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A different rockin’ new year

We are going to have a good year in 2015. That’s what I’m predicting, despite continuing reports of rockfish population problems.
    I must disclose, however, that when it comes to predicting what Tidewater anglers can expect in the year to come, the last few seasons I’ve built up close to a 100 percent accuracy rating — 100 percent wrong.
    My prediction for 2013 was for a disappointing year for rockfish. That season turned out to be the best in memory, with lots of big fish that stayed around all season. Catching was phenomenal.
    My prediction for 2014 was based on the falling rockfish population scenario, soon confirmed by an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission survey. I was sure a mediocre season would follow. But Bay fishing again proved excellent.
    Making a prediction for 2015 in light of these failures posed a real challenge. The Commission has officially confirmed falling rockfish numbers as well as anticipating a spawning female population crisis. Thus a 20.5 percent harvest cut for the Chesapeake has been mandated for 2015. How can Tidewater anglers have another great year in the face of that pronouncement?
    I was again tempted to go with the science-based opinions that we are bound for a disappointing year in 2015. Then I consulted an old friend, one of the more knowledgeable Bay watermen I’ve known.

Leo James’ Prediction
    Leo James has been fishing the waters of the Chesapeake almost daily for over 71 years.
    “The problem with government officials figuring the rockfish numbers is that the fish have fins. They can move miles from one day to the next,” he explained.
    “Early last April, setting my nets for white perch day after day, I caught so many six- and seven-inch rockfish that had to be released that I stopped setting. Now where did those little rock come from? They couldn’t have been spawned that year; they were too big. [A six-inch rockfish should be about six months old.] There were thousands and thousands of them.
    “All these government officials that say they know what’s going on out there are full of it. Especially about the Chesapeake. They really don’t know what’s happening; they’re just guessing and they can guess wrong. I can tell you from what I know and what I’ve seen, the Bay is going to have a good season in 2015. There’s plenty of fish out there.”

He’s Not Alone
    Some DNR officials may agree with James, at least about a portion of the rockfish problem. In arguing against the Commission’s 20.5 percent reduction for the Chesapeake rockfish harvest to protect the spawning female stocks, DNR argued in part that our Bay fishery is primarily for male stripers. Most of our females become migratory and leave for the Atlantic. Perhaps our Bay numbers are better than Marine Fisheries Commission data indicate.
    James offered one caveat: “I can tell you another thing from my 71 years of experience. There has never been two years in a row that have ever been the same. They are always different, and usually way different.”
    So my final prediction is that we’re going to have another good rockfish season in the coming year, but it won’t be anything like last year. So be ready to adjust your game.


Welcome Back to Fishing

    Maryland Department of Natural Resources wants to woo back Marylanders who have not bought an annual nontidal or tidal fishing license since 2011. If that’s you, buy before Jan. 31 and save 50 percent.

Calvert Marine Museum’s new baby cephalopod

True names rise from a creature’s character. That’s the Native American way. Cats, too, have true names, but theirs are inscrutable to humans, according to poet T.S. Eliot in the poems that became Cats of musical fame.
    Octopi are as curious as cats, certainly as inscrutable and maybe as intelligent. These creatures of the deep can change both the color and the texture of their bodies to disappear into their environment. They use their eight tentacles to explore, and in captivity, where food may be presented in jars to test their skill, they’ll take lids off and pull out what’s inside.
    Calvert Marine Museum’s new River to Bay exhibit welcomes a pint-sized octopus from Virginia’s offshore waters. The pound-and-a half cephalopod is “very inquisitive,” according to keeper Linda Hanna.
    “It’s fascinating to work with an animal who can tell you’re there and wants to interact with you,” Hanna says. “Every time she’s fed, she has to get her food out of something. We’ve used jars, toys, even Mr. Potato Head. When you try to take something out of the tank, she’s like a two-year-old who wants it back and will grab onto it so you can’t take it out.”
    Such a creature can’t just be called the octopus.
    To find her true name, the museum invites you to enter its Name Our Octopus Contest.
    You’ll have to see her to discover what that name might be. Visit through January 30, pick a name and drop your suggestion in the ballot box in the museum store.
    The octopus herself will choose the winner on Tuesday, February 10. All names are also entered in a drawing to win a basket full of octopus-related goodies.

