Dock of the Bay

Volume VI Number 15
April 16-22, 1998

 

  • Linda Gray Has a Hammer, Habitat to Build Again
  • On the Bay: Making Every Day Earth Day
  • Opening Day: This Year's Baysox More than a "Minor" Attraction
  • Isabelle and Sydney Fly Away Home
  • Green Is Good and Good for You
  • Way Downstream...

  • Linda Gray Has a Hammer, Habitat to Build Again

    Arundel Habitat for Humanity director Linda Gray, below.

    Linda Gray of Edgewater is eager to put her hammer to work again.

    Not, of course, so eager as Sarah Matthews, 98, and her daughter Mary Tyler.

    For over a year, the mother and daughter have lived with relatives, praying for their uninhabitable home to be remade.

    "Mother is anxious to return to the home she has lived in for so many years," says Mary Tyler, a widow who works as a teacher's aide in the Annapolis school system.

    Their Shot Town Road address will be the site of their new two-bedroom home once the design for a new septic sand system has been approved by the Anne Arundel County Health Department and permits are obtained.Linda Gray

    Getting those permits in the swampy lands of Shady Side has been a year-long project. While the Matthews-Tyler red tape gets untangled, work begins on a new home for the seven-person Morris family of Jessup, who've been crowded into the two-bedroom home of an uncle, taking showers in weekly shifts because the septic system is too small for so many people.

    The Morris' new home will be the 30th success story in a decade of service for Arundel Habitat for Humanity. With luck, the Matthew-Tyler home will be the 31st.

    For Gray, those homes are new occasions to break a vow to keep a commitment.

    After remodeling her summer cottage into a year-round home, Gray swore she'd never do that again. That vow crumbled at a newspaper ad seeking volunteers to help rebuild a home for a family in need. Gray "put her tool belt on and got involved."

    Eight years later, Gray now directs Arundel Habitat for Humanity, the organization that lured her as a volunteer. "The atmosphere, the people and the purpose of giving service to the community I felt that first day led me to stay involved," Gray says. Administering the non-profit housing program that rebuilds homes for homeowners is a full time job, but Gray still puts on her tool belt now and again.

    As she will May 2 when Arundel Habitat continues its mission to provide decent housing for families in need with its a new home for the Morrises.

    Gray keeps breaking that vow because Habitat speaks to her on many levels. On the physical level, she's doing something, working hard. On the emotional, she's giving from the heart to benefit people. On the spiritual level, she's proving again and again that we are not islands unto ourselves but part of a community. On the intellectual level, she's giving families the "tools" to help themselves.

    She's not alone.

    Arundel Habitat for Humanity is part of a network of 270 affiliated Habitats in 50 states and in 50 countries, each linked to but operating independently from Habitat International. The organization, based on Christian principles, grew out of a small, interracial, Christian farming community founded near Americus, Ga., by farmer and Biblical scholar Clarence Jordan in 1942. Jordan believed that "Christians should help one another have a decent, affordable place to live."

    Gray says this concept of partnership housing, "of working with people, to serve people and to serve the Lord, is the basis for Habitat's success."

    Habitat houses are built with no profit added and no interest charged. Construction is financed by the revolving Fund for Humanity, which comes from community donations and new homeowners' house payments.

    Most of all, Habitat homes are built by people. Volunteers from all walks of life, including a former president and first lady - Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter - have shared in Habitat's goal of eliminating substandard housing by providing decent, simple housing through partnership. The partnership is complete when new homeowners work side by side with volunteers, contributing their own sweat-equity and serving others in need their community.

    To build Sarah Matthews and Mary Tyler a new house, members of both Methodist churches in Shady Side - traditionally black St. Matthews and white Centenary Methodist - have volunteered to their labor. The churches' youth groups have promised to build a shed, and Smith Lumber Co. has pledged materials. Habitat welcomes community sponsors, businesses and churches and volunteers from all faiths.

    To get the Matthews/Tyler house off the ground, more sponsors and pledges from the community are still needed. That means that a lot more people, like Linda Gray, have to put on a tool belt or come up with cash.

    To help, call Arundel Habitat for Humanity: 410/384-9212.

    Fill your spring garden with plants to help Arundel Habitat build the Matthews/Tyler House. Hanging baskets, flowers and herbs by flat or six-pack plus tomatoes and sweet and hot peppers will be sold Sat., May 2, 1998 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centenary United Methodist Church at 6248 Shady Side Road.

