Imagine Harriet Tubman quietly finding her way through deep green forests and marshy trails. Add beautiful birds and wilderness landscape and you have the image of hope renewed.
Today, the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland is still home to waterfowl, fish, turtles, and mammals of all sorts. Their ancestors might have observed Harriet and her Underground Railroad charges head toward freedom.. The lands and waters have hardly changed since then.
You can drive along the marshes and inlets which lead to the ocean, or hike , bike or kayak on any number of trails.
And now, right next door to the refuge, one can visit the newly-opened Harriet Tubman Visitor's Center that ties all of this region together! My plan is to visit there in June and post a separate entry, but I would like to share some pictures of the refuge here today.
Lis and I had a fantastic time with our guide, Tom! He showed us the proper way to hold the paddle and maneuver through the thick mangrove trees. Posting a link here, and would highly recommend you inquire if you are ever in the area. Tom is a highly qualified paddler and instructor as well as biologist. The whole experience was a perfect way to learn more about the ecosystem in this area of Florida and how fragile it continues to be. The mangrove trees have been decimated over time by construction and environmental pollution. Even if you can't book a tour, it is worth your while to investigate the severity of what has happened in this part of the state and seek ways to help. Thanks to Tom and company, I know so much more about this important work and how I can make similar contributions in my own estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. On side note: when you go into their retail store to book a tour or shop for fun stuff, you will see a very pleasant young man who might be Jack Sparrow's brother. Frankly, everyone in the company was fun, helpful, and world-class.
Going home for Ken is a bittersweet thing... his mom and dad, Yvonne and Charlie, are still there and doing well. Ken is part of a multigenerational Montana family, and Yvonne has lived there since the late '40s. She came over from France as a young girl and I would love to tell her story. Ken makes a special trip to his boyhood town every fall for family hunting camp, and we both try and visit in the summer if possible. Montana is a beautiful place.
In the last few decades, however, Libby has been marred by the vermiculite tragedy. Read An Air That Kills for more information on the Superfund scandal. Briefly, hundreds of residents have died because of cancer caused by mining. Ken's dad had a scare a few years back but the X-ray showed smoking damage. Look for more on Libby in future posts, but this documentary is a place to start.
Lis on the front of our rented pontoon! More coming soon.
My go to place for picnics and kayaking.
More to follow!
We recently joined The March of Dimes for Babies in honor and memory of sweet Harris. Harris and his family have a brave and wonderful story. Please visit this site below for detailed information on the amazing Pennsylvania chapter that invited Team Harris to walk alongside others:
Alexis and Young Kropp-Kwon have become special family friends through their relationship with my daughter, Katelyn, and son-in-law, Mike. Harris shared the NICU with Katelyn and Mike's preemie twin girls during the early summer of 2016. Harris's mom, Alexis, was diagnosed with devastating HELLP Syndrome* during her pregnancy, and had to deliver her son at only 28 weeks.
His birthday is March 28.
He was called to heaven on July 5th.
Here is what his amazing mom wrote on FB to let friends and family know:
"After 99 days of fighting with courage, perseverance and dignity we told our sweet Harris he didn't have to fight anymore and that it was time to rest. Young and I held him till the very end and with a kiss we sent him to heaven. Thank you for your love, support and encouragement. Tonight, please hold your loved ones a little tighter for a little longer. We love you, Harris. Thank you for choosing us to be your mommy and daddy."
Harris continues to live and breathe in the hearts and minds of those who love him. I like to think of Harris as a gentle song, whose melody is always hovering in a warm breeze. Alexis and Young speak of him as their angel, and he watches over my granddaughters and all of the babies who need him.
I can't begin to understand their loss or adequately tell their story. I am humbled when I speak with his parents and witness the hope and love they share with all who hear their son's story. What I do know, however, is that sweet Harris will forever be a part of my own life. I am blessed.
*I have included a link to a fine article that a was written by Eileen Godin of The Dallas Post in PA, which explains more in detail what HELLP is and how the Kropp-Kwon family began a journey of healing. Thank you to them for giving me permission to share.