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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

What’s in your suitcase?

Twenty seahorses do not belong in your suitcase. Which led to trouble last month for a Vietnamese traveler arriving at Dulles International Airport.
    All 20 live seahorses, found in a routine baggage check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, were seized. Had the seahorse collector possessed only four, she could have kept them: The baggage limit is four seahorses.
    Because of over-harvesting for aquarium trade and medical research, seahorses are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. From 1990 to 1995, the world’s estimated seahorse population declined by half. Asian waters are the most popular for seahorse harvesting.
    Of some 50 species that inhabit shallow, warm waters around the world, the Chesapeake is year-round home to one, the lined seahorse, with populations extending as far north as Calvert County. Lined seahorses, like many other seahorse species, mate for life. So if you see one, perhaps clinging to your crabpot, put it back. Not in your aquarium — or your suitcase.

October is fickle; take your fun on the first fair day

For the sake of fair weather for the rest of October, I hope you’ll join me in prayer, rain dance, even in singing Sting’s Heavy Cloud No Rain — whatever your preference. It’s not for my sake I ask; I’m fine with wind, rain and fog. I’m asking for all the folks whose outdoors fun and festivities were rained on, rained out or blown away. Cancellation notices flooded October’s first weekend, dampening plans and spirits.
    Who wants to go on a hayride on sodden bales and slippery trails? Take a roll in a cornbox disguised as a wading pool? Get all wet in a maze of dripping corn? Faced with such prospects, Ecoasis, Greenstreet Gardens, Homestead Gardens and Knightongale Farm shut down fall festivals that had been months in the works — but are only fun when the sun shines.
    Ecoasis has moved its one-weekend-only Apple and Pumpkin Festival to October 17 and 18. Other festivals have more tries for good weather: Homestead’s Fall Festival continues through October 25; Greenstreet Gardens and Knightongale Farm keep going through November 1.
    Annmarie Garden’s first Saturday Makers Market and the Annapolis First Sunday West Street Arts Festival, both cancelled last weekend, hope for better weather come November. As does Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, which folded its 30th Anniversary Celebration and Concert and plans only a “scaled-down” celebration November 7.
    Hope springs eternal, but is it well founded?
    October is potentially pretty close to the sweetest month in the Chesapeake calendar — except when it rains like the dickens. Three decades of experience with Chesapeake have taught me that one October weekend is sure to preview winter’s chill. Uncertainty is the best we can plan for as this 10th month falls right smack in the middle of the Annapolis rain graph: the sixth most (or least) rainiest, according to
    Why then does the biggest festival in Chesapeake Country, the U.S. Boat Shows, come to Annapolis every October?
    “October is when new boats debut,” the Boat Shows founder Ed Hartman told Bay Weekly. “If you want to order a new boat for the spring, October is the time to do it.” Plus, summer heat would make the tents and the insides of the boats insufferable.
    Fickle as October is, Hartman says in his 46-year memory it has given the Boat Shows “close calls, but no real weather problems.”
    In other words, the shows went on despite all ­October had on offer, including:
    • Several hurricane threats, though all have veered off as Joaquin did;
    • Days with rain, and show-goers in foul-weather gear with umbrellas, but never a washout;
    • A few days of water so high boots were in order;
    • One day in the 1980s brought snow flurries.
    Showers are predicted for the Sailboat Show Friday and Saturday.
    If fall fun is on your calendar, and I sure hope it is, your best bet is to follow the age-old practice of farmers to make hay while the sun shines. Take your fun on the first fair day.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Butterflies release commemorates life

“The butterfly is a symbol of how lives change and are transformed,” said Calvert Hospice’s Linzy Laughhunn as he set free one of 72 monarchs during a celebration of life ceremony at Chesapeake Highland Memorial Gardens in Port Republic.
    Chesapeake Highland Memorial Gardens are surrounded by open land where the released monarchs will find milkweed on which to lay their eggs and for nectar as they prepare for their epic migration to Mexico.
    The commemorative monarchs are shipped overnight in a dormant state from Fragrant Acres Butterfly Farm in Chickamauga, GA, ( and brought to normal temperature about an hour before release.