    -M.L. Faunce


    On the Bay: Making Every Day Earth Day

    It's been six months since some of us have been out on the Chesapeake Bay. And with so much packed into our little brains, perhaps we've forgotten how to do our part.

    If your memory is lacking, or you don't have good sense to begin with, here's a list of dos and don'ts from Boat Owners Association of the U.S.

    -NBT


    Opening Day:

    This Year's Baysox More than a "Minor" Attraction

    Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it isn't.

    It's Prince George's Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox, and for the last four years fans have been coming here to watch the minor league team play and produce candidates for the Orioles organization.

    Last Monday was Opening Day, and the mighty Sox started the season with victory. With a two-run homer from rising star Ryan Minor, the Double-A team clubbed the Trenton Thunder 7-4. Already, fans, coaches and the press are predicting success for the team in September's playoffs.

    But, there's more to like about this team than its talent. The stadium charms fans with its easy parking, its inexpensive seats and its woodsy setting.

    Best of all, if you had been there, you'd have heard Minor's bat crack the ball - and seen the ball leave the park.

    There's an intimacy in the stadium that larger venues lack because every seat is close to the field; the bleachers don't stretch into heaven.

    "The close seating helps you get autographs, too," says usher Patrick Schmall.

    You'd have seen a lot more, too: Baysox T-shirts hurled into the crowd with slingshots; country station WMZQ broadcasting live at the entrance; a Cub Scout flag patrol on duty as a barbershop quartet sang the national anthem. All under a powder blue sky with the trees beyond the outfield walls swaying gently in the April breeze.

    And you'd have seen a wilder style of play than you see at Camden Yards.

    "This is like a classroom for the majors," explains Bill Seibert, a stadium usher who's also Bowie High School's head baseball coach.

    "These guys make more errors in pitching and hitting and running than they do in the majors, but these errors make the game exciting. You see more hits and more homeruns because of it, and the people here like to see the guys hit and run around the bases."

    There's even more at Prince George's Stadium. There's Louie, for instance, the team mascot. He's a pea-green, pear-shaped monster who makes strange noises, bangs his paws on the tops of trashcans and plants kisses on the heads of fans with his green snout. Children adore him.

    There's a restaurant above the field, there's a microbrewery, a carousel and a moon bounce for kids.

    Are you a fan yet?

    -Steve Armstrong


    Isabelle and Sydney Fly Away Home

    photos courtesy of Defenders of Wildlife

    "Co-ho-co-ho," goes the seldom heard call of the majestic trumpeter swan. Had you been anywhere between rural Crapo, Md., and the town of Warrenton in Va., you might have heard this call from Isabelle and Sydney, two female trumpeters returning from their winter home on the Eastern Shore to their summer habitat near Airlie Center in Warrenton.

    The two trumpeter swans began their historic 103-mile migration last Thursday; by now they should have arrived in Virginia.

    "I'm sure our 'ultra swans' will make it back without any help from us," said Dr. William Sladen, director of Environmental Studies at Airlie.

    Both birds, along with their flock-mate YoYo, made history last December, learning to migrate by following an ultralight aircraft they believed was their mother.

    The routes migratory birds follow are passed down from one generation to the next. But as eggs, these swans had been separated from their parents to learn a new migration path. If scientists' hopes are realized, these birds will re-establish trumpeter swans on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where they once flourished - until vanquished by human pressure. Trumpeters were brought to the verge of extinction by hunting and the quest for feathers for the hats of 19th-century ladies of fashion.

    December's escorted flight took the three big birds from Virginia to Maryland. Now two of the trio have made the return migration on their own.

    YoYo, the third of the young birds, decided to make her migration a bit earlier than expected. She was caught by a sympathetic individual who, thinking her lost, put the swan in her backyard. Injured during this process, YoYo was unable to continue her independent migration.

    Still, Bob Ferris, director of Species Conservation for Defenders of Wildlife and owner of the farm where the birds spent their winter, remains optimistic. "YoYo was following the exact flight path she had taken four months prior," he said.

    Added Gavin Shire, lead biologist and ultrapilot for Environmental Studies: "We are really confident that barring any type of incident like what happened to YoYo, Isabelle and Sidney will be joining us soon. So far they are right on course and making good time."

    Meanwhile, YoYo has been returned by other means to Virginia, where she is doing fine and awaiting the return of her flock mates.

