And, just like that, we’ve arrived at the winter solstice.
Not sure why it comes as such a surprise to At Quaquanantuck. All the signs have been there: the Christmas decorations going up everywhere before anyone could even start to make a dent in leftover Halloween candy; the “holiday” music dropping in as the universal soundtrack for shoppers in every store; the leaves collecting on the curbs; the shorter and shorter days.
Maybe it’s surprising because of the number, and the scope, of the distractions. While it’s tempting to blame Covid—and our daily efforts to cope with the shapeshifting nature of the virus and its variants as well as the protocols drafted to deal with it—the pandemic and its global fallout are just a simmering, foundational base layer under the existential fear, anxiety and dismay streaming out of the news cycle:
Climate crisis. Environmental depredation. Bitter culture wars, tribalism, and political posturing blocking progress on addressing so many problems that affect us all. The ascendance of self-serving fiction over facts and the decline of adherence to the principles of equality and justice upon which this nation was founded—are there any truths anymore that can be held to be self-evident? Gun violence writ large once again in yet another school shooting. Economic instability for some; intractable poverty for others. Point of view trumping jurisprudence. Darkness gathers.
So the solstice can’t come soon enough. Every year at this time in the northern hemisphere, in different ways and different faiths, we welcome the return of the light as the Earth starts tilting little by little back toward the sun. Along with the light, we join together to celebrate love and family and community and brighter days ahead.
This year, rather than succumbing to the encroaching darkness, let’s take advantage of this opportunity to set aside our differences and the perspectives that divide us and reach out to celebrate our shared humanity. Let’s take a lesson from the unofficial Christmas truce of 1914 in World War I, when soldiers on both sides of the conflict emerged from the trenches and shared gestures of goodwill.
In line with this historic, all too brief, from-the-bottom-up cessation of hostilities—coupled with the Dickensian directive to honor Christmas in our hearts and “try to keep it all the year”—may we all try to climb out of the trenches we have dug for ourselves and seek common ground in our communities and in the larger life of the world. Let’s try to remember the quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead that the Quogue Wildlife Refuge so thoughtfully shares in much of its correspondence: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
However challenging it might be, perhaps we can reflect some of the gradual increase of light beyond the holiday season in our efforts to truly embrace the ideas of real peace on Earth and sincere good will to all women and men. Happy Solstice to all!
Looking for a Winter Wonderland? Try the Wildlife Refuge
The holiday season got a lovely launch over at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge on December 4 with more than 400 people descending on the Refuge for a very successful Light the Night Winter Trail Walk and Outdoor Holiday Market.
The welcoming lights of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge Outdoor Holiday Market on December 4. Below, Stefanie Wagner and the Gigi’s Jewelry team. —Photos courtesy of QWR
As QWR Associate Director Marisa Nelson reported to At Quaquanantuck: “Our first Outdoor Holiday Market was a fun success! Folks were kept a little warmer thanks to some toasty heat towers and complimentary hot cocoa. Patrons seemed to really enjoy shopping from local small businesses and meeting the artisans.
“In addition, we were thrilled with the turnout of 428 people who walked the Light the Night Winter Trail Walk. We have additional Light the Night walks scheduled for two Saturdays: January 29 and February 12 for anyone who missed it, or would love to experience it again.”
In the near term, Ms. Nelson advised that there is still space available in three upcoming walks: the Full Moon Night Hike on Friday, December 17; the Guided Forest Walk on Saturday, December 18; and the Sunset Solstice Hike on December 21.
The Full Moon Night Hike on Friday steps off at 4:30 p.m. Adults and families with children age 11 and up can enjoy an evening hike through the forest up to North Pond while looking and listening for nocturnal creatures and enjoying some night vision activities under the light of the moon. Cost is $10 for QWR members or $20 for non-members; reservations required at least 24 hours prior, as space is limited.
The 9 a.m. Guided Forest Walk on Saturday is designed for folks who are not comfortable walking the trails in the dark during full moon night hikes. Adults, seniors, and families can celebrate the full moon with this morning guided hike through the forest. Reservations and payment ($10, or $5 for QWR members) is required in advance.
The Sunset Solstice Hike is another echo of the standard Full Moon Night Hike. Stepping off at 4 p.m., adults and families with children over 11 will look and listen for crepuscular as well as nocturnal creatures and enjoy some of the same night vision activities that one might encounter on a full moon night hike. Cost is $10 for QWR members or $20 for non-members; reservations required at least 24 hours prior.
For more information on any of these programs, visit quoguewildliferefuge.org or call 631-653-4771.
