I'm Chels. I blog about science, art, tennis, and my adventures in journalism. Officially, I'm a Science Writer at Brookhaven National Lab and I blog for them, too. Unofficially, I'm pretty awesome.

Or, you know, owsome.

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Posts tagged long island life

Into the morning sun

Instead of doing our workshare at the farm in the afternoon, we decided to put in our hours before the heat of the day. We woke up and drove east past the lettuce fields and the farmhouses with chickens peck-pecking around the front yard. Those enormous, wheeled irrigation pipes glinted in the morning sun on either side of the road. I was marveling at how nice is it not to drive through morning traffic on a busy highway when we came upon a tractor taking up the single lane and we slowed to a crawl near the Holy Schmitt’s Homemade Horseradish stand. You don’t actually get away from the traffic, it just gets more charming the farther out you go on the North Fork.

Our job this morning was picking mulberries. I’m short, so I took the lowest branches near the trunk, and for most of the time we were there, the only thing in my field of vision was the color of the berries: the greenish white of new buds, the deep dark purple of the ripest ones, and a range of pastel pink to bright fuchsia in between. You don’t so much pick a mulberry as you gently nudge it from the branch. We stood around the tree – me, Justin, and this quiet surfer dude named John – listening to the owls hooting in the weeping willow until we had grabbed all the ones we could reach.

After that, we spread some tarps down and John shimmied up the trunk. He shook it hard and the thud-thud-thud of raining mulberries was one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard. It was thick, or maybe solid (if a sound can be solid), and really satisfying. I walked back toward the barn during one of the shaking sessions and grinned at the little tree dancing back and forth above the flowerbeds. 

We left the farm with stained fingertips and shared a seltzer in the car, smiling as we passed a horse rolling in the dirt. 

There’s no such thing as a breeze on Long Island

It’s 25 mph winds or 50 mph winds. I don’t think there’s an in-between. Don’t even think about trying to keep a trash can lid for more than 6 months. 

Imagining Mountains

Whenever there’s a storm coming and there’s a big wall of clouds sitting on the horizon, I like to imagine that they’re mountains. Back home, the hills interrupt every sight line. They wrap around the sky in a comforting way, solid and still and covered with evergreens like teeth waiting to swallow up the sun. But not here. Here, my mountains are made of water vapor and they glow and spit fiery rays of light, and then disappear. 

Bad news

I woke up to the sound of snow shovels on my neighbor’s driveway. Siena was standing near my face with big eyes, trying to figure out how the world turned white. 

I went outside to get the shovels and salty melty stuff out of the shed and thought to myself, it’s not really that cold out. My phone says it’s 23 degrees. 

I might be turning into an East Coaster. 

This morning, a turkey marched out in front of my car while I was at a light and just stood there gobbling at me. I had to get out and chase it away, because it only responded to honking with more gobbling. I feel like people don’t really understand me when I tell them Long Island is overrun with wild turkeys, but THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

It was quite the show

So, a few strange things happened tonight and it’s all finally starting to make sense. First, I was sitting on the back porch after work and I smelled something really foul. My first thought was, “Didn’t I shower today?” I did. But it smelled like a rotting foot had lodged itself in my nose. 

Then, Siena decided to step out on the porch for a minute. Timidly, of course. This cat will spook even if I just walk sort of near her inside the house, so venturing outside is tough for her, but she’s been coming farther and farther out lately. Anyhow, there were no loud sounds or stiff winds this evening, but something freaked her out and she bolted inside. I chalked it up to her just being a scaredy cat. 

Finally, I was sitting on the couch reading and I heard something at the screen door. It sounded like Siena was trying to rip through it. And she was. I got up and walked over to her and she started doing that siren moan that cats do, so I flipped on the porch light (she didn’t even budge when I walked next to her! Red flag!) and there were two racoons on the deck with their noses up against the screen door. “Ahh, that’s what was so stinky,” I thought. Those jerks hang out under the deck. Phew. At least it wasn’t me.

Siena was a brave little kitten and she hissed and hissed at them. I finally threw some water out the screen door and they took off. She has spent the past hour prancing around like, “Did you see it, Mom? Did you see me scare those guys off?” And it is completely adorable and hilarious. I keep petting her head and telling her she’s earning her keep around here. 

Sink the whole damn thing

I just witnessed an adult riding a motorbike (there is no other good word for the vehicle he was on) down the turning lane of a very busy two-lane highway, popped up on his back wheel like he was in a terrible action movie inexplicably set in the suburbs. 

I was joking yesterday about the flash flooding we were expecting from the tropical storm that hit last night, and I said something about how the whole of Long Island could just sink right into the ocean. Now I’m thinking that wouldn’t be such a terrible idea. 


Besides the caricaturistic accents I encounter on a daily basis, there’s one other language-related oddity that I’ve noticed since I moved out to Long Island. I notice that when people talk about where they live, more often than I not, I hear them say, “I live IN Long Island,” as if it’s a town or city or some sort of collectively-identified place. 

Being a person who cares about grammar (a.k.a. the most annoying kind of human around), I find myself wondering if I’m just thinking about it wrong or if there really is a correct way to talk about living in a place like Long Island. 

In my head, I think “I live ON Long Island, but I live IN a small town on the North coast.” I can’t think of another island where that seems correct. You don’t live on Greenland. Or on Madagascar. Or on Maui. You live in them. But somehow that seems different, because those places have a large unifying governing/physical presence. 

Am I wrong? Is there another island you might live on instead of in?


It’s worth getting up early.

Sometimes living on Long Island feels like you get the worst of both urban life (high rents, lots of laundromats) and suburban life (very few food deliveries, huge box stores and strip malls everywhere), but I always have to remind myself that it also comes with the absolute best parts of rural/seaside life (farm stands, the ocean is a quick trip away, most of my driving takes place through the Pine Barrens). So, yeah, worth it. 

Yesterday my work buddy Erin took me on a lunchtime adventure. Just a few minutes from the section of the lab where all the buildings are, you can find really lush wooded areas. We went for a stroll through the trees down by the river, exclaimed over racoon tracks in the mud, whistled at the birds, and even found a turtle shell that some little critter had finished eating out of recently. It was gloriously warm and I kept looking around sort of astonished that Brookhaven’s lab site has so much nature just right down the road from my office building. I’ll definitely be going back on my lunch break from time to time.

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