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After being widowed, I moved to Maryland two years ago to be nearer to my son and his family, who live in Arlington, Virginia. Although I was born and raised in the Deep South, I had lived for the last 40 years near Princeton, New Jersey. I had never even been to Maryland, and didn’t know a soul here, so the move was a leap of faith for me, powered by my determination to be a bigger part of my grandkids’ lives.

I can remember those first few ramshackle weeks in my new home, unpacked boxes still stacked in corners. Early mornings would find me lingering in bed with a cup of strong coffee and a copy of James Michener’s Chesapeake. I’m sure it will surprise none of you that I began to fall head over heels in love with THE BAY area. I have been to more breathtaking places in my life but never a place that is so overflowing with gentle beauty as this place I will call home from now on.

The sunrises and sunsets fill me with childlike wonder every single morning and evening, as does the astonishing array of wildlife, from butterflies to bald eagles, foxes to swans. I marvel that you can plant something, and it grows in about 20 minutes, that you better weigh down your outside furniture or the wind will relocate it. And then there are the waves.

People who live and work around the Bay always wave at you. They are the “wavingest” folks I have ever encountered, in the U.S. or overseas. The first time I was walking my dog a few blocks from my house and a man busily digging in his yard stopped what he was doing and began waving at me, I thought he must need help, or had dug up a skeleton and wanted me to see. But no, he was just waving, as were other walkers, bike riders, construction workers, kids in swings and drivers in passing cars. Two years in, I now know to keep the leash handle and the poop bag both in my left hand to keep my right hand free for waving back.

I think all this waving is a way for strangers to share an unspoken joy. The joy of living in a kind and happy place teeming with life and constantly washed fresh and renewed by the rivers, ponds, creeks and coves that frolic around their loving mother, the Chesapeake Bay. Every day here is a gift.

Anita Hanft is a freelance writer for nonprofits and lives in Edgewater, Maryland. Reach her at [email protected].

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