I almost didn’t grow up in New Jersey. My parents had planned to buy land across the border in New York State. The logs of white pine were already en route from Canada, tied snug on the back of an 18-wheeler, when the deal fell through. The last-minute scramble led them to a one-acre plot, the last parcel on a dead-end dirt road in Northwest New Jersey. A log house would sit on the hill here, facing west and overlooking hills wrapped in oak forest where black bears, wild turkeys, and white-tailed deer made their homes.
When I was a girl, I read Little House on the Prairie. I didn’t call my dad “Pa,” but I thought every father built his little girl a house out of logs.
This was my normal: finding nests of baby rabbits under the juniper bush; a scarecrow, clad in my father’s old blue-plaid flannel shirt, guarding cherry tomatoes and zucchini; sitting on the front porch, watching thunderstorms roll in, an old dog lying at my feet; the screams of red-tailed hawks migrating above the Kittatinny Ridge; geese honking and the remains of cornstalks poking through a thin layer of snow.
Others will mock the Garden State, but I can show you the rich, dark soil that the glaciers left behind. I could sooner navigate the Delaware than make my way to the Turnpike.