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Our Sense of Place

Get to better know Chesapeake Country in this week’s paper

With strong legs ending in well-balanced feet, we humans are made for walking. We’ve used those extremities to spread out over the earth. That evolution may well have swelled our brainpower, which in turn has increased our scope by the invention of wheels and imitation of wings.
    Walking, running, rolling, riding, flying — how we love to move! We’ve made heroes of explorers and both simulated and stimulated our own mobility with stories of exploration and adventure.
    Century by century, locomotion by locomotion, we’ve covered more territory with more speed and less effort. Nowadays, when air travel is commoner than auto travel was a century ago, travel for fun has become America’s first-ranked hobby, by some surveys.
    So it’s a good thing that developmental topographical disorientation is a rare disorder, for otherwise we’d never know where we’d gotten ourselves.    
    The thing to do on getting to a new place is to look around and get your bearings.
    That’s just what artist and writer Suzanne Shelden has been doing in her Route 4 series of paintings. “I never thought I could be so inspired by a road,” she writes this week in Maryland Route 4 Became My Roadmap. Her paintings illustrate the story, so you’ll see what she saw through her eyes.
    Stay a while in a place, and you go beyond your amazement at discovering its features to amazement at your ignorance. Your ‘discoveries,’ you realize, are the culture and often the creation of people who’ve been there longer than you.
    Who of us comers-into Chesapeake Country doesn’t become fascinated with its culture? Doesn’t read James Michener’s Chesapeake and William Warner’s Beautiful Swimmers? Doesn’t meet the past through the photos of Marion Warren and Aubrey Bodine? Doesn’t try to crack crabs and maybe catch them? Doesn’t learn the lore of working the water?
    This week another writer, Mick Blackistone, takes us on board an oyster boat to show us the present tense of the time-honored Chesapeake tradition of oystering in Working Winter’s Water. ­Blackistone, who enjoys the honorary title Admiral of the Chesapeake, knows his subject well. The author of Dancing with the Tide, stories of the year-round cycle of working the water, Blackistone has worked as a waterman, fishmonger and administrator of marine trades associations in both Annapolis and Washington, D.C.
    Eventually, as you live in a new place, memories of the places you once called home are likely to catch up with you. With a certain nostalgia, you find yourself missing old familiar sights and practicing customs that remind you of home.
    That’s why Billy Greer, owner of Jing Ying Institute of Arnold, celebrates the Chinese New Year, beginning on January 28, with lion dancing and tea tasting. And at Maryland Hall, as you’ll read in Kathy Knotts’ story, Enter the Year of the Fire Rooster, World Artists Experiences brings Chinese acrobats, artisans and musicians in festival this weekend.
    Reading this week’s paper, you’ll discover that a place’s culture is ever expanding with what all of us make it.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com