Reflections on a Pandemic Rainbow

Oil Painting - Pandemic Rainbow, March 2020

Oil Painting from March 2020 Entitled “Pandemic Rainbow”

While I give it my best to be the adult and hopefully a halfway decent parent, often it is my children who end up guiding and grounding me.

One example of this was mid-March 2020. We were far enough in to know that COVID was serious, but it was still a largely inconceivable looming horror that had hardly begun to hit home. I had followed the story since before the disease cancelled Lunar New Year celebrations abroad, so I was not quite as surprised as some seemed to be. Still, I am pretty sure I was in shock.

Honestly, I think I might still be in shock.

At that time, though, my brain still wanted to treat COVID as a theoretical construct, not something…real. I had yet to have a case reach the outskirts of my personal orbit, let alone see a dear one pass or begin to experience the painful details of how everything would go. I was already thinking of collateral concerns that for so many were already more pressing than the disease but, for me, it was all processing like a computer with too many programs running, a computer with not just a mind, but a heart that was overwhelmed as well…and I know I was among the luckier ones…

The first case was confirmed on Long Island by March 5th. A week later, in what felt like a watershed moment, the NBA suspended its season right at the tipoff of a Jazz/Thunders game while at the same time Tom Hanks told the world he was sick. The next day a “temporary” school closing was announced, followed promptly by the shutdown of just about everything.

Teachers, parents and children turned on a dime to transform education as offices also emptied into homes. Overnight, Zoom went from being a cool app someone had suggested we play with, to the platform that would host most human encounters for the next two years.

In true apocalyptic fashion, folks that couldn’t stay home were suddenly being called heroes. This was an honor some immediately warned was less than empty and that others are actively praying we will more substantially appreciate to this day. Given the scarcity of tests and plethora of potential symptoms, it was fairly impossible to tell whether one had hay fever or might kill grandma.

This was just a sliver of the world’s hardships, with some facing suffering far worse than others. Already, we were realizing there wasn’t even sufficient protective gear for nurses. Hoarding was a concern. We were in it deep. There was hardly any toilet paper. Coming together as a nation seemed sadly and painfully less likely than ever, but at least folks were washing their hands.

With hardly any discussion it suddenly became perfectly legal to get take-out cocktails. Fellow Gen Xers were filling my Facebook newsfeed the way many of my friends do when things are stressful, scary and beyond our control: One part public service announcement, two parts “how y’all doin’ out there?” and three parts bad jokes as we collectively decided this was all way too serious not to laugh. It all seemed terribly surreal, especially when paired with the emergence of Tiger King, the unbelievable, utterly meme-able Netflix documentary about an ill-fated private zookeeper. We didn’t watch it here, but we couldn’t miss it either. Somehow, it seemed to fit.

Me? I was doing what I generally do in times of crisis, shunting aside feelings and endeavoring to be useful, going into overdrive to keep things moving and to share news of so many wonderful folks I saw giving it their best to be of service…teachers, human service providers, scientists and so many folks who sew or learned to sew just for the occasion. Grateful for so many artists and librarians rising to a quarantined call, I was also warmed by the concept of “Rainbows across Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” which were largely drawn by children and starting to appear everywhere.

I thought it would be nice to publish one. I asked my youngest, who had just turned 12, “Would you please draw me a rainbow for my newsletter?”

My daughter is a born artist. It’s just who she is. At this particular time in life, she was also (hopefully) at a height of adolescent prickliness toward her mother. Perhaps, this time at least, it was well deserved. She gave me a drawing she wouldn’t have been satisfied with when she was three.

“I’m not using this.”

“Use it.”

“Well, I’m not putting your name on it.”

”Fine.”

So…I used it. Without her name. She was fine with that.

A child's drawing of a rainbow

A few days later, I was up late working. It was sometime after midnight when she emerged from her room, came to my desk and thrust her arm forward.

“You want my rainbow? Here’s my rainbow!”

I looked at it, a ragged, shaken assault of color. Marks that looked like tiger swipes tore through it. Other areas were marred by splotches of brown as though dirt and other…stuff…had been hurled at it. Smears of white evoked flashes of terror…and…contagion….

I was stricken to see my heart laid bare on her canvas. Her heart laid bare on her canvas?

“I’ve never used oils before,” she said, her voice sweet and childlike as she considered her work. Funny how they switch back and forth so suddenly at that age, “I’m really pleased with how I got this wash along the edges…”

She’d always been all about the process, even when she was three…

I looked her in the eye. She looked back. Words went unspoken. Feelings, however, I think, transmitted. She retreated to the room that would become her fortress, her cocoon for the next several months.