2015 gives us all we get: the gift of time

Time has been short as the old year withered and died. Now 2015 stretches before us in vast, unbroken possibility.
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    when a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortex when with eagle eyes
    He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise …
    I look at the new year with the poet Keats’ wild surmise. (Yes, Keats confused Balboa with Cortez, but the poet, dead at 25 in 1821, had no Internet to check his every fact.)
    2015 is nothing much so far, so it can be anything.
    That is very good for me, for I never have enough time.
    About one hour and 45 minutes. That’s my estimation of my typical deficit. My husband says that’s about right. He should know. He’s spent two-thirds of his life waiting for me to be ready.
    Yesterday morning, for example, we made an early start for the gym, at least according to the schedule I’ve run on for most of 2014. It was about 8:30. Except that the car clock reported 10:15.
    And this clock runs slow, Bill said.
    That’s ridiculous! I said. We got going early.
    Yes, he said, except that we read newspapers for an hour, packed supplies for winterizing the boat, checked email, got to the car without your glasses and went back, went back again for the bottles of wine to remember Moe to the couple who hit him tennis balls …
    Well of course, I said. I live in the time zone of the eternal present. The eternal present stretches to hold any little thing you have to do on the way to a fixed goal, like getting out the door to go to work.
    What’s more, you get extra time when you’re doing two things at the same time, from reading the Style section of the Washington Post while getting dressed to checking email while on the phone.
    Do you mean, asked Bill, that doing two things at once doesn’t take longer than doing either of them separately? Because even if it’s Style you’re reading, reading slows down …
    No that’s not it at all, I countered. Doing two things at once breaks the time barrier. You can get them both done in no time. Multitasking to three or four things gives you time credit, like when you have a home wind generator and it feeds extra energy back into the grid.
    We talked our way the seven miles to the gym. But we were treating ourselves to biscuit breakfast sandwiches, and we couldn’t get them after maybe 10:45. So we wouldn’t have time to get them after we finished at the gym.
    While we were that way, we checked the library to see if the tennis players were out. Yes, they were, so we stopped to give them Moe’s gift and all had a bit of a cry about dogs …
    As long as we were that way, we better stop by the hardware store in case we didn’t have that long-necked funnel on the boat. I just needed another thing or two there …
    It was a little after 11 by the time we got to the gym, But that was way early compared to the time it really was (I misread the new misleading clock) when I decided to get ready to serve that night’s dinner.
    I blame it on short time. When the year is into its last days, time runs faster the way the last sand in an hourglass rushes through the funnel. The last days of December have almost no time at all. No wonder I can’t keep up. Time runs faster than any mere human, even on a fast program on the treadmill in the gym.
    So 365 days of infinite time is what I foresee in 2015. Except that they’re already slipping away …
    What do you see in your future in this fresh new year?
    That’s the point of Bay Weekly’s first feature story in Vol. XXIII, No. 1, in the year of our lives 2015. Our answers here and in that story are prompts to you …

