What a way to start the summer...doughnut-muffins


“How about a doughnut-muffin,” said Irene Donahay, holding out a plate with two bite-sized muffins. Bill looked intrigued leaning forward in his porch chair and took one. I didn’t need a second invite, even though I’d never tasted a doughnut-muffin and took the second. It was hot, fresh from the oven and buttery like no doughnut I’ve eaten.

I hadn’t expected fresh baked doughnut-muffins. In a moment Irene was out again, this time to fill my cup with coffee.

“How about some scrambled eggs?” suggested Bill.

“No, thank you,” I responded. “But what are you having for lunch,” I joked.

Bill laughed. We looked out at the morning sun sparkling off the bay. The tide was coming in and there was a thin sliver of sand off shore, all that’s left of Greene Island. At high tide even that spit disappears beneath the waters. Warwick historian Henry Brown will tell you that before the 1938 hurricane the island consisted of about 14 acres, had a well and that cows were kept there. Now the storms and the bay currents have gnawed away its banks and the trees and vegetation that once held the ground are gone. The only recognizable feature is the keel and few ribs of a 100-foot long ship that in recent years has been the site for marine archeological research. It still hasn’t been identified.

I’ve watched the island disappear from Bill’s porch in Cole Farm. The enclave of summer homes, many of them now converted to year-round use, doesn’t appear to have changed. The cottages are separated by narrow roads and most are oriented to the east overlooking what is technically the Providence River because it is north of Conimicut Point. Conimicut Point is considered the demarcation between river and bay.

Even since learning that Bill lived on the water at Cole Farm more than a dozen years ago, I made a point of rowing up that way at least once during the summer season. I usually time my visits for Sunday morning soon after the sun is up, which means I arrive shortly after 6. I know Bill will be up watching the news and that I can find a cup of coffee.

This Sunday I was late setting off and Bill spotted me before I beached the rowing scull and climbed the stairs to his lawn. He was there to greet me.

“Where have you been?” he inquired, as my visit is usually in mid-May.

“We finally have a good day,” I answered.

Once a year-round Warwick resident, after retirement Bill became one of Rhode Island’s snowbirds, spending the winters in Florida and the summers here. I got to know him through the Warwick Rotary Club, where he served as president and, at the urging of veteran club member Joseph DesRoches, Bill occasionally attends a meeting during the summer.

When I visit, and it’s usually no more than twice a summer, we’ll talk about Warwick, what’s changing and politics. Taxes were one of the topics Sunday as well as Gina Raimondo, who Bill finds is “doing a good job.” He likes her free tuition plan, although he thinks it should be limited to CCRI. Also on the list were groundhogs. Bill has two of them and they displayed themselves almost on cue running across the lawn. He would like for them to leave so they can have a garden but didn’t have a plan to send them packing.

Irene returned. This time she had a full plate of the doughnut-muffins, which she had made from scratch from an online recipe.

“They’re small; take a couple,” she suggested. I did.

Their grandson, who is visiting from Florida, was up. He’s 12 and has a passion for fishing. He’d be spending the day casting from the community dock or fishing from a small boat. His day was planned. What a way to start summer.

The chores of my day were tugging and the rising tide was lifting my boat. The summer breeze was building from the south. It was going to be a beautiful day.

I finished my coffee and rose to leave. I poked my head inside the door to say goodbye and thank Irene. I think she heard me from the kitchen, where she was probably cooking those eggs. The day was running.

As I pulled away from the shore, I watched an osprey on patrol, hovering occasionally as it watched for fish. It had returned from its winter south, too. Summer was here. Coffee, “surprise” muffins and catching up on the news of a friend I see only a few times a year make the transition complete.


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