|Abel explores the banks of the Cut River in Green Harbor.
My son, Abel, just finished first grade at South River Elementary School in Marshfield, the place where I too attended first grade. Because, so far, we have traveled similar paths, in many ways, I feel like I am reliving my childhood through him.
It’s a treat to be able to introduce Abel to many of the things I enjoyed as a kid. Although times have changed – the 2010s are in many ways different from the 1970s – much has stayed the same here on the South Shore, in terms of the landscape and the natural world.
My parents offered my sister and me a diverse array of experiences throughout our youth. I hope to do the same for Abel. And thus I make this pledge.
To my son, who is now seven:
You seem to have rounded some corner this year, where you are now ready to try all sorts of new things. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful place that offers an abundance of opportunity for outdoor fun and exploration. I figure I have a window of at least a few years, before you are too cool to hang out with your mom. And thus, before you head off to middle school, we will do the following.
We will go camping. We will find a flat spot and pitch a tent, and figure out how to get comfortable in the woods for a night or two. We will invite friends along, and have a campfire, and stay up way too late, and wake to the sound of the forest coming alive at dawn.
We will explore every aspect of the beach. We will find tide pools, and don masks and snorkels, and stick our faces in the water to see what goes on just below the surface. We will learn to bodysurf in the waves. We will investigate the wrack line and see what has washed up on shore. We will walk on jetties. We will stroll the hard-packed sand at the end of the day, when we need to unwind and cool off. We will master the fine art of napping in our beach chairs.
We will learn more about the ocean. We will join our friends on their boats, and view our coast from offshore. We will go on a whale watch, and – if you want to — take sailing lessons, or surfing lessons. Perhaps we can find someone to teach us how to fish.
We will get to know our rivers and ponds. Just like your grandparents did, we will organize canoe trips, and explore the North and South Rivers with our family and friends. We will check out the Green Harbor River, and the Indian Head, and the Jones. We will kayak and SUP (stand-up paddle board) in the marsh creeks. We will explore the ponds of Plymouth and Pembroke. We will swim in places other than our backyard pool.
We will get to know our local conservation areas. We will walk in the woods, and through meadows, and along the rivers and the shore. We will get a sense of our region’s agricultural history by exploring old farms. We will pick strawberries and blueberries in the summer, and apples and pumpkins in the fall. We will visit all of your mother’s favorite walking places, and try some new ones as well. You too will develop favorites. Someday we will climb Great Blue Hill.
We will spend time outdoors in the winter too. We will skate on frozen bogs and ponds. We will go sledding. We will continue to hone our skiing and snowboarding skills at Blue Hills, so that someday we can try the taller mountains up north.
And we will spend time outdoors at night. We will take our dinners down to the beach and have sunset picnics. We will watch the moon rise. We will watch for meteor showers in August. We will learn about fireflies, and bats, and the stars.
In short, I want to instill in you a “natural literacy.” I want for you to be familiar with every aspect of the place where we live, and to develop an affinity for it. I hope that, in time, you will feel a sense of stewardship – a desire to preserve our natural world, and to protect it.
And I want you to see how it all comes together. When I was around your age, my dad took me for a scenic flight above Marshfield. Someday soon we will do this too, so you can get a sense of how it looks from above. Down here on the ground, it seems like we’re surrounded by asphalt. I suspect that you – like me — will be astounded by how much green and blue you can see from the sky.
Abel, more than anything, I hope that your innate curiosity will guide us into experiences that are new for both of us. I want to teach you what I know, but I want to learn from you as well. I look forward to the day when you’re taking the lead on these matters: suggesting that we learn more about foraging, for example, or birding, or even golf!
by Kezia Bacon
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com