Rhode Island beach soothes the soul

A Memorable Place

July 02, 2006|By MARY BETH GETKA

Barefoot at last, I delight in the freedom of walking in the cool sand in search of the perfect spot to drop anchor -- my anchor being an oversized tote bag filled with the necessities for a day lazing on a glorious stretch of beach on Block Island, R.I.

The beach is peppered with passengers from the first ferry of the day to arrive from New London, Conn. -- my fellow shipmates who came directly to the beach. I, however, first stop briefly at the petting zoo to admire a camel from afar and pet a docile donkey. Then I make my way up Water Street, squeezing by pedestrians and cyclists on bikes and mopeds. Feeling more like a tourist in Bermuda than a transplanted Marylander an hour from home, I pass the charming Victorian-style Surf Hotel, the Island Free Library (an air-conditioned oasis) and the Block Island grocery store, and now here I am, finally, on the beach.

I notice the collage of footprints before me as I make my own. There are deep definite paw prints of a black Lab seen up ahead running to his owner with a stick proudly retrieved from the surf. Tracks of a sandpiper are delicately etched among the child-sized prints that crisscross with those of parents.

I claim my spot on the beach and set down my belongings. The sand is soft, powdery and ideal for the nap that is sure to be part of my day. As I take in the view of the mist-laden harbor, childhood memories come to mind. The ferries heading steadfastly in and out of Old Harbor remind me of past family boat trips to Betterton and Tolchester, destinations for Baltimoreans in need of heat relief in a bygone era. I also remember traveling overnight on the Old Bay Line to Norfolk to visit my aunt and uncle. It seemed like such a big adventure for a little girl from Catonsville.

Sitting here is as luxurious to me as a spa massage. All of my senses are being pampered and I relish the experience. The salty air intoxicates me. The gentle crashing of the waves is soothing, as is the tolling bell of the high-speed ferry that warns surrounding watercraft that a bigger vessel is coming out of the still-hazy horizon. The giant catamaran seems to emerge instantaneously like a rabbit out of a hat. The magic of suddenly being only moments away from the dock is not wasted on the happy passengers who can be seen waving to friends and strangers alike on the dock as they line up to disembark.

I smooth out the bumps in the sand under my sheet to conform to my own and I stretch out. I begin to doze under the skies that are now gently warming. The serenade of nature and beach chatter create a lullaby that relaxes me. I surrender to soaking in the peaceful essence that is Block Island.

Mary Beth Getka is a former Maryland resident who lives in Connecticut.

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