Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Garden of Trails

Holly Hill Farm, I've been told about for a couple of years, is this wonderful actual farm in Cohasset that invites people to come take a look at it and even walk on its property. I had trouble imagining a "farm" of any description in Cohasset. If you don't live there -- and after all, very few of us do -- Cohasset is the high-end zip code for this part of the state of Massachusetts. People, we've all been told, come from far and wide to gawk at the mansions overlooking the ocean on a street grandly (or mysteriously) named Jerusalem Road. But it's not the mansions (works of man, not matter how grand), it's the setting, the land and seascape, that takes your breath away.
People keep forgetting that paradise is all around us. We never lost it, not completely. Though our current practices are threatening our earthly paradise as never before; and, granted, often enough it's easy to forget that that third rock from the sun is quite literally the best of all possible worlds. Along the shoreline in Cohasset it's easy to remember.
I keep forgetting how beautiful this town really is. Then I drive through the pretty town center and head to the shore and recall my snarky first impression of the whole effect: a nature preserve for white people.
Jerusalem Road (the biblical reference seems purely ironic), the poshest street on Massachusetts' South Shore, is a brand name street. It's not the real estate, it's the layout, the geography. The coast twists and curves, with inlets and streams, woody rises over the ocean, and on the inland side from the coastal road way more wooded open space than an outsider can imagine being there.
That's where Holly Hill farm has rooted in.
Sure enough, it's an old actual, agriculture-business farm-like farm, with broken-up wood planks lying in a pile on bare ground, little corrals for animals, barns with more use on them than paint, a line of farm machine vehicles inside a large open shed with a sign that says "Please don't sit on the tractors."
A real farm, that is, except for the signs. The signs exist because the place, legally a non-profit with a complicated mission, not only expects visitors but invites them. There's no one around on the first weekend in January, but you'll be all right if you follow the signs, like the ones over each parking space that say "parking space."
A farm with signs for the unwary. I'm also surprised that the pretty brown horse in the little corral isn't wearing a signboard saying "horse."
However when it comes a screened yard full of handsome, healthy roosters or chickens with nothing to do but pose colorfully, I could use some labeling. With their handsome red combs and reddish feather ones, are these Rhode Island Reds?
I'm also missing a clear indication of which direction to head for the vaunted hiking trails, the object of our visit. In the absence of a sign, we wander around the barn, find a "mowin'" field, walk alongside it until we come to a smaller, but substantial growing plot filled with still sturdy dark green broccoli plants -- a good-sized edible flower head on one -- and enter the land of initials.
Signs reappear here -- trail signs, clearly painted and tacked to trees. They're all initials. Some with a single letter, H, for instance; some with combinations, big letter followed by small: So, Bc. Clearly these indications refer to a detailed map of an intricate trail system with frequent intersections between the parts. These promise to be highly useful in connection with said map, which we have not got.
But we boldly step forth, followed one initialed trail a decently long way to another, enjoy an attractive, varied woodlands, with streams, wetlands, big gray "erratic" boulders, lots of stone walls, all of it adding up to thoroughly satisfying winter walk.
Taking a different loop on the way back, careful not to get turned around, we come to a gentle decline with a charming view of a picturesque marsh, tucked in between woods and shore. At the sound of our approach steps, a great blue heron opens its wings and soars majestically away.
Paradise may be fleeting, but it's there.
And it's always good to go some place new and discover another pretty room in earth's mansion.