22 July 2017

The Birth Of Creativity: The Good Deeds Of The Righteous…

By: Jon Katz

The Good Deeds Of The Righteous

I'm not sure about God, but I do believe in holy people – Jesus was one – and insofar as I have a book, it is the Kabbalah, the mystical and spiritual writings of unknown Jewish mystics hundreds of years ago. Many were believed to be women.

The Kabbalah speaks to my heart and my kind of faith. There is almost nothing in it that I can't love and relate to, even the cherubs sailing through the universe, stinging the cheeks of the cruel and the greedy and those who despoil the earth and ignore the poor.

Tonight, I was reading in the Kabbalah the story of how the world was created only by virtue of the action of the righteous. God contemplated the good deeds of the righteous – yet to be created – and this act of thinking was enough for the very thought to be actualized, to come into being. There were good deeds, there were holy people.

This idea of God was really light drawn from within himself and he delighted and celebrated himself with holy people, like those who would eventually walk the earth in search of good deeds and acts to carry out.

This joy created the very birth of creativity, and the greatest delight in human beings. In the bliss of contemplating the righteous, and of imagining the good deeds of truly holy people, the power to create was born in human beings.

And here we are, I love that story very much, and that idea about the birth of creativity. I believe this is somehow my story, I have faith in that, it is my belief and it sustains me and drives me.

I have realized recently that there is a difference between good people and righteous people. You don't have to be good or perfect or saintly to perform the good deeds of the righteous, sacred people in the God of the Kabbalah. You only have to wish to do good.

In the Kabbalah God is a generous but clear-eyed deity.  And he has limited patience. He works against ignoring the creative spark.

He cautions the people of the earth that they must give hope to the poor and take care of the earth, his great child, while he looks away. If this does not happen, he promised, he would return and abandon his failed people, and leave them to destroy one another and the planet.

Sometimes, I think this prophesy is beginning to be true, but then the light, which I worship, appears outside the window in the morning and I return to myself. This, I belief, is the light within.

I am very much drawn to this idea of the good deeds of the righteous. I am seeking to live this kind of  life in a time of conflict and dehumanizing technology and great greed and callousness to the poor and the needy, who are given no hope and even turned away from our doors.

I am not a particularly religious man but somehow, I have great faith born of despair,  and when I am discouraged or feeling weary, I close my eyes and think of the light pouring forth from this idea of God, this energy and light coming from the good deeds of the righteous.

Somehow, I feel this idea is true, and it does reveal the origins of the power to create, which includes the power to hope and to create a better world and give home and nourishment to the vulnerable.

Joy to the people who create, for they are the righteous seeking to do good. You don't have to be good to do good.

Posted in General

Almost Up, Our Free Little Library. The First Book: How To Be An Explorer…

By: Jon Katz

Getting Ready For The Free Library

Our friend Cathy Stewart, who may be the world's most thoughtful human being, stopped by to say hello today and she dropped off a book for our almost finished Free Little Library, it is called "How To Be An Explorer Of The World", and it is a much loved book for children that presents 50 ways to understand the world and explore creativity, art and science.

The online reviews for the book are quite amazing, and I can't think of a better first book for the library. Online, parents say the book takes kids right off of Facebook and into obsessive reading.

Cathy gave it to us and we were touched and pleased by this gift. We have stacks of books to put in the library – no need to send any, thanks – and Cathy's was the perfect start. The Little Free Library program is a grass roots book sharing community of more than 40,000 people spread across the country.

It was started in 2008 by a Wisconsin man who wanted to honor his late mother, a librarian. People build, buy or commission their own small free libraries and put them out in front of the house on a sturdy pole. The libraries are seeded with free books from the builders and the idea is for people to take a book and return a book.

It sometimes takes awhile for people to catch on – there is only one other in our town here that we know of, more in nearby Vermont.

Our friend Jay Bridge, an engineer and carpenter and sheep farmer build us this beautiful little library, we painted it ourselves.  Jay is coming on Monday to put a poke in the ground and we hope to have it up and running by Tuesday and Wednesday. We have a big pile of books to put in it.

This is a grass-roots community sharing  movement, it seems a beautiful thing to us and we are happy to join. You can check out the program at littlefreelibrary.org.

Posted in General

Just About There: Ready For Winter

By: Jon Katz

Ready For Winter

Our friend Gordon McQuerry came over to help us stack the four cords of wood lying all over the back yard. We are two or three months away from winter, and if you live up here, you know that is awful close. We have two very fine wood stoves that heat our farmhouse evenly and comfortably, they are going 24 hours a day almost every day from late October to the end of April.