    -NMK


    Green Is Good and Good for You

    As spring spouts and Earth Week rolls round, you'll be glad to know that green is not only good but also good for you. "Tangible sensory contacts with nature in backyards, backcountry and even potted plants or pets" help keep you sane, according to Dr. Michael J. Cohen, director of Project NatureConnect.

    "Such activities have been shown to increase stress management, learning and community skills, as well as aiding in the successful recovery from loss, addiction and disorders," says the self-styled "ecopsychologist."

    Conversely, says Cohen, much that ails us springs from our century's increasing alienation from nature.

    "We spend, on average, less than 12 hours of our 540,000-hour lifetime in tune with nature's wisdom, balance and beauty. Our cloistered, indoor ways leave our inborn love for the land disconnected and wanting. As we satisfy this want with poor substitutes for Earth's integrity, we suffer from the addictive greed, pollution and violence that the substitutes' deficiencies induce."

    Pulitzer-Prize winning sociobiologist Dr. Edward O. of Harvard, affirms that people have an inherent biological need to be in contact with nature. Says Wilson, "Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction."

    Since 1985, Project NatureConnect, Cohen's institute, has produced a "social technology" of nature-connected courses and degree programs that, he says, reverse the effects of our society's excessive separation from nature.

    (Obviously, the alienation of which the good doctor speaks has gotten a grip on his English. We suggest he use the occasion of National Poetry month to reconnect with old poet Ben Jonson's advice to use the language "men do speak.")

    Still, it works, says one who's tried Project NatureConnect's hands-on, psychologically based activities to build responsible relationships with Earth, society and self:

    "This activity helped me gain greater awareness of my attraction to the crescent moon as it hung over two hills near my home. Soon, its mellow glow, framed by peaks and trees, embraced me in a wordless, ancient primordial scene. Timeless power, peace and unity swept me into awe. I felt in balance with all of reality. I was simply 'BEING'. No tension, no pressing goal, just truly belonging to the global community. This natural energy captured my stress-laden pulse and seduced it to the rhythms of Earth. The sleeping disorder I have battled all my adult life dissolved in it. For the first time in decades, I gently fell asleep after dark and arose shortly after dawn. I celebrated the breakthrough and I thanked Earth. I thanked the activity, too, for it enables me to reconnect whenever I choose."

    Sounds like the advice of another old poet, William Wordsworth:

     

    Up, up! my friend, and quit your books;

    			...

    Or surely you'll grow double;

    Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks;

    Why all this toil and trouble?

    Come forth into the light of things,

    Let Nature be your teacher.

     

    To follow the good doctor's prescriptions and get back to nature this Earth Week - which beings on Earth Day, April 22 - find a free Earth Week package of interactive activities and courses at the Project NatureConnect home page: http://www.ecopsych.com. If you'd rather read a book, order Reconnecting With Nature ($17.95 postage paid) at 360/378-6313 or · nature@pacificrim.net

    -NBT


    Way Downstream ...

    That San Francisco government agency trying to seize land from Russian Orthodox nuns has backed off in the face of a public relations disaster. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District had voted to use eminent domain because the nuns insisted on building a convent on a cliff. Instead, they forced the nuns to scale back the size of the convent

    In Portola, Calif., the state government is looking pretty inept, too. Six months after it poisoned Lake Davis to eliminate non-native northern pike, the water is still contaminated with harmful chemicals. People cannot use the water for drinking, and the California Department of Fish and Game has been fined $250,000 for its mistakes

    In Nepal, the 29,028-foot Mt. Everest is hard enough to climb, as anyone who read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air knows. Try doing it with a load of junk on your back, which is what a team led by California physician Mark Cole is doing as you read this - cleaning up the mountain-climber trash deposited there since Sir Edmund Hillary first made the climb in 1953

    Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Baltimore, where baseball may help to save the kind of orioles that really fly. Because of the widespread popularity of the Orioles team, the Baltimore oriole is being used to attract attention to the 25 percent of migratory bird species that are in danger.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Orioles baseball club hope to make Migratory Bird Day an annual event at Camden Yards every May to call attention to the plight of 600 bird species that winter in Latin America. It may take more than one day to help the oriole, which is declining by one to three percent every year, reports the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

    Why? One theory is that the growth of coffee plantations in Central America is wiping out the bird's forest habitat. Another theory, offered by the American Bird Conservancy, is that global warming has changed orioles' migratory patterns and that soon, none will be spotted in Maryland


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    Volume VI Number 15
    April 16-22, 1998
    New Bay Times

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