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Who: Globe columnist Joanna Weiss and her son, Jesse, 4
What: Winter beach visit
Where: Houghton’s Pond, Milton
There is something fascinating about the way a small boy’s brain works. See body of water? Must throw something in it. In the warm-weather months, this means that Jesse, 4, spends a lot of time tossing pebbles into streams; we take him to out-of-the-way corners, so he won’t hit a fellow naturalist.
In the winter, though, he can throw things at the beach.
I use the term “beach” loosely to mean ocean, bay, or pond — any body of water with a patch of sand and a vast stretch of wet. Whatever the specifics, a beach visit in the winter is always a miracle: It makes you feel as if you’re the only people in the world. Houghton’s Pond, a lovely spring-fed kettle pond in the Blue Hills Reservation, overflows with shouting revelers in the summer months; the beach area gets so crowded that you can barely see the sand, let alone a rock. In the winter, though, it’s a blank canvas of wet, some of it frozen, some of it rippling gently to the shore, all of it irresistible to a small pair of hands.
We took Jesse here on one unusually warm and windy morning, tearing him from his Legos, and he was grumpy at first. Then he saw the water, the projectiles, and the possibilities. First, he picked up acorn caps from wooded patches near the shore. Then he moved onto rocks. Before long, he was picking up increasingly large sticks and branches and hurtling them toward the water. It wasn’t the size of the splash he was going for so much as the variety.
A quiet winter morning also gave us a chance to check out the recent renovations to the Houghton’s Pond Recreation Area, which is run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The bathhouse, which just underwent a $4 million rehabilitation, was locked for the season, but we could admire the stone pillars and the wide new terrace that replaced an ugly concrete wall. We could stand on a new raised platform that overlooks nearby Marigold Marsh, another natural body of water that teems with wildlife. In the summer, we come here to look for bullfrogs amid the lily pads. In the winter, the frogs are tucked away sleeping, so we scanned for birds and underwater plants. Then Jesse spotted some more rocks along the shore. It isn’t hard to guess what happened next.