Your Turn

Photo courtesy of Herb Herman

It’s official — the boating season starts on Memorial Day, May 27. Here’s some tips for you before taking your vessel crashing over
the waves.

You get the family in the car and go to the marina, but being a responsible boater, first of all you check the weather forecast and make sure that you won’t face any surprises out on the water. You get to the boat and go through the required check-off items: the fuel level, check oil, Nav-lights in order, see that the personal flotation devices are in the right place — at least one per person and easily accessible in an emergency, set up the anchor for easy deployment, flares and other emergency items in order and handheld VHF radio charged and readily available. You will have an up-to-date first aid kit on board. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.

Assuming you are a responsible boater, the final thing to do before you cast off is to inform the passengers and crew as to where the emergency items are and where and how to don the PFDs. And if you are a diligent boater, you file a float plan with friends, so that in the eventuality you aren’t where you’re supposed to be in the coming days, they can inform the Coast Guard of a potential problem.

All of the above seems like a lot of hard work to go out for a day trip to the local anchorage, but with some experience and perhaps some nasty events you will tend to do these things automatically. Better yet, have an actual check-off list so you forget nothing. Then you’ll have a fine day to go boating.

Added to the above list should be what the Coast Guard teaches — rather preaches — to its boat crews and to the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well:

The USCG boating statistics for the U.S. in 2017 are as follows:

• Fatalities: 658 

• Drownings: 449 

• Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 2,629 

• Boating accidents: 4,291 

• Property damage: Approximately $46 million 

• Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 11,961,568 

Situational awareness, that is, what’s going on around you. In the parlance of the local guru, it’s called mindfulness, or the state of knowing the environment in which your boat plows. These include water state, weather — both now and what’s coming — wind, other boats and buoys, and all the impediments that exist on local waters. It’s important to have a designated lookout in case someone falls overboard. 

Above all, know the rules of the road, or the elements that dictate, mainly through common sense, what to do when boats approach one another. This covers a myriad of circumstances in which both professionals and amateurs alike find themselves. These regulations, also known as COLREGS, are devised to avoid collisions at sea. The main elements should be learned either by way of courses given by various authorities, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or through a variety of books and videos. The Port Jefferson auxiliary gives a Safe Boating Course as well as a course entitled Suddenly in Command, conveying essential know-how when the second-in-command must take over the running of the boat.

You will, of course, have a nautical chart available for the waters in which you wish to sail. The chart, unlike a land road map, gives you broad swaths of safe passages and also tells you which regions to avoid due to shallow depths, rocks and a wide range of impediments. One can navigate using charts — themselves marvels of information collected over years of careful observations by mainly government vessels — your key to safety and enjoyment on the water, whether you’re out for a day or on a longer passage. 

If you’re a power boater or a sailor with an accessory motor, you should know something about the innards of the beast. Have you enough fuel for your planned voyage (boats frequently have notoriously inaccurate fuel gauges). Will you check the oil dip-stick, or do you assume that the marina personnel does that for you? Note they won’t unless you ask them to. Are all your oil, water, fuel and water filters clean and can you change-out a clogged filter? Water cooling sea cocks open? Can you troubleshoot easy problems and do you have the essential tools for such work? Most aspects of inboard and outboard motors can be handled by a layman with a little study. A quick course on troubleshooting your power plant by the marina mechanic can really payoff. Don’t forget that emergency “road side” help from Sea Tow or Boat US can save the day.

Paddle craft safety is of growing concern to the Coast Guard, with over 20 million Americans enjoying the sport. According to industry figures, some 100,000 canoes, 350,000 kayaks and an increasingly large number of stand-up paddlers are sold annually. A tragic consequence of these large numbers is that as of 2015, 29 percent of boating deaths were related to paddle craft. In response, the USCG has generated a Paddle Craft Vessel Safety Check, which is administered free by a USCG-approved vessel examiner, such as Coast Guard auxiliary personnel. Paddle crafters should wear PFDs and have a sound producing device, such as a whistle.

Herb Herman is the flotilla staff officer for public affairs, Port Jefferson Auxiliary Flotilla 14-22-06.

Above, an Eastern screech owl hatchling in New York, revived from near-death after falling out of her nest

By Erica Cirino

‘We are all fragments of the Earth’s collective imagination. From our perceptions of other beings and of places, we create ourselves. From our perceptions of ourselves, we create the meanings of our lives.’         — scrawled in my notes atop a cliff in Grimsey, Iceland, while watching a young puffin preen

The UN’s Global Assessment Report  released on May 6 made something ecologists have been saying for years and years even more clear: Earth has an invasive species problem, and that is humanity. We are taking over land, sea, air and space at an unprecedented pace, and with painful consequences for all other life on this planet we share with eight million other species. 

One million of these other eight million species are directly threatened with extinction due to our ravenous consumption of “resources” — the living and nonliving components of the Earth we choose to exploit — in addition to our straight-up takeover of space. Nonhumans probably classify us as a scourge. Rightly so. 

