One might think—with all the advances in science and technology and artificial intelligence capable of modeling millions of meteorological scenarios and statistical probabilities in seconds—that forecasting the weather should have become a reasonably exact discipline by now.
And in many cases, it has. Witness the recent dumping of 20-plus inches of snow on the East End, which was almost precisely what the forecasters predicted, right down to the time when the falling flakes would begin tapering off.
But, in many other instances—where hurricanes will make landfall, for instance—predictions can range all over the map, without one of them getting it right. And if, because of climate change or insufficient data or the vagaries of the jet stream, accurate weather forecasting is still so difficult for learned humans, how fair is it to expect more reliable predictions from a woodchuck?
Time was, of course, when there was only one whistle-pig that people across the nation turned to for prognostication about the early or on-time arrival of spring: Punxsutawney Phil. But now it seems that plenty of towns in America have their own groundhog forecasters, from Pierre C. Shadeaux of New Iberia, Louisiana, to Unadilla Bill of Unadilla, Nebraska, to Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Phil’s rivals in Lancaster County, PA: Mount Joy Minnie and Octorara Orphie.
The more groundhogs there are forecasting the arrival of spring in different parts of the country, the higher the odds that there will be disagreement about whether a particular groundpig’s sighting of its shadow, or not, is consistent with the experience of all the other marmots.
Add to that the issue of hibernation, from which the typical groundhog could reasonably be expected to emerge in late March or April. This means that rousting them out of their burrows to check for their shadow on February 2 involves waking them more than one month early from their long winter’s nap, so how likely is it that they’ll be in any kind of shape to offer up a reliable prediction?
And then we come to our own village, and the efforts of Chris Osborne, aka the Big Chill, and Bill Nowak, aka Thunder Stache, to establish a tradition of ceremoniously consulting a land beaver for an indication of when spring will arrive. This year, Big Chill and Thunder Stache brought their top hat road show to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge in hopes of conferring with the genial woodchuck who lives there, QWR Quincy.
For the safety of all in these days of Omicron, the two men planned to interview the Refuge’s resident rodent with no spectators present, little suspecting that he was suffering from an ear infection that had been spotted by his caretakers and was, for want of a better description, under the weather. Having recently returned from a trip to the vet, he was tucked up securely in his burrow and unlikely to emerge for a few days while his medications did their work.
Undeterred, Big Chill and Thunder Stache consulted with some of the other fauna residing at the Refuge and went on to deliver the verdict in a pronouncement that nibbled at the edges of rhetorical rhapsody. His address was captured in a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1uIdQ26i18.
In a text interview following the event, Big Chill revealed his source: “While recovering from his vet visit, he spoke to the hawk this morning, who relayed to the Big Chill, “I will go with my pal Hal [Holtsville Hal] and predict an early spring as I did not see my shadow.” At this time, BC said, there are already plans in formation for a large fundraising event at the Refuge on Groundhog Day in 2023.
QWR Associate Director Marisa Nelson confirmed at least some of Big Chill’s account: “Yes, he is recovering from an ear infection and is doing well,” she wrote. As a point of interest, Ms. Nelson added that “last year he emerged from hibernation April 17. (This year he didn’t actually start due to being at the vet.)”
Meanwhile, Ms. Nelson wrote, “We thought it would be fun to promote our ‘Quincy the Quogue Groundhog’ t-shirts, which are for sale. They are $13 each, with a 10 percent discount for 2022 members. We have a mix of adult and kid sizes, and they were designed by QWR Educator Tony Valderrama. All proceeds support QWR.”
Following the recent snowstorm, Ms. Nelson said, lots of area residents enjoyed the trails at the Refuge on cross country skis and snowshoes. For those who don’t have their own, QWR rents them out, free to 2022 members, $20 per person for non-members. Equipment is provided on a first come, first served basis, she said, and it’s best to call the office the day of to check on trail conditions and times for rental.
February is member appreciation month at the Refuge, so if you haven’t renewed your membership for 2022, now would be a great time to re-up.
To check out what’s coming up at the Refuge, visit www.quoguewildliferefuge.org and click on the Events drop down.
The Mayor’s Corner: A Salute to Those Who Serve
In a Mid-Winter Update email sent out at the end of January, Mayor Peter Sartorius started out with a very well deserved shout out to the crew members of the Village Highway Department, who worked for 36 hours plus to keep our streets passable during the recent snowmageddon.
“The Quogue Highway Department, composed of six hard-working men with the best dispositions you would ever want to find, worked on Friday night, all day on Saturday until 2 a.m. on Sunday morning and then again during the day on Sunday. The clean-up continues this week. If you have the opportunity, please thank them for all their hard work. The Police and Fire Departments also responded to several calls during the height of the storm. As Mayor, I must say that knowing that these very dedicated and competent people are on duty during events like this storm gives me a great deal of comfort.”
In the email, Hizzoner went on to get village residents caught up on a whole bunch of news around Village Hall. To recap, for those not on the Mayor’s email list:
First, despite the strong northeast winds during the big storm, the dune and steps at the Village Beach thankfully remained intact.
