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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

On the hunt in November

The antlered buck posed statue-like in full-focused attention in a valley surrounded, at a fair distance, by the houses of Fairhaven Cliffs. Perhaps he’d seen me seeing him from my perch well above him, but not assuring him safety were I a bow hunter. That hunting season lasts most of November, the month — this odd sighting reminded me — when Maryland’s 227,000 deer are at their most visible.
    November is rutting season, when bucks go in search of mates, and here one was, where deer, especially bucks, are not everyday sightings. The does and their families, our usual visitors, prefer Kudzu Valley, across the village, where groundhogs are the only neighbors. This was not the only buck I’d seen this month, when deer in Chesapeake Country are about as common as squirrels, and just about as oft seen dead along the roadsides.
    Not only are deer out and about in November, they are single-minded, both males and females hormonally driven to mate — as well as driven to distraction. Thus deer-vehicle crashes peak in November as well, bringing death to over 10,000 deer — and often injury to people as well as to their vehicles.
    The end of mating season coincides with the opening of the modern deer firearms season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That’s when most of the deer harvested in a year are taken. Last year 95,863 deer were harvested.
    From November 28 through December 12, hunters will be out in search of deer. So maybe for that time you should leave the woods to them.

In every faith, we look ahead in hope

On American’s feast day, Thanksgiving, we look back at “the great and various favors” of our year. I hope you were inspired in your recollection and naming of your blessings this Thanksgiving Day by George Washington’s apt words, quoted in last week’s Letter.
    Now we rush full of anticipation into the winter holidays.
    These great holidays rise from separate faiths, but all share a common theme. Each turns us toward the future.
    Advent — marked on special calendars in many a family — begins November 29 with anticipation building in the day-by-day countdown to Christmas.
    The Jewish eight-day festival of Chanukah, beginning December 6 this year, celebrates a victory of the faith and the surprising longevity of the light, which burned in the restored temple in Jerusalem for eight days when there was only oil enough for one.
    The Winter Solstice, December 22, marks the victory of the sun, which strikes a balance with darkness, then climbs again to ascendancy after six waning months.
    Christmas, December 25, celebrates the birth of a baby who was both man and God, bringing the light of hope to humankind. Even secular Christmas, presided over by Santa Claus, promises the magical fulfillment of all our hopes in a shower of gifts.
    New Year’s, which belongs to us all, tells us we get another chance.
    No wonder we love these holidays!
    Each of our seasonal rituals brings us back to the wellspring of hope, a visitation as old as human memory can stretch. Shopping for gifts, which begins in earnest Black Friday, we’re following the example of Saint Nicholas … of the Magi who followed the Star of Bethlehem to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus … and even deeper in history, the sacrifices made to sun gods to reverse the dying of the light.
    Cutting the Christmas tree and gathering greens, we dip deep into many other ancient cultures, bringing evergreen life into our homes at the nadir of the cycle of cold and darkness. Holly’s red berries not only brighten the season; to Christians they recall the blood of the dying Jesus staining his crown of thorns. Mistletoe is magical in many cultures and gives permission for love.
    Stringing the lights, lighting menorahs, decking our halls with lights, green and glitter: All defy the darkness.
    Our hopes spill out onto our lawns in Christmas cribs, Santa, elves and flocking reindeer.
    Baking warms our homes and sweetens the season.
    Arguments about whether our greetings should be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays do wrong to this season of celebration. So intermingled are our traditions and united our hope that we are all in this together.
    Menorahs, bonfires or Christmas stars, our lights shine on our neighbors and theirs on us. Together, we of many faiths transform the dead of winter into a winter wonderland.
    I hope you’ll nurture the spirit of the season in your heart, home and community.

