Opinion

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I didn’t see a horrifying and preventable accident this morning. I didn’t see a little girl, let’s call her Erica, on her way to her first week of school.

Erica, who, in our story, is 10 years old, wants to be a veterinarian, and has pictures of animals all over her room. She begged her parents so long for a kitten that they relented. They saw how well she took care of the kitten, putting drops in her eyes when she needed them, making sure she got the correct shots and even holding her kitten in the office when they had to draw blood to test for feline leukemia, which, fortunately, her kitten didn’t have.

Two years after she got her kitten, Erica continued to ask for additional animals, adding a fish, a rabbit and a hamster to her collection. Each morning, Erica wakes up and checks on all the animals in her little zoo, well, that’s what her father calls it, to see how they’re doing.

Her mother is convinced that the animals respond to her voice, moving closer to the edge of the cage or to the door when they hear her coming. When mother leaves to pick up Erica from school, the animals become restless.

I didn’t see Erica walking with her best friend Jenna. Like Erica, Jenna has a dream. She wants to pitch for the United States in softball in the Olympics. Jenna is much taller than her best friend and has an incredible arm. Jenna hopes the Olympics decides to have softball when she’s old enough and strong enough to play. Jenna thinks bringing a gold medal to her father, who is in the Marines and has traveled the world protecting other people, would be the greatest accomplishment she could ever achieve.

I didn’t see a man, whom I’ll call Bob and who lives only four blocks from Erica and Jenna, put on his carefully pressed light-blue shirt with the matching tie that morning. I didn’t witness him kissing his wife Alicia, the way he does every morning before he rushes off to his important job. I didn’t see him climb into his sleek SUV and back quickly out of his driveway on the dead-end block he and Alicia chose more than a dozen years earlier.

I didn’t see Bob get the first indication from his iPhone 7 that he had several messages. I didn’t witness Bob rolling his eyes at the first few messages. I didn’t see him drive quickly toward the crosswalk where Erica and Jenna were walking. The girls had slowed down in the crosswalk because Jenna pointed out a deer she could see across the street in a backyard. Jenna knew Erica kept an animal diary and she was always on the lookout for anything her friend could include in her cherished book.

I didn’t see Bob — his attention diverted by a phone he had to extend to see clearly — roll too quickly into the crosswalk, sending both girls flying. I didn’t see the ambulances racing to the scene, the parents with heavy hearts getting the unimaginable phone calls, and the doctors doing everything they could to fix Jenna’s battered right arm — her pitching arm.

I didn’t see it because it didn’t happen. What I did see, however, was a man in an SUV, driving way too quickly through a crosswalk, staring at his phone instead of looking out for Erica, Jenna and everyone else’s children on his way to work.

It’s an old message that we should repeat every year: “School is open, drive carefully.”

This Column is reprinted from September 14, 2017 issue.

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When we have visitors, we like to show off our neighborhoods. We take our guests to the beaches to admire the beautiful shoreline and we bring them to our villages to enjoy restaurants and shops. But some stores have been forced to close largely because so much shopping now takes place on the internet.

The owners and managers of stores that remain have learned that they must do more than in the past to attract customers. That is true of malls, department stores and especially smaller retail shops. To compete with the convenient internet, they have to offer an appealing experience for the consumer to visit them.

We are proud of our downtowns and want to publicize their efforts to attract business, especially for their best season before the holidays. To provide a local shopping event and a fun experience, we have arranged a private holiday treat at the Bates House opposite the Emma Clark Library in Setauket. Hometown stores and services from Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor, Northport, Smithtown, St. James, Stony Brook, Setauket-East Setauket, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Shoreham, Wading River, Centereach, Selden and Lake Grove will feature their offerings at this charming venue for our local residents. Those who come out to enjoy this showcase will find a discount of 20 percent for some products and services.

Shoppers will be exposed to neighbors and friends as they sample community gatherings. Business owners will look to demonstrate what’s new for the holidays, from products or services to gift certificates and one-time discounts.

To make the occasion more delightful, there will be dessert bites from Elegant Eating and prosecco wine provided by TBR News Media/Times Beacon Record as a treat for shoppers, who will attend free.

