Nature, A Love Story: Finding different types of love in natural spaces

Fall in love with the stunning views of Trustom Pond. (Photo: Mara Hagen)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, arguably one of the most influential American philosophers and naturalists, famously writes in his essay Nature about his time in the woods, “I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of god.” Emerson belongs to the school of transcendentalism, the philosophical doctrine that nature is divinity. To the transcendentalist, there is no monotheistic deity because god is all around us; it is in the blossoming flower, the wind blowing off the salty sea, the leaves dropping from October trees. Finding a religious temple in the silent woods, or by the windblown coast, is to love.

But don’t fret, you don’t have to abandon your religion (whatever it may be) and build a cabin on a pond in the middle of Massachusetts like a certain extreme transcendentalist, to find love. Forget telling your friends halfheartedly you had a good time on that Tinder date, ransacking CVS after February 14 for the half-off chocolates, or crying to The Notebook for the millionth time when you swore you wouldn’t – this month of love is going to be different! In this article I offer you a road map of some of my favorite natural spaces in Rhode Island. So, take out a pen, or rip out the page, and go fall in love.

The drive towards this trail has enough beauty to remind you that Earth is, well, pretty awesome. Right off 1A near Saunderstown, this is my favorite trail to escape the doldrums of society, or to ward off the Sunday scaries. The trail starts off nice and wide, covered by a canopy of trees like fingers reaching to touch each other under the expanse of sky. As you continue walking, the forest changes from oak to small pitch pine trees, and the air begins to buzz with the smell of the ocean. Suddenly, the forest opens to the wide canvas of the Narragansett Bay, with stunning views of the Jamestown Bridge. Once you get to the beach, take a right down the coastline. Walk along the shore, pay attention to the shells, the gentle lapping of the water, the sky lovingly blanketing you. Sometimes, if you are lucky, there are seals on the rocks out by the cove! Notice the gulls, contemplate their experience, sit quietly on a rock. Be humble.

This trail is a great place to get lost because there are so many offshoot trails. Take one, see where it leads you. Rediscover that childhood love for adventure.

There are not enough words to explain just how sacred Trustom Pond is. Nestled off Matunuck School House Road, Trustom Pond is a little piece of paradise. Before you enter the trail, there is a sign advising against runners or dogs, so you know this place is going to be great for wildlife spotting. About .3 miles after the start of the trail, the woods end and you encounter a great field of amber grasses that evoke midwestern wheat fields. A grassy path is curved around them, and as you balance the line between woods and plains, you are reminded of the various small ecosystems that are the patchwork of Rhode Island. Once you leave the waving wheat, you’re brought to a woodland that is out of a fairy tale. Mossy rocks pop up like pillows from soft grass, the trees twist overhead and resemble the pages of a Dr. Suess book. As if the woods aren’t rewarding enough, the trail ends at a lookout that offers breathtaking views of the pond and the ocean.

Since I like you guys, I’ll tell you my secret spot. Right before you get to the end, there is a little offshoot trail on the right. Take that trail all the way to the end. There, you will find a symmetrical circle of trees surrounded by the pond. This is the perfect place to sit, meditate, and fall in love with yourself.

I might be a little biased because this is my home beach, but Narragansett Beach is one of those classic Rhode Island spots that I never tire of. Visit this beach and you’ll go home smiling. What I love most about this place are its beauty and the people it attracts. On any given day, whatever the weather, you are bound to see people walking up and down its wide coastline. There will be kids picking up clumps of seaweed, college kids in sweatpants and hats braving the cold, an elderly couple holding hands and cups of coffee. There will be surfers stoked on good waves and bad waves, just stoked in general. I have seen people pull off all their clothes and jump into the ocean in a rainstorm, I have even been one of those people. There is something about this beach that connects people to each other and to the earth in inexplicable ways. Come here and fall in love with humanity.