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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Open House givea us all a taste of the pleasures of camp life

Now I hardly go out there, but I’ve spent a lot of time on the Bay.
    You won’t read those words, the nostalgic second clause of Tuck Hines’ description of his early days as a marine ecologist at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in the senior scientist’s conversation with Bay Weekly this week. There you’ll read the serious stuff, like whether we’re doing ourselves in on this planet. But, as Hines’ words suggest, there is more to being a scientist than the lessons you learn.
    Being a scientist can mean you get to spend a lot of time outdoors doing what kids go to camp to do. Playing in the water. Catching crabs and fish. Creating clever tools from what nature puts in your way. Stuff that’s called fun.
    Viewed in that way, the coincidence of Bay Weekly’s conversation with Hines and our Last-Minute Camp Guide this week isn’t so much coincidental and serendipitous. Serendipity is what we call it when things come together in a way that makes opportunity. In this case, serendipity brings me a cure for the envy that always hits when I read about all the fun awaiting kids at summer camp.
    Nature, water, creativity and creatures: The things kids find at camp, while getting out and active, are the things many scientists spend a lifetime doing. Unless, like Hines, you climb the ladder into administration, which means staying indoors and leaving much of the fun behind.
    I sure hope you help your kids make that connection, as it opens the door to a lifetime of summer fun.
    It’s too late for me, I sigh, imagining how different a life I might have had had it occurred to me to be in nature rather than writing about it.
    But it’s not too late. Not for you or me. All of us, all ages including the kids, will find an open door to science at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s 50th Anniversary Open House this Saturday, May 16.
    From 10am to 3pm that promising May day — a high of 78 is predicted, with some cloud shelter from the sun — all of us can act like scientists. We can roam woods and fields, ride and wade the water, try to pull up a catch, climb a giant tower, all in the company of people who look at nature in a way to make sense of it while enjoying it.
    In such a place and in such company, kids might find a career to keep them playful and happy their whole lives long.
    Even us already grownups can swerve into a new avocation. Citizen scientists are welcomed to the Smithsonian team.
    “We’ve had dozens of citizen scientists over the years. We’ve been very blessed to have a great group,” Hines told me. “Much of our mapping and measuring has been done by scientists along with volunteer scientists. We’re now building citizen scientists into a program so it’s not just one project but a collection of programmatic approaches to use volunteers who are not scientists most effectively.”
    If you, like me, are nostalgic for the pleasures of camp, you might rediscover them at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Use May 16’s Open House as your tryout; reservations give you free parking and tickets for river cruises: www.serc.si.edu.
    Sunscreen and your hat, closed shoes, a water bottle and a bug bracelet would be good companions for your day at camp.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