Milkweed nurtures monarch caterpillars

Plant milkweed, we’re told, and monarch butterflies will come. It’s true. My milkweed is crawling with caterpillars.
    Only one or two of the orange-winged monarchs alighted on this little grove of milkweed when I was watching. I saw no egg-laying or tiny eggs on the undersides of the spearhead-shaped leaves. Only when I noticed the sorry state of the patch did I see caterpillars. Clippers in hand, I had cut a branch when a horned head poked out at me.
    A half-dozen yellow-white-and-black-striped caterpillars were devouring the milkweed, reducing it to stems.
    A week later, the population had risen to a dozen and a half two-plus-inch-long hungry caterpillars.
    Clearly, a lot was going on when I wasn’t looking.
    Any day now, big change is coming. After a couple weeks of voracious eating, the monarch caterpillar hooks itself to a leaf and shimmies into its homemade silk chrysalis. Inside, the caterpillar metamorphoses, emerging in about 10 days as a gorgeously winged monarch.
    Those butterflies will drink the nectar of other plants in my butterfly garden — Joe Pye weed, ironweed, boneset, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflower and more — before heading south and west in the later stages of a journey whose map they inherit.
    The annual pre-winter migration from Canada to Mexico takes four generations, each lasting roughly six weeks.
    This generation of monarchs must be rising all over Chesapeake Country, as my butterfly garden was part of a widespread campaign to bolster the species. Two dozen neighbors planted their own gardens, and our Fairhaven effort joined many more throughout the region and the nation, all part of the Monarch Watch Waystation Program.
    Keep your eyes open! On the wing, new life should soon be invigorating this threatened, far-traveling species.

So long, osprey, and thanks for all the lessons

On utility poles, street and sports field lights and channel markers, the nests are empty. Momma, poppa and babies — all but the stragglers have abandoned the Chesapeake.
    Our birds are now flying south in migrations one, two, three or even four thousand miles long. Some travel no farther than Cuba; others go all the way to Argentina, though most nest along the curving northern rim of South America. That’s twice a year, spring and fall, along very much the same path once a bird establishes its route.
    Speed is as awe-inspiring as distance. One northern Chesapeake osprey migrated 2,576 miles last spring in 10 days, flying nonstop from South America to the Florida Keys in only 57 hours. Another Chesapeake bird migrated 4,238 miles last spring, covering the distance in 22 days while stopping over for five.
    We know this and more because of scientist Rob Bierregaard’s 45 years of climbing into nests to fit osprey with transmitters. Track the migration of osprey, including seven Chesapeake and mid-Atlantic birds, at
    Miraculous as those feats of flying are, they’re achieved by birds that have lived to learn the drill. More wonderful still, especially to all of us amateur osprey-watchers, are the flights of babies. Hatched in early June and fed abundantly by good-providing parents, chicks grow in leaps and bounds. Fuzzy heads popping over the edge of stick-built nests shortly feather out. By August, three or four apparently full-grown osprey stand proudly on their nests’ rims.
    By migration time, the once-so-watchful parents have flown ahead, leaving their fledglings to fish and fly on their own. As migrators, osprey are individualists, each creating its own route and following its own time table. So the babies have no parents or flock to follow. How do they make their way? However they begin, they get better with experience, if they live to gain it.
    Ospreys’ are not the only empty nests of this season. Five- and six-year-old humans have fledged to kindergarten, 10- and 11-year-olds to middle school, 14- and 15-year-olds to high school, 18-year-olds to college. No matter the transition, we onlooking parents and grandparents, guardians and well-wishers cannot believe they’ve grown up so fast. How will they survive this huge step, we wonder, though compared to the flight of the osprey each human flight beyond the nest is pretty small.
    Should we choose to learn from a bird about this nesting and nest-emptying business, we could pick far worse teachers than the osprey.
    Lesson one: Put everything you’ve got into the job at hand.
    Lesson two: Teach by example.
    Lesson three: Believe in freedom.
    Lesson four: When the time comes, let the young go.
    Lesson five: Fly your own way for well-deserved R&R, so you’ll have plenty of energy for the next cycle — whatever that may be.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Job by job, we keep our world turning

