Thursday, November 19, 2015
By James Lomuscio
For Westport author and artist Judith Orseck Katz, the town’s historic Sherwood Mill Pond, also known as Old Mill Pond, remains the heart of Westport.
Created 300 years ago at the site of a grist mill to enhance the area’s shellfishing industry, the pond had a sense of permanence for Katz, a kind of mythical spot between sea and sky that continues to draw her and inspires her to draw.
“It’s been that way ever since 40 years ago in “a golden July, when we had come to summer here when my children were babies.”
It is also the subject of her latest book, “The Beautiful Pond,” replete with 34 drawings and watercolors, all of them unveiled at a book party tonight that drew about 100 persons, including town officials, to Positano Ristorante, adjacent to the Westport Country Playhouse in space formerly occupied by the Dressing Room Restaurant.
“I’ve wanted to do this book all the years I’ve been in Westport,” Katz said. “I’m thrilled to have it become a reality from standing on the bridges between the sky and the sky’s reflection.”
Throughout the book’s 90 pages she waxes poetic and artistic, beckoning the reader to experience the same, to see the pond through her eyes.
Her recurring message of nature’s timelessness that allows one to live in the present echoes themes expressed by many writers from E.B. White in “Once More to the Lake” to countless haiku poets.
“Stand on the bridges and be swept into the world of their beauty,” she writes on page 15. “The water is always moving in or out. The tide is chanting, coming slowly and quickly across the pond. The sky is always shining 360 degrees around you. You’re enveloped in the moment.”
Katz’s book was made possible by longtime Westporter Robin Tauck, who funded the glossy cloth covered text.
“I grew up on the Long Island Sound, and the ponds are important to its ecology,” said Tauck, who owns two houses and a plot of land near the pond.
Tauck said her interest in the area grew from conversations with the late town historian Allen Raymond, from whom she learned “a lot about the old families and the mill and the bridges.”
“It was the mill and the Greens Farms Church that started the seeds of Westport,” Tauck said. “The mill was the first commercial enterprise in Westport.”
The book launch sponsored by Westport-based Meryl Moss Media Relations drew environmentally conscious, as well as arts focused crowds.
Alicia Mozian, director of the town’s Department of Conservation, said she came to help celebrate the more than 80-acre brackish water pond that serves as “a habitat for a multitude of shore birds and shellfish.”
“And there’s an active aquaculture program going on there now by Jeff Northrop,” she said about an oyster business that seeds oysters in the pond before transferring them to deeper waters. “His family has been using the pond for a couple of hundred years.”
Scott Mitchell, chairman of Stamford-based SoundWaters Coastal Education Center, was also present, stressing the ecological importance of 50 such Long Island Sound ponds stretching from Groton to Larchmont, N.Y.
“If that estuary is healthy,” he said about the Sherwood Mill Pond, “it’s a good sign for the Sound.”
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe also came to applaud the work.
“The Mill Pond has been so important to Westport’s history, particularly in shellfishing, which we now call aquaculture,” Marpe said. “And today, it still supports our oyster industry.
“But, it also provides a beautiful place for so many in Westport to live,” he added.
Posted 11/19/15 at 10:08 PM
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