I read the epic of motherhood in the comfort of home

Motherhood in her full span lives in my neighborhood.    
    In the eyes of eight-month-old Alexander Ehecatl Groves, Ana Dorates is queen of the universe. She is our Madonna, mother adored. But she is only one chapter of an ageless story.
    The women of Fairhaven Cliffs span the whole story in its many stages. We are — to borrow the seven stages of the Finnish mythology of the ­Kalevala — maiden, wife, mother, crone, sage, warrior and healer. As we travel the womanly continuum, we do not abandon who we were before. Childless or childed, each woman is stirred by the baby, the role Alexander will so briefly play. For the mothers among us, Ana awakens in each of us memories of our own babies in our arms.
    At the other end of the spectrum, no matter how young we are, we see in one another what we are becoming. Girls, mothers, grandmothers: we are one community; now and again, one family will span three, even four, generations. We have a whole community of women who have passed, still living in communal memory.
    Many among us are in life’s early chapter, the maidens. Nearly three decades ago, I moved into a Fairhaven popping with children, many of them girls: Ariel and Emelia, Stephanie, Sarah and Mary, Maureen, Megan and Lisa, Betty Elizabeth, Leslie, Maggie and Colleen, Alex and Katie Lee, Anastasia, Lily … In this age of marrying late, many remain their own women in their 20s and beyond, making their way in the world before taking on the responsibility of making a home and ­family. They are wonders, thrilling and inspiring those of us who remember when fewer women could become what they dreamed. They are poets, dancers, scientists, dreamers, teachers, world travelers and beauties as well. One is a warrior, a Marine Naval Academy graduate.
    Marriage is calling some of the maidens. Mary and Leslie are soon to be wives, with Leslie’s wedding planned on our little Fairhaven Beach on June 13.
    Leslie’s sister-in-law, Kelly, is soon to enter the next stage, growing with her baby.
    Stephanie, who has moved away, is the mother of two school-age boys, Jason and Ethan, and has plumbed the depths of dread when her younger was found to have a brain tumor at only six. He is winning his battle.
    Other mothers have lost children in untimely twists of fate. Those tragedies surely make them sages.
    With time we bear that least desirable of title: crones. But the long perspective of the Kalevala takes the sting out of the word, defining crone as wise woman and elder. We step into that role as our children step out of our lives into their own. Now our goal, says the ­Kalevala, is “to achieve true knowledge through experience and to be able to retain, apply and transmit it.” That’s a role I’ve watched us all grow into.
    It was to gain their wisdom that we begged our sages to tell us their stories. Many have been shy to claim any wisdom, but that’s still the girl in them speaking. We who asked knew its truth.
    Healers? I wonder about that role. Perhaps it’s in our leaving we achieve that role. Motherless we all become, sooner or later. Bearing that role among us now is Debra Gingell. Long of Fairhaven, her mother, Jean VanHoose, left this world on April 24, six days shy of her 91st birthday. For Debra — and perhaps us all — healing is part of the grieving: “Throughout my life I hope for her to be proud of me,” Debra wrote in memoriam. “The words she wrote in my Easter card gave me peace in knowing that held true.”

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

More ups and downs

Will 101 million spawning-age females produce a sustainable future for Chesapeake Bay’s blue crabs?
    That’s the $64,000 question raised by this year’s Winter Dredge Survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ census of crabs asleep in the mud of the Bay.
    The population is well — more than half — below the target female population of 215 million. This year shows an uptick. But the survey’s 24-year history has been consistently up and down. Only two years — 2010 and 2011 — have surpassed the target. Four — including 2014 — have fallen to or below the much lower threshold of 70,000, meaning a depleted population. On the chart, this year is average below average.
    Crab fishery managers use the Dredge Survey results to determine how many crabs can be harvested. This year, commercial female catch is allowed but regulated. Recreational crabbers must return females to the water.
    Better news is the rising total of crabs living in the Bay: 411 million, despite the hard winter. Only 10 years of the survey have found higher numbers, and seven of those years were in the 1990s. The other three highs coincided with or followed the boom female years of 2010 and 2011.
    That, said DNR Secretary Mark Belton, “is good news for the crabs and for Marylanders who enjoy them all summer long.”
    Read the full survey at http://tiny.cc/lgsjxx.