Sunny, sandy and salty from vacation, I’m ready to go back to work.
    I hope you, too, have had the kind of summer that returns you to your labor with love. I hope you had days and nights of fun, oceans of swimming, miles of hiking and biking, new horizons of sights and sounds — plus a good stretch of thoughtless time, vacationing your hard-working brain.
    Labor Day plus one will bring me back to Bay Weekly glad — as the poet Dylan Thomas wrote — “to sing in my chains like the sea.”
    In hoping the same for you, I am not beyond self-interest.
    Before my day starts, I’ve depended on you in so many ways that enumerating them makes my head spin.
    I wake up having depended for eight hours on the mattress maker, the cotton grower and pickers, the dyers, weavers, fabric designers, the geese and their down-pluckers — not to mention the truckers, shippers, buyers, sellers, entrepreneurs, merchants and ad writers who brought those goods to me.
    That’s before I’ve touched my feet on soon-to-be-replaced carpet whose fabrication is a mystery, though seller and carpet-layers linger in my memory. Beneath it is an equally mysterious pad resting on plywood framing milled and laid by whom I don’t know.
    Before my feet are in my German-made wool-felt slippers, I’m in debt to all the people who laid the floors of my house down to the dug-out basement, laid drainage, plumbed, wired, poured concrete, framed, insulated, paneled, dry walled, painted — and contrived from nature and craft all the materials therein. I have well-diggers and septic system installers and the engineers who designed those systems to thank, too.
    By now, I’m paralyzed. I don’t dare get dressed, for I’ll never be able to count the thousands of hands that filled my closet with clothes and shoes, my dressing table with ointments and cosmetics.
    Head spinning — and quite a few steps skipped — I need a cup of coffee. Thank goodness for the coffee plantations, growers, pickers, graders and Fair Trade regulators, importers, shippers, buyers, roasters who brought that beverage to my lips. Thanks, too, to the cow for half-and-half, the farmer for keeping the cow and the dairy buyer all the way through the grocery store checker. At least I don’t use sugar in my coffee.
    I don’t dare fetch my morning Washington Post, lest the thanks I have to give for its creation and delivery — not to mention Mr. Bezos — take me way past my weekly space allotment for this letter.
    What this all amounts to, dear reader, is that every day is Labor Day.
    Today I give you thanks for the jobs you’ve done.
    Turn the page to meet 20 more working people, all Chesapeake Country neighbors, in their own words.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

In a word, sustainability

In Chesapeake Country, newspapers can say, with Mark Twain, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Out and about, you can fill your arms with free paper-and-ink weeklies and special interest magazines, many of them stacked right next to Bay Weekly. What makes us different?
    The answer is sustainability.
    For me, that’s an easy word to define.
    In part, it means that this week you’re reading the 35th edition of Bay Weekly’s 23rd volume, our paper No. 1,133.
    Beyond numbers, sustainability means using what you’ve got so that it lasts.
    By that definition, Bay Weekly lives because you keep reading … because advertisers continue to support us and you to support them … because creative people — writers, proofreaders, salespeople, designers and assorted skills-lenders — continue to invest their time and energy in these pages — and all that synergy keeps the minds, presses and pages turning.
    There’s still more sustainability in these pages.
    For all those issues, over all those years, sustainability has been our subject. In story after story, the common theme is how we citizens of Chesapeake Country use what we’ve got so that there’s always more to draw on, not only for ourselves but for our children and their children, generations to come.
    Not that we’re preaching. Most of the time, you’ll hardly notice the long view enriching the up-close focus of our stories.
    This week, for example, our feature story takes you over the roads we drive. In Caution: Road Work Ahead, I asked contributing writer Diane Burt to take us beyond construction to how all the nuisances we endure as we drive — men at work, big machines, narrowed lanes, rough roadways — keep our roads supporting us. We can throw a lot away in our disposable culture, but not our roads. Once you put one down, it’s there to stay. Sustainability means upgrading our roads so they continue to meet our needs. I’ve made that phrase a mantra to help me keep my cool in five months of driving — and detouring — through roadwork.
    Sustainability is also the theme behind my own story, North Beach Designs Its Future: Four Days to a Plan-in-a-Nutshell.
    At 115 years old, North Beach must constantly redefine itself to keep up with the times and the people who, decade after decade, choose it as their hometown. We’ve watched it for 30 of those years as a close neighbor. The town has been a feature subject since 1993, Bay Weekly’s very first year.
    In that story 22 years ago, old friend Ruth Knack, then executive editor for the American Planning Association’s Planning Magazine, contributed a 12-step recipe for healthy towns.
    So I was fascinated when an American Planning Association team came to town this month to help North Beach refine its formula for sustainability. I found out how, and so will you.
    Long or short, sustainability helps Bay Weekly choose our stories. Sandy Point State Park, you’ll learn this week, is adding the sustainable power of wind and solar energy. Art for Warmth’s Sake, a preview of CalvArt Gallery’s upcoming art show and coat drive, is about sustaining warmth and avoiding waste.
    Sustaining your interest is our best source of staying power. So again this week for the 1,133rd time, we bring you stories that are good to read as well as good for you. That, of course, is thanks to the advertisers who sustain us.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Love them or hate them, school buses weave through the fabric of our experience

