A Year in Baltimore

Baltimore? Why?

Not just wanderlust…

That’s a question many people who care about me asked: “What? You’re going to Baltimore? ” “Sure, I’d reply. Why not?”

Toward the end of summer, 2014, John was happily tending to the problems of grass growth and tree pruning in our yard, having just retired from his post as a medical educator at Vanderbilt. The phone in his office rang, and after a bit, he came out, a bit sheepishly, and said that Johns Hopkins needed him for exactly one year. He had worked there for years before coming to Nashville, and they wanted him to open a new office, integrate it with other programs, hire staff and a director, and then leave. “How do you feel about going to Baltimore for a year?” he asked. I think he expected me to say, “No way!” or “We’ll see each other on alternate weekends.” But I said, “Let’s do it! It will be an adventure!” 

I love getting to know the textures and character of a city. We rented an apartment right on the Inner Harbor; we made a list of the furniture we would take and the things we would need, and on November 14, we loaded up two dogs, Carly, an Irish setter, and Lily, a lab mix, and pulled out of our driveway. 

And get to know Baltimore, I did!

 It’s a wonderful city, born of a rich history, vibrant in its own unique ways, friendly, cultured, varied, and rife with problems caused by inequality and ingrained racial attitudes. Friends and my children  were afraid we wouldn’t be safe, but I never felt threatened. I walked and walked, the way I like to see a city. I photographed.I got to know my step-daughter much better. I walked dogs along the harbor. I finished a full draft of my book. Then I drafted it four more times. 

I made friends and met up with old friends who lived there, and they shared their town with me. I am grateful to them, and I am grateful for the opportunity to try myself out in a new place, mostly in solitude, working, then taking a break to explore, to converse with the city.

I wrote the Fell Street Footnotes as a way to keep in touch with friends at home and in many other places, and, I admit, to ground myself. Here they are!

Fell Street Footnotes

FROM A YEAR IN BALTIMORE Fell Street FootnotesI Live a Theme of Labyrinths We walk the dogs each morning just at the sky’s waking, its lids warm at the edges of its dark dream through space.  We first pause at the astro-turf plots specifically provided where Lily and Carly perform untrusting sniffs, then we four…More

Fell Street Footnotes, December 1, 2014

Home 951 Fell Street Home. What is home? What does it mean to comehome?  We consider this apartment a temporary home, a pied-à-terre, a place to put our feet, to landwhile we live in Baltimore for only a year. Yet, I call it home for now, and John and I home-in as surely as a sparrow to…More

Fell Street Footnotes, December 13, 2014

Santa Lucia Day Santa Lucia Day, the feast of lights, and, in Northern Italy, la Befana with her donkey, leaving small gifts in the shoes of young children: Ding, ding, goes a tinkling bell, and we know she’s come to our house. For a while my children and I lived in the country outside Bergamo, and we…More

Fell Street Footnotes, December 29, 2014

Bread Bread: texture a balance of crusty and soft, a secret within a protective skin. As it transforms from dust to paste to malleable solid, it becomes a body between my palms, my fingers, the heel of my hand, and then, with the chemistry of the planet it begins to grow on its own, to…More

Fell Street Footnotes, December 31, 2014

Time Someday someone will see this date as an old date, early century, and here I am, seeing it as brand-new. Christmas, the season of brightness and burden, has passed, and then the lazy week-end, and although the New Year’s holiday will call for a celebratory, culinary, and social pause, this morning presents a return…More

Fell Street Footnotes, January 1, 2015

Keeping On Thank God I am still keeping on! I like what I am doing, what yearnings push me from within, what experiences and observations inspire new words and stories and enrich perceptions and stimulate growth from without. I love each new day and its possibilities, each new night and its serenity or mystery or…More

Fell Street Footnotes, Ongoing, 2015

Critters A week after my first visit to the National Aquarium, I sat waiting on a bench across from the staff entrance. I had a 10:00 invitation issued by Ken Howell, curator of the Tropical Rainforest, to “see behind the scenes.” I sat in the shadow of this imposing glass building and felt the weight…More

Fell Street Footnotes, Late Spring, 2015

My canine friend, 16 good years Lily, R.I.P.Here’s a note about Lily, a suburban dog, from whom I learned: Lily leapt to the very boundary of her leap-ability and mostly caught that red ball.More

Blue Kayak on a Silver Truck

Can You Make Friends with Someone you’ve Never Met? I finally met a friend of mine—whose truck I’ve been photographing for a year. A blue kayak sits bound to the roof of his silver Tahoe. Sometimes I find it in front of a blue door, sometimes across the cobblestone street in front of the red…More