Above, an Eastern screech owl hatchling in New York, revived from near-death after falling out of her nest

More than 7.3 billion humans are alive today. Less than 80 pygmy three-toed sloths are left in Panama as humans clear mangroves — sloths’ habitat — for farming. There are probably fewer than 10 tiny porpoises called vaquitas alive in the Gulf of Cortez today because humans have been illegally hunting a fish called a totoaba with gillnets that catch and kill nontargeted marine mammals, including vaquitas. 

The world’s last northern white rhino died in Sudan in 2018 after a surge of poaching for rhino horn wiped out the entire species. Insects — which, while they can be pesky when buzzing in our ears or landing on our food — serve as part of the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains and pollinate the plants we rely on for survival but are dying off due to our intensive use of pesticides. 

The seas are being emptied of fish to feed our growing, and increasingly hungry, human population as tiny and toxic particles of plastic increasingly permeate the marine food chain. The skies are emptying of birds, which are increasingly growing disoriented and crashing into buildings in our brightly lit cities filled with tall skyscrapers. Nonhuman terrestrial animals are being forced to live in shrinking habitats as we clear land, head for higher latitudes thanks to climate change, and off the coasts where rising seas encroach. 

Yet, humans continue to take over the world. I find this fact quite difficult to cope with. 

An Atlantic puffin in Grimsey, Iceland

I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has worked with sick, injured and orphaned nonhumans for more than 11 years, since the age of 15. I believe wildlife rehabilitation is not a solution to conservation issues, but simply a way to help individual nonhumans get a second chance at life, because humans have made life on this planet very hard for other species (and also our own species). It’s a small way to help right some of humanity’s wrongs. 

But when I turned 22, frustrated by all the human-injured wildlife that passed through my hands (shot by BB guns, poisoned, abducted, abused, hit by cars, smashed into windows), I stopped working in the clinical setting and moved to the world of photojournalism. It was my attempt to enlighten humans to the plight of nonhumans — to offer facts, to help our species perspectivize and perhaps empathize — so that maybe some nonhumans would be spared from a destiny of harm instead of needing a rehabilitator’s help. I continue to rehabilitate a few nonhumans every year, because I empathize with them, I know about their natural lives, and I know how to give them first aid. 

 While humans are more than surviving on Earth, we are not exactly thriving: About one in 10 people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy life. More than 300 million people in the world — including children — are depressed. Climate change is stressing the landscapes people rely on to survive, fueling disease, malnourishment, conflict and migration. If all of this sounds really horrifying, well, it is. But if you think we have it hard, try to imagine how the nonhuman animals must feel, with their world being taken over by just one species: us.

One patch of plastic-covered beach in Rawai, Phuket, Thailand

Animals must reproduce to survive. But humans have already proven that they can do that. Why do we reproduce more than we need to to hack it as a species? A lack of empathy? Pride? Is it something that happens when a human being is so full of confidence about oneself that they believe they should make a reflection of it? Or perhaps it is something that happens when a human being desires the opportunity to live vicariously through a blank canvas that they themselves can paint, can create, to right the wrongs that their parents  —  or maybe their parents-parents  —  made when raising them.

It’s clear we lack empathy, not only for other species but for our own. We are so individually focused. Why have such a strong drive to procreate when the survival of our species in this world is easy, virtually guaranteed? Why not focus on elevating the lives of the less-fortunate humans, and less-fortunate nonhuman beings? Why not use the energy we spend procreating elsewhere, like volunteering to reforest the planet or pick up plastic trash or feed hungry people? Yes, giving birth may fulfill a human’s primal desire to create, but at what costs for the entire world?

Approaching Húsavík, Iceland, by sailboat on an expedition to study the effects of mass tourism, fishing, whaling and plastic pollution

I have always wondered why we celebrate the birth of a human baby, but why there is no champagne and no cries of joy when the duckling hatches from an egg, when the she wolf delivers her pups, when a neonatal shark swims from a pouch. In raising and healing wildlife, I lay no claim. I try, in a very small way, to restore the proper balance of nature, rewilding the world by setting its nonhuman children free.

 As a wildlife rehabilitator, I do not get congratulated each time I set an animal loose into the unforgiving arms of nature. I do not get cries of sympathy when an animal dies in my hands despite my attempts to resuscitate him or her. I do not get the same kind of pride out of raising a baby animal to adulthood as many people do when they raise a baby human. I don’t see a reflection of myself in the peeping owl hatchling or chattering baby squirrel, despite the fact I’ve spent painstaking days and nights, for weeks or months, feeding and cleaning these creatures.

And I don’t need to see that reflection. We are not all the same species, but I do feel that the wildlife and wild places of the world are a part of me. Though humans and nonhumans are separate in DNA, I believe we are still equals as kin on this Earth. We must get out of our own heads to empathize with nonhumans. We must prioritize the raising of all species, not just our own.

Erica Cirino is an international science writer, artist, award-winning photographer and licensed wildlife rehabber. Visit her website at www.ericacirino.com/speaking for a list of free upcoming lectures in Suffolk County. 

All photos by Erica Cirino

Diane Caudullo and her mom, Patricia, in a recent photo. Photo from Diane Caudullo

By Diane Caudullo

When asked, most would express their admiration for their own mom. I am no different.

