A water view at World’s End in Hingham.

“I can’t believe you’ve never been here before!” my friend Kristen exclaims, “You, the nature writer!”

Until a few weeks ago, I had never been to World’s End, the jewel in the crown of nature preserves on the South Shore, located on Martin’s Lane in Hingham. Truth be told, I only recently made my first trip to the Blue Hills, and I have yet to set foot in the Arnold Arboretum. I tend to stay closer to home.

It’s a matter of perspective. For the first twenty years of my life, I was content to explore the old fire roads and cranberry bogs within walking distance of my home. When I wanted something more exotic, I’d just go to the beach. But over time I became aware of the public lands in the region: properties managed by Audubon, The Trustees of Reservations, The Wildlands Trust and others, as well as acres upon acres of town-owned conservation land. It’s going to take a while, but I’d like to familiarize myself with each parcel.

I walk a lot — at least once a week in the winter, and much more often in the warmer months. By now I could have covered all of the open spaces on the South Shore three times over, but instead I’ve explored relatively few. While I am always willing to visit a new site, I tend to pick one parcel a season and return to it time and again.

When I am drawn to a certain place, it takes a long time for me to tire of it. There are always new things to see, different sounds to hear, and countless opportunities for inspiration and contemplation. I just try to be present, to take in as much as I can in a given moment, knowing that a place can change considerably from day to day. The challenge for me is to concentrate on what’s there, and not on what I may be missing.

At World’s End, Kristen and I follow a narrow path into the woods, heading toward the water. Wetlands soon melt into marsh, and the mouth of the Weir River comes into view. Before long we are looking out across the bay toward Hull.

We pick our way along the shore, slowly climbing uphill as we near Rocky Neck. Every so often we find a narrow trail and follow it out toward the cliffs. Each detour offers a different view of the waters and landscape of this 250-acre nature preserve.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re traveling somewhere — perhaps by foot, or boat, or vehicle, and you come across an unexpected place of beauty. What are you most inclined to do? Would you immediately make a mental note of the place, recording it in your mind and resolving to come back someday? Would you reach for your camera and snap a photograph? Would you think about returning with a friend to share the experience? Or would you just stand still, watching and listening? I’ve always tended toward the first three options; these days I’m leaning more toward the fourth one.

I mention this to Kristen, and we talk for a while about our need to record and validate experience, how we tend not to be able to appreciate something the first time around. We’re so easily distracted, and increasingly less absorbed in the present moment that we must often return to an experience several times before we find any value in it.

We round Rocky Neck and head toward Planter’s Hill, the centerpiece of the reservation. Kristen points to the tree-ringed top, a favorite place of hers. We choose a trail and began the ascent.

Kristen and I were friends in high school, but our paths diverged after graduation and our friendship quickly followed suit. We stayed in touch, but just barely. I took the safe and expected route: after four years of college, I moved back to Marshfield and accepted a position with the NSRWA. Kristen’s path was less direct: riskier, but probably more exciting. Over the years she attended at least four different schools, lived all over the country, and held a wide array of jobs. She eventually settled in Los Angeles, where she’s now working as an electrician in the film industry and finishing her bachelor’s degree.

There were sporadic letters over the years, but our friendship was pretty much on hold until a couple of years ago, when Kristen called me, quite unexpectedly. There was so much to say: we could have talked all night. Several years and thousands of miles had come between us, and yet it seemed like I’d seen her just yesterday. Still, there was a lot of catching up to do.

Sometimes I feel like Kristen and I will never catch up completely. We only see each other once or twice a year, and although we can easily pick up the narrative from where we left off last time, no matter how much we talk, no matter how engaging the conversation may be, it always seems to me that there is more to say. It’s like trying to fill a bathtub with a teaspoon. Each spoonful is significant but, it seems too small to make a difference. It’s discouraging. Sometimes I ask myself why we bother: we’ll never have time to say it all.

I’m considering all of this as we climb Planter’s Hill, the thoughts seeping in to the silences, filling the tiny spaces between the words I speak and the words I hear her say. But when we reach the top it just stops, and my attention is drawn to the landscape.

The hill is crowned with three rings of trees and a circular path. A flat grassy area stands in the middle: a classic design for a sacred place. From the summit one may look down in four directions: south, across the sprawling fields of World’s End; west, to Hingham Harbor and the wooded, suburban town; east, beyond the rocky bayside cliffs to hundreds of cottages along the skinny arm of Hull; and north, to Boston, the Harbor Islands, and Massachusetts Bay.

With so much to contemplate, I feel overwhelmed, unsure where to look first. Eventually I settle on a view. I study it for a while, and then move on to another perspective, and then another, until I feel that I have taken in enough for one day.

Conversation resumes as we start down the hill. A narrow neck leads us out onto a broad, rounded peninsula, the “end,” as it were, of World’s End. As we walk the perimeter, I am surprised to note that my steps have become lighter, more spirited. My state of mind has changed as well: I’m calmer, more content with dynamics of this friendship, no longer struggling to catch up.

Kristen and I will probably never be completely up-to-date with each other — but it doesn’t really matter. The important stuff will emerge, and the rest will fade. Rather than focus on what’s missing or what information needs to be retrieved, I’m going to pay attention to what’s here, now. We’ll walk, we’ll talk, we’ll fall silent. We’ll argue a little, learn something new about each other, maybe learn something new about ourselves. And at the end of the day when she drops me off at my house and drives away I will think not of what we don’t know and may never know about each other, but instead of what exists today: friendship, ten years old and ten years strong.

by Kezia Bacon, Special to the Mariner
January 1998

Kezia Bacon serves on the Board of Directors of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association.