It’s summer and visitors flock to the beach of Morro Bay to flee the heat of inward places. Summer brings travel to many, often to exotic locations. For me, if I must board an airplane I’d rather it took me to far-away places like Scotland or France or Bora Bora. But this year was not the time for those destinations. Thus, I found myself winging eastward to the other side of the continent to the land of my birth.
Airports, cities, and highways left behind, I travel into the depths of this place of my origins and on old roads find this:
Old stone fences crumbling in the woods, marking off boundaries of farm fields forgotten and gone back to the wild. Ancient stone buildings, two stories high, once for storing hay in the loft and animals in the stalls below.
A long high ridge of stone and upon it a trail that runs the length of the continent. Lakes and ponds, brooks and streams, all flow swiftly by and finally an escarpment, a 100-foot drop with torrents of white water dropping down. Trout, tagged to trace their wanderings slip quickly by in a creek. May Apple sprouts through the damp undergrowth with wild violets strewn along a crumbling stacked stone fence.
Trees, thin in stature, beginning to sprout green leaves in this spring time, stand to attention, close-patched and tall. Some flowering trees among the woods—wild apple, cherry, and some with names not known—pink, magenta and white. Yellow forsythia runs riot along the roadside and locked up trash cans hint at signs of wildlife—bears. Now a cardinal, red in its splendor, sings from inside the branches of a bush. A robin bounces in a green field. In a pen on the hillside, exotic Mangalitsa pigs and piglets chow down and black and white cows chew their cud, resting in a field.
The road leads to a deserted village, plans to drown it in a reservoir abandoned. Now houses and shops line a dusty street and sightless windows stare out upon the traveler. God is missing here from the tall white church and no children come streaming from the one-room schoolhouse. An historic place, long forgotten.
The Delaware River flows through here not far away, a place of history. And through the valley lie old barns, farmhouses and grain silos. There a red barn shows a stenciled patterned barn quilt.
What is this place?
It is a secret. Guarded jealously. But those of us born in this state can be proud. God has graced at least one small northern corner here. A real treasure, a rare gem – the real New Jersey.