2008 Annual Letter from Kurt & Marieluise Riegel

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Heartfelt greetings to you and your family, with best wishes for a super-duper 2009!

Below is an account of some of the things we've been doing during the past year.

Marieluise, as always with intensity and high energy, has created a complete new line of children's clothing that she will be exhibiting at craft shows during the coming year. They are beautiful, whimsical, crazy, and practical ... perhaps the only outfits that have built-in knee pads for young children who do not yet realize they are bipeds. Her own bipedalism has been slightly a' kilter for much of the year, as her muscles and nerves protest a slight pelvic misalignment, but exercises and discipline are restoring her olympic-class physicality. She continues her massage therapy practice, to the benefit and delight of her clients, but occasionally occupational-related injuries send her to a therapist herself!

Again this year, Kurt taught his course in Environmental Compliance Management at Johns Hopkins University. He continued as president of the Severn River Association (SRA), with a mission to preserve, protect and restore the Severn River watershed near Annapolis. It's a nice mix of local politics, environmental research and technology, civic action, sub watershed cleanup and a "wade-in", and sometimes just simple enjoyment of our magnificent region. In spite of our efforts, the watershed continues its environmental slide but we persevere. We see real improvement in public understanding of root causes and a growing sympathy for necessary action, but face a continuing lack of necessary commitment by public officials. The old joke is that Chesapeake issues are politicians' favorite "cheap date", on whom they lavish lofty words, but that's all. There is an inexhaustible supply of excuses for why we just can't take actions that are necessary. Kurt testified on watershed issues before county council, the Maryland Critical Area Commission, the Severn River Commission, the Lower Western Shore Tributary Team, and is happy about our new Bay Friendly Neighborhood Program wherein local neighborhood associations will team with SRA experts to design a project making their neighborhood less damaging to the Bay through measures most suitable to their location and circumstances.

The Election of a Millennium

While we ordinarily omit items that might provoke controversy among our readers during this most amiable of seasons, we cannot help adding our voices to a chorus of delighted Americans over the outcome of this year's historic election. To be sure, there will be difficulties and stumbles, but after 8 years of incompetence, corruption, brutality and a strident ideology that is hostile to reality and science, we have at least a chance for improvement, even if takes 8 years to emerge from a hole that took as long to dig.


We had another fine ski trip, this year to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with the Crabtowne Ski Club and a nice group of fellow skiers. We both did well, had loads of fun, and the weather was about as nice as one could hope for, and it is a great pleasure to report no injuries. We had tons of good snow and improved our powder skiing skills, which depend on conditions that we have not seen on many of our ski trips.

Nice Visits Here and There

We had the pleasure of dropping in on friends Magdy & Luce Battikha on Treasure Island in Florida, near St. Petersburg. They are wonderful hosts and gastronomes, and it was a sublime pleasure to be in the company of true sophisticates of the broadest and most positive kind. With roots and experiences spanning Egypt, Quebec, France, and so many other parts of the world, there was never a dull moment, especially as they introduced us to the pleasures of sunny beach life, including a great sailing adventure into the gulf, and cultural life with a fine jazz performance.

Jack & Rosemary Davis (big video file, so be patient) gave us a treat by returning from Hawaii to stay and sail with for awhile. Our voyage took us down the South river, out into the Chesapeake Bay, past the West River races as we cut right through the herd, and over to an inlet on the Rhode River for a pleasant night at anchor with fine food, drink and conversation. The Davis' sailing skills are already impressive, especially so for Rosemary's suffering that day with a shingles attack!

World travelers Sam & Quyen visited twice during the year, finally being introduced to Starducks for a fine sail and and overnight anchor at a hurricane hole in Harness Creek on the South River. In addition to a meal that couldn't be beat, we were visited by families of water fowl and saw wonders of Nature before turning in for the night.

Marieluise zipped off to Costa Rica for a week's myoskeletal workshop, in the interior of that country, with a wonderful peek at canopy ecology. Kurt was a fool not to accompany her on that occasion. She also had a fine trip to Germany to meet with daughter Tonya, hike in the Alps, and visit with her parents Werner & Ruth, and sister Stefanie.

Eden and Andrew stopped by on one of their many trips and we had a whirlwind tour of Washington DC, including the famous Einstein statue, a fine Vietnamese meal, all before they jumped on yet another airplane to whisk them away. Sigh.

They are both deeply involved in virtually all aspects of modern showbiz, including screen writing, performing, web videos, movies, books on tape, television, etc.

Our Children, Ever More Impressive

Their activities and accomplishments have grown so broad, so varied, and so impressive that we are stunned. We can only mumble the following one-liners to give you a glimpse of their range, even as we delight in the glow of their accomplishments.

Tanya Riegel is editing Men who Stare at Goats, working on location in Puerto Rico, New Mexico and California and joining Veronique in totally charming places like France. Sam Riegel is performing music and comedy, continuing voiceovers, screen writing, editing, and has completed a remarkable series of videos for internet distribution, too numerous to describe fully; his wife Quyen is involved in many amazing projects as cinematographer, all over the world. Eden Riegel rejoined the cast of All My Children, and is delighted to be living with husband Andrew on the upper west side of Manhattan again ... they clearly like the town!

