I spent January 1st 2020 outdoors, riding my horse friend Lefty over the trails of Connetquot River State Park. The air chilled both of us, but Lefty loves to explore. His ear swivel with the abundant deer and stealthy foxes. When I was a child, I thought that winter woodlands were a dead place. But now I know better. The forest teases with signs of life. As we cantered over sandy paths, I found American wintergreen, also called Eastern teaberry. Drifts of brown oak leaves obscured the red berries, but the green leaves called for attention. I managed to upload the photo onto iNaturalist before Lefty ate the plant.
The end of a year brings on a mood of retrospection. The end of a decade makes that mood more intense. I say hello to the people out celebrating the new year with a walk in the woods with that unmoored feeling that comes with personal assessments. The Friends of Ashley Schiff Park have much to be grateful for. During our 50th Celebration of Forever Wild, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright personally spoke about the importance of open space to human health and to ecological health. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand supported that sentiment with a letter. Thanks to Councilwoman Cartright, October 4th is officially Ashley Schiff day! They’re efforts renewed our hope that by the close of this new decade we see full and legal protection for our beloved park.
After decades of service to not only the Friends of Ashley Schiff Park but also to Stony Brook University, our Vice President, Paul Seigel, stepped down to enjoy a life of retirement. Paul is a living encyclopedia of all things Friends of Ashley Schiff and all things Stony Brook. Every time I had an important meeting, I met with him first so that he could explain both the history and reasonable expectations. With him by my side, I knew I had all the facts. Together we planned and schemed, and mostly we hoped. Paul, my friend, I will miss you on the board.
Maureen Murphy has stepped up to fill his shoes. Although I was at the meeting when this happened, and I can vouch for the fact that Paul shoved them onto her feet. It’s been said that the people you want to lead are the ones that are most resistant to being leaders. Given all the service that Maureen has provided to the Friends of Ashley Schiff, I’ve no doubt that the sentiment is correct. Welcome, Maureen! And thank you so much for volunteering. I look forward to years of working together.
When Lefty and I got back into the barn, I put on his winter coat and gave him some hay. He started the year well, filled with everything he needed: exploration and exercise, cozy warmth, friendship and a snack. I hope all of you started with the same!
Wishing you a wonderful 2020!
Sharon Pochron, President