Honoring Mother Earth

The time is now to let the healing begin

“When life feels too big to handle, go outside. Everything looks smaller when you’re standing under the sky.”

That’s sage advice, particularly as we wrap a full year of mainly indoor living, from author L.R. Knost.

Looking toward Earth Day on April 22, we reflect on the world around us. Covering a number of topics honoring Mother Earth, we also offer expert ideas about how to help her age more gracefully.  

In this chapter, we hear from organizations such as Growing Climate Solutions, One Tree, Calusa Waterkeeper and Collier County about efforts to remedy the assaults mankind has brought upon nature.

We learn how to make our own nontoxic weed killer, present ways to step out into nature with CREW, and take a look at dining al fresco in celebration of National Picnic Day.


It’s with urgency, too, that we offer these words, because we must take action now, one community member at a time.


As author L.R. Knost also said, “The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

Let’s take care of Mother Earth. She’s the only one we’ve got.



One with Nature

CREW invites you to walk on the wild side

Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed — known as CREW — is the largest intact watershed in South Florida. Straddling Lee and Collier counties, it provides aquifer recharge, natural flood protection, water purification, preservation of wildlife habitat and public recreation.

As spring catapults into summer — as it always does in Southwest Florida—there’s no better time than this to explore wildlife.

Here, we present a few golden opportunities to venture out and explore CREW and our corner of Florida’s most lovingly protected wilderness.


Guided Walk at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp

Wednesday, April 14 at 9 a.m.

Bird Rookery Swamp, Naples


Weekend Walks

Sunday, April 18 at 9 a.m.

CREW Cypress Dome Trails, Immokalee



Guided Walk at CREW Cypress Dome Trail

Tuesday, April 20 at 9 a.m.

CREW Cypress Dome Trail, Immokalee



Geocaching at Cypress Dome Trail
Saturday, April 24 from 9 a.m. to noon
CREW Cypress Dome Trail, Immokalee

Free; donations appreciated


Geocaching is similar to treasure hunting and is made for all ages. Pack a lunch and visit with fellow geocachers afterward. Bring your own GPS unit and cables or your smartphone with the geocaching app loaded. Download CREW caches at http://www.geocaching.com beforehand to save time.


Pre-registration is required for this event. For reservations and information, visit CREW Land & Water Trust Events | Eventbrite.

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Bald Eagle at Flint Pen Strand


Red-shouldered Hawk at Flint Pen Strand

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The CREW Land & Water Trust was established in 1989 as a nonprofit organization to coordinate the land acquisition, land management and public use of the 60,000-acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. CREW works with South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ensure the protection of the watershed.

To learn more, visit https://crewtrust.org/events.


Earth Angel

Breast cancer survivor warns friend to be proactive in screening


Karysia Lee Demarest

Some of us are blessed with angels in our lives to protect us from harm.

This was, and is, the case of Erikka Thalheimer, who, at a lunch meeting in September, took the advice of then breast-cancer survivor Karysia Lee Demarest to adhere to her regularly scheduled mammogram, even in the face of COVID-19.


Demarest’s advice likely saved Thalheimer’s life, as you’ll witness in the following letter Thalheimer wrote after Demarest, 52, succumbed to breast cancer in February.


Thalheimer shared with èBella èXtra a letter she wrote to Demarest after her passing, with these urgent words of advice for our readers:

“Breast Cancer Awareness month is every month. Please get screened!”

- - - - - -

My Dear Friend, Karysia:

I wish I could have taken some of your burden. I would have gladly split it in half, so we could both be here together once more. Instead, you took all of the burden, and saved my life by reminding me to get a breast screening back in September of 2020, so I would be safe.

Because of COVID, I was absolutely prepared to skip my 2020 mammogram and make my appointment for March of 2021. You did not let me do that.

At that September lunch table, it was the furthest thing from my mind that I would have breast cancer at that very moment. After all, my mom’s first breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma) did not get diagnosed until she was 74, and her second (triple-negative receptor) was when she was 79.

I am only 57, and have had an annual mammogram since I turned 40.

I left our lunch date and decided to make all of the appointments I missed because of COVID. My standard mammogram on 9/14/2020 came back suspicious with calcifications. My 9/18/2020 diagnostic mammogram came back suspicious, as well. My needle biopsy on 9/23/2020 showed that the calcifications were, in fact, sinister. 

Ductal carcinoma in situ was the final diagnosis on September 25, 2020.

During my mom’s breast cancers, I asked for her to be genetically tested. However, her physician stated that it was not necessary. With three generations under my mom, I aggressively pursued the issue. I was successful in getting the genetic testing completed.

My mom carried the Bard1 gene, a genetic predisposition for breast cancer in both males and females in the lineage. I began my genetic testing through my gynecologist’s office before any doctor suggested it. Fortunately, I did not receive the Bard1 gene from my mom, which means that my two children do not carry it, either. My siblings are to get tested, as well.

Next came the MRI, which showed more cancerous calcifications away from the original site. This, coupled with the fact that my mom’s experience (starting with ductal carcinoma in situ that went invasive, led to a lumpectomy and then to a double mastectomy five years later), allowed me to see my future. I decide on a double mastectomy.

You were right there with me, my friend. Calling, texting, making sure I had my warm Snoopy blanket for whatever treatment I would need. My surgery was set for 11/30/2020, and you called that morning, only to find out that the insurance company would no longer cover the facility for my surgery.

I had to start all over again with the planning phase, and it was hard. My new surgery date was set for 12/9/20, and you checked on me many times.

You were my warrior, my angel, my strength, my knowledge, my light and my lifesaver. I know you (and your family) are still all of those to me, but I miss you so much.

You fought with a grace, grit and strength that I did not know I had until you showed me that I had it, too.

After this personal experience, I thought so much about how difficult this process was for me, a strong individual who can put emotion aside and make decisions quickly and concisely.

My lingering question is, “How would a young, newly diagnosed single mother of three with a full-time job and no support system do this without an angel in her life?”

I am so lucky that I have you now as my true angel, and I will carry the torch that you lit for me. I will help those in need, in your name, and I will be your voice when it comes to getting women (and men) to those screenings.

I so wish I could have shared your burden, so we could be sharing more conversation, joy and love over the lunch table.

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Erikka Thalheimer is a near 40-year resident of Naples, with massive pride in her two children and community. From 1986-2017, Erikka was a manager of the family business, Thalheimer Jewelers. In 2002, she was one of seven volunteers who founded the Cancer Alliance of Naples, one of her proudest accomplishments.