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Loving Long Island

I wrote this poem, a thanksgiving affirmation and prayer, back in the fall of 2012, in my second year of ministry here in Stony Brook. I was learning to love my new home on earth, and invited the congregation to travel with me across the island and back and forward in time to name the blessings we inherit and pass on. 

Our Long Island home is shaped like a fish! 
and it is swimming towards the big city 
and its tail is in the sea and the sound.
It’s 110 miles long and 20 miles wide, 
700 miles and 124 stations on the Long Island Railroad,
72 miles of Long Island Expressway,
hundreds of sights and sounds and colors long,
on the parkways and highways and byways
that take us where we need to go,
all seven and a half million humans beings who live here,
We love this our long island home, 
this land beneath our feet, this ancient story we’ve entered.

Ancient glaciers scraped up these Long Island hills 
and dragged out the beaches,
dug out the coves, bays, and harbors;
filled all the estuaries, channels, 
ponds, lakes and streams with water;
ground up the soil for the grasslands and barrens 
and meadows and fields and forests;
ploughed up a home for the bluestem and hairgrass
for the heath and heather, the blueberry and bearberry 
for the pitch pines and the tupelo and the hickory trees 
for the beach plum and bayberry and boneset 
for the black oaks and the red maples 
that shade our picnics and swing our swings, perch the birds 
and make safe homes for all our animal relations.
We love the gift of the long melting, slow-moving ice,
this land beneath our feet, this ancient story we tell.

All the dinghies and sailboats and motorboats and barges and yachts,
the ferries that take us to Bridgeport and New London,
from Greenport to Shelter Island, and from there back to North Haven;
to Fire Island from Sayville and Bayshore and Patchogue,
from Montauk to Block Island and Rhode Island—
all the boats that breeze us out into the sparkling water 
and bring us back safely to shore,
all the gulls and terns and herons and ospreys 
that swoop and squawk the cloud blue sky,
and all the beautiful sea creatures 
that live in the Sound and the Ocean,
whom we love to see and care for and learn about,
and the seafood that graces our long island tables:
Fluke and flounder, lobster and bass, weak fish and black fish,
Peconic Bay scallops and Blue Point Oysters—
We love the boats and water and the lives they bear, 
these rhythmic waves that wash and lift us, 
this song that sings around and in us.

Long Island’s beaches, bluffs and dunes,
trails and boardwalks, 
parks and museums and mansions,
the preserves and orchards,
ball fields and lighthouses and picnic tables 
and fishing holes and bridal paths 
and garden beds and piers and island tours and arboretums 
and zoos and campgrounds and working grist mills—
all these places bring us back to earth.
All the amazing creatures we spot as we walk and watch,
plant us again in the sandy island dirt,
draw our roots down deep into this long island.
We love the places we can go to look and learn and play! 

Today in thanksgiving we remember the first peoples of this land—
thirteen native tribes who preceded us here by eons:
the Canarsee, Rockaway, Merrick, Mar-sa-peague, 
the Sec-a-togue, and the Un-ke-chaug 
on the South Shore
the Ma-tin-e-cock, Nes-a-quake, Set-al-cott, and Cor-chaug 
on the North Shore; 
the Shinnecock, Manhasset and the Montauks 
way out east.
Of all of these only the Shinnecocks 
and the Un-ke-chaug Nation of Poos-pa-tuck Indians
remain among us today.
They called this long island “Pau-ma-nok,” which means “land of tribute.”
We love and name and honor those who cherished this island before us, 
who trustingly tended and tendered this land, suffered and survived!

From Port Washington to Orient Point,
from Breezy Point to Montauk,
from the high peak of Jayne’s Hill 
to the pebble beaches of the North Shore
and the white sands of the South Shore;
from the sky above us 
to the four aquifers deep beneath our feet that gift us with fresh water;
from the Nissequogue River to the Connetquot
from the East River to the Peconic
from New York Harbor to Gardiner’s Bay,
from way back then to right now and beyond,
We love this our island home!

We remember. We see. We hear. We touch. We smell. We taste. 
We celebrate. We care. We tend. We give our thanks.

We love this this beauty onward through the years 
to hands that hold and hearts that love and feet that walk here 
when we’re gone.

AMEN.  AMEN.  AMEN. 




The Rev. Margie Allen serves as minister with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook.

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