A bench overlooks the North River at the Packet Landing at Nelson Forest in Marshfield.

For three years now, I have been working in one capacity or another for the benefit of the North River and its watershed. People are often surprised to find out that even though my job involves preserving and protecting the river, it is a rare workday when I can actually get anywhere near the water. Most days I sit in front of a computer, writing press releases, article and newsletters, and doing the ret of the commonplace things one would expect to do in an office job.

Week after week spent answering the telephone, making photocopies and maintaining databases, it is easy for me to lose sight of the purpose behind my work. A few months ago I found myself slumped at my desk, struggling to meet yet another in a series of unrelenting deadlines, questioning why on earth I ever chose this kind of work. I was bored, uninspired. When five o’clock arrived, I walked out to my car with the intent of driving home and doing some serious “is this really what I want to be doing with my life?” soul searching.

I was so stressed out, I didn’t even want to attempt the highway. I opted for the scenic route, and began winding my way home through the back roads of Norwell and North Marshfield. It was mid-spring, warm enough for a light jacket, and as I drove up the hill on Highland Street, I remembered that Nelson Forest offered some great public walking trails. Walking in the woods has always helped to unclutter my mind, so I stopped.

I headed down the trail, and as soon as I reached the woods, I knew I had made the right choice. How long had it been since I’d spent any time outside? I had forgotten how good the forest smells, how quiet it can be, how there’s so much to observe there. I began walking downhill, choosing the path that led to the site of an old Packet Landing on the North River. Through the trees I caught a glimpse of the marsh, and then the river itself. I increased my pace until I was running; down the path, around the corner, and there I was there. At the river.

There was a bench, so I sat down and took a few minutes to look around. The sun was setting in the blue sky, the marsh was just beginning to show signs of green, the river was flowing with the tide out to sea. Watching the water, I felt more at peace than I had in months.

In a flash, it all made sense to me. I had forgotten why I do the work I do. It’s not because I really enjoy working on the computer or talking on the telephone or planning fund-raisers — the work itself is not the issue. It’s the rivers, the watershed. I chose this line of work because I care about the watershed, because the river feels like home to me, because I want to give back to the community that has helped to shape the person I am today.

Now that it’s summer, I spend time on or near the water as much as possible. I walk in the woods, I go kayaking, and sometimes I just sit on a rock beside the river and observe. And even though it keeps me inside for most of the day, even though my workload is the same as always, I really enjoy my job. All it took was a simple walk in the woods to change my perspective.

There are a number of great walking places on the South Shore. A few recommendations:

• Nelson Memorial Forest: 130 acres off Highland Street in North Marshfield, managed by the New England Forestry Foundation.

• The Norris Reservation: 117 acres off Dover Street in Norwell, managed by the Trustees of Reservations.

• The Tucker Preserve: 79 acres off West Elm Street in Pembroke, managed by the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.

• Stetson Meadows: 144 acres of conservation land off Stetson Shrine Lane in Norwell.

• Driftway Conservation Area: 40 acres off the Driftway in Scituate.

• Corn Hill Woodland: 123 acres of conservation land off Union Street in North Marshfield.

Next time you’re feeling stressed out — or just in need of some fresh air — visit one of these places and take a walk in the woods. You’ll be glad you did.

by Kezia Bacon
August 1996