Jennifer Walsh, a former esthetician and now a wellness expert specializing in the healing aspects of nature, is one of the rare seasonal residents, also known as “tenters,” of a Methodist tent colony near the beach in Ocean Grove, NJ. . close-knit community, consisting of 114 canvas tents that can be attached to small cabins, all of which are side by side, was founded in 1869.
“You don’t have to be a Methodist anymore” to live there, said Mrs. Walsh, whose parents rented a tent from the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in the 1980s. “We were the rogues that came in. Now there is a waiting list of twelve years. So many people want to live here, especially since the pandemic.”
The tents, which are on platforms, will go up on May 15 and come down again on September 15. Ms. Walsh, 51, has the place to herself at the start and end of the season. In between, she shares the summer home with her parents, devotees flying over from Florida.
As for the other three seasons, you’ll find her on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where she develops corporate wellness programs and leads mindfulness walks in Central Park.
TAKE THIS I wake up at 5:30 am because the sun is coming through the canvas and it gets really bright in the tent. The first thing I do is put on a bathing suit. The beach is two blocks away. I go for a walk along the waterfront or go for a swim when the sun comes up. Then I come back to the tent and take my first shower of the day.
MAIN STREET I like to make my own coffee, but on Sundays I walk to Main Street. It is the only place in town with shops. I get a cappuccino at Odyssey Coffee and pick up the paper at Pathway Market. Back at the tent I make avocado toast with an egg, sit on the porch and read. I don’t have a cooker, just a hob and a toaster/airfryer. My sink is 100 years old.
TENT VOTE The tents are about 12 meters apart. When I’m in my kitchen, I hear my neighbor running water in her kitchen. You can hear people snoring and sneezing. Especially at night you should use a tent voice. Our tent and cabin together are maybe 600 square feet – basically the size of my apartment. You must really love your family.
CHURCH TIMES TWO I go with my parents to a Catholic church in Asbury Park, which is next to Ocean Grove. Then we come back and listen to the music at the end of the Methodist service in the Great Auditorium. It is a very nice old wooden building. They compare the acoustics of the building to Carnegie Hall.
DOG WATCH, DECOMPRESS I put on running clothes and run to Asbury Park. The Wonder Bar there has a Yappy Hour where people bring their dogs. There are pools for them to play in. It’s my place to catch my breath, stretch and watch the dogs. From there I go to the farmers market and then go back. Second shower of the day.
POSTCARD PRETTY Tourists walk past the tents all day long. They always have the same questions: do you have electricity, running water? People take pictures here all the time. Our street is very Instagrammable, very Americana with flags hanging over the walkways. You go back in time a bit when you are here.
NEIGHBORS We water each other’s plants when someone goes away for a few days. We all share our tomatoes; it’s like our own personal CSA. A few months ago, a neighbor who was an icon in the city died. It was so sad. Now we have a new family with three small children. It is the circle of life.
PLANS IN THE SAND I burn easily, so I don’t spend much time in the sun. Around 3 am I put on my bathing suit and a giant cover and a big hat and sat down on the sand. I work a few hours. I have a laptop and wifi in the tent, but I like to write my plan for the week by hand.
SUNDAY OUTSIDE THE CAMPUS A friend of mine lives full time in one of the Victorian houses here. During the pandemic, he started what he calls “Sunday off campus.” We actually get into a car and go somewhere. There are so many great restaurants in towns along the Jersey Shore.
SLEEP BY THE SEA By the time we get back I’m tired. My phone goes to sleep at 9:15am, notifications off. I’m in bed at 9:30 am, out at 10 am. When it rains, nothing beats the sound of raindrops on a canvas roof. I sleep better here than anywhere else.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Jennifer Walsh on Twitter @BehindTheBrand and on Instagram at @thejenniferwalsh.