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Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

Some of the sign was worn off, I think. It looks like a warning that a giant pincer might grab you from the cliffs.

I have a few days left to tell you about my two-week trip to New England in May. I’ve been busy at home so it’s taking me a long time wrap up this trip. Today I’m happy to show you some great scenes I captured with my iPhone.

The morning dawned lovely so we thought it would be a good day to visit the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, where we were staying. The Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail designated in 1975. It is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with the sea on one side and beautiful old mansions on the other. Once we finally found a place to park, we joined the trail with many other people who had the same idea. There are a couple places where you can get to the water, but it’s safest to stay on the trail. The private residences typically had tall barriers to keep the public out, so views of the places were best at a distance. We only walked a portion of the trail because we had a lunch date.

Mansion on the beach

“Join me at my beach house this weekend?”

I noticed this photogenic snail shell along the way.

Next we drove up to Boston again to have lunch with my friends Romain and Madhawa. After that the day was warm, and I love the heat, so I thought the perfect activity would be a long, tough hike up a hill that overlooks Providence.

We found the trailhead of Wolf Hill Forest Preserve. I was interested in this one because one branch of the trail was named World War II Memorial Loop and I wanted to see the memorial. We started off in high spirits though it was muggy that day and Will indicated that he does not love heat as much as I do. Right away I noticed one of my favourite wild plants ever: wild orchids. These were lucious, fat, extravagant beauties and I dropped to my knees genuflecting before them as I gushed in pleasure. I do not know what kind we found, and I have not seen this type before. I was impressed by their size and showiness.

Low angle of the sun lights up a wild orchid.

Another decadent flower lit in golden sun.

As we climbed up the hillside, stopping every so often to gasp for breath, we were both feeling the effects of early summer, which tends to drop a hot day on you when you least expect it. We both drank a lot of water.

It wasn’t long before we found the memorial, and it was more than I expected to see up there on a trail in the forest.

On this location 5 August 1943, three US servicement perished in an aircraft accident. Otis Portewig, Herbert Booth, and Saul Winsten.

All too common at the time, there was an engine failure and the airplane they were flying plummeted, landing here and deposting part of the fuselage onto that big rock. The rock now holds small rocks that people have placed in honor of the servicemen. Now I understood why a memorial was in such an out of the way place that was difficult to get to. There is another memorial in town, for people who cannot make the trek.

We were grateful for the shade. I spotted this murky pond and splashed my face and arms.

Lovely bunches of flowers near the top of the hill.

Will pointed out this sight. One might call it a dead tree. We saw life.

Splendid green beetle caught my eye.

We continued climbing the hill. My hiking app on my phone told me there would be views at some point. We thought we might be close, so we kept going. The trail was not well marked, so I used GPS on my trail app to keep us on the path. A bit tricky.

And viola! We crested near a broken down chimney. Someone had built a house up here and enjoyed the spectacular view for a while. Likely the only thing remaining was the thing that got rid of the rest of the house. We sat down on a rock and looked out over the high buildings of Providence that we could see over the tops of trees. Someone doing trail maintenance had cut down all the trees in front of us so that the view was not blocked.

Will walks up to the chimney at the top of the hill.

All that’s left of someone’s dream home.

And here is the view. The white specks are the high buildings of downtown Providence.

We sat until we felt well rested, and drank more water. Then it was time to head back down. It was evening by this time but there was no respite from the heat and humidity, and we suffered. Will looked at his map and found a public beach we could visit. I reminded him that we had parked right next to a pond. He didn’t remember the pond and it sounded too good to be true. I kept talking about the pond, to keep his spirits up. I was sure I remembered it. I began feeling very badly that I had let my joy of heat and hiking get in the way of looking out for my friend. He never said an unkind thing, and barely complained, but the conditions were too much for anyone not in love with strenuous activity in the heat, the way I am. The trail seemed to get longer the more we walked.

The sun went behind the trees and light grew more dim. It wasn’t dim enough to dim my excitement when I found more orchids near the bottom of the hill.

I just couldn’t get enough of them.

Finally we reached the car and I exhaled in relief to see that my memory was correct. We had parked 60 feet from a pond and fishing area. First we drank all the warm water from the water bottles in the car, since our own bottles were long empty. Then we walked to the shore and sat on some roots and stripped boots and socks off and put our feet in the water. I splashed myself and splashed Will (which was not appreciated but I was doing it for his own good). We sat with our feet in the water a long time and finally decided that the only correct thing to end the day with was ice cream. We got our shoes back on and found Powder Mill Creamery, a darling ice cream shop that was clearly a local favourite, since there was a line stretching through the parking lot. By the time we had our ice cream it was almost completely dark outside. We made our way to picnic tables in the grass around the ice cream shop and sat with other happy and hot people and enjoyed our dessert.

Sylvanus Brown house on the left with garden and Slater Mill in the background, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The birthplace of American manufacturing. Photo of Samuel Slater on the right.

Will and I spent a day in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. On my visits to Pawtucket before, I had noticed Slater Mill, and knew it was a historic building of some kind, and thought it was pretty and wanted to take a look. Will agreed that it was a place that should be visited. I was not prepared for what a great stop it turned out to be, with a guided tour of all the on-site buildings that are maintained by the National Park Service as a museum and part of the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park. It was inexpensive, and the Ranger tour guide was knowledgeable and excited about the site’s history. I highly recommend this experience to anyone.

There’s a scandal to the story. Samuel Slater was apprenticed at a cotton mill as a young man in England, eventually becoming a superintendent very familiar with how the whole operation worked. Slater had a dream of creating his own mill, and memorized the water powered machines. It was against British law for textile workers to share information or to leave the country (which explains the memorization), but Slater left for America to try and build a textile industry of his own.

After failing his own attempts and bankrupting himself and other investors, Slater was put in touch with Moses Brown who was looking for someone to help him build a mill with his partner William Almy. By 1790 they had built the first water-powered cotton mill in the United States. Thank you England!

When Slater first arrived, Brown had suggested that he might board with the Wilkinson family, business associate of Brown. Slater moved in and met Hannah Wilkinson, one of the daughters of the household. They were married. Hannah disovered a way to make better thread and applied for a patent. Some people believe she is the first woman in America to be awarded a patent. It’s under the name “Mrs. Samuel Slater,” reflecting conventions of the time.

We first toured the Brown House, built in 1758.

The Brown House is set up with period furnishings, complete with a foot warmer and a bed pan.

Next we entered the Wilkinson Mill.

I was fascinated by the massive water wheel that powered the mill.

We were told the wheel is usually in operation, but stopped while we were there for repairs.

A panoramic view shows the wheel and the water course inside the mill.

We went upstairs above the water wheel and came into a huge workshop powered entirely by belts! I was in awe. I’ve never considered how machines were run before electricity, but here was one amazing example. All the machinery in the shop/museum is currently functional, and the guide powered up the belts (on electricity since the wheel is not moving) and the whole place came to life! All the belts were connected, so across the entire room, the ceiling was alive and noisy! The guide then drilled a few holes for us to demonstrate that the machines were working.