Forty-five years after kindergarten, my answers are still the same. My mom, Patricia, is the best person in the world. I love her this much — insert crayon drawing of stick-figure me with my arms stretched out wide. A large red heart placed properly on my mini-me’s chest. Now in my fifties, and with young adult children of my own, my admiration continues to grow even deeper for my mom, an appreciation which seems to regularly confuse my mother as to why I feel this way about her.

My mother, now 78, simply has no idea of how smart and how strong she is and always has been. She comments more often than she should, how she believes she didn’t really teach us much, my brother and sister and me. I couldn’t disagree more. 

My mother’s life has been a series of struggles, big and small; disappointments of similar, varying degrees; and so many accomplishments and successes that surprisingly look like everyday life. What she does not seem to appreciate is, she has been and still is a living lesson, a constant example of how to live this life right. 

I watched as she cared for everyone in addition to her own. Her sacrifices were endless and seemingly without much reciprocation. If you were down, she was there. If she was down, she was down alone. I guess in all fairness, she never asked, she never let on. In some of her darkest days, she made decisions that were right for her family but wrong for her. I watched as she forgave those who wronged her, really wronged her. And she really forgave. She has taught quietly, by example, over a lifetime.

Other life lessons learned were that hard work and smart planning got you where you wanted to be;  patience really is a virtue; slow and steady wins the race, but more importantly, there wasn’t really a race to win; and our treatment of others was your most important trait. 

Mom was also the epitome of a “perfect housewife.” She ran the household like a boss.  Dinner was on the table each night; the bills were paid, the house was clean and laundry and homework were done. And she did it all with love. It was her pleasure.

Full disclosure, I did not inherit her homemaking skills. Maybe it’s one of those genes that skips a generation. Let’s just say my talents lie elsewhere. But she watched as I raised my children to become loving and caring young adults. She sees me care for my family, immediate and extended, especially when problems arise. I volunteer in my community. I feel called to lift others up and make a positive impact in the world around me.

Nowadays, my mother looks at me in awe of my strengths and gifts. Funny how she doesn’t see the resemblance.

Diane Caudullo is the president of the Centereach Civic Association and a board member of the Middle Country Chamber of Commerce.

The writer with her daughter Giselle and mother Myra Naseem during a recent vacation to Disney World. Photo from Lyla Gleason

By Lyla Gleason

I’m turning into my mom, and that’s a good thing.

With nearly a decade of motherhood under my belt, it still surprises me that I sometimes feel like a newbie. I mean, motherhood is a large part instinct, a bit of luck and a whole lot of on-the-job experience, but without employer feedback and promotions, it can be tough to know how you’re doing. Raising a small human is definitely challenging, but luckily for me, I have the support of friends and family who cheer me on at every turn.

Now that the terrible toddler years have long passed, and the dramatic tween time is upon me, I find myself thinking more and more about my school years, and I’m seeing my mom in a new light. How did she manage two kids when I am exhausted with just one? How could she pack our lunches every day without the slightest hint of annoyance? How could she cook every night? Every night! OMG!

I’m sure this is true of every generation, but I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for my mom, Myra Naseem, and all that she managed to juggle as I was growing up. As a single mom raising two girls in the 1970s and ʼ80s, the odds were definitely stacked against her, but I had no idea. Our lives were full of kid-focused activities and outings, baked treats and visits with friends and family near and far.

When my mom tired of her home economics teaching job and decided to start her own catering business out of our kitchen, my sister, Kaneez, and I got to watch her leadership skills develop right before our eyes. She treated her employees as family and spent so much time explaining the right way to do things, just as she had with us. She was still teaching, explaining to “hold it from the bottom,” but in a mom-boss way.

As my sister and I headed off to college, my mother’s catering business Elegant Eating moved into a Stony Brook storefront, and my mom and her business partner Neil were well on their way to becoming known throughout Suffolk County. Business flourished, parties grew larger, and they moved into a bigger space with room for cooking classes and luncheons in Smithtown. Elegant Eating has catered hundreds of parties for the local community, celebrities and politicians, and they have managed to remain on top of the trends in this challenging business.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve watched my mom successfully raise her business and enjoy her newest job as Mama Myra, grandmother to Giselle. I am happy for her accomplishments, but best of all, I’m happy that I can now appreciate all her mom-boss tools that I’ve inherited.

I may not see the physical resemblance everyone else notices, but I do see our similarities more and more, and I’m cool with that. My mom’s patience, flexibility, understanding, ability to put others first and determination have helped me become the person I am today, and hopefully, I’ll be able to pass these qualities along to my daughter.

Lyla Gleason is the founder of the blog Globetrotting Mommy.

Comsewogue students clean graves at first annual Joe’s Day of Service in 2018. Photo from Comsewogue School District

By Andrew Harris

Each Memorial Day, people often wonder what they can do to be more patriotic. Some of us even feel guilty because we shopped, barbecued and beached … and came away without any real opportunity to express our appreciation for America’s fallen heroes.

