The good old summertime, Rhode Island style


 A tiny toad appeared like a living clump of good soil among the wildflowers under the porch gutter. It charmed us!


A monarch butterfly zigged and zagged at the overgrown butterfly bush at the front door of our South County summer cottage. It amazed me with its regal beauty and poise.

The ruby-throats joined us at breakfast and dinner, hovering at the special feeders by our windows.

There was a single piping plover – or was it a lonesome sanderling? – at the shoreline. Not to mention the rabbits and doves and shy young deer, all the same tan hue and still and stately within the mere strips of tamed wilderness.

And then, there is this biker – a very elderly, bronzed native of our “first nation” lying at his leisure on Moonstone Beach, among the rocks, behind the feathers on the supine handlebars waving lazily in the mild breeze. Once each summer, we cordially greet each other and briefly talk of the history of his people and their wanderings (like the Jews?).

 I found, and swam in, a “new” lake this summer – one I had never before explored, not far from our humble retreat, at the site of “Treaty Rock,” where Roger Williams conferred with the sachems before King Philip’s War.

And then, we took in the final show of this season, “The Producers,” at the renovated and renowned Theatre-by-the-Sea.

Now there are elegant walkways at the theater and serenely groomed gardens to gaze upon as you dine at Bistro by the Sea or sip a cocktail by the central reception gazebo.

The play itself, with its well-known words by Mel Brooks, had splendid settings, fine songs and dances, superb costumes, dazzling lighting effects, and a receptive and appreciative audience. My wife took special notice of the refined violin performance of Rika Ikeda, a person we heard without seeing.

Yes, it was a bit long under the confining and constricting rainstorm that dampened the delightful distraction under the barn roof. It made me think – with an ironic private smile – of the words of the late Duke of Windsor, who interrupted Arthur Rubinstein’s passionate performance at the palace piano in London so long ago, saying, “Maestro, you have delighted us enough!”

It left me with a few questions, both about the choice of the production and about my own take on it. Should American Jewish entertainers mock their co-religionists for laughs? Yes, of course they should … but in New York, the laughs are legit, whereas in rural Rhody, not so much. I think the roars and the claps were a touch too loud, almost coarse. (Of course, you are welcome to mock me for my snobbery and insecurity.)

Are Jews mad about money and worried beyond reason, like the two partners central to the show? The friendly foes and rivals betray each other, but bond at the close of the twisted plot with a sudden restoration of good will.

Well, not to be too ungrateful for an evening under the stars, with the human stars puttin’ on their Ritz, let me say, it’s been a grand summer escape from Independence Day until before Labor Day here in our Ocean State, as I cruised about in my little coffee-colored car with a license plate that reads “Conservation through Education,” decorated with a logo of the once endangered osprey – cruising, that is, along the roads and routes that are mostly labeled Post Road, with actual osprey nests high up on poles and happily sharing the good old summertime with me and mine.

MIKE FINK ( teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.