I love all that old stuff, and had a fun time just poking around, picking up iron pieces and wooden pieces and trying to work out how it was all part of  the Wilkinson family operation that built and repaired machinery in the whole region.

Looking across the floor and up at all the belts spinning. I wish I had a decent video so you could see what it was like.

Some of the equipment that our guide demonstrated for us.

There were several cabinets that stored different components of the equipment. Here, tagged belts sit on a shelf, and tools cover a bench.

The farther into the place we walked, the more delighted I was with all the treasures inside. And the tour only includes the first and second floors. I wonder what the third and fourth floors hold.

Up close it was hard to get a good photo of the yellow-painted Slater Mill. This was our last and final stop of the tour. We stood outside in the shade beside the Blackstone River while the guide told us more about the innovative history of the place. For example, he explained how Slater designed his textile mill and thread-making machines so that children could easily work them. While that is distasteful to us now, at the time, people were grateful to be able to place their children into employment for the family. Slater also created small company villages, where he built cheap housing for the workers, and a company store, all on site with the mill. Then he hired entire families and brought them to his mini-villages. This system, called the Rhode Island System, was then copied around the country. On the surface it seemed to be a help to the workers, but many of you know that it was really a way to make more money for the owners and to keep employees in debt like indentured servants.

Standing in front of Slater Mill, looking at the river.

In the foreground is the channel that powers the mills, and the Blackstone River is in the background.

Inside the Slater Mill we saw the equipment used in Slater’s textile industry.

I had heard of a cotton gin, and how it completely changed the textile industry, but until this one was demonstrated for us, I had no idea what a cotton gin did.

A mule spinner, that spun cotton into thread, was operated by two boys at once.

The museum inside Slater Mill includes more and more complex spinning machines, holding hundreds of spindles in some cases. The guide explained how the children’s small hands were the right size to reach in and replace a full spindle with an empty one while the machine was running. This often resulted in injures.

A large and complex spinning machine. In the very back you can see a weaving machine, that is weaving tubes of fabric that can be cut and used as the sleeves or torsos of clothing.

One more spinning machine.

After our tour we walked to the bridge above the river. From there we got a good look at the mill buildings from a distance.

Looking back at Slater Mill and Wilkinson Mill over Pawtucket Falls in the Blackstone River.

Cogswell Fountain topped with a heron at the end of the Main Street Bridge. An advocate of prohibition, Henry Cogswell built this and many other fountains to encourage citizens to drink water instead of booze.

We met a friend of mine for lunch after our tour, a classmate from Brandeis University. Then with the remainder of the day, we went to Roger Williams Park. It is one of several Roger Williams Parks, as the man is quite beloved in Rhode Island. This park is certainly the largest (at 435 acres) and most impressive, hosting a zoo, a botanical park, a carosel, a museum and planetarium, trails, wide lawns and barbecue areas, and a huge meandering lake that means one is almost always next to a beach. We drove for a long time so that I could see the extent of the place. Then we parked and walked in the pleasant evening.

Monument on the shore was constantly occupied with prom attendees and wedding parties, having photos taken, so I shot to the side of the building.

There were stunning views from many angles as we walked through the park.

Seven thousand military boots with flags representing each of the American service members killed since September 11, 2001.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, Will and I visited Fort Adams State Park. The timing was serendipitous and we benefitted by being able to see a Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial, put on by Operation Stand Down Rhode Island. As we walked inside the walls of the fort, we saw a memorial display of military boots, each adorned with a name placard and an American flag, honoring service members killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

I could not walk among the flags and boots for long.

As a result of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan since the Trade Towers attacks, around 7,000 American soldiers have died. OSTDI is right to draw our attention in such a dramatic way to those who died. I would like to draw your attention to additional numbers, such as the estimate of around twice as many private contractors who also died while providing support to the Americans. Those private contractors don’t get the honor or the benefits that military people get, though they serve in the same theatres. And if we are kind enough to feel empathy for all of the people who died, then consider that of all nationalities involved, at least 480,000 people have died in these conflicts, more than 244,000 of them civilians. And “In addition to those killed by direct acts of violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions.” We could layer boots across the grounds of Fort Adams a couple feet deep, if we were able to honor everyone in this way.

I was drawn to the display immediately, and walked into the center of it, picking up cards attached to each boot, with photos and information about the service members from South Dakota and Kentucky and Ohio who gave their lives to their country and died at age 24, 27, or 19. It was suddenly too much and my chest heaved for breath as tears began streaming down my face. I marched out of the expanse of flags and over to the walls of the Fort. Will quickly followed and helped me get interested in Fort Adams history, in order to let the pain go.

Inside the walls of Fort Adams.

Is this a boiler? The remains of the Fort are very interesting and in my mind, beautiful.

Greenery takes over when the soldiers are no longer here to sweep and whitewash.

Fort Adams occupies a peninsula at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. The fortifications in the bay are the only ones in the area to have seen action against an enemy. The first earthen fort was built on this location in 1776 to protect the people who lived on and used the harbor, and also to prevent enemies from using the harbor as a base. Though there were fortifications and cannons placed all over the bay, it was not enough, and in December 1776 the bay was captured by the British. They successfully held off a major, months-long attempt by combined French and American forces to retake the bay in 1778. Then the British voluntarily evacuated in 1779 (like my cat, I guess, it just had to be their idea before they would leave), and the French took over. Put a pin in that, and I’m going to bring it up later. Major Tousard, a Frenchman who had fought there and lost an arm in 1778, was commissioned by the US Army and oversaw restoration of the defense structures. He reopened the fort in 1779 and christened it Fort Adams, after President John Adams. The current structure was completed in 1857.

Outside the Fort we walked to the tip of the peninsula and watched some college sailboat racing competitions.  It seemed too windy of a day for sailing but the water was filled with sails. The teams were 100% women and the racing was so fast it seemed reckless. After completing their loops, they hurtled their boats into the marina and practically skidded sideways up to the docks. I would have thought the speed and daring was dangerous, except that with only a little observing, I could see that these women knew exactly what they were doing. It was not reckless at all. I am impressed.

A tall ship replica.

A pet peeve of mine: when communities decide to approach the litter problem by removing trash barrels.

Will had been trying to introduce me to as much Rhode Island-ness as possible, and thus when we came across a stand selling Del’s frozen lemonade, we had to get some. Other RI traditions he ate while I was there included coffee milk, lobster rolls, and johnny cakes.

The beach at Kings Park. On a warm day with no agenda, I could have so much fun sifting through these shells for hours.

A monument to French nobleman and General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. Now there’s a mouthful.

At the waterfront of Newport in Kings Park, we found a statue of American gratitude to General Rochambeau, who led the French force that helped the colonies to win the Revolutionary War.

