I grew up in New Jersey, in a suburb of New York City, my house overlooking the Manhattan skyline. I have always considered myself a “city girl,” and I’m proud of it. At the same time, my parents did a good job of instilling a love of nature in us “city kids.” We had a relatively spacious yard considering we were in the suburbs, and my dad had a small garden with tomatoes, asparagus, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini. He planted raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes. We also had an apple tree, pear tree, plum tree, and a cherry tree, all in our backyard.
My dad, who grew up with the Passaic River in his backyard, would point out the river every time we went past, “That’s the river that runs through my blood,” he’d say. My parents took us camping and fishing, and my dad often escaped on adventures with us kids to explore rural places. My dad has a collection of good ol’ dad sayings, like, “Find the bluest part of the sky,” and we would each pick which section we found the brightest on a blue-sky day. Or he would say, “This is the day of the year,” each day the sun was shining. And of course, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses,” which reminded us to pause in our busyness to recognize the simple things in nature around us.
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