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

One man proves the human spirit is immeasurable in this war drama

Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell: 300: Rise of an Empire) lived enough for three men in his first 30 years. As a teen, the son of Italian immigrants was a petty thief. His brother suggests that instead of running from the police, Louis should put his speed to work. Throwing his energy into training, he earns a slot on the Olympic track team.
    After an impressive performance at the games, World War II interrupts his plans, and Louis becomes a bombardier in the Pacific theater. On a rescue mission, the plane fails, and Louis and two other crewmen wind up on a small raft in the middle of the ocean.
    The castaways endure more than a month at sea before rescue by a ­Japanese ship. Starving, sunburned and half mad, the Americans are cast into a prison camp.
    This true story has lots of epic plotlines, but, alas, it has little character development. Olympics, lost at sea, prisoner of war — each would make a good movie. Combining all three stories into one movie is overwhelming.
    Director Angelina Jolie (In the Land of Blood and Honey) has the difficult task of weaving these three themes into a seamless film. Despite a script by the Coen Brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis), she doesn’t hit the mark.
    Jolie, who became a friend of Zamperini and his family, may be too close to her subject to do it justice. Louis is saintly even as a juvenile delinquent. He always knows the right thing to do, he’s always brave and he never waivers in his beliefs.
    Though Jolie failed to give Zamperini the depth and coherence he deserves, she found a worthy actor to portray the hero. O’Connell pours raw emotion into the role, showing Louis as an iron-willed man who can endure every punch life throws. But by the time Zamperini becomes a POW, Jolie is set on canonizing him.
    Still, Unbroken is a compelling drama. The scenes of Louis’ struggle to survive at sea are the best in the film, offering humor, drama, horror, action and a compelling narrative.
    If you long for the Old Hollywood war films that feature square-jawed do-gooders who never waver from their commitment to God and country, Unbroken is well worth the ticket. If you’re looking for a more nuanced portrayal of Zamperini’s life, pick up Laura Hillenbrand’s biography instead.

Fair Drama • PG-13 • 137 mins.

Great performances marred by poor focus

A story based on real events, Foxcatcher focuses on Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum: The Book of Life), a gold-winning Olympic wrestler who believes he deserves better. His life is cramped and overshadowed by older brother David (Mark Ruffalo: Begin Again). Himself a gold medalist, David has achieved the standing Mark longs for.
    Mark finds his way out in John du Pont (Steve Carell: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), the eccentric heir to the du Pont fortune. A lifelong wrestling fan, du Pont seeks to create a competitive wrestling team around Mark.
    Mark accepts what seems like a dream job and moves to the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania. But John du Pont has a tenuous hold on reality. He buys army tanks to drive around his grounds and practices shooting with the police. When du Pont carries a loaded gun into the gym to motivate the Foxcatcher wrestlers, Mark realizes he’s made a grave mistake.
    Concerned for his brother, David takes a position on team Foxcatcher, putting the three men on a collision course.
    Foxcatcher should be a gripping drama about a mentally ill man with enough money and influence to do as he pleases. Instead, director Bennett Miller (Moneyball) offers an unfocused mess of a film that doesn’t know whose story it’s telling, Mark or David’s.
    Du Pont wanders in and out of scenes like an old-money Bertha Mason, remaining largely a threatening but undeveloped presence. He’s the most dynamic and interesting character in the piece, but Miller is uninterested in him. In 134 minutes, he certainly had time to examine the heir.
    Despite confusion, Foxcatcher features three excellent performances. Always a reliable performer, Ruffalo works hard in an underwritten role to give his character emotional depth. A smart family man and excelling athlete who loves his brother, David is so saintly you assume his receding hairline is caused by his halo abrading his forehead.
    As Mark, Tatum uses his impressive physicality to create a brutish character who prefers to avoid thinking. While hulking through the scenes with mouth agape, Tatum displays sparks of deep hurt and fear. His Mark is a tragic figure who understands that he’s trapped but doesn’t know how to extricate himself.
    With the showiest role in the piece, Carell builds du Pont’s mania slowly, making it easy to dismiss him, at first, as a rich eccentric. As his behavior becomes more disturbing, we share Mark’s dawning realization.

Fair Drama • R • 134 mins.

