Chesapeake Ethic

Growing up in a small town on the Eastern Shore has been a blessing to me. My slow-paced life along the shores of the Choptank River has immersed me in the culture and lifestyle of the Chesapeake Bay. As an Eastern Shore local, I have many perspectives and understandings of the Chesapeake Bay that others may not share. Furthermore, my slow lifestyle has allowed me to take more time and observe the magnificent place I call home. From ospreys returning to their nests each spring, or the ridiculous amount of time and effort I go through to harvest a half bushel of crabs, being a local has exposed me to many things unique to the Chesapeake Bay. As John Burroughs wrote about, “there is nothing in which people differ more than in their powers of observation” (Burroughs 147). To the visiting tourist, many of the things I value and idolize may be taken for granted or not even seen. The art of seeing things is something I’m very passionate about and proud to possess; a skill taught to me by father after years of spending our days on the Chesapeake Bay. Through recreation and work, I am almost always exposed to the glory of nature and its many aspects. But the art of seeing things, in my opinion, is not solely recognizing a new species of bird you have yet to lay eyes on, it is also about seeing the issues and problems currently facing the environment.

I would like to say I’m knowledgeable about the Chesapeake Bay for the most part, but that would be a lie. After the first week of the Chesapeake Semester, I’ve learned much more than I anticipated about the watershed I’ve lived in for the past twenty years. I may be knowledgeable about the Choptank River, but that then is only a part of the massive system of the Chesapeake Bay. There are so many different issues currently facing the Bay that I’m well aware of but have only ever had my sole perspective on. Through the Chesapeake Semester, seeing these issues through others’ perspectives will greatly increase my understanding of the Bay.

I think that my bias and understanding of the Chesapeake Bay hinders my ability to truly “see” things. Hopefully, through the Chesapeake Semester, I will be able to understand the Bay and its issues through many viewpoints; which in turn will help fortify my ‘Chesapeake Ethic’.


Burroughs, John, and Charlotte Zoë. Walker. The Art of Seeing Things: Essays. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 2001. Print



History of Place

A topic that has intrigued me after the last week of discussion was the history of place, especially those in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As Wendell Berry mentioned in his essay “An Entrance to the Woods”, there is often an eerie haunting of the past lingering in these places. Furthermore, the landscape has been so rapidly changed through development and industrialization that the sense of connection a human was with the land, and its history, is severed. Berry mentions the sensation that one feels when in one of these places, he writes, “that sense of the past is probably one reason for the melancholy I feel. But I know that there are other reasons” (Berry 720). To me, the issue with the history of these places is that I am so oblivious to what actually happened in the past. Whether at home on the Eastern Shore or in the bustling streets of Washington D.C, a sense of place and its history never seem to come to mind. However, after discussions in class, I have become more knowledgeable about the actual past of many of places I thought I knew much about.

The tobacco agriculture and its relations to slavery build the history of the Chesapeake Bay and tidewater regions; something that is very unsettling to me. After reading Savoy’s essay “Trace”, I learned that our nation’s capital was built by slavery. This haunting past has changed the way I view Washington D.C, in a negative way. I am excited to learn about the rich history of the place I call home, and in many aspects learn from the mistakes of the people from the past. For me though, my place will always be in the woods, much like Wendell Berry, disconnecting from society and connecting with nature and the landscape, for all too much of the environment is unnatural in so many ways now.


Berry, Wendell. “An Entrance to the Woods.” Recollected Essays, 1965-1980, North Point Press, 1981, pp. 718–728.