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Spring

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As I drive along the local roads, the sight of the bright yellow forsythia, the symphony of pink cherry blossoms, dogwood and magnolia and the yellow daffodils waving” hello” uplift my spirits and bring me joy. Yes, it’s spring, glorious spring! And the weather could not be more cooperative. We have been able to shed our heavy jackets, sweaters and such, and even give our air conditioners a brief trial run when the temperature hit the high 80s and stayed there for a couple of days. Best of all, we know this splendor is early, and the beautiful season, when Nature festoons the earth, is just beginning.

At one and the same time, the news about human activities blackens the world. Every day, yes every day, we wake up to the news of more mass shootings, more homicides. Because a teenage boy rings the bell of the wrong house on his errand to pick up his younger siblings, he is then shot to death. Because a car full of teenage girls pulls into the wrong driveway, shots are fired at the vehicle as it is trying to back out and one young woman is killed. Because yet another unarmed young man tries to run away from the police at a traffic stop, he deserves to be murdered.

What is happening to our country?

These horrors are occurring because people are afraid. Unless he has cognitive issues, why would an 84-year-old man answer his door with a gun? Why would someone inside a house shoot at a car that just entered the driveway unless they were terrified for themselves. This is more than a mental health issue, which might be blamed for shooting up employees in a bank. This is about cold, petrifying fear.

Thank heavens that Nature goes about her business transforming the earth into a paradise because we humans need something to offset the hell we are creating. People are asked if they are afraid for their children to go to school. To school, which was always the safest place to get children off the streets. Now more than three quarters of the parents say, “Yes.” And so do more than half of the children in elementary school and middle school. Never mind COVID-19 and inflation. They are passing, or will eventually. But the violence that we are living with? That just seems to be getting worse.

What can we do? We know that bad things happen when good people do nothing. But how can we improve our society?

One answer, I believe, is to turn to family and community. Strong family support and a tight-knit community offer security that is close at hand. Parents who let their children feel the love, who set standards and limits, who teach values by example and talk to their children about fears, who are there when most needed — these actions go a long way toward offering meaningful response to a frightening world.

For us adults, meeting the neighbors and creating a Neighborhood Watch for mutual protection is both a safety and social advantage. Participating in one of the many local non-profits, from Rotary to the civic associations and PTAs in the schools to the historical societies to actually running for office can strengthen a sense of belonging and empowerment.

And then there is kindness. I’m not sure how one goes about teaching kindness except by practicing it. Kindness offsets bullying, it makes both the giver and receiver feel noticed and valued. Who has time to visit a sick neighbor? But then, we all have time to hold the door open for the person behind us, and for that person to thank the door holder, or to let the car waiting to join the line of traffic enter in front of us and in return see a thank-you wave.

And there is always Nature for respite. A walk in the park or along a beach can be restorative. Nature, too, can be violent, but storms pass. With effort and focus, perhaps human storms can, too.

Mockingbird. Photo from Unsplash

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is the time of year when our five senses go into overdrive. Let me enumerate. In no particular order of delight, I’ll start with sound.

The birdsong is sometimes loud enough to provide dance music at a wedding. There are all kinds of musical bars put forth: crooning, warbling, shrieking, hooting, gurgling. There is an incredible range of notes, from high soprano and countertenor to tenor and baritone, even bass. Sometimes the birds seem to be singing in a chorus, other times at counterpoint. If your bedroom window is open, they can wake you up at first light. There can be many birds in the trees or there may just be one mockingbird pretending to be an entire flock. 

The sight of the birds is as much a treat as the sounds, if you can spot them among the leaves. They can range from a nondescript small brown chick, who nonetheless utters the most melodious songs, to crimson or orange-breasted or blue-tailed or grandly multi-colored varieties of different sizes and shapes that perch briefly on the porch railing or snack on the front lawn. They can seem the model of purpose as they deliver food to the open beaks of their newly hatched offspring or of patience as they sit quietly atop the eggs and wait for the next generation to appear.