Our new home welcomed us by testing our resourcefulness

Clara and I moved piece by piece to our new home in Deale. We started moving our belongings from College Park on Thanksgiving Day of 1990, using our station wagon and neighbors’ trucks. Most of the move was made on weekends. Mid-week, one of us would make the trip to Deale to feed Pumpkin, the cat left behind by the previous owners. We selected the name Upakrik Farm while eating dinner in a restaurant in Wayson’s Corner on a return trip to College Park.
    We finished our moving on December 24.
    That’s when we discovered that the furnace was not working. The cause was simple: The fuel tank was empty.
    We had purchased the house with the understanding that there was oil in the tank. But there was no external gauge. A calibrated stick had to be inserted through the fill pipe to measure the amount of oil still in the tank. We hadn’t measured the level, though we’d conserved fuel oil, setting the house thermostat at 55 degrees during the move. Now what oil had been in the tank was all gone.
    Our urgent call to the fuel oil distributer gave us no hope. Because we were new to the area, no delivery would be made until our credit was verified. On Christmas Eve, verification was impossible.
    But there was a small wood-burning boiler connected to the oil-fired boiler, and about a cord of wood was left behind the garage. I used experience and knowledge I’d gained from working for my dad, who was a plumbing and heating contractor, to disconnect the electrical wires to the circulator pump of the hot water system, fasten a plug to the wires and connect the circulator to a duplex outlet. This was necessary because the circulator would not function unless the oil burner was operating. I then fired up the wood boiler to warm the house. The wood-fired boiler required a fresh supply every hour to keep the house confortable.
    So we were pretty warm as we spent our first Christmas at the farm putting things in their proper place and getting organized. We were warmer still when we hopped into the hot spa in the family room to bathe in warm bubbly water. Both our girls drove up from College Park to join us.
    Southern Maryland Oil made a delivery of fuel on December 26, and I reconnected the circulating pump to the oil burner circuit.
    Despite that first day, we have never regretted moving to Deale from College Park. The solitude of living in the country has combined with many new friends to make us appreciate life to its fullest.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Feel the tension of holding fate in your hands

Twelve Angry Men was first produced in the mid-1950s as a play for television, then reworked for the stage and, of course, the famed movie with an all-star cast led by Henry Fonda. Having sat through the trial of an inner-city young man accused of murder, the all-male jury must come up with a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty. On first vote, it’s 11-1 in favor of guilty. The lone holdout — a meticulous middle-aged man sticking to his convictions among 11 of his peers who want to convict and go home — has enough questions about the seemingly obvious case that reasonable doubt, racism and the fragility of justice permeate the play — sometimes slowly and sometimes with an explosion of passion.
    2nd Star Productions is known for staging big musicals at the 150-seat Bowie Playhouse, with the occasional straight play tossed in. For Twelve Angry Men, 2nd Star has teamed up to present the drama in the Odenton space used by a new arts group, West Arundel Creative Arts, to provide visual and performing arts classes to local children.
    The large, open first floor of an office building is upon entry a little off-putting, what with the fluorescent lights and low ceilings that are the antithesis of most real theater spaces. The stage space is simply a long table for 12 in the middle of the floor, with one wall separating backstage from stage and providing for entrances and exits. With the actors on the same floor as the audience — who surround them on three sides — and with the entire room lit, audience members often see as much of each other as of the cast.
    But director Jane Wingard and a very capable cast soon turn our attention from each other to center stage, where sincere and very carefully crafted characters make us feel the tension of holding the fate of a life in one’s hands.
    2nd Star sets the play in the present day. The addition of several African-American cast members to the deliberating dozen creates some interesting counterpoint to the script, which, while written in a far different era, now, especially in the context of recent events, reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
    The protagonist in this case is juror No. 8, played by Gene Valendo, a 2nd Star veteran who brings a polite yet passionate determination that despite the overwhelming odds, the road to reasonable doubt must be followed through to its conclusion. Valendo does a fine job here, balancing his character’s solid belief that a youngster shouldn’t be put to death unless the case against him is irreproachable, with the points made by others who insist guilt has been proved.
    Juror No. 1, the foreman, is deftly played by Brad Eaton, whose interest in wrapping up a guilty verdict quickly is soon surpassed by his responsibility to keep things under control. The de facto foreman, in fact, ends up being juror No. 4, played by Ben Harris with an initially cool detachment and insistence that everyone be heard. His detachment simmers until, later in the play, it erupts into an angry nearly physical confrontation with juror No. 10, a racist whose rant about how they are not good for anything and are guilty by skin color takes the breath away from the entire room — including audience. As embodied by Tom Hartzell, this juror’s racism of the 1950s reminds us that, 60 years later, we still have a long way to go.
    As juror No. 3, Ken Kienas is effective as the angry man whose frustration votes changed to not guilty spills over into near violence. That effectiveness could be even more real with a bit more modulation in his voice, which at first is always set to 10 on the volume knob. Jerry Khatcheressian, another local community theater veteran, gives us the sincerity of one who has come to this country from far worse conditions than he meets in the U.S.A. as juror No. 11. The rest of the jurors — Richard Blank, Larry Griffin, Daley Gunter, Nick Thompson, Anders Tighe and Andre Foster — all prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
    A few misplaced ad-libs and a touch of slowness in cue pickup during the first act gave way in the second act to the all-in dive into these characters.
    This is a true ensemble effort that takes playgoers out of the fluorescence and drop ceilings of an Odenton business space into a dirty, cramped big-city jury room whose air is heavy with the weight of determining justice.


