Tuesday, May 24, 2022

A Visual Vacation



I owe today’s post to a tweet from the Downtown Columbia Partnership, featuring a painting by artist Mary Jo Tydlaka:

Recognizing the #DowntownColumbiaMd Lakefront and what looks like a @ColumbiaAssn concert with some Dancing Under the #PeopleTree in this Mary Jo Tydlacka artwork.


Mary Jo Tydlaka (Howard County)

Uppity Blues Women ll. Acrylic. 2017

From the artist:

My artwork is my response to the world around me and it is also my participation in the world. Over the years my subjects have been homes, neighborhoods, families and cities. During the last several years I have focused on the outdoor Shakespeare plays at the Patapsco Female Institute Ruins and other locales. I attend the plays , multiple times if possible, and sketch. The plays are a combination of my interests in landscape, weather, classic architecture, groups of people and Shakespeare.

I love this work. There’s so much going on here, and the colors are exceptionally notable for their warmth. I think of the Lakefront as a sea of blues and greens and pale cement. This is fiery. 

I would like to know about those buildings across the lake from the bandstand, though. 

I was curious about the title of the painting and did a little digging around. It’s amazing what you can find in Wikipedia. Although this was painted in 2017, I’m thinking the concert took place long before that.

I took a look into the virtual art show and was soon drawn to this piece by Howard County mosaic artist Lisa Scarbath.



Lisa Scarbath

Body of Water, 2021

Mosaic

Ms. Scarbath is also the creator of “Pieces of History: EC250 Mosaic” which is currently on display at the Howard Count Arts Council Center. It will soon take up residence in a store front on Main Street. In addition to enjoying Ms. Scarbath’s work in this exhibit, you can follow her on Instagram at piecefuldesignsmosaics.

About the exhibit:

The Maryland State Arts Council presents Maryland Regional virtual exhibition series to showcase multidisciplinary artists from all five different regions of Maryland. This is a year-long series and starts with Series #3 Central Maryland. We hope you enjoy 45 different artworks from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard County, and Baltimore City.  (March 18 - May 13, 2022)*

If you are interested in the entire show: Maryland Arts Council Regional Virtual Exhibit, Series 3

You can noodle around to your heart’s content from the comfort of your own home. No worries about COVID or masks. Just take a bit of an art vacation, courtesy of the Maryland Arts Council. And if you are interested in creating some art of your own, check out this invitation from Columbia Festival of the Arts/Columbia Art Center:

Umbrella Theme Show
Entries wanted - All ages!

Using a golf umbrella as your canvas, express your creativity about the theme: Healing Hearts Through Music, Dance, Words. Can be done as a group, duo or individually!

Umbrellas will be displayed outdoors at Lake Kittamaqundi as part of the 2022 Lakefest, June 10-12, 2022. Open to all everyone and all ages. For an entry form and umbrella, call Columbia Art Center 410-730-0075 or email art.staff@columbiaassociation.org. Umbrellas are due June 9, 2022.











*I was still able to access the exhibit this morning,


Monday, May 23, 2022

Thriving

 


One of the few things that can get me out of my house in the heat is the Oakland Mills Farmers’ Market. Held each Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm from May to November, the market lures me out of my air conditioned home for the best foods of the season. 


And may I just say that yesterday was far too hot for this point in the year and I object.

There’s something so beautiful to me to see the Oakland Mills Village Center alive with people. Yesterday was one of those days. A crowd was gathering for an event happening at the ice rink, regular Sunday shoppers at the LAMart, and, of course, the many folks there for the Farmers’ Market.



I’m going to refrain from using the word ‘vibrant’ because, well, some folks in the commercial world have wrestled it to the ground and broken its arm, so to speak. As I consulted the synonym factory, I found the words ‘dynamic’ and ‘thriving’ to have just the right essence for what I was feeling.

It has taken a lot of work to get and keep the market here in Oakland Mills. I don’t know all the history but I do know that Village Manager Sandy Cederbaum has been a huge advocate for the market. I think of her often when I’m filling my bag with fresh strawberries, fragrant basil, or a round loaf of sourdough bread. She believed in the market and its potential to serve both the members of the immediate community and also to draw people from other parts of Columbia. 


