New Jersey can be described as a the middle of two extremes: it’s not quite rural, not quite urban, with a temperate climate, suffocated between the illustrious histories of its far more renown neighbors (New York and Pennsylvania, the roommates who constantly consume the fumes of the spotlight). To extend this comparison, my hometown of Marlboro is even more ambivalent: “just” a meek suburban area in Central Jersey, home to New York commuters, an above average school system, and an unfortunate town name that is shared with a cigarette brand.
But there is comfort in normality, some sort of profound connection that can be gleaned from humdrum everydayness. There’s something to be said about 7 AM, when the town reluctantly emerges from slumber, as middle aged parents pull out from the driveway and drive onto the Garden State Parkway, and half-asleep children board their school buses; it’s a reliable behavioral pattern that reflects through the town.
Though we have no exotic rainforest, nor national park existing as the poster child of beauty, Marlboro and its surrounding areas host a number of forests. Even behind my white-picket fence neighborhood, there runs a winding trail, named after Henry Hudson and two hundred miles away from Hudson River. I can hop on a bike and pedal to adjacent towns, a curtain of trees and foliage protecting me from the main highway. During the fall, the sunlight peeking through the dense thicket would reflect on the damp leaves caving underneath the tires. When the wind whips past my ears, I can almost imagine lisping whispers, telling stories about the trail’s stories. For all I know, I could be zipping over buried fossils of prehistoric Mastodons and hadrosaurs, or maybe over the phantom footsteps of the Lenni Lenape, the first inhabitants of the town — or even over the very marlstone that the town is named for (so no, not the cigarette brand). It’s the small details, the little nooks and crannies of a commuter town that distinguish Marlboro, in its own way.