Back on March 26, when At Quaquanantuck ran under the headline “Week Two,” did anyone envision that the May 7 column would carry the headline “Week Eight”? The At Quaquanantuck author certainly didn’t. But then, nobody really knew anything back then.
With the ground continually shifting under our feet and the compass spinning, it can sometimes be instructive to look back to where we have come from to get our bearings. The March 19 column, for example, was headlined “A Different World” and offered this assessment: “No one has ever seen anything like this, and it must be said, despite all the modeling and prognosticating of all the scientists, medical professionals, economists, journalists, government officials and statisticians, no one can really say for sure how it’s going to play out.”
Now eight weeks in—with millions of man hours dedicated to emergency response, mitigation efforts, research, and hit-or-miss federal and state policy making on the fly—and still, no one can really say for sure how it’s going to play out.
Go back farther, to a time in January or February when life seemed more predictable and more pleasant—or at least much easier to deal with—and a different reaction kicks in. Along with all the other horrifying and deleterious aspects of the pandemic, the effect of so much existential uncertainty in the present brings home with a wallop the poignancy of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Or, a little bluesier, Otis Redding’s “You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry.”
After eight weeks, having adjusted as best we can to how life has to be now, we hear almost louder than anything else the relentless ticking of the clock, time and our lives sliding through our fingers like the wet sand of a dribble castle. It doesn’t matter how many Zoom rooms we visit, how many memes and TikTok and YouTube clips we share, how many virtual workouts and classes we stream, how many walks we take, how many hours we binge TV, how well supplied and appointed our jails may be. We cannot help but suffer the malaise unto despair of the prisoner serving a sentence for which there is no specified end date.
Even the most upbeat among us can probably now identify, even if only in passing, with Hamlet: “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!”
Grasping at that flitting thing with feathers, At Quaquanantuck continues to look for signs of light in the possibility of learning lessons from all the tests of the pandemic, tests of our acceptance, patience, tolerance, willingness to serve, and our ability to come together and work together in a common cause, to name only a few. And what are the lessons?
Consider all the men and women now honored collectively as the people serving “on the front lines.” We rightly honor them and thank them daily for their commitment, no matter the sacrifice, no matter their fears or exhaustion, to do whatever is necessary to take care of us—all of us— regardless of our status, race, political party, gender identity, religious beliefs, citizenship, national origin or any of the other identifiers that too often divide us from one another.
And while their heroism is, again rightly, front and center in these terrifying circumstances, they have always shown this commitment: in good times and bad; in peace and wartime; when daily life is proceeding “normally” or after 9/11 or natural disasters; in cities with all the crises attending high population density and rural villages with different classes of emergencies.
Courtesy of the trial by fire that is Covid-19, now we can see clearly what a debt we owe these people, and one lesson is that it is vitally important to recognize their heroism and express our deep appreciation and gratitude for their service now, and even more so into the future as we make our way into whatever the world will become.
A more important lesson might be that, in addition to saluting these outstanding men and women, we resolve to be inspired by them and to do our best to become more like them, not only in emergencies but in our everyday lives: To look out for one another, to care for each other, and our neighbors, and people we don’t know, whoever they may be and wherever they may come from. If we can all do that, we can rest a little easier, knowing that we ourselves will be cared for in turn.
Another possible lesson could come from pulling back to look at the big picture of our national response to the pandemic. Even given the propensity of pundits and, yes, many journalists to exaggerate the significance of certain statistics to make their points, it seems crystal clear at this point to anyone who is paying attention that responding to a national—and global—crisis along party lines is, at best, not a workable solution and at worst a recipe for disaster and tragedy of epic proportions.
So, instead of pining for the days when government officials and the electorate dropped their posturing and rigid party positions so they could unite to defeat a common enemy (see: World War II), the most important lesson of all from the pandemic could be that it is up to us as individuals to recognize that coming together is essential if we are to vanquish a foe that is a threat to all of us. Holding fast to ideas and principles that divide us can only push us toward the precipice of annihilation.
In the end, while there is still no way of knowing for certain what lies ahead, let’s hope we will have learned enough from the lessons of the coronavirus to have some say in shaping the world we will all have to inhabit, together.
And so it goes in the time of the novel coronavirus today.
