In Chesapeake Country, a Good Man Is Not So Hard to Find
You meet them in newspapers and boatsheds, street corners and museums
It is a good thing that we live in Chesapeake Country, not Pagford. Muggles muddle into miserable messes in the scenic village of J.K. Rowling’s first novel set outside the world of wizardry. A teen antihero whose only value is trying to live authentically gets into particularly nasty trouble.
Maybe living authentically is not one of those things you can achieve by trying. If you trust the lessons of fiction in general or, in particular, Rowling’s Casual Vacancy.
In real-life Chesapeake Country, however, living authentically seems not so hard.
Charter fisherman Wayne Adolph certainly didn’t use that word when he called me to recommend boatwright Robert ‘Bunny’ Joyce as worth a story. But he meant something like that in his description of a man whose work is putting broken things aright and making leaky things seaworthy.
Chesapeake Country has a culture of old crafts. Building boats, houses and barns; working the land and the water; taking care of people and places. Working with your hands in ways set over time by generations initiates you into a guild. Work like that makes you bigger than any one person. You’ve got standards to keep up, and that obligation gives you standards of your own.
Bunny Joyce is one of a kind, but he’s not alone. People like that still live and work all over Chesapeake Country. You read about them in Bay Weekly. But you can get even closer. You can meet real people who would laugh if you accused them of living authentically, though they may be doing just that because of their grounding in elemental work upheld by a tradition.
You find them in boatsheds like the serviceable one where I met Joyce. You might charter a fishing trip and find such a person beneath the bull and banter. Buy crabs, oysters from one, or pumpkins and persimmons from another. You might chance on one at work on a ladder rebuilding an old barn.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you ran into such people anywhere in Chesapeake Country.
Visit Boat Show Sunday, and you might run into one such authentic at a portable table outside Fleet Reserve Club. That’s where street minister Tony Tona sets up each year to hand out Bibles. The streets are his church, as the easy talker from Coney Island will tell you. So will his book, Working the Front Lines: Life on the Streets. Tona believes he was saved for the work of saving others: from the homeless and addicts to cops, lawyers, doctors, businessmen.
He’s done that work for 30 years, “determined to live by faith, not asking anyone for money, food or a place to stay.”
The Holy Spirit, he says, sent him to Annapolis with orders to prostrate himself on a specific corner for five days in a row. At the end, he says he saw the reason for an insane act he’d have rather avoided.
Add City Dock to Lawyers Mall and the Statehouse as places people come to proclaim their beliefs. Agree with them or not, you can admire the strength of their devotion to a cause bigger than themselves.
That’s part, I think, of living authentically.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had news of the retirement of three men who threw themselves into work bigger than themselves, and made Chesapeake Country better by their work. Tom Marquardt is retiring as editor and publisher of The Capital after 35 years. Jeff Holland leaves Annapolis Maritime Museum after 11 years as its executive director. John Guild leaves Historic Annapolis after four years as its president.
We won’t see their faces in the same places, but their legacies will live in the institutions each has redefined with his work. Work like theirs shapes the person as much as the boat, museum or newspaper, so they take all they’ve done into their futures.
As I said, we’re lucky to live in Chesapeake Country, where traditions enrich people and people enrich traditions.
P.S. Women deserve equal time. Lead me to them.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; firstname.lastname@example.org