22 July 2013

Friendship: The Opening Of The Heart. Tale Of Two Friends.

Opening Of The Heart

Opening Of The Heart

Friendship is, to me, an opening of the heart, a leap of faith, an embrace of trust. I have not often been a good friend in my life, not often had good friends. I am a loner by nature, and a freak and oddball as well. I was not like the other children, and am not like them now, I have shunned groups and labels all of my loved, moved restlessly and frantically from one place to another, been too busy, distracted and self-absorbed for the business of friendship which takes care, thought and consideration. These are rare traits in people.

But when I get down to it, friendship is about the heart, it is an emotion, an instinct and  an impulse. As I stood by the gate of the pasture yesterday towards the end of the Open House – I had done a few donkey visits, a couple of sheepherding demos and and greeted hundreds of people, I was wearing out. I hadn't eat since breakfast and I am learning that diabetics can't really get away with that, not in summer sun. I just had a few minutes to go and looked up and saw two of my good friends standing right at the gate – Jack Macmillan came over happy to help, directing traffic,  doing crowd control and watching the pasture gate, Tom Wolskii with a camera pointed at me, and I pointed mine right back at  him and we got shots of each other.

Tom is not fond of gatherings and crowds, but he showed up to say hello, to just be present. For both men, acts of friendship, each revealed in different ways.

The sight of these two men, and the symbolism of Tom and I photographing one another –  he is a farmer vet turned photographer, outdoorsman, athletic competitor – revived me, I laughed and smiled, Tom and I get the ridiculousness of one another, we both have tolerant and forgiving wives, we are both lovers and students of non-grumpy change. Jack is different from me, born in the country, with country routes, he is a skilled and helpful man who seems able to fix just about anything and is happy to do it. When he does, and it takes a lot of time,  I insist in paying him, and he accepts. Friendship is a much about boundaries as affection.

I don't dump my stuff on friends, they don't dump theirs on me. But if we need help, it is there.

For me, good friendships are not born in drama, they are not about rescues, good friends don't just call when there's trouble, but appear when there isn't any. Friendships are mutual, not one-sided. Friendships are  honest, not intrusive.

Good friendships feel good, you don't leave them wondering what he or she meant, what they were thinking. Good friends don't stand you up, if they say they will be somewhere, they are. You can always tell when you are around a good friend, because you smile, it feels good to be around a good friend, it doesn't feel good to be around a bad one. Friends are aware of who you are, they learn what you are about.

Friendships are new to me, and I am happy about this, because it means I am changing, I am available to other people, I have left behind panic and confusion and anger. I know who I am, thus people can know who I am as well. For most of my life I was one of those people who seemed to confuse everyone and leave them uncomfortable. They always did wonder what I meant, if I would show up, and I was rarely available to anyone, there was so much drama and distraction in my world. Crisis is almost a plea for help, if you are in crisis then you don't have to follow the normal rules of the world, you don't have to pay your bills, you can always manipulate someone into paying your way,  into rushing to your aid, you are in perpetual need of rescue. Those friendships, I learned, were not friendships, they were something else, something unhealthy. A friend doesn't save your life, he shares life with you.

There are always people in the world who think they can rescue other people, save them, buy their way out of trouble, and I know this well because I was one of those people, yet another addiction I am happy to have shed. Jack and Tom are not the only friends I am finding, I am strongly connected to Scott Carrino, my Tai Chi instructor and friend, we always smile when we see one another, we understand each other without too many words, different as we are.

I was touched by this photo, I looked at that and thought, wow, Jon, you are getting there, you are figuring out what a friend is. It is, of course, when all is said and done, about love and connection. And when you figure that out, good friends seem to appear magically and mystically, the good angels are poised and ready to bring them into your life, to stand by your gate.

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Taking The Oath: Red Signs Up As Therapy Dog (No Accessories). Next Week.

Taking The Oath

Taking The Oath

I can no longer imagine life without a camera, and there are very few moments of my life when I don't have one with me. I was especially happy to capture the intense feeling of this moment, when Kristin Commeau of Therapy Dogs Of Vermont gave Red his bandanna and temporary badge – I sent a photo off to her today for the final one, which will come sometime in the next week or so.

