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Odes to family, comfort

     At a moment of fraying connections, of nose-in-the-phone solitude and epidemic loneliness, Chesapeake Country offers one enduring remedy — the oyster.     Oysters are a great foodstuff of Maryland history and a treasure of our waters. But they’re also sinew in what binds families over generations, proved in the winner’s circle of the Annual National Oyster Cook-Off, part of Rotary Club of Lexington Park’s 53rd U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County last month.

At 99 years, he’s made more history than he can remember

      It’s another gathering of the family to whom Emil Saroch has devoted his life since the death of his wife Patricia on Christmas Day 2004.       They seem to get larger every year. It started with him and his wife. Then the four kids came, then their spouses, then eight grandkids and two great-grandkids over the years. Many midshipmen, as well, have found the Sarochs’ home a welcome port and respite during breaks from the rigorous regimen at school at the Naval Academy.

Bay Weekly among nine Four Rivers winners

       Critical mass is that amazing moment when what wasn’t suddenly is. In physics, it’s the moment matter turns into the energy of a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Critical mass happens all the time in life, too, from falling in love to …          To creating a community of “places to experience — to see, hear and even taste –— the authentic heritage of Maryland in ways that you cannot experience anywhere else.”

See the place and its portraits this weekend

      Painter Suzanne Shelden likes her subjects — and canvases — big. So big that she’s making a reputation as a regional portraitist for Calvert County and its distinctive places. She’s made both a Rt. 4 series and the county in winter, painting huge canvases of her favorite sites plus places now vanished except in memory and photos.          “I do a lot of my observing and composing with my camera,” she told me.

In Virginia Beach, the challenge of a dead whale

       A 26-foot-long, decomposing creature washes up on your beach. What are you going to do?          Virginia Beach had that challenge last week with a dead juvenile humpback whale that had been seen floating at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Splashing down after two years’ Peace Corps service in Armenia

    I had not been back in Shady Side for even an hour before I was using a tumble dryer, an appliance I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. In Armenia, where I spent 27 months serving with Peace Corps, a washing machine is a luxury. Clothes are always dried outside on a line. In winter, laundry freezes hard.       It had been very dry here in Chesapeake Country, but rain threatened the day I arrived at Peggy’s house with a giant suitcase, much of it filled with dirty washing.

The local hunter’s choice for a half century

      Celebrating 50 years of business, Rowell’s Butcher Shop in Prince Frederick is still a family-run business. Started by Ernest Rowell, now 90, it was handed over to his son-in-law, Ron Weimert who sold the business to his son, Darrin Weimert, 50, Rowell’s step-grandson. Weimert now runs the business full-time under the watchful eye of Pop Pop.

Yes, that’s a plane coming in over busy Rt. 2 in Edgewater

      Before the plane could fly out of Lee Airport, pilot Bill Friday had a lot to check.       Are we clear for runway? Is this dial in the off position? Is the crossfeed on?       I sat in the back of the 4,000-pound light aircraft — the Federal Aviation Administration’s name for a small airplane that typically seats six or fewer people — trying to scribble down everything being said.

Bayside History Museum keeps up the tradition

      Tom Crockett’s toy train display at Tan’s Cycles was a holiday hit for 17 years. From Christmas trains running every December, he expanded to include Halloween trains in October and November. Crowds of children with their parents and grandparents poured into his shop to watch the trains speed past mountains, towns and itty-bitty people.

Artificial intelligence, meet the real Bay

      On the one hand, artificial intelligence conjures menacing robots and algorithms vacuuming up our personal information.          But there are positive uses for learned machines, as Chesapeake Bay is about to experience.           The Chesapeake Conservancy this week announced that an AI expert is joining the organization, a first for the Annapolis-based group and a rare achievement for any nonprofit.