Trusting in a tourist map and a nearby information sign, we hunted and hunted for the next lighthouse. If anyone at home is still playing lighthouse bingo, this is #8! We couldn’t see a lighthouse anywhere, but for the hell of it decided to follow the maps even though it was clear we were only walking out along a pier to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. It was quaint and interesting, so we ended up wandering around and admiring the place and…guess what?! We found the light! The Lime Rock Lighthouse was renamed in 1924 for Ida Lewis, the lighthouse keeper who became famous for many rescues she managed while working at Lime Rock.

Never would have guessed it without seeing it, but the light is mounted to the back wall of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, above the dining room. I wonder how many Yacht Clubs can claim to also be lighthouses?

Since it was nearby, we also stopped at Goat Island, connected to land by a bridge. Goat Island was the first piece of land purchased for the purpose of building fortifications for defense of the bay. We did not see any remaining defense structures. Today it is a tamed location with a marina, restaurant, and condominiums.

We were after lighthouse number nine, so we went to Jamestown and visited Beavertail Lighthouse next. On the way we made a quick stop at Fort Weatherill State Park. There we got a great view of Castle Hill that we had been so recently standing upon, and a better look at Castle Hill Lighthouse, mentioned in my last post. My apologies for the blurry photos in zoom. For the entire two-week trip I relied only on my iPhone, having left my Nikon at home accidentally. I did remember to bring the Nikon battery charger, but alas, the gesture was entirely inadequate without the camera itself. 😦

Gorgeous coves at Fort Weatherill State Park.

View of Castle Hill Inn and the Castle Hill Lighthouse.

Poor resolution image of Castle Hill Lighthouse that we had spotted earlier in the day.

At the parking lot for the Beavertail Lighthouse, I examined a giant metal ball that looked a lot like a WWII mine. I’ll have to assume that someone has checked it out and it no longer carries a charge. Actually, it’s probably just a giant rusted float. Then we made our way to the lighthouse at Beavertail State Park.

Brave? Dumb? Actually, just convinced that a thousand other tourists stood here first, and if they didn’t trigger it, I wouldn’t.

Approaching Beavertail State Park and Lighthouse.

The Beavertail Lighthouse was first erected in 1749 and was the third lighthouse in the country. That wooden lighthouse burned down. Have you noticed how frequently I’ve mentioned that the first – and usually the second – lighthouses were destroyed, but then the current one has been sitting there for 150 years? I guess everybody figures out right away that to build a lasting structure on the coast, one needs to spare no expense or quality of materials. Anything less will be ruined. The sea isn’t mean, she’s serious, and you need to take her seriously. When you do, the lights are allowed to stand. Anyway, the one here was built in 1856.

Beavertail Lighthouse, built in 1856.

Remember how I said that the “British voluntarily evacuated in 1779” up above? Well, history of Beavertail Lighthouse website mentions that while the British were leaving the bay in in 1779, the lighthouse building was damaged. No further information. But doesn’t that make you wonder? Where is the rest of the story? If the British left their occupation of Fort Adams because they had made a strategic decision, then did that decision involve damaging structures on the way out? Were the Americans confused about what was happening and fire on them on their way out? Was there a battle? Was there an accident? Oh, History. There is so much you continue to hide from me.

The foundation of the original wooden lighthouse, erected in 1749, still stands.

Will and I kept noticing rocks and wished that Tara was with us so we could ask geology questions.

A fisherman stands alone and fishes off Beavertail Point, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Then we found a classy restaurant in Newport for dinner and still the night was not over. Will had a surprise, but he wasn’t sure if I was still game. Should he tell me? No, I love surprises! Lead on! The last thing we did that night was private dance lessons, followed by an hour of group dancing with beginners. Oh gosh it was so much fun. I know nothing about dancing but I’ve always wanted to learn. Though one night of dancing is certainly not enough to know how to dance, I did discover that when put to the test, I still want to learn to dance.

Ok, seriously. Can you believe all that was in one day? My last post plus this post? Wow. Maybe I’m not old yet after all.

Statue of William Ellery Channing, Unitarian preacher of the early 1800s, born in Newport, Rhode Island.

We packed so much touring into our next day in Newport that I’m going to split it into two posts. We began at Touro Park to see the Newport Tower, the remains of a windmill built approximately 1660. The round stone structure is beautiful, and I am reminded that arches are one of the strongest structures humans have ever built.

Newport Tower remains standing after nearly 400 years. Maybe because of the strength of the arches.

Inside the tower is also interesting. You can see Perry through an arch.

After exploring the tower, we stayed in the park for some time. There are multiple monuments surrounded by examples of period architechture. We admired the statue of Matthew Calbraith Perry, who was instrumental in bringing the Japanese into commercial and diplomatic relations with the West in 1854. The bronze bas reliefs on the pedestal reflect scenes from Perry’s life.

Mounted on the cast iron fence surrounding the pedestal were two plaques. One in Japanese and one translated. The title in English is The 2012 Shimoda TOMODACHI Declaration. I recalled that name from when I was staying at a Navy base in Japan, and said to Will, “Oh hey, Tomodachi is the name of the operation in which US service members helped out the Japanese after the tsunami wiped out the nuclear plant.” I kept reading, and rather than find a different use of the word tomodachi, the plaque referred to exactly what I was thinking of. It’s a Thank You from Shimoda City, acknowledging the beginning of Japanese-US relations 150 years previous, due to Perry’s work, and the continuing good relations today. Since I’m always pointing out Indian perspectives in an attempt to shed light on the nuances of our relationships, I think it’s only fair to point out that our “good relations” with Japan today are a result of the Japanese choosing to be an extraordinarily polite and accommodating people, after being bombed and invaded (and still occupied) by Americans. I do not at all assume our countries are friendly without deeply complicated undercurrents. Anyway, it was fun for me to recognize the name Tomodachi.

Naval Officer and diplomat Perry. You can see the Tomodachi Thank You plaques.

Scenes from Perry’s career.

Interesting handles of this flower pot in the shape of fauns, sitting on the heads of goats.

From there we walked to the Touro Synagogue, down lovely streets filled with late spring colour on the trees and in flower gardens.

We stopped first at the small Colonial Jewish Burial Ground, since it was on theme. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about this cemetery, called The Jewish Cemetery at Newport. Another author, Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) wrote about the cemetery and the synagogue. It is the first Jewish cemetery in Rhode Island, acquired in 1677. Abraham Touro had the first protective wall erected, and his brother Judah Touro established a trust to care for the cemetery upon his death in 1854.

Colonial Jewish Cemetery was locked so we couldn’t go in for a better look.

We arrived at the Touro Synagogue just before a tour began, so we quickly paid and ran up the hill to listen to the tour guide tell us about the site, the oldest synagogue in the United States. We sat in the pews and listened while the older man intoned, and it was clear he was used to teaching and used to people listening. He invited questions, and I tried to re-state in my own words something he had said, to make sure I had understood his point. He was not at all pleased with my attempt, and moved on with his story. I felt like I was 9 years old in Bible School again. It was very sweet and funny.  Even though he denied my description of the story, I still think what he explained is that since Jews in the 18th century had been welcomed in the Netherlands, when Jewish emmigrants were looking for a new home, they hoped for a warm welcome from the Dutch colonists on the American east coast. It didn’t go as well as hoped, but there was enough tolerance to allow a Jewish community for some of early Rhode Island history. The Jewish community grew in Newport, and in 1763 this house of worship was dedicated. I can promise you that the guide would explain it with different words! 🙂

Interior of the Touro Synagogue.