The Howard County Farmers Market association has played a big role in continuing to choose the Oakland Mills location year after year. And, of course, the farmers and other local vendors who commit to coming to the market are what makes it sing: the excitement of finding the perfect peach or the most exquisite muffin for Sunday brunch is provided to us by all the people who work to bring them to us.

A wonderful addition to the market is the food truck from Althea’s Almost Famous. Althea Hanson brings delicious Jamaican food and drink as well as adding a bit of music to the mix. If you can’t make it to the market, check out her Facebook page to see where she’ll be next. Wherever it is, it will be worth the trip.



You don’t have to live in Oakland Mills to enjoy our market. It’s quite easy to access from Downtown Columbia via that nifty looking pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Route 29. Or, if you’re bringing the kids, plan for a trip to Laura’s Place playground in Blandair Park as well.

I went home yesterday with strawberries, bacon, and local honey from TLV Tree Farm, a loaf of sourdough from Harvest Rise Bread, and a sack full of Jamaican patties from Althea’s Almost Famous. It was a very good day at the market.







Sunday, May 22, 2022

It’s Alive!


 

When I wrote about considering alternatives to the typical suburban lawn recently, I received probably the most enthusiastic response I have ever received to a blog topic. There’s a good bit of support out there in Columbia/HoCo for creating more environmentally friendly yard spaces.

Some reader submissions:

I have been attempting over the years to replace many of the grass areas with stuff that isn’t grass. Well, the muddy areas too. First I planted liriope in the muddy area, then put some black eyed Susan’s next to the garage. Then came the rain garden, and somewhere in there I added hydrangea and a small corner fern garden. Oh, and the vinca around the front trees where grass never grew anyway. 

My next door neighbor has zero grass in his backyard, and only a small patch in the front. The rest is robust, lovely ground cover.

*

I also have been composting with worms for the last several years. They make a great soil amendment. Plant red clover instead of grass! I’ve been doing this for a few years. The bees love it! It does get high enough to mow, but infrequently. It also fixes nitrogen in the soil.

*

I’m currently reading Natures Best Hope by Doug Tallamy and he refers to turf lawns as ecological dead space.  Does not provide much for our local ecosystem.

*

I think of it as "working on" because I'm working on establishing the heal-all and creeping thyme. I started planting that last year, we'll see how it does this year. The clover I've planted for years and it's well established.

One reader reminded* me that there’s a group in Oakland Mills called Yards Alive, which is dedicated to this very concept.

You should check out Oakland Mills environmental group Yards Alive! Lots of education on importance of natives, managing stormwater runoff, erosion, etc. I got into native landscaping during the pandemic and my yard is no where near there but I can’t wait for what it will be in the future! 

From their website:

Yards Alive is a pilot program started through the Columbia Association’s Climate Change and Sustainability Advisory Committee to help local homeowners and HOA members in Oakland Mills make more sustainable landscaping choices.

If you are interested in learning more about the concept of sustainability, McGill University has a good basic introduction to the term itself and its origins.

What is Sustainability?

Are you curious enough to want to see this in action?

Today, from 2 - 5, Yards Alive! is offering a “garden tour” of sorts to allow community members to observe first-hand the ways that residents are converting traditional lawn space into something better. Click on the link to get the map of participating locations.

Yards Alive! Yard Tour

Join us for an in person yard tour on May 22nd!  Homeowners will be present to give tours of their properties. All the yards listed are in various stages of converting their lawn into sustainable gardens.  Get inspired by the spaces your neighbors are creating to support wildlife, manage stormwater, grow food and fight climate change.  These gardens all show several unique ways that you can make a difference in your yard.  

This event is free and open to the public. If I were an enterprising young person who lived near one of this tour sites, I might be giving serious thought to setting up a lemonade stand…






*Head smack. I knew this, but I had never delved any further. 



Saturday, May 21, 2022

Call it by its Name


 

Sometimes good people do bad things

Sometimes kind people do unkind things.

Sometimes smart people do…things that defy explanation.

I am referring to the decision to use a property which is being called “Historic Oakdale” as the site of this year’s Decorator Show House.You may recall I wrote about this house when it came on the market. 

