Friday, January 16, 2009

January 16, 2009 - Cushing Memorial State Park, Scituate, Massachusetts

It's the smallest state park in Massachusetts and probably the country, but I haven't comfirmed the latter thought. And usually, when I'm walking there, it belongs solely to me.

Chief Justice William Cushing lived near here, in a house overlooking the North River. And what a life he led. He was Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court back when Massachusetts also included Maine. He was asked - by George Washingtton, no less - to join the U.S. Supreme Court, but felt that his health was not good enough to do so. And he then preceded to live for another decade. During those days, in the 1790s, he was also one of the first Americans to speak out against the institution of slavery.

This was his land.

His burial site is the focal point of the park. It's marked by the largest stones in a walled plot. Several other family members are buried here as well. There have been numerous clean-up efforts here over the years. At one point, nature had so thoroughly reclaimed the hill, the family cemetery had to be re-discovered by a team tromping through the woods, and carved back out of the wilderness. Eagle socuts have laid out trails and erected interpretive signage kiosks. Several years ago, I led a day of landscaping on behalf of the Scituate Historical Society to prepare for a visit by the state's then Supreme Court Chief Justice, Chief Margaret Marshall. We arranged for the seventh graders from the Gates School to be there, to connect the old Chief Justice with the new Chief Justice. Born in South Africa, Marshall's message about apartheid sure rang bells with the story of Cushing and slavery.

It's hard to get a half an hour out of this place. But today, I tried. A trail leads down the wooded side of the hill from the burial plot to an unnamed body of water below. Here, too, I have memories. There are great horned owls that raise their young here. A few years ago, in my new role with Mass Audubon, I became the second person in Massachusetts to ever photograph a yellow rail, a tiny wetland bird, in the wild. You just never know where life is going to lead you. That was the thought I had in my head when the eastern cottontail scooted into the underbrush. Walking around in a total of three degrees on the Fahrenheit scale after almost three quarters of an hour in both contemplation and the wild, I decided to look for cover, too.

Time: 42 minutes.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is shakin': Led a three and a half hour biridng program; staff holiday party; dinner with Michelle's parents; finished reading Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt; wrote the other blog, too.
New species: Birds: Eurasian wigeon, American wigeon, northern shoveler, northern pintail, green-winged teal, sanderling, fox sparrow, red-winged blackbird (85). Mammals: coyote, brown rat, meadow vole, eastern cottontail (7).

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