Andrew Harris

This year, one event Comsewogue School District teachers are planning on having will be one of the most impactful and educational field trips for our high school students. Although this may not be your typical run of the mill, fun field trip, we believe that our students will walk away with a new sense of pride, purpose, and a more meaningful self-respect for themselves and others, especially those who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

On May 29, we will host our districtwide Joe’s Day of Service initiative. Joe’s Day of Service is about community service, where students and the Comsewogue community pledge to give back. This project was inspired by Superintendent Joe Rella’s spirit and belief that students and community members can improve the lives of others, and their own lives, by working together. One example is the Calverton Project, which was created by students in our consortium program but is available to all students at the high school.

After applying to be “of service” at Calverton Cemetery, which is part of our National Cemetery Administration, Comsewogue students have been accepted to assist with a very special task. Management at Calverton have told us many of the tombstones for our fallen soldiers do not receive full sunlight on a daily basis. Because of this, some of the tombstones start to develop mold and become discolored.

Since the U.S. upholds very high standards at our national cemeteries, they have selected us, and will allow our Comsewogue students to do the very honorable job of beautifying and cleaning the tombstones on this special day — on this very special hallowed ground. It certainly will not be fun, and might even be monotonous and challenging… perhaps even boring. It will also take some good old fashioned “elbow grease” and require hard work; especially when they reflect upon exactly who they are doing this for, and see the names and information as they are working on each tombstone.

This year some of our students will be selected to escort the family members of veterans, who are coming from around the New York City area, perhaps for the first time, to visit the grave of their fallen family member. Some may need assistance to walk, or perhaps to read or even translate the headstone into their native language. Surely a few tears will be shed.

We feel that this act of kindness, selflessness and patriotism will be extremely powerful to our students. Hopefully, the impact will take a student outside of themselves (and away for their cellphones) to be educated, inspired, and humbled by giving service to others.

During this time, they will get a chance to reflect and think about how other men and women of all ages, backgrounds, faiths, races and creeds have laid down their lives for each and every one of us. We realize that this is quite different than the standard Bar-B-Q’s, storewide sales and beaching that we all have become accustomed to around Memorial Day.

Our students may even have to stop, respectfully remove their hats, and bow their heads as young fallen soldiers might be carried through the cemetery, accompanied by their families, to be laid to rest on that day. This field trip is like no other they have ever, or will ever experience. We will be giving special honors to our community’s fallen airman, Dashon Briggs from Port Jefferson Station, whose children will be attending our schools next year. One of our students, Ava Pearl, is doing her project with the creation of a portrait for the family, which will be placed in our schools so his children, and all the students, may see that he was a hero who died so “That others may live.”

Along with the Calverton Cemetery visit, some teachers and students are planning to host a walk to fundraise for a student in our high school whose family is having financial distress due to his recent diagnosis and treatment for leukemia.

Teachers have the opportunity to “plug in” by creating their own Project Based Learning activity that tie into their own curriculum or joining in the many activities around the district, all service projects for our local community.

Local and national news media outlets and politicians will be attending, as well as members from 106th Airlift Wing.

If you would like any more information, please feel free to contact Andrew Harris in whatever way is most convenient for you, at aharris@comsewogue.k12.ny.us, phone or text 631-428-2530, Twitter with #JDOS2019, or Facebook at Joe’s Day OF SERVICE.

Let’s do it for Joe.

Andrew Harris is a special needs teacher at the Comsewogue High School.

Above, a view of Conscience Bay from the shoreline of the Besunder property. Photo by John Turner

By John Turner

One of the great joys of living in the Three Village area are the plethora of parks and preserves to be explored and enjoyed. These public spaces, true community assets, include the Frank Melville Memorial Park/Three Village Garden Club complex and Lee Koppelman Nature Preserve in Setauket; Patriots Hollow State Forest in East Setauket;  and Forsythe Meadows County Park, the Town of Brookhaven’s West Meadow Beach, and the rambling, privately owned Avalon Preserve in Stony Brook. 

We can now add another public property to the list to be savored: the small (7 acres) but beautiful state-owned property at the entrance to Strongs Neck. Offering commanding views of the eastern shore of Conscience Bay, it was purchased on our behalf by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation last summer.  

Above, a small salt pond surrounded by a tidal wetland fragment in the middle of the Besunder property. Photo by John Turner

The entrance to the preserve is through a split rail fence along North Road. Here you’ll see the rock placed to recognize the contribution of the Besunder family who sold the property to the state. The trail passes by the plaqued rock and a small coastal salt pond on the right that is connected to the bay through a series of ditches in the salt marsh. Here I recently watched a great blue heron hunt for fish with zen-like patience, remaining perfectly still for minutes on end, lest it give away its presence due to some detectable movement. 

The red cedars, along with pitch pine, the two more common coniferous trees native to Long Island, form thick stands throughout the property, growing in areas that are a few feet above the elevations of the surrounding marshland and only a few more feet above the high tide levels of Conscience Bay.   

Thinking about the low-lying condition of this coastal forest caused a strong feeling of melancholy to usher over me, for I knew this forest, consisting of many hundreds of trees, will not likely survive more than two or three decades more. The cause for its ultimate demise? Elevated coastal waters due to sea level rise fueled by global warming. 