Before you answer it, think safety

A glimpse of a small boat under full sail sets my heart racing.
    Back to the Water is a season all its own in Chesapeake Country, aligned with spring but serving separate pleasures.
    We expect less warmth of Back to the Water. Winds are often gusty, giving sailors some fun, and water temperatures in the mid 50s mean a cold bath that could do you harm. Air temperatures could be colder or much warmer on a day on the water, which is all in the day. If you’re one of those people who the water’s pull affects like the tides, the weather won’t keep you on land.
    For fishing people, the pull of their prey is irresistible. For boaters, it’s the call of the wild: reunion with the elements, timelessness, freedom. Sailboaters work the elements to their purpose or try themselves against them. Motorboaters command horsepower and ride the thrill of speed.
    Hailing from parts of the Midwest where cornfields were the biggest open spaces and rivers the waterways, I know how lucky we are to live here, where water is ours for the taking — in sizes from ponds and creeks to the ocean.
    Plenty of us out here have the boats to get us on the water. But you don’t have to own the boat — or a big boat — to have its pleasure. Kayaks — a bandwagon barely moving when New Bay Times began — are as common and affordable (or pricey) as bikes. If you haven’t gotten one of your own yet, you can paddle for minimal rental costs, even free, all over Chesapeake Country. Any day now, you’ll be seeing opportunities in our 8 Days a Week calendar of events.
    Getting out on the water on bigger boats, sail and motor, is no problem, either. Find options of both sorts in a range of prices at City Dock Annapolis and on historic boats at Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.
    Not even disabilities need keep a water lover landlocked. Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating offers free sailing excursions and lessons at Sandy Point State Park: www.crabsailing.org.
    When you’re out on the water with a professional captain or guide, safety will be your first lesson. Make safety your first priority when you’re on your own, and you’ll vastly improve your chances of returning home after a beautiful voyage on the water.
    The bad luck boating stories in my collection are not all funny; there’s major mishap among them, and far too much tragedy.
    Last year, Maryland Natural Resources Police investigated 23 water-related deaths, 17 involving boats. Nationally, nearly 85 percent of all drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
    In the excitement of splashing your boat for the first time this season, Col. George F. Johnson IV, superintendent of NRP, warns boaters “may overlook some things that will keep them out of harm’s way. We urge everyone to take 15 minutes or so to do a stem-to-stern equipment check. If you get stopped on the water, our officers will conduct a safety inspection and may issue a citation or require you to return to shore.”
    No-penalty safety inspections are also offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary: http://cgaux.org/vsc.
    To make yourself and your passengers (even your dog) as safe as your boat, buy a new, comfortable lifejacket and wear it. Modern inflatable life jackets and vests are a world away from the old cumbersome Mae Wests. They’re even stylish, and stay flat until you need them.
    “People think that in an accident they will have time to grab their life jacket and put it on,” warns Johnson. “In reality, bad things often happen in the blink of an eye. And once you’re in the water, it may be too late. Life jackets only work when you wear them.”
    One more thing: Please, if you haven’t yet, take the Maryland Safe Boating Class. It’s life-saving and very accessible with online (www.boat-ed.com/maryland‎) as well as instructed options (again, watch 8 Days a week).

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

From heirlooms to exotics

You’re never too young to garden, as Leigh Glenn writes in this week’s feature story.
    Nor too old. No doubt some devout urbanists can ignore the call of spring. But don’t you want to get your hands in the dirt to feel life stirring?
    I do!
    So I’m tracking the arrival of the season’s plant sales, especially sales of native plants adapted to our changeable climate and thereby hardier — even in my imperfect handling. Natives also benefit wildlife, having evolved in companionship.
    The next three weekends are the high season of plant sales. Here’s what’s up. (Did we miss yours? Let me know at editor@bayweekly.com)
    Experienced gardeners are often on hand to guide you in choosing plants that suit your place and plan. Check websites before you go for special opportunities and offerings, including lists of plants for sale.

National Arboretum Garden Fair: 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. Fri. April 24, 1pm-4pm; Sat. April 25, 9am-4pm: fona.org/gardenfair

Bowie Crofton Garden Club: Bowie Library, 15210 Annapolis Rd. Sat. April 25, 8am-noon: bcgardenclub.org

Southern High School Future Farmers of America: Southern High, Rt. 2: Harwood. Sat. April 25, 8am-noon: facebook.com/SouthernHighFFA

Calvert Garden Club Plant Sale: Historic Linden House: 70 Church St., Prince Frederick. Sat. April 25, 9am-noon: calvertgardenclub.com

Audubon Society of Central Maryland’s Native Plant Sale: Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary, Frederick County. Sat. April 25, 9am-1pm: centralmdaudubon.org

Sotterley Garden Guild Plant Sale: Sotterley Plantation, St. Mary’s County. Sat. April 25, 9am-2pm; Sun. April 26, noon-3pm: sotterley.org

Adkins Arboretum Native Plant Sale: Caroline County. Sat. April 25, 10am-4pm; Sun. April 26, noon-4pm: adkinsarboretum.org
Four Rivers Garden Club May Mart: Market House at City Dock: Annapolis. Fri. May 1, 8am-2pm: ­http://gardenclubofannapolis.com

