05/01/15 11:56am
05/01/2015 11:56 AM
An aerial view of Plum Island. (Credit: file photo)

An aerial view of Plum Island. (Credit: file photo)

Local environmentalists will present a “virtual tour” of Plum Island and go over the latest efforts to protect it at “Preserving Plum Island for Future Generations,” which takes place this evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at Floyd Memorial Public Library in Greenport. (more…)

10/04/14 10:00am
10/04/2014 10:00 AM
This cake was brought to the first Death Café meeting at Floyd Memorial Library. (Credit: Rachel Young)

This cake was brought to the first Death Café meeting at Floyd Memorial Library. (Credit: Rachel Young)

There’s a scene in the 1977 film “Annie Hall” in which Woody Allen’s character is at a bookstore with his girlfriend, played by Diane Keaton, and he suddenly places copies of “The Denial of Death” and “Death and Western Thought” in front of her.

“I’m gonna buy you these books, because I think you should read them,” he tells her. “You know, instead of that cat book.”

“That’s, uh … that’s pretty serious stuff there,” she says, laughing nervously.

“Yeah, cause I’m, you know, I’m obsessed with, uh, death, I think,” he says. “Big — big subject with me, yeah.”

I was 15 the first time I saw this scene. I was watching it at home with my uncle Peter, who was terminally ill with colon cancer. He began laughing as heartily as his body, much weakened by the rigors of chemotherapy and radiation, allowed.

More than 13 years later, I still vividly remember thinking how remarkable his reaction was; how someone mere months away from dying was able to laugh about his fate.

Despite my uncle’s example, the ability to think about death objectively has mostly eluded me. An anxious child and lifelong sufferer of obsessive-compulsive disorder, I went through a phase where I regularly begged my mother to reassure me I wouldn’t die for a very, very long time. So I was intrigued when I spotted an advertisement for a group-directed discussion called a “Death Café” at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport.

Organized by Poppy Johnson, the library’s assistant director, a Death Café is a philosophical forum about death that purports to help people “make the most of their (finite) lives,” according to a library flier.

When the group met for the first time Friday afternoon, I was one of a dozen attendees who gathered around a large table in the library’s conference room. Our ranks included a priest, a beekeeper, two couples, a 91-year-old woman and a man with a history of slipping into diabetic comas.

The proverbial ice was broken when another participant arrived late carrying a glazed chocolate cake shaped like a skull.

As we delved into our deliciously macabre dessert, Ms. Johnson delivered a brief history of Death Cafés, the first of which was reportedly organized by Swiss sociologist and anthropologist Bernard Crettaz in 2004. In the past few years, the volunteer-run model has sprung up in cities around the world.

“I think the idea is that, simply, in our culture we have a real taboo against actually talking about death,” Ms. Johnson told our group before we began. “And anything you don’t talk about somehow takes on scary or magical properties that make it difficult to deal with. Talking about death is one way to embrace life.”

So, that’s what we did.

Rather than make standard introductions (“Hi, I’m Rachel and I’m thrilled to be here!”), Ms. Johnson encouraged each of us to talk briefly about our views on or experiences with death.

The first person to speak said she became aware of death at a young age. She was just 8 years old when her father died. In a short span of time, her brother and mother died, too.

“One of the things I decided was I was not going to be a victim,” she said as I felt my eyes brim with tears under the glare of the basement’s fluorescent lights. An objective discussion about death might have been the goal, but the power of human emotion can’t be underestimated.

The beekeeper told us that in order to help conquer the difficulty she has with death, she began volunteering as a hospice worker almost 10 years ago.

One participant said she decided to come to the Death Café because she figured “anyone who came here would have a sense of humor.”

Another said she was an Irish Catholic who grew up going to wakes and that she’d like to choose how and when she dies.

“Something simple,” she said. “No drama.”

That led us into a brief debate about end-of-life care, with many attendees agreeing they’d like to go out on their own terms. We also talked about “permission to die” — a phenomenon in which people who are terminally ill sometimes don’t die until their loved ones tell them it’s OK to let go.

At one point, our group discussed the idea of an afterlife. Some said they believed in the notion; one man said he believes our spirits become whatever we want them to be. I avoided the priest’s eyes, feeling ashamed, when I revealed that I vacillate on the concept of an afterlife.

“The finality of death scares me,” I told the roomful of strangers, who already felt like friends. “Ceasing to exist when that’s all we’ve ever known.”

They nodded.

Two hours later, I left the library feeling inexplicably moved — and, ironically, reinvigorated about living. I think the others did, too.

We all agreed that we hoped to see each other at next month’s meeting. Alive and well, of course.

Rachel Young is a features writer and copy editor at Times/Review Newsgroup. She can be reached at [email protected]

09/30/14 8:30pm
09/30/2014 8:30 PM


Update: The Floyd Memorial Library’s budget passed Tuesday night by a vote of 180 to 21. Broken down by school district, Greenport School District voters approved the budget 136 to 13 and voters in the Oysterponds School District approved the budget 44 to 8.

Original story:

Residents will go to the polls today to vote on Floyd Memorial Library’s proposed $1.01 million budget that reflects an increase of about $19,000 over the current spending plan.


02/19/14 7:00am
02/19/2014 7:00 AM
MELISSA RUDDER COURTESY PHOTOS | Dozens of children attended a Valentine's Day party organized by CAST and Southold Mother's Club that was held Feb. 7.

MELISSA RUDDER COURTESY PHOTOS | Dozens of children attended a Valentine’s Day party organized by CAST and Southold Mother’s Club that was held Feb. 7.

More than 50 children attended a Valentine’s Day party hosted Feb. 7 by CAST (Community Action Southold Town) and Southold Mother’s Club. (more…)

02/11/14 6:00am
02/11/2014 6:00 AM


Local chamber music ensemble Basically Baroque will perform at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport on Feb. 15 at 3 p.m.

Founded in 1995, Basically Baroque specializes in music of the Baroque period and its members include: William Packard, flute; Daniel Skabeikis, violin; Jeannie Woelker, cello; and Linda Betjeman, keyboard. They will be playing the Triosonate in D major by Quantz, Suite No. 4 in E major by Telemann, Trio No. 1, Opus 100 by Haydn, and Sonata in F major by Handel.

The free event is sponsored by the Friends of Floyd Memorial Library.

For more information, call 631-477-0660.

01/09/14 10:27am
01/09/2014 10:27 AM

FILE PHOTO | Southold Free Library closed for repairs Thursday.

Update: The Southold library opened up at 1 p.m. this afternoon.

Original story: Southold Free Library will remain closed until repairs can be made to its heater. Overnight, the Main Road library’s gas burner stopped working, causing temperatures to drop inside the building, director Caroline MacArthur said Thursday morning.

Until the problem can be fixed, Floyd Memorial Library director Lisa Richland said Southold residents are welcome to use the facility in Greenport.

Ms. MacArthur said the library would reopen as soon as the repairs were complete, but did not have a timeframe Thursday morning.