Those businesses who are participating will enjoy a discounted rate at the gala in addition to their advertising in our holiday book, “Time for Giving.” They will also have advertising on our internet website and social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Furthermore, we will have spot interviews with each exhibitor and streaming live video throughout the event on Facebook on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 5:30-8:30 pm. For further information, please turn to the large ad in our Arts & Lifestyles section in the center of the newspapers. also see our website and social media.

We will be proud to feature our private holiday shopping experience and hope you will, too. Please join us.

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When voters head to booths Thursday to participate in several statewide primaries, it is unlikely that the race for a judicial seat presiding over Suffolk County’s Surrogate’s Court will be at the top of their minds. We understand. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general races are likely what will drive primary voters to the polls, and deservedly so, as those are high-profile positions with juicy political implications for those who track things like the shifting nuclei of both parties.

So for those who haven’t paid close attention to what’s going on in a judicial race for a court most people probably never heard of, there’s a few things we think voters should know.

Tara Scully and Theresa Whelan are set to square off in the Democratic primary Sept. 13. Scully, a registered Republican, has already gotten the nod to secure that party line in the general election, meaning if she wins the Democratic primary, her name will appear next to both major political parties come November. Whelan, on the other hand, is an actual Democrat, though Newsday has reported that based on a deal cut by party bosses, if she wins the primary she’ll also be granted the Conservative Party line in the general election. Have we lost you yet? To summarize, on November’s general election ballot either a Republican will have both major lines or a Democrat will be listed as both a Democrat and a Conservative.

To try to get to the bottom of this mess, we invited the candidates in for a discussion with the TBR News Media editorial staff Sept. 6. While we are not endorsing a candidate, we have some thoughts we’d like to share anyway.

We admire what Scully did — stepping up and answering a call for a candidate unshackled by predetermined deals. She was able to earn enough petition signatures in a short window of time to run on both major party lines. However, if the result is she is representing both Democrats and Republicans on the ballot in November, it’s difficult to argue that voters still have a fair choice.

And while Whelan is a Democrat seeking a nod from her own party, rewarding backroom dealing designed to circumvent the will of voters is not a practice that should be encouraged either.

Having said all of that, after being in a room with the candidates for an hour, a few things became very clear. Both candidates are running with their hearts in the right place. They each expressed a desire to preside over a court that requires a touch of empathy and compassion, with fairness being of the utmost importance and politics divorced from the job. We also love to see political races featuring two accomplished and qualified women. Each has served as president of the Women’s Bar Association in addition to a litany of other impressive resume lines. Both seem to realize as well that they are essentially — no pun intended — surrogates having the political baggage marring this race imposed upon them. The discussion was respectful, truthful and honest, and each expressed that she had nothing bad to say about the other personally.

Regardless of the outcome of this race, we hope what voters glean from it is yet another reminder that citizen vigilance is not just important for a healthy democracy, but in reality, it’s the only thing keeping it alive. Research candidates. Figure out what these people stand for before you enter a voting booth or be prepared to live with the consequences.

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Newspaper publishers, editors and staff members across the country — especially weeklies operating on tight budgets — are breathing sighs of relief.

Last week the United States International Trade Commission overturned President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint, and we couldn’t be happier. The tariffs that the U.S. began charging this year caused many newspapers in the country to cut staff or paper sizes — in some cases both — to absorb the rise in newsprint costs. Other publications closed their doors as the additional expense was the breaking point for many outlets, making it impossible to continue operating in an environment already riddled with challenges in a changing industry.

The overturning of this tariff, besides creating a sigh of relief, has demonstrated the balance of power in our country at work.

Many have expressed fear about how much power a president may have or think he has, but our forefathers were visionaries. Declaring their independence from England, they knew a monarchy wouldn’t work in the U.S. All levels of government, from federal down to local, are designed with checks and balances in place in the form of executive, legislative and judicial branches. The president may want something to happen — in this case to impose a tariff — but that doesn’t mean that senators, congressmen, judges and federal agencies have to agree with him. And if they don’t, they have the power to make sure that a bill or an edict doesn’t go forward or remain in place.

Speaking of our Founding Fathers, they ensured the U.S. Constitution contained an amendment to aid in protection of the free press. It was written to allow journalists to fairly report on events and happenings without government interference. This enables reporters the freedom and ability to keep a close eye on what elected officials are up to.

Imagine if weekly, in most cases local, newspapers needed to continue to absorb the newsprint tariff. We presume many more would suffer, and as each one folded, regional and national outlets would be left to try to pick up the slack jumping into areas local news reporters know inside and out. Or worse: No one would pick up the slack.

