Jersey Girls Do It in the Garden…State

The television show “Jersey Shore” gave Jersey Girls a bad name.

Most of us–and by this I mean for-Real Jersey Girls– don’t spend significant time in sea-side houses with opposite sex friends, with or without benefits. Most of us do enjoy things of beauty, taste and style, also missing from the show. I’m supposing it has the same charm as the Jerry Springer show, attracting I would guess, a similar audience. Most of Jersey Girls work hard for a living to support our families. Wait. The cast probably did work hard at their make-believe. I’ll sort of retract that last comment.

First, what is a Garden “State”? And who exactly is a “Jersey Girl”?

Like Billy Joel sang in his song, “New York State of Mind,” the garden is a state–of mind, of being. Awareness. I live perpetually in the garden “state.” (Heading forth I will leave off the quotation marks–you get where I’m going with this play on words.) I go to bed thinking about the garden, I frequently dream about it, I tend to my own and I design and help others tend to theirs. I write about it and publish the message out to the world. I read about it to continue to learn and to share what I’ve read in my writing as much as I can. It is my mission in life to bring this state of being to as many people as possible in as many ways as I can think of. Sounds rather like an obsession and I will offer no argument. But I think it is a healthy obsession. In the garden state, there is work to do. Physical work caring for, nurturing living things. Watching them grow. Insects and small mammals, too, like the chipmunks living in the stone wall, and this morning’s squirrels devouring the fruit of the dogwood tree, telling me the season is about to change. In the garden state there is time to reflect. It is not usual that anyone else is coming out of the house to weed with me side by side-it’s just me and the weeds, removing what is unwanted as I, in a rather meditative way, do the same with any unwanted, unhealthy thoughts, things that are troubling me. In the garden state the good guys and the bad guys duke it out like in any good dramatic situation, just here, Mother Nature is at the helm to strike a balance. I try to help. In the garden I get to see the cycle of life; the emergence of life in the spring, the renewal in spring and summer, and the slumber of winter. I see the changes in the garden every day I take the time to really look, the world taking place all around within and around me. Such does the garden state teach and to which I will always be a student. One of my favorite writers, Beverly Nichols, wrote –and I like this quotation so much it exists at the bottom of my weekly newsletter: “We both know, you and I, that if all men were gardeners, the world at last would be at peace”(285).

In 2004, long before “Jersey Shore” came ‘round, writer Helene Stapinski wrote for the New York Times some of her thoughts.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/04/nyregion/proudly-answering-to-jersey-girl.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1

In the article Ms. Stapinski includes pieces of her interview with two women, Bunnie and Nikki who say, “ ‘A Jersey girl is cool, calm,’ said Bunnie. ‘But you got that little bit of fire in you.’ “(My daughter, Gabi, would call this Sass.)
“’You GOTTA be feisty,’ added Nikki.“
Stapinski follows with, “ …the main requirement for every Jersey girl. Heart.”
Toward the end of the article, we are reminded that Martha Stewart is a Jersey Girl.
Now we are getting closer to my thoughts on the subject.
I was not born in New Jersey but now consider it home. For anyone who has seen me in person or seen my online photo, I am way more like an Ivory Girl, the Mary Ann, not the Ginger, of “Gilligan’s Island.” Which makes total sense in that I could not quite imagine my work as a garden designer taken seriously in a full length bejeweled gown and heels, as amusing a thought as that may be. In fact, I do not believe I have ever owned a bejeweled anything. The only big hair I ever had was in the late 80s and early 90s when I suffered through perms o’ plenty and used Paul MItchell Freeze and Shine to hold it still. And stiff to making brushing a painful proposition. I am glad that era has past.
In my opinion, having lived in the Garden State for over 20 years, having seen and met them in abundance, I know a Jersey Girl is a girl who:
1. Has her priorities in line; care of self, family, community; strong in her missions;
2. Isn’t afraid of hard work or of getting dirt under her fingernails;
3. Passionate; focused; purposeful;
4. Making efforts to put the “Garden” back into the “Garden State” on many fronts;
5. Multi-dimensional; she can grow her own veggies, fight fires literally and figuratively, settle disputes among children and still be ready for a night on the town at the end of the day;
6. Tuned in to sports even if she isn’t the biggest fan;
7. A champion for the underdog, even if that means taking one from a shelter;
But isn’t this girl more than just a “Jersey Girl”? It’s really the Modern American Girl (Is the Tom Petty song in your head?) the Girl of Right Now, doing it in the Garden….State…..

Works Cited
Nichols, Beverly. Green Grows the City. Portland, Oregon: 2006. Timber Press, 2006. First Published by Jonathan Cape, 1939.

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