It all seems so comfortable. No navigational tool, either real or not, is necessary. Back in the cocoon of friendship and familiarity? Yes, that sums it up. The rhythm is soothing.
I cannot sever my ties to Talbot County. Two weeks ago, I went “back home” for two vastly different community events and a substantive meeting. Though an outsider now, deeply enmeshed in life in Annapolis, 41 miles away and so culturally disparate, I still felt welcomed.
The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s annual fall fundraiser, Party to Preserve, celebrated the organization’s devotion over 32 years to land preservation by using the lovely Duvall Farm, a wildlife preserve owned by Chip and Sally Akridge in Oxford, as its scenic venue. The weather and mood were pleasantly compatible. With folks attending from Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester counties, the event projected the best of this six-county region.
I learned again about the Eastern Shore’s beauty and the commitment by the Akridges and others to enhance its special qualities. I view Oxford Road and its pristine character, unblemished by commercial clutter, a metaphor for the continual battle to preserve what matters—that being a humane quality of life hard to match. I heard, however, disquieting chatter about a 400-unit residential subdivision planned on Peppermill Creek near the eastern terminus of Oxford Road.
I could think only of the multiple developments in the Annapolis Neck area near our new home at the BayWoods waterfront retirement community and their detrimental effect on Forest Drive. Every time–and far too frequently–that I confront congestion on this major road, I think about Easton and Talbot County and pray it will not be ruined by an overdose of housing and ensuing traffic.
My perspective has changed. Annapolis has become a benchmark that reminds me that life on the Eastern Shore is precious—and threatened by over-development. The battle for a life free of urban misery is ceaseless. While Annapolis, a city of 40,000, is wonderfully livable and enjoyable, it too faces the tension between sanity and senselessness.
Two days after the ESLC party, I attended the Delmarva Boy Scout District Council’s ceremony paying tribute to Derick and Dina Daly for their creation of Building African-American Minds (B.A.A.M.). They received Scouting’s Midshore Distinguished Service Award. I knew little or nothing about this successful program to provide a route for academic and life success for African American children.
Clearly pleased with the award, the Dalys could feel justly proud of their achievement. They also realized that, like the effort to preserve land amid constant development pressure, they must relentlessly encourage and coach young people to seek success and avoid unhealthy choices in their young lives.
Do I yearn for the life that my wife and I savored for 44 years in Easton and Talbot County? Sure, I do. Yet I understand that Annapolis is an appealing place to settle, offering plentiful history, cultural amenities and lovely waterfront. Also, I know of people who departed the Shore after retirement for San Francisco, Austin, Seattle and Winter Park, Fl. to spend their senior years near children. Those moves meant severing ties to the Shore.
Earlier in this essay I exclaimed about the intoxicating quality of life in Talbot County, as defined for me by the lack of urban congestion, the agricultural character, the water and the good people. Invited by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Alan Girard and the League of Women Voters Kathi Bangert to emcee a Talbot County Council candidates’ forum last Wednesday evening at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton, focused on the environment, I was struck by the anxiety concerning land use and increased development pressure.
Civic engagement undergirds democracy. As I observed first-hand, Talbot County citizens are committed to holding their local elected officials accountable for wise land use management. Land preservation demands public input; democracy provides access to decision-making.
I traveled home to the Western Shore feeling cautiously optimistic about the future of my former home.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.