Speaking of sight, we go from the early purple of crocuses and joyful yellow of forsythia and daffodils to the lush pink of dogwood and cherry blossoms to the deep red of tulips and azaleas. All of that artwork is provided against a bright green backdrop of new leaves on the bushes and luxuriant attire for the tree limbs. Branches on either side of the road unite in the air overhead, creating sun-dappled tunnels as we drive the back-way routes.

The waves at the beaches are calm now, climbing the sand with rhythmic whispers, and the seagulls fly low, looking for a fish dinner in the clear blue water. Too soon, there will be motor boats and jet skis on the harbors and lawn mowers and leaf blowers keeping the landscape orderly — but not yet. The magic and peace of early spring are still, however briefly, with us to be treasured.

The smells at the beach of salt in the air and blossom-scent on the breezes are intoxicating harbingers of the season. Lilacs, that always know when it is Mother’s Day, perfume the neighborhood. And among us humans, there are always those early-bird few who fire up the grill and begin to barbeque on a sunny weekend afternoon. If we play our cards right, we might be invited to share in this primitive treat. The taste is so much better than anything cooked indoors.

Taste is tantalized by early fresh fruit, like locally grown strawberries, and by vegetables like baby asparagus and snow peas. Several different kinds of dark green lettuces are also ready for dining early in the spring.

As for touch, there is the sweetness of a gentle breeze, reduced on a rare spring day from a stern wind to a caress against the cheek. It carries with it the promise of a summer day and the seduction of a summer night.

Add to all of that, the temperature in spring can reach a universally perfect range. Now I know some people like it hot, really hot, even up in the 90s when they can happily sweat. And some people like it cold, even freezing, during which time they can feel energized and stimulated to ski and ice skate. But all humans feel comfortable moving about in a temperature of 75 degrees. Knowing that could be found most months in San Diego almost prompted my husband and me to move there some 50 years ago. Of course, there were other things to consider, and we ultimately moved to Long Island.

Not for a moment do I have any regrets. My five senses are glad we live here.

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis (at center) took in Flowerland with Reginald Ligonde ’21 (at left) and Khadija Saad of the USG (at right).
Flower crowns were worn by many students during the Flowerland festival, elevating the mood.

Before hunkering down to study for finals, Stony Brook students ventured out to enjoy the campus in the Spring. Hosted by the University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Flowerland is a new tradition designed to help students relax and breathe deeply before wrapping up the semester.

Students decorated the plaza around the Student Activities Center with flowers and flower arrangements to mark the new season. The arrangements will be present through the end of finals, reminding students that no matter how their year finished, there should always be time to stop and smell the flowers.

Stock photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Spring is here. It is a time for renewed hope. Flowers are blooming; people are out walking. There is light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic that has senselessly stolen more than 1/2 million American lives and left countless families with so much sadness and pain. 

As this new spring is unfolding, once again we are a nation with tremendous grief and sadness for the senseless loss of life in Georgia and Colorado; innocent people gunned down senselessly by two disturbed gunmen with histories of mental illness.

We are painfully reminded once again that racism and hate still lives and is infectious across our country. The national divide takes a few steps toward healing and then it splits again. Children at the border and our broken immigration policy continues to polarize our nation and any kind of productive conversation that might move us closer to a humane resolution of a very complicated and delicate life issue.

We continue to struggle with nationalism and globalism, with human rights and the respect for the dignity of all human beings. It is a sad state of affairs when people of opposing viewpoints, different philosophies and ideologies, can no longer sit at the same table, break bread together and talk heart-to-heart about the issues that matter.

The beauty of our nation is that we have always been a beautiful tapestry of diverse color, thinking and believing — but woven together as one!

Unfortunately, there is a serious tear in this tapestry that is getting worse. The people we have elected need to lead by example, not by being revisionists or obstructionists. They must be agents of healing and unity, leading the way to building new bridges of opportunity and strength. The America we love was founded on diversity and difference; it must be stronger and more unified than ever before.