The Mayor’s Corner: Keeping Residents Up to Speed
The May 6 letter to Quogue Village residents from Mayor Peter Sartorius is chockablock with Covid-19 PAUSE updates; important information for voters; helpful tips on receiving packages; projected opening date for the Quogue Market; and reminders on proper coronavirus protocols.
As many readers already know, the best way to keep up to speed is to get on Hizzoner’s mailing list. Send an email to ABuhl@villageofquogueny.gov and ask to be put on the email list. The other way to see the most current, and all the Mayor’s letters, is to go to www.villageofquogueny.gov and click on Announcements (www.villageofquogueny.gov/polAnnouncements.cfm). While on the Village website, be sure to check out the home page for other news and Covid-19 updates.
Herewith a preview of what’s to be found in the Mayor’s letter this week:
A Longer Pause—Governor Cuomo has made it clear that New York State will be reopening in stages, with timing in different regions based on multiple metrics related to Covid-19 infections and preparedness. Based on applying these metrics to Suffolk County, the Mayor believes NY Pause will be extended past May 15 in our area, but remains hopeful that there will be some relaxation of rules regarding the designation and operation of essential businesses.
Contact Tracer Opportunity—Decisions on reopening different regions will also be tied to whether or not there is a team of contact tracers in place to follow up with the contacts of a person having a positive test for Covid-19. The program is being developed in New York along with Bloomberg Philanthropies and other organizations. Anyone interested in serving as a contact tracer can click here or go to the following link in order to apply: https://careers-pcgus.icims.com/jobs/search?searchKeyword=Community&searchLocation=12781-12816-New+York&ss=1.
Masks: Wear Them—One of Governor Cuomo’s nightly letters this week (subscriptions available by clicking here or visiting now.ny.gov/page/s/coronavirus-updates) led with a stern reminder on masks: “We all saw pictures from the weekend of people out and about in parks and in public spaces — some were not wearing masks. Let me say this as clearly as possible. If you are out in public, and especially if you are in a crowded area — you must wear a mask (or face covering). It is the smart and responsible thing to do and it is also the law.”
Hizzoner’s interpretation: Have a mask with you whenever you are outside on any public streets or other areas and put it over your mouth and nose whenever you are in the vicinity of other people, including walkers, joggers and cyclists.
A Good Tip on Packages—Courtesy of Quogue resident John Bick, the Mayor relayed this tip for signing up with UPS to help assure that packages get delivered directly to one’s house while at the same time relieving pressure on the local post office: Google search UPS My Choice for home (or click here) and sign up. The premium membership, available at a modest price, is best. Then select UPS SurePost Packages to UPS Ground. This will help assure that packages will stay within the UPS system and be delivered to one’s home notwithstanding a shipper’s selection of final delivery through the US Postal Service. Hizzoner signed off on this helpful suggestion with the following qualification: “Good luck. There are no warranties with this tip.”
Testing—A new Covid-19 testing facility has opened in Southampton. Patients will have to be screened in advance and given an appointment. See the Village website’s Announcements page (click here or visit http://www.villageofquogueny.gov/polAnnouncements.cfm) for details.
Elections—Governor Cuomo has postponed Village elections from June to September. School Board elections and school and library budget voting will be held on Tuesday, June 9. The process will be conducted solely by mail, and the Quogue School District will soon be sending out voting materials.
Shop Local—The Quogue Market expects to reopen on Friday, May 22, at the start of Memorial Day weekend. At Quaquanantuck joins the Mayor in urging all residents to patronize the Market and all the other Quogue stores and businesses, using the Mayor’s word, “vigorously.”
Rules of the Road. Again.—Although it’s likely that readers of this column and everyone on the Mayor’s email list are knowledgeable about, and observing, these simple rules, here they are again: Walk and jog on the left side of the road; cycle on the right. Have a mask with you and make sure you are wearing it, at least whenever you are in the vicinity of other people.
Common courtesy—Again, the Mayor and At Quaquanantuck speak with one voice: Clean up after your dog. As the Mayor noted: “There is a lot of room for improvement, unfortunately.” Also, when driving in Quogue, slow down. Most folks have a lot of time on their hands these days, so no need to hurry. And there are a lot more pedestrians and cyclists of all sizes and abilities out and about, so let’s be careful out there.
