Saturday, February 26, 2011

the sea

I'm from Rhode Island, the Ocean State. Thirty miles from the westernmost part of the state to the eastern coast, sixty miles from the south to the north, RI is the smallest state in the US and a state that, I've found, many people from the other side of the country don't know exists (or some people think it's part of New York, like a twin of Long Island). There are a lot of perplexing things about Rhode Island: it's not an island; its residents are known from their speaking habit of taking "r"s off of words where they belong and putting them in words where they don't belong; milkshakes are called "cabinets," water fountains "bubblers" (or "bubblahs" spoken with a Rhode Island accent!). RI has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. I lived there until this past August and while RI is very dear to me, I don't plan to move back permanently -- mostly because it's so small that I've always felt that I needed to experience other places.

Since Boston is only an hour north of Providence, I go back to RI frequently to visit my parents and friends who still live there. I went back a few weeks ago for my mom's birthday, which is when these pictures were taken. It was definitely a Rhode Island day, the kinds of days I sometimes miss: lunch at Captain Jack's restaurant, which overlooks salt marshes, docks, and houses raised on stilts, followed by a cold and windy, yet very sunny and exhilarating walk along the beach.

The sea has been a background feature of my entire life. I love the sea. In high school and most of college, every first date I ever went on either started or ended with a walk on the beach, or if it was an especially good date, a magical stretch of time sitting on the seawall hoping the boy would put his arm around me. Summers meant going to the beach, swimming in the cold wave-tossed ocean, building sandcastles, and exploring the ruins on the far edge of Scarborough Beach: a stone structure tangled with salt-growing plants and bright flowers, a mysterious bramble-crossed path leading away from the sea cliffs.

I feel very lucky to have grown up near the sea. There is something about the familiar tumble of the waves that eases anxieties out of my mind, or at least muffles them for a while. Thinking about the sea weaves together so many memories for me. In winter, the calm of the beach, empty except for dog-walkers. In summer, being battered by the waves while laughing with friends as the water sparkles. Friendships and relationships that have ended, and those that I still treasure.

I don't know where I will end up in the future -- in such a competitive academic job market, being flexible with regard to location is pretty much essential. I worry a lot about the possibility of ending up in a landlocked state. As someone who has always lived on the east coast and only visited other places in the US, I can appreciate the beauty of the middle of the country, but I get a feeling of claustrophobia when I think about being far away from the sea for a long period of time. I guess I will just have to wait and see what happens, and hope I can always live fairly close to an ocean.


  1. I live in RI too :)
    Love Scarborough Beach

  2. There really is no place like home, sadly mine didn't have a beach nearby like this! It looks beautiful there.

    I saw RI out of a plane window last year but never got the opportunity to head any closer than 30,000ft. Is it anything like they stereotype it in Family Guy?

  3. samajama27 -- Yay for Rhode Islanders! I love Scarborough so much, and miss it!

    Supergreensunbear -- So true -- I think that wherever I move, the beach will always feel like such a part of my home.

    Haha, Family Guy! That series is so funny to me because of its Rhode Island-ness. The stereotypes are very exaggerated, obviously, but a lot of them have some truth! The funniest thing to me is that the town is named Quahog. I don't think I've ever met anyone outside of RI who knows what a quahog is, understandably! But since that show came out everyone knows that it's the name of the fictional town.

  4. I never realized just how tiny Rhode Island really is! That's crazy!! I've never really heard much about it, besides the whole unemployment thing. The sea looks beautiful, and it makes me wish I lived next to pretty water, instead of dirty old lakes and gross gulfs. :( Your pictures are amazing!

  5. I love these photos of the beach. So gorgeous!

    RI is an interesting place. I have some friends who live there and I love to travel there for the day from CT.