All Things Must Pass – 10/30/23

Photograph by Firefly Steve Caputo, Light of Day Gallery

All Things Must Pass – As a big Beatles fan, their music is seared into my subconscious. I’ve been known to quote their lyrics in casual conversation as recently as Yesterday, but when I received No Reply I just figured I’m a Loser and I Should Have Known Better. Their words often find a way into my ear canals right when a message of encouragement is needed.

I’ve been very fortunate and grateful to not be experiencing any pain since being diagnosed . There’s discomfort, loss of sensation, and maybe some aches and twinges, but nothing debilitating. I need to remind myself that it is a silent foe that I’m battling. While I trust that the treatments are doing what they are supposed to, their side effects leave me fatigued and generally “out of sorts” for several days afterward. And so, as treatment week and its cavalcade of side effect approaches, George Harrison will steel my resilience by reminding me that all things must pass…

Now the darkness only stays the night time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always gonna be this grey

Hoping your daylight arrives at the right time

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I’m taking a photo a day to help the American Cancer Society fight for a world without cancer. Like so many, I have known family and friends who’ve battled the disease, including some who continue to fight. This year, I find myself personally impacted, and it occurs to me that this platform offers a way to channel my passion for photography to help relay a personal journey that may resonate with others. Please consider making a donation because every little bit helps. Thank you for your support!

I’ve Been Thinking – 10/29/23

Photograph by Firefly Steve Caputo, Light of Day Gallery

I’ve been thinking back on the events of these last four months of my life, how they unfolded and how I evolved to my current state of mind. With all due apologies to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I see this journey as The Seven Stages of Hope.

• The Shock – There are no other words to describe the moment I learned of my diagnosis. “We see a malignancy.” My response was not outwardly emotional, more of an internalized, “Wait. What?” My brain took a few beats to process the information, since this outcome was not on the radar screen.
• The Terror – Maybe that term is too dramatic, but the aftershock felt as if a trap door had opened up, and I was in freefall down a bottomless shaft. “What does this mean for me?” In instances when we find ourselves facing new and extreme circumstances, human nature has us imagining worst case scenarios.
• The Fear – So much was unknown to me, including things like survivability and quality of life. What is going to happen? The impulse to want these answers combined with frustration of not having them raises anxiety and fosters fear and along with it, a darkness of thought that can be the gateway to depression.
• The Realization – Time can mitigate the shock and terror. Living with the diagnosis becomes a new way of life. Fear is a tougher stage to conquer. For me, it required prayer and meditation to form a conscious reminder NOT to allow the darkness to speak to me. Only then could I begin to build the inner strength and resolve I will need to combat this challenge.
• The Acceptance – Like the Serenity Prayer petitions, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Accepting the diagnosis meant recognizing that it was beyond anything that I could control.
• The Letting Go – As personality traits go, mine lean toward rationality. Once I accepted the diagnosis, it made no sense for me to worry about it, nor to assign any judgment regarding it. It is what it is. My energy would be much better directed to the things I can control. Things like my strength, my weight, my mental and spiritual well-being.
• The Letting In – As humans, our survival instincts drive us to take care ourselves. What may not be so instinctive is the willingness and the worthiness to accept help from others, to let them in. I have come to understand that it is not something that I need to take on by myself.

I am so grateful for support and assistance that has come from so many sources including family, friends, healthcare professionals and spiritual guides. The abundance of love and prayers from everyone who has taken the time to follow my journey have lifted me up and strengthened my resolve to meet the challenge of this disease head on, and the hope to overcome it. Thank you.

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I’m taking a photo a day to help the American Cancer Society fight for a world without cancer. Like so many, I have known family and friends who’ve battled the disease, including some who continue to fight. This year, I find myself personally impacted, and it occurs to me that this platform offers a way to channel my passion for photography to help relay a personal journey that may resonate with others. Please consider making a donation because every little bit helps. Thank you for your support!

The Wonder Of It All – 10/28/23

Photograph by Firefly Steve Caputo, Light of Day Gallery

The Wonder Of It All – It was almost 80 degrees here in NY today, a rare summer-like day at the end of October. Anyone who spent any time at all outdoors would comment on what a spectacular day it was. And so, with as full a tank of energy as I expect to have prior to my next treatment, I set out for a day of image-making with a life-long friend and photo compatriot. Our aim was to capture the autumn colors at their peak in Central Park.

