Gordon Thomas Ward

Rekindle the Wonder!

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Explore a timeless meditation 
that will resonate with anyone
whose growing-up years were 
filled by a sense of place

A Passage from A Bit of Earth

       My childhood in Somersetin was a magical time and place to do the business of growing up. Serenity and security hung thick in the air, and the surrounding woods, fields, streams and back yards beckoned with the promise of unending exploration, mysterious hiding places, treetop lookouts, an abundance of wildlife, and relics from bygone times. These were the tools of the trade for a child’s imagination, and my friends and I were masters of our craft.

       There was a bountiful amount of space in which to perpetrate our daily, childhood explorations. This was a time when fences seemed not to exist, and property lines were blurred, marked only by hedges, trees, or gravel driveways. Nestled in the northeast corner of Somerset County, New Jersey, this bit of earth known as Somersetin is part of the Borough of Bernardsville, which is named after Francis Bernard, the royal governor of New Jersey from 1758-1760. The town used to be called Vealtown until 1840, and both Vealtown and Bernardsville were actually subsections of neighboring Bernards Township until the spring of 1924. Somersetin is bordered on the north by Washington Corner Road, Hardscrabble Road on the east, Lloyd Road on the south, and has Mendham Road marking the most western side of the parcel. A hilly area offering a mixture of deciduous woods, ponds, streams, fields, and yards, the air had a clean, crisp quality, which my Great Aunt Ella from New York City used to compare to the smell of freshly sliced watermelons.

       Each season had its distinct and definite grasp on the region. Winters were bitter cold with a perpetual snow cover that seemed to always reach up to frost the windows of our home. Spring dripped with the scent of forsythia and lilac in a world awash in that new golden-green hue of emerging growth. Summers, painted in goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace, phlox, milkweed, and a spectrum of butterflies, were hot and humid and made the local brooks and streams even more inviting. Late summer thunderstorms heralded the coming of autumn, which promised the brightest red, orange, and yellow leaves I can remember and chased everyone inside on chilly evenings, the smell of burning leaves still lingering in the air. Oak, maple, and tulip trees towered above us, and a plethora of magical places lay at our feet amidst the nooks and crannies of our neighborhood.

       Neighbors were friends, people you saw every day in their yards and who waved and shouted hello when you passed. Telephone callers always seemed to be people you knew. As a child, one felt safe, protected, and free to explore and observe everything, and that is exactly what I did. Within the fabric of our neighborhood, my friends and I moved freely in and out of yards, across fields, through woods, and down wooded lanes, immersed in life and soaking up every new and precious moment we could. And when darkness fell and we found ourselves in bed, we nodded off under our blankets with the satisfaction of our daily adventures spinning in our heads, the lullabies of the night creatures and soft breezes reaching our ears through open windows, and the anticipation of continuing our seemingly endless saga held fast in our hearts.

Copyright © 2006 Gordon Thomas Ward