May 24, 2018

Archives for March 2018

Spring Exhibit on View at Maple & Main

‘My Cousin’s Chickens’ by Claudia van Nes is one of the signature works in the Maple & Main Spring Exhibit.

CHESTER — The Spring Exhibit at Maple and Main Gallery features selected works by more than 60 artists in a wide range of styles, sizes, mediums and price points.

The show opens Wednesday, April 4, and the opening reception will be Sunday, April 8, from 3 to 5 p.m. when there will be a wine tasting by Sunset Hills Vineyard in Old Lyme, live music by Alan James and refreshments.

Guests will be able to meet and talk with many of the artists.

In the Stone Gallery during April, students from Haddam Killingworth High School’s art program will exhibit their newest works.

The opening for this annual show is Friday, April 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. and includes small bites and beverages created by the school’s culinary art students and live music performed by students in the music program.

To see images from both exhibits, visit the gallery website at MapleandMainGallery.com. Also, visit the gallery on Facebook and Instagram.

Maple and Main Gallery at One Maple Street is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 860-526-6065.

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Essex Land Trust Hosts UConn Professor Tonight on Protecting CT’s Groundwater Resources

Dr. Gary Robbins will speak March 29 on Connecticut’s groundwater resources at Essex Town Hall.

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust presents a lecture on protecting Connecticut’s groundwater resources on Thursday, March 29, at 7 p.m. at Essex Town Hall, 29 West Ave. The lecture will have a focus on the lower Connecticut River valley.

Gary Robbins, Professor of Geology in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut, Storrs will be stressing groundwater resources—so will start with a Groundwater 101. Then look at the hydrogeology of the lower CT river valley and talk about groundwater conditions and contamination issues now and in the future.

Dr. Robbins specializes in Hydrogeology and has been at UCONN for 31 years. He has published many papers related to Connecticut groundwater resources.

It is important to note that the date for this event has changed from March 26 to March 29.

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Needleman Supports Legislation to End False Advertising by Limited Service Pregnancy Centers

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman

ESSEX — Essex First Selectman and businessman Norm Needleman submitted testimony Monday, March 26, to the Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly in support of a bill to require limited service pregnancy centers to end deceptive advertising practices.

Needleman submitted testimony in support of Senate Bill 5416, An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices Of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers. In his testimony, Needleman stated his reason for supporting the bill: ”Every other business in our state and in our nation is held accountable for false advertising practices. Limited service pregnancy centers should not be exempt from the rule of law that requires all businesses to be truthful in advertising and promotion.”

His testimony identified the advertising practices the legislation seeks to end: “By law, women can seek and obtain the medical services they desire relative to their pregnancies. It is patently deceptive to use advertising to lure these women into centers that do not provide the services they are seeking. Limited service pregnancy centers should not be permitted to engage in these false and deceptive advertising practices.”

Needleman went on to point out that the legislation does not impact the operation of limited service pregnancy centers: “It is important to note that the legislation does not in any way impact the services these centers actually provide, nor does it in any way impede their operation. They are free to continue delivering services they believe are appropriate.”

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.

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Sharing our Stories with Ellen Luby, Gerontologist, at Essex Library, April 16

ESSEX — Have you ever wanted to share the stories of your life with your family but don’t know where to start? 

Research has shown that sharing your lifestory can bring an increase in self-esteem, resolve past conflicts and promote successful aging.  The Sharing Our Stories presentation reviews the different lifestory methods of Reminiscence, Life Review, Guided Autobiography, Memoir and Personal History to help you determine how you want to tell your story.

The goal of the program is to help people see how sharing stories can help to make sense of the past, gain insight for the future and connect generations.  This informational meeting will be presented by Ellen Luby, a gerontologist on Monday, April 16 at 10:30 a.m. 

Sharing your unique LifeStory can be a wonderful, meaningful and fun experience.

This presentation is free and open to all.

For more information, call the Essex Library. The Essex Library is located at 33 West Avenue in Essex.

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Melanie Carr Gallery Hosts a ‘Critical Conversation’ on the ‘Artist as Curator,’ Saturday

ESSEX — The Melanie Carr Gallery in Essex will host a ‘Critical Conversation: Artist as Curator Round Table,’ Saturday, March 31, at 2 p.m.

All are welcome and admission is free.

Join Melanie Carr Gallery representatives for a discussion of how the role of artist influences the job of curator featuring:

Suzan Shutan, Independent Curator
Jacquelyn Gleisner, Independent Curator
David Borawski, Independent Curator for Real Art Ways
Joe Bun Keo, Independent Curator
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Owner, Odetta Gallery
Jane Rainwater, Independent Curator

See the current exhibition on view through April 8, Mighty Minis, curated by Suzan Shutan, which has been described thus: In the art world where bigness reigns, 30 contemporary artists from the United States and abroad have come together to reflect and respond to working small. For centuries, artists have utilized pint-size scales to depict and explore cherished, esteemed, and intimate subjects.

The contemporary miniature can be seen as an approach to art making that marries craft and concept with gemlike details of tiny treasures. Despite our fast-paced world, small works require giving time for reflection and thought. The reward may be the element of surprise. 

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Family Wellness: Screens, Media and Family Life

How invasive is technology in our lives?  Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

The idea for this column came from a LymeLine.com reader, but there is also a general clamor for information about this topic that I am privy to in my work with families.

Anna and Rosalie Shalom were the picture of old school, imaginative play in their West Orange, New Jersey, home. The two, 5 and almost 3, labored in harmony at their task, preparing an elaborate pretend dinner to be served at the tiny table in their playroom. They set out play plates. They loaded them up with wooden fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. They sat down, ready to dig in. Ah, but first: they whipped out their pretend cell phones to make sure that no pressing pretend calls or texts required their attention. Their parents cringed. Where had they learned that? (See this article published in Time magazine about raising the screen generation)

Well, Anna and Rosalie aren’t in any imminent danger, but we probably understand why this was cringe-worthy for their parents.  I did observe real imminent danger posed by cell phone use just the other day – a young person almost struck by a car while crossing a busy Boston street, chatting on her phone.  (Coincidentally, I was on my way to a conference where topics around children’s phone, screen and media use abounded.)

So how have screens, phones and media affected family life?

Let’s start with a little context to this question.  According to The Moment, a time tracking app with nearly 5 million users, the average person spends four hours per day interacting with his or her cell phone.  The amount of time children 8-years-old and younger spend on phones or tablets had increased 10 fold between 2012 and 2017, according to a study by Common Sense, which also found that in 2017, 42 percent of kids in the same age group had their own mobile device, up from only 1 percent in 2011. I have to admit to shock and knee jerk dismay at these numbers.  It should be noted that TV usage still predominates for young people’s consumption of media. 

I think we all can think of many ways technology has made our lives easer.  What in the world did we do in the past when our car broke down on the road?  When Junior did not know what time play practice finished up?  When grandmother fell?

Media and technology are here to stay.  So what concerns do families have about media use?  Or “problematic media use,” as many psychologists have termed media use that interferes with “RL” (real life)? 

Real life includes when toddlers learn to play with each other (there is some evidence that excessive screen time results in decreased social and emotional development in young children).  Real life also includes the development of closeness and trust, learning logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving and creativity (see this story published in the Wall Street Journal about how cell phones hi-jack our minds).  Real life includes separating from parents during freshman orientation (see this article published in the New York Times about the mental health of college freshmen). 

So yes, there is evidence that excessive media use and dependency can interfere with “RL.”  But there still remains much research to do into the “who, what, when, why and how much” questions concerning family media use and screen time.

So what are we families to do while we wait for more research?  Families need to self-monitor as best they by can looking at their media usage and real (family) life.  Commonsensemedia.org may provide some help for us, as perhaps can Anya Kamenetz’s new book, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life.

I tend to be a bit of a technophobe, but will end on a positive note:  My son, a “digital native,” and my elderly mother bonded over his expertise in technology and her fear and ignorance of all things digital – enhancing both their “RLs” and strengthening their relationship.

Betsy Groth

Betsy Groth is an APRN, PMHS – BC and a pediatric nurse practitioner with advanced certification in pediatric mental health.

She is a counselor, mental health educator and parent coach in Old Lyme and writes a monthly column for us on ‘Family Wellness.’

For more information about Betsy and her work, visit Betsy’s website at betsygroth.com

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Learn How to Spring Into Genealogy Research at Essex Library, Tuesday

ESSEX — Spring is always a great time to start researching your family history.

The citizens of Connecticut are very fortunate to have an abundant amount of genealogy resources at the State Library in Hartford. To learn more about the resources that are available there, join a presentation on Tuesday, April 3, at 5:30 p.m. to hear Gerald Seagrave, a Librarian in the Connecticut State History & Genealogy Department.

Seagrave will present information on materials and services available for genealogy research at the Connecticut State Library.  The presentation will include using State archives, town vital records and accessing databases.