    Judge: Kim Ethridge. Assistant director: Steve Andrews. Lighting and sound technician: Matt Andrews. Stage manager (and guard): Joanne Wilson. Two hours with intermission.

    ThFSa 8pm; Su 3pm: West Arundel Creative Arts, Odenton. $22 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-757-5700; www.2ndstarproductions.com.

Fish, fowl, venison — and winter greens

Eating wild is a priority at my family’s table. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, we feature treats we’ve harvested from the wild. Following are a few favorites.

Appetizers

Rockfish Ceviche

Two rockfish fillets or other firm, white fish (about 1.5 lbs.), sliced into pieces approximately
½ x 2 inches
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil.
1½ large sweet onions, cut in half lengthwise, then very thinly sliced
2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 to 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
4 lemons
4 limes

    Put fish in glass. Add all ingredients, then gently mix. Add freshly squeezed juice of lemon and lime to cover the ingredients in the bowl. Gently mix again so that all pieces are exposed to the juices. Cover and refrigerate at least five hours, better yet, overnight.
    Taste and adjust spices. Serve drained on a bed of lettuce with a garnish of thinly chopped spring onions plus a side of French or artisan bread or your favorite crackers.

Broiled Breast of Dove

    Wrap each dove breast in a piece of thick-cut, smoke-cured bacon. Broil in oven, turning once.
    Remove when bacon begins to crisp. Serve with a dusting of paprika.

Entrées

Waterfowl Medallions

    Fillet breast meat from a goose or duck and, slicing against the grain, cut into medallion-sized pieces abou three-quarters-inch thick. Marinate overnight in olive oil, rosemary, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
    Drop pieces individually onto a hot cast-iron skillet and quickly brown both sides. Remove and store in a shallow bowl in warm oven.
    Deglaze the skillet with one-half stick butter and one-quarter cup brandy. Drizzle over the browned medallions. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Venison Tenderloin

    Cut a 12- to 18-inch section of venison tenderloin, rub with coarse-grained salt and puncture thoroughly with a fork. Marinate overnight in olive oil, chopped basil and generous amounts of minced garlic and fresh-ground black pepper.
    Prepare grill and scatter wet mesquite chips over charcoal (if using a gas grill, wrap wet wood chips in foil and puntcure several times with a fork). Cook covered but with vents open. Turn once. Remove when internal temperature of the roast reaches 120 degrees. Cover with foil and let stand 15 minutes.
    Melt one stick butter, add a good squeeze of fresh lemon, stir and drizzle over sliced tenderloin. Serve garnished with pickled green peppercorns and a dusting of paprika.