One way or another, school buses take us all back to school.
    As well as ever-safer and more standardized transport, they’re vehicles of cultural passage. Via the school bus, the freedom of childhood passes to the regimented life of schedules and hurry, bells and detentions. Mother lets go your hand and the motorized door opens to the wide world.
    Little wonder school buses also travel our cultural byways as icons of rebellion.
    In the fermenting 1960s, counter-cultural pioneer and novelist Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion) gave a Day-Glo paint job to a 1939 International Harvester school bus. Christened Further, it transported Kesey’s Merry Band of Pranksters cross-country and into the psychedelic age.
    In the adaptive 1970s, the wholesome Partridge Family joined the revolution, driving a 1957 Chevrolet school bus purchased by the Orange County (Calif.) School District to television stardom. For their staged rebellion, ABC painted the bus in color blocks in the style of the abstract Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.
    In the irreverent 1990s, The Simpsons featured school bus driver Otto Mann, an aging delinquent who aided and abetted kids’ efforts to tip the bus as it rounded corners.
    That, of course, is against the rules. Real-life school bus drivers are careful citizens who go through double licensing before they can get behind the wheel of a bus full of Maryland kids. As well as commercial driving licenses, school bus drivers have commercial drivers have two endorsements: P for any vehicle carrying over 15 passengers plus S for school buses.
    Kids are supposed to sit tight in their compartmentalized seats and not torment the driver, the bus or each other.
    We who share the road with school buses have responsibilities, too.
    According to Maryland Transportation Article, Section 21-706, If a school vehicle is stopping or has stopped, and is operating the alternately flashing warning lights, the driver of any other vehicle meeting or overtaking the school vehicle shall stop at least 20 feet from the rear of the school vehicle (if approaching the school vehicle from the rear), or 20 feet from the front of the school vehicle (if approaching the school vehicle from the front), and may not proceed until the school vehicle resumes motion or deactivates the alternately flashing warning lights.
    “More children are injured outside a school bus than inside,” says Annapolis school bus dealer Steve Leonard. “Motorists think they can zoom through before the bus lights change from yellow to red. But they’re not thinking of the darting child, who isn’t thinking of them.”
    Read this week’s feature story, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, and you’ll you’ll never look at a school bus the same way.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Husband Bill has his say on our shared dogs

I’ve given away most of my space in this week’s Letter.    
     “I’ve had my say on the dogs you and I have shared,” I said to my husband, Bay Weekly co-founder Bill Lambrecht. “Now it’s your turn.”
    Bill took the assignment, but his storytelling reflects his day job: 30 years of reporting on D.C. capitol doings.
    Read on and you’ll see why he titled his story Capitol Leaks.

