Every summer since (before) I was born, my family and I have traveled to a tiny oasis in Rhode Island. Quick family history: My mom is originally from Providence, and when her family decided to move to Nashville, they built a new house in a Rhode Island beach town so that they could return to their much-loved home state for vacations. A few years thereafter, in 1991, I came along. I have spent all my summers in that New England house and treasure each one.
When July finally arrives, we pack up and head to the place we have been dreaming about all year: Rhode Island. First driving into our little New England town, we pass by the roadside stand selling local produce, the ice cream shack, the library, the church, and the general store. There are a few other small-town spots, but this is essentially all there is. At last, we slowly roll down the secluded dirt road where our house sits.
Pulling up to our home essentially feels the same as it did in 1991. Time seems to turn back as our phones lose service. There is no WiFi at the house, as it is too remote to have it installed, and no A/C because it is unnecessary. There are no new homes on our street, just the same wide areas of land stretching out to the coast. It is quiet and still. It is consistent – the reliable sound of the ocean, the tree frogs that croak at dusk, the song birds that wake us at dawn. There are no lights to drown out the stars.
Every day at our home in Rhode Island, we rise to the natural light flooding in through our open windows and the cool breeze drifting in. The first thing I do is smile, remembering where I am. The days generally look the same: breakfast, beach all day, outdoor shower, read on the deck, dinner, ice cream, bed. Mixed in is seeing the same family friends each year, finding sea glass on the shore, taking long beach walks, gaping at the wild sea and the fact that we are where we are.
The days become a rhythm, and for this reason, they go far too fast. We get lost in the pleasantness of this life. Often, how I feel in Rhode Island is how I want to feel every day in my life. These summers have taught me a few things I try to remember the rest of the year, when I am not there:
The best cure is a good book.
I find that nothing quite centers me more than getting lost in fiction. In Rhode Island, I read more than I do at any other time. I wolf down several novels in just a week. And when I am reading this much, I feel the most in touch with my emotions and with who I am. I feel present and alive. I feel like a better person – because that is what reading does for us.
A simple day means a clear mind.
There is no fully functioning technology in our Rhode Island home. We get a detox from regular life there, and it is so refreshing. If you ever feel like you need a break, I find that the answer is not to mindlessly scroll through your phone, but to take a walk in fresh air. Do something to clear your mind, not clutter it more.
A healthy body helps a healthy mind.
Everything we eat in Rhode Island is local – we are in farm country, after all. We eat lots of fresh fish and vegetables. I find that my body just feels better there and so my mind does, too. It can be an effort to eat well every day, but it is so worth it for your overall state of being.
Less is more.
I feel so much more fulfilled spending my day only reading, writing, and swimming, than I ever do trying to rush around and do too much in one day. You do not have to do it all. Take a breath, and give yourself some space.
In Rhode Island, I am often very focused on my surroundings – feeling the warm sand beneath my feet or the steady beat of the waves when I swim. If I am stressed or anxious, I find it very calming to shift my attention to where my body is in space, whether that means I become aware of the solid couch or chair beneath me or the blanket draped across my legs.
A little fresh air does wonders.
If you work primarily inside as most of us do, never estimate the power of being outside – even if that just means taking your lunch to a picnic table.
When your mind is racing or the world is spinning, the answer is quite simple: stop what you are doing, and slow it down. There actually is no rush. Give yourself the time that you need.
Life really is precious.
I always feel very appreciative of life in Rhode Island. On vacation, life is simple, so it is quite easy to express gratitude for all the little things. But there is great value in regularly making a conscious effort to notice the good things in your life, even and especially when things are hard, because there are so many that we forget in the day-to-day.
My time in Rhode Island is really my reset for the year. I want to try to carry those positive feelings with me, to find a little sliver of Rhode Island in every other season. I hope you, too, will choose to simplify when you need to – and always, always, be kind to yourself along the way.