We ordered seven cords of firewood from Greg Burch and we had about a half cord left after Gordon left. Maria has her favored stacking techniques (look at the left of the stacked pile). We did it in about 30 minutes, and it was hot and buggy but felt good.

Maria did most of it.

We have a barn full of hay and a woodshed full of wood, about a cord more than we had last year. I have a weird feeling we might need it this winter. Like a lot of people with farms – I am not a farmer – I tend to trust my gut and frostbitten fingers more than weather forecasters.

Mother Earth is angry with us for ignoring her suffering she is trying to get our attention. And she knows how to do it.

And I feel great about being ready for winter in mid-July. When I wait longer, I much regret it.

We also hired Matt Davis to come and mow the lawn this week. Two weeks ago, I pulled a muscle or two in my lower back and standing up and moving quickly has been very painful for me. I have a wonderful chiropractor – Dr. Nancy Burns – and she helped me. I was very careful and today was the first day I felt good enough to toss some firewood around.

I am not good at being idle while other people work.

We might keep Matt around for the rest of the summer, he does an amazing job, he showed up with some big machines and two helpers and they were done in 15 minutes. It took Maria and I about a day all told. Perhaps it's time to get some help.

I love mowing, and I will fight not to give it up, but sometimes I have to bend to reality.  If I am going to mow, I will have to buy one of those riding mowers, they cost thousands of dollars. Matt Davis is cheaper, and frankly,  better.

I called up the very hard working Davis family and said I needed help, I had injured my back. "What happened?," asked Astrid, sympathetic.

'I was mowing," I said. "Oh," she said, he'll be over tomorrow."

I have to admit it was a hard couple of weeks for me, I couldn't move without a lot of pain. I am happy it is better, I have so much empathy for people who live in pain, much worse than mine and for much longer. I just want to be careful for a bit.

I always helped stacking wood too, but I thought this was too much too load on Maria, so I asked Gordon to come over and he did a great job stacking.

Posted in General

Baking Zucchini Bread. Much Fun.

By: Jon Katz

Baking Day

Maria decided we had three tasks to do together today. One was take the garbage to the dump, two was to finish stacking the wood pile for the winter, and three was to bake something together, which we haven't done in a while. We chose to make some zucchini bread.

We found five or six beautiful zucchinis outside in the Three  Sisters garden and we loved the idea of baking something that we grew.

Maria came up with a recipe online and we got to work after lunch.

The recipe: 3 cups of grated zucchini, 3 eggs; one cup maple syrup, 3 tablespoons of vanilla, 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/ 2 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1/4 tablespoon of baking powder, 3 tablespoons of cinnamon, 1 cup of chopped walnuts.

Then beat the eggs, add sugar, oil and the 3 cups of zucchini and vanilla, mix them all lightly. Then combine that with all of the dry ingredients. Stir together, and add the walnuts. Cook in two 9 inch pans for one hour at 350 degrees.

The bread came out fine, we took it out about 10 minutes too soon, that was probably a mistake. The center was a bit soft, but the bread was delicious. We may try it again tomorrow.

I very much enjoyed doing this together with Maria. We  had a lot of fun, there is something intimate and connecting about baking something together. We plan to do it much more often.

Posted in General

Portrait: Mickey’s Style

By: Jon Katz

Mickey's Style

Mickey is not homeless, he lives with his stepbrother George Forss, the famed photographer and my friend. Mickey had a schizophrenic breakdown in his teens, and George has been caring for him. He is a kind of street person, he walks up and down Main Street every day, all year, no matter the weather, smoking a few cigarettes and buying a cup of coffee. At the Round House Cafe, he is given coffee for free.

He dresses in wildly colorful combinations, and loves winter hats.

I love to take Mickey's photograph  – the whole town keeps an eye out for him – and he is the only photographic subject I pay money too. Yesterday, he was sitting on one of his favorite benches outside of the Round House, I love his sense of style, he reminds me of Maria in this way, he is always himself, he has his own very distinctive style, mixing different clothes of clothes, regardless of the season or the weather.

Yesterday I told Mickey I only had a dollar, and he said that was fine, he might get a candy bar or some gum. I know he buys cigarettes with some of the money I give him for photos, but that is his business, I decided, not mine.

More and more I appreciate Mickey's style and indviduality. He is always his own person, and in modern America, that is not a simple thing.

Posted in General