The painting remained beside me, saying more than either she or I had words for. It got me to pause. It got me to think. It forced me to allow the weight of the situation to settle, to allow her the space she needed to process, to be a bit more mindful with her and all I encountered.

The work was soon followed by a similarly abstract piece entitled “Earth Day.”

“I sure hope we get it together.” was all she said.

“Me, too.”

Oil Paintins, "Earth Day" April 2020

Prints of “Pandemic Rainbow” (top of article) and “Earth Day” (immediately above) are available at The Firefly Artists in Northport. While she’s not nearly as attached to them as I am, the originals are not for sale. I am grateful to the galley for hosting these pieces, and for everyone who gives it their best to make the best of things and guide others to see the light. It matters more than we know. Thank you.

Man on a Mission: NYS Regent Roger Tilles

It was his passion for the arts, his appreciation for teachers, and his firm belief grounded that the arts are fundamental to a good education that first led us to be intrigued by Roger Tilles. We got to sit down with him a million years ago last December. While so much has changed since then, we believe what he had to say remains relevant, perhaps even moreso than it was…

Continue reading

Local Company At Forefront of COVID Testing, Possibly Even a Vaccine

Another new friend is John Shearman, a marketing and communications specialist who has spent his career serving innovative technology companies Island-wide. He currently works for a fascinating company called Applied DNA Sciences, Inc, which is an anchor tenant of the Long Island High Tech Incubator.

A primary service of Applied DNA is to enable the authentication of products and supply chains through unique molecular identifiers — basically they literally apply DNA to things like textiles, microchips, cannabis and other products so that their authenticity can be validated.

In recent years they have also become involved in vaccines for blood cancers. When the COVID-19 crisis erupted, they quickly turned to that .

They are very excited that, in partnership with Stony Brook University, they have developed clinical tests for COVID-19 that are apparently 100% accurate. While this aspect is still receiving approvals it may even be saliva based (bye-bye-brain tickle!), and fast enough that local companies and others will be able to regularly offer safe, quick, accurate tests for their employees on a regular basis.

This is a big step toward being freed from our collective quarantine. They’re also working on DNA vaccines in partnership with Takis Biotech, some of which are already being tested on mice and seem to show some significant promise.

Here’s hoping!

Main Street News is a Must-Read

We’ve said it before, we’re going to keep saying it:

THIS IS VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT.

Vision Long Island and the Long Island Main Street Alliance continue to release daily issues of their new Main Street News.

This is a grounded, productive, community-oriented force for those who care about the economic aspects of this crisis. It’s sobering, comprehensive and helpful.

There’s news about what’s happening, what’s open, resources, proposed legislation and whatever else they can find to help folks weather the storm. They have also added a “Good News” component that highlights folks doing the right thing.

Check out their website. Follow their Facebook.

Vision is one of our strongest advocates for Long Island downtowns, and has been generally connecting diverse local stakeholders to learn and work together for the betterment of our communities for over 20 years. We strongly believe they are a huge reason why there’s as much healthy communication and collaboration in the name of true public service and community development on Long Island as there is today. We are grateful.

Have You Seen the Rainbows?

A child's drawing of a rainbow

Just a little ray of hope to brighten the lives of the child in all of us. It started with a Facebook group called “Rainbows over Nassau and Suffolk Counties”. and, we think, also a call to chalk up neighborhood driveways that we first heard about from our beloved Lois Howes. of the Friends of Freeport.

It involves sticking rainbows in your window, coloring your driveway, posting pictures. Our dear Firefly Beth Atkinson has been hiding rainbow rocks on her walk for the curious children of Northport to find….

It’s a small thing that means a lot. Be a part of it, will you? It can be a rainbow, it can be an act of service. The world needs all the love and support it can get….

On the Human Services Front

A lovely piece from Firefly Kate Sydney’s Compassion Collection

One of the many folks on the Human Services front that we’ve long appreciated is Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds of the Family & Children’s Association in Nassau County. He suggest that this press update from NYS Senator Kaplan is a good resource for those who care and/or need services during this challenging time, be they senior services, hunger, housing, healthcare, domestic violence, drug addiction, or legal services.

We were heartened to hear that caring LIers crashed the LI Cares website trying to make donations. Still, food banks are facing significant challenges, especially with everyone rushing the grocery stores!

They are running an “Essential Drive in Response to COVID-19 School Closures, which you may donate to here. You can check out their Facebook Page for information on what they’re doing to serve our most vulnerable, including mobile food pantries!

