I live in the Ocean State on an island now-named Aquidneck but originally called Rhode Island. Most folks know us as the smallest state in America but it’s a little-known fact that, conversely, we have the longest name—The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Rhode Island is comprised of over thirty islands and my island is the one to which our title refers. In our unique Constitution, we’re guaranteed the right to access our 400 miles of coastline to swim, fish, gather seaweed, and as passage to the sea. As Rhode Islanders, it is also our individual right to dig our toes in the sand daily and collect one-half a bushel of our state shellfish—the quahog.
I am part fish. I grew up floating and swimming in the Atlantic for many hours of each summer day. Second Beach in Middletown remains my favorite place to swim. Even in winter, when sculpted snow defines the tideline and ice floats offshore, I return to the sea. Once a month, with one or two friends, I head for Surfer’s End and immerse myself in my salty home. The first minutes are painfully cold, but our motto is, “Once you’re in, you’re in.” As our bodies adjust, it’s both refreshing and exhilarating. We swim out and into Purgatory Chasm, a giant glacial cleft in the rocky shore some ten feet wide and fifty feet deep. We don’t stay long, but our return to the sea feels necessary. It’s positively addicting.
We have in our blood the same percentage of salt that comprises the ocean. We sweat salt water and cry salty tears. Our bodies contain the same two-thirds percentage of water that covers our Earth. We are tied to the ocean and when we visit, we greet ourselves. The daily pushing and pulling of the tides mimics our own cycles, defining our human existence. Raised on my island, I’ve since traveled the world and lived in many other places. But I’ve never been far from the sea.
I spent much of my career working as a fish biologist but for the past decade I’ve been undergoing metamorphosis into an author. All things oceanic are my favorite subject and when I need a break from writing, I swim. Isak Dineson wisely wrote, “I know of a cure for everything: salt water . . . in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.” Here in our Ocean State, we understand this viscerally.
Kelly gives a lucky person one hard copy of the 41N Magazine referenced in her blog post AND one guided tour of Purgatory Chasm with author by land or by sea when you visit Aquidneck Island! Leave a comment and contact info for your chance to win.
Bio: Kelly Kittel has completed her metamorphosis from a fish biologist who writes to an author formerly known as a fish biologist. She lives on Aquidneck Island with her husband and three of their five children. She has been published in a number of anthologies and magazines, including 41N in which she’s written articles about her favorite bi-valves—scallops and quahogs Her first book, Breathe, a Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict, was published in May 2014 and was an Award-Winning Finalist for the International Book Awards.
Mom, Author, Part Fish