19 February 2017

Blessing Maria In Jodpur, India. Has It Only Been A Week?

By: Jon Katz

In Jorpur, India, four hours outside of Kolkata, it is customary to bless visitors, and Maria was blessed by the villagers and sent me this photo, she is so at home there. It's hard to believe she headed off in that blizzard just a week ago in her little toilet bowl of a car and spent three days getting to Kolkata.

It feels as if she has been in India for 1,000 days, not six or seven. For me the first week was marked by life's many twists and turns – snowstorms, computer crashes. I hope things will settle down and return to normal Monday, and that I can make use of Cassandra and get to work on my book.

But the big news by far is the excitement of Maria's trip. It has such a good feeling about it, and it will open up a lot of doors. It has already changed her, more to come. I think the donkeys and I will bless her when she returns.

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Loving America, Helping Refugees: The Whistling Pumpkin Teapot – $12.08

By: Jon Katz

Two young refugees thank you for your generosity. Keeping the torch lit.

My donation today: A red Pumpkin shaped Whistling Teapot, $12.08. Something the newly-arrived rescue families could use.

John Adams wrote that it does not take a majority to prevail, rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.

The Amazon Gift Page, created by the U.S. Committee on Refugees And Immigration,  is such a brushfire, and it is burning brightly. You are lighting the sparks, the Army Of Good. The page was set up to welcome the new refugees arriving in upstate New York – they are still coming, at least for now. They need everything, from prayer rugs to teapots.

And I can't think of a more fitting gift for them, many are Muslims, and they pray towards Mecca five times a day. We practice freedom of worship here.  The prayer rugs range from $2 to $4. I have been buying one a day. It is easy to send these gifts to a warehouse in Albany, N.Y via Amazon.,  they are inexpensive.

Every morning, I chose a different gift and send it to the refugees, these two young women overcame their discomfort and fear about being photographed because they wanted to thank people for the gifts they are receiving. We have filled the warehouse more than once.

Power always thinks it is doing God's service, wrote Adams, "when it is violating all  his laws." He was a wise man, devoted to the idea of his government as a compassionate and just one.

Every time I sent a gift, I feel good and I feel like a patriot, standing up for my idea of America. There is a lot going on in my life right now, and in all of our lives, but this has become a sacrament for me, my daily prayer, my way to avoid arguing and to do good and feel good. I wouldn't care to miss a day.

This is my vote for America, and for liberty. I want the newly arriving refugees to see the true heart and soul of America.

Adams wrote that facts and truth are essential to governance, and I can tell you that these refugees, mostly women and children, are not a threat to you, your family, or America. They are here legally, they have been thoroughly investigated, they have suffered horribly.

They are my fellow citizens, my brothers and sisters in the American idea. You can help them here, and thanks.

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Falling In Love With India? She Might Stay There

By: Jon Katz

Welcome To Bodpur: Photo By Dahn Gandell

I'm not sure Maria is coming back from India.

Just kidding, sort of, but we spoke this morning, and it was wonderful to hear early this morning how much she has fallen in love with that country.

There is no better way to wake up that to hear the excitement and wonder in her voice early in the morning.

Maria just returned from two days in the village of Bodpur, four hours from Kolkata and another world – beautiful, prosperous, clean and welcoming. Bodpur is, in part, an innovative and successful experiment created to keep rural women away from the sex trafficking trade by offering them work training and economic alternatives at home.

Maria just fell in love with the place and was busting with good news – she is planning to teach her potholder class tomorrow and the people running the program are talking to her about her selling the potholders here in America an on her blog that the girls she is teaching there  make.

She would not only teach them, but provide them with a market for their work, and keep them in their village and help them to be independent and provide for themselves and their families. She was disappointed she didn't get to teach right away, but India has its own ways of doing things, and they got around to it, as I suspected they would.

Most often, it is desperation that draws rural women into trafficking and anything they can make or sell keeps them away from that path.

India is a perfect match for Maria, a beautiful and intense land of unimaginable contrasts. The people are most often generous and friendly, the poverty is staggering, the colors and traditions and smells and fabrics and food are just astounding. Talking to her makes me want to go there, and it now seems likely she will be going, again and again.

The country  is not only a never-ending visual feast, but it has a deeply spiritual side, and lives very close to nature in ways that are wonderful an ways that are not. In her village, there were hordes of baby goats. She loved that.

"You're coming," she told me this morning, so I guess that is that.

No more pondering. Maria sometimes seems and is shy, but she has an iron will when she makes up her mind.

I guess I'm coming next time, and I can't wait to run around there with my camera. I've had dreams about that. There is a sweet side to India, and a dark side.

Tonight, she is going to tour the infamous Red Light District of Kolkata, from which so many of the girls she is meeting were rescued. I imagine that will be a difficult thing for her to see.

She is so in love with India, I think this country will not be a regular part of both of our lives. I jokingly asked her if she will come back, and I know she will, but the place is in her blood and imagination,and will soon, I think, be revealing itself in her art.

The trip, as I imagined, is changing her already. I have never heard her so strong and confident and excited and sure about her purpose in the world. She overcame much to get there, it was worth it all.

Can't wait to talk about it with her when she comes home next Sunday.

Maria is back to blogging, and a lot of people will be happy to hear that. I think this has all opened her up in many ways that have yet to reveal themselves. I am so grateful she went and grateful to the many people who helped her go. Soon, I think, made-in-India potholders will be on sale on our blogs and at our Open Houses.  How cool, the might potholder might help transform the world.

