In the summer of 1907, a few months after arriving in America from Scotland, my great-great grandmother spotted Block Island from a beach on the mainland. When told the name of the place, she said, “next year we will go there”. The way the island glistened on the distant shore reminded her of home. The following July she firmly planted the family banner on a west side hill and declared, “the Langs will come here for generations”.
Growing up summers on the island inspired in me a life-long interest in the natural world, photography, literature and land conservation. The thought of long days in the outdoors and nature would sustain me through the winter months until we returned in the spring. Every place I traveled throughout the year would be compared to the island and its power to inspire and inform.
Block Island had a profound impact on my career choices: first as an aide to United States Senator John H. Chafee working on environmental issues; then as State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island; and, as Executive Director of The Champlin Foundation, a charitable foundation whose areas of focus include land conservation and environmental education.
I was captivated in my youth by the light and the weather and how they change and interact with the sea and landscape. In high school I became interested in photography. The camera lens then and now concentrates my vision in space and time as I try to capture the feeling of connection and sense of well being that I feel in this special place. My primary avocations became photography and writing and led to co-authoring with Scott Comings, On This Island: The Block Island Trail and Nature Guide and the creation of a calendar, Visions of Block Island in Photographs and Words which is now in its eighteenth year.
Having recently retired, I live now on the island full time where I hope to continue to explore photography, writing and other artistic endeavors.
While Block Island has changed over the years, its essential character remains and my great great grandmother would be able to recognize it were she to visit. As the number of such places in the world dwindles, it is a blessing and privilege to be in a place where in the words of William Butler Years, “peace comes dropping slow” and I can conceive the future in a spirit of affirmation and hope.