A holiday is always welcome, no matter when it falls.
But many of them seem to fall as randomly as the leaves that will soon illustrate for us the meaning of deciduous.
New Year’s Day, for example. What business does it have falling in the middle of winter, when nothing is new? And if in winter it must be, why not on the equinox, when the new year really does begin with sunlight’s slow enlargement?
Christmas, too. Midwinter seems an unlikely time for the birth of the redeemer of hope. Until you discover that holidays are like cities, built on top of one another through the ages. So that the Christian redeemer, Jesus the son, takes over the midwinter solstice holiday of the reborn sun god.
As Bay Weekly general manager Alex Knoll has explained many times over 17 years in his Night Skies column, old holidays marked the passage of light, life and seasons. So the new holidays atop them happen to fall on key marker days, the solstices, the equinoxes and the cross-quarter days midway between the two. One of those is Groundhog Day, which sits atop the earlier Christian holiday Candlemas. The next one we’ll see is Halloween, the ancient feast of the spirits walking.
The logic behind national holidays is also often historic. Memorial Day wasn’t invented to begin summer; it celebrates the armistice ending World War I. Thanksgiving is more arbitrary, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was following a contemporary line of thought in placing it on that last Thursday of November to jumpstart a very bad economy by ringing in the Christmas shopping season.
The timing of Labor Day, which we honor in this week’s issue, is perfectly intuitive. Even though it likely predated summer vacation for most 19th century working folks, its timely arrival just before the autumnal equinox makes it perfectly clear that all of us who do enjoy summer vacation had better give up our grasshopper ways and emulate the ants.
So it’s off to work we go in this week’s issue, with a couple of dozen profiles of Chesapeake neighbors and how they make their living.
We writers are kids in the old-fashioned candy store for this issue, for each profile is like penny candy: small, sweet and leaving us appetite for more. I hope you’ll enjoy them the same way. At the end of today’s letter, I’ll have a question for you, and I hope to hear your answers.
Many of the writers whose names you read at the end of today’s profiles have their own Labor Day stories outside Bay Weekly. Only Diana and I work the newspaper full-time. Staff writer Margaret Tearman works a bit less than full-time at her third career, journalism, because she’s retired. Before Bay Weekly, Margaret traveled the world as a video documentary producer.
Three more of this week’s writers are semi-retired: Dotty Doherty from high school teaching and coaching; Lane Page from Patuxent Publishing Company; and Marilyn Recknor from Prince George’s County Public Schools — though she’s substitute teaching there again.
Steve Carr, an environmental consultant, also leads bicycle tours of Annapolis; but his favorite job is writing The Canyon Chronicles, a memoir of his wild old days as a national park ranger in Utah.
Jane Elkin, too, has many Labor Day stories: She’s a professional singer, handwriting analyst and teacher of French and now English as a second language.
Two of the writers are young journalists making their way. Katie Dodd, an intrepid traveler who works part-time at a property management firm in Baltimore, is soon to be writing from Sweden. Amy Russell works part-time in the Annapolis office of investment advisor John Neeley — as well as full-time as a sports writer for the Voice of Severna Park and of Pasadena.
This back-to-work issue brings changes to Bay Weekly’s in-office staff as well. Ad rep and good friend Amy Kliegman leaves us; ad rep Victoria Ronan joins us, as does part-time intern Aristoniki ‘Aries’ Matheos, a student at Anne Arundel Community College.
That’s all the news this week. Now for that question:
How do you like your on-the-job profiles: This short? Double this size? About the size of a Sporting Life column? Longer still?
Send your answers to your eager reader — that’s me — at [email protected]