25 July 2017

Kelly Nolan: “I’m Living My Dream”

By: Jon Katz

"Living My Dream"

I'm "living my dream."

Whenever I see Kelly Nolan, the waitress, bartender, order-taker, concierge, mother, wife and friend, food runner and busboy at the Foggy Notions tavern and bar in my town, I ask her  how she is, and she almost always says "living my dream," with a big smile. She has one of the most wonderful smiles, it comes from the radiant spirit inside of her.

I try to photograph that smile every week, it has become important to me. I feel like Andrew Wyeth drawn to paint his neighbor "Christina" for so many years. I've read that artists and photographers do that, they return again and again to favorite subjects.

I was thinking about the phrase "living my dream," it is often used by hard-working people who work hard as a tongue-in-cheek reference to work, which at times can be anything but a dream. Kelly probably means it ironically – there is nothing too visibly glamorous about her hard work – yet I think there is also truth to it.

She has friends, family, comfort, work, community and peace of mind, great riches, so many people all over the world can only dream of them.

I take the phrase seriously, in part because I am living the dream. I think the goal of my journey is to discover mysself as consciousness, not just a powerless physical being. I think that is why I am drawn to Kelly, she personifies the idea of consciousness, she is gracious, accepting and comfortable with herself. She has many good and loving friends. The spirit lives within her.

James Joyce wrote in Ulysses that "if you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, not a door." The challenges and difficulties and suffering of life  that we all encounter – every one of us – can be looked at as offering the possibility of transformation, they can all be seen as opening gates rather than closing doors.

We will all suffer in life, and we will all die. Disappointments often come as a shock to people like me, but I have learned they are as inevitable as breathing and that they are also opportunities, every one of them. Every awful thing that has ever happened to me has led to a good thing, waiting just inside the closet.

"There is always danger at the threshold," wrote one mystic. "Leave the temporal body and let the spirit enter."

Ten years ago, I was living a lie. Today, I am living a dream.

There are still many dangers at the threshold, but I see them as gates that open, not as doors that close. In November, our world changed, and I chose to see this as the opportunity of a lifetime, not the end of the world. I still see it that way, more than ever.

I am living my dream. I have found love, community, creativity, purpose, friendship. I am understanding the ancient call to righteous deeds of good. My photographs can sometimes be my art. I love my work more and more, and I get to do it every day. I am living in nature and surrounded by animals, magical helpers every one, guiding me on my journey.

For all of my life, I dreamed of finding these things and now I am living them.

The great analyst Carl Jung wrote that there are four psychological functions that link us to the outer world: sensation, thinking, feeling and intuition. Sensation, he wrote, is the function that tells us that something exists; thinking, the function that tells us what it is; feeling, the function that evaluates its worth to us; and intuition, the function that enables us to to estimate the possibilities of any object or situation.

These functions help me to look both outward and inward, they tell me that I am alive and pursuing my dream, the great challenge of knowing who I am.

When someone asks me how I am from now on, I hope I remember to smile like Kelly does and say "I'm living the dream."


Posted in General

The Return Of The Prodigal Granddaughter: Coming Friday

By: Jon Katz

The Return Of Robin

My granddaughter Robin returns on Friday for a whirlwind visit. Her father, my son-in-law, the sports writer and author Jay Jaffe, has just published his new book "The Cooperstown Casebook," a much praised study of who gets into the Baseball Hall Of Fame and why, and who shouldn't get in at all.

He's started his book tour and he's speaking Saturday at the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., about 90 minutes away from here. Emma, Robin and Jay are coming up Friday to spend a night here, and are leaving Saturday morning for Cooperstown. They're driving this time, so it will be easier for them to haul Robin and all of her paraphernalia up here.

I'll order some pizza from the Round House Cafe and make breakfast Saturday morning – bacon and eggs and country bread. I see from the photo Emma sent me this morning that Robin has changed quite a bit since the last visit. Her smile is quite as radiant as ever, her hair is longer. She still has the Pirate Eye and there is a deep sweetness about her.

It will be nice to see her and Emma again, maybe she'll want to see the donkeys this time. Someone e-mailed me and said Robin was almost as cute as Gus, which I guess is a compliment. (People are deliciously strange.) I'm excited about the visit. We have everything she needs.

Posted in General

Battle In Bedlam

By: Jon Katz

Battle In Bedlam

It gets rough out there sometimes, Gus and Fate battle it out with gusto in the back yard. We try not to do this in the house.

