19 November 2009

Catching the Bedlam Farm Sunset. The Small Things In Life

Sunset over the Big Dairy Barn

  These days are important for me. Maria and I have settled into a lovely and committed relationship, and I am lucky to have it.
  And work that I love.
  I am undertaking some serious creative work: fiction, children's books, now a book of short stories.
  And my photography. I am trying to figure out where I want to go with it, just how much of an artist I want to be, and can be.
  Last year was an awful one, shaped largely by my divorce. This year life seems to be moving forward, a different reality. But I am still recovering from it.
  The farm is up for sale, but I hope it takes awhile.
  I am slowing down, getting to know myself, listen to myself, consider peace and quiet. There are new and wonderful people in my life, many things to look ahead to joyously and with enthusiasm. I am looking for a spiritual life within myself these days, and not elsewhere.
  I am changing, recovering, learning.

People Who Deal With Fear

   Portrait, Maria, in the Studio Barn

    Halfway through a short story. Waiting to edit a children's book. Waiting to begin the next novel, a sequel to "Rose In A Storm."

   Been thinking about fear, and how people deal with it. There has been a tremendous amount of fear in the air the past year or so. It was worse, last year, I think, but as all sorts of new realities set in, it is still a burden for many people, who seek a sense of the world around them, and long for security. Everywhere, there is change, and while most people assume things will get better, many are still nervous about it. I don't know of course, Recession and prosperity seem to take turns in our culture, one following the other. Lots of people are out of work, lots fear for their jobs.
   I have been wrestling with fear in recent years – a lot of it was buried inside of me. I am still working on it, and perhaps will be for the rest of my life. But it is much better, so much better than before. I am learning to accept it, live with it, move around and past it. It is, really, just a feeling. It is, in fact, a space to cross, a toll on the bridge.
  What has helped me?
  First and foremost, therapy, a dynamic social worker who is empathetic, blunt and clear.
  Second, more reliance. I gave up pills, aids, tools, potions, Aunt Harriett's bedtime remedies, the latest $29.95 program on the Internet, the latest miracle self-help book, the latest sensitive Oprah expert. I gave up hiding in people, soothing myself, altered my expectations, and began the task of sorting out fear from reality. All complex and time consuming stuff. I was gentler with me, and more honest about myself.  It is hard work. It is possible
  I think you have to want to change. And work at it. We will all – all of us – face defeats and disappointments, sometimes things that are even worse. I don't measure progress in terms of how much fear I feel, but how I deal with it.
  A woman e-mailed me this morning that she was tired of worrying about her job and hating her boss and fearing for her future. She was secretly setting up a fabric business, and planned to take her life's savings, quit and start her own business. I am hearing that kind of story more and more.
  Good for you, Katie. I will be rooting for you. You took fear and kicked it around.

Farmscapes: Boundaries and Walls

Three Barns: Cemetery Road, Salem

  Am learning about boundaries and walls. Avoiding messes. Setting limits on myself. Thinking before acting. Learning what I want.
  Had a very productive day. Did an interview with Corinna Aldrich and Joe Donahue on  WAMC/Northeast Public Radio about the ASA calendars and our photography.
  Worked all morning on my first short story, "Gracie's Last Walk." Talked on a phone conference with two producers from LA interested in making a TV series out of one of my books. We talked about men and change.
  Talked with Christine Nemec of Redux Gallery in Dorset, Vt. about framing the photos for the January 9 show, "Portraits of My Life."  She was incredibly helpful. I never used to worry about what things cost, and spent way too much money.
  We are going to use standard frames for eight of the photos, lowering the cost by nearly $1,000. I am more comfortable with where we are now. We dropped two large photos from the show. Hoping to sell some of the photos more cheaply, as in $200. Not really cheap, but cheaper. Art is different from publishing. Still figuring it out.
  Maria and I went to check out the new Battenkill Book Shop in Cambridge, N.Y. I'll post a photo or two later. Then stopped at Gardenworks for cheese. Now working on the short story again. Tonight, will read Colin McCann, and maybe a Ruth Rendell mystery. Got Dorothy Sayers for Maria.

Men and Change

Bedlam dogs in the garden. Frieda is across the street

 Change is difficult and complex for anyone in America these days. Money shapes and bounds our lives and politics. We live for health care, retirement, security – all relatively new concepts in the world. Miss a credit card payment or get a chronic health condition, and life changes. The idea of a secure lifetime job, once a staple of men's lives, has all but vanished. Our culture generates money but no jobs, and computers have freed up information and ramped up tension – see what happens when you get a moving violation or miss a couple of payments.
  Men work harder and longer, and for less. Few men get to do what they love, live where they wish, change if they want.  Few men have close friends, or speak much to the ones they do have.
  They hide their aspirations, fears and emotional selves.
  And if they do change, they are labeled strange or irresponsible, and branded with the term "mid-life crisis." So the men that change are either crazy or very brave, and the luckiest ones have partners or spouses who cheer them on.
  Yet the happiest and most fulfilled men I know are ones who have changed.
   I think in my case that the fears of men are invariably worse than the realities. Like most people, I could live comfortably in a rental cabin if I had to. Fear and expectations ought not create the boundaries of my life, even if I completely understand them.
  I do not choose to live for my IRA, assisted care program or health plan. I may very well regret those decisions one day – people assure me that I will. But I intend to live my life in the moment, not in the future, or for a health plan. Love and work. I want to do what I love, and love what I do, for as long as that is possible. After that, I'll take my chances.
   You can't alter your life if you can't change. You can't grow if you can't change. Or learn. It's the great condundrum of men's lives, and I have no easy answer for it. Only my own notions.

The Daily Potholder. Inspirational art.

  Fresh off the sewing machine, the newest potholder

November 19, 2009 – Working on short story, soaking up the crisp sunny day. Thinking this has been a mild November, and grateful for that. Last year was not, in many ways. Lots of people writing to say the potholders are inspiring them to make some art that is useful, less expensive, colorful. They have inspired me too. Maria is excited about starting a business and hopes to make belts (out of ties) quilts, potholders and other stuff next year. She grows and grows, changes and learns. It's exciting to see. I always wanted the Studio Barn to be a creative little house, and it is.
 Like a lot of things, art is changing. Maria's potholders have inspired me to present my photographs differently, and less expensively. Christine Nemec and I are working to sell some photos as cheaply as possible for the January 9, 2010 show of my work, "Portraits Of My Life," at the Redux Gallery in Dorset, Vt. Not easy to sell photographs. I will be giving a talk there in January, a nice break-up of the winter. We've chosen about 19 photos.
  Events: This Sunday, 1-3 p.m. at Union Village, Greenwich, N.Y. Signing books, selling ASA Calenders, and Maria's potholders (I will be selling them, she will be at work.)
             Next Saturday, 1-3 p.m., Gardenworks, Salem, N.Y. (518 854-3250). Signing calendars, books, selling potholders (Maria will be there.)
             Noon, December 5, grand opening of the new Battenkill Bookstore, Main St., Cambridge, N.Y. Bringing dogs, signing books.