July14, 2023

Block Island

Block Island, RI

By Mary MacGIll.
Photos by Susan Paulsen and Em McCann Zauder

Adapted from an essay originally
published in Yolo Journal

photo by Em McCann Zauder

photo by Em McCann Zauder

Waking up to fog is a regular thing during summers on the west side of Block Island, RI. Damp air flows in through the window, and your morning gaze is often met with a seemingly solid wall of white. There’s a grace to the fog, allowing for a bit of quiet before the hot summer sun demands you get out and enjoy the day. When the fog starts to dissipate, it reveals a landscape like Scotland’s (or how it might appear in one’s mind, having never been). Rolling fields and stone walls extend into the ocean, and the ocean into a clear horizon line.

photo by Susan Paulsen

photo by Em McCann Zauder

The experience of waking up here is a bit like visiting Block Island itself: at first, it hardly makes an impression at all, but gradually the place unfolds, leaving an idyllic mark in your memory. The island isn’t known for its culinary specialties (save for baked lobster mac and cheese), modern accommodations (TVs and air conditioning are rarities), or cultural institutions (though the Historical Society is pretty wonderful). There are, however, 17 miles of coastal beaches and 30 miles of preserved trails available to all. You can bike everywhere, the ocean is visible from all turns in the road, and most businesses will let you in without shoes. Modesty, community, and conservation are Block Island’s profound gifts.

photos by Susan Paulsen

photo by Em McCann Zauder

Situated between Montauk, NY, and mainland Rhode Island, Block Island has a year-round population of about 1,000 and is the smallest town in the smallest state in the United States. To say the community is close knit is an understatement. We are all indebted to a small group of enlightened island families who established the Block Island Conservancy in the 1970s with their considerable land donations and to date, 47% of the island will never be developed. This delicate relationship between a limited population and the recognized necessity for land protection has fostered an intergenerational exchange that hinges on an appreciation of wide open vistas and trails that provide a home to all.

family photos

I learned to love Block Island first through my grandfather’s eyes, whose family ventured out east from Wisconsin every year starting in the ‘60s. My mother brought my father out to Block Island in the early ‘80s when they first started dating and I’ve thumbed through many faded family photos from that time: my pregnant mother lying on the bed in her bikini in a cottage called The Coop (it had been a chicken coop in the 1800s); my dad lowering lobsters into a pot; me sitting in a puddle with my brother on his bike.

photo by Em McCann Zauder

I’ve been fortunate to spend every summer of my life on this 3 by 7-mile island, experiencing life’s milestones, and cultivating my own love for it. Growing up here, I found an inherent sense of support in Block Island’s simplicity and manageability. I learned how to ride a bike on the dirt roads, body surf at Scotch Beach, play guitar at open-mic nights with my girlfriends, and paint without much distraction. I made my closest friends sneaking out to watch the stars at a beach bonfire, got my first job at a small boutique called the Glass Onion when I was 13, and eventually started my jewelry business at the local farmer’s market.

photo by Susan Paulsen

Most mornings I take my dog Ande and some tea to the edge of our family property and look out east over Rodman’s Hollow, a 230-acre nature preserve donated by our friends and neighbors the Lewises. I thank my grandfather for bringing his family here all those years ago and my parents for keeping their home here just as it was built in the ‘50s – small and unobtrusively set into the landscape. I walk the trails that wind through the hollow, down into shaded brambles of vines and blackberries, up through golden fields overlooking rose-hewn cliffs and down a steep rocky path to a beach. Most times, Ande and I are the only ones there – what a gift.

photo by Em McCann Zauder

highlighting

Our Neighbors

On this beautiful island, there is a wonderful group of supportive, small businesses that have helped and inspired me throughout the years.

Glass Onion

My first boss Mary Anderson runs a hidden gem, the Glass Onion with a thoughtful selection of homewares, books, hand blown glass, effortless clothing, and island-made favorites. Mary taught me about curation and how to treat all customers with attention and respect, but more importantly how a work community can provide a sense of home.

Lazy Fish

Just a few doors down from our shop lives the Lazy Fish, where Carolyn Collins shares the harmony between art and utility. I am continuously inspired by her eclectic curation and free-spirited energy, a combination that truly captures the best of Block Island.

Tori Jones

Across from Carolyn is one of the newer island studios run by long time islander, Tori Jones. By pairing her incredible antiques with classic contemporary pieces, she confirms that whatever is old is new again.

Studio DWC

On Chapel Street lives one of my new favorite spots on the Island, Studio DWC. Interior designer, Laura Baross, works to create stylish yet livable spaces while honoring sustainable practices. As a believer in the influence spaces have on our lives, I admire how her work blends beauty, function, and nature. All these wonderful creative women energize me to push the boundaries. Though our community may be small, the support and respect for one another is unmatched and I am incredibly grateful to be a part of it. Visit us at the Farmer’s Markets Wednesday & Saturday mornings or our shop (& our friends shops!) next time you visit Block Island.

