Visiting Linda’s family in Rhode Island entails daily walks, weather permitting…. No, daily walks, regardless of weather. When we are not present, Emily walks 3 – 4 miles per day. I think we (I) slow her down a bit. Three of our favorite walks are not far from home. There might be other nice walks, but how can you get to them when you enjoy these so much. For each of these, I can get lost in the shells, pebbles, and my imagination. I see iconic American painters’ vision along my ambles (usually some steps behind Linda and Emily).
You cannot get much closer for a walk than to stroll down the yard to the steps of the Plum Beach Club. A mile or two, depending on tides and drainage from brackish ponds, awaits exploration, along Plum Beach to Plum Point. This is sand-gravel-rock-shell shore line, with beach plum trees and grasses on the dunes that ring the ponds. In summer, local residents gather for beach activities. In winter, you may meet an occasional resident walking, wearing layers of sweaters and jackets, against the bay winds (breezes do not happen in winter). I envision a Winslow Homer painting, setting a stalwart woman looking defiantly into the wind, calmly challenging the nor-easter to blow off the Atlantic. Living is embedded in the natural setting.
Beaver Tail is the southern tip of Jamestown Island. From Emily’s house, we enjoy the sun rise over Jamestown. The lighthouse stands against the waves and wind which flow in from the mouth of the Narragansett Bay. You can park near the point on which the lighthouse stands to walk a short loop around the lighthouse, scramble around the rocks, or follow a longer loop through the brambles, with occasional “thinking benches” overlooking the bay and coast. You can enjoy the rush and crash of waves, explore the up tilted and eroded black rocks, and let your mind wander to the era of tall ships and discovery of this rugged coast. I see Normal Rockwell creating one of his intricately detailed portraits of the land and it people. If you watch carefully, you can envision a lobsterman hauling a lobster pot home with a mermaid caught inside. As with Rockwell’s paintings, the story behind the scene is up to your imagination.
A short drive south brings us to Narragansett, with it’s vacation town, sandy beach, and boulder protected sea wall. If you walk all of them, round trip, you will add up at least 3 miles. Plan to be red from the sun in summer and red from the wind in winter. The only scrambling you might do here is getting from the parking lot to the beach, as the town removes the stairs in off season to keep the ocean from taking them. Along the water stand, constantly in a state of being rebuilt against the stronger forces of salt, water, wind and sand, are stone buildings, including the Coast Guard House restaurant where we had our wedding reception. The Dune’s club welcomes us to stay off their property. We can ignore them. When we reach the end of the Wall, looking back at the Towers, I see Edward Hopper building a landscape of natural and man-made architecture. Distant walkers blend in as simply as another wave breaking of the rip-rap, or a sea gull gliding on the wind over a wave. Mid-ground, a lone woman looks, forlorn, toward the water. Should we notice her, wrapped in a wool coat, scarf, gloves, and hat, we might wonder about her longing. Does she yearn for a love lost? for a husband away on business? for a desire never realized? As with any Hopper painting, we can feel ephemeral compared to the structures we build, and more so compared to the landscape which will someday consume us and our ambitions to control nature.