What an antidote to fear and anger and despair.

My Sunday: some blogging on Maria's fading laptop (I hope to get my computer back on Monday.) More listening to Alison Krauss, I am in love with her new album Windy City. A walk in the woods, lunch with a friend from New York City, maybe a movie or maybe a book. More later.

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18 February 2017

When I Want To Kiss You. A Poem And A Verse

By: Jon Katz

When I Want To Kiss You

When I want to kiss you,

and  you are far away,

I swallow streams

and chew on dirt,

knowing they are warm,

and sweet.

When no one is looking,

and you are far away,

and I want to kiss you,

I just touch my cheek,

and lift my hand to my lips

— me.



Sweetheart, I spent the evening with Alison Krauss and her new album, Windy City,  and I played her song Dream Of Me.

And I closed my eyes and dreampt of you.

"All I got to do is picture you,

and I can feel you in my heart.

So dream of me every time  you get to feelin' blue,

dream of me and I'll be dreaming of you."

— Alison Krauss, Dream Of Me.


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Dear Maria, When You Read This…Report From La La Land From The Left Behind

By: Jon Katz

Dear Maria: The Flowers You Sent Me The Day You Left

Dear Maria, I know you are somewhere in the middle of India, but I don't know where, and there is no way to reach you or hear from you until Monday. It finally feels like you are far, far away.

I don't know if you saw my blog but these are the flowers you sent me that came Monday with a note that read "A flower for everyday I'll miss you." Think you, they brighten my day.

I am writing this because I imagine you will see my blog before we talk Monday or Tuesday, I am sitting at my desk writing on your six year-old vintage laptop, the one you retired a couple of months ago. Good thing it is still here. I was going to go the movies tonight to see "La La Land," again (I saw the Batman Lego movie last night), but I was tired from cleaning out the chicken coop and doing the afternoon chores and teaching this morning

The class was a remarkable one, I asked everyone to talk about how Donald Trump and the political dramas were affecting their creativity, and it was striking to see how much this man has impacted the lives of my students, the lives of every single one was altered and different. He is the talk of the country.

For better or worse, he is changing the country and the way we look at it, I regret his angry and narcissistic manner, it will do him no good in the long run, even if his ideas are deserving. Too many people are frightened of him for his work to be good or for him to succeed. I fear for the people who put their faith in him.

One of my students, an Evangelist,  started writing  beautiful poems of compassion and feeling after the election, another has stopped writing to work on community activism, another is working with refugees, another is deeply worried about her son and his Asian girlfriend, who fears going outside alone, even in Vermont.

I talked about my own deepening involvement with newly arriving refugees, and my desire to live by example, rather than argument.

I am touched to see how much we all love America and wish to preserve the best of it. We will all work hard to do that, I saw it today.

There was so much  feeling in the room we agreed to begin our classes talking about how these political changes are affecting our creativity and emotions. It was affirming and comforting, turmoil and concern often spark creativity and creative change. It is a  teaching opportunity and also a way to support one another. Some of my students are feeling the deepest anguish, and most of them are not political people in any way.

I see we are connected to one another, I am proud of that.  Creativity is a powerful weapon, in the right hands.

My computer repair station says they believe they have fixed my computer, and believe they are working successfully to back it up and restore my words and images and data. They think it will be ready Monday morning, that would be great. I am wary.

In the meantime, I am celebrating a day or two of reflection, quiet and some meditation.

Days without you are quiet and busy, but I think of you often, or actually, always. You are a radiant presence here. Nothing can replace you.

You are never far from my thoughts, and I am excited beyond words at your beautiful words and images from India. Since you are there, you can't imagine the impact they are having.  Cassandra is doing a great job and Scott calls every day to make sure I am alive and well.

Everyone is talking about you and your trip.

So many good people are taking this journey with you,  you did good, your reports are powerful and beautiful. I know you are offline for a couple of days, but I imagine you will be blogging late Sunday if I read your schedule right.

I am grateful to be able to blog, you and I always seem to get our message out, one way or the other. I guess that makes me a blowhard.

I do miss you, expectedly and appropriately, and much of the time. With you gone, I am busy, all day. There is so much to do here. Tomorrow I water the plants, do a laundry, maybe sleep a little late. Cassandra is not coming on Sundays, it's her day off.  I cleaned up the chicken coop – yuk, it is spit-spot.

I will blog tomorrow. And I want to confess something, I am spending the night with another woman I love. She is Alison Krauss. Her new album, "Windy City," is her first solo album in 18 years and the critics are gushing all over it. I don't need the critics, I love everything she does, and we will spend a quiet night  together with my big earphones on,  two dogs at my feet, two barn cats dozing nearby, and a roaring fire.

I have not yet gotten to work on my book, I had to dig out of the blizzard,  bring the external drive to the repair place for the back-up. I hope it's all there, the drive was not functioning properly. Eeeek!

People are, as usual, sending me odd messages pointing out that there is a cloud, and that computers can be backed up. As always, and as someone who has been writing online for more than 30 years, I wonder why anyone would think I don't know that.

I think people just want to do good, which is nice, and I ought not forget it.

But I think I must appear clueless sometimes. And I am clueless sometimes, when I look back on my life, you have often pointed this out to me.

But I am clear about you, my best move in life. Eight days until I see you again. I love and admire you more and more each day, can love like this just grow and grow? So far yes.

I hope you are having the wonderful experience you deserve. Talk to you soon.

Left Behind Jon




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