The treacherous ice of winter is long gone from the landscape of Topsmead, and spring cleaning is springing, assisted by the Friends of Topsmead. Janet Blauvelt is cleaning the bluebird boxes to welcome their new inhabitants. Caroline King is preparing the butterfly garden to welcome its new fluttering visitors. However, a new treacherous natural event—Covid-19—has overtaken not just our local environment but also the entire globe.
Who knew that the life as we knew it would be closed down by this virus? As it has expanded to become a worldwide pandemic, states of emergency are begging people to “shelter in place” and “Stay Safe, Stay Home.” Schools have closed....Places of worship have closed....Non-essential businesses have closed....Hospitals, overcrowded with patients whose lives are threatened by this virus, have closed to visitors.
Who knew that life would go remote because of this virus? People are Zooming, Skype-ing, FaceTiming, Google Meet-ing, and Houseparty-ing. Education is now delivered remotely, sermons are now delivered remotely, connecting with family and friends is now accomplished remotely, and musicians are now collaborating remotely.
Who knew that doing errands would be an isolating experience? Grocery shoppers and employees now wear face-masks. Shopping aisles now have one-way arrows taped on the floors, no passing allowed. Restaurants and pet food stores now have curbside pickup payable by credit card over the phone. Waiting in line and walking down sidewalks is now socially distanced, and centers of towns and main streets are echoingly empty.
Who knew that our state parks and forests would become destinations and places of comfort for so many? The dilemma is to find the line between welcoming visitors to the regenerative power of Nature and complying with the social distancing required during this pandemic. Please know that, according to DEEP, Topsmead is open for socially distanced walking, but when the parking lot is full, no parking along the roads and no walk-ins will be allowed.
Who knew that the Give Local campaign organized by the Connecticut Community Foundation for the Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills would be so timely? On April 21 and April 22, you can join in celebrating Earth Day (remotely, of course!) by making a gift (online of course!!) to Friends of Topsmead State Forest. Watch your emails for when and how to donate. Your gift will help FTSF develop a remote alternative for the “Lectures on the Lawn” program and will help in the continued maintenance of such Friends’ projects as the bluebird boxes and the butterfly garden. Your gift will support the regenerative power of Nature at Topsmead.
William Chaucer knew way back in the 14th century that the power of Nature was regenerating. In his General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, he celebrates Nature’s irrepressible energy and unstoppable power to generate new life:
When that April with his showers sweet
The drought of March has pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such liquor,
Of which strength the flower is engendered...
And small birds make melody,
That sleep all the night with open eyes.
We should know that amongst this coronavirus darkness, the fellow feeling of humanity is shining forth: that from Italy to New York people are applauding; that bells in Goshen and the five boroughs of Litchfield are ringing nightly. And that Topsmead remains serenely healing to the soul.
We should know that the world will move past this coronavirus cycle of darkness and into a new cycle of life, perhaps even better than what came before.
For those of you who couldn’t make it to the first of the Lectures on the Lawn series at Topsmead, (DEEP Master Wildlife Conservationist Ginny Apple’s February presentation on the resurgence of bald eagles in Connecticut), do not despair. Ginny will be back at Topsmead to give us a slide presentation on the state of the black bears in Connecticut. You know, those black and fuzzy bundles of adorable-ness romping through the countryside of our back yards, those ravenous critters who despoil and devour our seed-filled bird feeders, those ebony hibernators who are at this very moment awakening from their winter slumbers as March careens into warmer temperatures. Come to the carriage shed at 1:30pm on Saturday, March 14, for a fact-filled, photo-full presentation on these critters. If you have a few spare minutes, why not come a bit early to help Janet Blauvelt, the indomitable organizer, set up the new slide screen and set out cozy fleece blankets on the chairs to welcome the crowd. And oh, there might even be some hot chocolate!
Topsmead was literally asleep for parts of January and February because of its treacherous blanket of ice. The DEEP struggled to find an effective treatment to combat the icing of the parking lot and even closed the property on days when the footing was deemed too hazardous. The DEEP has closed the property to the public on March 3-5 to conduct a clean up of the many hazardous tree branches and boughs brought down by the winter ice and do maintenance tree work along the road and in the woods along the trails.
The warmer temps are not only waking up life at Topsmead, they are also waking up spring volunteer opportunities. Friends of Topsmead Annual Field Work Day is scheduled for May 17. This annual landscape clean up will be organized by Jared Rice, our Topsmead Unit Park Supervisor. Sure it is two months away and who knows what winter still has in store for us, but save the date and mark your calendars.
Another volunteer opportunity that is waking up as we move towards spring at Topsmead is Janet Blauvelt’s bluebird box trail project. The boxes will be needing folks to help with nest box repairs so the boxes will be ready to welcome our returning bluebird population.
All of which brings us to the good news that FTSF has a new volunteer coordinator: many thanks and welcome to Marylou Gottler. If you would enjoy working outside and would like to make Topsmead and its flora and fauna happier and more beautiful this year, let Marylou know what volunteer opportunity or opportunities you are interested in signing up for. She would be delighted if you would volunteer by emailing her at friendsoftopsmead@gmail and writing “attention Marylou” in the subject line.
Stay tuned for more volunteer opportunities as Topsmead continues to awaken.