The inside of the synagogue is gorgeous, but we were not allowed to take photos from inside. We were invited to stand outside, at the doorway, and photograph into the building, however. The architect knew nothing about synagogue construction, and it is assumed for the interior that he relied entirely on the guidance of members of the congregation, some having only recently left their Jewish communities elsewhere. The tourguide told us to notice two important things about the outside: first that its orientation is east (facing Jerusalem) rather than perpendicular with the street, and second that it is built to blend in with the colonial construction of the time, and not stand out and probably irritate the other settlers.

Facing east, and thus at an angle compared to the other buildings.

The lovely site includes the Loeb Visitor’s Center, the Touro Synagogue, and an inviting garden between them.

In 1781 a Town Meeting was held here during a visit by George Washington. Later, when he was President in 1790, Washington wrote a letter to the Newport Hebrew community that the whole nation should be proud of. I had never heard of this letter, but copies are provided free of charge at the visitor’s center. The text includes this,

…happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

How much less of a country we are today because our leadership embraces, rather than rejects, bigotry and persecution.

Our next stop was to find Castle Hill Lighthouse, the 7th lighthouse of the trip. We parked at the Castle Hill Inn parking area, and crashed the rather posh grounds, walking across manicured lawns, past white lawn chairs filled with paying guests, and up a hill to a spot where we could see the lighthouse above the bushes along the rocky beach. It was windy and cold and we didn’t stay long. We were near Fort Adams State Park, and we went there next. I’ll talk about the rest of the day in my next post.

Castle Hill Lighthouse as viewed from Castle Hill Inn.

Looking toward the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge

One very silly idea I’ve had about visiting Rhode Island is that I wanted to drive from one state border to the other, and time the trip, to see what it felt like to drive all the way across the state in one shot. I had asked Will if it could be done in less than an hour, and he said it probably could.

He chose a diagonal route that would make sure we gave Rhode Island the benefit of the doubt. I started the stopwatch on my phone, and took screenshots of the route too.

Beginning of journey. The blue dot marks the location of my phone.

Middle of the journey. We are rapidly moving through Rhode Island.

Viola! We cross the Massachusetts border in less than an hour.

We crossed the state in less than 40 minutes! That is so funny to me, a longtime resident of the Western United States, where you can drive for hours and hours and still be inside the same state. It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive for me to go visit Tara at school, and we both live in Oregon. Last Fall I went to see the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, which is 5 1/2 hours away.

Beginning stopwatch

Ending stopwatch.

Our other explorations that day were more along the lines of what we had been doing already: finding points of interest, historical sites, lighthouses, and monuments.

I was interested in The Towers, a massive gate of sorts, over a road in Narragansett. It was completed in 1886 as a design element to complement a new casino. Since then the casino burned down, but The Towers was saved. It is now used as an event space. Will and I went for a closer look, and found all the doors open. So, naturally we walked right in and found the place being prepared for a wedding reception.

The Towers in Narragansett, Rhode Island

The seashore is to the left. The Casino was originally to the right.

This is inside the arched part over the road. A lovely setting, and views of the ocean, for a wedding reception.

This old clock is in The Towers. It makes me think of Alice In Wonderland.

We visited the Point Judith Lighthouse next. It is our sixth lighthouse on this vacation so far. Though the first lighthouse was erected at Point Judith in 1810, a storm with an 11-foot surge rushed in and wiped out the tower and the keeper’s home in 1815, although miraculously the lighthouse keeper survived. The third and current lighthouse was completed in 1857.

This active Coast Guard site keeps the lighthouse behind a fence.

View over the Atlantic from the parking area.

Point Judith lighthouse is painted brown at the top, and white at the bottom, for a daymarker. The light has a 15-second pattern which is: 5s on, 2s off, 2s on, 2s off, 2s on, 2s off.

We explored Watch Hill next, the southwesternmost point of the state of Rhode Island. In truth, after Watch Hill is when we undertook the Cross The State Journey I mentioned at the top. You can see how that makes sense by looking at the first map. In Watch Hill we found more monuments and another seafaring community taking pride in its mariner history. One monument caught my attention because it is of an Indian. It contains no explanation and no context at the monument, so I was compelled to look it up and investigate.

An Indian monument in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

On the back of the boulder is a plaque reading “In memory of Clement Acton Griscom.” And the inscription of the artist Enid Yandell can be found in the bronze. With these clues I looked it up and have some questions answered, but not all. The image is of Chief Ninigret of the Niantic tribe indigenous to the Rhode Island area (the Narragansetts), holding a blackfish in each hand. The Chief was a clever strategist and unapologetic. He is said to have given his lands to the colonists (aw, what a kind thoughtful man, to just hand over his homeland as a gift to the invaders), but under whatever circumstances that led to this “gift,” it saved his people from the same levels of decimation as other nearby tribes. The Puritans then emboldened, asked him for permission to try to convert his people to Christianity, and Ninigret told them, “Go make the English good first.” OH, snap! The monument was erected in 1916 by Mr. Griscom’s widow in memory of the shipping magnate. Originally it was part of a horse-watering trough, with water from the fishes’ mouths filling the trough.

I love so many things about this statue. It honors an Indian relevant to those exact lands, the artist was a woman, and the piece of art had a practical purpose. The one thing I could not find anywhere is why Frances Canby Biddle Griscom commissioned the piece, and what it has to do with her husband. I’m tempted to imagine that the widow was free to spend her money however she wished after her wealthy husband’s death, and she was making a statement about things she was passionate about. Maybe Mr. Griscom loved Indians and women and horses, too. But it’s more dramatic to think of Frances getting to stretch her wings as an independent woman without having to ask a man’s permission.

We then made our cross-the-state journey mentioned at the top, and returned to Providence for the evening. It was going to be the first night of WaterFire for the year. I had never heard of it, but was eager to find out what it was all about.

We first walked along the parks and walks along the Providence River.

As darkness collected, we found a comfortable place to sit and watched the crowds increase with the night.

In the center of town, floating braziers are anchored all around the Woonasquatucket River, right before it converges with the Moshassuck River. Aren’t those names great?! When we arrived, the braziers were already loaded with wood. When it got dark, mood-creating music from around the world boomed through the crowd. It grew chillier and darker and finally black boats filled with people dressed all in black came silently drifting through. People from the crowd came down to the waterfront on our right and lit torches and stood waiting. The boats passed in front of the holders of the fire, and had their own torches lit. One boat had a man twirling fire poi. He stood confidently in black and spun the fire balls around himself, with flames reflecting off his bald head. It was so dramatic.