So, imagine being in one of the most densely populated places on the planet on a day when everyone made it their business to be out and about. A rare sunny Saturday with children pre-gaming their Halloween costumes parading on the mall. A day when every dog in the city has dragged their human out for a walk in the park. A weekend day in the least urban part of the most urban landscape, it just seemed as if the whole city was chillin’. And yet, there was a palpable energy in the air that might be described as the rhythm of life. Everywhere I looked. people were all living in the moment. It was exhilarating to be in the midst of it, spontaneous joy.

Seek joy in the now.

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I’m taking a photo a day to help the American Cancer Society fight for a world without cancer. Like so many, I have known family and friends who’ve battled the disease, including some who continue to fight. This year, I find myself personally impacted, and it occurs to me that this platform offers a way to channel my passion for photography to help relay a personal journey that may resonate with others. Please consider making a donation because every little bit helps. Thank you for your support!

Lighting the Trail – 10/27/23

Photograph by Firefly Steve Caputo, Light of Day Gallery

Peace Through Adversity – The upheaval that I’ve endured over the past four months has taught me a lot about patience, about knowing the limits of what I can control and understanding how to react to the things that I cannot. There is peace in surrendering to the universe that which the universe commands.

In this image, my eye is on reaching the calm that lies beyond the rocks. But getting there requires careful navigation over rough terrain. In these situations I’ve learned not to forsake a helping hand. I’m so thankful for all those involved in my care and support, they are in fact the helping hand of God leading me to the calm waters of recovery. With each step, I am finding it is me and not the stones that becomes bolder.

For all those scaling the rocks, hold fast to those guiding you. You are not alone.

Lighting the Trail – The week continues to be a good one. I feel more energy, more sense of taste returning with each passing day.

As October winds down, so too does the American Cancer Society’s October Photo-a-Day challenge. Posting a photo a day was never the issue for me. The challenge presented itself when I chose to marry those images to a narrative about my current battle with the disease. Why would I want to share my diagnosis at all, much less on a platform like FB? Why would I want to dwell on this condition every day for 31 consecutive days?

Being a cancer newbie and knowing that too many others are being initiated into the fraternity each day, I think I thought that lighting the trail a bit might make it easier for those behind me. To be honest, I did not know where it would lead, or what the reaction might be. In fact, on many days, the words were not easily forthcoming. It was not until I stopped trying to force a thought and started listening (to my inner voice, to God…) and let myself become the delivery vehicle for the thought that the messages began to write themselves.

I will forever associate this exercise with my own healing. Verbalizing my hope and trust and faith has helped galvanize my spirit. Thank you for enduring this with me, I’m looking forward to moving beyond all this talk of cancer, and returning to the task of looking for the life and love and beauty in the world that is all around us.

The love and prayers and support you’ve all offered has been soul-strengthening, and I am eternally grateful for ALL of it. The messages of encouragement for these posts gives me hope that they may act as a beacon to help other travelers to look up from their lives and recognize they are not alone, and that peace is within their reach, no matter the prognosis.

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I’m taking a photo a day to help the American Cancer Society fight for a world without cancer. Like so many, I have known family and friends who’ve battled the disease, including some who continue to fight. This year, I find myself personally impacted, and it occurs to me that this platform offers a way to channel my passion for photography to help relay a personal journey that may resonate with others. Please consider making a donation because every little bit helps. Thank you for your support!

Peace Through Adversity – 10/26/23

Photo of rocks, water, beach, "Peace Through Adversity" by Steve Caputo, Light of Day Galleries

Photograph by Firefly Steve Caputo, Light of Day Gallery

Peace Through Adversity – The upheaval that I’ve endured over the past four months has taught me a lot about patience, about knowing the limits of what I can control and understanding how to react to the things that I cannot. There is peace in surrendering to the universe that which the universe commands.

In this image, my eye is on reaching the calm that lies beyond the rocks. But getting there requires careful navigation over rough terrain. In these situations I’ve learned not to forsake a helping hand. I’m so thankful for all those involved in my care and support, they are in fact the helping hand of God leading me to the calm waters of recovery. With each step, I am finding it is me and not the stones that becomes bolder.

For all those scaling the rocks, hold fast to those guiding you. You are not alone.

Previous                      Next

I’m taking a photo a day to help the American Cancer Society fight for a world without cancer. Like so many, I have known family and friends who’ve battled the disease, including some who continue to fight. This year, I find myself personally impacted, and it occurs to me that this platform offers a way to channel my passion for photography to help relay a personal journey that may resonate with others. Please consider making a donation because every little bit helps. Thank you for your support!

