My beloved, Nick, and I were three months into our relationship when his birthday arrived in August 2008. By then I knew what interested him — history, travel, sculpting — well enough to plan a day trip that combined it all. I did not tell him where we would go, just to wear sturdy shoes and bring a cap and sunscreen.
On a sunny Sunday, we headed south on Route 2, eventually ending up at Colton’s Point in St. Mary’s County.
Our exploration of the St. Clement’s Island-Potomac River Museum brought back a snippet of memory from our study of the colonies in grade school, specifically, what Maryland was best known for: religious tolerance. We Americans now take that for granted, but the wooden cross the newcomers erected on nearby St. Clement’s Island said otherwise.
Next we grabbed some of the picnic I’d prepared — I was learning that with Nick it was best to bring food for our longer car trips. Then we headed to the dock for a water taxi to St. Clement’s Island State Park, where The Ark and The Dove landed.
The island is notable not only for its giant cross, erected in 1934 to remember those first Europeans in Maryland, but also the rebuilt Blackistone Lighthouse with its myriad rooms. Remnants of an orchard remain, along with an abundance of birds. Walking the island, which has shrunk to about 40 acres from an estimated 400 at the landing of the The Ark and The Dove, allows for relaxation and reflection. And a lot of hand-holding.
Back at the mainland, our focus turned from history to sculpture. We visited Sharon Balenger, then a registered nurse who began sculpting at 50 to work off job-related stress. Now retired and painting as well as sculpting, she captures the spirit of her subjects primarily through their faces. Nick delighted in her work and in talking with her about how she chose subjects.
I thought we might be able to get to Piney Point Lighthouse, but by that time, late afternoon, we were tired and in need of food. The restaurant where we had seafood, on Piney Point Road, has since changed hands and evolved into a brewery drawing on the local and sustainable, much like our relationship. The views, from the spit of land that leads to St. George Island, appear just as divine as when we visited.
Funny how this trip set a pattern for when we travel, whether day trips or longer: Always have food and make sure our visits involve history and art.
Nick, now approaching 71, deserves another birthday adventure, though I’d be surprised if I could top the perfection of that day six years ago. But in the words of Yoda, whom Nick and I both respect, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” At least when it comes to vacations and days off.
St. Clement’s Island-Potomac River Museum, 301-769-2222, http://www.co.saint-marys.md.us/recreate/stclementsisland.asp.