Holders of the fire prepare to light the torches held by people in boats.

Fire poi!!

Waterfire in Providence is a very big deal. The event bills itself as an art installation under an arts promotion and awareness organization, with the ceremony I saw as its centerpiece. As the summer temperatures warm the nights, it becomes more popular and more braziers are added, lengthening the display across more of the city’s downtown rivers.  There are 100 braziers in the middle of the season. It seems that almost as many local people get excited about volunteering to help as watching it, and in that way it has been an ingenious way to rebuild the life of downtown Providence, and bring in millions of tourists.

The chill of the night lessened a bit once the fires blazed in earnest. From the shore I could actually feel their heat. The crowd was quiet; either silent or talking in low tones. We listened to the beautiful music and watched the reflections of the fire. Some small boats came through with people who had clearly purchased a ride for 20 minutes or so, and sat back in each others’ arms with glasses of wine while they were propelled between flaming braziers by Venitian gondolier-types. It was enough to sit and watch for hours.

When the braziers were really going, I could feel the heat onshore.

Reflections of lights on water is enough to mesmerize me. Here you can see the fire poi again.

The central location downtown was beautifully lit not only by the fire, but also by the lights in the buildings.

Kimberly, me, Will, Romain

Paul Harvey (radio host from 1952-2008) used to have this radio bit titled “The Rest of the Story.” I am reminded of that title when I think of how some people and places in my life have a story for me that lasts decades, and I expect future decades of story to be added. There is an added richness to my experience when I consider not only today, but also the rest of the story.

My trip to Rhode Island was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends. States are tiny on the northeast coast, so visiting state to state is like driving to another town.

Kim, Will, and I used to work together at the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont in 1995-1998. They knew me when I was pregnant with Tara, and got to meet baby Tara in the first weeks of their life. Tara and I went to Kimberly’s wedding. Kim still works for the National Weather Service in Massachusetts. Will still forecasts for Vermont, though he lives in Rhode Island. Romain is a Catholic priest, and was a classmate at Brandeis University and became one of my best friends at school in 2005-07. Tara and I last saw Romain when he gave us a tour of the Harvard College campus back when Tara was deciding what college to attend. These friends weave through my life.

Romain’s birthday gift.

The Superman Building

We met for lunch at a place in between all three of us, in Taunton, MA. We chatted for two and a half hours, but finally Kim had to go to work. It was so easy to get comfortable with them all despite not having seen any of them for years, and I was happy that Will and Kim and Romain easily enjoyed each others’ company though meeting for the first time. Before Romain left he gave me a stunning birthday gift of a glass dragon for the Dragon Lady.

The next morning I had to leave Rhode Island. It dawned that spectacular blue that only happens in New England winter skies, and I had Will hold the car while I finally got a great shot of the Superman Building, Providence’s tallest skyscraper. Will told me that locals call it that because it reminds them of the Daily Planet building in Superman comics. You know, the newspaper where Clark Kent worked.

Being a nerdy girl myself, the idea of a comic book connection was intriguing and I looked up images of the Daily Planet. I think the residents of Providence are generous in their memories, because the building really doesn’t look anything like what I found online. However!! I’m not a connoisseur of comics, particularly not DC, so there might have been a series or an artist that drew the building more like the Providence building. You be the judge.

Now THIS image of the Daily Star building (from an early version of the comic in 1938 before the name was changed to Daily Planet), looks a lot like the Providence building.

An image of the Daily Planet building from 1943.

There is no denying that it’s a stunning building. It’s gorgeous and I love it. The 26-story building opened in 1928. I was dismayed to find out that it has been empty for over 5 years and has such a low real estate value placed on it that there are calls for it to be demolished. There have been a couple of plans to put a new tenant in there, but a lot of rennovation work is required, and the maintenance on that place would be enormous, so the Mayor has not been able to find a new company to occupy the building. Thank goodness someone is trying to save Superman in the meantime.

Superman Building and the Biltmore – two historic and iconic Providence buildings.

Will and me inside the beautiful Biltmore Hotel, our winter weather gear heaped on a chair.

Elevator in Biltmore says “Built in 1978. It’s a Biltmore Classic. Use for Time Travel only.”

I’ve mentioned the Biltmore Hotel in earlier posts and haven’t talked much more about it because I managed to forget to take photos inside. We were usually on our way to do something fun and I didn’t want to stop for photos in the hotel, or on our way back from something fun and I was too tired. I managed to get two pictures that help you get a sense of how wonderful it is inside. At the top of the staircase is a neat old glass elevator that is no longer in use by guests, but Will recalls from his younger days that it was fun to try and sneak onto the elevator for a ride and a view of the city.

Providence downtown, the morning that I left.

Then we went to the airport and I remembered to thank the TSA personnel for working with no pay because of the government shut down. Providence has a small airport like Portland’s, and checking in was a breeze. Soon I was in my seat. I always want a window seat. I was in my first airplane at about age 8 and I’ve been flying commercial since age 16, and yet I still get a thrill when I’m in the air. With a background in meteorology, I marvel at the up-close look at clouds. With an unquenchable yearning for new sights, I spend all the time I can with my face pressed up against the safety plexiglass, peering through the frost patterns, in speechless awe at the planet below.

My flight at the beginning of the trip from Portland to Newark. We took off in darkness, then flew into the sunrise. It was so wonderful. See the star? Although, it’s so big and bright it might be a planet.

Bumping along the updrafts above the clouds.

Orange morning illuminates snowy peaks.

The day I left, our tiny plane flew low from Providence to Newark, so it was easier to watch life on the ground.

On approach, I realized Newark must be close to a larger city.

Yep. “THE” larger city. I had fun looking down onto New York City as my plane landed.

After a long layover in Newark, we left for home in the dark. Goobye New England. I’ll be back!

Soldiers and Sailors Monument in front of Providence City Hall, with the Biltmore in red brick next to it.

With the fabulous Providence Biltmore as a home base, it made sense that one day’s exploration should be just out the front door. As it had been all week, it was very cold and windy. Despite wind chills in the teens, we bundled up and left the hotel lobby to start walking and see where our feet would take us. They took us to some wonderful sights.

Right next door is the Providence City Hall, a beautiful building on the outside, and simply gorgeous on the inside. It was built in the 1870s, and continues in use today as the City Hall. The five-story building is built of iron and brick, and at the time of construction employed some fascinating technology. There was a water-powered elevator that could carry 50 people, but is no longer in operation. Prior to electricity, a central control clock was used, wound up each morning by the janitor like a grandfather clock. The clock sent a signal to all the other clocks in the building. The City Messenger’s office was equipped with bells and speaking tubes that connected to all the other offices in the building. Remnants of these features are still visible today.

Stairs from the main floor up into the heart of the building.

Beautiful at every level.

Clock on the fifth floor.

Old elevators still gorgeous, but no longer in use.