In New York, sea levels are projected to rise, under the most optimistic conditions, 8 inches by the 2050s and, if the worse occurs, by 30 inches in the same period. Since 1900 they have already risen a foot due to the warming of ocean water with 8 inches of this rise having occurred over the past 50 years, indicating this rise is accelerating. 

Given these projections, it is a certainty the property will lose its forests and very likely evolve into a salt marsh or into open water if the sea levels continue to rise. If this happens Strongs Neck will become “Strongs Island” and dozens of homes and businesses in the Three Village area will no longer be inhabitable. 

The culprit for this unwanted change? Our stubborn refusal to enact the needed policies to limit carbon emissions by the amounts necessary and at a pace that’s rapid enough and a refusal colored by some “leaders” who still throw out the canard that global climate change is a myth. 

Well, the best science is telling us that this “myth” is an incontrovertible “reality wall” that we will, with certainty, drive into with devastating consequences for us humans and the other living forms that share our planet — if we do not, very soon, begin to change course.    

Soon I came out to the shore and my spirits brightened considerably, bathed as I was in this beautiful coastal scene of a gentle and sheltered harbor. Small wavelets lapped on the shoreline. Plus, seeing birds always helps the mood. 

An adult male bufflehead. Photo by Luke Ormand

Along a distant shoreline a snow white American egret flew along, presumably heading to or from a feeding episode, and 150 yards from where I stood on the shore was a loose flock of buffleheads, a duck that is the definition of cuteness. The males are distinctive with their uniquely patterned heads — heads dominated by a white patch such that, if the duck’s head was a clock face, it would be white from 9 to 11 o’clock. The rest of the “clock” is dark and flashes iridescence from green to purple depending on the angle to the sun. 

Flocks of buffleheads often dive synchronously leading to a “now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t” phenomenon as they dive below the surface to feed, before bobbing like released corks back to the surface. Where there were no ducks two seconds before, suddenly half a dozen are floating on the surface together. 

Small as ducks go, their heads are large and that explains their common name. They were once called buffaloheads — shortened to buffleheads — since their heads were disproportionately large, just like the American buffalo (more accurately the American bison). 

Buffleheads grace our coastal waters during the winter months.       

As I walked out of the preserve and past the rock, I read the plaque and under my breath said, “Kudos to the Besunder family for committing to conservation and to the DEC for helping them to fulfill that commitment.” The images of buffleheads disappearing and re-emerging in the frigid waters of Conscience Bay, cavorting unconcerned about the elements, snug as they are in their feathered garb, stayed with me for the ride home. 

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

The owlet found by Richard Gass near its nest in Miller Place. Photo by Richard Gass

By Richard Gass

On April 7, I discovered a baby great horned owl that had fallen from its nest in Miller Place.  

After contacting New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, I was told to check on it the next day. On April 8, the owl was still there and looked very weak. I contacted the DEC and they put me in touch with the Save the Animals Rescue Foundation, a Middle Island wildlife nonprofit that helps rehabilitate injured animals.

The owlet found by Richard Gass near its nest in Miller Place. Photo by Richard Gass

They recommended I bring the owlet to them to evaluate, and that it should later be returned to the nest, but an arborist would be needed with a bucket truck. I brought the owlet to Lori Ketcham, the director at the foundation, who determined it was dehydrated and hungry. They stabilized it. 

“The owl was cold, and had been flat out on the ground,” Ketcham said. “The moms aren’t able to pick their babies off the ground.”

I contacted Dan Goodman, one of the owners of Lucas Shaun Tree Service.  He arranged for a bucket truck at no charge and returned the owl to the nest with volunteer John Picerno from STAR. The owl is back in the nest with two other owlets and the parents are relaxed and caring for their family. 

The owls are doing well and growing quickly.

To contact the STAR foundation, either call 631-736-8207 or email at info@savetheanimalsrescue.org. Those interested can visit the website at www.savetheanimalsrescue.org if they wish to donate.

Richard Gass is a Miller Place resident.

Additional reporting by Kyle Barr

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs

By Nomi Dayan

Nomi Dayan

Becoming ill is never fun. Becoming ill when away from home is worse. And becoming ill at sea on a whaling ship is the worst of all. “Let a man be sick anywhere else — but on shipboard,” wrote whaler Francis A. Olmstead in 1841 in “Incidents of a Whaling Voyage.”

Whalers who fell ill could find little comfort. Olmstead continued to explain, “When we are sick on shore, we obtain good medical advice, kind attention, quiet rest, and a well ventilated room. The invalid at sea can command but very few of these alleviations to his sufferings.” There were no “sick days” for whalers, who were expected to work during busy times if they could stand. 

The incapacitated whaler would lie on his grimy, cramped straw mattress in his misery, listen to the nonstop creaking of the ship, roll from side to side with the swaying of the ship, and breathe the fishy, putrid air. He would eventually be visited by the “doctor,” a.k.a. the captain. The skipper would rely on his weak medical and surgical knowledge as he opened his medicine chest and offered some powdered rhubarb, a little buckthorn syrup, or perhaps mercurial ointment, chamomile flowers or cobalt. The whaler would then either recover or die. If he passed, the captain would casually mention his death in the next letter home, and perhaps pick up a replacement at the next port.