In Memoriam: Dolores Thompson, Kevin Thorbourne, Robert DeSimone

Photo of Dolores Thompson in 2008 by Katheryn Laible

Photo of Dolores Thompson taken in 2008 by Katheryn Laible

Three extraordinary souls that I happened to know passed on these last few months. I think part of why I’ve been slow to send a newsletter is because I’ve wanted to pay each one their proper respects. Unfortunately, I still haven’t processed enough to do that for Bill Bohn and another dear soul the world lost over a year ago. There’s so much to say about each of these folks. It’s going to take a while. I’ll tell you a little now and endeavor to properly memorialize each of these “Legends of LI” here soon.

Dolores Thompson

Dolores Thompson – What a force! She was introduced to me as “Queen Dee.” You didn’t have to squint too hard to see her crown. She was regal if she was anything. Tough as they come, she could bring you down with a look. Still, as one dear soul said, “If you didn’t love and respect her, you just didn’t know her that well.”

I’ve never had anyone so point-blank command that folks give a damn and love, breaking it all down as simply as possible for anyone who would listen.

Soon after Dee’s passing about a month ago, Cheryl Blum dug up roughly 30 years of news clippings charting Dee’s adventures as a committed advocate.  A true community Matriarch, Dee was a big reason why there’s a library in Huntington Station, and why the Dolan Family Health Center exists. I can’t even begin to fathom how many kids she impacted for the better as a champion of the Huntington Station Enrichment Center and the local Boys and Girl’s Club, as well as the local NAACP. Among the most ardent advocates Huntington Station has likely ever had, she was also a driving force and deep conscience for its BID (Business Improvement District). There was more…so much more…

Dee did things her own way, that’s for sure, even as she collaborated closely with any and everyone. Naming 2nd Avenue “Dee Thompson Way in her honor was simply putting a formal label on a street many had already long seen as hers. When the Huntington Awareness Day and its Unity in the Community parade were rained out, it felt like the heavens were joining the town in mourning, and knew folks weren’t quite ready to hold that event without her.

The last time I saw Dee, I got to give her a hug over a relatively simple yet deep request she’d had of the powers that be which seemed to take way too long to accomplish…a supermarket. She’d have loved to see it sooner, but was happy at least that it was finally done.

It was so good to see her. She was pure Dee that day, loaded with three more things she wanted accomplished: Improving a difficult corner, beautifying a major train station, and establishing a museum. She admonished me to go see the extraordinary collection of the Reverend Bernadette Watkins which was then on view at the Tri-CYA in Huntington Station for Black History Month. She hoped it would soon find a prominent home.

I am so glad to see this happening, and am sure there are others carrying a torch for the other two items. Grateful thanks and all the best to Melisa Rousseau and everyone involved now in establishing the Huntington African American Museum, and to all who collect and curate to preserve and better understand this important part of our heritage. I’m sure Dee’s watching over you.

Thank you, Ms Thompson, for all you did to serve your community. I’m sure I’m far from the only one who feels they’re a better person because of you. May those that follow make you proud.

Photo of Kevin W. Thorbourne helping spruce up the Coltrane Home.
Kevin in one of his fine hats helping to spruce up the Coltrane Home in 2021.

Kevin Thorbourne

Kevin Thorbourne passed suddenly last summer. It’s still hard to believe he’s really gone. He was not the kind of guy to toot his own horn. However, the first time I encountered him he did explain that he had recently written a tell-all about himself and invited me to read it if I would. Harlem Son is a beautiful, raw, thoughtful, incredibly honest story of life in the city and LI suburbs, starting in the 1950s. It includes observations on local and national events as an African American man, as well as reflections on his personal journey: Triumphs, challenges, missteps, love, appreciation and redemption. 

It’s an inspiring and thought provoking read.

Kevin was the first new friend I made when Ron Stein and others got me involved in the effort to save the Coltrane home in Dix Hills. He was passionate about his church, fine men’s clothing, the political scene, and his personal mission to honor and document Jazz musicians wherever he could find them, sometimes pulling them straight out of obscurity.

I was apparently not alone in finding Kevin to be the most Coltrane of all the Coltrane volunteers, even though I never heard him play an instrument. It was his open heart and mind that reminded us of that legend, his very human commitment to being a “force for good,” and his earnest desire to learn everything he could, especially regarding jazz musicians.

Kevin’s capacity for self-reflection and improvement was only outdone by his indefatigable care for things beyond himself. A professional mediator for many years, he was a natural at being “the oil in troubled water.”  As a Coltrane volunteer, Kevin was known for being the perfect person to consult with when things got stressful. Never dull, it was amazing to listen to him talk to others about whatever they happened to be an expert in. Kevin asked great questions and always seemed to have something profound, grounding, or just plain thoughtful to say.