Calvert County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale: 30 Duke St., Prince Frederick. Sat. May 2, 8am-noon: facebook.com/calvertcountymastergardeners

Southern High School Future Farmers of America: Southern High, Rt. 2: Harwood. Sat. May 2, 8am-noon: facebook.com/SouthernHighFFA

Historic London Town and Gardens Annual Spring Plant Sale: Edgewater. Sat. May 2, 8am-2pm: ­londontown@historiclondontown.org

Centro Ashe Plant Sale: Charles County. Sat. May 2, 10am-2pm: rsvp: ­www.centroashe.org

Alice Ferguson Foundation Spring Farm Festival: Hard Bargain Farm, Accokeek, Charles County. Sat. May 2, 11am-4pm: $5/car: http://fergusonfoundation.org

Chesapeake Garden Club Outdoor Spring Plants and More Sale: Friendship. Sat. May 2, 8am-5pm; Sun. May 3, 11am-3pm: chesapeakegardenclub.org

Chesapeake Beach Garden Club Plant Sale: Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. Sat. May 9, 9am-noon: facebook.com/ChesapeakeGardenClub

Mid Atlantic Community Church Maryland-Grown Plant Sale: 2485 Davidsonville Rd. Sat. May 2, 8am-noon: http://the macc.org/plantsale

Southern High School Future Farmers of America: Southern High, Rt. 2: Harwood. Sat. May 9, 8am-noon: facebook.com/SouthernHighFFA

Paca Plant Sale: William Paca Garden, Annapolis.
Sat. May 9 & Sun. May 10, 10am-4pm: annapolis.org

Annapolis Horticulture Society Plant Sale: Riva Road Farmers Market, Annapolis. Sat. May 16,
7am-noon: annapolishorticulture.org

Cape St. Claire Garden Club’s 36th Annual Plant Sale, Annapolis. Sat. May 16, 8am-2pm: ­capegardenclub.wordpress.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Let us count the ways

A couple of tried, true and trite figures of speech can help you understand the week’s layered news on the health of the Bay.
    Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Practicing that feat of coordination will prepare you to understand the new Chesapeake Bay Program take on how we’re doing in cleaning up the Bay we all say we love.
    The good news is the Bay diet is working.
    We’re actually cutting back the fast-food diet of nutrients and sediment streaming into our Bay.
    Except for a two percent rise in nitrogen and sediments between 2013 and 2014.
    Got that?
    In 2009, the EPA set the equivalent of a strict calorie limit on how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment the Bay could swallow. By 2014, nitrogen loads dropped six percent (15.83 million pounds). Phosphorus dropped 18 percent (3.40 million pounds). Sediment dropped four percent (327 million pounds).
    All this is happening because of pollution controls put in place over the last five years by Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District.
    But our poor Bay’s calorie intake is enormous: 282 million pounds of nitrogen a year; 19 million pounds of phosphorus; almost nine billion pounds of sediment a year.
    So you won’t be surprised that there’s still a long way to go before the Bay gets to its ideal nutritional balance by 2025. For nitrogen that’s 217 million pounds, 14 million pounds of phosphorus and seven billion pounds of sediment.
    Just what is the Bay’s junk food? Agricultural runoff is tops, followed by wastewater and sewer overflow, fallout of airborne pollutants, urban runoff and septic systems (for nitrogen).
    A walk in the park, understanding that, isn’t it? Now let’s add chewing gum.
    How does that two percent rise in nitrogen and sediment fit into those millions of lost pounds?
    The “slight increase,” the Bay Program report notes, “is due in part to a short-term shift in agricultural commodities.” Higher prices for corn spurred in large measure by ethanol meant more corn was planted. Corn craves “nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can leach off the ground and into local waterways.”
    Find the full report — including methodology — at chesapeakebay.net/presscenter/release/22587.
    If you’ve managed to walk while chewing gum, you’ll have figured out that you’ve got a part to play in reducing the Bay’s junk food diet.
    Hence our next truism: Put your money where your mouth is.
    To get the Bay to it best nutritional balance, that’s what we’ve all got to do. The Flush Tax is reducing nitrogen from our plumbing in water purification plants and septic systems. But given the resistance to controlling our stormwater runoff — with its junk-food load of nitrogen and sediment — you’d think robbers were knocking at the door.
    That paranoia helped elect Gov. Larry Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh. Now it’s feeding revision of laws already passed in the General Assembly and in the Anne Arundel County Council. On April 6, the council upheld the fee (lacking a better alternative) and principle of putting our money where our protestations are.
    Calvert citizens, you can keep your money. This fee is special to your 10 biggest neighbors. (On the other hand, they’ve got curbside county pickup of trash and recycling.)
    At the same time, newly agreed on Phosphorus Management Tools and timelines will help cut down on animal manure reaching the Bay from farm fields.
    We lawn growers — turf grass is the largest crop in the Chesapeake watershed — can mind our own fertilizer Ps and Qs. Learn the full story at www.mda.maryland/fertilizer. Consider hiring a pro like Blades of Green (who described the right way in last week’s Home and Garden Guide) to do a lawn-friendly and Bay-saving job.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Sometimes, we could have used an expert