Posted in General

Portrait Gus: His Eyes Sometimes Look Sad

By: Jon Katz

Portrait, Gus

Sometimes his eyes look sad to me, sometimes thoughtful.  But that is an  illusion, he is a happy, even joyous creature.

He listens very carefully to us when he speak, as if he is considering every word and sound. He is only 12 weeks old, but he seems wise beyond his years. He is an easy going creature, playful and independent.

It is quite common to see him dragging some comparatively giant stuff toy across the room, daring the other dogs to touch it or take it away. He is very devoted to Maria, he follows her everywhere she goes. He loves to climb up on me in the morning, and kiss every inch of my face.

He loves being around children and old people, he will get to meet my granddaughter Robin on Friday, she is coming for a one day visit. I think she will love Gus, and vice versa. Outside, Gus loves to chew leaves. He loves the donkeys, but is careful around the sheep. They already ran over him once.

When I work, he loves to come into my study, drag his small bed around the room. I rub his belly and he falls asleep. He is playing a bit less, exploring a bit more. In the afternoons, he does out into the backyard. Maria works with her studio door open and Gus and Fate go in and out.

When Gus gets tired or wants to visit Maria, he just walks into her studio and sometimes naps at her feet. When he wants to play, he goes out and harasses Fate. He goes almost everywhere we go in the car, like the border collies, he loves to go for a rid. He never goes anywhere near the road, just like the other dogs.

And why should he, really? He has what he needs right here. We try to give him many opportunities to succeed, and very few to fail.

Posted in General

Warning (It Is Sometimes Hard To Love A Cat) The Presumption Patrol Strikes.

By: Jon Katz

It is hard to love a cat sometimes

Sometimes – like when it kills a baby rabbit – it is hard for me to love a cat, even Flo, our tough little barn cat. This morning, Maria came to tell me that there was a baby rabbit in Flo's mouth right by the back door, she understood that cats kill baby rabbits and  eat them but she couldn't bear to hear the rabbit squeal, she could handle it if it was dead, but I could see this was hard for her.

I threw my bathrobe on and went outside. The rabbit died just as I reached over to take it from Flo, I could feel the heart stop in my hands, the rabbit was still very warm. I took it away and put it over the fence and into a remote part of the pasture, I don't believe in burying animals when they can feed wild creatures and birds.

It is hard for me to see the cats hunt and kill baby rabbits. There is a part of most cats I know that is both murderous and cruel. Flo was not just trying to eat the rabbit, she was playing with it, and it wasn't first this summer, either.

There is a great dichotomy about cats, they can be loving or positively lethal, and both are nature behaviors. The mystical part of cats is that they have never been fully domesticated, a wild part of them lives on, and they know how to hunt and to kill.

I don't put this photo up to shock, but because my farms is a great teacher, there is life here and death here, almost every day. I am often reminded that death is a part of life, as night is a part of day, they go hand in hand. The farm has helped me to understand death in a new way, I do not shy from it any longer.

I am  reminded that in the grand scheme of things, death is the universal reality, the one thing we all share, the one place we we shall all go. I don't with to hide from it, or only put up photos of cute and loving donkeys and dogs. I share my life, and death is a regular, almost daily, part of it.

This has also helped me in my hospice and therapy work. Every few weeks, someone I care about and have come to know in a special way declines and dies. Names go on and off the list of people who wish to receive messages. People I see on Wednesday are not there on Thursday, and I don't even have to ask what happened, I know. When they leave, they rarely return.

Maria said there was a time when she would have grabbed that rabbit and tried to save it. Me too. But not any longer. We just wanted it to die quickly, and Flo took care of that.

But I couldn't bear to keep it on my porch.

A couple of minutes after I wrote this, the Presumption Patrol struck on Facebook: "And yet," wrote Ann, "I suspect that you would praise the cat for catching a Rodent!"

This was a comment that threw me for a moment.

I struggled imagining myself praising a cat for killing a mouse.

I generally don't praise the cats for the killing choices they make, and they have never asked me for my opinion about it, nor do they seem to care.

It is true that the sight of a dead or suffering baby rabbit gets to me more than a mouse – I eagerly set mousetraps all the time when their leavings are found in the kitchen near our food, and celebrate their demise  – but the barn cats are free to hunt whatever creatures it is in their nature to choose.

I don't get involved.

It is hard to love a cat when they kill a baby rabbit. But I do, they are just being true to their nature as I try to be true to mine.

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