The Hiker

We crossed the street to gaze at a few monuments. The first was the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, shown in the image at the top of this post. Dedicated in 1871, the 40-foot monument recognizes 1,727 Rhode Islanders that died during the Civil War. The figure at the top represents America, and the four smaller figures represent four branches of the military. The bronze reliefs are allegorical representations of War, Victory, Peace, and Freedom.

A short walk away is The Hiker,  installed in 1911 to commemorate those who fought in Spain, the Philippines, and China from 1898-1902. It is a replica of the original The Hiker, installed at the University of Minnesota in 1906. The name comes from a term soldiers in both the Spanish–American War and the Philippine–American War gave themselves.

Providence has a lot of hills, and since we began in a valley, it was inevitable that we would eventually hit an incline. We began walking uphill and a lovely white church caught our attention. It is the oldest Baptist church in America, aptly named the First Baptist Church, and holds a central role in the founding of the state of Rhode Island.

Plaque on the church wall

The church was founded by Roger Williams in 1638. The present building was erected in 1774-5. Roger Williams was a Puritan who left England to escape religious and political persecution. He did not come to America in the first wave however, but a few years later in 1631, and brought non-conformist ideas of what the colonies should be all about. Williams was adamant about separation of church and state, and insisted that the local church totally repudiate its ties with the Church of England. He also declared it a “solemn public lie” that the King of England had the right to grant land to colonizers without first buying it from the Indians. The ideas challenged the legality of land uses at that time and stirred up political and religious unrest, and threatened to upset the fragile economy. All this had been set up before Williams even got there, and his loudly proclaimed contrary ideas were a major disruption.

By 1635 the local authorities had had enough and tried and convicted Williams. As punishment he was to be banished to England. Instead, Williams hiked through the snow from Salem to Narragansett Bay and lived on the hospitality of the Wampanoag Indians. The following spring he purchased a piece of land from the Indians, and with some friends from Salem, started a community. He named it Providence, after the providence God had shown him. His community was based entirely on religious freedom, welcoming all to come and worship in their own way. Williams became a Baptist and began the Baptist Church in Providence, and was its first pastor.

First Baptist Church in Providence. The oldest Baptist Church in the country.

Eye-catching buildings line the street beside the First Baptist Church. That colourful one in the center is the Providence Art Club.

Interior of the church. There is stained glass behind that wall, only viewable from the outside. Not sure what that’s all about. Will guessed it could have been to maintain the humility and simplicity espoused by Roger Williams, who never would have approved an extravagance like coloured glass in his lifetime.

In the early days, patrons would rent their box, and would have a say regarding who was allowed to sit in it.

At the back of the church on the balcony, is an enormous organ. I don’t know if it still works, but the sound must be outstanding! {photo by Will}

We left the church and started uphill once more, coming across Brown University, another institution woven into the fabric of Providence’s early days. Dr. James Manning had been dispatched from Philadelphia to oversee some reforms in the Baptist church in the area, to include starting a Baptist college. (Dr. Manning was pastor when the church in the photos above was built) Originally called Rhode Island College, Manning was its first President. When the school charter was approved in 1764 it was the 7th college in America. Now called Brown University, it remains a premier American University.

Clock tower on a cold Winter’s day at Brown University.

On the grounds of Brown University.

On the grounds of Brown University.

We stopped for lunch and I had Indian curry & Jasmine tea because isn’t that just the thing on a fiercely cold day? (This time I mean Asian Indian, not North American Indian. So confusing. Chris Columbus you goofball.) Then we walked uphill some more and I was excited when it began to snow! We came to a park very high up that Will calls “The other Roger Williams Park,” but it’s actually called Prospect Terrace Park. I didn’t get photos of it but there is a curious larger than life statue of Roger Williams looking out over the city. So we looked out over the city too:

The State House dominates the horizon here.

Downtown Providence

The State House looked so impressive from a distance that I really wanted to go there. Will double-checked with me about that, since it was so cold I could barely feel my face or hands. Like those early settlers here, I didn’t let a nasty winter day get me down. Onward ho! At the bottom of the hill we stopped in the beautiful train station to chat and get warm before continuing the long walk to the State House. As my reward for tenacity, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. It wasn’t any warmer, but it was prettier.

A lovely New England neighborhood on a hill.

The Independent Man atop the State House

Gettysburg Gun with charge in the muzzle.

Sun came out in time to illuminate the Rhode Island State House

Atop the State House stands the Independent Man, deemed to represent the character of a Rhode Islander. The statue of a muscular man clad in a loincloth and carrying a spear is made of gold and bronze, and was melted down from a donated statue. Previously a statue of Simon Bolivar in Central Park that the city of New York considered an eyesore, the gift from Venezuela was sacrificed. The Independent Man was placed atop the cupola in 1899, and has survived lightning strikes and many many Rhode Island winter storms.

To get into the State House we had to have ID checked and pass through a metal detector. Once inside, I was doubly impressed by the grandeur here than I had been by City Hall. The foyer holds a Civil War gun that was last fired on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The gun was struck by a Confederate shell, damaging the muzzle of the gun and killing two soldiers. An attempt was made to reload the gun. Try as they might, members of the Rhode Island Light Artillery could not force the charge into the gun. When another shell hit and blew a wheel off, they gave up. The gun was allowed to cool, sealing the charge in place.

The House of Representatives were going into session soon, and the foyer was packed with people: participants, students, tourists, and the media with their cameras and lights. Will and I ducked the crowd into a quiet hallway and found the original Charter for the state of Rhode Island!

The original charter from the King of England granting religious and political rights to the people of Rhode Island.

In the Royal Charter Museum, three pages that make up the original document are held. In the 1663 document, King Charles II allowed settlers in Rhode Island to govern their own colony and guaranteed their individual freedom of religion. It was the kind of action Roger Williams dreamed of, and was in fact the first time in history that a monarch had agreed to this level of religious freedom. The event is remarkable, and the documents themselves were extraordinary works of art with such elaborate calligraphy that I could not read them.

The first page with calligraphy and illustration.

Close up of the magnificent ink work.

We then wandered the halls of the majestic building. We had been warned by the docent in the gift shop that we would hear bells notifying Representatives to take their seat. She told us the bells would continue till the gavel was sounded. When the bell rang as predicted, it was very loud and sounded like the ring in a high school to notify students to head to their next class. Unlike high school bells, this one continued to ring.

I thought the children we call politicians only pulled their stunts in Washington, D.C. Oh no, their lack of discipline, lack of respect for their office, lack of concern for the pressures that the rest of the world is forced to work under, became quickly evident here at the state level too. The bells rang and rang. Will and I sat in the gallery and watched. Hardly anyone acted as though they had noticed the incessant clanging. People chatted happily and unconcernedly. Pages were summoned and dispatched, returning with requested cans of soda. About 5% of Representatives took their seats, and I seriously wish I could name the ones who were seated, logged in to their desk computers, notes in a neat pile, and patiently waiting. Those people deserve your votes.

