Archive for the ‘Rhode Island’ Category

Good? Habits

October 1st, 2011

Sometimes one of our two sons still at home locks the back door when one of us is on the deck, working in the yard or unloading a vehicle. We can’t get angry. We’ve taught them to close and lock the doors.

Recently on the trip to Block Island, I found another illogical habit grounded in good reasoning. That is, as my wife and I biked around the wee, hilly resort, I constantly checked my side mirror.


That’s a good safety move, except the mirrors are on my bikes in Boston and not on the rental provided by the inn. Next time I go where I’ll rent a bike, I’ll bring a spare mirror.

For most of the rides, I was in front. My wife got chuckles as she realized that a few times a minute, I’d turn to the non-mirror. If I wanted to see where she was or what vehicle was rumbling behind us, I’d have to do the owl neck-turning thing.

Whether it’s in a car or on a bike, I constantly locate myself with the mirrors. It’s habit of mind and muscles. By the time we were through two days of cycling on BI, I stopped reflexively looking at my left handle bar end, but only by fighting the urge when I felt it. I still wanted to look.

That’s not the only habituation I have with bikes. I recall over 20 years ago when we moved to the bottom of Jamaica Plain, I’d climb on my bike and instinctively expect to buckle a seat belt.

That goes way back. My first car, in 1965, was a 1955 Pontiac Chieftain. It was sturdy like Refrigerator Perry or a tug boat. It would have won in any collision.

Yet, I bought into the seat belt idea. As cars back then did not come with them, I went to Pep Boys, bought them, drilled holes and put them in. I insisted friends and GFs wear belts. No fool, I put three belts in the front too for proximity assurance.

I’m positively anal about seat belts. No one in a car I drive goes without or the car doesn’t go anywhere. So………..come a bike, I laughed at myself as I reached for a seat belt. Yet it took quite a few rides until I was comfortable heading off without one.

We habituated animals teach ourselves good, neutral and bad tricks.

Block Island’s Markers

September 16th, 2011

This week, we biked and walked around Block Island for three days. As a iconography fan and cemetery tourist, I went to the Island Cemetery and the Indian Cemetery there. They could hardly be more different.

Pix clix: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

The Narragansett lived on the island from maybe 1300 BC. The smallish Indian Cemetery in the middle of the bottom of BI is only vaguely like our European ideas. While there are a few labeled tombstones, most of those with any stone are very close together (upright, non-casket burials), raw native rock, and no markings. The humor at the moment is that more and more white folk are asking for green burials that just return the bodies to the earth. BIindian1
BIdodgewinged The main cemetery started in the mid-17th century, but had few classic N.E. iconography examples, and no visible, sturdy slate. Here’s one of the winged transitional imagery.
There was iconography artistry though. With different carvers than those in Northern N.E., much style went into such standard images as the willow, indicating life. BIwillow
BImottwillow Several used the 3D version of the willow.
Small details, such as the background placement of the urn indicating the body, show the artist’s interpretation and skill. BIwillow1
BIheavenclose Among similarities with N.E. stones, the heavenward index finger appeared on many stones.
Likewise, the hand clasp of farewell with an implicit promise of greeting later was on numerous stones. BImitchellclose
BInicholasballpen Only a few showed lots of ego. When the King of Block Island, Nicholas Ball (might be a relative) died in 1896, he set himself up with a royal marker. The top had a pen and journal because he wrote self-aggrandizing travel memoirs, an anchor and rope because he was a sea captain, and construction tools because he designed and had built BI’s huge hotel.
As proof of colonial and young nation’s high infant mortality, there are many 17th through 19th century markers. Some were for yet-to-be-named children. BIbabe4
Bibabe1 Many were elaborate, even more so than the parents’ stones. Of these, the marker was often for an only child.
One child’s stone stand up and out for its candor. Here the only offspring, Lora Rose of Ambrose and Laura, died at just under two and one-half. The scold to the Almighty reads simply, “God takes the good” — nuff said. BIbabe2