Meanwhile, with Christmas arriving just one week from Saturday, there are some wonderful last-minute shopping options inside the Nature Center at the Refuge. Stocking stuffers, apparel and accessories, and even tasty treats for our avian friends are all available: QWR pewter ornaments; Audubon bird plush; Wild Republic plush animals; Wild Clingers; Nature Tubes; wooden frogs in two sizes; QWR embroidered hats; QWR hooded sweatshirts; hand-knit wrap-scarves; the children’s book “Moonglow”; and wine glasses, to name just a few items.
There is also a limited supply of birdseed, including black oil sunflower, wild bird mix, and a surfeit of suet cakes.
Shopping in the Nature Center is from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; masks are required indoors.
Feast Your Eyes on “White Christmas” at Quogue Library Saturday
The next in-person Film Feast at the library is coming up this Saturday, December 18, at 6 p.m. when the featured film will be “White Christmas,” the 1954 holiday feature directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.
One of the first movies filmed in VistaVision and featuring classic songs by Irving Berlin—including the timeless title tune (first heard in the 1942 Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby romp “Holiday Inn”)—this comedy/romance/musical spins a yarn about two successful song-and-dance men who become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.
The Variety review of a preview screening in December of 1953 reported that “Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, along with VistaVision, keep the entertainment going in this fancifully staged production, clicking well.”
Writing about a restored version of the film that returned to the big screen briefly in 2008, a staffer at Total Film wrote: “This was the ‘Mamma Mia!’ of its day, a nostalgic blast of popular Irving Berlin show tunes gift-wrapped in new-fangled VistaVision that danced its way to the top of the 1954 box office.”
The “price” of admission for this holiday themed Film Feast will be a potluck dish to serve at least six people and a beverage to share. Masks required; festive holiday attire optional. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 631-653-4224, ext. 101, to register or for more information.
Just When You Thought You Had a Handle on Village History
Sometimes, but not always, a search for something in the past can lead.to discoveries about something else that is even more intriguing.
Consider as a case in point the recent search by Southampton Town Historian and Quogue Historical Society Curator Julie Greene and QHS board member Pi Gardiner for some kind of Quogue Christmas story in the QHS archives. One item they came across seemed a likely candidate: a perfect fit for the snappy headline, “When Coal in Your Stocking Was a Good Thing.” Here’s the item, taken from The County Review of Thursday, December 19, 1935 (boldface mine):
“There were over three hundred players at the card party given by the Quogue Women’s Athletic Association in the Community House last week. Miss Julia Spatowski of Jamesport won the door prize of a ton of coal. George W. Still won a half ton of coal for the highest score in bridge and D. Gardiner won the half ton of coal for the highest score in 500.”
That’s a lot of coal in winnings; two tons of it to be precise. But wait … what’s that about the Quogue Women’s Athletic Association? Intrigued, the ever diligent Raiders of the Lost Ark Ms. Greene and Ms. Gardiner followed up on this tasty lead. And this is what they found:
“The Quogue Women’s Athletic Association (known as the QWAA) was formed in 1935. Basketball was among the sports they played, but they would only play against teams that followed the men’s rules.” No shrinking violets in the QWAA.
“In addition to athletics, the QWAA provided food baskets at holiday times for the sick and needy, raising funds through strawberry festivals, beach picnics, suppers, dances, fashion shows, and other entertainments throughout the year.” Among those entertainments was the timeless gem “Aunt Samanthy Rules the Roost, A Farce in Three Acts” by Charles George. Time and place for the action of the play were “The Dawn of Woman Suffrage” and the “Home of Samanthy Simpkins of Simpkinsville.” And while the play may have been written by a man, all the parts—male and female—were played by the women of the QWAA.
The QHS has already expressed hopes that the Hampton Theatre Company will consider reviving this storied success, but several issues need to be resolved first: namely, first locating a copy of the script and then ascertaining who holds the rights to this priceless IP.
After establishing from the group’s constitution that it was founded “to participate in various athletics and aid in charitable work,” a follow up investigation yielded another clipping. This one revealed that the QWAA had elected Mrs. Mae Sacks president at the annual meeting, which was followed by a “novel program” marking the group’s first anniversary.
“The entertainment took the form of an Amateur Hour ove Broadcasting Station QWAA,” the clipping reads. “Kathryn Golding was Graham McCracker, announcer, and Eunice Raynor was Major Woes, conducting the amateur.”
After listing various cast members and the comical names of their characters, the article reveals that “Ballots were cast for the prizewinners: the Hula Girls received first, the Eavesdroppers second, and Buzz Wood third.”
At Quaquanantuck is beyond grateful that the QHS has shared this wonderful treasure from the past, and hopes that there are athletic and charity minded women living in our community now who will be inspired to revive this spirited group.
Library Programming in High Gear for December and January
Lots of engaging options in programs coming up at the Quogue Library.
