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Getting Close to History

Find a couple dozen ways in this week’s paper 

Costumed interpreters wait to show you the historic Hammond-Harwood House.
      The older I get, the more interested I get in history. You too?
      Perhaps history seems more relevant the more you’re part of it.
      Some of joining history is accidental. Things keep happening on your watch, even if you’re not watching very closely, that sweep you up.
      The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years ago to the day I write, is still reverberating. It gave us the world we have, not the one we might have had were he given more years to lead the march toward his dream. That’s true for all of us. People who watched and wept and walked and rioted had that moment of history in their time.
      So we feel King’s death differently than we do the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, 168 years ago this month. For no matter how highly we revere Lincoln, we make that jolt to history our own only by intention.
     For we can come facsimile-close to our personal pre-history by putting ourselves there. A Civil War reenactor, whether an Abraham or a simple camp bugle boy, travels back in time not only by reading and watching but also by putting on the itchy (though probably not nearly so dirty) clothes worn by the original. The more you know and the closer you get, the realer it seems.
      This weekend Anne Arundel County is devoted to putting us in person in many periods of Maryland history in a late celebration of Maryland Day. The official holiday is March 25, but what are a few days over a span of 384 years. I suspect organizers at Four Rivers Heritage Society, one of Maryland’s official state heritage areas, were hoping for better weather than the last couple of years have brought us in late March. If so, their hopes were dashed, for the weekend’s weather forecast is not welcoming.
       If weather is your defining issue, you’ll learn more — and wonder still more — about Maryland history from reading this week’s issue. Here staff writer and calendar editor Kathy Knotts details 22 commemorations this weekend spread from Crownsville to Annapolis to Deale. 
      You’ll learn more and get closer to history if you go in person, weather or not. At each destination, you’ll travel in time or concentrate in skill on one particular aspect of Maryland history.
       Your showing up in person will also make the day for the many people, often volunteers, who’ve planned and labored to create these Maryland Day commemorations. 
      With the Scenic Rivers Land Trust in Crownsville, you’ll hike a couple miles or more to discover how humans and nature have interacted to create the landscape of the Bacon Ridge Natural Area.
       At Hammond-Harwood House, costumed interpreters in historic spaces give you a feel for what it was like to live in revolutionary times. In Galesville, a descendent returns you to the 1843 controversy his great-great-great-grandfather caused by writing a will that freed 74 slaves. 
       At Greenstreet Gardens, you’ll learn about growing Maryland native plants from Tony Dove, horticulturist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research ­Center.
      Check Kathy’s story for dates and times. And note that many of the events are indoors.
      This week’s paper also takes you in some detail into another chapter of Maryland history, the flight of assassin John Wilkes Booth from Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where he shot President Lincoln, to his capture 12 days later in a Virginia tobacco barn. 
      It was a hard story for me to accept, as my reverence for Lincoln has the personal connection of my having lived 14 years in Springfield, Illinois, where the country boy morphed into president. But it’s a uniquely Southern Maryland story, and the Surratt Society’s semi-annual 12-hour tours — on which first-time Bay Weekly writer Marjie Riordan based her story — resume this month. 
      As my anniversary reading about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds me, we have both angels and devils in our nature, and both forces have shaped our history.
      See for yourself this week, in Bay Weekly and around and about.