  1. Sandra Olivetti Martin

Editor and publisher;

Thanksgiving is coming, with Christmas right behind

Perfect Thanksgiving weather, don’t you think?    
Propelled by the gusty winds of autumn, fallen leaves dance the season. But not all have fallen, and trees glow with color, green and yellow yielding to scarlet, mahogany and umber, further gilded by long rays of the low sun. Cattails and reeds sway, and pine cones drop, all spreading their seed.
    Above us, Vs of honking geese and ducks fly, pulling our eyes skyward to dramatic vistas of cloud and color.
    In the fields, farmers are harvesting the last soybeans and bedding down the land for winter. Green still sprouts brilliantly in cover crops, winter wheat and rye, holding the earth this year and promise for next year’s harvest.
    The harvest is in, the scene set and Thanksgiving stirring in our minds and kitchens. Time to order the turkey, plan the feast, transform Halloween’s pumpkins into bread and pies. Farmers markets will be open this Saturday to bring the last of the year’s local harvests to your table. There are pie sales to shop, if easy as pie is not so easy for you.
    Most important on this national holiday of gratitude is recalling our blessings, in the spirit of George Washington, who on October 3, 1789 said:
    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—
    for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—
    for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—
    for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty which we have since enjoyed—
    for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—
    for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
    That’s a fine list of good bestowed upon us, don’t you think? Add them to your own list of personal blessings for which we give thanks once again this year on ­Thursday the 26th day of November.
The Christmas Holidays are Another Story
    We’ll still be eating Thanksgiving leftovers when the Christmas season begins in earnest the day after Thanksgiving.
    How shall we get into the spirit of that season?
    Bay Weekly has the answer. Tucked inside this week’s issue you’ll find Seasons Bounty, our annual guide to celebrations of Christmas and all our winter holidays.
    Peruse its pages and the spirit of the season will leap into your heart, as it has into mine. Make a list of your favorites and mark your calendar.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

They’re home to big thinkers, big ideas and new technologies

As an early reader of each issue of Bay Weekly, I’ve been thinking about Then & Now, staff writer Kathy Knotts’ story commemorating Annapolis Public Library’s half century on West Street.
    1410 West Street will be home to our capital city’s library for, perhaps, as many years to come. For that’s the spot where our Anne Arundel County Public Library system will build a new Annapolis library. Starting in 2017, the construction will cause a break in service at the library that’s always been the trunk of the county system, now spread wide to 15 branches. When construction finishes, the 2019 or 2020 Annapolis Library will be 55 percent larger and equipped for a fast-changing future.
    Technology is sure to be one great force driving a future far beyond my imagining.
    In researching her story, Kathy’s kids gave her some help. At the West Street Library anniversary event, seven-year-old Jordan headed for the Library Tech Then & Now exhibit. “Some objects, desktop computers and iPads, he immediately recognized,” Knotts writes.
    Jordan was only two years old when the iPad came into our lives, and his ease with the machine seems intuitive. Revolutionary as it is now, iPad technology is constantly changing; before long, some yet-to-be-named machine even more amazing will surpass it.
    How many cutting-edge-in-their-day computers we’ve used and junked at Bay Weekly, I can’t count. After our first wonderful Apple Macintosh 128K, I quickly took them — and the wonders they enabled — for granted. From 1993, when we bought those little Macs, I’d guess that a new computer — desktop, laptop, iMac or phone — entered my life roughly every three years. Each one in its time gave me so many powers I’d never had that I couldn’t imagine wanting or needing more. Now, when even my smallest computer connects me to the whole world and much of its accumulated knowledge, I load it up with multiple simultaneous commands and begrudge each second their realization takes.
    Older objects in the Tech Then & Now exhibit that “were foreign to” Jordan — like typewriters — had longer lives.
    For their first century in common use — 1860 to 1960 — typewriters’ core technology barely changed. Portables, as opposed to desk models, were a big innovation. And oh boy, when typewriters went electric even an average typist’s fingers could race. In 1961, the self-correcting IBM Selectric revolutionized typewriting. Buying my own was a life milestone. It cost about as much as our first Mac (the Macintosh 128K was originally priced at $2,495).
    All those technological wonders were, each in its day, instruments of my survival. I took each of them as mine, never stopping to think that someone had made them.
    Were it not for the bright ideas of big thinkers, I’d still be living in a cave — if I had the wits and luck to stay alive — telling my stories by firelight and using the embers to draw pictures on the cave walls.
    Libraries have guided me out of the cave — as they do each new generation — by bringing us the big thinkers, the big thoughts and the new technologies on which we all depend for the quality of our lives.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Know where your oyster comes from — and howOysters in Season

