21 April 2018

The Willa Cather Portraits: Finding A Way To Talk About Love

By: Jon Katz

Talking About Love

As some of you have already surmised, the pictures people are starting to call "The Willa Cather Portraits," show Maria, but these photos are not really only about her. They are my way of talking about love in a world that no longer knows how to talk about love or wishes to.

What is it we talk about in our world? Money, power, fear, conflict. You can go a long way watching the news before you will find a story or conversation about love. As an older man, talking about love has always been uncomfortable for me, as it is for so many men.

All the more important to do it. I want to talk about love every day, but I rarely find the clarity or strength to do it. Apart from everything else, the world sees older men as having left love behind to worry about their health and retirement funds.

But what I've learned is that health is about love, and to be loveless is to be broken and incomplete. There are many ways to love – you can love animals, work, nature, people, family. I tried living a loveless life, it was a dark and barren place.

Being love is frightening, the stakes are high, the risks great. Ask any young man what will happen to him if he talks about love to his friends, his father, his brother, his classmates.

I am never easy talking about love.

Mary Oliver says that to live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it, and when the time coms to let it go, let it go.

You do not have to be good, she writes. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."

There are many easier things to do in the world – hate, argue, judge – than love, but easier is not better for me. The best things in life are difficult. My Willa Cather Portraits, everyone of them, are love letters to Maria. And my own never-ending dialogue about love.

I think it is important that we speak about the sappy, cliched, sissified subject of love, the subject real men always run from. It is believe that the Duke never talked about the meaning of love, not once in the 178 movies he made. Do real men talk about love when they gather? Or do you have to stop being a real man to think about love?

Love for me is ACCEPTANCE. Loving the worst as well as the best of another human. And accepting it all.

Love is about TRUST. Secrets poison and corrode  love.

Love is about ANGER. Love is never perfect, intimacy brings contempt and frustration and fatigue. Argument is the Mr. Clean of love, it washes – flushes, if you will – the sludge and detritus out. Love without anger is a bomb waiting to explode.

Love is CONDITIONAL. Unconditional love is good for dogs, but not for me. To be loved, I must meet many conditions; I must be encouraging, faithful, considerate and I must listen.

LOVE is about COMPROMISE. I get things, I give things up. All the time. Rigidity is an enemy of love.

LOVE is about FAITH. And HOPE. Love is the song of our better angels, it is the antidote for hate and rage and cruelty. One day, our presidential debaters will talk about love. Love is the FAITH in another, a sacrament.

When it is over, I want people to say of me that I was a bride married to wonder. And I was the bridegroom, falling in love with the world.

Posted in General | Post a Comment
20 April 2018

Gods And Goddesses: Women’s Time

By: Jon Katz

Last Day Of Cold

We have declared this the last day of ice and cold, and I believe that is true. I am always stirred by scenes of Maria, the farm's Willa Cather Prairie Goddess, so great a presence on the farm. She seems to grow stronger and more powerful all the time, and the farm is a good place for that, it brings out the strengths and weaknesses of people.

I am mostly alone on this farm, I get around a lot, see a lot of people. But everywhere I got, people are talking about Women's Time, about women rising. We were shopping in our food co-op today, now run by four young women.

People were talking about how well women can get along with one another, how non-hierarchal they are, how disinterested they are in domination and argument. I know that lots of women do not always get along with one another, but what it happening is not a fantasy.

Something very important has been triggered by the awful politics of our time. The way men govern has failed, and spectacularly so. I am  hopeful about the fact that newborn baby can come into the United States Senate with his mother, I am excited to see that so many thousands of women are coming out of the shadows and running for office and talking about doing good and helping people.

Wow, I can sense it, feel it, touch it. My wife is a part of that, she is a passionate advocate for women without voice or power. She is always there for women who need support and encouragement, and there are so many.

It's exciting for me, sitting in my study, at my computer, singing my songs on my blog. She helps me to feel part of this great movement, we see signs of  it wherever we are go. Maria, in her life, is in the thick of it, her art has always spoken of voice and encouragement,  and especially of goddesses..

I support her whenever I can, and she supports me whenever she can.

These are not bad times to be alive, these are good times to be alive. I feel awakened, excited hopeful. I am too old and too male to be of much help or influence, but this gives me the greatest joy, empowerment and encouragement are also what I am about, in my own way and life. I know a of people now who need help and I am learning how to help them.