If the whaler was lucky, he might awaken from his burning fever and shivering chills to hear a soothing voice, feel a cool cloth being gently placed on his forehead, and perhaps taste a bit of food offered to him. He would sit up to catch a glimpse of this angel visiting him with her wide skirt and billowing sleeves.

She was none other than the captain’s wife. Women who lived on board whaling ships with their captain-husbands were primarily there to avoid the widow-like years ashore. Although these wives generally lived a profoundly separate life from the rest of the crew at sea, some wives recorded in their journals how they aided sick crew members as nurses. They wrote how they were bothered to see others suffer, and felt satisfied with their own usefulness in a situation where medical resources were bordering nonexistent.

Even if there was not much she could accomplish medically for a sick or hurt whaler, it seems her presence alone could be a comfort to men: Olmstead lamented that the attention an ill man received from other men “have none of that soothing influence which woman’s tender sympathy alone can impart.”

Mary Brewster, who sailed from Connecticut in 1845, observed that “a whaleship is a hard place for comfort for well ones and much more sick men.” She documented in her journal how “the best part of the day I have spent in making doses for the sick and dressing sore hands and feet. 5 sick and I am sent to for all the medicin[e]. I am willing to do what can be done for any one particularly if sick.”

Another wife of a coastal trader, Mary Satterly Rowland of Setauket, reported an unending job tending maladies and injuries: “First came Jack, a dose of salts. Second case Nick with a sore leg knocked off the skin on launching day. Thirdly Gardner taken cold and confined to the forecastle several days. Fourth, Cook Rheumatic pain and in bed sick … Fifth case Lawrence cut his toe.”

Martha Brown of Orient also played nurse at sea to an unfortunate young man, John. “I went into steerage this afternoon to give him some medicine, and asked him how he felt. His answer was ‘Mrs. Brown, I feel bad.’ My heart was touched. It is very hard to see him gradually growing worse and can do nothing for him.” One can imagine Martha’s grief watching him die shortly after. He was buried at sea.

One whaling wife’s experience as a nurse led her to falling in love with her patient. When 29-year-old first officer Will Williams was badly injured, Elizabeth Stetson nursed him all night, and continued to visit him when he was hospitalized. She washed his hair, cleaned his nails, and chatted – and chatted – and chatted, growing emotionally closer to him until she admitted in her diary, “I hope that Charles [husband] does not mind if I do love Willie so much.” Once he recovered, though, and rejoined the ship months later, she continued to get to know him – and his faults – and the spell was broken.

Most wives were happy to feel valuable and help contribute to the voyage’s success. Some took the initiative to go beyond their nursing roles: Calista Stover of Maine persuaded the crew of a sailing ship to swear off tobacco and alcohol while in port (the pledge didn’t stick). Others tried to reform men’s swearing. However, women tried to improve the crew, their support gives understanding to the root of the word “nurse,” which is Latin for “nutrire” – nourish. No wonder Charles. W. Morgan wrote, “There is more decency on board when there is a woman.”

Nomi Dayan is the executive director of The Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor. In honor of National Nurses Week, the museum is offering pay-as-you-wish admission for nurses (with current ID) and their families (up to 6 people) from May 7 to 12, as the museum recognizes the importance of nursing roles which whaling wives often took in the whaling industry.

Stock Photo

Today, to my delight and hysterics I learned that I am one year younger. “Wow, you mean I am only 57, not 58,” I said to my cousin Anthea. I so believed that I was in 58 that whilst at the doctor’s office recently I actually corrected their form and crossed out the 57 and made it 58. You would think that I would have caught myself there — but no.

Now, I generally regard myself as good with numbers but this number, of all numbers, I got totally wrong. Best part — it was one year in my favor. It is not every day that you get that bonus, like extra miles added to your travel account for spending more during the month than you should have. In any case, I got to thinking about all the bonus things I would get to enjoy in this extra year of my life. I am feeling giddy, like I cheated the grim reaper out of something. OK, that might be a bit morbid.

Bottom line, I clearly don’t obsess about my age. I look in the mirror and see changes. I buy new, bigger clothes because I know I am never, ever going to fit into a size 8 again. I pay more attention to things that can increase my longevity, and that’s not necessarily my good looks. To live healthier for longer but never to mourn the loss of youth, that would be abandoning the gifts that age and maturity bestow upon me.

Kathryn Simos

I actually feel more grounded most of the time, except for the occasional call out to the universe: “What’s my purpose, what’s my calling — please show me the way.” I tap into the wisdom I have gathered, and I feel being a good mother includes sharing this with my daughter. She might not take it in at the time but, like many things, I think it will seep into her and at the right time, it will emerge out of her as a clue or intuition that will help her in her life. At least this is how it is with me and my mother. She is as knowing and wise as they come and the older I get the more I reach out to her. She has lived through so much: five kids, a marriage, losing my dad early, the loss of a granddaughter and a son, her own illness. It’s been a rich and all-encompassing life that has touched her in many ways. These experiences shaped her and continue to do so. They inform her attitude and, yes, even at 89 years of age, how she parents. It never stops, thank God.