Oysters are Maryland’s catch of the season. Oystermen and women are tonging, diving and dredging for Crassostrea virginica in a season that runs October 1 through March 31.
    Last year saw 393,588 bushels harvested with a dockside value of $17.3 million. “The second highest total in at least 15 years due to healthy oyster reproduction in 2010 and 2012,” according to DNR Secretary Mark Belton.
    Nowadays, however, the oysters we eat are increasingly coming from farms rather than wild harvest. Oyster aquaculturists lease sections of water and bottom, plant their own seed and, a couple of years later, harvest their own crop.
    Those oysters keep oyster eaters happy while wild oysters are nurturing a healthy Bay, filtering gallons of water and — given a chance — raising reefs where countless other creatures dwell.
    Ask where your oysters come from, and you’ll be doing good for the Bay.

Letters home from a new soldier, drafted to fight World War I

November 11 brings us once more to Veterans Day, our nation’s day of remembrance of all our veterans, living and dead. The 96-year-old commemoration began as Armistice Day, celebrating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when soldiers of the Allied Forces and of Germany, the enemy, laid down their weapons.
    The war to end all wars began in Europe on July 28, 1914. The United States joined the conflict as an Associated Power on April 6, 1917, promptly drafting 2.8 million men. By the summer of 1918, 10,000 American soldiers a day were shipped to France to fight.
    One of those drafted was A.L. Dixon, an Illinois country man who described his experiences in regular letters to a schoolteacher in a tiny Illinois village. The teacher was Miss Cora Smith, my first cousin twice removed, whose papers have descended to me.
    Inspired by the Maryland archivists who I interviewed in anticipation of Saturday’s Family History Festival, I opened and read his long-forgotten letters, transcribing (as exactly as I could) one for you to read here.
    I suspect Dix, a sergeant in the Quartermaster Department, never reached France, for his letters continue from Louisville through April 17, 1919. What became of him I don’t know but shall have to discover.

December 13, 1917
Dear Friend:
    When you want to know how good homemade candy tastes, just join the army for the candy was sure good, a sergt” here stoled some of it and when I bawled him for it he said that I should be satisfied to know a girl that could make good candy.
    I know you have a hard time making out my writing and you know how hard I worked in school, gee — but we never thot them days that all of this war would spring up and get some of us shot.
    When anyone trys to tell you that Ky is a warm state you tell em that its all wrong for we have about one foot of snow here and some cold.
    Miss Cora I am making good here nowdays and I am acting Sergt” seems with good luck I will have my stripe some day but don’t tell this for one is never sure of a thing here and I may get fooled.
    I have had charge of the QMC wagon train for over three weeks am boss of 22 mules, 30 men & 25 wagons and you should see my head swell when I line these men up and yell ‘tention’ squadron right boys march, am such a bear on that & they can hear me all over the camp.
    Who is your best ever now days? and does ‘ma’ let him stay late on Sun night? The girls swarm this camp on Sundays but I stay clear of em some of them are kids and I sure would like to spank the ­little fools.
    We had a fine thanksgiving dinner here and I was invited to a home in Lville but I was on duty & missed out.
    Come down and I will take you to a show at our new theater its some play house and will seat 4,000 of us boys and we have the best of shows here, in this barracks we have lawyers – Drs – artist – school supts – and most any kind of trade but all are soldiers now, and we hear better singing here than at a show.
    Me thinks we will soon see France and I hope so, just to get this over with.
    I have taken out $500 insurance and Mother may find herself rich some day soon, sure was pleased the way old Calhoun [County] helpt us boys she is a good old Co that’s sure.
    Some how I have been afraid of you ever since you called me a 2 face and laughed at me when I took that hard fall at the barn gate remember how you laughed at me?
    Must go to work so please write until you get all the news to Camp T — and many thanks for the candy and good letter.

Friend Dix [A.L. Dixon]
Utilities Branch
QMC Dept.
Camp T, Ky

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Is this “Reefer Madness”?