Seagrave has been a Librarian at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council and, most recently, the Connecticut State Library.

This program is free and open to the public.

For more information, call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560. The Essex Library is located at 33 West Avenue.

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Essex Library Hosts Author of ‘The Sunken Gold,’ Wednesday

ESSEX — Author Joseph A. Williams will visit the Essex Library to discuss the true story of the HMS Laurentic, which, laden with 44 tons of gold bullion was sunk by German mines off the coast of Ireland during the Great War. 

Britain desperately needed that sunken treasure, but any salvage had to be secret since the British government did not want to alert the Germans to the presence of the gold.

Lieutenant Commander Guybon Damant was the most qualified officer to head the risky mission. As the war raged on, Damant was called off the salvage to lead a team of covert divers to investigate and search through the contents of recently sunk U-boats for ciphers, minefield schematics, and other secrets. The information they obtained, once in the hands of British intelligence, proved critical toward Allied efforts to defeat the U-boats and win the war.

Williams, a historian, archivist and librarian brings this exciting, true tale of undersea diving and early 20th century naval operations to life on Wednesday, April 4, at 7 p.m.

Copies of The Sunken Gold will be available for purchase and signing.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration is advised. Call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560 to register or for more information.

The Essex Library is located at 33 West Ave. in Essex.

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Centerbrook Announces New Hires; Archer, Brakels Join Architectural Staff

René Brakels  (left) and Cassie Archer have recently joined the staff of Centerbrook Architects. Photo by Derek Hayn/Centerbrook Architects

CENTERBROOK – Centerbrook Architects & Planners is excited to announce two new hires as it has welcomed Cassie Archer and René Brakels to the architectural staff.

Archer, who grew up in Nigeria and England, comes to Centerbrook from Kenneth Boroson Architects in New Haven, Connecticut, where she was a senior job captain. After graduating from Wentworth Institute of Technology in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, Archer began her career as a designer in California. She now resides in East Haddam with her husband.

Brakels joins Centerbrook with a diverse background of 15 years in the architecture industry that includes positions in his home country The Netherlands, Ireland, Latvia and New York. Most recently he served as a job captain at RGB Architects in Providence, Rhode Island. Brakels earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture in The Netherlands, where he is a licensed architect. Brakels and his family currently live in Mystic.

Both Archer and Brakels joined Centerbrook in February and have hit the ground running on Quinnipiac University projects.

“We look for well-rounded people who have a spark. We were delighted to find René and Cassie who are full of energy, care about people and are driven to excel at the craft of building,” said Centerbrook Principal Jim Childress, FAIA. “They are already proving to be great additions to our staff.”

Centerbrook currently has designs under construction in Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Texas, and active projects in seven states, Canada and China.

Centerbrook Architects & Planners is a firm conceived in 1975 as a community of architects working together to advance American place-making and the craft of building. A collaborative firm with an exceptional history of building, Centerbrook is known for inventive design solutions that are emblematic of its client and their traditions. Centerbrook’s designs have won 380 awards, including the Architecture Firm Award, a distinction held by only 36 active firms nationwide.

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‘March For Our Lives’ Draws Hundreds of Protesters in Old Saybrook

All photos by Valerie Chapman.

People of all ages from across southeast Connecticut gathered on Main Street in Old Saybrook yesterday to march in support of action against gun violence and in solidarity with some 800 other marches taking place worldwide.  Those who had marched in the January 2017 Women’s March in Old Saybrook estimated that the crowd for yesterday’s event was substantially larger than the 2017 one.

The signs people held were many and various …

… but the message was loud …

… and clear.

Spirits were high …

… but the questions remain unanswered …

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Creative Dance Class for Preschoolers to be Held at Deep River Public Library, April 11

DEEP RIVER — The Deep River Library will be hosting a Creative Dance Class for Preschoolers on Wednesday, April 11, at 4 p.m. This class will be taught by Christine Finch from the Eastern Connecticut Ballet School and will feature the theme of rainbows. Children ages 3 to 5 will don their dancing shoes (or sneakers) and explore different movements that celebrate the magic behind the making of a rainbow.

Registration is required for this 45-minute class and limited to 15 children, ages 3-5. Younger siblings can enjoy playtime in our Children’s Area while class is being held.

Registration will be done through our Sign Up Genius. Check out our Facebook Events page or website for the link to register.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, email the Children’s Department at drplchildrensdept@gmail.com or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 12:30 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm.

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Connecticut River Artisans Coop Hosts New Artist Reception, April 14

ESSEX — Connecticut River Artisans Cooperative is pleased to welcome the following new members with a reception on Saturday, April 14, from 1 to 4 p.m.

  • Sharon Chaples – a painter specializing in landscapes and houses, who lends an impressionist flair to her artwork.
  • Sandy Sicignano – a painter, who leans toward the modern, she gives an abstract quality to everyday items.
  • Andrea Aron –  a jeweler, who creates one-of-a-kind, silver pieces as well as enamel work.

The reception will be held at the Artisan’s Co-op at 55 Main St., Essex. Wine and nibbles will be served and there will be an opportunity to meet the new artists and enjoy their unique work.

For more information, visit www.ctriverartisans.org, the Artisan’s Facebook page or call 860-767-5457

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Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series Continues Tonight with ‘Designing for Fun: The State of Play’

A free, illustrated talk on Luckey Climbers, an example of which is shown in the photo above,  will be presented by Spencer Luckey at 7 p.m. March 23 in The Cube at Centerbrook Architects. Luckey will focus on where Luckey LLC came from, why they do what they do, and why they push the boundaries of sculpture, play, art and design with each piece.


ESSEX —
Luckey LLC is a small design/build firm in New Haven that produces whimsical play structures throughout the world. Part artwork, part playground, Luckey Climbers can be found at children’s museums, science centers, malls and public parks.

On Friday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in The Cube at Centerbrook Architects, Spencer Luckey will talk about where Luckey LLC came from, why they do what they do, and why they push the boundaries of sculpture, play, art and design with each piece. The lecture will cover built and unbuilt schemes in an attempt to demonstrate the struggles and triumphs of the intrepid playground designer.

Luckey is president and chief architect of Luckey LLC, which creates bespoke children’s climbing sculptures for institutional and commercial clients around the world. Creating soaring, whimsical, gravity-defying play structures for kids, Luckey is helping to reinvent the state of play, inspiring it with the limitlessness of a child’s imagination and the complexities of conceptual art.

After completing his degree at the Yale School of Architecture, Spencer rejoined Luckey Climbers in 2006 after his father, Thomas Walker Luckey, suffered a terrible accident.

Tom, Spencer and the making of the 2007 Luckey Climber at The Boston Children’s Museum were the subjects of the documentary film “Luckey” that depicts the early struggles and triumphs the family had in reconciling life directly following Tom’s accident. The film played at festivals all over the world including SXSW and was aired several times on the Sundance Channel.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560. Centerbrook Architects is located at 67 Main St. In Centerbrook.

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Together We Rise CT Holds a ‘March For Our Lives’ in East Haddam, Saturday

AREAWIDE — In support of students across the country, a March For Our Lives event will be held at Two Wrasslin’ Cats, 374 Town Street, East Haddam, on Saturday, March 24, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Hosted by Together We Rise CT – Building Bridges for Justice, the event will be one of more than nearly 700 world-wide.

March For Our Lives was created, inspired, and led by students who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of school shootings. March For Our Lives believes the time to take action is now.

Students across the country are leading the way, and Together We Rise CT is proud to follow their lead. All are welcome to join them for a peaceful vigil of commemoration, featuring youth speakers and music, as everyone stands together in non-violent witness. Participants are requested to bring peaceful signs or banners only — and no pets.

RSVP at http://act.everytown.org/event/march-our-lives-events_attend/8903. If you wish to volunteer or have questions, e-mail togetherwerisect@gmail.com.

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Letter From Paris: Visit to Franco-American Museum in Blerancourt Sparks Review of Relationship Between the Two

Nicole Prévost Logan

La Fayette nous voilà (La Fayette, here we are) are the famous words General John J. Pershing , commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, is supposed to have pronounced  on July 4, 1917 during the commemoration near the tomb of the Marquis de La Fayette at the Picpus cemetery in Paris. The entry of the Americans in World War I was a way to return the favor to the French for being an ally throughout their history. The Franco-American museum in Blerancourt, in a concrete way, furthered this enduring amity.

From the outbreak of the war even before America declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, a segment of US public opinion, wanted the country to enter the conflict. Among the Americans living in Paris (there were 100,000 of them at the time), private associations such as the American Field Service,  intellectuals, writers, and artists offered to join the allied cause. Many young people volunteered as ambulance drivers.

Many volunteers served in ambulances like this one on display in the Museum of Blerancourt during the Great War.

One of them was Anne Morgan (1873-1952)  third daughter of  John Pierpont Morgan, Sr., banker and art collector.