It’s a prison. A private jail. A forced labor camp. Here is where generations of human beings were held against their will. It doesn’t matter how carefully it is preserved or how beautifully it’s decorated. It’s a living monument that our country was founded on the worst kind of injustice. See how pretty it is…the house of horrors. “Honoring History”, Village Green/Town² 12/11/21

I honestly don’t know what should be done with places like this but I do know they should not be celebrated nor used to generate funds. I am stunned that the horrific foundation of all this wealth and grandeur was not a dealbreaker for those who chose to make Oakdale a showcase home.

Let that sink in. It is 2022 and slavery was not a dealbreaker. Having a decorator’s showcase at Oakdale is asking the community to look right at slavery, and then…look away.

On May 12th County Executive Calvin Ball signed an executive order creating a Public Facilities and Spaces Report Evaluation and Action Commission.

With the Public Spaces Commission report, we now can contextualize the many namesakes of our buildings, parks, and other county-owned spaces. We need to face our history, learn from it, and move forward by ensuring the namesakes of our facilities and spaces reflect today’s values. I’m grateful to the many Commission members who are tackling this difficult issue and look forward to its recommendations.  Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive

Oakdale is not a county-owned space. Nonetheless I think its name should reflect what it really is. I suggest “Oakdale Prison Camp”, “Oakdale Plantation of the Enslaved”, or “Oakdale Labor and Death Camp”. Put the ugliness right on its face where it belongs rather than hiding it behind exquisitely decorated rooms and fancy events.

Maybe, if the name put its true story right out there for everyone to see, those good, kind, smart people would have thought twice about putting it in the local spotlight.

Here’s a suggestion. Tickets to this year’s show house are 30 dollars. Take that money and donate it to Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation, a local initiative that is researching and sharing historical truth about our county.

Here’s where to donate: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/howard-county-lynching-truth-reconciliation-inc


Friday, May 20, 2022

Misogyny: Illustrated


 


I was up early this morning looking for an answer to this question:

What is the point of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?

Why? 

Jordan Peterson quits Twitter after calling plus-size model Yumi Nu’s SI Swimsuit cover 'not beautiful'

Here is Yumi Nu photograph on the cover of Sports Illustrated:



Here is what Peterson wrote on Twitter:

Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.

Apparently he decided to leave Twitter because he didn’t like the pushback he got from his remarks.

Frankly, I don’t care who Peterson is or whether he left Twitter. I care about the continual, toxic judgement of women’s bodies. 

We are bombarded by unsolicited advice and comments about our weight and overall appearance from childhood onwards. Whether on television, from people we know, men on the street, comments on social media, women’s bodies are considered to be fair game. We spend far too much time struggling with these destructive messages. Often, by the time we have reached adulthood, we have internalized them.

Hateful comments like Jordan Peterson’s are almost superfluous because now, almost without thinking, we do it to ourselves. It damages us, it weakens us, and it saps precious energy we could be using to live happy and confident lives. 

What an incredibly successful way to drain women of their power and stymie their pursuit of larger goals. For every woman who has dreams to change the world there is an advert selling her a diet program and a man telling her she is fat and ugly.

Do you know why there is a Sports Illustrated Swimwear Issue?

The swimsuit issue was invented by Sports Illustrated editor Andre Laguerre to fill the winter months, a typically slow point in the sporting calendar.  Wikipedia 

They didn’t have much to talk about during the wintertime so they decided to sell womens’ bodies instead. 

There are certainly other, more sports-centric choices they could have made that would have been more in keeping with the Sports Illustrated brand. Selling scantily-clad women was an easy, lazy choice. And it’s all a part of a culture that objectifies women: sells them, molds them, diminishes them, controls them.

Yumi Nu is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and many people - - notably men - - feel the right to smack that image down, and, not just the image, but also the woman who dared to challenge their notion of female attractiveness. This tweet from a young woman resonated with me:



I felt like maybe I could be acceptable as I am.

There it is, the ugliest of truths. Women are raised to believe that someone else will decide whether they are acceptable and that their worth is dependent on other's judgement. 

A friend once asked one of those start-a-conversation questions on Facebook that went something like this:

What is the most positive life-changing thing that could happened to you?

And I responded:

That I could look in the mirror and be completely happy with what I saw.

