31 March 2015

The New Writer’s Life: Thanks For Subscribing, Subscriptions Matter

Subscriptions Matter

Subscriptions Matter

I've learned to be direct and transparent when it comes to being paid for my work. I couldn't do it for a long time, now I like it, being paid for one's work is a basic human right, especially for a writer.

It's a good thing, it's time, and it matters, financially and creatively. I realize this week – especially when contemplating my taxes – that I've been essentially working for free for much of the past year writing about the New York Carriage Horses,  Joshua Rockwood,  and several other people and issues in need of attention.  Nobody made me, I wanted to do it.  I take full responsibility for myself. The real subject behind all of these issues is the future of animals in our world, I want to keep writing about that and researching it.

That has also been very time-consuming and expensive, it involves travel and many hours of research. Animals have altered my life, saved it in some ways, I owe them this much at least.

I also want very much to continue to share my life on the farm, with Maria, the dogs and donkeys, my wonderful community, my poetry, photographs and changes. Lots coming this year – books, blog posts, a pony, a dog or two. And there is lots of good stuff already here to share – Red, his therapy and herding work, the sheep, Lulu an Fanny, my wife's endless genius. Our creative lives, our love and connection.

I've loved this writing and photo-sharing on the blog and it means a lot to me.But it is yet one more reason why subscriptions in support of the blog matter. I write about subscriptions rarely, the last time was a few months ago, and I was heartened that a number of people subscribed, either to my P.O. Box (P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, via credit cards of by Paypal.

The subscription program is new, and it makes a huge difference in my writing life. As traditional publishing evolves, or devolves,  writers, like musicians and artists, need to find and construct new models for earning a living and being paid for their work. Subscriptions make it possible for the blog to remain free, even to those who can't afford to subscribe. And the blog is now the most important element in my writing work and photography.

Subscriptions make it possible for me to write about the carriage horses,  the future of animals in our world, the growth and sometimes disturbing nature of the animal rights movement,  about Joshua Rockwood, the young Glenville, N.Y. farmer who was charged with 13 counts of animal abuse and neglect, and who I believe – and many others believe – has been unjustly accused.

My regular paying work – my books – remain an important part of my life. I will never give up on books, I've written 28 of them,  although revenue from hard cover books has plummeted.  My blog, which draws about four million visits a year, is the centerpiece of my writing and my creative life. And I love doing it, it is the right venue for me. I consider it my living memoir, my great work. I am committed to being honest and open here, even when it is not pleasant or easy.

I have a contract for my next book Talking To Animals, and a voice in my head says that is paying work and contract work, stop everything and finish it.

I don't seem able to completely do that. I am working on my book every week and very much loving it, but I am also drawn to continue to pursue these other subjects as well. Subscriptions help me do that, they pay for the maintenance of the blog, they support my photography, which I also give away free online (…I see a pattern here.)

So I'm reminding all of you once again to consider subscriptions, they pay me for your work, as I hope you are paid for yours.

Subscriptions are essentially payments in support of the blog, it's maintenance, the photographs, the time spent writing. I don't have any mugs or trinkets to offer you. They just help me pay for it, and for the hard work that goes into it, just about every day. Those of you who are not online or don't wish to go there can subscribe by mailing checks to me at P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

There are other subscription options. Whatever you decide to pay, you will have access to the complete blog, there are no tiers or partial plans. I offer different amounts because people have different abilities to pay.  You can subscribe for $3 a month, $5 a month, or $60 a year. Subscriptions can be canceled at any time, and there is automatic reminder e-mailed to you 51 weeks after you subscribe, so that you decide whether to cancel or renew at the end of one year. No credit card or financial data is ever  stored on my blog or on any server attached to my blog. You can use credit cards or Paypal.

There are two different  security companies that protect and monitor the blog and filter messages.

I also ought to say that I have no access to any of your financial information, I cannot add subscribers or cancel them, there are very simple ways for you to do both. That is for your own protection, and I don't want access to your money or to get bogged down in doing that. I sometimes see the names of subscribers as they enroll, I do not keep track of who subscribes and who doesn't. I understand when people have pressures and need to cancel. My blog has millions of visits, a very small fraction of them subscribe in any way. This is the nature of Internet marketing for writers and musicians, large numbers of people paying small sums of money. It does add up, or so we hope.

So there is room to grow, and I want and need to grow. My blog is important, and expensive. It costs thousands of dollars a year to maintain. And I would like to grow it further.

So thanks for considering subscriptions, we have tried to make them as comfortable as possible for everyone. If you can't subscribe or don't wish to, the blog is still free for you to access. So many of you never gave up on me, I will never give up on you.

