Paradise Found: A Memoir

Written By: Lee Camilleri

There are clouds of white butterflies hovering over my flower beds: catmint, black eyed Susans and lavender covered with this confetti of butterflies. The shaded air is soft and translucent as much washed cotton This is a summer morning on the North Fork. Noon is busier with bumble and honey bees jockeying for nectar from those same flowers. The quiet air is humming with activity. Bees bounce from flower to flower their vibrations causing a feeling of static electricity. Evening brings back that feeling of cool, much laundered cotton to the air. Viewed from the Sound beach, the sunsets are painted across the sky in brilliant yellows, pinks and reds that melt into muted grays as the sun sets.

I marvel at my luck for calling this paradise, home. Building a summer home here fifteen years ago led to a permanent move three years ago. Our family comes here to be together, to “ family-cize “ as my youngest grandchild says. Grandchildren and adults race around, swim from the beach, collect driftwood and climb those jagged rocks that punctuate the pebbled sand. Being able to catch our dinner and complete the meal with freshly picked garden vegetables and crisp local wine only adds to the ambiance of the moments spent together. As wonderful as this all seems, it almost didn’t happen.

Looking back, as we built our home here in spite of the benefits, I was so rooted in my lifelong home in southwest Nassau that I was not convinced that even a move to “ paradise” was the right thing to do. I wavered back and forth, reluctant to make a decision. Like many women, remember Rosie O”Donnell and Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle,” I needed a sign, an indicator, a push to make me decide one way or the other.

And then it happened. The house was finished at the end of August. It had been built on a half acre of dense woods that had been cleared for the construction. We started coming out on weekends to paint and furnish our home. One weekend that first October we drove out, turned the corner to the lane where our house was built next to and across from areas of heavy woods. As we pulled into the gravel driveway, my husband stopped short. The house was covered with dark splotches all over the tan siding, big splotches. Our first thought was vandals throwing paint. Walking closer we were stunned, the splotches weren’t paint, they were LADYBUGS!! thousand and thousands of ladybugs The porch and west side of the house had many of these groups but the back of the house had even more.

We did not know what to do. We did not have any neighbors to ask. We thought maybe they would leave but next morning they were still there. So what to do? I mean who kills ladybugs?Finally, my husband used a blower to get them off the porch and away from the windows and doors, at least it might give them a chance to find another place to land. We left that Sunday but came back the next weekend. Each weekend the groups of ladybugs that were left got smaller and by November they were gone, except for a few that made their way inside.

This never happened again. My husband thought that the woods where our house was built was an area they migrated to each fall. I am not so scientific. I believe that the ladybugs, symbols of luck,were the sign I needed to make the move to the North Fork.

We moved here permanently three years ago. I sit outside in my butterfly ridden garden with my coffee and smile.. And the smile gets bigger when the occasional ladybug lands on my shoulder.