In my early memory, mother is tearing down a wall, a sledgehammer shattering the plaster and lathing. One of us, I don’t remember which, stepped on a nail and had to have a tetanus shot. As mother struck her blows, my father may well have been telling her a story. That was the role she sweetly assigned him when they shared a job.
    If there was a job that needed doing, Mother was the woman to do it, whether or not she knew how.
    Can you see where this story is heading? Maybe I should have stuck with telling stories.
    After a day’s work at Bloomington, Illinois’ Eureka Williams vacuum cleaner factory, husband Bill’s father climbed a ladder to paint houses. Eventually he fell.
    But that’s not where this story is going, yet.
    As the children of a pair of determined do-it-yourselfers, Bill and I have climbed many a ladder, though we’ve not yet fallen. I came closest when a spring gust tried to snatch the old-fashioned, wood-framed, five-foot-tall storm window I was unhinging as I stood on a ladder outside the dining room of my 1908 bungalow in Springfield, Illinois.
    I painted every radiator and room of that house once or twice; set tile and knocked down part of a bad plaster ceiling. All without knowing a bit about what I was doing. Eventually, I got smart and called in the experts to knock down a wall, finish the dormer level, refinish the nice inch-wide maple floors and — eventually — paint. But only after stripping the many coats of paint and sometimes dark old cracked varnish from the oak trim.
    In Maryland, Bill and I worked together, painting not only the inside but also the outside of our Fairhaven Cliffs cottage, which is three floors tall on the down-slope Bay side. In some spots I had to hang upside down like a bat, but neither of us fell off the ladder, though on one of my fool’s errands, Bill did fall off a stool when I moved it from the place he expected to find it when he stepped down.
    He laid a brick patio, two down-slope outdoor sets of steps (twice each) and about a mile of six-by-sixes to hold back earth’s effort — seeming as determined as water’s — to reach its own level. Fairhaven Cliffs is a name that’s not kidding.
    We’ve been at work on the earth, too, composting and digging and planting, digging up, cutting down and replanting.
    This house and its little piece of earth has been ours for 27 years, so a lot of that work is maintenance: the perpetual campaign to keep not too far behind wear and tear. A good deal of the labor, however, is correcting mistakes we’ve didn’t know we were making.
    Every time Bay Gardener Dr. Gouin visits, he writes a new column about another folly committed by “many homeowners” who don’t know plant and soil science from Shinola. I worry that his visits coincide with my demands for a series of new columns.
    As the sun sparks off our ceilings, a painting contractor mildly suggests that semigloss may not be the best choice up there, unless you like living in a hall of mirrors.
    Who knew, until the mason came, that paving brick should be set on stone dust, not sand? Or that brick walls needed concrete underpinning?
    Or, until our recent home landscaping class at Adkins Arboretum, that you should plan a landscape before you plant it? Now some of our mistakes tower 50 feet above us.
    It’s slowly dawning on me that there’s something to be said for calling an expert.
    In this week’s Home and Garden Guide, we’ve asked the experts. They’ve got a lot to offer, in ideas, energy and skill. Listen and learn; then judge what’s right for you.
    And, when you do hire an expert as your partner, take the advice of Eddie Knudsen at Hodges ’n’ Sons Home Improvement: Ask questions and get references to ensure the contractor has the expertise and credentials to do what you want and are paying for.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Spring has us out in fellowship, purpose and celebration

