As you know, it has been a long winter. So I thought I would try a little change. I mean, something really different…like going off to see a small island off the coast of southern New England.
It all seemed very familiar… planning and organizing ferry schedules, a long ocean ride....until I saw the harbor. Nantucket Harbor is the site of the largest whaling fleet in history… its hay day was in the early 1800’s… so it’s like stepping back in time…walking down narrow, winding cobble streets and alleys…looking at fine old colonial houses, each with a widow’s walk. The people at the restaurants told us how you have to be so sturdy and everything because there are only 15 restaurants open on the island at this time of year. So Mimi and I got to act like we had just come back from the wilds of Alaska and explain how it is on Block Island.
In any case, I was only there for two nights. We had an excellent time, with wonderful, long-time friendship and good food. It rained most of the time, but we did get out to take pictures. We saw a white egret.
We also took many pictures of the Nantucket Shoals. I have heard about these waters all my life, in every maritime weather report. The shoals are a series of shifting sandbars, in waters sometimes as shallow as 3 feet. They stretch out to the south and east of the island. Waves “feel the bottom”, peak up and crash when they encounter the shoals. Ships driven through the shoals because of wind or errors in navigation are almost certainly lost.
It was something to stand there in wind that was only 25 knots and coming from the other direction, looking at water that was so dark with churning sand. I’ve only seen it like that on Block Island in a hurricane.
When I left the island, it was a little bumpy for the first half hour of the two-hour ride, and I got to listen to the familiar sound of a steel hull slamming against the water. But the wind was from the north, and the seas continued to calm as we got closer to the mainland. I was content to lie down and eves drop while Nantucket islanders talked about things that reminded me very much of ferry conversations on the way from Block Island… there was talk of getting ready for the summer and of someone getting all bent out of shape about something…and people talked about where they were going and what they would buy on the mainland and when they were coming back.
It was snowing (!) when I got back to the mainland and the huge ferry terminal. I drove to Moosup. Went to the fish hatchery, of course. Got some pictures of blue heron, of course. And then I came home to Block Island.
The dogs were hysterically happy to see me and I was equally happy to see them. I took them out to take pictures that night and then again yesterday morning. Then they waited in the car all day, in case I tried to make another escape. We went out again last night. The weather has changed at last. There were moments of blue sky and good light and we went to many familiar places. I realized how much I love it here. All the years and the emptiness in winter and the freedom of movement and the thousands of walks and pictures have given me a sense of place. It’s like even more than our house, our physical building, which is rented out in the summer, the island itself is home. I know how the waves are likely to be under given conditions, at different parts of the island. I call the people by name and they call me. I have an idea where I might find ducks and deer and piping plovers and possibly now, even owls. I’ve now been lucky enough to go to Nantucket but luckier still because I am so happy to come home. I would love to go again when I have more time, and I'd also like to see Martha's Vineyard. But right now I have egrets to find on Block Island and I need to say goodbye to the snowy owls, and actually I have to get down to the ferry because our son and his wife and new baby will be here in about 15 minutes. I promised to go out on the breakwater and take the baby's first Block Island picture as the boat comes into the harbor.
PS. I want you to see the difference light makes in a photograph. This is the same egret I took up above, except in afternoon, overcast light. The three pictures were taken almost at sunrise. The sky was overcast then also, but the difference is that in so little light, the contrast was so much greater.