Anne Morgan

She started raising funds to equip the French army as early as 1915, and in 1917 chose the village of Blerancourt, which was in the midst of total devastation, to carry out her humanitarian aid to the wounded soldiers and civilian population. 

The Aisne department (a department in France is the US equivalent of a county) was one of the worst hit battle fields. It is sadly remembered for being the scene of three bloody campaigns all called Chemin des Dames in 1914, 1916 and 1917 . In April 1917 alone, 100,000 French soldiers died on that front. 

Morgan worked from the barracks she erected on the terraces of the Chateau de Blerancourt – a grand 17th century private residence built by the architect who designed the Luxembourg Palace, for Marie de Medicis.  In 1919, Morgan bought the ruins of the chateau and started its restoration. In 1923, she created the association of the Friends of Blerancourt and the following year founded what was to become the Franco-American Museum.

The restored 17th century elegant rooms of the chateau are quite fitting for the historical part of the museum.  French explorers -Jacques Cartier, Father Jacques Marquette-Cavelier de la Salle, Champlain and others  – left their trace in the geography books of the New World. Their names are still vivid but the lands they discovered – from Canada to Louisiana – have long severed ties with France.  Only the St Pierre et Miquelon archipelago remained part of the mother country.

La Fayette was the first Frenchman to enlist in the War of Independence in 1777. With a great deal of panache, in October 1781, the 6,000 men of Count of Rochambeau, joined the Continental Army of George Washington, later the fleet of Admiral de Grasse encircled the English forces.  The combined effort ended in the victorious battle of Yorktown and the rendition of the British.  

Was its support in the conflict beneficial to France?  Some historians do not think so.  Claude Moisy, former president of Agence France Press  (AFP), journalist and specialist in the political history of the US, is one of them and goes as far as to believe that France was caught in a fool’s game.  

During a talk Moisy gave to the France-England Association in 2007, he described the sequence of events, as he sees it: the US Congress had promised not to sign a separate peace with the English, but it did on November 30 ,1782, after secret negotiations.

The real objective for the American government was to resume, as soon as possible, trade and economic relations with Great Britain.  Washington had dispatched Benjamin Franklin to Paris. He soon became the coqueluche (the rage) of the Paris society and suspiciously close to it. The author describes Paris at that time as a “panier de crabes” (can of worms), crawling with spies and foreign agents.

The final peace treaty was only signed 10 months later in September 1783, with the participation of Holland and Spain.

2018, – the year of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the Great War- started appropriately with the “Cesars” selecting Au Revoir Là Haut, as best film and best director.  It is based on the 2013 Prix Goncourt novel by Pierre Lemaitre. Two soldiers- nicknamed “poilus” during the Great war-  experience the horror of trench war, including being buried alive .  (the writer may have been inspired by what happened to the poet and art theoretician  Guillaume Apollinaire, who was buried alive three times, underwent trepanation and died in 1918.).  The story continues after the war, when the two heroes, traumatized and disfigured by injuries, witness the sordid traffic of war memorials.

The Chateau de Blerancourt makes a charming picture.

The Blerancourt museum  is a lovely, luminous building,, located at about two hours drive north-east of Paris. The World war I activities of Anne Morgan -including her ambulance, uniform, wartime memorabilia and mobile library- are brought back to life. 

The Art department has just been renovated and contains more than 400 works. The collection  includes paintings by impressionist Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent and many others.  The arrival of American troops in St Nazaire was caught in Art Deco style by French artist Jean Emile Laboureur in 1918.  Singer and dancer Josephine Baker, appears on the cover of the “Revue Nègre“.  She was born in St Louis, joined the Resistance and is an idol in France.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Chester Garden Club Hosts Avian Author John Himmelman Tomorrow

CHESTER — On Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m., the Chester Garden Club will be hosting a presentation by author, John Himmelman from Killingworth, Conn., on“Birds; Their Side of the Story …” at the United Church of Chester, 29 West Main Street, Chester, CT.

He will share light-hearted stories of birds and bird watching – from cuisine to cartoons; ornaments to icons, murmurs to murders. You’ll be given a whole new look at the avian friends we so admire (and some, not so much…)

Members of the Chester Garden Club and the public are invited to attend.  The cost for guests will be $5.

For additional information, contact Chester Garden Club Co-President Brenda Johnson at (860) 526-2998.

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Award-Winning Author Rachel Kadish Comes to Books & Bagels at CBSRZ This Morning

It’s not often that Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ) gets to welcome a winner of a National Jewish Book Award to Chester.

But that’s exactly what’s going to happen this morning, Sunday, March 18, at 9:30 a.m. when Rachel Kadish will be discussing and reading selections from her third novel, The Weight Of Ink, that won her the prestigious Jewish Book Council’s Book Club Award. This award ‘recognizes an outstanding work of fiction or nonfiction authors that inspires meaningful conversation about Jewish life, identity, practice, or history and is dedicated to promoting Jewish continuity for the next generation.’

“In many ways a book about books, The Weight Of Ink surprises with delights that are gradually revealed. At first it might seem almost necessary to take notes to follow the complex plot, but soon the reader will become absorbed in this rich opus of impressive breadth”, comments Kristin Gibbons in a review published in the Jewish Book Counsel’s website.

Gibbons continues, “The beauty of this story is in the variety of its milieus and sensibilities. As we follow female protagonists of both the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries – Ester Velasquez and Helen Watt, respectively-we also witness to the goings-on of a venerable and drafty house of a rabbi in 1660s London, and glimpse the modern life of a cheeky young American man with heartrending troubles.”

To cap off her triumph, Kadish was just named the inaugural winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for The Weight Of Ink.

The Weight of Ink defies strict genre classification, combining as it does a gripping tale of contemporary scholars engaged in academic detective work and historical fiction that brings to light the small Jewish world of Restoration England and the practical daily issues along with more complicated religious and philosophical issues.

One moves back and forth from the competitive world of modern scholarship to the very different world revealed in a trove of newly discovered seventeenth century manuscripts; from the personal involvement of one of the book’s two heroines, Helen Watt, who sets out to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious scribe at first identified solely as ‘Alelph’, to its other heroine, Ester Velasquez, the exceptional scribe for a blind rabbi, a woman who would be remarkable in any time and place.

Ester’s story, partially uncovered by Helen and partially revealed as the story unfolds, plunges us into the London of the 1660s and into the small but gradually expanding Jewish community, largely made up of Sephardic /Converso families. And that story reaches out into a much larger world, connecting us with the life and work of Spinoza and even hinting at the identity of Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’.

Book Browse summarizes The Weight of Ink this way:  Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order reconcile the life of the heart and mind.

Among the many admirers of The Weight of Ink can be found Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice, Margot Livesey, author of Mercury, Leah Hager, author of No Book but the World, and Toni Morrison, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many books including The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and, most recently, God Help the Child.

Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek is located at 55 E. Kings Highway in Chester.

Books & Bagels is free of charge and open to the public. For more information visit                          www.cbsrz.org/events, or call the CBSRZ office at 860-526-8920.

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High Hopes Holds Open House for Prospective Volunteers Today

One of the many tasks that volunteers undertake at High Hopes is to side-walk horses while program participants ride.

OLD LYME — There is a place in Old Lyme where people of all ages come together with a very special herd of therapeutic horses to improve the lives of people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.

On St. Patrick’s Day – Saturday, March 17 – between 10 a.m. and noon,  the community is invited to join the staff at High Hopes to find out about a wide range of volunteering opportunities this spring and summer.

“Although we hold programs all year round,” says Volunteer Manager, Amy Tripson, “summer is one of our busiest times when we open High Hopes to the wider community through five weeks of all-inclusive horse camp as well as providing our regular programs. We are looking for volunteers of all ages but would like to encourage middle and high school students (aged 14 or older), seasonal residents, and active retirees in particular. Just one hour a week, or one week during summer camp can make all the difference to one of our campers.”

At the Open House, classes will be running, and the volunteer team will be on hand to answer questions, discuss the types of volunteer jobs available, and create a schedule to suit you.

“No experience with horses is needed,” says Marie Manero, “we provide general orientation and side-walker training for all of our volunteers, and those that want to do more work with the horses can take additional training opportunities in horse-handling and barn activities.”

Over the course of a year High Hopes, an internationally recognized therapeutic riding and horsemanship center, relies on the help of over 650 volunteers to supplement its small staff and provide programs for a wide range of individuals and groups, as well as support its fundraising activities.

Participants include children and adults with physical disabilities, veterans living with PTSD, children grieving the loss of a parent, families recovering from domestic violence and individuals and their families supporting a loved one with a life-long cognitive disability. High Hopes serves over 60 towns in Connecticut and beyond, works with 10 different school districts and a variety of different agencies from across the state. In the summer, High Hopes staff also provide an off-site program at Harkness Camp in Waterford.

If your organization supports community activities and you would like to bring a group of volunteers to High Hopes for the day, the High Hopes volunteer team would also like to talk to you.

