Sheep are not dainty when they eat, or when they do anything else, for that matter. They all burrow down into the feeder and grab what they can. This is my opportunity to get them comfortable with the camera, they associated it with food now and happily pose for me.
Maria and I have been together nearly eight years now, and our relationship has grown deeper and richer by the day. We are soul mates, I believe. We see the world in very much the same way, and while we are both two strong-willed people who sometimes disagree, there is very little conflict in our relationship – we both have had enough conflict in our lives.
More than anything else, we have fought over gifts, things I wish to give Maria or think she should have for herself. In all the time I have known her, I can't recall her ever buying anything for herself that was not of absolutely necessity, and then in the most frugal way. Every piece of clothing comes from a thrift shop, and just about every piece of jewelry she has was a birthday or Christmas present from me – and each one was a battle.
Maria does not believe she needs anything, and she does not believe she deserves much. And she is…well, frugal.
She lives in simplicity and is a giver, not a taker. I can't count how many time she has given things to people, I can count the times she has graciously accepted anything. Presents make her uncomfortable.
When I bought her an Iphone for Christmas two years ago, I nearly had to flee the house, she was so angry with me.
Every year, I ask her what she might like for Christmas, and every year she says the best gift would be no gift, she doesn't need anything or want anything. Every year I ignore and buy her deliberately modest gifts, and even those are a tussle.
After two years, she grudgingly acknowledges that the Iphone has been good for her, and she is very fond of it. It is opened up her photography, led her to very popular videos, it is with her all day. She also uses it to text and stay in touch with her friends.
Five years ago when she began her art business Full Moon Fiber Art, I gave her my MacBook Pro laptop, the one I wrote four books on in the first Bedlam Farm. I got a desktop, I wanted a bigger screen and wasn't traveling and my laptop was already getting slow.
I knew she wouldn't buy a computer, but she accepted this one and has run her business on it – videos, blog posts, e-mails, business orders. Now, the computer is seven years old, Apple has declared it "vintage" and will no longer make replacement parts or offer free tech support. That is at least $40 a call, more if it goes on awhile.
Our faithful MacBook Pro is wearing out, slowing down. The Web changes so fast, and the graphics on websites evolve so rapidly the older computers just wear out. Her laptop is getting grumpy, freezing and dragging.The one or two times she called Apple was discouraging, they couldn't help her.
And in two months, she is heading to India where she will need a reliable computer, both for the trip and afterwards.
She intends to blog and write from Kolkata, that will be challenging enough. Maria and I use our computers heavily and depend on them for our work and income, and I am a lifelong Apple customer. Switching to a different brand of computer would be complex and difficult for either of us.
Steve Jobs had an enormous impact on my creative life, Apple tools have helped me with every book and photograph I have taken, and Maria has had the same experience. When you call them, they help. For me, it is critical to keep up, not with the fanciest equipment, but with the most efficient and reliable ones. I hope Maria never experiences the crash of a failed computer. I have. She has used hers very well.
So three months ago, I began the very challenging task of persuading her to think about a new laptop, we have been saving up for one and I have been sending her links and articles about the new MacBook Pros that are less expensive than ever and more powerful and reliable. I have been telling her – she has never bought anything like a computer in her life – that it is time.
She has balked, resisted, argued and stalled. Mostly, my strategy has been to be patient and relentless. I am not the smartest person around, but I am among the most determined. But so is she.
Maria makes up her own mind about things, she has her anxieties, but also has a will of steel. I knew this would be a long haul.
Today, a major victory and a test of patience, love and stamina. We went to an Apple dealer nearby and she looked at a 13-inch MacBook Pro (the smallest model, of course). On the way, she argued and fussed about it..did she really need it? Was it too much money? Was she entitled to such a thing? Could we afford it? Was she taking too much?
I had marshaled testimony from computer literate friends, articles I found online, and the saleswoman was helpful (thankfully she was a plain-spoken woman).
Maria said she trusted me, but she needed to hear from others that this was necessary. She did. From everyone.
It only took another half an hour, and she finally nodded. We had the money, we bought the laptop.
She will have the laptop for India and beyond it. She will use it wisely and well and for many years. I told the clerk to add three years of Apple's famed tech support to the bill.
I hope I have my heart medicine on hand if and when she ever needs a new car.
Her toilet bowl of a car has 200,000 miles on it and she says she never intends to get another one. One day soon, she hopes to get her snow tires put on.
Maria is going to pick up her laptop on Monday. On the way home, she wondered again if this was a wise or necessary thing to do, after all her sputtering laptop was still alive. I just smiled, it was done.
Then, when we got home, she leaned over and kissed me on the head. Thanks, she said.
I have hidden the three very small Christmas presents I bought her.
Alfreda is a friend, a farmer worker and portrait subject who sometimes helps us out on the farm. She is an artist in her own right, creative in a number of ways. She likes to show me her fingernails, which are a portable gallery, different and vibrant. She is happy to pose for me when she re-does them.
I think the artist lives in all of us, some free the creative spirit, some are shy or fearful. Alfreda is proud of herself and of her fingernails, and I am grateful to her for brightening up the world a bit. She is a radiant soul.
In the morning, Red is in charge of the pasture, he supervises the sheep and keeps them at their feeder, he pushes them away when we need to get close with the hay. He doesn't care if it's raining or snowing or freezing, he is vigilant and professional and ready.
We feed Chloe in her stall in the barn twice a day, and she seems to love being in there, taking her time to eat, it calms and grounds her somehow. The morning light touches her while she eats her hay. It is a peaceful thing.