Rhode Island Summers

Monday, April 25, 2016

The wild beaches of southern Rhode Island were the backdrop of my childhood years.  When I think about my little self, myself as a child, I hear the roaring waves and can taste their saline spray on my lips. 

I have returned to the same sun-bleached beaches every summer since I was born, and this past season was no exception.  There is something magical about returning to a place that so vividly reminds me of an entire era of my existence.  So many elements of my life are different now from when I visited as a five year old.  We sold our second home there, my parents divorced, my family travelled more, my father passed away, and I grew up.  Though the shops in Watch Hill change ownership and newcomers join the area (ie. Taylor Swift has christened her ocean view estate in the apex of the town), the landscape of the little town, and of the abundant natural world that surrounds it remains unchanged….and so do my feelings that arise upon my arrival. The woodlands that abut the wide open waters are both inspiring and meditative.  This landscape casts away people’s artifices and begs every passerby to inhale and exhale with the rhythm of the rolling ocean.  All year round, I try to maintain the serenity within me, that this environment exudes - I try not to let my physical location determine my inner sanctity.

It takes four hours to get there from New Jersey without traffic on I-95.  Around New Haven, there was congestion - an annoyance that was unappreciated yet expected.  I sat behind my twin brother in the back seat of my mother’s sedan.  My dog sat on my lap and I swigged water out of a Klean Kanteen. If one drove by fast enough, they could mistake me for my childhood self, giddy about my trip.  The sun was fat and high in the sky.  It streamed through the windshield and into my eyes - but I wore polarized lenses, so, all was well.  

When we turned off of the highway onto the long, winding, tree-lined road leading to Stonington,  my excitement mounted. The sound of katydids and chirping crickets wafted in through the car’s cracked windows along with that sweet scent of knee-high grass, hinting at the rolling hills and rocky shoreline that would soon appear.  We ate dinner at Noah’s, a longtime tradition, followed by an inaugural walk along the docks.  I watched the sun set behind bobbing sailboats and exhaled deeply for the first time in weeks.  Back in the car, we drove across the state border to the house we rented in the woods.  It was a block from the cove where kayakers and paddle boarders alike frolic in the cool water in the heat of the summer.   

To rent a house is a much freer feeling than to stay in a hotel, especially when visiting a familiar location.  Unbeknownst to us, the house we rented had a swimming pool, so after days filled with reading and writing (during midday of course; I’m fair so noon sunlight is my foe), tennis, swimming in the ocean, and candlelit dinners outside, we would throw our bathing suits back on and jump into the pool after dark.  Nights were warm, however a cool sea breeze that rode up our legs and pushed my long hair out of my face greeted us at sundown.  

At times, I was bored, as I was not used to relaxing during the day.  But after a few days of vacation, I sank into the feeling of freedom and rested in a way that is only possible in a hot climate.  

I have heard it said that one must seek out new adventures, new ideas, new places to learn something more, but my mind is expanded every time I return to this summerland.  This beloved setting illuminates how I have grown, how I need to grow, and it revives forgotten dreams that should be unforgotten.  Both kinds of experiences are meaningful, one no more than the other.  Travel, even a small journey to one’s home after a sabbatical, often highlights that which was once hidden.  

The ocean has a way of making everyone feel at home.  It’s curative powers are profound…and so is its talent of stripping away the bullshit.  I left more clearheaded than I arrived, and I like to think that this quality has stayed with me.

© Wild Hearted 2016.

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