If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. – Mother Teresa

Last evening I participated in a memorial walk to honor five, locaDebra_B- Main St march 6-29-18l journalists who had been killed the previous day by an angry man with a shotgun. The senseless violence and inexplicable grief of which I’d read in countless articles, had now come to my town, to me and my friends.

We stood – perhaps 1,000 people, silent, dumbfounded by the helplessness and fear that washed over us.

The beautiful summer’s evening with a butter-yellow moon bathing us in its golden light contrasted with the tears and hollow stares of mourners, young and old, from all walks of life, and varied ethnic backgrounds. Leaders from city government and religious organizations offered their thoughts. A slip-of-a-girl in her tartan kilt played “Amazing Grace” on her bagpipes; candles flickered in the warm breeze. Our mayor, Gavin Buckley spoke to the gathered mourners, “The senseless killings are not us; this is us.”

But, I couldn’t help thinking, “No, the killings and violence, as well as the empathy and regret are us. We are the man with the weapons aiming down into a crowd of concert-goers. We are the adolescent boys in long trench coats with guns as big as they are, shooting children cowering in corners. And we are the teachers shielding our students with our own bodies.”

Michael Jackson sang in my head, “I want you to know / I’m starting with the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways / If you want to make the world a better place / Take a look at yourself, and then make a change…

What am I doing with my candle and tears? Am I protecting the children, making sure they are safe, so they need not fear the opening of their classroom door, or the bang of a chair falling in the hallway? Am I speaking out for the young people whose lives are over and those left behind to grieve for them?

I see myself mirrored in the gray-haired men and women shuffling along with me. We carry signs, candles, heavy hearts. What are we thinking? I remember the marches against the war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights actions, bus rides and sit-ins and National Guardsmen arrayed against college students in bellbottoms, and Guardian Angels in red berets.

What has changed in my country, besides my graying hair? Have I spent 30 years in high school classrooms, teaching young people to recognize Macbeth’s all-consuming will to power, asking students to feel the gut-wrenching fear as Elie Wiesel, a small boy, marches to the concentration camp. What did my young journalists learn as we put together stories of high school proms and science projects? Do they fight today to protect the Fourth Estate?

Did I teach my students to recognize the fragility of all we hold dear – life itself, freedom from fear of intimidation, the rights to vote and to receive an education? Did I teach them to appreciate the sacrifices made by their forbearers?

What has my country come to after 50 years? Have I failed to make a difference? Could I have done more to insure that my students would mature into wise men and women capable of identifying truth from falsehood, integrity from duplicity, courage from intimidation?

I looked around me as we walked silently down Main Street. Young parents with small children in strollers, teens holding hands and leaning into one another for comfort. What will they do to protect and defend this nation? Do they weep and then return to their busy lives?

How ironic that we are preparing to celebrate Independence Day and all the immigrants who came here, to Maryland and beyond, to build a new and better life for themselves and their children. We celebrate the Constitution, “with liberty and justice for all,” but is there less justice? Are our liberties being eroded?

Those five, murdered journalists gave their lives writing for the Capital Gazette newspaper that traces its founding to 1727.  Will we protect the free press, the franchise, the immigrant?

My candle sputtered. The wax burned my skin, and that slight discomfort stirred me. I recalled Mother Teresa’s wise counsel, “Not all of us do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

I will go on marching, signing petitions, making phone calls, and teaching, I hope, by example. I will make what small difference  can in this dark time.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

– Mother Teresa

Photo: Debra Book Barrows


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Little Rascals: Pets and Pests in Your Garden | What’s Up Magazine

There are 115,000 dogs and cats in Anne Arundel County, and more than a million in Maryland, according to the American Veterinary Association estimates.

Source: Little Rascals: Pets and Pests in Your Garden | What’s Up Magazine

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Life’s Small Dramas Continue

The first four weeks of our osprey’s return to paradise has been quite eventful…

Oscar and Opal, as you may recall, returned to the Naval Academy in mid-March.  Other than chilly weather, all seemed to be well… at first.  About five days into their summer sojourn, another osprey arrived.  He was less muscular than either Oscar or Opal.  He hung around on adjacent light posts, buzzed the family nest, and just made himself a nuisance.

See the source imageOne morning, Oscar seemed to be fighting with the new guy in town.  They flew around each other making arcs and circles.  The new guy would perch, and Oscar would fly down as if to knock him off his perch.

I began to worry that this new osprey might be a serious contender for primacy.  After all, Oscar is getting pretty old. On average, osprey live to be 20 or 25.  They don’t mate and begin breeding until they’re three.  So, if I have watched Oscar and Opal nest for 17 years, maybe he’s near the end of his life.  Was I watching Oscar being displaced?

One cold morning, I saw Opal but not Oscar. And, I didn’t see the younger male either!  I thought, “Oh, goodness.  Oscar’s been chased off. He’s flown away or fallen into the Bay. Opal will starve, and that young osprey will take over the football field!”

As I finish my walk,  I pass a lovely garden in which a large pond brims with plump goldfish. That morning, my heart heavy with concern for Oscar and Opal, suddenly, See the source imageoverhead, I heard the distinctive cheep-cheep call of the osprey – vocal sonar, perhaps.  I looked up just in time to see my old friend Oscar rising out of the walled garden, a large, gleaming goldfish in his talons.  “Go, Oscar.”  He headed straight for the Academy and home.

A few days later, I saw the young osprey perched on a light post over the soccer field.  (You may recall a few years ago when Pablo and Pearl nested over the soccer field, until their nest was disturbed by the replacement of the lighting system.)

Over the next few days, the new guy, since named Raul seemed to get comfy in his new territory.  He began a feeble attempt at nesting, carrying up twigs and branches to weave into his new home.  And then, to my delight and his too, I suspect, Ruby came to town.  Since her arrival in early April, Raul has steered clear of the football field where Oscar and Opal live in decorous splendor.

Raul’s nesting skills haven’t improved.  What’s passing for his nest looks more like a giant pin cushion or a poorly moussed punk hairdo.  But, Ruby seems content.  Like Opal, she’s a fairly regal gal.  She sits majestically on her light post, high above the boats and cars and runners below.  Raul races around trying to impress her with this twig or that fish catch.  We’ll see how this goes.

And Oscar has been, it seems to me, setting me straight on his prowess as top-bird at the Academy.  For three mornings in a row, as I approached the football field, Oscar has come flying down over my head – each morning with a large fish!  The fish, wriggling in his talons, has been as big as his own body.  I’ve watched him fly around-and-around the field, waiting for the fish to stop struggling.  I think he’s saying, “Don’t count me out yet, old girl!”    See the source imageAnd I certainly will not.

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Art in the Garden

Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together,” said John Ruskin, 19th century, British essayist and art critic. Applying Ruskin’s definition, one’s garden could be fine art. And if you add a work of art to a beautiful garden?  Can one art form, the garden, enhance the other, a sculpture?

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Small Spaces: Big Ideas My 7th Garden Column

  Here is my Gardens column in the March issue of What’s Up? Magazine.   



I hope you enjoy the suggestions in your own gardening projects.

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