|The North River at Two Mile.
When asked why he spent six weeks this spring climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley), the highest peak in the U.S., my friend Ted had this to say. He didn’t do it for the adventure; he didn’t do it for the thrill or for the sense of accomplishment. “It’s the extraordinary beauty,” he said. “To live as comfortably as possible in a place of extraordinary beauty.”
Ted’s quest for places of extraordinary beauty have taken him around the globe. He’s traversed glaciers in Patagonia, hiked the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and made homes for himself in Taiwan, the Baja Peninsula and the cities of Spain. He plans to visit the Himalayas next.
It seems that Ted is drawn to majesty. The photographs he brings back, the entries he shares from his travel diaries, all reveal a sense of losing oneself in the grandiosity of a place.
I suspect that it’s not just beauty that draws Ted to these places. He speaks of the feeling of clarity he experiences while there, where everything extraneous is taken away and life is reduced to a series of basic decisions: food, water shelter. No distractions. You find out what’s really important.
I too know the appeal of majestic places. I have sat for hours at the rim on the Grand Canyon, peering down into its unfathomable depths. I have stood on the banks of the Mississippi, a river as rife with history as it is with life. I’ve seen the Rockies, the rolling hills of Kentucky, the dense redwood forests of California. And yet nothing satisfies me quite so much as the rivers, oceans, forests and fields that have become my home. Places of extraordinary — and sometimes just ordinary — beauty, right here on the South Shore.
What makes one person intent on seeing the world and another devoted to discovering the little pockets of beauty within a few miles of home? I often wonder this, and I keep coming back to what Ted said about “living as comfortably as possible.”
I’m not sure that we can really appreciate a place of beauty without some sense of comfort. In order to fully experience a place, we need to feel reasonably sure that, at the end of the day, we will have somewhere warm to sleep and enough food and water to sustain ourselves.
For me, the limits of that become evident as soon as I depart from the familiar. Even in my hometown, I often must return to a place several times before I can appreciate its beauty. On the other hand, Ted, a wanderer at heart, can more easily create his own “home,” even when there’s nothing for miles around but ice, snow, and rock.
I will continue to travel, although not to such extremes as Ted. There is much out there that I wish to see. While strange new places sometimes make me uncomfortable, they also teach me a lot about myself and the world.
I will continue to seek out beauty nearby as well. For now, these are some of my favorites.
• The “Two Mile” section of the North River, on the Norwell/ Marshfield line, especially in late spring when the marsh is newly green (the best view is from the water, but an alternative is looking upstream from the boathouse at the Norris Reservation).
• The Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary (Dwyer Farm) in Marshfield.
• The Indian Head River rapids, as viewed from atop a cliff, just off the railroad bed on the Hanover side.
• The view from the Packet Landing in Marshfield’s Nelson Forest, especially on a moonlit night. Also, Nelson’s hemlock grove.
• A mid-day summer high tide in the North River Marshes, as seen from Damons Point or Audubon’s Boardwalk.
• Cove Creek in early fall, a kayak’s-eye view.
• The North River Valley, as seen from ten feet up a certain tree, at Norwell’s Fox Hill Shipyard.
• A sunny day on Herring River, from the Driftway Pier.
• Mid-tide from Brant Rock (the actual rock).
• The South River marshes, especially when looking toward the North River mouth from a particular spot on Humarock’s Central Ave.
• Midsummer bloom in the tidal freshwater marsh at the confluence of the Indian Head River and Herring Brook.
• A low tide sunset looking south along the beach from the Green Harbor jetty.
• The Rexhame Dunes, between Humarock and Marshfield’s Rexhame Beach, especially while viewed under a stark midwinter sun, or standing waist-deep in the warm waters of the South River.
What are some of your favorite places of beauty — ordinary or extraordinary — on the South Shore? I’m always looking for new sites to explore, new experiences to share with my readers. Write to me c/o Nature (Human & Otherwise), Mariner Newspapers, 130 Enterprise Drive, Marshfield, MA 02050.