The Persons of the Year for 2021, named at the December meeting of the Village Board, are Lynda Confessore, Sally McGrath, Paul Mejean and Barbara Sartorius, the members of the committee that oversaw the spectacular renovation and expansion of the Quogue Library.
In January, the Village Board appointed Jonathan Stanton as a new full-time officer on the Quogue Village Police force, and promoted 12-year veteran Bobby Hammel to the rank of Sergeant. The Quogue Village Police Department, meanwhile, named Detective Alex Gladding the 2021 Officer of the Year. At Quaquanantuck congratulates all three of these officers for earning these well deserved honors.
January 1 saw a changing of the guard at the Quogue Fire Department as Ben Hubbard completed a two-year term as Chief and was succeeded by Mike Nelson, executive director of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge. At Quaquanantuck joins the Mayor in thanking both Chiefs, and all the men and women of the QVFD, for their service to residents of the village.
Deanna Miller has joined the top-notch team of professionals in the Village Office. Since she will typically be the first face residents see when they come to the window in the front lobby, all are encouraged to give her a warm welcome.
And, finally, the Mayor reminded residents that work was completed in November on the new sidewalk from the bridge to the Village Beach: perfect for a winter walk.
Historical Society Provides Two Exhibitions for Library Art Gallery
Taking beautiful advantage of the return to in-person services and programming at the Quogue Library, an in-person reception is slated at the Library Art Gallery on Saturday, February 12, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in celebration of two exhibitions running through March 1.
Featuring photographs by George Bradford Brainerd from the Brooklyn Museum, “QUEEN OF THE HAMPTONS: Quogue on the Cusp, circa 1875” looks at Quogue’s rapid rise as a preeminent Long Island summer resort at the end of the 19th century.
Also on view through March 8 is the related exhibition, “Wish You Were Here … Early 20th Century Postcards of Quogue” from the collection of the Quogue Historical Society.
At the reception on Saturday, Southampton Town Historian and Quogue Historical Society Curator Julie Greene will offer commentary on the two exhibitions.
At Quaquanantuck once again salutes Ms. Greene and QHS board member Pi Gardiner for their willingness to provide this column with in-depth context for all things historical. To wit, a release from the QHS this week tells us that when photographer George Bradford Brainerd traveled to Long Island in the mid-1870s, the small hamlet of Quogue “was on the cusp of becoming a bustling summer resort. As hyped in an 1877 Long Island Rail Road guide: “it is unsurpassed … Quogue stands pre-eminent … Known as “QUEEN OF THE HAMPTONS, Quogue rules supreme.”
Lured by the same wonderful attributes that continue to draw visitors today, people began journeying to the south shore by stagecoach as early as the 1770s. In 1835, when the first regularly scheduled stagecoach service was established, Quogue was the second overnight stop on the three-day trip from Brooklyn to East Hampton.
Just 10 years later, in 1844, the Long Island Railroad introduced direct service to Riverhead. “Every thrifty and intelligent farmer formed the habit of taking in summer boarders for four months of the year,” one summer lodger wrote.
In 1870, the railroad was extended south from Riverhead and two trains a day stopped in Quogue, bringing even more summer visitors. By 1880, 13 boarding houses and hotels lined Quogue Street and the village flourished, becoming “undoubtedly, in proportion to the number of its inhabitants, the wealthiest town in L.I.” (History of Suffolk County, 1882.)
Traveling to Quogue in the mid-1870s on the newly opened South Branch railroad, and using cameras he developed himself, George Bradford Brainerd captured views of the village as a fledgling summer retreat that are at once striking and starkly beautiful.
The nine stunning images of Quogue in the mid-1870s displayed at the library are modern digital prints enlarged from scanned collodion silver glass wet-plate negatives. The glass-plate negatives, dating from 1870 to 1885—and each meticulously labeled with the scene and subject—were given to the Brooklyn Museum in the early 20th century.
Wish You Were Here … Early 20th Century Postcards of Quogue
The golden age of postcards in America spanned 1905 to 1915, coinciding with Quogue’s peak years as a bustling summer resort. With technological advances in photography, printing, and mass production, as well as expanded daily mail pickups and deliveries, postcards were effectively the text messages of their time, cheap and convenient to send.
Nearly one billion penny postcards were mailed each year. Many were also purchased simply as souvenirs and never mailed. Today, they are considered collectors’ items.
The Quogue Historical Society holds more than 150 early 20th century postcards in its collection, including beach scenes, boarding houses, and summer cottages. Taken together, they create a charming visual portrayal of our village 100 years ago.
As In-Person Services Return, Library Keeps Calendar Crowded
Although the library is maintaining its abbreviated hours of operation in February, in-person services are back, and the library continues to offer plenty of engaging virtual programs for all ages and interests.
Coming up in the next week in virtual programming, there’s “2022 Medicare Updates and Options” tomorrow, Thursday, February 10, at 1 p.m.; Adult Fiction Book Club discussion of “Assembly” by Natasha Brown on Sunday, February 13, at noon; and “Prevent The Event: Be Heart Smart” on Tuesday, February 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Library patrons who were hoping to get in touch with their spirit guides back in January are in luck: the Meet and Greet Your Spirit Guides program led by certified psychic medium Winter Brook has been rescheduled for Thursday, February 17, at 7 p.m. Ms. Brook will explain what spirit guides are and how individuals work with many different ones over the course of their lives.