If women could lay down the burden of chasing impossible attractiveness, just think of how much we could accomplish. We would be unstoppable.

It’s almost as though somebody out there knows that.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Local


 

How about some links? I have a few local stories lined up that caught my eye.

First off, alliteration runs wild in this tweet about a new local business:


“Columbia couple” to open “Dill Dinkers”. Good grief! If you’re interested in pickle ball, you’ll definitely want to take a look at this story in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Columbia couple to open new indoor pickle ball court in Howard County, Melody Simmons, BBJ

In a different kind of entrepreneurship:

Sisters Create Clothing Line Honoring South Asian Heritage, Aimee Cho, NBC4

The sisters, now in college, are from Howard County. They’ve created a clothing line called Urban Desi. In the past year they’ve sold about one thousand items. Want to learn more? This article from UMD’s Diamondback is much more comprehensive. And here is their website:

Urban Desi

Howard County blog Howard County Progress Report zooms in on a crucial issue in the upcoming Board of Education Race:


Kids’ Lives are at Stake in the Board of Education Race, Jenny Solpietro, Howard County Progress Report

Readers of Village Green/Town² know that this topic is an important one to me. Issues that impact LGBTQ+ students are life and death issues. Pay close attention to what the candidates stand for.

My final link of the day is the one I like the best.


'Slow and steady wins the race'  82-year-old earns bachelor's degree from UMGC, 7News Staff, ABC7 WJLA

My first thoughts were, “Where did she find the time?” and “How does she make being 82 look so good?” Ms. Beale is active in so many community activities and lends her support to so many good works that I  honestly cannot imagine where she found the time to complete a college degree. And yet, she did. 

Wow. 

This past year Ms. Beale spoke to the Columbia Association board in support of the Inner Arbor Trust. Her words describing the importance of Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods to our community and the arts programs presented at the Chrysalis were eloquent. 

When Mae Beale is committed to a cause, you know it. Her contributions to Columbia/HoCo are extraordinary. I hope she takes a little time off to celebrate her latest achievement.

Have a wonderful Thursday. I’ll see you tomorrow for F ³.



Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Guest Post: Anne Gonnella, Taking a Chance on Wonder and Beauty


 

In keeping with the philosophy of looking for the small delights of home, here is a guest post from friend and former HoCo Blogger Anne Gonnella, whose #dailybug photo series focuses on some of the smallest members of our community.

*****


Last year I started posting regular pictures of bugs on my Facebook timeline and gave them a hashtag. These #dailybug posts hearken back to three memorable experiences in my life.


Butternut Woollyworm Sawfly on a stick at Font Hill Park


The first happened one summer in college, when I interned as a naturalist in the Metropark system of Toledo, Ohio. One of my favorite duties was leading nature walks for groups of people, often families. I took the groups on short hikes in the woods, stopping along the way to point out interesting things in nature: flowers, animals, trees, and of course, bugs. One day I picked up a Daddy Long Legs, and held it out for everyone to see while offering some facts. The children all leaned in, oooh-ing and ahh-ing and excitedly jostling to see the wriggly bug in my hands. That is, until one of the adults called out in dismay, backing away to the refrain of “Ewww, spider!”  Immediately, all of the children also backed away. It struck me right then in that moment, many years before I was to become a parent myself, that what we say and do matters tremendously to young minds. All of the budding young naturalists were ready to be awe-struck by the wonders of a common arachnid, until an adult in their lives modeled fear and disgust. Daddy Long Legs are as harmless as they get, when it comes to bugs and “spiders” (for they are not actually spiders), but the children’s opinions were immediately tainted by unfortunate behavior modeling. 

Marbled Orb Weaver Spider in Rockburn Branch Park


The second experience to shape me also happened in college, during an art class. I had some talent and the technical skills to draw something well, but I was struggling with the assigned landscapes and still-life drawings.. Nothing I did had any life in it. I felt discouraged until something changed one day in the school’s botanical gardens. I recall clearly how the students were all drawing rows of potted plants in the greenhouse, and it just wasn’t working for me. I walked away to explore and found myself staring at a tropical monstera leaf, which I then sat and drew, filling the entire oversized page with just one gorgeous leaf. My professor walked in when I was nearly done and said something to the effect of “I believe you have found your perspective.” The lights went on for me. Beauty can be in small things, if you look closely enough.  They can fill the page, so to speak.


