Meandering about the frozen landscape of Edith Chase’s Topsmead on the strangely thawing, mist-enveloped, first Thursday afternoon in early February—ice-encrusted blades of grass crunching beneath my boots, the disturbing chaos of the ice-burdened pine boughs torn from their trees and randomly arrayed around the feet of their former tree trunks—I couldn’t help but be grateful for the professionals and the volunteers who have helped to maintain this property, frozen in time, so that generations after Edith can enjoy its serenity. On that note, we have a Valentine heart thank you to honor recent staff turnover and Valentine heart welcomes for some new folks.
We would like to honor Jani Golding who, for the past twenty years, has been the DEEP Senior Environmental Maintainer for the historic house, its gardens and its fields. The Friends of Topsmead have been fortunate indeed to have Jani as a partner, ably complemented over the years by Gene Patchinski in the gardens, and as an advocate for Topsmead at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Jani has just retired, and we will mightily miss the energy and enthusiasm with which she kept Topsmead well groomed and environmentally healthy in all seasons. Heartfelt Valentine thanks, Jani! (Just a heads up: the DEEP is working on hiring two new maintainers, one full time and one part-time, to fill Jani’s boots.)
A hearty Valentine welcome to Jared Rice, new Topsmead Unit Park Supervisor, who will be filling former supervisor Jack Hine’s boots. Jared brings a wealth of experience, and we are looking forward to working with him. He started working for DEEP in 1997 at Black Rock State Park in Thomaston as a seasonal maintainer and then worked full time for about ten years with Support Services for the Western District Park Manager. In 2015 he returned to Parks as the Supervisor of the Lake Waramaug Unit. As I look at today’s pine bough chaos wrecked upon the landscape by the combination of ice and wind, I can’t help thinking that there will be a mighty clean-up job demanding his attention. Thank you in advance, Jared!
Finally, a Valentine heart welcome encore to former FTSF board member Bob Orintas whom the Friends of Topsmead has appointed to be its first official Advising Historian. In this position, Bob will be a resource to FTSF in all things related to Topsmead history. He will continue his research into life at Topsmead, the operation of Topsmead Farm, and the Chase home at 33 Church Street in Waterbury. He is currently working on a book titled Things No Longer at Topsmead and plans to present a copy to FTSF upon its completion. We are hoping we can convince Bob to autograph that copy when the time comes!
Please know that the fickle weather challenges of the February season won’t interfere with our sending out love-filled Valentine hearts to Jani and Jared and Bob for their contributions to Topsmead yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Be it resolved that: I will not be discouraged when the weather interferes with planned outdoor activities at Topsmead. Example: the first ever First Day Hike at Topsmead was planned for the first morning of the first day of 2020. I had invited a friend with the ulterior motive that for sure, she would be totally up for joining the Friends of Topsmead State Forest. Well, the iceman cameth, and while the sun glittering on ice-sheathed tree limbs and tree boughs was otherworldly, the DEEP felt (and legitimately so) that falling ice was a hazard and closed the park for the event.
Be not discouraged.... Save the Date—Saturday, February 15! All of that planned, free hot chocolate will surely be put to good use at this first event of the FTSF 2020 monthly “Lectures on the Lawn” series. It will be a one-hour presentation about bald eagles of Northwestern Connecticut by Ginny Apple. Meet in the “garage”/shed next to Chase House at 1:30pm and be sure to dress for whatever the weather may bring (which we hope will not interfere!).
Be it resolved that: Before the end of January, I will re-schedule my Topsmead walk with my friend and encourage her to become a Friend of Topsmead. You, too, can resolve to encourage a friend to become a new Friend of Topsmead and enter into the very special world of this property that Edith Chase so generously designated for others to enjoy. And you still have until the end of January to renew your own membership (if you haven’t already).
Be it resolved that: I will volunteer to help with at least one Friends project this year. There are so many great ones in the works for 2020, from improving handicap access to adding more directional signage to finishing the shed welcome center to participating in a springtime grounds work-day, just to mention a few. There is something for every interest and ability. Watch for them on the website or just email Friends of Topsmead (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information!
Be it resolved that: In this New Year, I will expand my knowledge of Edith Chase herself and her world beyond Topsmead with a visit to Rose Hill and its Waterbury neighborhood. I already feel a kinship with Edith because of our common love of poodles. I am welcoming a retired show poodle into my household and am eager to introduce her to walkabouts in the meadows of Topsmead. As we romp across the landscape, I know that the spirits of my three former poodles and the spirits of Edith’s poodles will be joyously romping along with us.
Finally, be it resolved that: We will all romp joyously into the New Year!