I’ve come to love lazy paddles. It’s a mindset, an ease, deep breaths. The purpose isn’t to see how far you can go, but to float; to enjoy time on the water; to look for birds, or treasure; to talk; enjoy a beverage; watch the sunset.
Last evening’s lazy paddle netted an Eastern Kingbird sighting (a first), Bald Eagle and Ospreys, multiple Great Blue Herons and Green Herons, either a sandpiper or sanderling scurying along rip-rap; a majestic sunset on the river; rich amarena cherry ice cream, pulling up to the Scottish Highland Creamery by kayak; and a full moon rising over Town Creek.
Other than the ice cream, the evening cost nothing. As we were floating and the sun was teasing some clouds, I said, “Most people don’t do this.” It seemed a shame. I was grateful to share it all. Lazy paddles hold the key to how to enjoy Oxford.
Oxford, Md., is a town with pricey real estate values. It’s not full of shops or things to check off your agenda. But if you don’t need a guide book to tell you what to do; you are good with self-guided and easy-paced; Oxford has no end to what it can offer the thinking visitor or resident.
All over town there are park benches sitting alongside the waterfront. Some of them are obviously located, some of them take some searching. Where there is a bench, it is public access. Take a load off, sit down. Watch the water. Read. There are benches at small beaches. Gives you more reason to explore.
The park is the crown jewel of the town. It’s a shady lunch spot after a bike ride. It’s a playground for kids. The living shoreline is a study in fighting erosion, while also leaving some beach for kids to play on and rocks full of periwinkles to explore. It’s the first image that comes to my mind when someone says the word, “park.” It’s changed a bit over time, but the soul of the place is still the same. It’s easy to build your day around Oxford’s park.
Over the past couple years, the beach end of the Strand, just down from the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, seems to have become a local hot spot. When my girls asked why everyone went to the beach at the Strand, I asked them to tell me where there was another public beach in Talbot County. At this point the sea nettles have taken hold for the summer, but the beach is still full of folks setting up picnics, putting in kayaks, paddleboards, or rafts, and taking advantage of a shallow, scenic expanse of beach. There aren’t many to be found in the area.
Oxford is not a town that overwhelms you. But it will expand your soul if you slow down and take it all in. The churches, the houses, the boat yards, and restaurants, all speak to and from the water that surrounds them, and walking the few miles around town never fails to slow down my heart rate and put a smile on my face.
One thing you can learn pretty quickly about Oxford, is that it is an odd mix of people, odd being a good quality. In a quick cruise through town, you’re likely to meet watermen, restaurant workers, landscapers, retired folks from various walks of life, volunteer fire fighters, artists; you still find kids on skateboards or riding bikes, and the lunch crowd waiting in line at the Oxford Market‘s deli, is equal parts blue and white collar.
If you are just giving the town a once-through, maybe you don’t catch that, but I think you will. And if you decide you dig the town and make more than one trip, or become a frequent visitor or resident, you will find out for sure. A family recently moved from Los Angeles to Oxford, citing the feeling of community as one of the reasons for their move. I get what they say and felt.
I wouldn’t be doing my day job if I didn’t make mention of the Oxford Community Center. Any place that you can go, for free, and watch The Big Lebowski on the big screen; see Shakespeare performed on the lawn; catch a lecture or concert; see a World War II photography exhibit; or be a part of a community potluck dinner, is worth looking into.
Oxford has its icons. Those places and activities like taking a ride across the river on the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. Or eating steamed crabs and taking in the sunset at The Masthead at Pier Street. Or fine dining at The Robert Morris Inn. Each of those things is a singular and signature Oxford experience.
But this is a “thinking man’s guide to Oxford,” because it is about free and low cost means of finding out what the town is about. Oxford is more than just going out to eat or a place to tie a boat up. It is a place to savor slowly.
Between a 5-mile running loop I have around town, walking dogs, biking for ice cream or a beer at a dock bar, I tend to cover some miles through town, and almost always find something new to take pictures of. I find reading perches and sunrise and sunset vantage points.
Oxford is a town I fall in love with anew every day because I find different ways to be outside in and around it. Like a lazy sunset paddle and ice cream. Best enjoyed when shared.