national village photo contest finalist
by Peter Sussman, Ashby Village Member
When we think of villages, we don't always envision older people tracking the paths of hawks through a redwood forest, but in Ashby Village they do.
Ashby Village helps connect its diverse members through communal events, of course, but also - and every bit as important - through members' shared individual interests, in small groups initiated and shaped by members to reflect those interests.
Through its newsletter, website and recent "Interest Faire" barbecue, our village assists members in finding others who share their passions, among them bridge, modern poetry, knitting, photography, computers, painting and - among the earliest and most popular of the interest groups - nature walks.
Audre and Roger Newman, world-traveling nature lovers, suggested the nature walks and have been energetic organizers of the group ever since.
The Newmans - shown here with Irene Marcos in one of our resplendent regional parks - have led walks through many of the natural wonders that encircle the urban core of our membership area, from a bird migration walk in a local marsh to a fern walk in a redwood forest and a wildflower walk in a hillside park, among others. Guest experts often serve as guides; one, a naturalist and gerontologist, led a tour through a park built on landfill, explaining not only the natural features but the park's historical and ecological context, including how methane gas is systematically released from the garbage dump on which the park was built.
Sometimes, prospective members join in the walks, forming friendships with current members who share their interests and sampling the pleasures of joining Ashby Village. The group's walks often end with the reading of a nature poem or, in one case, an essay on the pleasures of sauntering - as opposed to hiking - in natural surroundings. Afterward, the hiker/saunterers often like to share a lunch, deepening bonds formed on the trail.
At the end of one walk, a member read a poem by William Wordsworth celebrating daffodils. One of the walkers reported in our member newsletter: "It was a foggy day at Inspiration Point, prompting each of us to feel as if we had 'wandered ... as a cloud,' as the poem says. We enjoyed the incomparable beauty of Tilden [Park] and shared thoughts, memories, and good conversation along the path. This richness of nature and of friendship continues each month."