In my former life as a best-selling author, I never had to think about money, and I would never have solicited subscriptions or talked about money at all. It was considered beneath the dignity of a New York Times bestselling author. Big shots do not have to do that. I am in a new place, happy and creative and inspired, but not a big shot anymore, at least not in that way. Like everyone reading this, I have to think about money. This the life I chose, the life I love.

I am a lucky man. I am proud of my blog and want to keep it vital and strong and creative. I want to be a pioneer in showing the way for writers to make a living online. I embrace change, I don't whine about it. Many people, I think, are beginning to understand that they get what they pay for, and the work of an artist or writer ought to be paid for, if creativity is to flourish and prosper.

So thanks for reading, and for considering subscribing. I hope you find the blog worthwhile. With your help I will continue to write about the things that matter, and that are important to me and hopefully, to you.

Posted in General

Poem: I’m Your Man

"I'm Your Man"

"I'm Your Man"

Thanks for the inspiration for the "Title" and the poem to the poet and musician Leonard Cohen. He told a reporter he spent  years living as a Buddhist monk and when he came out of the monastery, he was just as big a jerk as when he went in.


I'm Your Man

"If you want a good man,

I'll support everything you do,

and if you want some feedback,

I'll provide that too.

I'll wear yellow shirts for you,

and if you want to dance,

grab my hand,

Or if you want to be alone to do your work,

well, here I stand.

I'm your man,

If you want a fighter,

I will take an army on for you,

And if you want a lover,

I'll examine every inch of you,

And if you want a doctor,

I'll check your heart,

and if you want to take a ride,

just climb inside.

Or if you want me to take a hike,

you know I will,

And if you want to take a walk with me,

I'm your man.

The sun's too bright,

the moon's too light,

the chains will never break.

The dogs will never go to sleep.

I've been counting all the promises I've ever made to you,

the ones I could not keep,

I hope you will forgive me,

I am begging on my knees,

I'll never get you back by crawling.

Then I'll fall flat on my feet,

and beg the moon,

and gasp at your beauty,

like a cow in heat.

And I'd grab for your soul,

and I'd reach for your heart,

And I'd kiss your sweet feet,

I'm your man.

And if you want to be alone,

I'll wave a wand and vanish for you,

if you want to ride a horse,

I'll get the saddle for you,

and if you want to be with me awhile,

across the woods,

and down the road,

I'm your man.

And if you want some one to love you,

after all,

I'll be there for you,

and if you want another lover,

I'll disappear for you.

I'm your man."

Posted in General

Almost April

Almost April

Almost April

It is almost April. The ground is still frozen, the day are still cold and windy. The snow and ice are retreating under the Spring Sun, the animals are beginning to grass as the stubble of grass opens up for them. We will be expanding the Dahlia garden soon, more space, new colors.

Our home is battered a bit by the hard winter. The heat is almost all of the day, we are only lighting the wood stoves at night.  It is supposed to go up to 60 degrees later in the week. In a few months, we will be hopefully getting a puppy, in a few weeks a pony. Definitely, a sense of rebirth and renewal after the winter, a season of struggle and loss.

Posted in General

On The Rack: The New Inquisition. Can Animal Lovers Love Animals?

Understanding Abuse

Understanding Abuse

"Inquisition: An official investigation, especially one of a political or religious nature, characterized by lack of regard for individual rights, prejudice on the part of the examiners, and recklessly cruel punishments."  – Dictionary.com


Sad Eyes

Joshua Rockwood and I spent about four hours recently exploring just about every one of his 90 now- famous acres at West Wind Acres Farm. Almost every person who drove or walked by stopped to talk to him, hug him, encourage him, shake hands, offer support, arrange to buy his food.  The photographer in me  noticed his sad eyes and I wondered if I was misreading them, or if he was just worn down by the trouble he was in.  Joshua prides himself on being an open book, transparency is almost a religion with him.

At the end of our time together I asked if there was sadness in his life beyond his arrest for animal abuse, cruelty and neglect.

Joshua hesitated for just a second, and then told me about Alyena, his third child, who was born on November 18, 2011, and who died on January 1, New Year's Day, 2012. Aly spent the first 14 days of her life in the hospital, the last 21 days at home, and that is where she died, 34 days of age.

It was glad I asked.

I was trying to get a sense of this soft-spoken and seemingly idealistic man who is accused of crimes against animals, and who is suddenly at the center of an intense controversy over the real nature of animal abuse and the struggles of family farms. He is no cardboard cutout, no image on TV. He is a very human being.

In some ways, Joshua is different. He is transparent, and strong. He has a substantial following of friends, family, neighbors, customers and fellow farmers, people who have known him for a long time, and who are rallying to support him.