I think maybe what I’ll miss most is that smile he had that instantly warmed the soul. 

It was a great honor and pleasure to work with Kevin, and to get to call him friend.  He is deeply missed and appreciated.

Photo of Robert DeSimone on an balcony in a tuxedo with a cigar.

Robert DeSimone

Robert DeSimone was my classmate in the Leadership Huntington Class of 2001. A lion of a man, we were never quite sure he got the whole “leading from behind” thing that was really the thrust of this community leadership organization. Still, he was an enthusiastic participant. He definitely made a deep contribution, reminding us that there are people in this world who are simply natural born leaders. Ones with good hearts and minds to match their powerful charismas at that.

Robert’s good-natured advocacy of this fact led him ultimately to be dressed in a toga with a makeshift wreath of laurel on his head as he took on the role of Julius Caesar in a series of skits that were part of the class. I hope to someday locate and transcribe the video of them. Until then, I’ll treasure the memory.

Last I spoke to Robert was maybe ten years ago. He was thinking about his girls, who’d been adopted from Ukraine. He was ardently searching the world for their sister, whom he eventually found. He was also excited about work he was doing to get major corporate leaders to understand their enlightened self-interest and thus adjust their business practices to help save us all.

Trudy and I wanted to get him to do something with Leadership…to talk about these and other things he was passionate about. He was enthusiastic, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. I always hoped I’d catch him around again sometime, but I guess that wasn’t in the cards, either. He is dearly missed.

 

To all out there who also knew and loved these folks, thank you for appreciating them. I’d love to hear your memories.

2023 Smart Growth Summit

For more than 25 years, Vision Long Island has made a huge difference in our communities, connecting great people and generally helping all sorts of folks wrap their heads around the challenges and opportunities to improve our built environment on LI. Their 2023 Smart Growth Summit is happening Friday, December 1, 2023 from 8am-4pm.
 
It will feature over 1,000 local community, business and government, downtown revitalization and community development leaders. There will be nearly 20 workshops, 100 speakers, a trade show, and a concurrent Youth Summit. The breakfast “State of the Towns and Villages” session and luncheon alone are worth the program price. 
 
This is a great way to get an in depth, inside scoop on important local issues, including infrastructure, redevelopment, energy, human needs, small business, walkability, transportation and many others.
 
The LI Smart Growth movement generally attracts great people who care about the future of our communities. For an idea of the quality of folks who attend, check out these in-depth interviews hosted by Eric Alexander featuring a broad range of local leaders. You can also check out Vision’s YouTube channel to see important discussions they’ve hosted in the past, as well as people, projects and policies that they have highlighted. 
 
It’s really valuable stuff. Best to come check out what they’re talking about now!
 
Check out their website for details and get on their email list!

Sold Out Story Slam Lights Up The Firefly!!!

Pictured, from left to right, Firefly Katie Laible and story slam host Liz Alexander with storytellers Katrina Buyers, Eric Eaton, Annie Mark, Glenn Perreira, Karen Paquet and Eric Alexander. Photo Credit: Joanne Kountarakis, Northport Journal

Pictured, from left to right, Firefly Katie Laible and story slam host Liz Alexander with storytellers Katrina Buyers, Eric Eaton, Annie Mark, Glenn Perreira, Karen Paquet and Eric Alexander. Photo by Joanne Kountarikis, Northport Journal

Story Slam at The Firefly! "I Had a Hunch..."

Inspired by The Moth radio hour, Elizabeth Alexander has been organizing storytelling events in Northport Village and the surrounding area for the past few years. In this, she is creating opportunities for the community to connect and be inspired.
 
Moth-style storytelling is a genre of personal narrative stories about an experience that took place in the storyteller’s life. It was such a pleasure to finally get to host this amazing event at the Firefly. What a way to get to know our neighbors!
 
This one kicked off with a spaghetti dinner and a hunch, rose into the astral plane, and told stories of angels who made themselves known. There was a one-woman motorcycle tour of the country and what happened when she dared to trust a stranger, a story about standing up for who you are, even if reluctantly, and a growing questioning of everything. 
 
We are blessed to have multiple sources of local media that care about and cover our Village. The Northport Journal is particularly focused on appreciating neighbors who go out of their way to make the world a better place for everyone. Last weekend, they quoted reader David Rivera in reporting on the event on social media:
 
“Let’s give three cheers to Elizabeth Alexander! Last night, Liz hosted Northport’s third Moth-like story slam in just over two years. Yet again, she did a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to find a venue, to recruit a half-dozen brave souls willing to tell personal stories, and to market the event so well that Slam 3.0 was a standing-room-only event, with proceeds going to Students for 60,000 and The Firefly Artists on Main Street.
 
