When I’m away from Chestertown, I feel like there’s something missing or that I’m missing something. It’s not a sharp pang, more like a tingling sensation, a very mild form of the phantom limb pain experienced by many amputees. Or maybe more like a heartache—the empty feeling one gets when a very dear friend is too-long absent; or the way a sunny day suddenly becomes moody when the clouds roll in; or like the regret one feels when an opportunity is missed and gone forever.
When I’m away from Chestertown, the clocks all seem to run faster. It’s harder to keep up the pace. There’s more traffic, more noise, more stress, more items on the to-do list; less conversation with friends, less starlight, less time for sitting on a friend’s dock watching the river roll by.
When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss my porch, my neighbors, all my friends about town; my Thursday martini nights at the Kitchen and my Saturday rounds of golf at the club. I miss the river, Hebe and her fountain, the farmer’s market, the clock that strikes the hour from the top of Stam’s Hall. I miss Wilmer Park, the ballet of regatta sails and the smooth power of racing shells. I miss a deadrise heading off to work through the early morning riversmoke and the Martha White at graceful sunset anchor.
When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss watching an osprey dive for a fish or a bald eagle soaring overhead. I miss seeing Sultana under sail and the River Packet under a full moon. I miss napping in my hammock, catching the flash of a hummingbird, or picking crabs in the backyard.
When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss my chefs, my bakers, and my bartenders. I miss our writers and photographers, our potters and artists. I miss the downtown shops: the Wine & Cheese Shop, Bookplate, Finishing Touch, Empty Hangers, Gabriella’s, Twigs & Teacups, Welcome Home, Village Shop, Women in Need, Blooming Wild, Dockside Emporium, and She-She; I miss the Garfield, CRYCC, Washington College, and the White Swan. I miss JBK; my wife misses Tiny Tots.
When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss my four-legged pals: Tessa, Daisy, Glenn, Matilda, Dixie, Sweet Potato, Lullaby, Barkley, Millie, Sammie, and Franklin; I miss Keke the bookstore cat.
When I’m away from Chestertown, I miss a happening First Friday and the friends who spontaneously end up on our porch, the buzz surrounding one of our big weekend celebrations—Tea Party and Downrigging—and a quiet Sunday afternoon. I miss artists painting the town. I miss all the parades. (I’m a sucker for parades.)
When I’m away from Chestertown, a part of me remains here and a part of you goes with me. But when I’m in Chestertown, the shoe fits, all harmonies converge, and everything in the universe is as it should be. I’ve never been quite sure whether I found Chestertown or Chestertown found me, but however it happened, I’m glad the match was made. Whether we’re from here or came here, when we’re here, we’re home.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A new collection of essays titled “Musing Right Along” will be released in June. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.