Volume 14, Issue 12 ~ March 23 - March 29, 2006


The Rhythms of Chesapeake Bay

Once upon a time, before we moved into a global village, your hometown was more than the post office that won the bid to deliver your mail. Shelter, sustenance and survival came from your place on Earth — but you had to win them.

Earning your keep meant learning the rhythms and whims of the place where you found yourself. Nature was your schoolroom, and weather, wind and water became the subjects your life depended on.

People in Chesapeake Country could count themselves among Nature’s lucky ones. So bountiful was Chesapeake Bay that even fools might survive. People who learned their lessons well could prosper. Fish and fowl of astonishing variety were here for the taking, though some species — consider the crab and oyster — must have challenged imagination and ingenuity.

At Nature’s table, our ancestors in this place ate well. Fishing and hunting gave them not only livelihood but also culture.

Up through the 20th century, Chesapeake Country has been a real place, defined by both its natural resources and the uses (and sometimes abuses) people made of them. That culture is what brought Bay Weekly into being in 1993, and it’s been a theme we’ve explored ever since.

Thirteen is not so many years, but enough that we fear we may be chronicling an endangered culture. The Bay is sickened, its creatures struggling in a sea of woes. Old-timers are dying, and newcomers don’t know where in the world they are.

“What’s a waterman?” a newcomer asked the other day.

Is Chesapeake Country becoming Anyplace, U.S.A.?

Not on our watch. In Chesapeake Bay we have a resource like none other, and it’s our job to help people who come here understand how it can — if we let it — shape and enrich all our lives.

That’s what we do each week. That’s also why, amidst all the bad news of a diminished Bay, we begin this week a new column, The Sporting Life, by Dennis Doyle.

You’re not a fisherman? Not a hunter? Not a paddler? Not a woods wanderer?

Read it anyway.

The Sporting Life is not just for dedicated outdoor lovers, though we hope such sorts approve. It’s for all of us who are developing our personal relationships with Chesapeake Bay — even those who don’t yet know what they’re missing. And, because Doyle is such a savory prose stylist, The Sporting Life is for armchair readers as well.

Doyle, who introduces himself in his first column, has promised to keep us in touch with the culture of Chesapeake Country. Second, he’s promised to introduce us to ways we can gather the pleasures and the bounties of Chesapeake Country for ourselves.

One more thing: Doyle does not replace Bill Burton. We haven’t asked him to take on an impossible job. You’ll continue to read Burton’s original take on oysters, cabbages, squirrels, rockfish and kings every week in Bay Weekly.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.