March 20 was the last day of winter. March 21 was the first full day of spring.
    As you’ll remember, a season divided those days. Winter threw a hissy fit on its way out. Spring warmed our chilled hearts and invited us out.
    In Southern Anne Arundel County, the neighborhoods of Fairhaven and Arkhaven accepted the invitation. Close as we live, many of us hadn’t met for weeks; the weather wasn’t fit for fellowship. Mother Earth was a stranger, too, hidden beneath snow or whipped by wind and wintry mix. Spring’s first day was our reunion and the appointed date for our neighborhood cleanup.
    Garbed in boots, gloves and good spirits, we met at the corner for greetings and indefatigable organizer Kathy Gramp’s coffee and banana bread. By the time we reunited for community lunch, we’d not only have caught up on community gossip but also have made a better world. Behind us, dozens of heavy-duty black plastic trash bags proved our achievement.
    The hours in between were dirty work.
    Mud sucked off boots and trapped cars. In Arkhaven Dan Westland’s ancient tractor came to the rescue. But winter is not the nastiest mess maker of one entrapped car.
    Human trash is worse.
    The Arkhaven crew conquered a very large manmade dump, including a mattress. Farther up the road, mattress springs were hauled out by Barbara Smith, who also got the work of cleaning up the remains of butchered deer.
    Were cranes working with us, we could have added at least one abandoned boat to our refuge piles, plus a half-dozen rusted hulls of cars deeper in the woods. Of automotive junk, we collected only a half-dozen or so of tires, one still on its wheel. Years of cleanups, together with ­neighborly everyday pickups, have made a difference.
    Aluminum and glass are scarce nowadays. Even the bottles we pick up are mostly plastic, with beer the exception. “Miller Lite is the most popular beer of those who litter Fairhaven Road, outnumbering all other beer bottles and cans by better than 3 to 1,” Don Stewart reported.
    Even fishing line is plastic, though the virtues Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle extols — invisibility and indestructability — make it a deadly hazard when torn off a reel and left as litter.
    Metal rusts, but plastic will tell our story for ages to come.
    With spring, opportunity abounds to deprive future anthropologists of that story. Get together to clean up your neighborhood, your stream, your watershed.
    April 11 is the Chesapeake’s largest watershed-wide clean up day. Organized by the Alliance for the Bay, Project Clean Stream aims to bring out 10,000 volunteers at over 500 sites across all six Bay states and D.C. The goal is to collect one million pounds of trash.
    Find a cleanup site at cleanstream.allianceforthebay.org.
    After the dirty work, clean yourself up for a party. Ours was swell in food, company and the satisfaction of knowing our mother, Mother Earth, approved.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

