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“Your real duty is to go away from the community to find your bliss.” – Joseph Campbell
24 June 2016

Behind The Open House: The Glory Of Love And Compassion

By: Jon Katz
Shadows Of A Broke Life

Shadows Of A Broke Life

People all me often why we open up our lives and our farm twice a year by having Open Houses, one in the Spring, one in October. After all, they say, it is a lot of work and planning, and it is not something that makes money. I understand it is not something most writers and artists do.

It isn't a simple question to answer, because the Open House really stems from something quite personal: two broken lives that are being patched back together, one piece at a time. Maria wrote a powerful piece on her blog this morning – she called it Atomic Waste – about how her love of the Open House stems in part from the part of her life that was wasted.

Maria, like so many women,  spent many years deferring to other people – men, most especially – and nearly wasted her life. She did what others wanted her to do, not what she wished to do. Her art was long submerged, something that was corroding her soul and spirit.

She has fought hard and bled hard to get her life back. I also lost the purpose of my life, and fell into the dark spaces. But that is past.

Maria is determined, as I am, to encourage other people to not do the same thing, and to encourage them as much as possible to live the life they were meant to live. The Open House gives people an opportunity to live their lives and fulfill their dreams and to unleash the often powerful but suppressed creative instincts inside of them.

She and I share this history and this passion. Maria and I understand one another as few people can do.

I was living what Joseph Campbell would call a "substitute life", what T.S. Eliot would call the life of the "hollow man."

I like to see the Open House as planting my tree in the world. In the Kabbalah, God calls upon all of us to plant our own trees:

"I am the one who planted this tree for all the world to delight us. Alone I was when I made it. When I spread out my earth, in which I planted and rooted this tree – giving them joy in one another, rejoicing along with them – who was with me To whom could I reveal this secret of mine?"

The Open House is my tree.

I was a shell in many ways, smart enough to write books and get good jobs, but too broken to love, respect myself or have perspective about my life. I lived in anger and terror, one exchanging places with the other. I was not available to other people.

I was coming apart, like a meteor entering the atmosphere of the earth. My biological family was shattered, and the family I helped create in its awful wake came apart as well. You cannot live in a healthy or meaningful way if you are broken, if your center is smoldering or in pieces.

As had to happen, I came apart, and like Maria, began the long and arduous take of giving rebirth to myself, of putting the pieces back together.

For me, the Open House is about redemption, a celebration of life. I open up my heart and my home to say to the world, "look, I have found myself, found my life, it is always possible, at any age, if there is the will and the strength. I swore to a therapist that I would not end my life in a loveless way,  without true friends, a true love, work that I was passionate about doing. I wanted to be a source of encouragement to those who wanted to be encouraged.

The Open Houses are like that, they draw people who are drawn to the flame. And they have not been without pain and confusion. In recent years, I sometimes felt invaded, I felt used, by people who used the Open Houses for their own reasons, and for their own agendas.

I am letting go of that, returning to our passion, our dream, our purpose.

Maria can speak for herself, but my reasons for offering the Open Houses are quite selfish. They are, in the final analysis, for me, about repairing the broken parts of my life, about helping others to escape my nearly tragic fate. If you cannot help yourself, if you cannot find your way, follow your heart and zeal, pursue your passion, you cannot help others.

My wish for the Open Houses is that they  become a beacon, a light unto the world. The people who come here are so often pilgrims, drawn to the light. They are our brothers and sisters, and we offer them hope and support, as they have offered hope and support to us, as we have offered hope and support to one another.

Why do I believe so much in the Open Houses, why do I persist in them with Maria?

The greater I wish to be, the more I need to search for  myself. My deep soul hides itself from consciousness. Then I seek to gather everything, without hatred, jealousy, or rivalry. The light of peace and a fierce boldness manifests itself in me. The splendor of compassion and the glory of love shines in me. The desire to act and work, the passion to create and to restore myself, the yearning for silence and for the inner shout of joy – these all are bound together in the spirit of the Open House. They can, at times, become holy.

Posted in General

Mickey On Main Street

By: Jon Katz
Mickey On Main Street

Mickey On Main Street

I haven't taken photos of Mickey for a few months, but I ran into him a few days ago and we struck up a new arrangement – photos for coffee money. Mickey is a quiet, gentle man, he travels up and down Main Street just about every day all year. He is a contemplative, he loves to smoke and drink coffee, sometimes he sits smoking on one of the benches in town, sometimes he just stands in the parking lot of one of the convenience stores. Mickey is the half-brother of George Forss, our friend and one of the world's most famous urban landscape photographers.

Mickey lives above George's art gallery and apartment, he is save and well cared by George and many other people in our town. I look forward to photographing him this summer and perhaps all year.