I pay more attention to my mistakes and actions, the things I regret having done or said, my stuck and rigid patterns and emotions that keep me from moving forward. They are still there but I think I have more of the tools needed to accept myself, process them and make a change. In middle age I am trying to be bigger, go deeper and evolve. It’s so important to being satisfied with the life you’re living. I try and live more and more in the present, it is all we have — everyone knows it — but it’s a conscious choice and, like most, I can fall off the wagon sometimes. I climb back up when I am ready and look around and take stock of my life and blessings. I think that I got it, this time I won’t fall off the wagon again, but I will.

Middle age is a rich time of life, though. If you are really in it, you believe it is imperative that you move in the direction of your soul’s wholeness. Hearing and responding to the inner voice that says there is something more that you must do, do the work, stay open and God will guide you, that you don’t have to worry about the details. When we are flowing down the river toward our destiny all the boulders and obstacles will be removed. I tell myself, “Don’t worry about the details, not everything is in your control, you need only move toward that voice because it’s coming from deep inside — that place of your soul’s knowing and from God.” At least I believe this to be true.

To be honest, I haven’t always felt like this — I had my years of angst. There were the years of longing for my true love, and then I found him.

The longing for a child, until I had my daughter Anna.

There were the years of wanting to amass more stuff, until I had more than enough and started ridding myself of it all because it just clogged my life and weighed me down.

 Like most middle-aged women, I started to hear this voice inside myself say, “What is it that I long for now, what are my passions, how can I contribute to the world and how big or small can I help to lessen the suffering of another person, the animals, Mother Earth?”

It is an awakening that sometimes involves heartache in order for growth to happen. Most often the hard times in life are the ones that help us grow and change. These times require us to get real, go deeper and ask the questions and pray for the answers. Those who ignore the signs and voice usually pay a price later on. It could come out as anger, depression, feeling lost of purposeless or, worse, getting sick. Change is not pretty or easy. In my own journey I have endured a separation from my husband for close to two years until we grew back together and cemented the fracture in our foundation and built a mountain for a home. When my brother Tom died, I wailed like an animal in pain over the loss of the sibling who I could never quite reach. Perhaps he was some sacred Buddha logged deep in the cave? I guess I will never know now but no matter where he is, he is still my brother and we are eternally connected. Death is not the end, and in the end it is only love that matters. I had friendships end. They just reached their conclusion because there was no more to gain. The work was done, the experiences shared, some growth occurred and that was all. In the end we said all we needed to say, and on an energetic level we moved away and on with our journeys. Another death.

All of this was part of the plan. I don’t question that, but it doesn’t mean that they weren’t deaths. It was a time in my life that caused me to turn inward and even now causes me to retreat inward often. I cocooned like a caterpillar, but I feel like I am emerging as the butterfly, my own transformation. We all can and should go through this several times during our life. How else can we evolve and change? It’s an essential aspect of being human and living “holy.” When I allowed myself that time to grieve and let go, I was then able to open up to the new garden that awaited me and still does. Imagine that butterfly emerging from the cocoon. All that incubation and transformation while being still and confined was essential to it emerging to a wondrous new life and garden.

I probably wasn’t unique when I held on to the bare essentials of my life and let go of the rest and let God, the universe, Jesus, Allah or whatever you want to call it, take over a bit. It was a benevolent force that was compassionate toward me and who loved me. But also, it was love for myself that helped me to be who I was and that was a great gift to myself. Slowly and steadily I was guided. We all can be if you just go with the flow and stop fighting it, stop struggling.

I have experienced my own life in chapters and it is good to think of it like this. Chapters are long, move the plot forward and help the story evolve. I also believe with all my heart that change is not only inevitable, but it is essential to our growth as spiritual souls having this human experience. If we are afraid of change, we risk shutting off the “what ifs” of life. I don’t want to do that, in fact, I spend a lot of my time thinking about avoiding that and I bet you do, too.

I am also certain that when we are either brave and take a risk to change or when life throws us a curveball and we are forced to change, that the result after all the pain, anxiety, tears and hurt is always a personal growth spurt. It is having faith during that time that is the hard part. I know I struggle with it and constantly remind myself to have faith, to know that I am on some sort of journey and that I am not alone. I check in with God a lot more during those times. Usually it’s several times a day, a quick prayer asking for help and guidance and always, always counting my blessings from the simple sound of the birds singing early in the morning, to the sight of fresh beautiful food on our dinner table, to the sound of music, to all the love I have from my family and good friends. These are the things that make me feel blessed, everything else is an extra benefit so to speak. The new place which hard times get you to could never have been gotten to without that life lesson or experience. It is the rainbow after the storm and as hard as it is, I try to practice having faith that it’s part of my journey and to go with the flow. It is the faith that, however slight, I will emerge a little better as a human being, mother, wife, daughter, sibling, friend, activist and citizen of the world. It makes it worthwhile I would say.

With the countless hours, energy, time and money spent to try and stop the inevitable aging process I say, “To hell with it,” or actually, “Freak it.” If we let go of the impossible and really embrace what is here and now, and which is the only thing that is real, we would be happier. As we all know, what we dread will someday, no matter what, happen. We will all move out of this plain and I have total faith that our light and energy will remain eternal. I try all the time to let go of what can’t be, and really seek out what is. The older I get, the more I understand what wiser people have been saying: Life is right now, this moment is sacred and real. Everything right now is all we should hold on to. For this moment is a golden beam of energy and it flows through you to enjoy it.