Afterwards, Ms. Brook has promised to give mini guide readings to some of the attendees. To learn more about Ms. Brook, visit www.winterbrookmedium.com. To register for the program, click here or click on the Meet Your Spirit Guides box under Adult Programs on the library home page.
Coming up in two weeks will be an installment of the Stony Brook Cancer Center Health Education Series on Wednesday, February 23, at noon.
On Friday, February 25, at 7 p.m. it’s time for another Virtual Paint Party with artist Marie Camenares. All supplies (canvas, paint, brushes etc.) will be provided in a kit that will be available for pick up at the front desk beginning Friday, February 18, for $10.
As always, the Quogue Library continues to offer a wide array of programming for younger patrons and families. To see what’s coming up over the next few weeks, or to get more information or register: visit www.quoguelibrary.org and simply click on the flier for any program that catches your interest. In every case, a registration link or instructions on how to register will pop up. Easy.
“Ripcord” Up Next for Hampton Theatre Company
The set is under construction, the cast has been picked, and rehearsals start next week for David Lindsay-Abaire’s pointed and poignant comedy “Ripcord,” about two women vying for prime real estate in an assisted living facility. The Hampton Theatre Company production opens on March 17 and runs through April 3. Andrew Botsford directs.
Tickets are on sale now; visit www.hamptontheatre.org or call 631-653-8955 for more information.
Melinda Zox Launches New Residency Series at Quogue Gallery
Always looking for ways to keep fine art a part of the conversation in every season in Quogue, Quogue Gallery owners Christy and Chester Murray have organized a new Artist in Residence series for the winter months, launching this weekend with Melinda Zox. Ms. Zox will be working in the gallery space on Jessup Avenue on Saturday and Sunday, February 12 and 13, and again on Saturday and Sunday, February 19 and 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all four days.
According to a release from the gallery, the Artist in Residence series is designed to showcase local artists painting live in the gallery/studio space, “sharing their passion and creative process firsthand.” The fortuitous timing of the first weekend of artist residency will allow visitors to “come and be inspired, meet Melinda Zox and shop for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift,” according to the release.
Melinda Zox is an emerging Abstract Expressionist painter who studied at the School of Visual
Arts in New York City under Frank Roth. The daughter of abstract painter Larry Zox, who played an essential role in the Color Field discourse of the 1960s and 1970s, and his artist wife Jean Glover Zox, she was raised in the heart of the downtown New York City art scene. She thinks of her childhood as “a continual lesson in the experience of art and creativity. Art, color and expression were part of our daily life and almost every conversation.”
In her artist’s statement, Ms. Zox writes: “I work hard to develop paintings that speak both to me and to others about the beauty that exists in space, color and movement. I am drawn to color and influenced by bold, strong lines as well as dynamic powerful shapes. The work is grounded by quiet and still lines interrupted by layers of explosive energetic color.
“I feel exhilarated when I paint a new line of color interrupting the flat space creating movement, and flow. I layer the paint creating texture; building and adding more dimensions. Drawing has always been an inspirational form of expression for me. As a child, I was mesmerized by Michael Steiner steel sculptures and Alexander Calder’s mobiles, as well as the NYC architecture. I have to paint; it is my life’s blood. Paint and canvas have become instruments for me to express my feelings and be heard.”
Quogue Gallery is located at 44 Quogue Street, Quogue, NY 11959. For more information, visit www.quoguegallery.com.
Claudia Doring Baez Showing at Art Fair
Speaking of fine art, At Quaquanantuck notes with pleasure that local artist Claudia Doring Baez is showing her work this weekend at the Zona Maco Art Fair in Mexico City. With additional support from another Quogue resident, Sally Beatty, the artist is set up in Booth EJ30, an exhibition space she has dubbed “The Empty Circle.”
The VIP preview and official opening of the fair were held yesterday, on Wednesday, February 9. Hours for this weekend—for any readers who find themselves in Mexico City—will be from 1 to 9 p.m. today through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 13.
“Write America” Keeps the Torch Burning
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.
Just last night, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Stony Brook Southampton Provost Robert Reeves offered a lovely tribute to and reminiscence about “Angela’s Ashes” author the late Frank McCourt.
Coming up in the next few weeks, all at 7 p.m., will be Tyehimba Jess, Molly Gaudry and Marie Howe on Monday, February 14; Arthur Size, Alice McDermott and Henry Louis Gates on Monday, February 21; Grace Schulman and Samyak Shertok on Monday, February 28; and Robert Reeves, Jill McCorkle and Magdalene Brandeis on Monday, March 7.
Past episodes, including the conversation about the art of cartooning between Gary Trudeau and Jules Feiffer, and the recent tribute to Frank McCourt, can be found by scrolling down on the Byrd’s Books website, www.byrdsbooks.com/write-america.
Check the Byrd’s Books website for details on the February and March programs. 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.
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.
News Items and Photos
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.