In this grassy, rose-laden island thirteen miles off the pebbled beaches of Rhode Island’s meandering coast, visitors sit near shade trees, flowered alcoves and on benches along the pedestrian path that borders the town of New Shoreham and gives a serene view of the blue Atlantic. They sip beers on wide, veranda-style porches, laughing with friends in the bright ocean light, and group along the busy main street of gelato shops and tourist stores that display Block Island trinkets and Vineyard Vines clothing. Dressed in shorts and flip-flops pulled from dusty winter closets, they look relieved and eager, like college students on Spring break.
While many of these folks may be getting down to some serious summer R & R, I have come here with my sister, Carla, nephew, Alex and small dog, Charlotte, for only one day. We have the next several hours until our ferry departs at 6:30 pm, to soak up some of the island’s charm and Charlotte, as anxious as we are, tugs on her leash to get us going. I know there is something special here, because some twenty years ago, in another life, I spent a week at The Spring House, an old white hotel high on a hill with a killer view and wrap-around porch set with creaky rockers and wicker chairs. Cell phones didn’t exist then and the rooms had no TV’s. I’m told the hotel still has no air conditioning save for the prevailing winds off shore and the oceanic climate that keep it cooler than the mainland most of the year. There wasn’t much to do then but bike and hike or chill out on the Adirondack chairs lined up on the long sloping lawn. What is etched indelibly in my memory though, is settling in on that porch with several other people one dark, stormy night as thunder cracked and lightning flashed high out over the water. When I finally went upstairs and closed my eyes, images of shipwrecks and pirates floated in and out of my dreams. There is no doubt their spirits were out there that evening, riding the rough waves. Spending so much time away from the stimulus of my day-to-day life was a living meditation unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
Today’s visit is much less extreme. A leisurely walk to New Harbor takes us to Dead Eye Dicks for lunch. After a plate of oysters with Alex and splitting a lobster roll with Carla, our trio engages a taxi driver who agrees to give us a twenty-five dollar tour of the small island he knows intimately. He goes out of his way and tells us how all of the island cabbies keep the business fair by calling out a location when a call comes in. Whoever is closest picks up the ride. We tip him generously. As we cruise past The Spring House with its unforgettable view, it comforts me to see that other than a fresh coat of paint, like most of Block Island, it hasn’t changed much at all. Later, Carla and Alex wander off for a cold drink at the bar, but I take Charlotte back to the main drag for a little shopping and some famous Del’s frozen lemonade. As we cross the street I spy a nice quiet spot with a view of the boats resting in the harbor. At this moment there is nowhere I’d rather be. I breath in the magic that is still here knowing that a little of it has rubbed off on me today … and vowing to come back in the future for a much longer stay.