In mid-October, my wife and I will be moving to a retirement community in Marlton, N.J., which is in the south-central part of the Garden State. During the past four and a half years, it has been a privilege and a delight for me to share with you my Nature 101 stories. I enjoyed working with a succession of Insider editors, Katie MacKenzie Hunter, Amy Augustine Grappone and now Ben Conant. Each of them helped me to nudge open the door a little wider for me to be your literary guide into the great outdoors.
Nature has always been the focus of my pen wherever I have lived, and New Jersey will be no exception. I will continue to write nature stories, which I am compiling in a book for my grandchildren.
Insider readers from city sidewalks to backwoods trails have greeted my stories with an explorer's mindset. It has been heartening to have someone tell me, "I read your Insider story this week and I never knew that. . ." or "I was surprised to learn in your Nature 101 column that. . ."
In all of my columns, the one feature out of my control has been the headline banner that Ben has pasted across the top. Each Tuesday morning as I open the Insider and look for my story, I have been amused and amazed by the irresistible power of the words in Ben's captions.
I wonder what will be the headline that Ben gives to this story. "Paul Takes a Hike to New Jersey" or "Paul Gets Lost in the New Jersey Pine Barrens?"
An unwritten rule for Insider news is that it must have a Concord connection, and I have dutifully respected and followed this rule. If I can convince Ben that New Jersey is a suburb of Concord, then he might look favorably on stories I send from New Jersey. But I'm only dreaming.
Since the Insider is firmly dedicated to stories anchored in local communities, giving readers an inside view of greater Concord and making it a superb paper worthy of its name, my column will soon fade away like the last petals on the last rose of summer.
But I still have a few more weeks to entertain you, arouse your curiosity and incite your inquisitiveness with my stories about the marvelous wonders of the natural world. I hope you will always enjoy the forever fascinating mysteries of nature.
Ben, please note that New Jersey is a neighbor to New Hampshire - at least in the alphabetical listing of the states.