For more information, to meet a few volunteers, and/or to express interest in this event, visit https://highhopestr.org/event/volunteer-open-house/

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See ‘From Field to Frame: The Avian Art of Michael DiGiorgio’ at CT River Museum Through May 3

Inca jay by Michael DiGiorgio 2005

ESSEX – The new Spring Exhibit at Connecticut River Museum is From Field to Frame:  The Avian Art of Michael DiGiorgio.  The exhibit opened to the public on Saturday, March 17, and runs through May 3.

Michael DiGiorgio is a nationally recognized artist living in Madison, CT.  His paintings and drawings have appeared in nature books and journals, including Birds of Brazil vol. 1 and 2, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Audubon Field Guide to Birds/Eastern and Western Region, and The Narrow Edge by Deborah Cramer. DiGiorgio recently completely revised the artwork for the new edition of Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds.

DiGiorgio has painted birds since he was five and studied bird painting under the late Don Eckelberry.  Under Eckelberry’s critical eye, DiGiorgio developed his style emphasizing the character of the bird and its relationship to the environment.  Committed to painting from life, DiGiorgio has traveled extensively to create field sketches of birds, plants, and habitat from all over the Americas, West Indies, Trinidad, and the Outer Islands of Britain.

DiGiorgio won the first ever Eckelberry Endowment Award from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for his Bird Illustration work.  His paintings have been exhibited at numerous museums and institutes including the Roger Tory Peterson Institute; The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia; and the The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

The Connecticut River Museum is the only museum dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its Valley.  The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For questions, call 860-767-8269 or visit www.ctrivermuseum.org.

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Gray School of Irish Dance Gives Demonstration Today at Acton Public Library

OLD SAYBROOK — Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Acton Public Library!

Come for a lively demonstration of Irish Dance on Saturday, March 17, from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m. by the young and talented students of the Gray School of Irish Dance, located in Old Saybrook. This program is sponsored by the Friends of Acton Public Library.

This program is free and open to all; no registration required. All children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult.

For additional information call or 860-395-3184 or visit www.actonlibrary.org

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Learn the Art of Reiki at Deep River Public Library, April 14

DEEP RIVER — Learn the Art of Reiki at the Deep River Library on Saturday, April 14, at 1 p.m. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes healing. This alternative approach has been shown to provide help for stress, headaches, insomnia and boost confidence and self-worth. Learn how to channel energy through touch to help restore physical and emotional well-being.

Under the guidance of Reiki Master Stephanie Rosally-Kaplan, participants will not only learn about the history of Reiki, but they will be trained on essentials such as meditation, treatment, chakras, crystals, essential oils and self-care. Every major fundamental will be covered in this four-hour-class and partakers will earn their Reiki 1 certification.

Registration is required for this program and limited to 10 participants. You must register through our Signup Genius, which can be accessed at this link.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pmWednesday 12:30 – 8 pmThursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm.

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Death of Former Chester Resident William (Bill) Hanford Burr Announced

William Hanford Burr (Bill), age 87, died on February 11, 2018, in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  A memorial service will be held on June 8, 2018 at 2:00PM at the site of interred cremains in Oak Land Cemetery in Fairfield, CT. 

Born on August 28, 1930 in Westport, CT to parents Morris Lyon Burr and Catherine Aretta Burr, he was married to his surviving spouse Marilyn Jean Weber on August 18, 1962.  He has three surviving children: daughter Catherine Margaret Burr-Utter (married to Steven Utter; children Nathan Michael Utter and Hannah Elizabeth Utter); son William Osborn Burr II (married to Carole Westhfer; children Thaddeus James Burr and Noah Hanford Burr; and daughter Elizabeth Forrest Burr (married to Dale C. Deutscher; children Bremmer William Mock, John Morgan Mock, and Satari Austin Deutscher). 

Dad has three siblings: brother Morris Lyon Burr Jr. (spouse Arlene Davis (deceased)); sister Mary Bolin (deceased) (spouse United States Army Col (retired) James Bolin); and sister Aretta Muir (spouse James Muir).

His education and military experience include a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture from the University of Connecticut and a Masters in Business Administration from Bridgeport University.  He was inducted into the United States Army and served two years in the rank of Specialist as a Medical Corpsman.  His career in business management brought him to Handy & Harmon in Fairfield, CT and later to Lewis Engineering in Naugatuck CT and finally to Bavier, Bulger, and Goodyear Management Consultants in New Haven, CT where he remained until retirement in 1996.

Throughout dad’s life, he lived in Westport, CT from childhood until 1997 when he and Marilyn moved to Chester, CT.  In 2003, they moved to Bozeman, MT and remained there until their move to Port St. Lucie, FL in 2017.

Dad believed in giving back to his community and did so by remaining actively involved in leadership roles at Greens Farms Congregational Church of Westport, CT and the United Church of Christ of Chester, CT.  He regularly volunteered his labor on environmental conservation projects conducted by the Land Trust of Chester, CT.  In Bozeman, MT he maintained a weekly routine of volunteering at the local food bank and tending plants at the Gallatin Gardeners Club.

Dad loved gardening.   He had the soul of a farmer.  He loved all kinds of outdoor work.  He was a driven do-it-yourself handyman, indeed, a frustrated carpenter, woodsman, and homesteader who insisted on doing any size job himself and with antiquated manual tools and equipment leftover from the bygone Burr Farms era of his childhood.  Of his few allowances for modern methods was his 1929 Farmall B-N model tractor that had to be crank started from the front end.  And when he was not growing and putting up vegetable stores (particularly onions) with an intensity that made one believe survival through the winter months hung in the balance, he was sailing on Long Island Sound.  Neither foul weather nor any number of sea-sick crew members hanging over the side was a reason for him to consider a day on the water unpleasant.  A dousing spray of salt water and vomit he considered a reasonable character building experience for all.

Our father was not a verbose man and not one to seek public attention.  He was fond of a saying: “fools names and faces are seen and heard in public places”.  He was not given to overt demonstrations of intense emotion.  Nevertheless, he had a stoic charm that conveyed a genuine strength of character and integrity.  He cherished family gatherings, most especially at Christmas.  He loved us, his children and his wife.  And we love him.  He is remembered with the fondness and respect.  He is missed.

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Celtic Concert Tonight Benefits Community Music School

John Birt (pictured above) and Evelyn Cournoyer will play contemporary and traditional music from Ireland and Scotland in a March 16 concert.

CENTERBROOK – Enjoy an evening of contemporary and traditional music from Ireland and Scotland performed by John Birt (guitar, mandolin) and Evelyn Cournoyer (harp) on Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m. The Celtic Harp & Guitar Concert will take place at the Centerbrook Meetinghouse, 51 Main Street, Centerbrook, CT 06409.

This St. Patrick’s Day program will feature a variety of traditional dance tunes including reels, jigs, airs, and marches. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Community Music School. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 with a reception following the performance.

John Birt is a musician who has proven his versatility on many stages throughout the world. As a classical guitarist, recent solo programs have explored 16th-century lute music, the solo cello and violin music of J.S. Bach, and have included world premieres by American composers David Macbride and Thomas Schuttenhelm. John completed his Master’s degree at The Hartt School, where he studied with internationally recognized pedagogue Richard Provost and partook in masterclasses by Oscar Ghiglia, Andrew York, Odair Assad, and Scott Tennant

Evelyn Cournoyer is a harp player from Preston, Connecticut. Her specialty is in Scottish and Irish traditional music. In 2014 Evelyn won the Young Composer Award presented by the Clarsach Society in Scotland, and she performed her winning composition at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. Evelyn received a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music in 2015, where she studied under Maeve Gilchrist.

Community Music School offers innovative music programming for infants through adults, building on a 34 year tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities. CMS programs cultivate musical ability and creativity, and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.

For additional information, visit www.community-music-school.org/celtic or call CMS at 860-767-0026.

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‘Like It, Paint It’ at Deep River Public Library, March 24

DEEP RIVER — Create your own acrylic masterpiece at the Deep River Library on Saturday, March 24, from 2 TO 4 p.m. Under the guidance of local artist, Carlos Ayala, you will learn to paint a winter wood scene. Ayala will provide all materials and instruction, but participants must pay a materials fee of $20 per person at the door.

Register is required for this program and will be done through Sign-Up Genius, which can be accessed on the library’s website or Facebook Events page. Seating is limited to 20 participants. Children over 12 are welcome.

For more information call the library at 860-526-6039.

Link to sign up:

Like It, Paint It With Carlos Ayala

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pmTuesday 10 am – 6 pmWednesday 12:30 – 8 pmThursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm.

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Middlesex Hospice & Palliative Care Seeks New Volunteers

AREAWIDE — At Middlesex Hospice and Palliative Care, volunteers are an integral part of the interdisciplinary team, reaching out to patients and families as they cope with the challenges of terminal illness. Volunteers are eligible to begin after completing 12 hours of classes and a 12-hour mentorship on our inpatient hospice unit.

