Where the Heart Is: Nowadays, I keep watch on North Kingstown

There’s a coastal stretch of land inside the smallest state in the US. It sits along an oceanic passage as if hugging the brisk Atlantic. It’s a sub-rural area but large enough in size that it stretches halfway across the state. It’s quaint, sunny, lively and historic. It’s nothing like busy, fast-paced Vancouver.

Welcome to North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

It’s a beautiful place to be. The kind of town you retreat to when other places get too loud. Where strangers stop and chat after meeting paths on village streets. Where families shop for goods their neighbours need. Where friends routinely volunteer at drives and pantries every weekend. In North Kingstown, the community works like clockwork. It’s a place full of mixed emotions. Being the only home I ever knew, all the memories I’ve cherished and tried to expel take place within its borders. Growth, strength, pain, anguish, solace, love and learning come to mind.

Though North Kingstown is frozen for much of the winter, the spring season blossoms with haste. Summer flourishes even more so, and outsiders are drawn to the town’s warmth and energy. You can bury your feet in the hot summer sand while enjoying the cool breeze. Children jump back and forth between the beach water and the land, tracking footprints along the shore just in front of the tide. Stay at the beach late enough, and you’ll see a show of fireworks — red, white and blue across the star-speckled sky.

Sometimes the sunny mornings turn to rainy afternoons. The bravest of folks stay outside when the thundershowers arrive. Within a half-hour, the heavy rain subsides, and rumbling thunder lingers in the distance, leaving the air crisp and cool as evening approaches. The clouds part, and the sunshine returns. That summer shower sensation was one of my last before I departed across the continent for Vancouver to live a new life on the West Coast.

Look, breathe, see, explore, meet, laugh, party, sleep, eat, write, study, sing, study, write, study, write, study, write, study, write and it’s over! Time to return home for the summer.

Arriving back was revitalizing. I could once again surround myself with the expected, something I had missed throughout my time out west. Familiarity is re-energizing. But the clock still ticks even when you’re gone, and it’s up to you to once again move with your hands.

I can’t help but reflect upon the quietest moments in town. The kind of quiet moments when you’re deep in thought, playing your life back in your head like a movie. When the movie’s over, I’m extra attentive to my surroundings; the rustling water, the crinkling leaves, the cry of seagulls from above, cars racing by in the distance, swing sets rocking back and forth — wherever I am — these settings all combine into a medley that brings clarity to the town. It is usually solemn but wholesome.

As I sit and write from home, there’s a refreshing sense out and about. Summer is approaching once more. Strangers, families and friends keep the gears moving, just as they did last season.

I can confidently say I love my hometown. It’s a special hidden gem within a busy area. Like the glass between the dials and the exterior world, North Kingstown feels safe from much of the outside, like a bubble or shield. It has shaped every little part of me. Who and what would I be without it? That is a question I don’t want to ponder. If nothing else, I can thank my hometown for leaving its print on me. And like a watch, I take it everywhere I go.

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