And rang. And rang. Every few minutes, another elected official wandered in, chatted awhile, set down some papers and wandered off. The bells kept ringing. I timed them: for TWELVE MINUTES before finally the Speaker banged the gavel. It was ridiculous. These people are treating the job with the gravity of preschoolers who have been told it’s time to move from story mats to the play bins. It felt even more insulting since the federal government is shut down. If this is how they do it in D.C., well no wonder nothing gets done.

Entrance into the State House (I took this photo as we were leaving, when everyone was seated quietly in the House).

Sunlight adds depth and warmth to the arches and domes.

Looking directly up into the dome.

The much smaller Senate room was quiet.

We sat in the gallery and listened to the bell calling Representatives to work for a full 12 minutes.

…and FINALLY they went to work.

Please please do not infer that I mean to disparage only Rhode Island politicians. What I believe we witnessed is a culture that must certainly have its roots in D.C. My best guess is that every single state in the Union takes the job of politician equally (un)seriously. I was disgusted.

But it had been a beautiful day and I anticipated more! Outside the sun was dropping and we saw a pretty sunset.

Sunset over Providence.

I charged Will with finding cake. The day before had been my birthday and I had not eaten any cake for my birthday, which was a grave oversight. I demanded cupcakes. Will said he knew the perfect place.

We walked back to the Biltmore to get the car and went off to have many many cupcakes at Duck & Bunny. This restaurant calls itself “a snuggery,” which their website insists is a word. It is delightful inside, and the tables are scattered throughout the rooms of the former house. We sat next to the fireplace, that was filled with burning candles instead of of logs.

It was an incredibly fun day, the birthday cupcakes were extraordinary, and it still wasn’t over! Next we walked to The Trinity Repertory Company to see a play, which was so good I already did a blog post on it because I was excited to tell you!

Three of the six cupcakes I ate from their filled pastry case.

Entrance of Duck & Bunny is very New England

Inside this classy restaurant is artwork that seems familiar at first, but is distinctly rabbit- and duck- themed.

Stage set for the opening scene of black odyssey, as the audience waits for the show to begin.

{All photo credits except the image above are by Mark Turek, courtesy Trinity Repertory Company.}

While I was in Providence, Will and I attended a show at Trinity Repertory Company, just a few blocks from where I stayed at the Biltmore hotel. Black odyssey plays from January 3 through February 3, and if you get a chance to go, you must do it! This is not Homer’s classical story of The Odyssey, but a political and historical piece that resonates when viewed against the backdrop of Homer’s work.

The audience finds out pretty soon that the gods are toying with the humans. Paw Sidin (Poseidon) sucking on a knight chess piece reminded me of the scene in that 1981 movie Clash of the Titans, when the gods loomed over tiny clay models of humans. In the movie, when the gods damaged the clay models, the actual people suffered. As Paw Sidin sucked on the knight, the human was drowning in the ocean.

Ulysses (Odysseus) was returning from duty in Afghanistan to his home in Oakland, with the weight of a murder on his soul. Paw Sidin was angry beause the man Ulysses killed in Afghanistan was his son. He knocked Ulysses into the water, vowing vengeance. Ulysses is barely kept alive by Aunt Tina (Athena) who begs her father Deus (Zeus) to spare him because he is her nephew. The play is the story of the gods battling in a game of chess over how to resolve this dispute.

The stage is painted as a chess board, so that you never forget that theme.

Costumes, shoes, and songs wowed us.

When Circe enraptured us with the pure pleasures of eating, the entire audience was salivating. And maybe not just for food. 😉

On the far right and left of the stage sit piles of old television sets that at first didn’t make much sense to me as a prop, and then became integral. The sets are different sizes, one tipped onto its side, and each displays a different scene, so the message isn’t always obvious. When Ulysses is drowning, for example, the scenes were all of rough ocean waters – that was pretty obvious. But at other times during the show, there are scenes from Oakland city, news broadcasts of historical events, or other evocative imagery including contemporary events like flooding during Hurricane Katrina and recognizable police camera footage, that help the audience put pieces together.

I’m one of those people that needs help in a story. I’m not very good at inferences from imagery in art, in acting, or in words. I’m oblivious to song lyrics. The screens brought it home for me.

I read The Odyssey a few years ago. A lot of you have read it, and you might remember that Odysseus was just trying to get home to his wife. The trials he had to endure crossed the line into ridiculousness and are only believable in the context of gods. He is captured by a Cyclops, the crew is turned into pigs, they are subjected to Sirens, Odysseus is trapped on an island and when he gets away his raft is destroyed. Come on!

Marcus Gardley wrote the play black odyssey based on The Odyssey to tell the story of a black man in America. In the play, Ulysses can’t find his way back to his wife and son for 16 years (turns out she was pregnant when he was shipped to the desert to fight). So many terrible things challenge them. The trials they all endure while he battles his demons and his wife raises their boy alone, cross the line into ridiculousness. Their story would only be believable if set in the context of, well, being a black family in America. Ouch.

Left to right: Omar Robinson as Paw Sidin, Julia Lema as Aunt Tina, and Jude Sandy as Deus.

Ulysses was lost at sea, so there are a lot of scenes with water, and rain.

Poverty, oppression, despair, manipulation, aggression and greed seep through the lives of these characters and try to destroy them. Ulysses is dragged and dropped by the gods Paw Sidin and Deus from one pivotal historic moment to another, teaching him that who he is has been shaped by his ancestors. There is a trail of pain and betrayal.

But there was so much love, too. It’s the emotion that seemed to catch my attention most often: love.

Ulysses would be lost many times, but for the power inside him. He and his family have reservoirs of love, and hope, and pride, and stubbornness that never let them give up. Against the careless whims of the gods, Ulysses somehow continues to survive. He learns to reach back in time to his ancestors and to use their love for him to fuel his efforts. The central message in the play is that we are a product of our ancestors, even when we don’t know anything about them, and that we should use our ancestors as a source of strength.

Another message is that our battles seem to be with outside forces, like gods playing chess, or the police, or the projects, but our theatre of war is actually within. Those battles need to be fought inside ourselves before the catastrophes on the outside can be resolved. Ulysses says, “We are who we have been waiting for.” That sentence was a jolt to me because I had already heard it in my own life, applied to me. At a Cherokee meeting two years ago, rapper Litefoot told us those exact words.

The show’s opening chorus was not a standalone musical event, but rather ushered us into a performance filled with song. I wasn’t expecting all the singing, or what a great vehicle it is in this case to help tell the story. There were some fun scenes as Tina Turner, Diana Ross, and James Brown performed. We heard African-American and Afro-Cuban spirituals and chants, lullabies, work songs and civil rights anthems. Many were known to the audience and the actors persistently asked us to join in singing and clapping.

Engaging with the actors helped to blur the wall between us, and I could not avoid yet another powerful impact of this performance, when I realized this story was about my path too. I couldn’t relate to Ulysses, but his journey – through all those ancestors – was beside me, and I saw my part in his story. I am not separate from him, and I need to know his story as well as mine.

Joe Wilson, Jr as Ulysses, and Julia Lema as Calypso.