From The INN: What You Can Do to Help Right Now

Housing Help has been offering info on legislative and other matters that impact housing and more

Mental Health: We don’t know where this “Waves of Wellness” is based, save Facebook, but it’s been helpful

For Veterans: One of the better sources of information we’ve come across aimed directly at vets is Patchogue VFW Commander Dave Roger’s personal Facebook Page. We are grateful for his service.

For Seniors: Stop and Shop will be open exclusively to folks over 60 from 6-7:30am starting Thursday. This lets them get there when it’s the least touched and the best stocked. We are grateful.

The Kids are Home — Now What???

The Kids are Here! by Katheryn Laible

We are grateful schools are working to provide digital education on the fly, and wish everyone the best in figuring that out. We are also grateful that they are endeavoring mightily to keep those who count on them fed.

Meanwhile, the kids are home, we really shouldn’t be taking them around other people and we need good ways to keep everyone thoughtfully enriched:

Here’s a great roundup of resources from Huntington NOW

Entertainkidsonadime.com offers 100 Activities to do at home with Kids

Funinfirst.com offers Free Online Resources for Learning at Home

Some wonderful Mrs. Fahrney offers 30 Virtual Field Trips with Links

AdventuresinFamilyHood.com has 20 Virtual Field Trips to Take with Your Kids

NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents) had guidance on Making the most of school-closures

Meanwhile, freecodecamp.org has 450 Ivy League Courses You Can Take for Free.

Here are even more ideas from the New York Times

Feed Your Soul

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

While we STRONGLY RECOMMEND erring on the side of science in terms of understanding how disease spreads and what we have good evidence heals, we also know a great many who (while also following Dr’s orders) find healing and overcoming a deeply personal experience that is greatly strengthened by their faith.

We have also long agreed with Dale Carnegie that prayer is much more psychologically useful than worry and — when there’s nothing else we can do — remains better than doing nothing.

Many houses of worship are closing. While we haven’t yet found a comprehensive guide to what’s now available, we have seen many of our faithful friends posting information about services that are occurring online. We encourage you to contact your own community. We will share what we come across.

We see that Donna Martini has been offering her own “Mighy Mantras” on Facebook as her contribution to helping folks find some spiritual solace.

Additionally this local “Moonful Mama” has been offering some global healing meditations as well as a little of her own Momma’s spirit regarding how we might all find opportunity in times of crisis.

While she probably wouldn’t call herself a faith healer, we do find Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings deeply soothing to our souls. Here is her Meditation on Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “How To Love” a lesson on how to grow our hearts.

For our own part, we pray that – now and always – humanity endeavors toward truth and love, best we may humbly discern our way forward, fueled by faith, dexterity and strength, with gratitude for every blessing we may count, especially to those who keep hope alive.

Peace and well-wishes to all.

Support Local Business & Community Groups

Main St, Northport

Photo of Northport Village by Katheryn Laible

This is a really tough time to be a small business or a not-for-profit organization. While everyone is rightly encouraged to stay home and keep their hands off the world, bills are still coming due and people are wondering what’s going to happen to their income.

When you see one of your most go-getting survivors of a friend seeking donations for her employer, you have to stop and think — What are we going to do for our people here?

Vision Long Island is one of our region’s strongest advocates for Main Street. They have just released their first Main Street News offering a great guide to what people can do in terms of personal initiative, resources and advocacy.

Another strong advocate for local business that has been posting good stuff on their facebook page is the Long Island Business Council.

In general, some ideas that have seemed good to us include:

  1. Buy Gift Certificates. Consider simply sending a donation to your favorite local business
  2. Realize small businesses are often better for social distancing because they tend to be less crowded. They may even have that hard to find supply!
  3. Restaurants are closing, but can still do takeout/delivery. Even for alcohol!
  4. Realize many of these places care about their own health, your health and the community more than most ever realized. Know that many local shops are going out of their way to safely keep on keeping on — Book Revue in Huntington, for example is offering curbside service and even delivery. We’ve heard report of local hair stylists all but wrapping their stylists in bubble wrap. Look up their website/social media. Even if they aren’t advertising it, call them to inquire!
  5. Special events are hugely important for organizations. Had an event cancelled? Send a donation! You can check our newsletter archives to find 100s of great local organizations
  6. Strongly consider supporting policy proposals that directly support individuals and small businesses. While they are going out of their way to come up with creative means of keeping going, there is only so much they can do,
  7. Just be kind — Especially to the cashiers, service providers and others working through this. Just. Be. Kind.