Training is held on Saturday April 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and April 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both sessions are mandatory. The Hospice is specifically looking for individuals who would like to work in homecare and nursing homes visiting patients. 

For more information and to begin the application process, contact Jackie Orlowski, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, at (860) 358-6955 or jaclyn.orlowski@midhosp.org at your earliest convenience.

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Needleman Calls for Increased Staffing, Improved Response Times from Utility Companies

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman

ESSEX — Today, March 12, in response to unacceptable and inadequate utility response time during power outages, Essex First Selectman and businessman Norm Needleman submitted public testimony in support of new proposed legislation to have utility companies increase staffing and equipment levels.

Senate Bill 329, An Act Concerning Minimum Utility Staffing and Equipment Levels, would require the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to initiate a docket and issue a final order regarding minimum utility staffing and equipment levels. The Authority was originally meant to create these minimum levels following Tropical Storm Irene, but has yet to finish its work.

Needleman, who is in his fourth term as Essex First Selectman, has seen the responses by the local utility company Eversource get slower and less efficient with every storm. His testimony, which was submitted to the Energy and Technology Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly, is detailed in the following paragraphs:

“In recent years, I have witnessed an alarming deterioration in response to power outages by Eversource, causing inordinate delays in power restoration to homes and businesses in Essex. It is my strong belief that this inadequate response to power outages is the result of two factors. First, Eversource has drastically reduced repair personnel and equipment, instead relying on resources from private contractors and service units from outside of their system.

Second, and equally alarming, is the lack of operating management oversight in directing and coordinating whatever resources are available.  Said another way, Eversource does not maintain staffing levels sufficient to provide adequate response to power outages, and they have failed to develop a communications and management system to direct the outside resources that eventually arrive.

This service problem is not confined to Essex. In consulting with officials in surrounding  towns, they have detailed their frustrations with prolonged power outages, inadequate staffing, and incorrect information from Eversource.”

Not only have I experienced these problems as a First Selectman trying to provide basic services to residents but also as a business owner and a household customer myself. My manufacturing plant in Michigan has lost power one time in 14 years and they have pretty drastic weather conditions, especially during the winter. Meanwhile, my manufacturing plant in Centerbrook loses power regularly and sometimes for no reason at all.

Considering we are paying one of the highest prices in the country for electricity we should have a world class system, not a third world system, which is what it feels like we have. The lack of reliable electricity is a serious deterrent for new businesses considering locating in Connecticut.

Repeatedly, Eversource has ignored their responsibilities by failing to implement effective weather-related response and repair. Instead, they have chosen to implement staff and equipment reductions to effect cost economies. As a matter of public safety, Eversource should be required to maintain adequate staffing and equipment levels. S.B. 329 will help remedy this crippling public utility problem.”

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.

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Carney (R) Seeks Third Term as State Representative, Democrat Pugliese Announces Challenge

State Rep. Devin Carney

UPDATED 3/7 10:09pm: OLD SAYBROOK: Devin Carney, a Republican who ran unopposed for a second term in 2016, has announced his intention to seek a third term as State Representative for the 23rd General AssemblyDistrict, which includes the towns of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and coastal Westbrook. But this November, Carney will be challenged by Old Saybrook resident and Democrat Matt Pugliese.

Pugliese, a non-profit arts executive, notes in a press release that, “The frustration that our community feels is palpable.  The community wants change, wants new voices.  I’m running for state representative to help lead that change.   I’m a listener, and a leader who believes in building consensus, finding compromise and getting things done.”

Carney, who works as a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Old Saybrook. explains his decision to seek a third term in a press release in this way, “Over these past two terms, I have always put the people of the 23rd District first.This community is everything to me. I was raised here and I understand the unique values and needs of my constituents. In these difficult and divisive times, it is important that the state has leaders with a proven track record of putting people over politics and who will work together to get Connecticut’s fiscal house in order.”

Matt Pugliese.

Pugliese, a resident of Old Saybrook, has spent his career working in the non-profit theatre industry, beginning at the Ivoryton Playhouse.  He served as the Executive Director at Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theatre in Middletown, CT and now is the Executive Producer at Connecticut Repertory Theatre, based on UConn’s Storrs campus. Pugliese holds his BA in Theatre (’04) and his Masters in Public Administration (’17), both from UCONN. Pugliese said, “My work in the arts has been about activism.  It is about bringing together diverse audiences and creating opportunities for dialogue.  That is how we solve problems.  Every day running a theatre is about creative, problem solving and strategic thinking. The intersection of the arts and government – that is community.  That has been my professional career for 15 years.”

A lifelong resident of the district, Carney graduated from Old Saybrook Public Schools and currently lives in Old Lyme. He is the Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee, meaning he is the highest-ranked House Republican on the committee, and he serves on the Environment Committee and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. In addition, Carney chairs the bipartisan Clean Energy Caucus, was the founding House Republican of the bipartisan Young Legislators Caucus, and serves on both the bipartisan Tourism Caucus and bipartisan Intellectual and Developmental Disability Caucus. He has also served as the Connecticut House Republican State Lead for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

Pugliese comments in the release, “Non-profit organizations need to run efficiently and effectively.  We know how to get the most out of every dollar.  My experiences in the non-profit sector in Middlesex County really opened my eyes to the incredible need we have in our community.  We have young people and families facing the most extreme and basic risks.  But we also have incredible resources in our community to draw upon.  That is what makes our district a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”

Over his first two terms, Rep. Carney says he advocated for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, seniors, tourism, small business, local public education, and improving I-95. In 2015, he voted against the second largest tax increase in Connecticut’s state history. In 2017, he voted against the SEBAC agreement, but supported the bipartisan budget compromise in October.

Pugliese’s community involvement includes Old Saybrook’s Economic Development Commission since 2015, of which he was recently elected Chairperson.  He served on the Board of Directors for the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce for two years.  He served as the co-chair of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County Live Local Give Local 365 initiative when it was launched in 2011.  In 2012, Pugliese was named to the Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” for his professional work and civic involvement.

Carney’s community activities include serving on the Board of Trustees at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and the Board of Directors at Saye Brook Senior Housing. He is a member of both the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce and the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce, a lector at Grace Episcopal Church in Old Saybrook, and serves on both the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee as a member and the Old Saybrook Republican Town Committee as an honorary member.

Public education is a key issue for Pugliese. He comments in the release, “When I think of our communities, I think of our strong public education systems. I will fight for the funding we deserve from Hartford necessary to support our schools.  I believe we need to invest in our higher education system. We want to have a vibrant university system to educate our young people, ensure their access to this education, and keep them here as part of our workforce in Connecticut.”

Commenting on his achievements in the past four years, Carney says, “I have pushed back against drastic tax increases to residents, defeated a federal rail proposal that would have devastated the region, supported bipartisan initiatives to combat our opioid crisis, and fought Governor Malloy’s proposal to push teacher pension costs onto local school districts. I have always put the taxpayer first and engaged with the community.”

Pugliese is an advocate for paid family leave, ensuring rights for women and minorities and championing arts, culture and tourism.  He adds, “Part of the identity of our community is the incredible cultural resources we have in the 23rd district. These resources drive tourism, which is critical to the economy of the towns in our region.  We need to ensure the viability of our cultural assets, and the public infrastructure needed to support tourism.”

Carney highlights in his press release, “I have never missed a vote,” adding, “Connecticut is at a crossroads and our residents and businesses cannot afford the same tax-and-spend policies that have put the state into this mess. It is imperative Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook continue to have a strong voice at the table during this tough fiscal reality.”

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Musical Masterworks Presents Mozart Piano Quartets, Mozart-Inspired Music in Concerts This Weekend

Violinist Tessa Lark

OLD LYME — Musical Masterworks presents two concerts this coming weekend, Saturday, March 11, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, March 12, at 3 p.m. at The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, an acoustically rich venue.

The concerts will juxtapose both of Mozart’s masterful Piano Quartets with two Mozart-inspired works from the twentieth century.  

The performance will feature violinist, Tessa Lark, who has delighted Musical Masterworks audiences with her virtuosity; pianist Jeewon Park; and Musical Masterworks stalwarts violinist Dimitri Murrath and cellist Edward Arron, who is also the Musical Masterworks Artistic Director.

To purchase tickets ($35 individual; $5 student), visit Musical Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252.

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State Representative Bob Siegrist to Seek Re-Election

State Rep. Robert Siegrist (R-36th)

AREAWIDE — State Representative Bob Siegrist, III (R-36) announced today that he plans to seek re-election for a second term.  Siegrist states, “I am proud to have served the residents of the 36th House District these past two years as their State Representative.  I have listened to the people of the district and voted their concerns, their issues and most importantly, their pocketbook.”

He continues, “I have always considered this seat the people’s seat and I will continue to fight for children, families, senior citizens, and for a better business climate to create and retain jobs. I will fight for common sense budgeting and fiscal responsibility to keep more of your own money, and I will advocate for policies that will make Connecticut more affordable for the residents of the 36th.”