The hateful rhetoric must stop. We must reclaim our language of respect, compassion and tolerance which is the soul of our nation.

While I was driving home from the college that I teach at on a recent sunny Wednesday afternoon, I passed St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. In their parking lot were a large group of parishioners and volunteers feeding an endless line of fellow Americans and giving them bags of food to take with them. It was refreshing to see so many people reaching out to others smiling and laughing.

Now that’s the America that I know and love!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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There was few downcast faces even when the weather was overcast May 4 as the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted their first annual Sound Beach Spring Festival and Street Fair.

Parents could walk around and visit the many vendors and stalls while kids could get their faces painted, jump around in bouncy castles or pet the calves, Woody and Buzz, provided by Wading River-based Bakewicz Farms. The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted its own scavenger hunt for stuffed animals to win prizes like a four pack to a Theatre Three kids show and tickets to Movieland Cinemas in Coram. Meanwhile the chamber of commerce hosted a “cake walk,” raffle, sponsored by Rocky Point’s Tilda’s Bakery, where people had the chance to snack on a decadent treat from the renowned local bakery.

Muddy ground was covered in the footprints of young children as hundreds gathered for the annual Fling into Spring carnival at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai April 12-14. Kids, along with their parents, got the full carnival experience as they slid, spun, raced and even flew on weekend rides. The money raised from the event helps nonprofit Heritage Trust fund other events throughout the year.

All photos by Kyle Barr

Depending on the variety, irises bloom late spring to midsummer. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Autumn is the time to plant your new spring flowering bulbs. They can be planted up until the ground freezes, usually in December. Buy the best quality you can afford and you will be rewarded with a great garden next spring.

Snowdrops. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Snowdrops. Photo by Ellen Barcel

• Don’t overlook the tiny bulbs. They’re not as showy as tulips and daffodils but are ideal in small areas and rock gardens. Crocuses, of course, come to mind, but I have windflowers in my garden coming back for decades. Other small bulbs include the super early white snowdrops, just four to six inches high, and anemone with their daisy-like flowers. There are also tiny varieties of the standards. ‘Lilac Wonder’ is a miniature tulip, lilac and bright yellow in color. ‘Pipit Daffodil,’ another miniature, is white and pale yellow. A unique, and small, daffodil is ‘Golden Bells,’ which produces a dozen or more flowers from each bulb. It’s just six to eight inches high and blooms in late spring to early summer.

• If you’re looking for very fragrant flowers, consider hyacinth. Although, like most spring flowers, the bloom is short-lived, their perfume is exquisite. ‘Gipsy Queen’ is a soft apricot color, ‘Jan Bos’ is a carmine-red, and ‘Woodstock’ is maroon. Some daffodils are also very fragrant. Check the package or the catalog description.

Daffodils. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Daffodils. Photo by Ellen Barcel

• If you do go with daffodils and tulips, consider at least some of the more unique ones. ‘Mount Hood’ is a daffodil that has gigantic white flowers, and ‘Green Eyes,’ also a white flower, has a green cup. ‘Exotic Mystery’ is almost completely a pale green while ‘Riot’ has reddish-pink cups. Among the tulips there are double flowers, a wide range of colors and even stripped ones. ‘Ice Cream’ is a really unique tulip. It has white center petals, surrounded by deep pink and green ones. It’s really exquisite. ‘Strawberry Ice Cream’ resembles a peony flower, in deep pink and green.

• Try some new (to you) and unusual bulbs. For example, ‘Candy Cane’ sorrel (oxalis) has white flowers tinged in red. They bloom in spring and even into summer. Another really unusual flower is the dragon flower. The bloom is maroon with a spathe that grows up to three feet. This is a big one and really unusual.