    I suspected growing up that your dog reads your mind. Now that more dogs have entered (and, alas, exited) my life, I know it’s true.
    Back in Illinois, there was Slip Mahoney, the roving German beagle, apprehended and jailed seven times (once at a Kroger meat ­counter.) Mornings, Sandra, editor of this paper, would head off in her silver Gremlin to her newspaper job in downtown Springfield.
    My consuming thought: How to secure the house to prevent canine escape.
    Slip, of course, would have caught that brain wave, exited through an unlatched door (or right through the screen), and begun weaving his way through traffic on a Gremlin-sniffing mission.
    In Maryland, there was Max the yellow Lab, formerly employed as Bay Weekly Office Greeter. On his days off, we’d go fishing in the old Sundancer, in Borg-perfect sync. He’d get excited as me spotting a bluefish feeding frenzy. One day, after a tip about “acres and acres of huge breaking rockfish,” he shared my nagging sense I’d forgotten something.
    He whined nervously as we raced to the slip. Then he stayed in the car, forlornly, while I discovered on the boat I’d left the rods on the patio. (I’m hangdog myself at this moment recalling that today is the anniversary of Max’s death.)
    Then came Moe the yellow Lab, who held down at least three jobs. At Bay Weekly, he was sidekick to Nipper the Notorious (a Jack Russell who owns the Maryland state record for biting humans).
    On Capitol Hill, Moe was my security detail. (I’m speaking here about protection from members of Congress.)
    There too, Moe was ambassador-at-large. Around our condo, he’d buddy up to senators’ poodles and wrestle in Stanton Park with young female aides who’d kick off their heels. All the while, he’d stay plugged into my thinking, like that morning during the October 2013 government shutdown when we walked along the south side of the Capitol building.
    I can’t believe those zealots in there would shut down the United States government, I’m thinking.
    Moe, leash-less but usually well behaved, big-nosed his way through azaleas and lifted his leg on the limestone of the U.S. Capitol.
    He plowed back through the bushes, looked up at me smiling and communicated a question: Whaddaya think of that?
    I petted him, wrote Bill.

    Empathy. That’s the emotional partnership shared by the man who, whenever he needed a friend, got a dog.
    Turn the page for more stories and news of the four-legged friends who love us unconditionally — in their own complex ways.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

The other side of adventure is always danger

Water has drawn our species back ever since we left its embrace.
    In Saharan cave drawings, ancestral swimmers frolic in weightlessness. On beaches and in pools, 21st century kids submerge with the same exhilaration.
    Relics of boats dug out of logs or woven from reeds date back at least as far as those cave drawings, 7,000 and more years. On boats, we’ve extended our reach, surpassed our known horizons, sought and lost fortune, advanced our civilization. Imagine the stakes when all that was known was what we ourselves knew — and all that lay ahead was mystery.
    The adventure has remained irresistible. But the other side of thrill is danger.
    We are reminded of the danger at the 60th anniversary of the sinking of the Levin J. Marvel and taking 14 lives. The Bay excursion boat sank off my community, Fairhaven. Neighbors set out in small boats to save lives and, as we see in our neighborhood photo archive, recover bodies.
    Tragedy of that sort never goes out of date. Natural Resources Police and Coast Guard report boating accidents, sinkings, fires and drownings almost every week of summer.
    Swimmers, too, fall victim to the waters that drew them in. In the last weeks, three swimmers drowned in two incidents off Cove Point in Lusby, a friendly seeming beach where a standing lighthouse suggests dangers but not so close at hand.
    All these lives are lost in somebody’s neighborhood, in adventures gone awry.
    In this week’s paper, Bob Melamud makes a cautionary tale of the Levin J. Marvel. “In spite of all our technical progress, we still rely on the skills, experience and judgment of the person in charge to keep us safe,” he writes. Below my letter, the Coast Guard of the Baltimore Sector explains their work in inspecting commercial boats like the Marvel to “keep the boating public safe.”
    As swimmers and boaters on our own, however, we are the person in charge, and by and large have only our own skills, experience and judgment to rely on.
    How good are yours?
    Only if you’re younger than 43 are you required to pass a structured safe boating course. Otherwise, the safe operation of your boat is up to you. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will inspect your pleasure boat to ensure it meets safety standards, but that inspection is purely voluntary. The Coast Guard may enforce safety by stopping you for a chance inspection, but that’s a relative rarity. Basically, when you’re on the water, you’re free to do all the harm you can’t avoid.
    Swimming safety is slippier still. Except for the occasional on-shore sign, what tells you to refuse the invitation of the water?
    Safety on the water is a last frontier of personal responsibility. Even so, we do not have ultimate responsibility. For as much as we love the water, it obeys only its own laws.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;