Input Sought on Hazard Mitigation—Quogue is included in Suffolk County’s federally-mandated Hazard Mitigation Plan, and citizen input is needed. All residents are encouraged to spend a few minutes filling out the survey, by clicking here or visiting www.surveymonkey.com/r/Suffolk2020.
The Nature Corner
In addition to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge itself, everyone in the village, and indeed everyone on the East End should be exceptionally grateful to have the wonderful resource of all the fabulous people whose careful stewardship and generous community spirit make the Refuge and all its programs such a treasure for our village and for all of us as individuals.
Anytime anyone in our region has a question about flora, fauna or ecology of the area, a quick email to the very appropriate email address firstname.lastname@example.org will invariably get a friendly response with basic information as well as links to a more comprehensive exploration of the topic question.
A few weeks back, At Quaquanantuck sent a photo of holes in the ground to email@example.com and the speedy response from Refuge Assistant Director Marisa Nelson allowed me to share with readers a wealth of information about digger bees (AtQuaquanantuck.com; April 9, 2020, “Week Four”).
This week, faithful reader Paula Prentis sent in a photo (above) of a horseshoe crab with a number of mollusks attached to its shell. While I had seen these limpet-like creatures before many times on the backs of horseshoe crabs and affixed to rocks and other structures, I couldn’t think of the name right away and so I forwarded the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In short order I had not one but two replies, one from Marisa Nelson and one from Benefit Coordinator and Administrative Assistant Kimberly Stever. Integrating and synthesizing for the benefit of readers their replies and information at the links provided, it can be reported here that these creatures are commonly known as slipper shells, or lady slipper shells, and the natural history and science attending their biology and life cycle is—as happens so often in nature—both bizarre and fascinating.
Although At Quaquanantuck is no prude, I will admit that I found the Latin name, Crepidula fornicata, a bit suggestive, bordering on the lewd. And then in the Wikipedia entry, in a list of other common names of this marine gastropod mollusc in the family Calyptraeidae—Atlantic slippersnail, boat shell, quarterdeck shell, Atlantic slipper limpet, e.g.—I came across the adults-only, disconcertingly explicit other name: fornicating slipper snail.
But wait: there’s more. This species of medium-sized sea snail naturally transitions, in human parlance, to suit a colony’s reproductive needs. They often stack up on top of each other for convenient reproduction. The bottom individual is larger than the ones at the top of the stack and is inevitably a female, but the top individuals are smaller and males. All common slipper shells start their lives as males, but some change to females as they grow older. A waterborne hormone regulates the female characteristics.
This being a family column, it’s important to note that the following is a direct quote from one of the websites: “If a new slipper shell comes on top of the lowest animal in the stack, it will have male function (copulation occurs by means of a penis), until another individual comes on top of him. He will then change sex to female function.” Or, as the other website attests, “if the ratio of males to females gets too high, the male reproductive organs will degenerate and the animal will become female. Sex change, therefore, is not precisely timed but depends on the presence of other individuals in the stack.”
Readers interested in learning more can visit www.edc.uri.edu/restoration/html/gallery/invert/shell.htm and/or https://life.bio.sunysb.edu/marinebio/westmeadow/crepidula.html.
Where else but the Quogue Wildlife Refuge could one turn for this kind of explanation of some of the mysteries of natural science? And, especially in these challenging times, the fantastic resource for mind, body and spirit that is the Refuge is desperately in need of support.
A Special Appeal: At Quaquanantuck learned too late this week about the QWR’s participation in a new #GivingTuesdayNow initiative on May 5 set up to help nonprofit institutions that are facing funding losses because of the coronavirus. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be Tuesday; any day is a good day to show support for the Refuge with a donation.
Executive Director Mike Nelson’s appeal for #GivingTuesdayNow donations tells the whole story:
“We are glad to be able to be here for you and everyone in the community during this challenging time. Our trails are currently open, our resident animals are being well cared for, and the Refuge is pleased to be bringing free environmental education programming to the public through #QWRNatureNews.
“Due to the need to cancel or postpone many fundraisers, events, and programming, we are now asking if you would consider making a donation to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge to help us continue to fulfill our mission to the community, and meet our operating expenses. Donations of any amount will be greatly appreciated.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff, we wish you and your loved ones safety, wellness, and peace during this unusual time. Thank you for your continued support.”