We’re the top strata

History is the byproduct of daily life.    
    Dip a toe or jump into Maryland Day celebrations and you drift into that conclusion.
    That’s the plan. It’s been maturing for eight years under the direction of the Four Rivers Heritage Area, Anne Arundel County’s variation on the statewide program devoted (and funded) to keeping our culture alive. Some four-dozen partners join in this historic weekend. Each brings its particular interest. So much of Maryland history is on display. So many real people guide you into the human archaeology of the places we now occupy.
    So finally it dawns. We’re the top strata, laying the record of our lives on top of the layers deposited by all the people who’ve come and gone before us.
    Of course, history is a big deal in Anne Arundel County, and Maryland Day — make that weekend — makes it a party drawing lots of us in.
    History is going on just as fervently all around us.
    Just last weekend, Calvert shined the light on women writing 21st century history by the lives they are living. For 14 years Calvert has brought its Women of the World to the fore at Women’s History Month. This year, nine organizations collaborated to honor 14 women and girls at work all around us, as teachers, Scouts, judges, mediators and civic volunteers.
    Seven organizations join the Calvert Commission on Women and League of Women Voters to show the breadth of the reach of women making history by improving the quality of present life.
    Among them, the youngest were schoolgirls, seventh-graders Nina St. Hillaire and Danielle Frye and ninth-grader Dia Brown. Their achievements were History Fair projects celebrating “the heroine in our own backyard.”
    Their subject, Harriet Elizabeth Brown, probably knew she was making history when she enlisted NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall to sue for equal pay for black teachers. But her real goal was equality: Her $600 salary bought a lot less living than the $1,100 salaries of white teachers in 1930s’ Calvert County.
    So too, each of the 14 is making history as the byproduct of daily work for our times.
    They are Amber Bayse, Calvert Memorial Hospital Foundation … Madeleine Buckley and Dayna Jacobs, Girl Scout Council … Marjorie Clagett, County Administrative Judge … Ella Ennis, volunteer … Jennifer Foxworthy, business leader … Nancy Highsmith, educator … Joy Hill, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maryland … Gladys Jones, Chamber of Commerce … Morgan Lang, student and woman of tomorrow … Daniella Lenzly, Concerned Black Women … Julie Morrison, Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth … Janet Scott, Community Mediation Center … and the League of Women Voters Study Team on Transparency in County Government.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Snow, too, if I had my way

I’d love to tax the rain.     
    Heavy, trouble-causing rains I’d hit with draining fees. Rains that pour and seep into our lower levels, taxing us with sucking it up with the Shop Vac or a multi-thousand dollar remediation job? I’d punish them the same way storm­water-remediation-fee-averse Marylanders say our state’s most hated tax is punishing them. Bad rains would pay at least as much as the $15, $29, $85 or $170 a year some Chesapeake Country homeowners (in the nine taxed counties and Baltimore) and assorted politicians claim are draining our bank accounts.
    Sharing the taxing privileges of government would enable me to exercise their dispensations, too. I’d exempt good rains from taxation, just as churches and assorted not-for-profits are exempt. Light, nourishing do-good rains would pay only a cent — Frederick County’s fee for stormwater remediation.
    Even more, I’d love to tax snow.
    Though with reservations. From late November into early January, white-Christmas dustings would be exempted as welcome visitors — Providing they arrive in amounts of one inch or less. Also tax-free would be go-out-and-play snows falling on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m no Grinch wanting to tax the fun out of sledding and building snow forts and families. As long as they melt before Monday’s rush hour.
    Even as the snow piles of February and March retreat, they make the case for snow and, less visibly, rain taxes.
    Falling and new-fallen snow brings transient beauty. Examine those white flakes and you can imagine purity as well as infinity. If there’s acid rain in those crystals, it’s invisible.
    Old snow is not very pretty, is it? Its sooty crust is visible proof that what falls out of our environment may not be pure as the driven snow.
    When I look at my own personal snow piles, I see more than meets my eye in better weather. My beloved little car’s noxious tailpipe emissions of some 19 pounds of gases per gallon of fuel are usually invisible, being, after all, gases, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. But with snow I can see their traces in the dirty little particulate company they keep.
    Along with the soot are goopy mud, salt, de-icing chemicals and dog, cat, fox, possum, raccoon, deer and bird poo.
    Come the melt, and what happens? Where earth and grass and rain gardens suck it up, it percolates into groundwater. Without filtration, it goes downhill straight to the Chesapeake, traveling fast on the paved expressway.
    On the open road, my mess combines with your mess to make a really big mess.
    As you say good riddance to the snow, it might be a good time to think in terms of what stormwater remediation fees are remediating.
    Twenty-first century messes, I’m sorry to say, are made by you and me right here in Chesapeake Country.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com