unendurable.” As an inclusive people, I know we will be gracious, and maintain our sense of dignity and solidarity as only the American people can.

Should he not speak, he will have served his country well.

Best and Happy Fourth of July.


The Spy Newspapers of America with Steve Goldman

When I started the Chestertown Spy in 2009, I wasn’t convinced that having a local newspaper with “spy” in the masthead was the best idea around. During the months prior to launching my concept of a web-based, hyper-local and educational news source, I continued to postpone deciding on its name until the very last minute.

My heart said yes; I loved the fact that the new publication could be named after Chestertown’s first newspaper in 1793, but my mind said this could be a grave mistake. For every one person in town that knew of the original newspaper’s existence, there were nine people who could easily interpret the the word “spy” in less than generous ways.

Nonetheless, John Lang, the Spy’s first executive editor and former AP reporter, lobbied hard to use the old name, and I agreed to look again at the 18th century Spy one more time before we were to turn on the new site.

And in looking at the old version of the Chestertown Spy, I began to see how these two entities, divided by over two hundred years, would be remarkably similar in the content they would provide the community. While public affairs remained a primary focus, you can see in the early Spy a surprisingly wide range of topics that reflected a passion for the arts and culture.

With subjects as diverse as philosophy, health, education, spirituality, poetry, and storytelling, the first Spy surprisingly incorporated many of the same topics the new Spy inspired provide greater Chestertown. It was a perfect fit and I’ve never regretted the decision nor the responsibility in carrying on the original Chestertown Spy’s mission.

But this journey into the historic roots of the Spy also led me on a quest of sorts in understanding why so many colonial newspapers used that name in their masthead. By 1820, there were more than 14 newspapers in America that used that Spy in their name, starting with the venerable Massachusetts Spy which started in 1770.

And when I discovered that the largest private collection of historical newspapers in the United States was located in none other than Oxford Maryland, I drove over to meet its owner, Steve Goldman, who build this remarkable archive of American history to get a crash course on the Spy newspapers of America as well as his thoughts on journalism then and now.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Stephen A. Goldman Historical Newspapers please go here.





We're glad you're enjoying The Talbot Spy.

Sign up for the the free email blast to see what's new in the Spy. It's delivered right to your inbox at 3PM sharp.

Sign up here.