Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Note From the Jersey Frontier


Barbara and I have been off gallivanting around Mexico and Arizona for the last few weeks, and when we returned I wrote to a friend and neighbor who’s a fireman with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to thank him for keeping an eye on my farm while we were away.  Something about his response struck a chord in my heart: “Those of us who live on the Jersey frontier have to stick together.”

That’s a simple enough of a statement.  Possibly taken by some—especially those who know Bob Wolff—as a bit of his wry humor. But to me it meant something else.  The part of western New Jersey I call home is unlike anywhere else in the State…at least as far as I’m concerned. It has vast national, state and local parks, rolling hills, farmland and horse farms.  It’s not at all like the image of New Jersey fixed in the world’s mind by the phalanx of refineries lining its highways approaching New York City.

Northwest New Jersey lacks development, spared some say by the lack of train service to the area.  It is as close to New York City as towns in Connecticut and Long Island long since sacrificed to commuters. But out here on the Jersey Frontier we contend with ticks, deer, field mice, bears, rattlers, porcupines, and Canadian geese. Not Starbucks. 

And we rely on each other. It’s volunteer firemen, volunteer ambulance service, neighbor helping neighbor, strangers helping strangers. A community dynamic more like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town than Cheers.  I find it peaceful, comforting.

But why did my friend’s phrase strike me as it did, as a revelation of sorts?

I think I know, for in it I now see an answer to what’s perplexed me for weeks. In our travels through the southwest, I thought of what it would be like to live in a warmer winter climate, for there’s no denying that Northwest Jersey can be harsh in the winter.  But no place spoke to me, and I could not put my finger on why. Every place I’ve ever lived has called out to me, yet not so much as a hum did I hear.  Why not, I’d wondered.

Why not, indeed. When I lived in NYC’s East Village I was a pioneer, when I lived in Western Massachusetts I was surrounded by a state forest, and for the past thirty years I’ve lived on the “Jersey Frontier.”  Obviously, I like living where you must contend with the elements and the critters, and if for some reason you need help, you turn to your friends and neighbors first.

Snapping turtle

Planned communities, manicured paradises, and places offering a life filled with a variety of leisure time interests are heaven to many, but just don’t ring my bell. I need an eclectic, who-knows-what’s-going-to-happen-next sort of environment in which to thrive.  That’s clearly Mykonos for one-half the year…and the Jersey Frontier for the other.

Perhaps, some day I’ll find another place.  Until then, I guess I’ll just have to keep an ear out for voices.

Thanks, Bob.



  1. We hear you so loud and clear! And know exactly what you mean!

  2. You're 100% right, Jeff (as usual). There are special places for everyone and no doubt it's linked to where and how you grew up and what your interests are. But some places just feel right, while others - often with similar attractions and locations - simply don't. My thought would be that if it's not broken, don't fix it!

    1. Strange isn' it, how epiphanies occur when, where, and from whom we least expect them. In this case I'm talking about how that simple line from my friend crystallized my thinking. Real estate epiphanies are more likely to involve a broker.

  3. Hear, hear! I think there are those "special frontiers" all over the map, once you get away from the commercial centers especially, but as Michael said, some of those places are more appealing than others for any individual. It's good to find 'home' and to KNOW that it's HOME.

    1. You're absolutely right, EvKa. My God, did I actually write that?

  4. Amen!!!!! This is brilliant.

  5. Thank you, Nancy! Much appreciated.