Red, as always, entered into the moment as if he knew the script. I don't like bandannas on my dogs, especially the working ones, but it's important in hospitals and nursing homes so the staff can see who belongs and who doesn't. I don't want any Therapy Dog accessories either. Red doesn't need a "Therapy Dog" vest I see everywhere and I have never quite grasped the bumper stickers I see every day that read "Caution: Therapy Dog On Board," as if it's okay to hit the car if just plain old children or human beings are in. I suppose people have their good reasons for wearing "Therapy Dog" caps, shirts and vests but I have a sneaking suspicion it isn't always about the dog.

I spoke with the activities director of a Vermont Hospital today and there are plenty of vets in need of visits – young veterans just back from Iraq and Afghanistan and older ones from Vietnam and Korea, some from World War II as well. I'm going there next Tuesday to check out the hospital and meet some people and then, the following week, Red and I will begin work at the hospital and with veterans in some other settings.

The hospital is also eager to have photographs taken when the patients consist to it, I will be happy to take some and share them with you.

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Queen Flo (Retired) On The Mower: Food Police

Flo On The Mower

Flo On The Mower

There are a lot of animals sharing common ground on the farm – chickens, cats, dogs, donkeys, sheep – and sometimes boundaries cross. Today was a day of food management,  a minor but consuming task on a farm that requires constant maintenance and attention. The chickens came out of their roost early and made a beeline for the cat food bowls, occupied at the moment by Flo and Minnie. Maria and Red and I were on  food police duty.

Before the chickens arrived, Flo had chased Minnie away from both food bowls, hissing and puffing herself up. We broke that up – put the bowls farther apart – and then the chickens came charging onto the porch and made a beeline for the cat bowls, driving both Minnie and Flo away. I grabbed a broom and charged the chickens, driving them momentarily off of the porch and commanded Red to "walk up" to them, but they walked right past him, and he was, for once befuddled. Chickens might run, but will not be herded.

This afternoon, trouble broke out in the barn, where we fed the cats and the chickens appeared on the hay bales and Maria chased them to the door but they circled again, and I was holding the water hose and turned it on them, driving them back towards the Dahlia garden. Red wanted no part of this, we went into the pasture to fill the water buckets and I brought carrots to the donkeys and the sheep came barreling around the corner and this time Red was on the case and he and Zelda butted heads for a second, but he drove the sheep back into the pole barn. Donkeys, unlike barn cats, will bite or kick the sheep if they get obnoxious. Maria gave the chickens some feed to keep them out of the barn, but then, as we finished our chores, we saw that Lenore had chased the chickens off and was eating their feed while they squawked indignantly.

We are coming up with a new feeding plan.

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Come With Me On My Morning Walk

Come With Me On My Morning Walk

Come With Me On My Morning Walk

I am still a bit groggy from the Open House, but recovering. This is an invitation to come with me on my morning walk, I invited Maria and Frieda and we walked down the road and down a country road for a bit. The walk began with my getting Red out of the pasture, where he was in his usual staring contest with Zelda. I got him in the house, and we set off. My walk included a stop by the Dahlia garden, discovery of a stone wall hidden into a hillside, flowers in front of a fallen and up at the back porch. Come and walk with me on Facebook.

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Morning Walk. Balm For The Soul

Morning Walk

Morning Walk

I woke up exhausted this morning, sore from walking and herding and moving around all day, exhilarated by all of the good wishes, the good people, touched by the affection in my animals – the donkeys, the dogs (even Frieda), Red's discipline and skill, and most of all, Maria's very successful day – she sold just about everything she made, and people are loving her work in a new and exciting way. We did, in fact, take some small steps towards re-discovering community, an idea that seems to be struggling in so much of America.

It was exhausting talking to so many people, it was great to see how much they enjoyed the animals, got the idea of the farm, had so much affection in their hearts. Maria and I cannot believe how lucky we are.

I am including a morning walk in my spiritual practice each morning, Maria and Frieda came with me this morning, we walked down the highway for a mile or so. I saw some beautiful things to photograph and am putting a Morning Walk album up on my Facebook page. Got to have my eyes checked today, going to take it easy, we have already started planning for the Open House on September 1, it isn't that far off. I think I'll take my county fair photos and offer them for sale in September. Thinking about friendship, have an itch to write about that later.

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