Why I Vote

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Kensington, Maryland, Election Day, 2022 — We’re lucky.  We “walk the vote” at our neighborhood middle school which is a pleasant 10-minute stroll down leafy streets.  Most of the leaves are down now but enough are hanging on to offer a pleasant autumn ambiance.

Neighbors were on the same mission, quietly filing along by ones and twos, some pushing strollers,   A few held hands, walking with a sense of purpose, as they might on their way to schul on Friday evening or church on Sunday morning. 

As voters approached the school entrance, candidate signs decorated the final few yards while campaign reps offered to persuade the undecided. 

The early November breeze was just chilly enough to find the gaps in my puffy jacket.  The chill reminded me of elections past.  Only one other time, in Massachusetts, was walking to vote possible.  Mostly you drive, hope to find a place to park, and line up for your turn.

The American armed forces place a lot of emphasis on its members voting without telling them how to vote.  Having been a military brat and then a career officer, I’ve watched this process since I can remember.  Because most military members are far from home, the effort is all about absentee ballots which must be requested early, making the emphasis on election season seem much longer than in civilian life.

I’ve also served our nation in war and peace.  I know what authoritarian regimes look like.  Along the way, some of my friends have given all and aren’t here to vote, but all of us have sacrificed some to defend that for which we claim to stand.  For me, voting is a continuing duty in honor of those who are no longer with us.  That’s why I do it.

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For some reason, election day here had a pleasant zen of its own.  The people I met were particularly pleasant.  I snapped this on my walk today.  It seemed about right.

Sisu

Reviving the Silver Creek Nature Trail

Littledale entrance.

Labor Day, Kensington, Maryland, September 7, 2020 — There’s a semi-secret nature trail in the neighborhood if you know where to look for it. Judging by the traffic it is less secret than it is secluded. Regardless, the trail that runs parallel to Silver Creek from Littledale to Saul is a gem.

The trail is known as a social trail meaning people created it by habitual use. It was not planned and officially does not exist so no known entity is responsible for its upkeep.

Lately it has needed some love. This large pine fell several years ago and users rerouted the trail to the first passable place. Kids love it, but it’s a literally a pain for adults with stiff backs.

Lately two more trees have roadblocked tread. Called blowdowns in trail maintence lingo, they are large enough to require a chainsaw for removal.

Beyond blowdowns the trail has become overgrown. Here Japanese stilth grass, an invasive, has taken over.

All along the trail briars and other sticker bushes have intruded. This is particularly painful for folks wearing shorts but for little ones, some of these prickly stickerberry vines are at face level making them potentially dangerous to a child.

This matters because vegetation on hiking trails is tick vector. The disease-bearing vampires crawl up onto vegetation. From this ambush position their intent is hitching a ride and and sucking dry the next convenient mammal.

The best way to limit exposure to Lyme and other tick borne diseases under these circumstances is to cut back the weeds and shrubs along the trail.

That’s why Friday, after communicating with homeowners association leadership, I asked for volunteers on the Rock Creek Hills listserv. I figured, judging by the volume of free stuff available at curbside, that a lot of people were staycationing and that some of them might be looking for a break at a safe social distance.

At 9 a.m. this morning our crew totaled 10 intrepid volunteers armed with an assortment of loppers, clippers, a weed wacker, a McLoed fire hoe, and a chainsaw.

We broke into groups and tackled the offending plants from both ends and the middle. After two-and-a-half hours the results speak for themselves.

No prisoners taken here.

In progress.

Hard work.

Vegetation free super highway.

Before.

After.

Before.

After.

Before. The original trail is to the right, the new trail to the duck-under is to the left.

In progress. Folks are clearing away the vegetation and the blowdown.

After. Original route restored.

We left this for the kids.

Saul entrance facing south, before.

Same place after.

Saul entrance facing north before.

Saul entrance after.

Thanks to Hill Carter, Maria Dinger, Chris Hankin, Meg Hankin, Mike Silverman, Jim Brandscom, Mike Mazzella, Osborne Parchment, and Elizabeth Kingery. You rock!

Would it have been more fun if we could have grilled some burgers and sloshed some beer afterwards? You bet, but these days you take what you can get.

Sisu