Siegrist concludes, “There is a lot more work that needs to be done and that is why I am announcing my plans to seek re-election as State Representative of the 36th House District seat.  With your help and support we can make Connecticut what it once was; the embodiment of the American Dream. A state with unending opportunities for everyone.”

Siegrist, a Republican, has represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam since 2017. He currently serves on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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Rebooting New England: What Do YOU Think? Op-Ed from SECoast

On Tuesday, Feb. 27 we [SECoast] participated in a round table in New Haven hosted by New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, with 40 or so others to discuss alternatives to NEC Future high-speed rail planning. Attendees included administrators from Yale and Trinity college, Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) head Kristina Newman-Scott, former CTDOT Commissioner Emil Frankel, engineer Foster Nichols, among others. The project is being organized by former RPA head Bob Yaro, and former DECD head Kip Bergstrom. You can download the 50 mb 200+ page document here.

In the most simple terms, the plan resembles NEC Future Alternative 3.2, with high-speed rail service heading north, rather than east from New Haven, and then east from Hartford, through Storrs, to Providence. Yaro and Bergstrom are specifically offering “Rebooting New England,” as they call it, as an opportunity to avoid the impacts (and opposition) through southeastern Connecticut and southern Rhode Island to NEC Future planning. It also includes the audacious idea of a tunnel across the Sound.  Here’s an illustration:

And while NEC Future was tailored for the needs of the largest cities along the Northeast Corridor, Yaro and Bergstrom have rather crafted a plan which also benefits inland and mid-sized cities along the corridor, by drawing from similar efforts in Great Britain to connect Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle, in the north, to London.

You can find an hour-long video presentation of the project from last July to the Lincoln Institute here. Given the current lack of funding, it’s an ambitious plan, but a serious one, worth serious consideration. SECoast’s Gregory Stroud will be meeting with project leaders again on Thursday for further discussions. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to take a look at the project, and tell us what you think.

About those Transit hearings…

With Connecticut’s Special Transportation Fund on the verge of insolvency, and the Malloy administration proposing a first wave of drastic cuts, and fare increases, to train and bus service to take effect on July 1, [detailed here], the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been holding hearings over the last three weeks across Connecticut, and (more surprisingly) in Massachusetts.

SECoast board and staff members attended a February 28 hearing in New London, where a diverse group of 50 or so members of the public — young and old, poor and well-to-do, African-American, Asian-American, Latino, and White — offered relatively muted criticism of proposed fare increases, together with broad and pointed opposition to proposed service cuts. [Take a look at Kim Drelich’s  coverage for The Day here].

In turn, CTDOT commissioner James Redeker presented a persuasive case for increased revenues and investments, including two-cents yearly increases over seven years to the gasoline tax, and new tolling along the state’s major roadways, to avoid these unsustainable cuts to transportation.

This all made for good theater for the Malloy administration, but also missed an essential purpose of such hearings, which is not just to allow the public the chance to air its grievances, but also to take part meaningfully in the decision-making process. As far as the latter goes, meaningful public participation requires a level of transparency which has been lacking in the materials provided. And we have significant concerns that these proposals have been presented as simply mandated, rather than as the result of limited, but real choices made behind closed doors.

In much this vein, RiverCOG executive director Sam Gold briefly outlined lengthy written comments and opposition to the proposed cuts. Gold questioned the fairness of cuts to towns like Old Saybrook, which played by the rules, embraced CTDOT priorities, and heavily invested in transit-oriented development (TOD). Gold further questioned the priorities and motivation of CTDOT cuts which would spare CTDOT’s own CTTransit, while falling heavily on towns like New London with municipal-supported (and controlled) transit. We agree.

In contrast to an earlier hearing in Stamford, where elected officials have faced criticism for cutting a lengthy line to present comments, few elected officials turned up in New London. State Rep. Devin Carney, ranking member on the Connecticut General Assembly Transportation Committee, was a notable exception.

We strongly encourage you to write to CTDOT by March 16 with your comments. Just click here.

Widening I-95

On Feb. 22, as part of a larger coordinated rollout by the Malloy administration of revenue proposals, announced project cuts, service cuts, and fare increases, CTDOT reintroduced targeted plans to widen I-95 through Fairfield County and southeastern Connecticut. Kim Drelich covers the announcement for The Day, here, you can also find coverage in the Hartford Courant, and in the Yale Daily News here.

While we appreciate the need to improve safety and reduce congestion on I-95, we have several concerns about the announcement. Most importantly, whether you are for or against proposals to widen I-95, by failing to release the actual studies, and by providing the public with only summary findings, CTDOT is depriving the public of a chance to meaningfully participate in a decision on the topic.  In southeastern Connecticut, we are left to wonder whether this latest plan differs materially from earlier planning proposed in 2005, which would require significant takings and environmental impacts. In Fairfield County, we are left to wonder about the impacts to the densely settled corridor.

In the case of the National Historic Landmark Bush-Holley house for example, it appears that while keeping to the existing right of way, and to CTDOT property, such widening could still significantly impact properties alongside the corridor, with enormous potential impacts to the property, and to ongoing projects  by the Greenwich Historical Society.

Take a look at a graphic we produced by cross-referencing the released graph of potential land use, with project parameters, and mileage markers:

We are of course encouraged that the plan keeps as much as possible to the existing right of way, and to CTDOT property, but we’d like to know much more about the actual impacts and plans for construction at the Mianus river crossing in particular. Such plans are simply too important to made behind closed doors, and without timely and sufficient public scrutiny. And they obviously make little or no sense when paired with transit cuts that would send thousands of additional commuters onto I-95.

SECoast has submitted a Freedom of Information Request to obtain planning documents. We [SECoast] will let you know, when we know more about these plans …

Editor’s Note: We also urge readers to write to CTDOT by March 16 with your thoughts on the first wave of drastic cuts, and fare increases, to train and bus service to take effect on July 1.  Just click 

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Deep River Historical Society Introduces New Book on Billy Winters’s Journey to Freedom; Author Event, March 11

Rhonda Forristall, curator of the Deep River Historical Society and author of Billy Winters, One Man’s Journey to Freedom.

DEEP RIVER — The Deep River Historical Society has announced the publication of a second book called Billy Winters, One Man’s Journey to Freedom, written by Rhonda Forristall, curator of the Society.

Historians often say that “history repeats itself” so is it really a surprise that 117 years after the death of Billy Winters that his story is still current? The news is full of stories of those seeking a new life in Connecticut and sanctuary cities offering help and support.

Billy found both in Deep River.

Born a slave, Billy escaped through the Underground Railroad and sought a safe place to live. He found sanctuary in Deep River and for a time in New Bedford, Mass.

The Boston School of Architecture has just completed a three-month-exhibit about the African-American neighborhood in New Bedford that gave sanctuary to self-emancipated slaves from 1840 to 1863. Frederick Douglass and Billy were only two of the thousands that were sheltered there.

Billy told the story of his eventful life to a reporter for the Deep River New Era shortly before he died in November of 1900. Using this first-hand account Rhonda was able to trace his steps and add some details to Billy’s story. Due to the secrecy needed to protect the operators of the Underground Railroad, and those they were trying to save, there are very few first-hand accounts in existence. 

The Deep River Historical Society is privileged to have this account at the Society and an obligation to preserve his story for future generations. This story has been a significant part of the presentations that the Society provides to the Deep River Elementary School 4th graders when they visit each year.

While not written as a children’s book, it was important to Forristall to write this story in such a way that the students would be able to read and understand it.  Although the story of Billy Winters is known by many, Forristall’s research has turned up a few surprises. 

The Society is hosting an author event on Sunday, March 11, at 4 p.m. in the Carriage House. All are welcome.

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Letter From Paris: Annual ‘Salon de l’Agriculture’ Prompts a Peek into Farming in France

Nicole Prévost Logan

The Salon de l’Agriculture (agricultural fair) is the most popular event of the year in Paris.  For two weeks, the Porte de Versailles is turned into an oversize farm   Four thousand animals – bovines, pigs, sheep and fowl – move in for the delight of both children and adults.  It is the largest agricultural show in Europe.

The French are emotional about their relationship with the countryside and never forget that they share a common rural ancestry and that, just a few decades ago, 25 percent of the population lived and worked on the land. The fair is an opportunity for rural and urban communities to get together and have a good time.

Food is a big attraction at the fair.  Thirty seven restaurants offer culinary specialties from each region: trip à la mode de Caen (tripe cooked in cider and calvados), boeuf bourguignon,  tartiflette (Savoyard gratin with Reblochon cheese, cream and pork), Toulouse cassoulet , bouillabaisse and hundreds more dishes, accompanied by the best wines.

French President Emmanuel Macron meets the much-admired cow named Haute at the Salon de l’Agriculture.

