On this day in 1634, 150 settlers from England disembarked from two vessels, the Ark and the Dove, onto an island in the Potomac River. They named the island after Pope St. Clement I, patron saint of mariners, in thanksgiving for having safely crossed the Atlantic Ocean. March 25 is also the Feast of the Annunciation (called "Lady Day" in England), celebrating the visit by the archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a happy coincidence, as the colony these settlers were to found had already been named Terra Mariae, or Maryland, by King Charles I, in honor of his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. Though many of the earliest settlers were Protestants, the Calvert family, who sponsored the expedition, were Roman Catholics (as was the queen) and explicitly wished Maryland to be a place where all Trinitarian Christians could live together in peace, making it a model of religious toleration.
Though I haven't lived in Maryland regularly since 1989, I still consider it my home. My formative years were spent in this lovely, quirky Midatlantic state and most of my blood relations still live there, including my parents. I remain a diehard Baltimore Orioles fan and miss steamed crabs and seafood that doesn't have to be transported hundreds of miles to reach my dinner plate. It was a great place to grow up and I suspect that my love for "rough edges" comes at least in part from having grown up in a state whose identity has been a weird mix of influences held in barely coherent tension since the beginning. Maryland's a southern state that never seceded and fielded regiments for both the Union and the Confederacy, though the state song's lyrics curse Abraham Lincoln ("The despot's heal is on thy shore," a reference to the fact that the District of Columbia was established on land donated to the federal government by Maryland). Geographically, it's both heavily urbanized in parts and extremely bucolic and wild in others. Our distinctive accent is like no other in the region and jousting is our state sport. And we boast a storied history of corrupt local politics of which perhaps only Louisiana can top.
Too strong an attachment to the place of one's birth can be the source of much evil, as history has shown. At the same time, I can't help but feel that a little parochialism might be a useful tonic against the depredations of this age of globalization. I like local oddities and quirks. I prefer it when everything isn't the same bland pabulum no matter where you go. That's probably why returning to the old school feels so right for me. Like my experiences of home, we're a weird, confused, cantakerous bunch. It's easy for outsiders to look at us and dwell on the individual trees without seeing the glorious forest of which we're all a part.