Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A world of gems

There are moments I consider gems that I store in the treasure chest of my life. This weekend was just such a gem.

New York is a busy place, a concrete, urban jungle where the exotic animals typical of the region are focused, driven and ambitious. They are often over-worked to the point where they forget to enjoy life. New York is also a land of opportunity – professionally, socially, culturally, artistically. It is the gateway to unforgettable experiences.

I have never met anyone from Rhode Island, but I have actually been there. It’s sort of like Delaware. Rarely, if ever, do I meet people from Delaware. But Rhode Island has a special place in my heart because it has thrown not just one, but two, gems in my treasure chest. There is a small island off the coast of Rhode Island called Block Island, and it looks something like the countryside of Ireland with rock walls, rolling green hills and ocean as far as the eye can see. Its port is charming and lively and greets all the daytrippers with ice cream, salt water taffy, chocolate covered frozen bananas, lemonade and all kinds of tasty treats.

The hour long ferry ride to and from Point Judith to Block Island is refreshing and calming. Seagulls drift above and often alongside where people will feed them crackers, chips and any other snack food leftover from the day. The smell of salty sea air and sunscreen combine into an aroma that brings me to a different place in my own mind reminding me of the cottage on Lake Michigan, the beaches in California and sunsets off the Gulf Coast in Florida. It reminds me of childhood summers, popsicles, sand castles and believing the world is every bit as beautiful and miraculous as it seems. I stood at the back of the ferry at the end of the day looking out at the sun whose rays were filtering delicately and subtly through the distant clouds while seagulls ate crackers out of my hand as they flew by. I had Cameron by my side and the love of my friends surrounding me. It was a moment of intense happiness. A moment where the world makes sense. A moment that soothed my soul and filled me with peace and assurance that this was what God intended when he created the world. It was the perfect segue from a perfect day into a perfect ending.

Part of the appeal and escape of Block Island is renting bikes in town and riding all around the island until you are so hot and tired that the ocean is irresistible and ever so inviting. Last year, we had these old beach cruisers that only had a few functioning gears, which made the island trek much more challenging, especially since I am used to riding a road bike. This year, we upgraded to mountain bikes, and although I had the use of all my gears, they often changed on me without my consent. The lighthouse, the rolling green hills, the cottages and flowers swept me away to the Ireland I remember eight years ago. Sunny and green, and I wondered if this is the kind of landscape my ancestors left behind when they traveled across the Atlantic and into New York Harbor. With the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair, I experienced a little bit of heaven. By the time we got to Mansion Beach, we were hot, hungry and ready for a dip in the cool Atlantic. We quickly ate lunch, lathered on sunscreen and ran into the waves. I love that first dive into the water because it is chilly and shocking but ultimately refreshing. For the next few hours, we rode the waves, played Frisbee, napped in the sun and enjoyed the company of friends.

Despite my pale skin and burn tendencies, the beach is really the place I feel most at home. There is something about it that rejuvenates me and makes me whole again. I love the sand between my toes, the breeze over the shore, the sun on my skin. I always feel a little pang of sadness as I walk away because I know it will be some time before I return. The magic of Block Island is the combination of all the pieces – friends, beach, bikes, ocean, frozen chocolate covered bananas and seafood caught that day. It’s sort of like a fairytale escape from life as we know it. It’s a gem because it’s a reminder that there is more to life than commuting, computers, email and cell phones. There is a world out there that is beautiful and free for our enjoyment… a world full of precious gems.

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