Artist Garrett Chingery’s “The Ark” exhibition, featuring a selection of new paintings of wild and domestic animals from around the world, will remain on view in the library Art Gallery through January 4.
An “Intro to Google” technology class led by the amazing tech assistant Amber will be offered on Saturday, December 18, at 10 a.m. Participants are invited to bring a device and follow along as Amber introduces all the different apps that Google has to offer. Discussion will include Slides, Docs and Sheets, all available for free. Call the library at 631-653-4224, ext. 101, to register.
A Teen Night Out program on Sunday, December 19, at 4 p.m. will feature a screening of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Registration for Youth Services (Quogue Library) begins on December 20.
Exercise classes at the library will be virtual through December, with pilates offered on Mondays at 10 a.m. and cardio on Tuesdays, also at 10 a.m.
The library will host a Winter Floral Arrangement class led by the exceptionally talented Rori of Flowers by Rori on Saturday, January 8, at 2:30 p.m. There is a $30 fee for materials for this in-person, adult class; limited to 15 people.
The computer animated film “Ice Age” will be screened for the Family Movie Night on Saturday, January 8, at 4 p.m. All ages welcome for this in-person program.
The next meeting of the Adult Fiction Book Club will be held on Sunday, January 9 at noon, when the book under discussion will be “The Nature of Fragile Things” by Susan Meissner.
For ages 15 and up there will be an “Adulting 101: Resume Writing” in-person workshop on Sunday, January 16 at 2:30 p.m.
An in-person program on “Botanical Prints on Old Book Pages” will be offered at the library on Saturday, January 22, at 1 p.m. Participants will learn how to transfer images of favorite plants and flowers to make foam “stamps” that will be printed onto old book pages. At the end of the workshop, the prints will be mounted onto wood.
There is a $10 charge for materials due before class. No previous art experience needed. Participants are requested to bring images of plants that they would like to use.
For more information or to register for these programs, call 631-653-4224, ext. 101; or visit www.quoguelibrary.org.
As always, the Quogue Library continues to offer a wide array of programming for children, teens/tweens, families, and adults of all ages. Getting more information and registering is easy: visit www.quoguelibrary.org and simply click on the flier for any program that catches your interest and a registration link or instructions on how to register will pop up.
Update from “Write America” Founder Roger Rosenblatt
Currently Crowdcasting from Byrd’s Books in Bethel, Connecticut, “Write America” continues to offer programs aimed at bridging some of the widening divisions currently eroding the foundations of our republic.
In a recent missive to the legions of writers and friends connected to the program, Write America founder Roger Rosenblatt provided an update and a holiday salutation, excerpted here.
“Just a brief account of our recent and upcoming activities,” Mr. Rosenblatt wrote, “and good wishes to you all.
“The past few weeks have been sort of heady, with the appearance of Norman Lear, the 99-year-old new kid on our block, and 95-year-old Alan Bergman, a kid in comparison. So impressive to see how these two memorable writers, working in such different genres, have given their creative lives to the common comedy, sweetness, and torments of human behavior. They were fulfilling Write America’s purposes long before there ever was us.”
After providing details on the last reading of the first year, by Juan Felipe Herrera and David Tomas Martinez, on December 13, and a special event with Richard Ford and Bruce Weber celebrating the memory of E.L. Doctorow on December 14, Mr. Rosenblatt went on to note that “From time to time, we will do these appreciations of the greats we knew. On February 9, 2022, Billy Collins, the most appealing public poet since Whitman, and the word-playful novelist Robert Reeves will honor their friend Frank McCourt.
“In another kind of special event, on January 5, I’ll have a conversation with Al Gore, who has recently joined us, about his invaluable books on climate change (politics too, probably). And on January 24, 2022, Jules Feiffer and Garry Trudeau will talk to each other about cartooning, of which both have made high art, suggesting how many essential words may be implied in the lines that make up a drawing.
“But before I get too far ahead of myself, continued thanks to you all for sustaining our enterprise with such gusto and a rich variety of gifts. Watching you each week, as you read your work and chat with one another, and with Alice, one is stunned with admiration at the lives and minds you put before our audiences. The individual power of each of you is only surpassed by the collective power, which is breathtaking. (I’m glad we’ll keep an archive.) And the evident pleasure you take in one another’s work is – well, one sighs. Our words are our bond.
“Since writers take no holidays, I won’t wish you a happy one – except at those quietly rapturous moments when you sit back and smile (just a little) at a well-wrought phrase, line, or sentence. You may also take some satisfaction in knowing that little by little, Write America may be proving its point. People are people, available to the same joys, shames, loves, and griefs to which we give expression every day of our miserable, neurotic, ecstatic lives.”
All programs begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. For more information or to register, visit the Byrd’s Books website at byrdsbooks.com/write-america-reading-our-country.
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