Supa Fly Tiresias and his entourage.

The play is intense. I cried. In fact, the end of the first act was such a shock to me that in the first minutes of intermission I numbly put on my coat and stood to leave, thinking it was over. Will had to snap me out of it.

And the play is funny! It’s a delight of colour and texture and noise. It’s absolutely relatable. The costumes are out of this world. Will and I went crazy for the shoes. The SHOES! Ha ha ha. There’s a constant play on words for those of you who want a dozen little secret jokes. A couple of times the actors acknowledged someone in the audience who had become very engaged, and those moments made it more of an event than a show.

Every single actor is outstanding. They play multiple roles that overlap, such as the actor playing Paw Sidin also plays John Suitor, who tries to lure Nella Pell (Penelope) away from her dedication to her missing husband. The actress who plays Benevolence (Nausicaa) was such a convincing 10-year-old that I tried and tried, but could not figure out who was playing her until the end!

There is a happy ending. After the first, awful death, no other character dies. The gods leave Ulysses alone and are restored to good temper. For now.

Entrance to Providence City Hall. What a beautiful way to see “please use a different entrance.”

This one will be real quick since I’ve got other stuff to do today.

My blogger friend Manja posts a lot of doors, and while I was in Providence I kept thinking of her while I noticed doors. I took photos of a few. This selection is not comprehensive of what’s in Providence, Rhode Island, nor is it a complete collection in any sense. Just a few doors that I thought were pretty, and remembered to take a photo.

Entrance to the Rhode Island State House.

The magnificent doors of St. Stephens Church.

Vistior’s Center at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge near Newport, Rhode Island.

For my birthday this year (January 9), I took a cold & windy walk along the Atlantic seashore at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor’s center was closed because the government is shut down. No comment.

My five days in Rhode Island were to see my friend Will, who was my guide and chauffeur. Will and I picked a path and started, since one doesn’t need a visitor’s center to go for a walk. As soon as we struck the trail, we met a woman leaving who was excited to have spotted some wildlife. She told us we would not see the Snowy Owl, as though she suspected that was our specific goal.

Our goal was simpler: just to be outside and look at the landscape. For my birthday I asked Will for two of my favourite things: a walk in nature and seafood.

The Ocean Trail wraps around the peninsula and has stunning sea views at all times.

Looking back the way we had come, along a tidal strait called Sakonnet River.

We drove south from Providence to a large island in Narragansett Bay, that is officially named Rhode Island (also called Aquidneck Island), from which I must assume the state takes its name, since this is the location of the earliest settlements here. Sachuest Point NWR is “242 acres that provide an important stopover and watering area for migratory birds,” as it says on their trail map. I liked this place from among other trails in RI because it is surrounded by the sea. If I was traveling from one ocean to another, I  would spend at least one day at the Atlantic, to truly make the trip coast-to-coast.

More than 200 species of birds visit this refuge, and we quickly spotted ducks that were too far away for a photo with the lens I brought. They might have been part of the largest winter population of Harlequin Ducks on the East Coast, but we didn’t identify them for sure due to distance and the raging wind making me reluctant to hold binoculars to my face for very long. Harlequin Ducks are wonderful to see. Here’s a photo I took of Harlequin Ducks near the end of a different post from 2016. Sachuest Point hosts a bunch of different kinds of raptors (hunting birds – I love them!), but I didn’t spot any. Much of the time I had my head bent into the wind, with a foot behind me bracing myself so the wind didn’t blow me over! It was hard to spot birds under these circumstances.

Will spotted a dark animal in the underbrush that we couldn’t identify until another one ran across the trail in front of us later on. It was a mink! I have never seen one in the wild. It was black, and fat, and just exactly as I imagined them. We also spotted a small group of white-tailed deer. The deer were like my “pet” deer at home, in that they let us get very close to them and were unconcerned. They were unlike my deer in that they are a lighter, golden colour, and are bigger and fatter.

A view from Prince’s Neck Overlook. See the two people in the lower left?

Will spotted deer! I was too short to see them until I stood up on my tiptoes.

…but then we rounded a bend and came upon these two beauties.

It was early afternoon, and since it’s winter, that means the sun was setting. Not really, but the sun was low on the horizon for a long time, making it seem like we were experiencing a three-hour sunset. Despite the frigid biting wind coming at us from the sea, we gazed out over the water much of the time. We noticed massive swells rolling in and then crashing as waves once they got closer to shore. I made a comment about how exciting those swells would be if I was still surfing, and Will said there were probably surfers out today. I thought he was joking around with me, but when we left the point that day and passed a different beach (sans all the huge and deadly rocks), sure enough, the water was filled with surfers!

Sun is low over Narragansett Bay

Swells roll into Narragansett Bay

Look at that smile! What cold wind?!

It had been at least an hour out there in the ridiculous freezing wind, and I could no longer feel my ears. I took off my scarf and wrapped it around my head because I had neglected to bring a hat. That helped immensely. I was still very very cold and unable to enjoy the sights much anymore, so we stopped most of our lollygagging and trucked on down the trail back to the visitor’s center. The sunset just got prettier, and I stopped for a few more photos because I’m incorrigible. I did force Will to endure some extending whining about how cold I was. I have lived in places of deep winter and below freezing temperatures most of my life, but more than a decade of living near Portland, Oregon has wiped out all my tolerance for other peoples’ winters.

Light on the water was so beautiful I stopped for more photos, despite wind chill in the single digits.

On the last stretch of the trail I spotted a beautiful church in the distance. When we got back into the car, I asked Will to take me there so we could explore up close.

What I had spotted was St. George’s School, an exclusive, prestigious boarding school. Still in the remaining light of our long sunset, the buildings at the school were illuminated and needed to be photographed.

From the grounds of St. George’s School, looking back toward where we had just come from.

Photo taken by Will, looking down the hill to Sachuest Point where we had walked.

A building at St. George’s School.

The front of the school

And of course the classic gothic chapel, the tallest structure around, on top of the hill, and drawing me here.

Dragons!!!

Irish pub?

Our raw bar selection

It was time for my next request: Seafood! We drove into the town of Newport and had the place mostly to ourselves because of the season. I could easily see this is a tourist town, and must be packed with humanity on warm days. We made our way to the docks and saw that my birthday sunset just kept going on and on, and made a few more stunning scenes. We wandered for a little while around the characteristic old sea town, but could no longer resist the pull of a good meal, not to mention heated indoor seating. We walked into The Mooring, and were told that Wednesdays are half price on the raw bar. We couldn’t resist that, and chose a selection of raw oysters, clams, shrimp, and lobster claws. Will isn’t an oyster lover, so I greedily ate them myself, liking the Rocky Rhodes the best. This fresh food only wheted our appetites and then we ordered full meals. I finally got warm. We had a window seat and watched the sun finally set for real.

Streets of Newport are clear in January.

Black Pearl and Cook House, two seafood restaurants that called to us.

A view from the docks.

The longest birthday sunset I can remember, lingers over Bannister’s Wharf.

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