The next time someone asks you how old you are, I hope you make a mistake as I did. I hope that you say you are a year younger or older then you really are. I hope that you crack up when you think you’ve have lived so many years that you can’t keep track anymore. Most of all, I hope that whatever the number, you don’t think of yourself as that age, that you feel so full of life experiences and wisdom, full of compassion and love, interested and engaged with people and things around you that you realize that these are gifts that have been bestowed upon you and which you have earned! That these are the things that are important. That you are beautiful, imperfections and all. That you are evolving and getting better at life all the time when you just open up and stay there as much as possible.

There will never be another person like you, ever. Be your wondrous self always.

Kathryn Simos is a Shoreham resident and an event coordinator.

A man at the Huntington rally holds a sign in protest of President Donald Trump's immigration policies. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Why do we have to relearn lessons over and over, despite history telling us what works? Take immigration, the fiery topic du jour. Everyone holds a strong, increasingly entrenched, unmovable opinion about how to stem illegal immigration, protect America’s moral and historic immigrant commitment, preserve moral fiber and do right by those brought to the United States illegally as children. But what is the right answer?  

The right answer is a default to common sense. Go back just over 30 years. Former Republican President Ronald Reagan and former Democrat U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill found room for agreement, in their time, on this contentious topic. The former “Gang of Eight,” including late Sen. John McCain (R), got close with a bill that passed the Senate, lost in a Republican House. So why can’t we? 

America is — by definition and moral conviction — a country founded on immigration, with legal limits for various countries, practices, protocols and a complex fabric of legal obligations tied to those seeking asylum, refugee status, or wishing otherwise to enter and live in the United States, make a better life for themselves, and aspire to citizenship.  

Perhaps, oddly in a time of constant recrimination, instant outrage and emotional appeals for walls and sanctuary cities, my view is that there are still compromises available. They should be patiently sought, brought to the public for buy in, feedback and persuasion, then turned into law, just the way Reagan and O’Neill got to the “80 percent solution” more than three decades ago. 

The real question is not whether we should build cement or electronic barriers along parts of our southern border, whether we should return criminals to host countries, whether to protect young lives at our border and act humanely, whether to protect our sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and the sanctity of citizenship. These are false choices. 

Of course, we should uphold standing American laws, create effective deterrence to keep illegal gangs, drug and human traffickers from entering the United States, while loving children as children and trying to preserve family units. We should be humane, even to those who may later be deported, because Americans are human by nature, history and character. We should all want to protect our established communities, as well as our national security, ideals and the value of citizenship. 

Oversimplifying this important discussion for political points — on either side of the aisle — is disingenuous and disserves average Americans. To fight a pitched battle, casting the other side as favoring illegality, inhumanity, lack of security or opposition to citizenship, are cheap shots.  

One has to ask, in all seriousness: Would Reagan or O’Neill cast this debate as so black and white, so simple, stark and impossible to solve? History suggests that they would not do what we are doing, turning on each other and attacking for political gain. They offered a better way forward, and we ought to take it.  

Here are basics on which all Americans — including those in Congress — should be able to agree: The nation’s borders are legal, real and should be protected. All lives are valuable, both American and non-American. The disparity between life in the United States and life in many countries south of the border is economically, politically and morally great. The status quo, with thousands crossing into the U.S. illegally, is unsustainable.  

But here is another reality: Hardworking adults and students who arrived in the United States as children — i.e., less than one-third of 1 percent of our population — did not commit acts of immoral or illegal behavior. Accordingly, they should not be punished as if they had done so.  

What does all this mean? It should be obvious. Congressional leaders and the White House should “beat swords into plowshares,” as Isaiah writes. The compromise to put this divisive issue behind us has four parts:  

1. A thoughtful, well-reasoned and empirically supported set of disincentives and barriers that create credible deterrence to illegal entry on our southwest border. 

2. A humane, moral and kind approach to those fleeing horrific human conditions to gain asylum or refugee status, including children and adults.

3. Accountable, targeted and effective foreign assistance programs aimed at restoring rule of law, basic stability and self-sufficiency to countries racked by the opposite across this hemisphere, Central America to Venezuela — our neglect in this area has been objectively astronomical. 

4. The foresight to understand that these three elements require robust funding, in order to prevent a run on America, for the stability, safety and opportunities we enjoy that many in this hemisphere do not. 

As a successful second-generation immigrant, proud American and hardworking businessman, I see opportunities in the present divide to find a new kind of interparty peace, to get to a new place in America where we all accept that compromise is better than pitched battles that lead nowhere.  

More to the point, I appreciate what America has meant to me, to my family, to my neighbors. I believe we have a moral duty to find solutions, not just shout and joust, staking out patches of ground to defend, when our real purpose is to defend what it means to be good Americans. 

Perry Gershon is a former Congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District and is running again for the same office. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration from the University of California. He is also a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics.

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