Black Swallowtail Caterpillar displaying its bright orange osmeterium in my back yard


Lastly, I recall a hike, right here in Howard County on the Grist Mill trail, when I was an adult in my 30s. My husband and I noticed a tangled mass of black snakes sunning themselves on a rock in the river, so we stopped to watch. An elderly couple walked up and asked what we were looking at, and when we pointed out the snakes, one of them marched right toward the rock to get a better look, scaring them all away in his oblivious haste. They then both told us that they walked this trail all of the time, had been walking it for years, and had never, not once, seen any wildlife. Let me repeat that - this was the first time in all their years of walking that trail to see ANY wildlife, not just the amazing sight of a mess of sunbathing snakes. I still think about this. Why on earth had they never seen any wildlife in Patapsco State Park? Certainly the way the man marched noisily up to the snakes could be a clue; you don’t see a lot of animals when you are loudly crashing through the world. But the lesson I took away with me is this: If you don’t look, you don’t find. Many people barge through the world on a mission without ever looking around them and noticing what they share this world with. I have had people marvel over how many nature sightings I seem to have, but I don’t possess any special Disney princess talent for drawing the birds and animals to me. I simply go outside regularly, and pay attention.


Robber Fly on a chair at the Thunder Hill Pool


And so, the daily bug. I like taking pictures. I’m not a professional and I just use my phone camera most of the time, but it usually does the job. I started sharing bug pictures because I was seeing bugs all the time, since they are everywhere, and I know that most people don’t stop and notice anything that isn’t a bee or a wasp or a spider that got too close to their body to ignore.  Bug pictures were my little niche of overlooked beauty. And they really are beautiful! One of the coolest things about bugs is that there are so very many different kinds, so many that we are unlikely to ever know them all.  They are small, so you will only notice most of them if you are in the habit of looking. And they get a really bad rap. You can’t post a spider picture on the internet without someone commenting that the only answer is to burn it all down and move away, which just perpetuates that bad and mostly undeserved reputation. And I get it - I also don’t want to find a giant spider in my bathroom. But enough people respond with fear and disgust.  I want people to take a chance on wonder and beauty in the smallest and most unexpected places. Let it fill the whole page.       

 

Millipede at Greenbriar State Park


* A note on my choice of the word “bug”. Some people like to point out that my use of the word is incorrect when I use it to label spiders and millipedes and other small invertebrates that are not insects. Some dictionary definitions of “bug” insist bugs are insects. I find it pretty funny that a universal and unspecific word like “bug “ would be attached to something as specific as an insect, when there is a whole world of arthropods out there. I prefer to use the term “bug” to mean any of the abundant and marvelous creepy crawlies I find when I look.


Me, taking pictures of bugs while on vacation at Cape Henlopen State Park



Anne Gonnella is a nature and photography enthusiast in Howard County. Her love of capturing images of all things that fly, frolic, and frisk about is rivaled only by her love of hiking into the woods to find them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Irate


 

Dear Irate Parent,

Congratulations! You have been selected at random from a larger group of irate parents to be in charge of making weather-related closing decisions for the Howard County School System.

Actually, it wasn’t random. Your online complaints were by far the most accusatory, the most insulting, and the most self-righteous. You were a standout.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You will be responsible for the safety of the students, teachers, staff, and bus drivers in 78 schools.
  • You will be provided with all the weather information currently available in our area. It won’t all predict the same thing and it will be changing all the time.
  • You will need to keep in mind topographical challenges in different areas of the county.
  • You will need to juggle multiple other concerns, such as school lunch programs, required days of school, testing dates, field trips, sports, and performances.
  • You will be provided with a list of previous closings where your decisions were determined to be wildly incorrect.
All of this will be coming at you like water from a fire hose and you will have very little time to make a decisive pronouncement.

Don’t worry. From your recent social media tirades, it’s clear that you can make these sorts of decisions with one hand tied behind your back. Your self-confidence is remarkable.

