24 November 2009

Give Thanks. Lift Your Spirits Up

 Methodist Church, Hebron, N.Y., Sunrise

   I went shopping today and on the way back, foolishly listened to the news, this station on NPR. The consumer confidence index had risen for the first time in two years, said the reporter. But, added an expert, it had not risen as much as some economists thought it might, so it was not as good a thing as it might sound. And because of that, said a third expert, the Christmas Shopping Season – America's barometer of spiritual life – would probably be lousy. Translation: the good news was not as good as it might be, therefore it is really bad news, sort of, And it would be followed by more bad news. Added the reporter: still, the rise in the index for the second straight month suggestion the recession was actually ending. And that was good. Except he sure didn't sound good.
  Lord, no wonder people are anxious. And this is NPR. On cable channels, it seems the Republic is disintegrating.
  If you are not crazy when you turn on the news, you will be when you turn it off. This holiday, as all days, I am resolved to make my own news. And to take seriously the idea of giving thanks. And to list the good things and people in my life, and the things I look forward to in 2010. And they are wondrous, numerous and glorious. I wish the consumer confidence index well, and may it rise. Americans could probably do themselves a world of good if they skipped the Christmas Shopping Season a bit, avoided malls, and stayed home and talked to each other. That would not, of course, be news.

Giving Thanks. And Making Decisions

Frieda and Lenore – morning kiss.

  Lenore found some deer guts today and has been throwing stuff up. Lab heaven in hunting season. Cleaning it up tomorrow.

  Well, I touched off quite an e-mail surge by writing about staying on the farm or selling it. Record messages. Got lots of advice, much of it interesting and useful. People other than me care about the farm and what happens to it, something I tend to forget in my self-absorption. Good to be reminded of it.
  Moving to the farm was never a practical decision, and I never could really afford it. Writing six books here was pretty remarkable, and if I ever can really afford it, it will be a case of the farm paying for itself, and sending me its own message. Few writers ever get rich.
  I've always seen the farm as a living thing. Bedlam Farm is, I see, an idea, and sometimes I am too close to it to see it.
  It is not practical for me to lease the land, nor is the land useable for much besides sheep or organic farming. Maybe potatoes.
The farm requires a lot of serious upkeep and commitment of time, energy and money, animals or not. I am always dubious about people writing me that I am living the life they want. They are welcome to come up here in the winter and slide around the ice for a couple of months before I am convinced I am living their dreams.
  I do, of course, love it here, and as many people have written, it is a question of the mind over the heart. I can always sell the farm, but I can't always come back to it if I miss it. It has been a powerfully creative place for me, and I am well aware that that is due to the nature of the place and my intensely personal and evolutionary experiences here. Lambing, herding, trekking through the woods, writing, taking photos. Lots of other stuff. I came here as one man, and am now another, a truly stunning experience. I have always seen the farm as a living entity, and it speaks to me all of the time. Without animals, it is a bit strange, even eerie, but also beautiful and calm.
 It is confusing for me. The farm got out of control, and I am still working to get it back. My life got out of control, and I am working on that. I don't yet always trust my own decisions, so I make them carefully. Someone close to me said I was just not ready to leave the farm. I have to really think about that.
  The way I make decisions is to write about them, take photos, talk them through, and they seem to make themselves clear that way. This is a tough one, I think.
  It isn't a great time to sell anything, and I am in no way unhappy here. I am committed to several children's books, two more novels, and a book of short stories. That is a lot of writing, a lot of work, and I am wary of the disruptions of moving to another place.
  If I do stay here, it makes no sense not to have some animals. I will not go back to the number and scope of animals I had before, but I have four barns, one full of hay, three fenced-in pastures. Seems silly not to have some animals here. Another thing to think about.
  So this holiday weekend, I will think about this and write about it, and share the experience, as I have become accustomed to doing. Maria and I are talking about this a lot, and this must be a decision we share, not a decision I make.
  Maria is honest and wise, and I trust her completely. She has good instincts and I get away with nothing.
  I'll be as open about it as I can.

Winding Down

Lenore, in a thoughtful moment. She found a pile of deer guts today in the woods, a hunter's kill. Yuk.

   You can feel things beginning to wind down, in preparation for the holiday. Thanksgiving and other holidays are a mixed blessing for people, there is a lot of fear and concern in the air, and in people's lives. Still, it is a good time to give thanks, and there is a lot to give thanks for. I'll write more about this over the weekend. I always admire dog's for their acceptance, and imagine them as being stoic and adaptable. An inspiration, I suppose.

Can I afford the farm? Don’t be silly.

  Bedlam waterfall. This water fall, the foundation of an old mill, is at the base of Bedlam Farm, just down the hill. I've never photographed it before, don't really know why.
  Got a lot of messages to consider. One person wrote me asking if I could afford the farm. I laughed. I couldn't afford it when I brought, when I ran it with animals, and surely not now. But that was never really a factor. If I had any brains, I'd be living in a two-room condo near Saratoga. With the sane people. Fat chance.

Cat Tales and Creativity

Frieda has replaced Izzy as Director of Sales for Yesnoquilts.

  November 24, 2009 – Everybody is always telling me I ought to write more about cats, and here's my chance. Also an opportunity to make Maria crazy. Maria is an artist, and doesn't like to make anything to order, or because it's popular. She gets her fabric by happenstance, poring through thrift shops and back yards and flea markets. She doesn't order it because she things it will sell. It has to be discarded and found.
   So she found this cat fabric at a Cambridge yard sale. And she has a limited amount of cat fabric. And she is getting a ton of request for cat potholders.
  She isn't about to go order any new fabric. It has to be vintage, and discovered, and suit her finely-tuned artistic sensibilities. This is not close to the world of publishing, where are keenly attuned to story lines and plots and characters.
  Still, like any artist, she loves seeing her work go out into the world and live, and in an odd way, the story of the potholders is her own dream as an artist – to make art that is cheap and functional, and that people can use as well as look at. I don't know how Maria will sort all of this out. Success is more complex than anything, really and the tale of the cat potholdes is a modern story of art, creativity, economics, taste and experience. I love the potholders.
  And I love seeing how Maria evolves to meet this new reality. I have no idea what she will do, and she isn't about to tell me.
  Aside from the fact that I love the person making them, I see them as a metaphor for contemporary art in America, as tastes change and money is tight, and the creatives among us respond.