Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 17, 2009 - Brant Rock, Marshfield, Massachusetts

There's a reason Route 139 takes the bizarre twist that it does through Marshfield. There was a time when Brant Rock was the place to be, when establishments like the Fieldston boasted the hottest swing bands in the nation and the sandy stretches of beach off the esplanade beckoned couples to the water's edge for romantic moonlit walks.

There was no moon showing at noon today when I started my walk near Arthur and Pat's, and the sun was hardly out either. The deep freeze of the region continued this morning, making the section of Marshfield beyond the commercial strip a ghost town. I walked down the middle of Ocean Street without fear of being beeped at by cars. There simply were none in motion.

Smells were a hallmark of the day. The staff at the Fairview was making lunch, and the grill was giving off a familiar scent. Just a few feet down the road a well-stoked fireplace reminded me that it's winter.

Natural shingling is the standard here, and growing up in a coastal town, I know why. The salt spray off the ocean eats paint. Homeowners learn quickly that it's counterproductive to pay for coat after coat, and to accessorize the shades of gray in the shingles. Some of those shingles protect well-known homes, like the Adelaide Phillips cottage, and more shelter the ancient frames of sheds and other small outbuildings that have been here for a century or more. Many of them are bowing at the roofline, showing a hundred-year sag. Rather than making the nieghborhood look tired, it adds charm.

Out on the water, two harbor seals found a partially sunken rock. One of them was lying on it on its belly, head and tail out of the water, midriff submerged. The other one was bottling, poking its nose out of the water perpendicular to the surface.

The scene on Green Harbor is not as playful. The water here is nearly entirely frozen. It's possible to get into the harbor by boat, but deep inside, some moored lobstermen are socked in. And that's a shame. A friend of mine from Hull, with whom I spent a good day's lobstering for a newspaper article several years ago, tells me that despite the firgidness, the lobstering in New England is good in January. Let's hope for their sake, the ice does not continue to grow.

Time: 52 minutes.

New species: Mammals: harbor seal (8); Birds: rough-legged hawk, long-tailed duck (87).

Stranger hellos: 1 (30).

Other accomplishments: Led a two-hour walk at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary; lots of time with my baby boy; wrote a book review for; caught my breath after a hectic week.

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