Posted in General

Wild Women Of Main Street: Socks And Books At Our Open House

By: Jon Katz
Wild Women of Cambridge

Wild Women of Cambridge

There are some powerhouse women in my little town, fighting hard for community, for business to thrive on our Main Street, still vibrant in the age of the box store and runaway corporate domination. I think these wild women are the future, I encountered them plotting yesterday when Maria came into Over The Moon to buy me some pink socks.

Yesterday, Maria and I came across Heather Mitchell of Over The Moon, our socks, beads, necklace and mood ring store, who was meeting with Connie Brooks, the mastermind behind Battenkill Books and a driving force for Main Street progress and prosperity. They looked like they were plotting and scheming.

They agreed to stand in front of the socks wall at Heather's very popular Over The Moon, which sells "very cool stuff." Now, all of my socks come from Heather.

Connie's Battenkill is a beautiful and thriving independent bookstore, she is a book lover with keen business smarts. Both of these women are central to our lives and our Open Houses. Heather's socks and beads are a big hit and Connie sells a lot of my books, and a lot of other people's good books. I sign and personalize books sold at Battenkill.

I happen to think women are the best chance for saving the world for men, women l like these two, part of our lives. Lots of people coming to the Open House will meet them both.

Posted in General
23 June 2016

Stained! Getting Ready

By: Jon Katz
Painting and staining

Painting and staining

Maria staggered off to bed before dark tonight, she is wiped out. All of the artists have now brought their work, she has emptied out her studio and rebuilt it. The art is amazing, varied and interesting and inexpensive. She is a great curator. Ed Gulley sold his turtle minutes after I put it up on the blog. I am pretty tired too, I stained this Adirondack bench a friend dropped off yesterday, I had to scrape it thoroughly first.

Then I re-painted the smaller chair behind it, it need primer first. We were moving shelves and re-arranging art and chairs all day. Yesterday we finished mowing the lawn. Friday, Cathy Stewart arrives from the city (New York City) to help me organize my part of the weekend, Deborah Glessner, a cornerstone of the Creative Group At Bedlam Farm arrives to show her jewelry and help out in the studio, and Tyler Lindenholl will come to help get the parking area ready.

I have about a half-dozen errands to run. I'm getting Maria a small mirror so that people can see how those beautiful scarves look on them, and I ordered two pills (teal) for the Adirondack chair. I'm proud of it, Maria was too busy to help, I loved doing it.

I'm pretty wobbly myself and will lock up the chickens, take Fate and Red out for their final walk, check on the animals in the pasture, grab a book and head upstairs to join Maria. I think we both will be asleep soon. But we are both very excited about this Open House, it has a fine feeling about it.

Posted in General

Maintaining Red. Changing My History With Dogs

By: Jon Katz
New treatments

New treatments. Cassandra and massage.

I've lost a number of dogs who died before their time. Orson was euthanized, Lenore and Rose died of neural problems that were never fully diagnosed. Red is nine, and showing some signs of aging. A few months ago, he began limping painfully after his herding work, X-rays found he was injured by our pony who stomped on his back, crushing several vertebrae. That would should fully heal.

Border collies work every day of their lives if they can, in all kinds of weather. Red is a hard and tireless worker, I'd like to change this history of losing border collies before their time. And there is good reason to think I can.

While examining Red at the Cambridge Veterinary Service, Dr. Fariello discovered advancing arthritis and some spinal inflammation. I am learning about a number of treatments for Red that did not exist when Rose suddenly fell ill and declined about five years ago. I go to the Cambridge Valley Vet, and Dr. Suzanne Fariello is open-mind and innovative.

Dr. Fariello great impressed me with her thoughtful, innovative yet assertive approach.

She came to the farm on her way to work, examined and X-rayed Red and talked to me at length about what my sense of him and his health was (male doctors do not ever do that in my experience, not with dogs or humans.) Dr. Fariello said it was important to see Red working, and also important to get a sense of me working with him. No one has ever done that before either.

Dr. Fariello prescribed pain-killers for several weeks, and anti-inflammatory medications. She recommended laser treatment, and then, massage and laser treatments alternating with one another. It is not especially expensive, the treatments are spread out. Red responded immediately both to the anti-inflammatory medication and the painkillers, we are not taking either any longer.

I think we are doing a good job of maintaining Red where he is. We cannot prevent aging or completely cure arthritis, but we can slow it down some and make it more manageable and prolong his working life in a considered and healthy way. Working dogs need to work, it is n healthy for them to stop completely.

We are in a good place now with Red, getting our laser treatments and our massages. He seems comfortable, energetic and fluid. There is sometimes stiffness when he gets up or has run a bit, but generally, the treatments have been successful beyond my expectations. I think we will change history, Red and I, we will continue to grow old together, another thing that bonds us to one another.

I hear a lot of squawking and complaining about vets, especially online. I don't support that. Vets do not make a ton of money, they work hard and usually love animals very much. I think they are the most reliable source of information and treatment available to me and to Red.

Posted in General