A reminder, though. Whatever you choose, people will be angry about it. Your social media account will fill up with outrage and mockery. Your email box, too. Don’t forget voicemail. I bet your phone will be ringing off the hook.

It’s good to keep in mind that a wrong call could put children in the path of harm or death. Don’t let it keep you up at night, though. We’re sure you’ll have this completely under control. Easy-peasy, right? 

One last thing. Climate change is causing weather events like these to occur more frequently and with more intensity. You won’t be able to rely on past common sense knowledge to understand what’s coming next. It’s a whole new ball game in school weather decisions.

Just think - - you’ll be on the cutting edge! Making decisions in real time! Learning to pivot in an instant! Going where no school system has gone before. Rain, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, snow, ice, hail…

Our whole community will be depending on you.

Thanks for stepping up.

Sincerely,



 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Benches Redux


 

You already know I’m fond of benches. My new discovery? Bench memorials. These particular ones are not in Columbia/HoCo, but, bear with me.



In loving memory of Shirley Ann Butler. (1955-2015) 

Amazing Mum and Grandma. 

She loved these swings more than her children ever did! 

Lucy and James XXX


In loving memory of 

Huw Davies 

Used to sit here and shout 

Fuck off! at the seagulls


Someone shared the latter on Twitter with the question,  

Why aren't there bench memorials like this in Baltimore?

My response?

There’d be too many.

But what about here in Columbia/HoCo? Couldn’t we do with a few loving-but-outspoken bench memorials around town? I realize that memorial plaques are usually a serious business, and I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s heartfelt loss.  But not everyone grieves in the same way. A memorial can also reflect the personality and idiosyncrasies of the departed.

A bench like this can provides not only a place to rest, but perhaps a reason to smile.

There may already be a few such memorial benches with candid captions around town. Do you know of any? Is there a place locally that you love so much that you can imagine a bench, with your name on it, long after you are gone? What do you think your family and friends might say about you? Any “quotable quotes” come to mind?

Odd topic for a Monday, I know. 

One last recommendation:  if you love benches too, the Twitter account My Favorite Bench (@MyFaveBench ) is a delight. It’s based in Thirsk, England. There’s a website, too.

Where is your favorite bench?

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Look



It’s Sunday. Let’s go to church.



Pearly Young, 77, was killed today in #Buffalo shopping for groceries. 

For 25 years she ran a pantry where every Saturday she fed people in Central Park. Every. Saturday. 

She loved singing, dancing, & being with family. 

She was mother, grandma, & missionary. Gone too soon.

This memorial comes from a tweet by Madison Carter, a journalist who is originally from Buffalo but now works in Atlanta. She was headed back to Buffalo to assist with local coverage of the horrific event that unfolded yesterday at a Buffalo grocery store. 

Buffalo's worst mass shooting takes 10 lives, leaves 3 wounded; attack called 'a racially motivated hate crime' , Lou Michel, Ben Tsujimoto, Maki Becker for The Buffalo News

Of the 13 people shot, 11 were Black and two were white, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. Most of the victims' identities weren't released as of late Saturday night. However, sources told The News that one of the dead was Aaron Salter, a recently retired Buffalo police officer working as a security guard at the store, while another is Ruth Whitfield, the mother of former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.

The shooter was allegedly radicalized by online materials easily available to anyone. It appears it wasn’t all that difficult to assemble military gear and weapons, either. With white supremacist hate speech churning through his head, he drove to a shopping area in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Officials say a gunman’s attack that killed ten was a racially motivated hate crime Emma Bowman, Bobby Allyn for NPR

A racist screed posted online detailed the plan of attack.

The 180-page document is full of racist rants and appears to embrace "the great replacement" white supremacist conspiracy theory that claims that an elite cabal of Jews, corporate leaders and politicians are intentionally diluting the white population through permissive immigration and by promoting diversity.

What’s that? I said we were going to church?

Indeed. Yesterday’s news is the gospel of American white supremacy and unfettered gun access. And here comes the sermon.

All of this matters in Howard County, Maryland. I see white people on social media claiming such events have nothing to do with us here. But the same ingredients that poisoned and activated yesterday’s shooter are just as available here.

Students give testimony documenting racism in our schools.

You ignore it.

