--By T. F. Sayles
It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I simply cannot decide which story or subject to focus on in this column. It's like being asked to choose my favorite child. I can't do it, because they're all so perfectly lovable. So I don't choose; I spread the love around. And that's what I'll do here, beginning with Katherine Brown's warm and poetic piece on Smith Island.
This isn't the first time we've written about Smith Island, Md., the small archipelago in the open Bay a dozen miles west of Crisfield, Md. But it is the first time we've seen the place through the eyes of a Methodist seminarian. That would be the aforementioned Ms. Brown, a former lawyer who is now preparing to be a Methodist minister. She is also an avid sailor and Bay explorer, and a regular contributor to this magazine--indeed, one of my favorite essayists. So it was truly a no-brainer when Katherine asked if we'd be interested in her impressions of Smith Island, where she'd spent a few weeks last summer during the island's Camp Meeting--an annual revival that is still going strong there, though it has all but died out in mainstream Methodism. Give us a minute, we said, to think it over--yes, we're interested. Katherine delivered, as she always does, and now we're happy to pass this deeply charming piece on to you. Read it--you'll be glad you did.
And then move on to the second and concluding installment of "This Was, And Is, Potomac River", the knockout debut piece by the newest editorial staffer, senior editor Jody Argo Shroath. For this two-parter, Jody spent countless hours over the last two years sailing the Potomac River, retracing the month-long journey by a dozen Sea Scouts that was recorded for posterity in Frederick Tilp's self-published classic, This Was Potomac River. I don't know what I'm more grateful to Jody for--her own lively tale or reintroducing me to Tilp's rough-hewn but mesmerizing study of the Potomac.
My third and final favorite child in this issue comes from another staffer--I.T. Coordinator Melanie Lynch, who also happens to be our resident raptor fanatic. You may recall Melanie's piece last May ("The Osprey Fix"), recounting her osprey-chick-banding adventure on the upper Patuxent River. Well, she's at it again--this time tagging along on an eagle-chick-kidnapping mission at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore. It's not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it's much better than it sounds; the eagle population around the Bay has rebounded so well since the dark days of DDT that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has been snatching spare chicks from Blackwater and other locations and transporting them to places--Vermont in this case--where the magnificent white-headed bird has yet to regain its foothold.
It's good news and, as is the case with all my favorites (don't make me choose), good writing. Enjoy.