Entertainment reaches its height with the competition for the best animal. This year the star of the show is Haute, a 700 kilo blonde cow of the Aubrac breed raised in Aveyron (a volcanic plateau in the south west), whose big black eyes are made-up with mascara.  Haute has a pedigree in the same way as a racehorse and her offspring are already in line to compete in the 2024 fair – the same year that the Olympics will be held in Paris. 

From the air, the French landscape looks like a beautiful tapestry with colored patches of fields, woods and clusters of roofs huddled around a church steeple. Behind this idyllic picture, it is hard to believe that there is a tough world of fierce competition, hard work, and for some, a struggle to survive . 

Among the 450,606 working farms in France to-day, many of them are small with less than 10 hectares (one hectare is equivalent to 2.47 acres.) Their owners find it hard to make a living. The average income of a farmer is 1,525 euros for month and can be as low as 500 euros, which is well below the poverty threshold.  There are many reasons for this. 

Food today represents only 20 percent of a family budget as compared to 34.7 percent in 1960.   The agri-business and chains of supermarket distributors, in order to increase their profit margin, force the farmers to sell their milk or meat at rock-bottom prices.

Farmers are deep in debt because of the necessity to invest but they have ways to show their anger and frustration, such as pouring manure or truck loads of raw eggs on public squares.  Another effective way is for them to launch an operation escargot (snail offensive.) They bring their five-mile an hour tractors on the highways with the expected result.   

European farmers could not survive without financial subsidies from Brussels.  In 1962, the Politique d’Agriculture Commune (PAC – Common Agricultural Policy) was set up by the European Union (EU) to assist and guide the agriculture of its members.  The PAC is the second largest item in the EU budget and one of its pillars.  Methods and objectives have changed over the years.  

For a while, it requested farmers to lay fallow their cultivated land.  Quotas for milk were stopped in 2015 and sugar in 2017.  Today the PAC is putting more emphasis on the development of organic food and protection of farmers against the climatic vagaries.  France is the leading agricultural country in Europe with production valued at 71 billion ahead of Germany (56.7 billion), Italy (54.2 billion) and Spain (49 billion.) France remains the top beneficiary of financial assistance from the PAC. 

Most Europeans are hostile to the use of pesticides.  Brussels wanted to set a 10-year-moratorium on the use of the herbicide Glyphosate.  Macron fought and demanded three years.  Finally Brussels decided on a period of five years. 

In France, Monsanto has become the prime bad guy.  Europeans are also against genetically-modified food and the addition of hormones and antibiotics in meat.  The French are getting very finicky about the traceability of products   A couple of years ago, horse meat was found in prepared food produced in Eastern Europe.  The French public went up in arms.   Since then, on every package or can, the geographic origin of the product has to be indicated.

Macron, during his visit to the Agricultural Fair asked the crowd, “Did you know that that 70 percent of the meat you eat in French restaurants is imported?  It makes no sense when French meat is probably the best in the world.”  The president is not a protectionist but, in his eyes, free trade agreements have to be equally  beneficial for both sides.  At present, the signing  of  the Mercosur Treaty between Europe and four South American countries is stalled, leaving Europeans worried.

It is a “must” for each French president to visit the fair.  Macron outdid all his predecessors by mingling with the crowd for more than 12 straight hours.  Always eager to explain his policies, he did not hesitate to plunge into the fray and engage in heated discussions with angry farmers. 

The day before the opening of the Salon, Macron had invited 700 young farmers to the Elysees palace.  As always, his method was not to promise financial assistance, but help his guests find creative solutions to make their farms more competitive.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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CT Valley Camera Club Presents Talk Tonight on How to Photograph National Parks

Photographer Chris Nicholson at Acadia National Park (Photo courtesy of Steven Ryan)

AREAWIDE: The guest speaker at the Monday, Mar. 5 meeting of the Connecticut Valley Camera Club (CVCC) will be the acclaimed photographer and author Chris Nicholson, who will give a presentation titled “Photographing National Parks.”  The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Lymes’ Senior Center, 26 Town Woods Rd., Old Lyme, Conn. All are welcome.

Chris Nicholson is a photographer and writer based in southern Connecticut and New York City. Formerly a magazine editor for ten years, he has worked on a freelance basis since 2004, with his camerawork focused primarily on the travel and sports genres. His writing and photographs have been published in over 30 magazines and several books.

Nicholson works in a primarily conservative style, believing that ideal composition is simple, strong and powerful. He has covered locations in Australia and throughout the continental United States (especially in New England, which he considers to be one of the most aesthetically unique regions of America).

Throughout his career he has studied the American national parks. Whether for assignments, publishing projects or personal work, Nicholson travels to national parks several times per year for photography. Over the past two decades he has paid particular attention to Acadia, Everglades, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Olympic, Shenandoah and Yellowstone, visiting and photographing those seven a combined 26 times.

The CVCC is dedicated to offering its membership the opportunity to become better photographers. The group offers a variety of presentations and interactive workshops to help members expand their technical and creative skills. Photographers of all levels of experience are welcomed.  The club draws members from up and down the river, from Middletown to Old Saybrook; from East Hampton to Old Lyme; and along the shoreline from Guilford to Gales Ferry.

For more information, visit the club’s website at https://ctvalleycameraclub.smugmug.com/. CVCC meeting dates, speakers/topics, and other notices are also published on the club’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/CTValleyCameraClubPage.

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Essex Winter Series Continues This Afternoon with Program Featuring Acclaimed Baritone David Pittsinger

David Pittsinger

ESSEX — Essex Winter Series’ 2018 season continues on March 4 with bass-baritone David Pittsinger. in a program to include music by Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Handel, and selections from the American Songbook that celebrate the American spirit.

The Quodlibet Ensemble, a New York-based string chamber orchestra of young, dynamic artists presents a range of great music, from the Baroque to the modern day performs April 8. Their program will include Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, as well as music by Mendelssohn, Mozart, and Nathan Schram.

All performances take place on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. with the Feb. 18 and April 8 concerts at Valley Regional High School, Deep River; and the March 4 concert at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. Seating is general admission and tickets may be purchased by visiting www.essexwinterseries.com or calling 860-272-4572.

The 2018 Essex Winter Series season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Guilford Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and BrandTech Scientific. Media sponsor is WSHU Public Radio and outreach activities are supported by the Community Foundation of Middlesex County and donors to the Fenton Brown Circle.

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Dazzling Red Carpet Oscar Event Tonight Raises Funds for ‘The Kate’


OLD SAYBROOK
 — The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (the Kate) will hold an Oscar Party benefit on Sunday, March 4beginning at 7 pm at the center located at 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook. This annual red-carpet event honors the Kate’s 12-time Oscar Nominated, 4-time-winning namesake and makes for an entertaining evening.  Proceeds support quality performing arts and cultural presentations at the Kate throughout the year.

“This event has always been volunteer-driven and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past eight years to support the Kate,” said Diane Hessinger, Oscar Party chair. “Not only is it a very fun evening, but it’s a perfect way to pay homage to our namesake, Katharine Hepburn and raise funds to expand the arts on the Connecticut shoreline.”

Delicious hearty hors d’oeuvres and desserts are provided by Fresh Salt and a cash bar is available while the 90th Academy Awards ceremony airs live on the Kate’s big screen. Guests will walk the red carpet, pose for photos, and have the chance to hold a real Oscar, thanks to Devin Carney, state representative and grandson of the late award-winning actor Art Carney. Carney is an honorary chair of the event along with Ann Nyberg of WTNH, both members of the Kate’s board.

A silent auction and raffle add to the fun of the evening and, new this year, is the Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry of Old Saybrook “Mystery Red Box” activity. Fifty jewelry boxes wrapped in a vibrant red paper are available for purchase with each box containing a Becker’s gift certificate and one grand prize box holding a beautiful 14k gold bracelet with forty-nine diamonds.

For tickets, visit www.thekate.org or call 877-503-1286.

The 2018 Oscar Party is held in memory of Beverly Whalen, a long-time volunteer at the Kate who gave generously of her time and helped launch this event. The evening is sponsored by Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry of Old Saybrook, Secor Volvo, Comcast, Gulick & Co., Pough Interiors, and Saybrook Point Inn Marina & Spa.

The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (the Kate) is a non-profit performing arts organization located in the former theatre and town hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, on Main Street in Old Saybrook. The Kate includes a 250-seat theatre and a small museum honoring Katharine Hepburn. From live music concerts, to children’s arts camp, to films of fine art, and the MET Opera and Bolshoi Ballet simulcasts, events presented at the Kate help to shape the community, making it brighter and more imaginative.

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The Kate, Community Music School Team Up to Offer Kid’s Camp Starting March 21


OLD SAYBROOK –
The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Community Music School (CMS) are partnering again under the umbrella of their performing arts summer camp, “Kate’s Camp for Kids,” to present a spring program and show entitled “It’s Saturday!”

