Years ago, when our daughters were young, we used to vacation every summer on Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast. Back then, it was still affordable to rent a cottage for a week. The island was quaint, quiet, family friendly, with lovely beaches and nature trails to explore.
Thirty some-odd years later, other than real estate prices, which average in the millions of dollars, and very expensive rentals, the island remains in many ways frozen in time, with much open space still protected by the Nature Conservancy. As you approach on the ferry from Point Judith, the waterfront looks almost exactly as it did on our first arrival, when our eldest was barely three years old.
So it was on Sunday, when the four of us made a day trip to Block Island together for the first time in about ten years. There is something immediately calming as the ferry backs into its dock, to see all the familiar old hotels and the flag gaily waving atop the cupola of the National. We had planned a weekend on the Block last summer, and I’d rented a great house and secured our ferry car reservation, when, of course, the pandemic scuttled all that. While we couldn’t do a weekend this year, at least we could make a full day of it.
I’d originally hoped we could rent bikes to ride around to some of our favorite spots, but that was not to be. I haven’t ridden a bike in decades, and when I tried one out, I could not balance—something to do with inner ear issues that have been plaguing me for several years, now. Mopeds, which we’ve always avoided, turned out to be not the best option, either (we did check them out, but decided to pass).
Instead, we found the most affordable alternative: walking and taking taxis. Our first stop was the town beach, where we ate lunch that we’d brought along, rested, swam (Al never misses an opportunity to jump in the waves), and walked the shore. As my eldest said, it’s just relaxing to lie there and listen to the surf and the friendly chatter, not too crowded, not too boisterous. Just families of all kinds, having a good time.
Then we caught a taxi to what’s known as “the Spit.” This is at the northernmost tip, near the North Light, where ocean currents from either side of the island slap together as waves cross paths, foaming and spuming. It’s a long, challenging walk for me from the parking lot over rocks and sand, but well worth the trek. Along the way, we were treated to a pair of fledgling, fluffy grey sea gulls, peeping to their mother, who kept close watch as they wandered near the dunes, and at least eight seals playing in the surf, popping their long black heads above the water before diving gracefully out of sight. We also harvested handfuls of sea glass.
On our taxi ride back into town, our friendly driver, who came to the island 42 years ago for a visit and decided to stay, slowed down to show us a pair of breeding ospreys. Our very first visit to the island in 1991 occurred in the midst of Hurricane Bob, which passed directly over. Turns out our driver was in charge of one of the evacuation sites during the storm, at the medical center. We had found shelter for the day at the only school on the island. So, we reminisced. Far from scaring us off, the hurricane only endeared us more to this special place. It was on that trip, as well, that I realized I was pregnant with our youngest, and Al and I joked giddily about names for the baby starting with B.
Sitting on the top deck of the eight o’clock ferry back to Point Judith, after a delicious fish dinner, the ritual visit to the Ice Cream Place, and noodling about the shops, we said goodbye to the North Light winking over the Spit as the sky turned dusky. Halfway on the hour’s crossing, just above the slate blue mainland, fireworks sparkled.
Magical, once again, if just for a day, to slip back to simpler times, with my dear ones.