In the fading light of summer

The Record

August 31, 2010
IN THIS LAST official week of summer, it is worth reflecting on the time that summer traditionally allows for being with family and enjoying the outdoors.

Some of my fondest memories are of summers growing up in New Jersey on my family’s farm. When I wasn’t stuffing myself with our concord grapes, I spent hours on a tree overhanging the Black River. Catching fireflies in a mason jar to light my room at night was the essence of summer, as was falling asleep listening to the tree frogs outside my window.

I am now especially glad that my grandchildren are enjoying many of these same activities in the same rolling hills and forests of New Jersey. To pass on those natural treasures we all cherish has always been my biggest motivator when developing environmental policy, especially in a state like ours with such diverse natural features. From the Pine Barrens to the Jersey Shore, and the Appalachian Trail to our state’s numerous historic sites, there is so much to
do and see outside in New Jersey.
There’s something unique about the way relationships with loved ones are strengthened when you’re together in nature. As a child, I remember fondly shelling peas from the garden with my mother, family dinners outside with fresh tomatoes and corn we’d grown, and my father teaching me to fish.

A family affair

And of course, for our family, haying was a family affair for my father, brothers and me. I couldn’t do as much since I was so much younger, but I did heave a number of bails around in that hay loft and built some lasting memories with my siblings in the process.

It didn’t matter what we ate, those summer family dinners were when we had great conversations, growing closer together and learning from each other. And with my own kids, we have had some of our best conversations as a family when we were enjoying the last bits of daylight on a summer night, heat and mosquitoes and all!

If your surroundings aren’t a working farm or wilderness, summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors at a state park, or any green space nearby. By the time I left office, New Jersey was on track to preserve an additional 1 million acres of open space, precisely so citizens could enjoy green around them with their loved ones.

Fruit soup

I will never forget driving to a park for a picnic on one such occasion. We had cut up bits of fruit for our lunch, which my then-five-year-old son Taylor proceeded to sit on in the back of the station wagon throughout the journey. By the time we arrived, his squashing procedure was complete, and we were left with fruit soup. Scraped knees, insect bites, food mishaps and all, those are among the memories of family time that we will have for life.

Being together with family, whether for an afternoon park visit, a night of camping or a visit to the shore – anywhere — is important. New Jersey has plenty of beautiful places to be, and there are still warm summer nights to

be had. I hope you will take a moment before the summer ends to be with your family – savor the time together and the beautiful spaces we share.
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