Quogue Library Ready for Second Virtual Great Decisions Program
If it seems like the last Foreign Policy Association Great Decisions Discussion program hosted by the library was only two weeks ago … that’s because it was. So it might seem to some residents like it’s too soon to be having another one coming up this weekend. But, sure enough, the next one in the series, focusing on “India and Pakistan,” is scheduled for this Saturday, May 9, at 5 p.m.
With David Rowe once again serving as the moderator and Susan Perkins as the facilitator, Saturday’s discussion will consider the issues involved in assessing how the changing status of Kashmir will affect India and Pakistan, both economically and politically.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode a wave of Hindu nationalism to a historic reelection in 2019. His first order of business was to revoke the special status granted to the Kashmir region, inflaming the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Following a brief video outlining the issues, the discussion will focus on the competing interests in the two nations and the impact of Modi’s maneuver.
Patrons are requested to register early by emailing email@example.com to receive a Zoom meeting login and password. This year’s FPA Briefing Book is available for purchase in digital form from the FPA website, www.fpa.org, or by clicking here. The FPA website also has a complete list of topics for this year’s Great Decisions Discussions.
The Foreign Policy Association Great Decisions Discussion program provides background information and policy options for the eight most critical issues facing America each year, serving as the focal text for discussion groups across the country. For more information, visit www.fpa.org.
Another library program of note this week will be the first “Zoom Yoga with Jillian for Adults” session for all levels on Friday, May 8, at 10 a.m. Three more sessions will be offered on consecutive Fridays, May 15, 22, and 29. Yet another approach to coping with quarantine, by using yoga to deepen the mind-body connection. Register and obtain login info by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual programs for the littlest patrons include: the Zoom version of Miss Pat’s Story Time for the 2- to 5-year-old set at 11 a.m. every Thursday morning through May 28; a “Mother’s Day Story & Craft” children’s Zoom session on Saturday, May 9, at 11 a.m.; and the “Kids Zoom Yoga Series with Jillian” for ages 6 to 8 continuing on Wednesdays, May 13 and 20, at 4 p.m. The program is dedicated to helping children cope with being in quarantine while promoting a healthy body and lifestyle.
There will also be a “Magical & Messy” children’s Zoom session teaching magic tricks to kids age 4 to 11 on two Tuesdays, May 12 and May 26 at 4:30 p.m. The sessions will be led by a writer from “The Carbonaro Effect” and so-called “fun experts” from “SO Fun City.” Students will build their own magic tricks; parents will receive a list of household materials needed when they register by emailing email@example.com.
Again, for more information, or to register and receive instructions on how to connect for any of the library’s virtual programs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Days of Future Past: Tales from the Pandemic of 1918
At Quaquanantuck received too late for publication this week a charming story from the Quogue Historical Association about the Quogue Life Saving Station and neighbors helping each other out during the pandemic of 1918.
Tune in to next week’s column for the whole story. And please remember that anyone with anecdotes about their relatives, photos, or more detailed information about life in Quogue or the experiences of Quogue residents during the Flu Pandemic of 1918 is encouraged to share with readers by emailing AtQuaq@gmail.com.
Independent Films and Commentary from PAC
While technical challenges have delayed the uploading of commentary on “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band,” the plan is to have commentary available for at least three of the four films currently on offer at the PAC website, www.whbpac.org, by early next week.
The first-run independent and foreign films roster includes: “The Whistlers,” “Once Were Brothers,” “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes” and “Corpus Cristi.” Rentals are $12, with $6 going to the distributor and $6 going to the PAC, at www.whbpac.org. Trailers and ticket information are available on the PAC website.
Your Comments Welcome
At Quaquanantuck is happy to provide a forum for civil discussion of village issues and initiatives and welcomes all comments. All are encouraged to share observations, ideas and opinions by writing to AtQuaq@gmail.com.
At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes and photos of interest to Quogue residents, even if the items are being sent from winter addresses or other parts of the country—or the world. Friends and family who enjoy all things Quogue are encouraged to email AtQuaq@gmail.com and ask to be put on the mailing list.