Liz is one of many people who make Northport a great place to live. Next time you see her, please tell her so.”
 
She really is. <3
 
Want to be ready for the next one? They’ve announced the next theme, which was chosen by the audience: “Coincidences.”
 
Got a story you’re not quite sure how to tell? You’re not alone! Liz is helping folks find their voices by organizing online workshops with an excellent teacher of this fine craft. Stay tuned for details!
Moth-style details.

Autumn Landscaping Resources

Child in leaves

Autumn Landscaping. Plant Something and Chill

It’s taken a full year to feel like our Firefly Gallery is mostly resettled. Tending to that treasure has left both Synchronicity and my gardens sorely neglected.  
 
Fortunately, things are falling into place and there’s still time to tend to these passions! I am grateful to those who encourage me to get back to writing already, and am delighted to report that autumn is a GREAT time for gardening!
Autumn Dogwood
"Autumn Dogwood" photo by Katheryn Laible

On Leaving the Leaves

To explain why this is so beneficial, let’s start with another post from deeply knowledegable local expert Anthony Marinello of Dropseed Natives, “Leave the Leaves!”

This is rapidly becoming a very mainstream concept.

Here’s a piece from Homeserve.com, “Rake It or Leave It? Here’s Why You May Just Wanna Leave Your Leaves Where They Fall,”  one from the USDA, and even one in Good Housekeeping.

Here’s an article from James Doubek for NPR on the subject.

Environmental groups have been saying this for years. Here’s the National Wildlife Federation on why.

And one from The Xerces Society: “Leave the leaves.”

BTW the Xerces Society is interesting. It’s really focused on saving invertebrates. Their work is deeply fundamental and yet applied at our level in the food chain, so it’s also really helpful! Their Facebook page is a wealth of basic, excellent advice.

…There are tips on winter cleanup, saving seeds, a beautiful sight of Monarch Butterflies migrating….

I learned about them from Long Island Native Plant Group on Facebook, a great community of incredibly knowledgeable and helpful folks who think about our local ecoscapes all year long

…but I digress…

…I was talking about leaving the leaves…

Photo of oak leaf on pavement
"Oak Leaf" photo by Katheryn Laible

Well, Most of Them Anyway

The movement to leave the leaves is really important, but should be taken with a little common sense.

It also remains important to keep the driveway clear, as well as stone patios and pathways, assuming you wish to preserve them. The same goes for grass (though a thin layer of leaves may be mowed quite healthfully), which also likes to be aerated from time to time.

On my property, I’m dealing with invasive Norway Maples that I’m working to eradicate and replace with native trees as quickly as I can afford to do so. With them, I have found raking the leaves is fairly important as they seem particularly smother-y and slow to break down. As I am working to reduce their spread, I also want to be able to get their whirlybirds up in the spring!

As such, my approach isn’t so different from what these folks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have to say, or The Spruce, here.

So, I do continue to rake a bit….mindfully….

Autumn afterblooms
"Autumn Afterblooms" photo by Katheryn Laible

Consider Losing the Lawn

Of course, while lawn health is among the biggest reasons to still rake, folks such as those from Re-Wild Long Island (an incredible collaboration of Long Island experts) suggest you consider doing away with your lawn instead.

This powerful opinion piece in the New York Times suggests you’d best “Kill your lawn before it kills you.”

On the West Coast, this has become a serious affair. Alternatives such as Xeriscaping, which focuses on minimizing water use, have become very popular. There, many factors including severe ongoing drought are coming together to prove that fighting the ecosystem for the sake of grass isn’t worth the trouble.

Related practices are gaining popularity across the country as communities come to realize that tending their own yard is a great way to nurture a healthier environment.

I’m not quite ready to ditch my lawn myself. However, I am committed to neither watering nor fertilizing nor spraying it with chemicals, and to doing all I can to maximize the ecological value of my property.

Here’s a nice piece from Brooklyn Greenways on why native plants are so important.

I am deeply inspired by projects like these “Rewilding Long Island” examples featured on the Rewild Long Island website.

See these 12 Inspiring ideas for a lawn-free landscape from porch.com, and some more on Houzz.

Check them all out and then go, tread lightly into winter, and dream of the upcoming spring.

 

(BTW: You can find resources for that here … it’s never too early to start planning!)

photo looking up at trees in twilight
"Looking Up: After the Fall" photo by Katheryn Laible