If the press runs into an issue like this again — government decisions directly impacting our ability to do our jobs effectively — we as an industry have shown there is strength in numbers. In a show of unity, Aug. 16, hundreds of papers in the U.S. published similar
editorials voicing displeasure over the president’s disrespectful treatment of members of the press dating back to his campaign. The goal was to make it clear that the press wasn’t the enemy of the people.

As your local press, we are thrilled to continue to serve you in the years to come.

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Question: Put together some sci-fi, add a bit of spy thriller and what have you got? Answer: The latest hypothesis for what caused the symptoms and illnesses of our diplomatic representatives in Cuba and then in China. The Cuban incident caused a serious rift in the newly mellowed relationship between Cuba and the United States. Now scientists are suggesting that microwaves might be the weapons.

It seems that weapons emitting microwave radiation, not the short waves that come from our kitchen microwave ovens or connect our cellphones to antennae towers, have been considered by military specialists for mind control since the Cold War. These invisible beams can transmit painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads, according to an astonishing story by William J. Broad on the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times. Now Douglas H. Smith, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the lead author of a recent study of 21 affected diplomats from Cuba, pointed to this possible cause of the brain injuries.

The Frey effect, named after American biologist Allan H. Frey, occurs when microwaves cause the brain to “hear” ordinary sounds, like loud noises, ringing and even human voices. These can be the result of stealth attacks with sonic weapons.

Jason, a secretive group of elite scientists that, according to The Times, helps the federal government assess new threats to national security, has been called in to figure out the cause of the symptoms. While the group has not issued any explanations, nor has the FBI, it is certainly studying the possibility of microwaves being the agents. Frey, 83, who lives near Washington, agrees. He even thinks that a group of Cubans aligned with Russia, their longtime ally, might have launched such an attack. “It’s a possibility … a perfectly viable explanation,” to disrupt a closer United States-Cuban relationship.

Microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, are everywhere and are generally seen as harmless. However, when tightly focused, as when dish antennas turn the disorganized rays into concentrated beams, they can cause even deaf people to hear false sounds. Frey, in effect, founded a new field of study on the neural impact of radiation waves. He realized that the human head, because of its dimensions, is a good antenna for picking up microwave signals. The temporal lobes, beneath the temples, are where nerve signals from the outer and inner ear are processed. The effect is now called radio-frequency hearing.

Others took note. The Soviets built labs with armed guards to study the neural impact of microwaves and envisioned arms that they called psychophysical or psychotronic. These sounds, the Defense Intelligence Agency warned, could disrupt military or diplomatic personnel.

The U.S. Air Force jumped in to research how to beam comprehensible speech into the heads of enemies. The Navy sought to paralyze with the beams. Russia, China and European nations know how to make such weapons today. The weapon might look like an innocuous satellite dish and could fire beams over relatively short distances. We do know that Russian President Vladimir Putin resurrected “work on psychoactive arms” as recently ago as 2012, according to The Times.

There is still no definitive explanation for the sickness of diplomatic personnel in Cuban and subsequently China, but suspicions of microwave radiation remain high on the list. The problem in pinpointing them is the stealth.

Where people live, conflicts thrive.

It’s inevitable. Get two people in a room for long enough and, eventually, they will find elements about the other person that irritate them. It’s what drives people to watch some reality TV shows. Participants can’t stand each other, they call each other names and, before you know it, someone is screaming at someone else and the viewing audience at home is rubbernecking through the drama.

When it happens to other people, it’s entertainment. When it happens to us, it can hurt.

Why do we care what other people think? We know that some people will find fault with everyone — their mothers, siblings and bosses — making criticism inevitable and, ultimately, meaningless.

If someone stood on the side of the road and yelled “Duck!” often enough, pretty soon people would stop ducking, would stop looking for ducks, and, like so many other noises around them, wouldn’t hear the warning anymore.

And yet, when someone we know or even someone we’ve recently met indicates a disdain for us, scowls at our presence, or undermines our abilities, intelligence or effort, we feel cut to the quick. That person might just be repeating the same criticisms to us that he or she levies at everyone all the time.