Advocates present factual evidence that school policing disproportionately harms Black and Brown students.

You deny it.

Members of the Howard County community speak out and work for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

You call it “race-baiting.”

When you refuse to face the truth of systemic racism in our community, you are providing cover for it. “It isn’t really happening,” is really, “Don’t look over there.”

Don’t read the books. Don’t have the conversations. Don’t listen to people who are different than you are. Don’t respect teachers and advocates and community leaders who make the case for facing the truth.

Deny them. Censure them. Silence them.

But in the dark corners of the internet and in this community the hate keeps drip, drip, dripping like poison , while you say, “Don't look.”

Open your eyes, my brothers and sisters. 

Look. 






Saturday, May 14, 2022

Sweets for the Sweet


 

Who doesn’t love donuts? 



Are you a Thrift Store volunteer?

Tomorrow. May 12th, we will have a donut social and organize clothing at our Howard County Thrift Store from 9am to 12pm! 

See you then! 

I’m not particularly a fan of the Salvation Army. I don’t toss coins into their red kettles anymore. But I have to hand it to them for creating the best Twitter thread with donuts that I have ever seen. 

The idea is simple. Invite volunteers to work. Tempt them with donuts. Take photographs for National Salvation Army Week. Easy, right? I mean, who doesn’t love donuts?

Especially Krispy Kreme donuts.

What followed was the most exquisite array of donut appreciation you can possibly imagine.







Photo credit Salvation Army Howard County 


Honestly, not everyone looks this good in staged photos. These people are obviously multi-talented. They will come and organize donated clothes and make your publicity photos sing with enthusiasm.

Just bring donuts.

No, that doesn’t sound right. I think these people would be good sports even without the donuts. Still, I think they should get paid extra for modeling.

Oh, right, they’re volunteers. 

Do you shop at the Howard County Salvation Army store? Do you know any of these people? If so, tell them I think they’re brilliant.

Maybe Krispy Kreme should hire them.



Friday, May 13, 2022

The Small Delights of Home


 

Oh, thank goodness it’s Friday. I can let my mind wander a little.

This post from NPR caught my eye this morning. It’s an episode of their Life Kit series, entitled: 

How paying attention can help you appreciate what's right in front of you

Accompanying the twenty minute audio piece is a comic inspired by the piece. I haven’t had time to listen the all of the audio yet, but the comic definitely drew me in. The episode begins:

You know when you go on vacation and you notice every little detail about the place you're visiting? The statues! The billboards! The flowers bursting through the cracks in the sidewalk!

Humans pretty much do the opposite of that when they're in a familiar setting, going on autopilot and failing to notice the small delights of home. It doesn't have to be that way. 

The concept that our lives are so bombarded by distractions that it is difficult to be fully present in one’s immediate surroundings isn’t a new one. But, as our lives become ever more distracted, it’s a message that bears returning to over and over again. During the lockdown part of the pandemic many of us experienced waves of mindfulness in the solitude, whether in nature walks or the sensory connection of baking bread.

It doesn’t take long for that to slip away. 

Artist and writer Jenny Odell, interviewed for this episode, is the author of  How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. The comic, written and illustrated by Connie Hanzhang Jin, adds a visual element to Odell’s suggestions on ways to detach from the daily grind and be more present in the here and now.

As I scanned the comic’s images something leapt out.



Paying consistent attention to one thing can reveal more info over time. Like this statue by Sarah Doherty that I pass almost every day where I live in Baltimore.

Wait, what? There’s a moai statue in Baltimore? Apparently there is. Here’s a piece from the blog Charm City Street Art: Weekly Images: 11.12.12


Photo by Caitlin Rose


Artist Sarah Doherty is a professor at MICA. I found a subsequent photo taken in 2016 that shows a huge amount of change from the original.


Photo by Kathy B.

I wonder if the artist has returned to replace the stucco that had worn away over time. I also wonder what the process of change would have looked like, day after day, for regular passers-by. There’s quite a bit of difference between the two photos. 

Who noticed? Who was there but never saw?