But he also seemed to me to be just like every other person I ever met who farmed, lived, trained, rode, played and sported or otherwise worked with animals. He loves to be around them. He has no wish to harm them.

The Hypocrite's Crime

If you are serious about understanding animal abuse, you need to first understand this, whatever your beliefs about the welfare of animals:

Farmers do not farm and live with animals because they hate animals and wish to hurt them. In the life and self-interest of the farmer, it makes no sense. Carriage drivers do not choose to drive carriages in Central Park in order to starve, overwork or mistreat horses. Farriers do not trim the hooves of donkeys and horses because they like to cause pain.  Elephant handlers do not join the circus to torture and mistreat the elephants. For much of my life, I have lived with animals, met and talked with the people who feed, care for them, train them, live with them, farm with them,  breed them and care for them. I have never met one who did not love animals or who set out to abuse them.

I am sorry that the people on Facebook and elsewhere who accuse others of abuse so casually will never look into the eyes of these people – the farmers, carriage horse drivers, animal trainers – and see the pain and sorrow their accusations cause.

The New Inquisition to stop animal abuse is miserable and dishonest at it's core, as all inquisitions are.  Lord knows there animals who are abused, but the Inquisition has moved far beyond the reality of real animal abuse, and beyond reason. It is too often based on cruelty, prejudice, ignorance and the judgement of others. These accusers are inherently hypocritical in that they take no responsibility for their own actions or behavior, they always find other people to blame and accuse.  To be a hypocrite is to have a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral religious beliefs or principles that one does not really possess. It is not possible to be virtuous and practice cruelty and prejudice and injustice.

"The hypocrite's crime," wrote the moral philosopher Hannah Arendt, "is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one.  Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core."


I love this idea. Like Shakespeare, I know not to judge other people. We are all sinners, we are all human beings.  I am a sinner, and have been a pilgrim all of my life, I have made too many mistakes to count or comprehend. I know of few human beings so free of error or frailty that they can tell me how to live, let alone how to care for my donkeys and dogs.

I know of very few people who can tell that to Joshua Rockwood, almost surely not the secret informer who invaded his life,  worked in the dark to denounce him,  and whisper to the animal police to try and ruin his life.

If it were different, if we were not hypocrites, we would all know that almost all of the men and women who drive the horse carriages in New York love their horses, and the elephant trainers love their elephants, and the operators of the pony rides love their ponies. This is evident to anyone who goes and looks for themselves.

These are not jobs, they are a way of life. If all the animals are ultimately driven away or taken away, so will the traditions and way of being for many people that the animals represent, from the circus to the small family farmer to the Irish or African immigrant carriage drivers to the elderly woman with a poodle and no fence to the homeless man whose dog and only companion is stolen from him and killed. Americans fought a revolution to stop the British from unreasonable search and seizure, the New Inquisition is founded on both.

'All Of Us Are Experts At Practicing Virtue At A Distance" – Theodore M. Hesburgh, Notre Dame

In a half-century, there will be a different Story:  the children will be asking where all of the animals went, all of the horses and the elephants and the ponies and the chickens. All the animals were abused, their teachers will tell them, they all were sent to the wild, but they never returned. it became too difficult and frightening for people to own and live with them. And so, they are all gone.

When people confront their own humanity, and understand that they are dealing with other humans – not saints, but people – the context changes, righteousness and rage fades, empathy can live and grow a major source of real abuse will fade.  But that rarely happens, it is very easy to damn people from behind a computer screen. We don't ever have to face them.

Joshua is around animals all the time, just like trainers, carriage horse riders, dog handlers and elephant trainers.  He has Maremma sheep dogs to guard the sheep, he had horses until they were taken from  him, he has cows and chickens and pigs. he has chosen a life with animals.

He told me he will get his horses back,  no matter what it takes. So far, friends and supporters have raised more than $50,000 to help Joshua keep his farm.

The scenario of abuse we are confronted with now every day, all across America is really one story, the same story,  not many different ones.

If you pay attention, it is the same every time, it follows a script, just with different names but often in the very same words.

You can substitute elephant trainers, carriage drivers, farmers, pony ride operators – Joshua Rockwood – and only the names change. The story is always the same, the story is taught in workshops all over the country, it has become so common it seems ritualistic. Several weeks ago, police raided Joshua's farm during one of the worst cold waves in American history.  The story came to him. They charged him with 13 counts of animal abuse and neglect including frozen water, overgrown hooves, failure to provide adequate shelter or feed.

He had crossed to the other side of life, the Story had become his life.

