1 August 2014

Ebenezer: Gone But Not Forgotten

By: Jon Katz
Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten

On our daily walk through the beautiful town cemetery – dogs are welcome, the cemetery thoughtfully provides dog clean-up bags and trash cans – we walk up a dirt path in the rear, up a beautiful hill, and we have come across the lone marker of Ebenezer, who died in 1868 at the age of 22. "Gone but not forgotten," says the marker.

Red and I are in the habit of stopping there, we remember Ebenezer, catch our breath. It is a sweet resting spot, I think.

Posted in General

Cemetery Herding: The Two Faces Of Red

By: Jon Katz
Cemetery Herding

Cemetery Herding

Red is loving our walks in the town cemetery, he stays by my side in his role as vigilant therapy dog, but when we arrive, he veers off to check out the sheep being held in a fenced-in pasture that adjoins the cemetery. Red goes into his crouch and gives everybody the eye. I sent him on an outrun or two for good form and he bobs and weaves through the tombstones, then I call him off and he is therapy dog again, walking by my side. A great dog for either task. Or any task.

Posted in General
31 July 2014

Life As Art: Dog And Donkey In The Pasture

By: Jon Katz
Donkey And Dog In The Pasture

Donkey And Dog In The Pasture

Sometimes when I look out into the pasture, I see a scene that seems timeless to me, something of a painting. This morning I looked out to see Simon and Red out in the pasture, Red was watching the sheep, Simon grazing. It could have been anywhere, anytime. But it was here, in my time.

Posted in General

Recovery Journal, Vol. 31. Ready To Die, Ready To Live

By: Jon Katz
Ready To Die, Ready To Live

Ready To Die, Ready To Live

My surgery was on July 1, and today, Maria and I went to Albany for a post-up check-up from my cardiac surgeon, Dr. Adanna Akujuo, she is as radiant and nice as she is competent and accomplished. I was very fortunate to get her to stop my heart and crack open my chest and move some arteries around, looks like she did a splendid job.

My check-up went beautifully for me. The X-rays were great. I have permission to start driving again and I can use my big camera as much as I want.  Dr. Akujuo, who is from Nigeria and trained in New York,  actually took it to a scale and weighed it, I had the right lens on, it was just under 10 lbs. Good news for four weeks out of surgery. My heart looked great she said, I do still have some fluid in one lung, I have to deal with that, but it is not a major issue, I was cleared and cheered, and I am sorry to say I will not be seeing Dr. Akujou again (hopefully, I guess.) That smile is very genuine, she is a sweet human being.

I suppose this ends this phase of my tell tale heart, the surgical phase. Quite a month. I have some recovering yet to do, Dr. Akujuou says it will be a few months before I really feel the effects of the surgery on my heart. Still, much to celebrate, much to be grateful for.

My heart and I are building quite a history. I remember really feeling it when I was living at the first Bedlam Farm in West Hebron, New York and I got divorced and then fell in love with Maria and we got married.  My heart was very much alive then, quite excited. It's ironic, but around that time I began to feel some fatigue, began to have some trouble walking up hills and paths I had walked up easily before. i began thinking i was getting old, my walking days were numbered. I felt fatigue at the end of the day, I was feeling it for years. I took shorter walks, went up fewer hills.

In the last two or three years I was so tired sometimes that I began to think I was going to die soon, I  began to get ready in my mind. I could not see myself being on the earth for too many years, I was getting resigned to it. Old people talk really can kill you.

Walking up any hill was a struggle, my heart was heavy, I was short of breath and heavy in my chest. I was thinking about my daughter, and I thought a lot about Maria, and my wish for her to remain an artist and not be saddled with my debts or bills. I believe I was getting ready to die, making plans,  looking back on this experience, I see now that my heart was crying out to me for much of this year. I did not hear her crying.

I was struggling to walk with Maria and the dogs. I was preparing to leave the world, reviewing my life, trying to settle things in my mind. Nobody lives forever, I thought, it is getting to be my time. It never crossed my mind to get an EKG, I never thought of my struggling heart, gasping to survive.

Since my surgery, my life has been turned around, so has my heart. Now, I see, I have to get ready to live, not die. The doctors tell me I have added many years to my life if I take care of myself, and I intend to be very aware of my heart and love and respect it. It is much more meaningful to plan for life than for death, but it has also turned things around in my head as well as my heart. It is time to think now about staying in the world, about how I will live, what I wish to accomplish, create, represent. I will be fierce in my determination to stand in my truth, to be creative, to open my beating heart to Maria every day I am alive.

I have even more decisions to make, things I wish to resolve, get in order. But I am thinking very differently already, my heart has changed my view of things. It is leading the way to a new beginning.  It is singing a new song, I hear it all over my body. Maria and I have a lot of ideas about life, about living spiritually, living meaningfully, living simply and peacefully. How different, how wonderful.

Dr. Akujuo is not especially sentimental, she shook my hand and said goodbye, I could tell this was fairly routine for her, she does it all of the time. It was not, of course, routine for me. I could not really express what I felt, I simply thanked her and she just nodded and we shook hands and she left the room. What an opportunity for me, to be ready to live instead of die. How to get my head around it?

It is clear now that my surgery went well and I can begin the process of moving forward. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote that we are not born once, but that life  requires us to give rebirth to ourselves time and again.

I am reborn, I am ready to live.

Posted in General

Second Cut

By: Jon Katz
Second Cut

Second Cut

Posted in General