Back when I traveled from school to school one of my favorite sights was a enormous rabbit statue near Dayton Oaks Elementary. It was standing upright, a quite unexpected part of the suburban landscape. Not only whimsical by its very existence, the rabbit (was it cement?  or stucco like the Baltimore moai?) was regularly decorated for major holidays such as Christmas and Easter. I definitely watched that rabbit over time, through seasons changing, through holiday decorations, rainy days and sunny ones. 

Gosh I loved that rabbit. I truly regret that I never stopped the car and got a good photograph. It’s gone now. First cracks appeared and then chunks began to fall off and then it just simply went to pieces.



Your simple walk around your neighborhood is complicated in a lot of ways. Some of them may induce wonder. Some of them may induce despair. But I think I would rather be attentive to all of these things than to just kind of move through the world.

Give yourself some free-form time and space today, and over the weekend, to connect with what’s all around you.



Thursday, May 12, 2022

It Ain’t Over


 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Things are not going so well in the COVID department. Cases are going up, up, up. The increased spread within local schools even made the paper.

Worthington Elementary School in Ellicott City reports outbreak of 27 COVID-19 cases, Allana Haynes, Baltimore Sun

The County Executive keeps doing his part by informing the public of best practices and current cases reported.






In the meantime we have removed expectations and/or requirements that were helping to prevent the spread: masking and physical distancing, for example. As the removal of those protections leads to an increase in cases, schools no longer have access to backup support from central office because it has been assumed that the crisis part of the pandemic is over. 

It isn’t. 

COVID, on the other hand, is doing quite well, supported by those in the general public who would rather aid and abet an illness than modify their own behavior in order to care for others. You know who I mean. They are the ones who respond to public health posts like this:




They might as well have special frames around their Facebook profile pics:

“Working together to spread COVID”
“Masks? You can’t make me!”
“Vaccines are poison!”
“It’s only a cold.”
“It’s my right to get back to normal!”

Does it make any sense that some people would rather root for a disease that can cause long term damage or even death instead of committing to keep themselves and their neighbors safe? 

No, it doesn’t.

And have we forgotten that children under five still can’t be vaccinated?

Last week, on May 4th, the death toll from COVID in the US reached one million. You would think that number was big enough to inspire some reflection even in affluent Columbia/HoCo. But no one wants to talk about COVID anymore. I wonder if its ongoing presence will even rate an acknowledgement in upcoming political races. Are BOE candidates addressing it? 

“We’re done with that now,” I can hear people saying. 

Wishing won’t make it so. As much as we cover our eyes or our ears to shut out the truth, it’s still there. COVID isn’t done with us.

Are we going to do anything about that?



 



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Warehouse of Discovery


 

You can learn something on Twitter every day, if you know where to look. This morning I learned that Columbia has a warehouse district. Surprise! And you thought we just had a Merriweather District.



Bootleggers and Baptists: This Saturday 1-4PM we are back at The Warehouse District in front of @hysteriabrewery / @lostarkdistilling in Columbia, MD!  We are bringing the boys of @theoldeastern with us!

What I was envisioning when I read this was a geographic area with a newly-branded designation. I couldn’t imagined I had missed an announcement of such a thing. Wouldn’t there have been newspaper announcements, a ribbon-cutting, pictures of local officials? I was intrigued.

The idea that Columbia might have a warehouse district appealed to me.

Well…it isn’t quite what I expected.

Quickly becoming one of Columbia's new hot spots. Located off of Berger Road Hysteria Brewing Co, Bullhead Smokehouse and Lost Ark Distillery working together to provide you a new place to have fun.

It’s not a neighborhood. It’s a collaborative business venture between Hysteria Brewing Coming, Bullhead Pit Beef, and Lost Ark Distillery. You can check them out on Facebook. They’ve food, drinks, music - - and plenty of outdoor space on a nice day. An upcoming event in June will also be bringing in the T & J Waffle Truck. 

I don’t know the reasoning behind creating an entertainment venue and calling it a district, but there’s certainly no law against it. It’s a “concept”, I guess.

My imagination was on overdrive and I was hoping for an entire neighborhood of warehouses dedicated to some form of Columbia coolness. Well, who knows? This could be the start of something big. Maybe that area on Berger Road needs a larger than life advocate like Col Gateway to get the conversation going?

Hmm…

So, if The Warehouse District were to be bigger than one location, what would you want to see happening there?