I am a rock. I am an island. – Simon and Garfunkle

I recently spent the day on Block Island – One of my favorite places to be on a summer day. What makes an island unique and gives it such a special feeling? Why is it so easy to disconnect from everyday worries?

There are things we can learn from an island:

Don’t be afraid to stand alone. The island is not physically connected to any other land. Yet, millions of people feel a strong affinity to it. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds! Know when to exert your independence and when to come together with family and friends. 

Stay true to yourself but don’t be afraid to evolve with the changing tides and seasons. The island’s historical charms are still very much in evidence, from the Victorian style inns to the rocky outcroppings and tall, sandy bluffs. But, the coastline has been transformed through the years by the passing of time and other natural occurrences. The flavor of the island is different with the change of seasons – busy in summer, desolate in winter. As we move through life, we hold on to our most loved basic traits while accepting new characteristics that result from lessons learned and life well-lived. We learn to ebb and flow as things around us change.

Be welcoming to old friends and new. Pulling into Old Harbor on the ferry, you overhear snippets of conversations. Some families are returning for an annual vacation while other tourists are visiting for the very first time. Both feel a sense of anticipation, whether for familiar experiences or brand new ones. Everyone is greeted by the sandy beaches, festive shops, numerous pubs and inviting restaurants. You can hop in a taxi for an island tour, grab a walking map from the local chamber of commerce or rent a moped or a bicycle. We, too, can be a familiar comfort to old friends while opening ourselves and offering our gifts to strangers.

Own your history. We stopped by a stone memorial to read about the early settlers, including the Dutch explorer Adrian Block himself. In 1936, a troop of 90 soldiers arrived to “punish Indians,” thus starting the Pequot Indian War. Not the island’s best moment, for sure, but there it is, written in stone, for all to see. We may not be proud of our past, but it shapes us and contributes to who we become. To deny it is disregarding who we truly are.

Be a light in the darkness. The island has two beloved lighthouses that warn seafaring travelers that they are approaching. The lights are signals of both potential danger and warm recognition. It’s reassuring to captains to see the light and know they are on course. It’s heartening to visitors who are watching for the island to come into view when they see the first flash from North Light. We, too, can be both gentle guidance and loving solace to those we care about. 

Always make memories. Some people return to the island each summer. They repeat favorite activities, like the signature pineapple cocktail at Ballard’s Inn or hiking out to North Light. We always visit Southeast Lighthouse but my best memory is the very first time my grandson climbed to the top of the light tower: Or maybe the sunset one ferry ride home, watching the moonrise among the rich palette of colors. Each time we visit the island, we bring home new memories. We should always live in a manner that creates images we will hold dear for the rest of our lives – and some that will remain for future generations. Like the island, we can instill important life lessons in a way that ensures we live on forever, in the hearts of others.

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