Ten years ago this summer I was employed as a hired hand on a 270-acre sheep and cattle operation on the coast of Jamestown. Much of my labor involved moving livestock from one seaside pasture to another or haying the expansive fields that rolled right down to the West Passage of Narragansett Bay.
And just about damn near every day my gaze would eventually be drawn to Dutch Island, a tiny-enough, teardrop-shaped rock that sits about a quarter mile to the west of the Watson Farm.
All of 92 acres, the uninhabited, densely-forested island is managed – as in it’s left in its natural state – by the DEM, and I would kill hours on that old tractor imagining what it might be like to live deliberately on Dutch Island.
Its beaches and coves are among the most picturesque in the state; I could tell that much from my vantage point across the Bay, and I had actually camped there once as an eleven-year-old. The woods, which we weren’t allowed into way back then, were just as inviting; I knew they were filled with deer and birds and concrete ruins from days during World War II when the military stationed there to guard against German submarines from making it into the Bay.
In my day dream, I was Thoreau and Dutch Island was my Walden. I would retrofit an old fort into a living area for when I wanted to stay out of the elements, plant a small garden and spend my days fishing, clamming and maybe hunting down the occasional deer. Like Thoreau, I would write about the experience daily, but I would use a small solar panel and a blog. I might boat over to Jamestown now and again for a beer at the Narry’ and to load up on supplies, but most of my time would be spent either feeding myself or staring out at the surf and pondering the Big Existential Questions of life.
I didn’t get to do that this summer but my brother did loan me his kayak, essentially gifting me a passport to almost anywhere on Narragansett Bay I want to visit. Dutch Island, as a kind of homage to those heady days riding tractor around the Watson Farm, was high on the list. I may live decidedly less deliberately than I did when work allowed me to daydream about squatting on a deserted island, but I have to admit to still often fantasizing about leaving it all behind for a more deliberate life … even if it’s just on an overgrown rock between Jamestown and Saunderstown.
On Saturday, I finally made it out to Dutch Island. Here are some of the pictures I took, and here’s hoping maybe I make it back for a longer visit someday…