It’s like a fortune cookie. We read something that says, “You need to think twice before taking advice.” Wow, we think, how incredibly insightful, even as we ignore the irony that we are taking advice from a small slip of paper crushed into a Pac-Man shaped cookie. Someone recently gave me advice that seems valuable, like quitting a job I hate, but maybe that person just wants to take my job or doesn’t want to hear me complaining. Maybe that advice doesn’t really apply to me after all.

The same holds true for insults, criticism and nastiness. It could apply to us or it could just be fortune cookie nastiness, conjured up by someone who may not enjoy the life he or she leads, trying to make everyone as miserable as them.

Insults are ubiquitous. Much of the time, however, the insult is an opinion, not a fact. There are times when an admonishment such as “You weren’t driving well” is accurate, particularly if you were driving the wrong way on a one-way street.

We don’t immediately imagine the person doing the insulting might be sharing an opinion about us that we would almost instantly dismiss if it were about our spouse, our children, our parents or our close friends. We think, “Maybe I am terrible at this,” or “Maybe I should be embarrassed.”

People make puppets, write stories about fictional characters, draw cartoons and imaginary figures because they want to control something.

But just because they want control doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. Even assuming someone doesn’t like you, your appearance or your ideas, so what? Our preferences are so subjective that we can’t or shouldn’t try to please everyone.

We don’t have to play those reindeer games. We can disagree and express our opinions without attacking someone else. We follow whatever rules we set for ourselves and don’t need to fight fire with fire, hit back 10 times harder or show that we mean business. We can be more graceful than our detractors.

When someone attacks us, we don’t have to act as if we’re wearing a target. We can look at that person, put a slow smile on our face and say, “It’s too bad you feel that way. Maybe a good fortune cookie would cheer you up?”

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With less than two weeks to go before New York State’s primaries, we’ve been ramping up our coverage of the 2018 elections at TBR News Media. One thing has become abundantly clear: There are a seemingly endless number of hurdles for who can run, their campaigns and how to vote.

In Shoreham, Rocky Point Fire Chief Mike Yacubich has fought to stay on the ballot after citizens in the state’s 2nd Assembly District challenged his petitions to be the Republican candidate to run for the seat. Their objections were based on the fact that he and his son share the same name — and that there was no distinguishing middle initial indicated on the forms — which they argued could have led to confusion for voters.

In Northport, Democratic hopeful Michael Marcantonio was found ineligible to run for the state’s 12th Assembly District after it was brought to the court’s attention he cast his vote in North Carolina in 2014. At the time, he was a law student at Duke University and didn’t realize judges may rule that ballot severed his five-year residency in New York, which is the time required to run for political office.

In Huntington, Republican candidates have petitioned to create a “Stop LIPA” ballot line for the Nov. 6 elections. Their opponents have filed objections. It has raised questions about when Stop LIPA became a legitimate third party and cast doubts on which elected officials are rallying against the utility’s attempt to get the taxes lowered on its Northport plant, an issue we see as local and party-less.

Throughout the summer, we’ve seen voter drives encouraging teenagers to register before heading off to college. The process of simply obtaining an absentee ballot requires completing a preliminary application that needs to be hand delivered to the Suffolk County Board of Elections Yaphank office or snail mailed at least seven days in advance, and casting an absentee ballot then requires a second trip to the post office. Also, being required to work during polling hours is not listed as a valid reason for obtaining an absentee ballot.

Our state laws regarding how to run for office and how to cast a vote need to be simplified. The process needs to be streamlined and modernized. Our failure to do so hurts both Democrats and Republicans, it knows no party lines. Rather, it collectively silences the voices of aspiring politicians looking to make a difference, employees working long hours to make ends meet and uninformed youth who find too many barriers between them and the polling booths.

First, information on how to run for office and eligibility needs to be made clear and more easily available to the public. A fundamental concept to our democracy is that anyone can run for office — but they have to know how and what to do.

In New York state, anyone with a valid driver’s license can register to vote online and change their party affiliation. Given this is possible, we fail to see any reason why a request for an absentee ballot should not also be fileable via email or an online form on Suffolk County Board of Elections’ website with an electronic confirmation given.

With the technology available today, it’s hard to believe we’re locked into pen-and-paper forms and snail mail to register political candidates for elections and to vote if temporarily out of state. It’s time we re-examine these methods. Participating in democracy should be getting easier, not more difficult.

