Ode to the Chesapeake
John Smith was right
The Chesapeake is a country that may have the prerogative over the most pleasant places known, for large and pleasant navigable rivers, heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.
–Captain John Smith, 1608
The Bay seemed like a god when I was growing up. It was filled to the brim with opportunity: a fishing spot, a refreshing cool-down, a glassy surface to explore by boat.
There was no rawer excitement than a boat day. We pulled sodas, snacks and fishing poles along, hoping to catch us some Old Bay-seasoned dinner. I loved the boom of the motor, tossing my friends and me around our seats. I loved the splash of the water from the crashing of the choppy waves, and I especially loved the summer air running racecar speed through my hair.
Best of all was the scent of the Bay. My mother always said she hated that smell. “It’s nothing like California, where I grew up,” she’d say. But I don’t think she ever understood. To me that scent meant I was on the Bay. That holy, dying-to-be-explored Bay.
I was in blissful ignorance of its problems: of runoff, of overfishing, of decades of destruction to the habitat. The Chesapeake, to me, was the magnificent, untouched and pure act of God that Captain John Smith described in his expedition hundreds of years ago.
This summer, I want be a kid again.