Finding Solace In Pandemic Isolation

Pictured above: Hikers Sunday in the meadow at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island | Jeanne Merkel photo

While cultural institutions, theaters, bars and restaurants have shut down over the past few days, at least one group of East End institutions is announcing its doors are wide open: Nature preserves.

While nature can sooth the spirit, arts and cultural institutions have turned to technology, setting up virtual programming for the community. Churches throughout the East End are also putting together tele-services.

Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island announced Friday that it is expanding its hours through April 20, with all trails open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Time in nature helps us decompress. With all the fast-paced news of this week, we invite you and your family to take a stroll through the woods, enjoy the sights and sounds of spring, and relax,” according to a message from the preserve. “Whether you’re looking to entertain the kids, get some exercise, or just escape for a little bit, we’re here for you.”

The meadow at Mashomack Preserve | Jeanne Merkel photo

Our Shelter Island correspondent, Jeanne Merkel, took one of her regular walks on the trails Sunday, March 15, and said the preserve was far busier than usual, with groups of all ages taking advantage of the fresh air and warm weather to find time together in nature.

The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is also welcoming visitors to its trails, which are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“The refuge trails, animal cages, and outdoor bathroom facility will remain open daily from sunrise to sunset, however our nature center building will be closed to the public over the next two weekends,” according to the refuge, which is at 3 Old Country Road in Quogue.

The South Fork Natural History Museum’s building in Bridgehampton is closed to the public, but its nature walks and outdoor events will continue and the trails behind the museum are open.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Trail at EPCAL in Calverton is open, though all town programming on the path is closed.

“I recommend lots of sunshine and vitamin D!” said Bob Beattie of Long Island Running. “Hike, run, bike the path every day if you can!”

Get Some Culture

Guild Hall in East Hampton has rolled out a new page on its website called “Live from Guild Hall,” with new and archived programming including gallery talks, lectures and live music. It held its first post-closure event, the gallery tour in the video above, on Monday, March 16.

Guild Hall is also a frequent host for the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series, which on March 16 rolled out a nightly free streaming of its archived performances with its 2010 production of Bizet’s “Carmen.”

The Southampton Arts Center’s virtual tour of Takeover 2020!

The Southampton Arts Center has also posted a live tour of its current exhibition, Takeover 2020!, above.

Southampton Arts Center Artistic Director Amy Kirwin, always in for social and artistic experimentation, has launched a virtual exhibition. Paint, draw, take photographs — whatever inspires and excites you,” she said on Instagram (@southamptonartscenter). “Then email a photo to with your name, Instagram handle and the name of your work, or post on social, tag us, and use #SACArtShare. We will feature them on Instagram and Facebook as they come in. So get to work!”

You can go global with this cultural experiment, thanks to a Google compilation of virtual tours of museums around the world.

Read and Pray

Libraries throughout the East End have closed, but they’re urging the public to take advantage of the virtual services on their websites, including Overdrive and LIVE-Brary, which provide access to e-books, magazines and learning resources. Some libraries have automatically renewed expiring library cards and are asking people to hold on to the books they have at home until the libraries can open again.

Churches are also working out the details of livestream services, with a keen awareness that people may need their services more than ever during these anxiety-inducing times.

“We are especially mindful that many in our small community are at higher risk for complications: Older adults over 60; people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease; people with compromised immune systems,” said Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork Pastor Kimberly Quinn-Johnson in an email to parishioners last week, echoing the concerns of leaders of many faiths. “Now more than ever, we draw on our resources of love and concern to ensure that everyone is cared for.”

Pastor Quinn Johnson can be reached at for information about virtual services or pastoral care.

The Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton is also working to make its services available virtually, and we expect many more faith communities have such programs in the works.

Go On A Scavenger Hunt

Mashomack Preserve has also gotten creative with the challenge posed by social distancing.

They’re inviting Shelter Islanders to take part in a “Signs of Spring Challenge,” an island-wide scavenger hunt using the iNaturalist app and computer program.

They’re asking participants to photograph or make note of spring peeper frogs (click to hear their call), salamanders, snakes, turtles, birds and native flowers and trees and share their observations on the app.

“Some are returning from long migrations. Others are waking up from hibernation or changing behaviors to attract a mate,” Mashomack said of the challenge. “By tracking springtime observations each year, we get a sense for how the world is changing. Your observations help The Nature Conservancy scientists study seasonal changes on Shelter Island over time.”

Whoever has the most points in the scavenger hunt by April 20 wins, and the challenge is scored by receiving 1 point for each species you identify at each location you visit. For example, if you observe 30 American robins in your backyard you will receive 1 point. If you hear spring peeper frogs calling in three different ponds, you will receive three points. Ten bonus points will go to the person with the first osprey sighting.

Participants sign up by creating a free iNaturalist account and downloading the app on their mobile device. Look for plants and animals and record your observations, which will be automatically submitted to the Signs of Spring on Shelter Island Scavenger Hunt.

If you can’t identify the plant or animal, the iNaturalist community will help you out. The most important thing is to capture a photo and post your observation on the app.

What Are You Going To Do?

Are you planning to learn a new skill or change something about the way you live as we’re stuck in isolation?

If you have some ideas for community or solo projects that you’d like to share, email us at

Here at Beacon headquarters, we plan to practice the accordion.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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