This exciting program takes place at The Kate, 300 Main Street in Old Saybrook, and runs for seven weekly sessions on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 5 p.m. beginning March 21.  Launched in 2013, Kate’s Camp for Kids is a performing arts camp for children in grades K-5 incorporating music, dance, theater, and visual art.

Directed by Martha Herrle, a 16-year member of CMS faculty and certified Kindermusik educator, this year’s camp theme will be “It’s Saturday!”  Join the celebration of a ‘day off’ in the life of a kid with this clever mini-musical.

From watching cartoons to piano lessons, from football practice to chores, you’ll explore all the options for activities … or are they options? Featuring five original songs and easy-to-learn rhyming dialog, the program culminates in a lively performance for friends and family.

Tuition for this camp is $165 and scholarships are available for families with a financial need.

For additional information and to register, visit www.community-music-school.org or call 860-767-0026.

Community Music School offers innovative music programming for infants through adults, building on a 30-year tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities. The School’s programs cultivate musical ability and creativity and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.

Learn more at www.community-music-school.org or call (860)767-0026.

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Tavern Night Returns to CT River Museum, March 23

ESSEX — On Friday, Jan. 26, the Connecticut River Museum brings back its popular 1814 Tavern Night.  This lively 19th century evening will take place at the museum’s historic Samuel Lay House overlooking scenic Essex harbor.  The house will be transformed into a candlelit riverside tavern from the War of 1812. 

The evening includes a bourbon whiskey tasting hosted by Highland Imports, songs by noted musician Don Sineti, tavern games, and a food pairing of early American cuisine provided by Catering by Selene.  Additional wine and beer will be available at the cash bar.

Folk singer Don Sineti will play and sing some rousing tunes at Tavern Night.

Sineti is a folksinger, songwriter, part-time sea chantey man (with one of the most powerful voices on the Eastern Seaboard!), and long-neck, 5-string banjo picker.  For over 20 years, he has entertained with his boundless energy, to deliver rousing renditions of songs from the days of wooden ships and iron men.  With a booming voice and a hearty laugh, he shares his music with audiences of all ages.

There are three candle lit evenings planned.  Two additional Tavern Nights will be held; 

  • March 23 – Heritage Wines and Port Tastings with folklorist Stephen Gencarella & historian Chris Dobbs; Music by Joseph Mornealt
  • April 27  – Olde Burnside Brewing Company beer tastings; music by Rick Spencer, Dawn Indermuehle & Chris Dobbs. 

Save $10 when you buy all three evenings!

Tastings take place at 6 and 8 p.m.  Space is limited and reservations are required.  Call to reserve tickets at 860-767-8269 or visit ctrivermuseum.org.  Tickets are $24 for museum members or $29 for the general public (must be 21 or older and show valid ID).  Includes bourbon whiskey tasting, light bites, and entertainment.  The evening is sponsored in part by Catering by Selene, Connecticut Rental Center and Bob’s Centerbrook Package Store.

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM and closed on Mondays until Memorial Day. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for students, $6 for children age 6-12, free for children under 6.  For more information, call 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org

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St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Offers New Wednesday Evening Celtic Prayer Service

EAST HADDAM – St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church is starting a new tradition.

St. Stephen’s is offering a Wednesday evening prayer built upon the Celtic Christian tradition. This quiet and meditative prayer service begins at 7 p.m. and lasts for about half-an-hour.

This time represents an opportunity to find an oasis in the midst of busy lives where you can sit and be still with God. This service is open to any person who hungers for rest in the divine and is seeking a deeper connection with God, regardless of their religious background.

The Celtic Evening Prayer Service places an emphasis on silence, meditation, the mysteries of our faith, and creation. Celtic Spirituality draws its inspiration from the earliest manifestation of Christianity as well as the wisdom of pre-Christian Ireland.

The prayers of the Celtic Saints are filled with the experiences of God’s presence in creation, the simplicity of living in harmony with creation, and the awareness of the sacredness of all things. In the prayers, the passion, and the practice of the faith in the early church on these islands, there is a clarity, simplicity and wisdom that speak to many of today’s concerns.

“The Celtic Evening Prayer service offers an opportunity to come to a quiet place, to be reflective and through prayer to be renewed. We are pleased to offer this unique prayer experience,” comments Thom Hagerth, parishioner of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

“Preparing for this Celtic Evening Prayer Service has been very rewarding and it is my hope that people will find a new way to worship through time honored traditions,” comments Mike Corey, Intern, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

St. Stephen’s is located at 31 Main St., East Haddam, Connecticut, 860-873-9547.

For more information, visit www.ststeves.org.

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Letter From Paris: ‘The Donald’ and Europe Grow Further Apart

Nicole Prévost Logan

In February 2017, the European Union (EU) members, gathered at the Malta summit, were flabbergasted by President Donald Trump’s hostile attitude toward the United States’s traditional allies.  One year later the world has adjusted in the opinion of the seasoned diplomat Hubert Vedrine, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (1997-2002).  The French diplomat commented, “One has to get over our initial disbelief as to the unpredictable and apparently erratic policy of the 45th president of the US.”

The European opinion of Trump is not monolithic.  One has to differentiate between the North and South:  heavily indebted Greece and Germany with a flourishing economy will have opposite opinions.  The same divide exists between East and West: for example, nationalist and authoritarian countries like Poland will view Trump differently from the liberal Netherlands.

The Europeans resent Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement leaving a wide open boulevard for China to become the champion defender of the environment.  Last January, the announcement made by the controversial Ryan Zinke, US Secretary of the Environment, that he would allow oil and gas drilling near almost all US coasts from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico was considered a mistake.  The French oppose the position of Trump’s administration on the use of coal and other fossil fuel as sources of energy.  France has closed all its coal mines and does not even allow fracking for oil or gas exploration in fear of endangering the environment.

President Donald Trump

The recent financial and tax reforms introduced by the US president were characterized as a fiscal war with the rest of the world by economist and professor Philippe Dessertine.   On Jan. 26,  2018 at the Davos World Economic Forum, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), criticized those measures by saying that, subsequent to creating benefits in the short term, they would ultimately impact world  financial vulnerability.  She believes that the increase in both liquidity and the budget deficit, will eventually cause a sudden drop in the stock market.  It is interesting to note that a few days after her speech, the Dow tanked and began a new cycle of high volatility.

French economists commented that lowering corporate taxes to 21 percent in the US – not that far from the 12.5 percent of Irish tax heaven – is placing the competitiveness of countries like France at a disadvantage.  It will take five years of arduous effort by French President Macron to lower French corporate taxes to 25 percent.  The French Minister of Economy and Finances, Bruno Lemaire, criticized these reforms for technical reasons.  He commented that they will penalize European subsidiaries located in the US and also be an incentive for American companies located in France to relocate to the US.

According to French economist Thomas Piketty, 68.1 percent of the US income tax reduction will benefit just 1 percent of the population, thereby increasing the already exisiting inequalities even further.  For Gerard Courteois, editorial writer of the French national newspaper Le Monde, there is an incoherence in the statement,”Make America great again,” particularly in the use of the word “again.”  Does it apply to the boom years after World War II when it actually was a time of high taxes and international trade?

Trump’s foreign policy is scrutinized by French diplomats and geopoliticians.  Vedrine describes the American president’s policy in the Middle East as a disaster.  Trump has created a confrontational axis with Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey against Iran and managed to freeze the Israel-Palestine peace process.  Regarding the European Union (EU), Trump’s objective seems to be its deconstruction.  Trump applauded Brexit and asked “Who is next?”  To European satisfaction, Congress has blocked the confirmation of a Europhobe nominee as US Ambassador to the EU.  The post has not been filled to date.

Trump’s diplomacy is not sophisticated.  It is a bully approach, forever brandishing the threat of more and greater sanctions, whether in the Ukraine, Iran or Korea.  Punitive measures are even taken by Trump toward the Palestinians.  He intends to suspend financial aid because they refuse to sit at the negotiating table.

French diplomats prefer pragmatism and negotiations.  Dominique de Villepin, former foreign minister (2002-2004) and prime minister (2005-2007), believes, for instance, that one has to accept the fact that North Korea is a nuclear power and entice that country to join the international community by helping  its economic development .

However, Vedrine says one should not blame Trump for everything.  Being realistic, France and Europe are not at the center of the world today.  If the US is stepping back, it is a chance for Europe to regain its autonomy.  Villepin suggests that Europe needs to break away from US guardianship .

At the annual Munich conference on security, participants showed for the first time their intention to step up the defense of the EU.  Last year Trump had scolded NATO members for not paying their share leading to the irritation of Washington today.  To put a stop to transatlantic polemics, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, wanted to be conciliatory and declared, “The increase in the European defense budget will reinforce the NATO European pillar.”

Judging from this non-exhaustive list of disagreements, relations between Trump and Europe are not particularly warm right now — in fact, one might be tempted to conclude they are well on the way to just plain bad.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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