Ocean Hues

14K School of Fish Floating Ring
14K School of Fish Floating Ring
14K School of Fish Floating Ring
14K School of Fish Floating Ring
14K School of Fish Floating Ring
14K School of Fish Floating Ring

14K School of Fish Floating Ring

$850.00
14K Lichen Floating Ring
14K Lichen Floating Ring
14K Lichen Floating Ring
14K Lichen Floating Ring
14K Lichen Floating Ring
14K Lichen Floating Ring

14K Lichen Floating Ring

$1,050.00
14K A Certain Green Floating Ring
14K A Certain Green Floating Ring
14K A Certain Green Floating Ring
14K A Certain Green Floating Ring
14K A Certain Green Floating Ring
14K A Certain Green Floating Ring

14K A Certain Green Floating Ring

$1,050.00
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring
14K Seascape Floating Ring

14K Seascape Floating Ring

$875.00
14K Mediterranean Floating Ring
14K Mediterranean Floating Ring
14K Mediterranean Floating Ring
14K Mediterranean Floating Ring
14K Mediterranean Floating Ring
14K Mediterranean Floating Ring

14K Mediterranean Floating Ring

$950.00
14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings
14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings
14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings
14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings
14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings
14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings

14K Tender Skies Floating Earrings

$1,500.00
14K Bone Chain Necklace with Island Stone Pendant
14K Bone Chain Necklace with Island Stone Pendant
14K Bone Chain Necklace with Island Stone Pendant
14K Bone Chain Necklace with Island Stone Pendant

14K Bone Chain Necklace with Island Stone Pendant

$1,450.00
14K Seascape Floating Necklace
14K Seascape Floating Necklace
14K Seascape Floating Necklace
14K Seascape Floating Necklace

14K Seascape Floating Necklace

$950.00
14K Shark Tooth Pendant Necklace
14K Shark Tooth Pendant Necklace
14K Shark Tooth Pendant Necklace
14K Shark Tooth Pendant Necklace

14K Shark Tooth Pendant Necklace

$850.00
14K Soft Light Layering Bracelet
14K Soft Light Layering Bracelet
14K Soft Light Layering Bracelet
14K Soft Light Layering Bracelet

14K Soft Light Layering Bracelet

$850.00
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet
14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet

14K Shallow Pools Charm Bracelet

$1,600.00
Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet

Grande Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet

$250.00
14K Aquamarine Barrel Chain Necklace
14K Aquamarine Barrel Chain Necklace

14K Aquamarine Barrel Chain Necklace

$725.00
14K Cypress Chain Earrings
14K Cypress Chain Earrings
14K Cypress Chain Earrings
14K Cypress Chain Earrings

14K Cypress Chain Earrings

$875.00
14K Silvery Water Floating Ring
14K Silvery Water Floating Ring
14K Silvery Water Floating Ring
14K Silvery Water Floating Ring
14K Silvery Water Floating Ring
14K Silvery Water Floating Ring

14K Silvery Water Floating Ring

$775.00
14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring
14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring
14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring
14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring
14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring
14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring

14K Wispy Cloud Floating Ring

$850.00
14K East West Silvery Pool Ring
14K East West Silvery Pool Ring
14K East West Silvery Pool Ring
14K East West Silvery Pool Ring
14K East West Silvery Pool Ring
14K East West Silvery Pool Ring

14K East West Silvery Pool Ring

$850.00
14K Blue Spruce Ring
14K Blue Spruce Ring
14K Blue Spruce Ring
14K Blue Spruce Ring
14K Blue Spruce Ring
14K Blue Spruce Ring

14K Blue Spruce Ring

$1,250.00
14K Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Ink Blue Sky Ring

14K Ink Blue Sky Ring

$850.00
14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring
14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring

14K Petite Ink Blue Sky Ring

$675.00
14K Reminder of Summer Ring
14K Reminder of Summer Ring
14K Reminder of Summer Ring
14K Reminder of Summer Ring
14K Reminder of Summer Ring
14K Reminder of Summer Ring

14K Reminder of Summer Ring

$895.00
14K Light Pool Necklace
14K Light Pool Necklace
14K Light Pool Necklace
14K Light Pool Necklace

14K Light Pool Necklace

$895.00
14K Inky Sky Necklace
14K Inky Sky Necklace
14K Inky Sky Necklace
14K Inky Sky Necklace

14K Inky Sky Necklace

$1,050.00
14K Petite Inky Sky Necklace
14K Petite Inky Sky Necklace
14K Petite Inky Sky Necklace
14K Petite Inky Sky Necklace

14K Petite Inky Sky Necklace

$675.00
14K Icicles Ring
14K Icicles Ring
14K Icicles Ring
14K Icicles Ring
14K Icicles Ring
14K Icicles Ring

