Lindsay P. Lusby ’08, Asst. Director, Rose O’Neill Literary House
Having grown up in Chestertown, the river has always been part of both my external and internal landscape. When I was younger, it was a source of wonder and play. When that brackish water warmed in the summer, we’d be out in the sun on our small outboard boat, my dad at the wheel, blasting The Beach Boys, my mom showing off her slalom ski skills. My little brother and I crowded around the fish radar, marveling at the depths and shallows, seeing how many big fish we could find on the sonar screen, like Nintendo Duck Hunt without a controller, just watching without the desire to catch or keep.
We’d usually head downriver toward Conquest Beach or Cacaway Island, where we’d all jump out of the boat and sink our toes deep in the cool, silty river mud. My brother and I would pull up leaking handfuls of the stuff: the deep, dark brown I imagine the center of the earth to be, but somehow always cold. On shore or near it, we’d always watch our step so we didn’t scrape the tender bottoms of our feet on the huge horseshoe crabs that would wash up like abandoned armor, steel-gray and seemingly impregnable. Sure, those sharp edges could break our skin, could hurt and sting, but we knew our blood was blue, that we were unbreakable, too.
When I was a little older, after the divorce and after we sold the boat, as a teenager and then as a student at Washington College, the Chester River continued to be a place of calm and centeredness for me. Whenever I was overwhelmed by the other things in my life that felt so large and out of my control, I’d put on headphones and take a walk. Tori Amos would sing me from my mom’s house near the town limits down Washington Avenue, and all the way to the foot of High Street where that reliable river was always waiting. Tori still singing, “But what if I’m a mermaid in these jeans of yours with her name still on it.” I just needed to see it.
Sometimes it was low tide with its strong smell of marsh. Sometimes the tide was creeping up over the pier, edging closer and closer to Water Street. And I would feel just a little better. My problems were not solved or gone, but I felt their weight a little less. It’s almost that feeling of floating, being buoyed and held by the river itself.