I'm not much of man, either, and that often makes me quite proud. We all contribute in our own way.

Posted in General | Post a Comment

Trees Are Sanctuaries

By: Jon Katz

"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life."

– Herman Hesse

Posted in General | Post a Comment

Life Of The Farm: Time To Prepare For Winter. Yes, Winter.

By: Jon Katz

The Big Season: Froggy Settling In, My Study

It looks like Spring is going to make at least a brief appearance next week, and where I live, that means it's time to start thinking of winter. The arrival of Spring means I think ahead, something I never much did until I lived on a farm.

A farm has its own life, it's own rituals, it's own seasons.

A lot depends on thinking ahead – the animals, the farmhouse. I believe in good stewardship of the farm and the animals, and that means everybody eats when they are supposed to eat, every day. And we care for our farmhouse,  as it has cared for us.

Spring is a beautiful thing around here, we appreciate the warmth and the color returning to our lives. But it is also the time to prepare for the next winter, that can't be don't when the cold is upon us, it's too late.

This week, I called Sandy Adams and we exchanged our annual pleasantries – she told me about her new granddaughter Charlotte, I told her about mine, we joked about the winter.

Then we got down to business. I ordered 110 bales of hay to be ferried over in small loads – no hurry – over the Spring and mid-summer, mostly first cut, some second cut as a treat and energy boost on cold days and nights. That will cost about $1,000.

I'll call the farrier and get Lulu and Fanny's hooves trimmed. I called the shearer and asked her to come – Liz is replacing Jim McRae, who is retiring (he says, but I bet he shows up).

I called Braymer Fuels and asked for the oil heater to be cleaned and checked.

I called the chimney sweep to come in June and clean out the wood stoves and prepare them for next year.

I called Greg Burch and ordered seven cords of firewood. Usually we order five, but we nearly ran out this winter, and we had seven cords.

I spread these orders and deliveries over time to ease the cost coming all at once.

I called Jay Bridge and asked if he could replace the tiles on the front porch roof, they are falling apart. And also to fill the hole in the rood the birds are using for nests. Some tiles blew off the big barn roof during the windstorms, he can fix them too.

I called Vince Vecchione to come over and spread the manure around the pastures for fertilization.

I will call Ted Emerson and  scheduled some brush hogging of the pastures for June.

I will call Todd Mason to come and tighten the fences. The sheep got out once four years ago, it will not happen again.

I'm looking for somebody to help us stack wood.

Maria and I love to do it (I can't do as much as her) and by August we are tired, and also sick of it, so we need some strong  people to come and help us. Somebody always appears.

This weekend, we will go to a nursery and get some seeds for the gardens. Maria has expanded our Three Sisters Garden, it will be almost twice as big. Soon, Maria will take out the storm windows in her studio.

Maria never makes these phone calls or winter plans – she doesn't like to  use the phone or haggle. I like working the phones, getting set.  I love preparing for winter, it goes on all Spring and Summer, and it touches something ancient in me.  It just falls to me.

I love planning for the winter, it fills something old and nurturing in me. I feel like a father in some ways.

There is no haggling any more. These are all good and honest people I have known for years, they will charge me a fair price, they always do. We always take a few minutes to chat and catch up, but everybody is busy in the Spring, they can't stay too long.

There are few richer and more satisfying feelings that to look up in September and see a woodshed stacked with wood, a barn full of fresh hay, two clean and ready wood stoves, a clean and humming oil heater, and the big pile of donkey manure gone.

I have worked hard to build these good relationships and keep them. I don't squawk about prices, I pay right away.

This weekend, we're going to get a new tree to plant in the yard for the farm residents of the future, we want there to always be shade and shelter. People did it for us for over 200 years and we want to pay it forward, there are beautiful old shade trees all around the farmhouse.

That, I know, is a farm tradition. You think of the people down the road.

Posted in General | Post a Comment

Rumors About Spring Sunday

By: Jon Katz

Hints Of Spring Approaching

Our outdoor chairs are waiting for Spring under the big old apple tree. Rumors abound all around town that Spring will make a brief appearance Sunday, it is whispered it will be 60 degrees or warmer. No snow in the forecast for all of next week. No Nor'easters in sight. At the convenience store, they were joking about a plague of Locusts. Just a joke, everyone was assured. I can't wait to sit in those chairs, read a book, listen to music, take a nap.

Maybe plant a new tree. Waiting for Sunday.

Posted in General | Post a Comment