Collard Greens

    Rinse, stem and chop two pounds of greens. Combine in saucepan two bottles of beer, two tablespoons olive oil, one-half cup chopped country ham and salt and pepper. Add greens and simmer until tender.
    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Bon Appetit!

There is more to victory than lights and superstition

About the annual Army-Navy football game, superstitions abound.
    When I lived across from the Academy, I’d get up in the chilly dark of morning and stand on the cliff, waving good luck to the busses parked along the seawall to leave with the Brigade.  
    When my wife and I moved to Annapolis, I needed a new ritual. Now I decorate the tulip magnolia in front of our house. When I can no longer watch Navy screw up on the field, I go outside and string the lights. The rule is that I must finish by game’s end.
    I realized early in this year’s game that I was going to be spending most of the first half outside. Navy looked out of sync, and Army was knocking the players around like rag dolls.
    But in the middle of the second quarter with Army leading 7-0, I panicked. Many of my light strings were dead. I needed more lights.
    At the Rite Aide, where I had purchased my lights about five years ago, the cupboard was bare. So, I headed for the Home Depot on Defense Highway, listening on the radio to Omar Nelson bemoaning the Navy running strategy and predicting that the Mids would have to start passing if they were going to win the game. Home Depot had shelves to the ceiling filled with lights. But not the simple, non-LED, 100-foot string of white lights I was looking for.  
    At the Home Depot in Parole, the only lights left were those icicles that drip from every gutter, even out of season.
    Where could I get some lights?
    Then I remembered True Value Hardware on Forest Drive.
    Traffic was light, no doubt because everyone was home watching Navy’s lethargic performance. On the radio, Army was driving for another score, and it was fourth and one from Navy’s 30 with under three minutes to go in the half.
    I had to find some lights. And fast!
    As I sailed by Heritage Baptist Church, Navy miraculously recovered an Army fumble. Omar Nelson was practically screaming into his microphone, Pass it to Tillman!
    As I pulled into True Value, Navy scored — on a pass to Tillman. The point after was good and the half ended with the score tied 7-7.
    I really like an old-fashioned hardware store, and Jared Littmann has a great one. I was glad to return to the scale of shopping where birds do not occupy the rafters and I do not get lost.
    Transfixed, I walked narrow aisles crammed with all sorts of neat gadgets until I came to the aisle with the Christmas lights. I found what I thought I was looking for, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to open the box. A guy merrily stocking shelves smiled and confirmed that I had found the right ones.
    I bought five boxes of lights for $25 and headed home.
    When I walked into my house Navy was marching down the field. But the drive stalled at the Army 30, and the Mids tried a 45-yard field goal. I was shocked when it sailed through the middle of the uprights. Navy was leading for the first time in the game.
    Then Army got the ball and started marching toward the Navy goal line.
    It was time to finish decorating my tree.
    I had all these new lights and I was totally psyched to do the best job ever. Using my jump rope technique, I swung the lights slowly back and forth, then looped them over the branches. I was in Zen mode and couldn’t miss my target.
    I had no idea what was happening with the game, but I knew that Navy was going to win.
    Back inside, I saw Navy recover another Army fumble and begin eating up big yards as they headed for another score. This time a goal-line scrum on third down that looked more like rugby than football put Navy ahead by 10 with under four minutes to play.
    Army wasn’t finished. They started rolling down the field. When the drive stalled on the Navy 35, Army trotted out their field goal kicker, who nailed a 52-yard zinger.
    I must confess that I was silently rooting for him to make it.
    After 12 years of Army heartbreak, I felt sorry for the team. I wanted Navy to win, but I cheered when Army’s kick sailed through the uprights.
    It was now down to an onside kick. I am sure that Navy fans all over the globe were freaking out. I was calm as could be. Navy was going to catch the kick, run out the clock and secure a 13th straight victory.
    It was dark by now, and my Christmas lights sparkled in the tree outside my window.
    I stood in my living room at attention as the Army players cried their way through their battle hymn before singing Navy Blue & Gold with the Brigade.
    The Army-Navy game is special. There is nothing like it in sport. As a former midshipman from the Class of ’75, who did not graduate, I know the sting of defeat.
    But this year I learned an important lesson. There is more to victory than lights and superstitions. Army was more inspiring in defeat than Navy was in victory.

