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Donor Spotlight: Deborah Ann Light

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Quail Hill Farm
November 1, 2015

By Scott Chaskey

I have told this story at Quail Hill Farm so many times over the years it must be woven into the textures of our fields. About 5 years following her donation of 20 acres of land to the Peconic Land Trust, in 1994, Deborah Ann Light was diagnosed with lung cancer; she was told that she had 6 months to live. She had a strong desire to settle her estate,so she set in motion a really great gift to the Trust,and to all of us—the donation of her remaining farmland, totaling almost 200 acres, the farmland and woodland that we have stewarded for 20 years now. Until now I would end the story with this: “And she is still alive!” 

Although Deborah passed away on the 21st of July her legacy is very much alive at Quail Hill: in the beech and holly, sycamore and oak, apple wood and milkweed, the daffodils and narcissi that return every Spring in pockets in our woods. The legacy of this great lady—“who was known to enjoy making an entrance”—extends far beyond north Amagansett, but we are perhaps at the center of it. 

Visitors to Quail Hill often comment on a certain quality that informs the place, something it was our good fortune to inherit through Deborah, an inspired quilter: magic is woven into the fabric of our fields.In my 2005 book, “This Common Ground,” I wrote this about our “Hedgewitch” philanthropist:

“The rock that celebrates Deborah Light’s gift of land is there, not far from the spreading limbs of a pin oak tree we planted in 1990. We moved it half a mile to where it now rests, by some miracle of tractor and trailer, and will. I remember having a certain lack of confidence in the procedure, and also my thought: “Will she like the rock?” 

She does. 

Speaking from near Main Street, Sag Harbor, her new home, she told me, “At one time, out for a walk, if I would climb Quail Hill and crouch down, and, if I really squinted with my eyes and looked out, I owned all the land I could see.” 

Recently, I happened to read in a book by the poet Lorine Niedecker some words that have relevance: Black Hawk held: In reason Land cannot be sold, Only things to be carried away…

“Deborah gave her land away because she did not consider it solely “hers.” Land is not, as we have come to value it, only a bundle of rights; it is, as Native American elders pointed out, a complex web of relationships.”

Scott Chaskey

Deborah is linked to the land within that web, and we are entwined with the filament. The granite stone bearing words honors her, as do the people who come to harvest from our shared land. Each individual is common to this ground, one among many:

I speak from the hill near to the sea: 

I am the wind that moves the grass. 

I am the iron within the stone. 

I am the water that seeks the valley. 

I am the bark of oak, heartwood of holly. 

I am the seed within the pod, 

     Within the tear, 

                Within the tide. 

I am the sky woman, 

        Invisible within the wing 

That touches ground and air

       To rise and sing…

All of us at the Trust are deeply indebted to Deborah for her vision and service on our Board of Directors. We will forever remember her spirit and commitment to the East End and are grateful for her trust in us to care for the land she once stewarded.