We’re looking forward to fields of marijuana amid the corn and soybeans in Southern Anne Arundel County.
    That’s one implication of the semiannual survey Anne Arundel County opinion just released by The Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.
    Medical marijuana is riding a high, according to the survey, with 69 percent in favor of allowing its planting, processing and sale in Anne Arundel.
    Approval comes “with restrictions,” In survey wording, that position is “in keeping with the stance of some county council members but originally opposed by County Executive Steve Schuh.”
    State law newly allows medical marijuana, but Schuh wanted none of it for Anne Arundel. Now he’s said okay, under the council’s strict rules on marijuana as a crop and product.
    Farming and processing the leafy plant are targeted for South County, on operations of at least 10 acres that are guarded but don’t show lights at night.
    Under those rules, you don’t have to be smoking pot to imagine marijuana as Southern Maryland’s new tobacco.
    From colonial days, tobacco was Maryland’s cash crop. Until just a decade or so ago, farmers could make a good income off tobacco, though it took a lot of work that fewer people were willing to do. Now a tobacco field is a rarity.
    Tobacco was laid low after the federal government won an enormous settlement from the tobacco industry for hiding the health risks of smoking. Maryland used some of its share to buy out tobacco farmers; they had to promise never to grow the sot weed again.
    More settlement money was spent on finding new crops to replace tobacco. Broccoli, fancy greens, flowers and grapes were all candidates, but none as good as marijuana.
    Hemp, the cannabis kin of marijuana, is as old as the colonies. Colonizing nations wanted hemp for cloth, thread and rope and required its cultivation. Nation-builder Thomas Jefferson preferred it to soil-depleting tobacco because hemp took less and gave back more, including cattle feed.
    As a specialized hemp product, medical marijuana will take more cultivated growing conditions than hemp grown for fiber and fodder. But both like soil rich in organic matter, so our soils stand to benefit, along with our farmers.
    From farmer to people in pain, marijuana has a broad future with us. Like hemp, it has policy and politicians on its side. That assures a series of open doors. Broccoli, even grapes, were never so lucky.
    Production and sales rules are written into the law, and mostly expressed in the negative. Marijuana dispensaries may not be located closer than one mile apart, for example, and window and counter displays will not be allowed. Look at the other side and you see invitations to an industry, even to special exception zoning.
    Before long, I bet there’ll even be agricultural advice centers teaching best management practices to marijuana farmers. Processing the crop for best medical consumption is a developing science — and art.
    Americans are more favorable than ever before to legalizing marijuana for fun.
    In 2012, Colorado and Washington State made pot legal. Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., followed.
    By 2013, 58 percent of Gallup’s national survey told pollsters that marijuana should be no crime. That number held steady in this month’s Gallup Poll, conducted October 21.

The Anne Arundel County Public Opinion Survey
    In its 20th year, the survey is a project for college students, who learn survey techniques and analysis. Conducting the study is the Center for the Study of Local Issues, headed by Dan Nataf. This year, 589 county residents 18 and older were surveyed by evening phone calls to landlines and cells, with an online panel also contributing.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Prepare to be scared

What’s the scardest you’ve ever been?    
    Our bio-clocks tick in bodies built of ancient stuff, with primal alarms still set. Autumn’s fading light sets off those alarms big time. Three hours had drained from our days between the 15 hours of the Summer Solstice, June 21, and the 12 hours of the Autumnal Equinox on September 23. Soon after Halloween, the night of the spirits, our daylight hours have shrunk to 10, with worse to come. By the Winter Solstice, December 21, we have light for a mere nine hours.
    In so much darkness, the underworld rises into touching distance. Who knows what might rise out of all that darkness? We know in our dreams — and in our archetypes — and we fear.
    The living dead used to be the worst we could imagine — before B-movies brought them into the mainstream. Are zombies, vampires, ghouls and ghosts scarier than real life? That’s the question I posed to Bay Weekly writers this Halloween season.
    To chill and thrill our readers, I challenged, tell us your stories of sheer terror rising from real life. I bet you’ve hidden just such a story deep in the vaults of your chamber of repressed fright. Now’s the time to bring the reclusive little monster up into the light.
    Read on and prepare to be scared …
    For most of us love to be scared, at least a little, especially if we’re watching from at a safe distance as the sticky hands of dread take hold of somebody else’s neck.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Young-of-the year index way up