Pasha & John Marlowe still live in New Hampshire near Lake Winnipesaukee, having enlarged their family with the birth of son Jamie. We were with them for a few days of Christmas and were amazed at how well they handle more responsibilities, with more fun and good humor, than most. Tonya Stewart is teaching architecture and design at a university in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and has been able to travel to Japan, Africa, Germany, and Scandinavia during holiday periods. Mark & Erin Stewart live in Maryland, he working on sustainability at the University of Maryland in College Park, and she teaching school in Howard County.

Goodbye to OWR

On July 4 many members of the extended Riegel family convened at Gulchleigh in Virginia, not only to celebrate a national holiday, but more importantly to hold a bittersweet goodbye ceremony for Oscar W. Riegel (Tom) and to scatter his ashes to the wind, a ceremony we'd talked about frequently since his death in 1997 and were able finally to make happen.

Sam & Quyen produced the concise video (click to start it) giving a quick impression of the event. They have promised a more complete production at a later date, complete with audio of the words that were spoken that day. The clip includes Jane Riegel who reigns over Gulchleigh and an extended family expanding beyond comprehension.

Sailing Adventures

Sailing continues to be an important part of life. We had more wonderful trips all over the Chesapeake Bay, to St. Michaels for the small boat festival with Ed & Linda Gray, and with Doug & Laura Tilley all the way up the eastern shore's Chester River to Chestertown. We especially liked that scenic river, much vegetation still in abundance and of course clean water.

We try to do at least one fairly ambitious trip each year, and for the second time it was the circumnavigation of the DelMarVa peninsula, from Annapolis down to Norfolk, out into the Atlantic Ocean and north to Delaware Bay, up the Delaware River to the canal, and then back south in the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis with many side trips for anchorages along the way. It was about a 570 nautical mile journey, and about a hundred miles more if you add all our tacks and reversals that occurred during a storm in the ocean. Marieluise went as far as Yorktown, after stopping for a fabulous reunion and dinner with Diana & Butler Burton near Mobjack Bay. Then crew got on, and we struck for the Atlantic with fine sailing and a bit of terrible weather that forced us into the shelter of Assateague Inlet for a night. The exceptional sailing skills and good humor of Bill Burch, especially, made it a fine and educational voyage.

There was an unusual story in the local newspaper about student from Azerbaijan. Kurt keyed in on the fact that he'd never been sailing and offered him a sail on Starducks, as shown in this video. He had a fine time, and we all had a pleasant cross-cultural conversation. Shahin found a series of jobs, probably had a better experience in America than if all had gone well at the beginning!

We attended the Annapolis sailboat show this year, drooling over sailboats we we will never own but cannot help lusting over.

But we made up for it all by taking off with Ed and Linda Gray (big video file, so be patient) to the British Virgin Islands for the sail of a lifetime. We flew to St. Thomas, stayed the night at the Crystal Palace overlooking the harbor, and were treated wonderfully by the owner and host Ronnie Lockhart, whose extended family owns half the town. On our return for a second night's stay, he even included us in his family's Thanksgiving dinner! By ferry, we proceeded to Tortola, took possession of a 45-foot Beneteau and set sail to see the islands!

We sailed this path, passing by and touching many islands, including Tortola, Norman, Peter, Salt, Cooper, Ginger, Virgin Gorda including the wonderful North Sound all the way to Saba Rock and Bitter End, then back past the Dogs, Scrub, Camanoe, Guana, all the way to Jost van Dyke which was a favorite because it harkens back to maybe 75 years ago before the explosion of development hit the Caribbean.

Weather for sailing was just perfect. We sailed upwind in comfortable northeast winds all the way to Bitter End, and came back running with a 30 knot wind on perhaps the fastest leg we've ever sailed. Snorkeling was super and we saw a great variety of life, although we sadly report that many coral reefs are damaged, dead or dying. We anchored every night but one wild night on a mooring. Kurt enjoyed learning how to operate a windless and chain, in waters that are much deeper than we deal with in the Chesapeake.

Back to School

Kurt participated in a very interesting program at the Earthwatch Institute on the grounds of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgwater MD. It was a residential program involving about ten people, involving both hands-on forestry research aimed at determining the rate at which a recovering forest sequesters carbon, and general discussion of global climate change and its many implications. We roamed far and wide on the SERC grounds, a marvelous piece of land, one of the few shreds of intact forest left in the area, and a place where vibrant and valuable research is being conducted. It was an interesting experience to be a lowly lab assistant for the gathering of forestry data on tree girth, species, height and shape, together with a census of fallen leaves by number and species.

Odds 'n Ends.

We rented out our house again during the Naval Academy's graduation, called Commissioning Week, when housing is scarce in Annapolis, and went sailing. We've already rented the house again for 2009.

Readers of this annual letter may have noticed that Kurt has whined on and on about acquiring either a dog or a rooster. Well, we had a breakthrough (of sorts) this year – it's up to you to conclude whether our glass is half full or half empty. Marieluise build a fantastic chicken coop and we populated it with two hens from Doug Karr, but all did not go well. One of the "hens" became a rooster, so it returned to Doug to become dinner. The other hen woke us at 3 AM with blood-curdling screams, because a racoon had entered her cage and began eating her alive. Kurt raced to save her but, alas, it was too late. Out neighbors the Hollands have a fine black labrador retriever who has taken to joining Kurt on his daily runs around the neighborhood – both critters benefit! So, although we're far better off for having known these chickens and that dog, we are still on a quest for eventually adding chickens and a dog to our household.

Have a wonderful 2009, keep in touch with us, come visit and sail with us on Starducks, and we look forward to seeing you soon!


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Posted at home.comcast.net/~qmhdk/x2008

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