"The Year of the River" Program Opens - Southern Maryland Headline News

"The Year of the River" Program Opens


In conjunction with Bernie Fowler’s annual wade-in held on June 13, Maryland folksinger and artist Tom Wisner announced the opening of “The Year of the River,” a program to reawaken the memories, longings and celebrations of life on Maryland’s Patuxent and Potomac Rivers.

Wisner will host a series of dialogues between groups of elders (senior citizens, we call them today) and groups of children that lead them to talk to each other about their experiences of the life of the rivers. Expressions of thought in both poetry and watercolors will be encouraged, and ideas about needed political action will be conveyed to a larger public who can act politically to insure protection of the river.

In a prototype activity this past year, Calverton School students learned songs about the river and the Chesapeake Bay, did watercolors that expressed their feelings about the waters, and conveyed both to their chosen elders on the school’s Grandparent’s Day. Wisner made a CD of the music, with cover illustrations by several of the children. “Grandparents Day at Calverton” took the theme of a Wisner song, “Sunshine.”

The 2004-05 Year of the River program takes as its symbol a 12-foot long tundra swan with her cygnet, one of the native creatures of the Patuxent. She was conceived and constructed by Caroline Fairless and Jim Sims, who direct Children at Worship. Tom Wisner constructed her cygnet and completed the head and neck of the adult swan. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay donated support for construction materials. “The Year of the River” is sponsored in part by Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) and by Chestory: The Center for the Chesapeake Story.

“The swan shows how the Chesapeake community of life reaches out not only to most of Maryland but over the continent,” said Wisner, describing the native swan’s migration route from the Arctic tundra of Canada down to the Chesapeake region in November, and its return northward in March. Blue herons, a typical symbol of regional efforts, migrate southwards in the fall toward the Yucatan region. “Caring for the Patuxent is caring for the life of the continent,” emphasizes Wisner.

The process of choosing groups for this coming school year’s dialogue activity is underway: senior groups and teachers of elementary children who would like to participate are encouraged to contact Tom Wisner at CHESTORY (The Center for the Chesapeake Story) at P.O. Box 1462, Solomons MD 20688 or at 410-394-3838.

SMECO is participating as a sponsor of “The Year of the River” to encourage Southern Maryland residents to appreciate and value our waterways. As a Touchstone Energy co-op, SMECO embraces the principles of innovation, integrity, accountability, and commitment to the community. SMECO has been committed to the community for 67 years, and continues to work together with customer-members to improve the quality of life in Southern Maryland.

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