Fish are jumping on Chesapeake Bay. The thousands too small to take home are good news for the future of rockfishing. In this year’s survey, juvenile striped bass approximately doubled the long-term average, 11.9. This year’s index found an average of 24.2 juvenile fish per sample. That’s the eighth highest on record, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which has conducted and analyzed samples since 1954.
    From that good news, you can extrapolate a couple of cheering messages. First, the big rockfish that returned from the ocean to the Bay this spring spawned successfully. Second, according to DNR Secretary Mark Belton, “striped bass are a very resilient species when given favorable environmental conditions for reproduction and survival.”
    Third, rockfishing should be good a few years hence.
    This year’s sampling collected more than 70,000 fish of 50 different species, including 3,194 young-of-year striped bass in 132 sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine at 22 sites along the Choptank, Potomac and Nanticoke rivers and the Upper Bay. Biologists visit each site monthly from July through September to collect samples.
    American shad, white perch and herring reproduction was also strong.

Follow the one to the other and you’ll be surprised at all you see

The coming of the U.S. boat shows to Annapolis each October turns our thoughts toward the water. For all that’s new — and some that’s old — in boats and everything yet imagined to support the boating lifestyle, you go to the shows. In Bay Weekly’s pages, we support that lifestyle with reflections on the meeting points of people, boats and water.
    Last week, as the U.S. Sailboat Show flourished, sailor-writer Al McKegg took us to sea and back home again in his story about life’s turning points. This week, October 15 through 18, the U.S. Powerboat Show takes the stage at City Dock and powerboats fill our pages.
    This week’s feature story was born from reflections on my own boating experience, which began smack in the middle of the Short, Fast History of Powerboating, as I learned from Richard Dodds, Maritime History Curator at Calvert Marine Museum.
    “Modern boating has its origins,” he told me, “when people thought they could do anything: in the early 20th century’s energy, inventiveness and optimism.”
    The key? The internal combustion engine.
    Learn more in our Bay Weekly Conversation, starting on page 8.
    From there we visit a couple of powerboat extremes. One is the USS Calvert, whose ancient mariners reunited this month to visit Calvert County, their ship’s namesake, and Sparrows Point in Baltimore, the shipyard where it was born. The other is the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, which last month broke its way through arctic ice to the North Pole.
    In this week’s Sporting Life, columnist and extreme fisherman Dennis Doyle recounts the pleasures and possibilities of fooling around in small boats. Chesapeake Country, he writes, is “one of our nation’s largest maritime playgrounds.” A small boat — his own is 17 feet — with an outboard power, “will get just about any adventure underway from a crabbing excursion to sightseeing, bird watching, visiting waterfront restaurants, catching a rockfish or filling a cooler with perch and spot.”
    All those, I agree, are very fine pleasures. Last night’s dinner at the Martin-Lambrecht home was a tasty rockfish caught that very morning in a boat a bit longer but with no outboard motor. Our hour-long kayak paddle rewarded us with many of Doyle’s list of pleasures, bird watching prime among them. For gulls and terns had led us to the fish, with the many hungry six- or seven-inch-long rockfish that took our flies giving us first-hand experience of Maryland Department of Natural Resources survey conclusion reported in these pages: many baby rockfish were born this year.
    We saw other birds as well: kingfishers, mallards, egrets, one heron and a pair of fishing bald eagles.
    Sightseeing was spectacular. The 360-degree view you get out on the water puts you and life’s concerns in perspective. Simply put, the world is a lot bigger and richer than it seems from the inside. Take the long view, and you get the sky’s thrilling moving picture, all the richer because it encompasses all our senses. Take the short view, and you begin to see that water is a multi-hued triple exposure of itself, sky and land.
    It was all so pretty it could have been a picture. Here we were for this hour, living the timeless unity of people, boats and water to which impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte had opened our eyes at the National Gallery of Art on this October’s first rainy weekend.
    You don’t need a boat — or a great painting — to see like that. But both help.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;