We are blessed to live in a place where all the wonders of creation are so evident. For much of my life, I lived in big cities where the vertical world of apartment buildings and office skyscrapers, bright lights and constant din overwhelmed my senses. But over here, on the right-hand side of Maryland, I can engage in an ongoing conversation with the natural realm, a place where light and sky and water combine to create a pristine universe—a harmony of color, light, and sound that infuses me with a sense of peace.
Of course, it isn’t always like this. If it were, we’d probably become just jaded spectators to dazzling sunrises and sunsets, to the turn of the tide, to the subtle shift of the wind, even to the cataclysmic thunderstorms that occasionally seem to swoop in out of nowhere. We have our fair share of grey, shapeless winter days and mind-numbing summer evenings plagued by heat and humidity, but they’re the exception, not the rule. No; the rule here is expansive water views, undulating landscapes, gentle evenings, and starlit nights.
There’s nothing wrong with urban living, but small town life has a charm all its own. For better or worse, we know each other; not much remains secret for very long. We’re exposed here, as much to each other as to Mother Nature. If you’re seeking anonymity, this isn’t the place for you, but if you want to find connection, it’s right here, all around you, all the time.
Nearly a decade in, I still find plenty that’s new and fresh. I explore a new road and suddenly there’s a vista I haven’t seen before. A newcomer moves in down the street and suddenly I have a new friend. A season changes and suddenly the world looks different all over again. You can’t escape the daily dialog with all the actors that are in the play with you, but should you need to find a little solitude, it’s just around the corner.
I realize I’m gilding the lily. Life can be as hard here as in the biggest metropolis. There is still too much poverty, discrimination, injustice, and alienation. Change comes slowly here; old attitudes and bad habits can die a slow death in a small town. But maybe because we are called to interact with each other on a daily basis, we’re challenged to cope and change, to put away small grudges, and to understand each other better. In a bigger, busier place, we can hide ourselves away, but here all our faults and foibles are laid bare and we can hear a higher calling. You know the one I mean: the one asking us to mend, to improve, and to care for each other in myriad ways.
Am I overly romantic? Naïve? A Pollyanna? Very possibly all three. But I’ve always believed that I was called here for a reason and that reason may very well be that I needed to find the connections that are available here. So, I’ll sit in the quiet of a new day. I’ll help a friend or even a stranger. And in the evening, I’ll look for the fire in the sky.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.