Broad and Deep by Jamie Kirkpatrick


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I think it was Carla Massoni who once said that when someone first crosses our little bridge, “You either get this place or you don’t.” “This place,” of course, is Chestertown, and boy, was Carla right. I first crossed the bridge with my daughter almost 30 years ago when she came to take a look at Washington College. Dana wasn’t impressed. “Dad, can we go now?” she said as I parked the car by the admissions office. Clearly, she didn’t get it.

The problem was I did, but I just didn’t know it at the time. Dana and I went to visit other colleges, life happened, and I forgot—or thought I forgot—about Chestertown. Then one morning about 5 years ago, I sat up straight in bed and thought, “I’ve got to go back to Chestertown.” A month or two later when I crossed the bridge for the second time, I was home.

Something about this place has called us all here. Maybe it’s the college, or the waterfront lifestyle, or Sultana at her dock, or Fountain Square, or the river itself, but whatever it is, the call is clarion—at least to some. Or maybe it’s less about brick-and-mortar things and more about the ephemeral elements that surround us like corn stalks in autumn, or the more humane pace of life, or the cry of an osprey, or a raft of geese settling in for the night. If polled, we would probably all say something slightly different, but none of us would be surprised by anything on the list. We would nod and say, “Yep, that, too.”

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were enjoying a dinner party out at Maiden Lot Farm. There were old and new friends, good fun and wine, pleasant conversation. At one point, I asked our hostess what brought her to this place. She thought for a moment and said, “The people. I’ve never found people of such breadth and such depth.”

I think she nailed it. There is indeed a wide cross-section of folks here: farmers, businessmen and women, artists, and professors. Retirees and young people. Sailors and golfers. Progressives and Conservatives. Families with roots that go back many generations and new arrivals or weekenders like me. Despite all this apparent diversity, we seem to blend well together like an aromatic olla podrida that spices up small-town living.

As for deep, there is that, too. There are thinkers and doers; historians and mathematicians; the introverted artist and the extroverted bartender. The quiet philanthropist, the hard-working baker, the waterman, or the starry-eyed college freshman: each unique, each interesting, each a square in the quilt of our town.

Some people think small towns are too quiet, too boring, too nosy. They should cross our bridge. A few will hear the call and add themselves to our puzzle; the rest will scratch their heads and move on wondering, “What’s the big deal?”

The water under the bridge is wide and deep. Yes, the bridge needs to be repaired and the channel needs dredging from time-to-time; don’t we all? But I, for one, feel blessed to be here and I’m guessing you do, too.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Letters to Editor

  1. Johnny Roe says:

    Very eloquently shared Jamie. Thank you. For a more in-depth historical view of the origin’s of Colonial Kent County. I’m wondering if anyone from The Chestertown Spy would be interested in understanding information on Major Joseph Wickes, assigned to Love Point in 1650 by Lord Calvert. Equally as important to historical Kent County, and a couple of generations after, a native son serving in The Contental Navy for The Contental Congress, is Lambert Wickes. Who is historically recognized as to have sailed Benjamin Franklin to France in 1776. Regards, John Hudson

  2. Karen O'Connor says:

    Ahh Jamie you nailed it again!

  3. Amen, Jamie! You say it well.

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