The light is thin this time of year. But the sun shines bright enough on its rising and falling arc to gild everything in its path: windows, tree trunks, the marsala leaves of oaks, clouds and the heavens. That arc is brief, however, as we inch toward the darkest day of the year. On winter solstice, December 21, the sun gives us only nine hours and 28 minutes of light.
    Snatch the light while you can, my instincts tell me, so I watch the long dawn. Sitting through the late sunrises of these mornings — 7:20am on the solstice, Sunday — puts me on rush the rest of the short day. Even at solstice, darker mornings are still to come. This winter’s latest sunrise waits on the new year. Sunrise is 7:25am on Sunday, January 4.
    The sun’s long thin rays also light up human memory. Up in the treetops, the light show I saw this pre-solstice morning can’t be much different than a winter illumination seen by our prehistoric ancestors for whom the failing light was the biggest deal on Earth. What kinship that realization gives me, generation by generation in the march through time!
    This drive we feel to ward off the impending dark is nothing new. We who now walk the Earth use electricity as our strategic weapon, plugging in strands of lights all along the spectrum to shout take that! into the darkness.
    The darkest day, winter solstice, marks our turn to the bright side.
    So it’s all in the great weave of things that the celebrations of several great religious traditions converge at this time of year. Each welcomes the return of light; most, specifically the sun.
    America’s widespread Christmas celebration unites many traditions.
    For Christians everywhere, Christmas marks the birth of Christ, son of God. This celebration is the miracle of faith, the union of God with humankind bringing light to the world.
    The Christian tradition gives us Jesus born to Mary in Bethlehem, his birth marked by a brilliant star that marked the path the Three Kings followed to his manger.
    Santa Claus is likely an avatar of the god Odin transmuted into Old Man Winter and Father Christmas, Christianized by association with Saint Nicholas, a Turkish-born Greek Christian whose generosity and preternatural powers spread his reverence throughout Europe, from Russia to England.
    Evergreens are Norse icons as well, trees brought in and decorated to encourage the releafing of deciduous trees and the wreath, perhaps, originating as a circle of evergreen set afire and rolled downhill to lure back the sun.
    Days of parties with feasting, drinking and bonfires enliven every tradition, and on all sides gifts are given.
    Separate but similar is the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, a festival of lights honoring the miraculous endurance of the Temple lamp for eight days when its oil should have lasted only one. Hence the eight branches of the menorah and eight nights of festivities and gifts.
    Jews, Christians, pagans and sun-worshippers: With so many categories of faith, most of us can get into the swing of this season.
    We do at Bay Weekly, where it’s our tradition to illuminate your holidays with stories that turn up the light. This year Dotty Doherty takes her turn as our narrator, traveling to Germany to tell a story about the complex layering of history.
    On the lighter side, first-time contributor Dominic Laiti writes of Christmas trees, which can add their own complexities to our celebrations of comfort and joy.
    Santa Claus gets his story too, recounted by Michelle Steel, who shares her home with the real deal, who many readers of a certain age will recognize.
    More holiday fare is served by sportsman Dennis Doyle and Bay Gardener Dr. Frank Gouin.
    May your celebrations — of whatever — be merry and bright.
    We’ll see you next on December 24 with the Best of the Bay.

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