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Summer is about to end, and with it the most mellow time of the year. I’d like to leave this season with a gentle and accurate message that came from the internet and resonates with me:

A newlywed young man was sitting on the porch on a humid day, sipping ice tea with his father. As he talked about adult life, marriage responsibilities and obligations, the father thoughtfully stirred the ice cubes in his glass and cast a clear, sober look on his son.

“Never forget your friends,” he advised, “they will become more important as you get older. Regardless of how much you love your family, you will always need friends. Remember to go out with them occasionally — if possible — but keep in contact with them somehow.”

“What strange advice!” thought the young man. “I just entered the married world. I am an adult and surely my wife and the family that we will start will be everything I need to make sense of my life.”

Yet he obeyed his father, kept in touch with his friends and annually increased their number. Over the years, he became aware that his father knew what he was talking about.

Inasmuch as time and nature carry out their designs and mysteries on a person, friends are the bulwarks of our life. After 70-plus years of life, here is what he, and you, and I will have learned:

Time passes.

Life goes on.

Children grow up. They cease to be children and become independent. And to the parents, it breaks their hearts but the children are separated from the parents because they begin their own families.

Jobs/careers come and go.

Illusions, desires, attraction, sex … weaken.

People can’t do what they did physically when they were young.

Parents die but you move on.

Colleagues forget the favors you did.

The race to achieve slows.

But true friends are always there, no matter how long or how many miles away they are. A friend is never more distant than the reach of a need, intervening in your favor, waiting for you with open arms and in some way blessing your life.

When we started this adventure called life, we did not know of the incredible joys or sorrows that were ahead. We did not know how much we would need from each other. Love your parents, take care of your family, but keep a group of good friends. Stay in touch with them. [Tell this to] your friends — even those you seldom see — who help make sense of your life. (End)

Friends, especially old friends, are witnesses to our life. They have helped us soldier though the hard times and been there with us for the celebrations and the fun times. We don’t have to explain much to them because they know most of the details already. They have aged along with us and can laugh at the same incongruities and absurdities that are specific to our generation. We can compare our satisfactions as well as our aches and pains, and share the advice and names of our physicians and our medicines. As we are reduced in stature, we are reduced together so the same relative heights hold and we continue on unperturbed.

Most satisfying is the shared wisdom that has come from living a substantial number of years. We can comfort each other as we laugh about the difficulties and perceived difficulties in our lives, and we never need to feel embarrassed about our thoughts or our hang-ups.

The most painful part comes with the inevitable loss of close friends. They are irreplaceable and their absence leaves a hole in our lives and our hearts. “I’m only going to befriend younger people I meet,” we declare. The same for our doctors and dentists, who have the temerity to retire or die.

So to my dear friends — and yes, those professionals who keep me together — just know how I treasure you.

Labor Day offers a chance to consider the division of labor that makes living on Long Island and in the United States so incredible.

Police officers stand ready to protect and serve. They leave their homes with the best of intentions, providing safety, security and order to our communities.

Similarly, firefighters offer an enormous measure of protection for us individually and collectively, racing into burning buildings to save us and keeping fires from spreading to nearby homes.

Members of the military protect our interests and help residents in our communities, country and strangers around the world.

Priests, rabbis, imams and other spiritual leaders encourage us to aspire to greatness, to see beyond our frustration and anger, and to believe in a higher purpose and a grander plan. They bring out the best in us and suggest ways to give our lives meaning beyond meeting our basic needs.

Psychologists and psychiatrists act as handrails for people’s minds and emotions, helping us deal with a wide range of challenges, frustrations and difficulties.

Doctors, nurses and medical health professionals refuse to allow bacteria, viruses or injuries to get the better of us, standing ready to help us fight an infection, determining what that mysterious pain is and, at best, help treat the cause of the disorder and not just the symptoms.

Sanitation workers enable us to keep our homes and communities clean.

Supermarket workers stock the shelves, help us find gluten-free food to manage our growing list of allergies, and make sure they have the specific brand of the milk we buy.

Car mechanics allow us to reach our appointments on time and make it to our children’s concerts.

Teachers feed hungry young minds, encouraging and inspiring the next generation, coming in before school or staying late to will students across another academic finish line.

Beyond offering the welcoming smile at many companies, receptionists wear numerous hats, directing traffic through offices, sending phone calls to the right extension, and knowing how to find anything and everything.

