Keith Lang’s Block Island: Then and Now

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 7:45pm

Dunn Town, 1970

Amidst the sultry damp of late summer, there always seems to come a day when the wind switches and blows hard, the air is clear and cool and all of a sudden fall seems not far distant. The same bracing breeze that would be dispiriting in spring is now welcome and shakes us from our torpor. It was on such a day in late August or early September in 1970 that I felt inspired by the change of weather to set off for a walk among the back lanes near the cottage where I grew up.

Long before I was aware of mindfulness as a state of being, I came to be aware of it in the person of Lorne Dunn, who I am certain never conceived his unwavering concentration on the task at hand would ever be so described. Just visible on the back porch in the photo, he is huddled over shucking clams and stacking them on a shelf. He was so immersed he took no notice of my appearance in the yard. Though I lived nearby and knew him well, I chose not to interrupt to say hello and instead watched as he worked away. Some steps further along, I stopped and turned to find him still head down and completely absorbed. In that moment, the entire scene came into focus and I had an overwhelming sensation of inhabiting the past.

Returning there recently, I was struck by how faithfully the buildings have been restored, not only the house but the barns and sheds in the farmyard. There still remain wonderful little glimpses of what the island looked and felt like once. Were he to return, Lorne would have no problem finding his way around or feeling he was at home again.