Good and happy news to report. Maria and I have made an offer on the farm where Rocky lives, and it has been accepted. How curious is life. How wonderful. I did not ever imagine that a 33-year-old pony would come with any house I ever bought, but life has its own stories, and brings them to us.
Florence's family would love for us to keep Rocky there, and we have agreed to that. So the New Bedlam Farm is off to a magical start, in several different ways. There was Florence, who owned Rocky and lived for most of her good life in this beautiful old farmhouse in Washington County, about 15 miles from where we now live.
Last Fall, I drove by this old farmhouse, saw an old pony standing in front of a collapsed barn after that tough winter, and I pulled over to ask if I could take a photo. It was a fateful visit. The pony and barn spoke to me of the drama of rural life. This elegant white haired woman came out, introduced herself and I could see that she could not hear. When I pointed to the pony and showed her my camera, she nodded, and said I could take all the pictures I wanted. She said she was deaf and the horse was blind. "Neither one of us looks as good as we used to," she said. "We are ending our lives together." I never imagined I would buy this place.
FIrst I began visiting Rocky, and then Maria, and one afternoon both of us looked through the window of Florence's house, and a bell went off: this was just what we were looking for in the New Bedlam Farm, just what we were imagining.Over these months, I have come to see a powerful spiritual connection with Florence and Maria, both independent-minded women with artistic souls. They remind me of each other. You can see from the photos I have been taken that Florence's spirit remains very much in her home, where she lived for more than 70 years.
This farm will be good for us. It is smaller, more compact, simpler to maintain. But still, nearly 20 acres. We have chosen it together. The farm is another book factory, I think. There is good pasture for Rocky, Simon, Lulu and Fanny, and space and paths for for the dogs, barn cats, chickens. We will be adding some sheep to the farm, perhaps return to some lambing. Maria wants to sell the wool and I am intrigued with the idea of another border collie. The old farm is great for my photos, has open spaces, great light, rich and deep history and stirs up all kinds of creative possibilities for me. As long as Rocky lives, we will take great care of him. He is a wonderful creature. I see him and Simon being pals. We needed another guy or two.
There is an enchanting old schoolhouse-like structure behind the house, which Maria instantly appropriated for her studio. How she does this is, is she goes up to the building she wants and says loudly, "this is adorable! Jon, do you want it?" And the standing barn, which she also thought was adorable, would make a great gallery space. When Maria says something is adorable, that's it. She says I can write in the woodshed (she's serious, although she claims it's a great space. There is the matter of a missing wall and no insulation or heat.)
We have not sold Bedlam Farm yet, but we will. Neither of us is the type, really, to stand around waiting for other forces to control our lives. As my banker said, it's beautiful place at a great price. He's right. A family that wants to be near nature, have animals and live in a great old house will find us. Rocky was a powerful beacon, but I think Florence was the greater force, when all is said and done. We love her spirit and feel it everywhere in the house. The farmhouse is old, and needs some work and attention. Wondrous cold storage room, beautiful wood everywhere, a parlor for visitors. We need to build a pole barn and get new fences up. If we have any money left, we'll take on the woodshed. Old farms are adventures, every one, deserving of attention. And I cannot imagine a better or more magical place for us, our animals, and our life.
I have to say that my passion and gratitude for Bedlam Farm is great. I have no words for how much this farm means to me. As sad as I am about leaving it, I am overjoyed at the prospects of rebirth and renewal the New Bedlam Farm offers Maria and I. That is a powerful thing too. Nostalgia is a trap sometimes, I don't care much for it. Someone wrote that they would miss the magic of the farm. I wrote back that magic in life comes from inside, not outside. If you have it, it goes wherever you do. If you don't, no new house will help. There is crisis and mystery everywhere, and it is waiting for me, and me for it.
One other note. Many people have expressed shock at the price for Bedlam – $450,000. It is low for buildings and land in this condition, even around here, and every square inch of Bedlam Farm has been rebuilt or restored. To be honest, I do feel a pang about that. I always thought Bedlam Farm would sell for close to a million dollars when I decided to give it up, and it is worth that. But I never imagined I would give it up. So much has changed – economics, publishing, real estate. I want to be authentic more than I want to be rich. I will change with the world, and I don't much look back. Nothing to whine about. I am quite blessed. My life is wonderful and it is time to move forward with the love of my life, and into the next chapter so I will do what my good realtor says and let her set the price. And I hate complaints. They ring in my ears and corrode the soul.
Here comes the New Bedlam Farm. We can't wait to start loving it.