When we maneuver through the purchase of a home, the establishment of a will or the adoption of the newest member of our family, lawyers guide us through each process, becoming advocates for our interests and close confidants.

In the wee hours of the morning, bakers start the process of creating scones, heating up coffee and mixing the batter for birthday cakes.

Truck drivers spend hours on the road, carting all manner of goods, bringing foods or marble we have to have on our kitchen counters.

Ferry workers usher us back and forth on the Long Island Sound to visit family, to take ski trips, to return to college, or to visit sites in Connecticut and farther north.

Plumbers, electricians and structural engineers make sure our homes and offices operate smoothly, preventing a leak from becoming a flood, a spark from becoming a fire or a weak wall from becoming an accident site.

Driven by the desire to inform and to beat the competition, journalists search for news that offers valuable information.

Entertainers of all stripes keep us laughing, allow us to relate to people from other places or times — or take us on fantastic journeys to places in their minds.

Politicians represent our interests, debating and hopefully instituting the best policies for the rest of us.

Numerous others, whose professions didn’t make it into this space, also help our communities function.

While Labor Day is a chance to say “goodbye” to summer, it presents an opportunity to appreciate the hard work everyone performs.

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They are a surprise to behold, the wildlife in the suburbs. When I was growing up in New York City, the extent of the animal population consisted of pigeons and squirrels in the park. So I marvel at Long Island’s Canadian geese, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, swans, seagulls, ospreys, raccoons and deer going about their business alongside us as we humans go about ours.

Sometimes they are beautiful to watch.

On one road I frequently use, the geese will cross to the other side, holding up traffic as they do. Drivers slow to a stop and watch as the geese unhurriedly walk single file before them. Interestingly one of the geese stands in the middle of the road in front of the line of march, a sentinel protecting the rest. Only after the last one crosses does the lookout then join on the end. These geese are definitely traffic savvy, patiently waiting on the edge of the grass and avoiding the cars as they speed by, awaiting an opening before they start to cross.

My son likes to watch the ducks swimming along, one behind the other, and wonders aloud if there is a pecking order to the line. We also marvel at the birds in strict formation when they begin to migrate.

We have a wacky rabbit that lives on our property and races the car down the driveway as we arrive home. One of these days, we are going to have rabbit stew if it isn’t careful. There are gorgeous butterflies occasionally, rising together like an umbrella of color when startled, and the buzzing bees encourage the likelihood of pollination.

The other day, as I was driving along a waterside road, two deer, one in front of the other, rushed out of the wetland grass in front of my car, crossed the road, gracefully jumped the post-and-rail fence on the opposite side and raced up the hill until they were hidden in some trees. It was a heart-stopping moment because they had come close. They were also so lyrical in their movements, their russet bodies glistening in the sunlight, that they took my breath away.

We have a woodpile that is visible from the windows on one side of the house, and early each day, it seems, there is a squirrel that runs back and forth, bushy tail held high, across the chopped logs. We have named him Jack and conjectured that he is doing his morning exercises. Later, he can be seen leaping from limb to limb among the lush trees, the ultimate gymnast gathering nuts, I suppose, for his meals.

Early in our lives here, we used to see an occasional red fox and sometimes plump pheasants, but I haven’t seen those in a long while. I do know when there is a skunk nearby, and should we just once leave the garbage cans unfastened, we are aware we would be visited by raccoons.

The variety of songbirds is lovely. In addition to the mockingbird, the cardinal and the blue jay, those little brown birds are loud and numerous. A pair of ospreys apparently have made a huge nest nearby because we can see them soaring high above. Ditto for the seagulls, crying out to each other as they glide on an air current looking for dinner.

It surprises me that the dogs in the neighborhood coexist so peacefully with the rest of the animal kingdom here. Yes, they will occasionally chase a rabbit, almost as a duty, but not for long. And they will bark at a chipmunk as it scurries along but not in any sort of vicious way. I suppose that means they are well fed by their owners. The cats, however, are a different story. We’ve got one on the block that’s a real hunter, a lion in miniature.

The cliché is that the suburbs are sterile places, but they certainly are more interesting for their variety of natural life than the pigeons I used to be thrilled by as they landed on the fire escapes and city windowsills. To take just a few moments from an otherwise busy day, draw a deep breath, and enjoy the beauty of living beings around us this summer is a pleasure we should allow ourselves.

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