No man is an island, and an island is more than one man

  • Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2013 12:01 a.m.

SALISBURY — If you locate the town of Crisfield on the eastern shore of Maryland and then go 10 miles out into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll find Smith Island, a fishing community of about 500 people.

It is the focus of Tom Horton’s book, “An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake,” in which the author describes the island community through history, changes of season, natural cycles, ecological changes, and through the daily lives of the island people, who try to make a living, raise families and maintain their community in the midst of all this fluctuation.

The book is not a dry research report. The author had a stake in the community where he lived for a time, and he firmly believes that we all share that stake.

Horton had reported for the Baltimore Sun on the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Smith Island Environmental Education Center. In 1987, he accepted the offer of an education manager’s position. He and his wife left jobs on the mainland, rented their Baltimore house, and took up residence, with their two school-age children, in a 170-year-old house with 36 windows, each having “a view you would pay serious money for on the mainland” (and half facing “broadside to the North Pole,” which the family discovered their first winter).

The consequences of his decision Horton experienced one dark and stormy night, when taking, by boat, his severely asthmatic child to a mainland hospital. All those good reasons for moving might not have amounted to much.

The family lived on the island until 1989. During the stay, Horton collected evidence of why the island and its inhabitants, human and nonhuman, have flourished and declined.

The blue crab is a symbol of the region’s success, and the Chesapeake, a good final exam to grade civilization on how it achieves a long-term, stable accommodation between nature and human populations.

Horton provides an update in the 2008 edition of his book. He has never really left the island. He maintains a house there and returns every month or so. Island population is down but “not out.” Water business alone can’t support life there, but who can avoid “the island’s allure” for kayakers and birdwatchers? Horton invites you to visit the website and make plans.

Fall Story Time: Now-Nov. 29. For more information call 704-216-8234.

Baby Time — 6- to 23-month-olds and their parents. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays, 10 a.m.

Toddler Time — A program for children 18 to 35 months old with a parent. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Monday, 11 a.m.

Tiny Tumblers — A loosely interactive program for children 6 to 35 months old with a parent or caregiver. Same program offered two separate days. South, Tuesdays or Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschool Time — A program for 3- to 5-year-olds. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; South, Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Noodle Head Story Time — A program for children ages 4 to 8. Headquarters, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Mondays, 4 p.m.

Art programs — Runs weekly during Story Time. Art in the Afternoon, Headquarters, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; The Paintbrush, South, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.; Art with Char, East, Thursdays, 4 p.m.

RPL presents Cheerwine Music Hour concert: Amber Waves band, headquarters, Thursday, 7 p.m., Stanback Auditorium. The band plays a mixture of bluegrass and folk and original songs. Please enter from the Fisher Street entrance. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; admission is free.

Book Bites Club: South (only), Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Book discussion groups for adults and children. The group is open to the public. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments. For more information, please call 704-216-8229.

Teen program: All 5:30-7 p.m. Free monthly programs for middle and high school students. Share your favorite books while creating a tie-dye shirt (please bring your own T-shirt). Questions? Call 704-216-8234. East, Monday; Headquarters, Tuesday.

Displays for September: headquarters, Constitution month by DAR; South, miniature doll houses by Donna Deal and Terri Correll; East, wood by Whitey Harwood.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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