As one chapter closes, another opens in Ecuador

June 01, 2000


After more than five years of writing this column, I'm going to try my hand at something different.

I do this with some regret, for it has been a rewarding and gratifying experience, and I owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of people who helped make it so.

First and foremost, I am forever thankful to the late Margaret Comstock, whose tireless efforts to promote recycling and respect for the natural environment inspired me to start writing this column.

Washington County's recycling coordinator, Harvey Hoch, has been a valuable, efficient and friendly source and supporter.

Lisa Prejean and the Lifestyle crew at The Herald-Mail have been super in their professionalism and a pleasure to work with.


But most of all, I am grateful to the readers who have responded to my rantings and ravings with phone calls, letters and personal comments, whether asking questions or offering suggestions.

I'm even grateful to a few critics - sometimes quite heated - of my weird ways. Their criticism has helped keep me on my toes and, I hope, accurate and fair in my tree-hugging take on environmental issues.

And a special thanks to one "mystery reader" who has sent me occasional and anonymous greeting cards that were always creative and cheering.

Things like that have given me a real lift sometimes, especially when so much news on the environmental front is discouraging.

But I'm closing out this chapter of my life not with a sense of pessimism, but rather with faith, for all around me I see countless examples of people struggling valiantly to preserve and protect the wonderful natural world in which we live.

I'm expecting to meet more such folks in the future, though from now on they'll be speaking a different language, since this month I expect to move to South America.

I'm not leaving Washington County entirely behind me. After 28 years here, I very much consider it home, and I'm keeping a home base on my farm near Clear Spring.

But I feel it's time to try something new. Thanks in large measure to my parents, I get the urge now and then to live and work in a foreign culture.

It has been 12 years since I did that in China for 16 months, and, for some time now, I've been feeling the urge to do something like that again.

So I've made friends in Ecuador who are welcoming me there, and I'm heading south for an indefinite period. Due south, in fact, for Ecuador is on the same longitude as Washington County.

I intend to learn Spanish, meet new people and get to know a culture quite different from this one. Of course, I'll also be acquainting myself with some of the staggering environmental problems that are facing that small but incredibly diverse country.

I expect to return to Washington County once or twice a year, and I hope to see some of you on such occasions. So you won't be completely rid of me yet.

But for now, to all of you who have helped make this column a fascinating experience for me, muchas gracias y hasta la vista.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Though it may take a long time to get to him, you can send mail to him at 12364 Harvey Road, Clear Spring, Md. 21722.

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