Tulips. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Tulips. Photo by Ellen Barcel

• Remember that certain bulbs are very attractive to squirrels, particularly tulips. There are several ways of handling this problem. One is to surround the tulip bulbs with daffodils. Squirrels don’t like daffodils and will generally stay away from them and the tulips they surround. A second way of dealing with this problem is to plant the tulip bulbs in wire cages. A third possibility, one I heard a planter recommend, is to overplant, that is, plant many more, possibly up to 25 percent more, bulbs than required. That way, the squirrels get some and some survive to grow in the spring.

• If you miss this planting window and the ground is frozen, there are several things you can do. The usual recommendation is to put the bulbs in the fridge until the ground thaws enough to plant them. You could also try planting them in pots and storing the pots in an unheated garage.

• The bulbs you plant this autumn will produce gorgeous flowers next spring. This is based on the professional growers’ treatment of the bulbs. They’ve grown them under ideal conditions, watered and fertilized them. To have them flourish in future years there are several things you need to do. One is to leave the green leaves on the bulbs after the blooms have faded. This is providing food for next year. You also need to add some fertilizer, again to help the bulbs for the following seasons. Make sure you water them in times of drought, even though by midsummer the leaves will have disappeared.

• Because spring bulbs basically disappear from the landscape by midsummer, they are ideal for beds where you intend to plant annuals. Plant the annual seeds in spring and by the time the bulbs have bloomed and faded, the annuals will have started to thrive.

• While you’re planting your spring flowering bulbs, consider also planting lilies, daylilies, peonies and hostas. All are perennials and will reward you next growing season.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

By Bob Lipinski

Spring fever — everyone (at least in New York) has it after a long, dreary and cold winter, punctuated by snow, ice, shortened days and the doldrums of being cooped up indoors, trying to keep warm. I’ve had my fill of stodgy winter vegetables, not being able to go outdoors and feel the warmth of the sun on my face and patiently waiting to put on short-sleeve shirts.

We need a Spring Fever Tonic to fill us with song, frivolity and a change of scenery (no, not a trip to Tahiti).

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” — Robin Williams

A plethora of young, fresh, fruity wines, with lively acidity and perhaps some dancing bubbles to tantalize and awaken your taste buds and spirit, comes to mind. Keep the oak-aged chardonnay and big, full-bodied cabernet sauvignon wines for cold weather.

During the winter months, I secretly began to write down beverages I would drink and recommend when cold weather finally ended. I want to share that list with you.

glass-flowerswNV Ferrari Brut — Trento, Italy
Pale yellow color with a refreshing, light aroma of citrus and some bread dough. It’s quite dry with overtones of green apple, lemon and pears. Great with fried calamari!

NV Lamberti Prosecco — Veneto, Italy
Very aromatic and fruity with classic flavors of apple, peach and citrus. Also present are hints of chamomile and ginger — delicious. Try it with some panettone.

2014 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay — Sonoma, California
I have been a fan of this wine for many years, and it continues with this bottling, bouquet and flavor of peaches, lemon, vanilla and hints of butter. Grab some cold lobster salad.

2013 Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi — Marches, Italy
An intensely perfumed aroma of apples, honeysuckle, lime, oranges and peach with a bitter almond aftertaste. Serve it with spaghetti alla carbonara.

2013 Bodegas Arzuaga “Crianza” — Ribera del Duero, Spain
Ruby-colored with a full bouquet and flavor of blackberries, coffee, chocolate and brown spices. It’s perfect with some black beans and rice.

2013 Francis Ford Coppola Pinot Noir “Director’s” — Sonoma, California
Cherry-colored with a strong bouquet of cranberry, raspberry, cola and spices. It’s medium-bodied with dry flowers and berries, and even more berries. Serve this beauty with a piece of grilled salmon.

NV Standing Stone Vineyards “Smokehouse Red” — Lake Seneca, Finger Lakes, New York
Lovely ruby color and so full of spices, cherry-chocolate and cinnamon. It’s dry, with mouth-filling flavors and a hint of smoke in the aftertaste. Pulled pork anyone?

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know about Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].