The Story is a stepchild of what is called animal rights activism, and it is told again and again in the name of stopping animal abuse. Thousands of people volunteer to tell it for various reasons, one of them being the enormous social and political power it confers, the sense of being superior and virtuous. They have become the new special police and secret informers of the animal world. It is not clear that they save many, if any animals, but they do frighten, intimidate and  harass many of the people who own them, people who are very much like Joshua Rockwood.

They make it more difficult every to keep animals in our lives and with people, and in the world.

If you blank out the names of the animals, the elephants, ponies, horses, pigs, dogs, you will see that all of the stories are the same.  And so are all of the people, they are all the new apostates and heretics, all called to the stake to face their accusers.

The horse/elephant/pony/do/cat/pig is abused, tortured, mistreated, starved, enslaved, confined in chains, neglected, trained in the most brutal of ways, exploited by greedy and uncaring humans. Abused.  The animals would be better off dead than in bondage. The human beings are subhuman, "unpersons," beyond the range of normal moral conduct. They do not deserve to be respected, listened to, deserving of empathy in any way.

There are always those grainy videos – animals with sores, wounds, ribs sticking out, overgrown hooves. They are downloaded and shared and reprinted many thousands of times, animal abuse inquisitions always feature chilling images, the photographs of suffering animals are veritable money machines,  another wrenching chapter in the sorry story of amoral human beings.

The Story has raised tens of millions of dollars, much of which goes to marketers, political campaigns, lobbyists and advertising agencies. It has been repeated so often, it has convinced legislators and many millions of people of things that would have been utterly laughable just a few decades ago, when people left the country and the farms – and the animals – for the cities and suburbs, where all animals became pets and many became surrogate children. It has convinced people that abuse is epidemic, when it is not, and expanded the idea of abuse  so that it has become an opinion, rather than a crime.

One Day, All The Animals Were Sent To The Wild. They Never Came Back

The Inquisition In Search Of Abuse is a hungry beast, it requires lots of fuel to sustain it. Things known to be false  by almost every biologist, behaviorist or animal trainer or agricultural expert alive have become conventional wisdom, they are repeated so often and with so much skill: it is abuse for a pony to give rides to children or a work horse to pull carriages or for any elephant to work in any circus, for a  farmer's water tanks to freeze in sub-zero temperatures, for a dog to sit in the car in the summer, for a cat to go outside,  for a pig to get a frost-bitten ear when the temperature is -27 degrees.

In the Story, the moral path is for all animals to be returned to the wild, to nature. There is no danger in the wild, where all animals belong; no predators, starvation, exposure or disease, no development or climate change. (of course, there is no wild). There are no predators, there, no disease, no fighting for food, no starvation or exposure to heat,  ice and snow. It is always a sylvan place, far from abusive humans. The animals frolic all day, they feast on lush pastures and drink pure spring water.  They live out their lives in peace and  harmony.

After the Story is told, and the charges have been filed, and the apostates convicted or punished or warned, the lobbyists descend on state and local politicians with videos, photos, petitions, contributions and threats.  The real animal lovers and experts and farmers – the people who know the most about animals –  are ignored, they only have one role in the story: to be accused.

If you compare some of the witchhunts and Inquisitions in both modern and medieval times with the hysteria and cruelty and ruthless inquiries of the New Inquisition, the two seem almost eerily familiar. So is the Orwellian identity described by the writer George Orwell in his great novels.

The inquisitors do not ever negotiate, argue or reason. They never admit wrongdoing, they never change their methods, never consult experts or authorities. They are as wedded to dogma and obsessed with evil as any Church or cult. They exist outside the normal systems of justice, law and compromise. Any farmer or animal lover who has been targeted will testify that it is a fearful, not reasoned experience. Once targeted, there is rarely any escape or avoidance. Once accused, there can be no innocence or acquittal. If you are accused, you are guilty. If you plead innocent, you are guilty of deception, if you plead guilty you are condemned.

There are no loving or ethical human beings in the story, only a rigidly-black-and-white reality. Almost anything is acceptable in such a just cause. It is okay to kill animals in order to save them.  There is no mercy, there is no compromise. Empathy is unknown.

And this is the reason I am writing about Joshua Rockwood, why me and so many other people are determined to follow this sad story, this unneeded trauma, it should never have happened.

Joshua Rockwood is not an abuser of animals, an apostate or a heretic, and he refuses to be yet another victim in this Inquisition.

He is very much a human, and human beings are entitled to as much dignity and respect as dogs or pigs or horses. They are not, wrote Henry Beston, our brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.


I believe the case against Joshua Rockwood could be a turning point in the battle to save animals and keep their in our lives, and to treat animals and people with respect and dignity. If you are so inclined, you can support Joshua Rockwood here.



Posted in General