Our Magical Town by Jamie Kirkpatrick


The clock atop Stam’s Tower had just chimed seven. We were on our way to JR’s to grab a quick bite to eat. A summer storm had come and gone; the pavement glistened and we were bathed in ethereal light. A unicorn was making its way down High Street…

OK; maybe there wasn’t a unicorn, but for a moment there was a rainbow arching its way across the street and it made me realize—yet again—what a magical town this is and that we should never, ever take it for granted.

Things just seem to unfold here in the most natural way. Like Friday night after we returned home from a delicious meal (soft shells!) at Barbara’s on the Bay and friends came over to sit on the porch and talk late into the night. Or on Saturday morning when I was on my way to the Farmer’s Market and got distracted by a Civil War era brass band playing Union tunes in front of the new memorial on the Green. Or later that afternoon when Sandy Hoon—one of the lions of Chestertown—was laid to rest in the cemetery at St. Paul’s and wonderfully memorialized at Emmanuel Church. Or later yet that same evening when the Chester River Association gathered in Wilmer Park for its annual celebration of the summer solstice. All in the space of twenty-four hours! I could go on (and on), but you get the point.

I realize we’re far from perfect. The town needs more thriving businesses and good jobs; our schools need to keep improving; the waterfront and the marina have been works-in-progress for an awfully long time; there are people who battle addiction or need better health care or simply live too darn close to the bone. The college is going through another transition of leadership. Yes, change comes slowly around here—that’s both a blessing and a curse—but there is always the will to improve and to look out for one another. I’ve lived in a lot of places around the world and I’ve never experienced a place with more inherent good will than right here in Chestertown.

Sometimes I wonder: do people make Chestertown a better place or does Chestertown make us better people? Probably both suppositions are true, but that doesn’t diminish either. It’s no accident that so many good folk reside here. Whether you’ve been here for generations or only come on weekends, you feel there is that rainbow’s promise of good things to come. You feel deeply connected to your neighbors and to the natural world in a way that’s—well, magical. At least I do and I doubt I’m alone. Feel free to chime in like that clock atop Stam’s Tower if you agree.

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 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 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 collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.


Letters to Editor

  1. Marlene Moores says:

    Yes, after living here now for three months this is my feeling about Chestertown. I’m looking forward to becoming involved in creating this feeling, (on Chestertown time)

  2. Laura Ventura says:

    I have witnessed that beautiful ethereal light and magical arched rainbow framing High Street on more than one occasion. Quite a sight. Still looking for the unicorn. 😉 Thanks for your insights!

  3. Richard Swanson says:

    What a wonder summery of the essence of Chestertown nestled in the bountiful basket of Kent County.

  4. Marty Stetson says:

    An excellent essay and the writer is correct that he is not alone in his feelings about Chestertown. I go on vacations and visit other areas for various reasons but I always get a very special, warm feeling when I cross the Chester River Bridge and return to Chestertown. I also agree with his proposition that it is the town and the people who reside here that make it special. It is not perfect, I doubt if any place is, but it is a work in progress trying to get to that perfection.

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