Neighbors, Rise
by Gail Nicholas

My neighbor Richard has a dock that reaches out about 100 feet into Herring Bay. Now that fall has come, sea gulls line each side of the hand rails from shore to the boat deck. The osprey have left their nest, flying south for winter, and the blue heron is in hiding. Change: once again it is time to adapt, to adjust, to accommodate something new.

I have watched the pageant of the seasons move across my small portion of Chesapeake Bay for the last 12 years. For a while, it was the same pair of osprey that nested each summer on Richard's boat house roof. But in the last few years, new nest builders have taken over their ancestors' summer home. I can tell by the plumage: the male in the latest osprey pair has dramatic white markings.

Each year in late July, I watch their learning-to-fly lessons. The parents patiently nudge their babies off the edge of the nest, one by one, into the air. Soon, the whole family is airborne. As I look up from my garden digging, I watch the parents model how to soar and bank and return to the nest. Before long, I see the silhouette of the larger parents gliding gracefully above me while the smaller silhouettes of the young birds hot-rod with their new-found powers.

This is a holy place. This is a place where the human spirit can heal from the hubbub of our almost 21st century life. As I experience the horror of our current national political life, I am reminded of the capriciousness of life in the animal kingdom: the food chain where the smaller one gives way and is devoured by the larger, more evolved or more cunning species.

My goal is to tell you how much I love this sacred space. My goal is to invite you to work with me to find ways to protect and preserve and cleanse our shared space and to enhance our common heritage in Southern Anne Arundel County.

Our city neighbors as well as ourselves need this kind of space. The crush of human numbers seeking their own oasis can only continue. We need to find a way to ensure that the beauty and the sounds and the colors and the vast varieties of bird, animal, reptile and human life that now exist here will continue in the years ahead. How do we protect this refuge?

Chewing on this question, I have begun to yearn for - hold onto your hat - our own local government. We are the only section of our county that is heavily rural. It is our responsibility - those who live here and no one else - to build the protective mechanisms to guarantee that this sanctuary continues. I do not suggest that we station guards by barbed wire fences at our outskirts but that we defend this open land so that place of renewal continues. Because decisions about our future are made politically, we must have a voice that is heard.

The next few weeks are a unique opportunity to stand up and be counted as the future of our area is imagined. On October 9, less than two weeks away, eight members of a team of experts will come to South County. They are experts in community organizing, economic development, small business planning, growth management, natural resources management and small town and rural planning. They come from Canada, England and France to work as volunteers for us as we meet to discuss how to vision our future. They will spend one week meeting intensely with us.

I want to listen to them as they distill suggestions from what they hear. I want to hear your voice and know your opinion. I believe that we need our voices to be woven together. I am aware that this is a complex task, for we are like a multicolored and textured tapestry. In our beauty and uniqueness, we deserve being preserved. Come out with me to talk and listen during the week of October 9 to 17.

Gail Nicholas, counselor and minister, comments from Fairhaven on the South Arundel International Exchange, which is sponsored by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anne Arundel County PACE, the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Glynwood Center and the South County Conservation Trust. To learn more call 301/261-9398.

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Volume VI Number 38
September 24-30, 1998
New Bay Times

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