With August now behind us, signs of fall are everywhere. On recent walks I’ve noticed that our neighbor’s sugar maple is just beginning to shed a few leaves. Nights are cooler. It’s already getting dark by 7:30.
But I’m not quite ready to let go of summer. So it was a gift on Sunday—a beautiful, sunny, warm day—that Al and I made it to one of our favorite beaches on Block Island, just off the Rhode Island coast.
As a child, I loved to swim in the ocean. Our family would vacation on Cape Cod, and I’d always beg to go to Nauset Beach, part of the National Seashore on the Cape’s eastern coast. There I would play in the waves until I turned blue and my teeth chattered. Nothing could stop me from swimming and body surfing.
Decades later, I still love the ocean, but it’s been many years since I could get in the water. Most of the time, it’s simply too cold and not healthy, given my Raynaud’s. But even when the water is warmer (yesterday at Block Island it was 73ºF, pretty comfortable for the Atlantic up here), I can’t risk immersing my finger ulcers in the sea. Too high a chance of infection. One year, when the girls were young, I tried fastening latex gloves around my wrists with duct tape so I could swim, but the water still seeped in.
So I’ve learned to appreciate the ocean in other ways. While Al swam yesterday, I finished reading a novel. We took a long walk up the beach, examining pebbles and rocks, searching for sea glass. I dipped my toes in the water. I took some pictures. I listened to the mesmerizing sound of the waves. And I breathed in the wonderful moist air, which does wonders for my too-dry nose and scarred lungs.
The water is an endless source of fascination, ever changing. Then there are all the birds to watch. One particularly bold—or indifferent—white-and-gray herring gull strutted past me as I read, its yellow eye scanning the sand for leftovers, close enough for me to touch it if I’d dared. (I didn’t.)
As the afternoon shadows grew long, I bundled up in the various layers I’d brought—sweater, sweatshirt, blanket, hat. We left the beach, reluctantly, around 5:30, and walked back into town to find a place to eat dinner. It was still warm enough, away from the shore breeze, to dine outside.
Later, on the ferry back to the mainland, we sat on the top deck and watched the dark shapes of the island’s dunes slip by in the night. Even with the breeze created by the ferry’s forward motion, I was able to stay up top and enjoy the stars. As our boat neared Point Judith, we turned around to see the nearly full moon high over the horizon, casting a glistening shadow across the water. It was huge and orange, the color of summer sunsets and fall harvests.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a great summer.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.