14K Icicles Ring

$1,250.00
14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings
14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings
14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings
14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings
14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings
14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings

14K Sienna Island Stone Floating Stud Earrings

$650.00
14K Speckled Island Stone Floating Pendant Necklace
14K Speckled Island Stone Floating Pendant Necklace
14K Speckled Island Stone Floating Pendant Necklace
14K Speckled Island Stone Floating Pendant Necklace

14K Speckled Island Stone Floating Pendant Necklace

$950.00
14K Cream Quartz Island Stone Ring
14K Cream Quartz Island Stone Ring
14K Cream Quartz Island Stone Ring
14K Cream Quartz Island Stone Ring

14K Cream Quartz Island Stone Ring

$950.00
14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring
14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring
14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring
14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring
14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring
14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring

14K Deep Ochre Island Stone Ring

$750.00
14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring
14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring
14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring
14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring
14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring
14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring

14K Charcoal Island Stone Ring

$750.00
14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring
14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring
14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring
14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring
14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring
14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring

14K Grey Green Island Stone Ring

$675.00
14K Coal Island Stone Ring
14K Coal Island Stone Ring
14K Coal Island Stone Ring
14K Coal Island Stone Ring
14K Coal Island Stone Ring
14K Coal Island Stone Ring

14K Coal Island Stone Ring

$750.00
Woven Seascape Earrings
Woven Seascape Earrings
Woven Seascape Earrings
Woven Seascape Earrings
Woven Seascape Earrings
Woven Seascape Earrings

Woven Seascape Earrings

$950.00
Blue Levine Floating Pendant Necklace
Blue Levine Floating Pendant Necklace
Blue Levine Floating Pendant Necklace
Blue Levine Floating Pendant Necklace

Blue Levine Floating Pendant Necklace

$850.00
Soft Light 14K Floating Ring
Soft Light 14K Floating Ring
Soft Light 14K Floating Ring
Soft Light 14K Floating Ring

Soft Light 14K Floating Ring

$1,250.00
Soft Rectangle Aquamarine 14K Floating Ring
Soft Rectangle Aquamarine 14K Floating Ring
Soft Rectangle Aquamarine 14K Floating Ring
Soft Rectangle Aquamarine 14K Floating Ring

Soft Rectangle Aquamarine 14K Floating Ring

$950.00
Soft Greens 14K Floating Ring
Soft Greens 14K Floating Ring
Soft Greens 14K Floating Ring
Soft Greens 14K Floating Ring

Soft Greens 14K Floating Ring

$950.00
Under the Sea Foam 14K Floating Ring
Under the Sea Foam 14K Floating Ring
Under the Sea Foam 14K Floating Ring
Under the Sea Foam 14K Floating Ring

Under the Sea Foam 14K Floating Ring

$1,200.00
Grass Over Sea Cascade Earrings
Grass Over Sea Cascade Earrings
Grass Over Sea Cascade Earrings
Grass Over Sea Cascade Earrings

Grass Over Sea Cascade Earrings

$695.00
Found Shark Tooth Studs
Found Shark Tooth Studs
Found Shark Tooth Studs
Found Shark Tooth Studs
Found Shark Tooth Studs
Found Shark Tooth Studs

Found Shark Tooth Studs

$575.00
Melides Chain Bracelet
Melides Chain Bracelet
Melides Chain Bracelet
Melides Chain Bracelet
Melides Chain Bracelet
Melides Chain Bracelet

Melides Chain Bracelet

$725.00
Swell Cascade Earrings
Swell Cascade Earrings
Swell Cascade Earrings
Swell Cascade Earrings

Swell Cascade Earrings

$895.00
Spritz Chain Necklace
Spritz Chain Necklace
Spritz Chain Necklace
Spritz Chain Necklace

Spritz Chain Necklace

$750.00
Amado Woven Earrings
Amado Woven Earrings
Amado Woven Earrings
Amado Woven Earrings

Amado Woven Earrings

$895.00
Spritz Cascade Earrings
Spritz Cascade Earrings
Spritz Cascade Earrings
Spritz Cascade Earrings
Spritz Cascade Earrings
Spritz Cascade Earrings

Spritz Cascade Earrings

$695.00
Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings
Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings
Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings
Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings
Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings
Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings

Teal Kyanite Drop Earrings

$175.00
Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings
Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings
Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings
Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings
Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings
Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings

Light Aquamarine Drop Earrings

$175.00
Aquamarine Hoops
Aquamarine Hoops
Aquamarine Hoops
Aquamarine Hoops
Aquamarine Hoops
Aquamarine Hoops

Aquamarine Hoops

$165.00
Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace
Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace
Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace
Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace
Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace
Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace

Moss Aquamarine Drop Necklace

$185.00
Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet
Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet

Moss Aquamarine Cuff Bracelet

$175.00

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