31 March 2016

Photographing Kelly: Thinking Today Of Women

In Support Of Women

In Support Of Women

It was Thursday night at the Foggy Notions bar and restaurant, and I always bring my camera to take a photo of Kelly Nolan, a strong and beautiful woman who looks he camera squarely in the eye and dares it to click. Kelly has never paused to fix her hair or turn to a good side, or blinked.

Of course, her smile says, this is me, this is who I am. Do it.

Taking her photo tonight, I felt a strong impulsion as we left the Bog, as it is known here. My inspirations for writing come like that. I told Maria I wanted to write about women. I admire strong women, I believe they are stronger than men I believe they are more spiritual and open. I believe they are more nurturing and empathetic.

I believe they are stronger than many men would dare admit. I seems to me it is an important time to be a woman, they are being challenged to come to terms with who they are and what they feel.

"I am no bird," wrote Charlotte Bronte, "and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will."

I trust no man who degrades women, or treats them as objects of vanity.  I respect no man who uses and exploits them, or diminishes and patronizes them. Those kinds of men are not real men, they don't know what a real man is. They are small in every way.

"Lock up  your libraries if you like," said Virginia Woolf defiantly, "but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."

I have a passion for strong women, and I know a bit of what I speak. I married one. I saw her cast aside the nets, find her independent will, unleash the freedom of her mind. I know how powerful they can be, and also how loving.

I am content with who I am, but most often men disappoint me.  I always want to be a better man than men.

I can't help thinking of what the world would be without men, how much safer and peaceful it would be. How women would see Mother Earth bleed and try to nurture her to health.  I wait for the truly strong men, the real men, to come forward and think of women in a different way. It is their time now, their moment, we men have messed it up and are tearing up our world. It is time for us to get out of the way and ask for their help.

I want to be the man Anais Nin wrote about when she wrote: "I , with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, and does not doubt my courage and my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman."

That is the man I want to be.

If I could reach out to men, if they would listen to me, if they would listen to anyone, I would tell them that I know how hard it is to be a man, even harder to be a good one. We only know what we see.

When I die, my wish is for my wife to turn to a friend and say of me: "he treated me like a woman."

I think there is no higher compliment than that.

I look at Kelly Nolan doing her work, living her good life, speaking so lovingly of her children, handling her bar and tables with such grace and warmth. Like a woman.

I hope one day every man who sees the truth and presumes to lead us will have the courage to treat women like women.

Posted in General

Community: Saving The Round House Cafe. $25,000. “The Web Of Life.”

Saving The Round House

Saving The Round House: Delaney, a high school sophomore, playing on Sunday.

The movement to save the Round House Cafe is one week old, so far, good people from everywhere have sent almost $25,000 to their gofundme  as of Thursday evening, so they can buy their building from their landlord, who has put it up for sale.  If it is sold, the cafe will have to move.

Scott and Lisa Carrino have worked all of their lives to build community, and the Round House is the heart of our community here in Cambridge, N.Y.

Scott called me this afternoon to read me this message from Deborah E.  Lyons, who donated $75 today and left this message:

"I learned about your cafe from Jon and Maria who are my FB friends. Their postings help sustain me, and your cafe helps sustain them. Isn't the web of life beautiful? Best wishes (from 2500 miles away)." Deborah.
That message had Scott in tears and I got a bit sniffly myself.
Thank you Deborah,  the web of life is beautiful. You can not know what that means to both of us, and to Maria as well. And thanks to the hundreds of people who have read this and answered the call for community.
You can read the story of the Round House Cafe on the gofundme site. It is, for me,  an important cause, part of a much larger issue, the devastating loss of community in rural cities and towns all over America. One can see the anger and hurt in the political campaign, and see it also in the outpouring of $5 and $10 donations coming to the Round House from all over America.
I'm sure there are people scratching their heads in this new fund-raising world and wondering why they should send their hard-earned money to a cafe in upstate New York.
A good and fair question. I believe there are good and powerful reasons. You have to make up your own mind, many have.
 The struggle to save the Round House is much bigger than the cafe itself, or our wonderful small town. We are making a stand for community.
To those of us who celebrate and uphold the traditions and values that influenced the shaping our country and our society, and the founding of our democracy, it is heartbreaking to witness how politicians and economists have enshrined the principle of profit. Greed is the ultimate justifier, rationalizer and explainer of the destruction of the daily lives of so many  good and trusting people.
As countless thousands of small farms and local businesses in rural America of all kinds fall under the onslaught of the new economics – corporatism, box stores, the new global economy – what is called progress and growth – the economists sit in their academic offices and the politicians in their plush capitol, telling us for years that this is all for the better, we will all eventually bask in the rain of money and prosperity.
But all around me, the lives of the people waiting for their good jobs are winding down, running out. For them, there is no relief in sight.
We forget to ask: what are people for? We know what profits are for, we know where they go. They do not come to our town, or to yours either, most likely. Is anything in America as important as profits and more profits?
We know know that for rural America, this promise of success had been one of the great lies of modern times. A lot of people are richer than ever, but you will find very of few of them in the devastated towns and communities between the coasts. They have been left behind in the new prosperity.
Here, those who fall are not statistics and data in the flood of studies and reports, they are our friends, neighbors, children of God, people whose families have worked their farms for generations,  small businesses that have served their communities for centuries, the trusting citizens of our country. This is not an abstract idea for me, I see the casualties every day, so does everyone who lives in what we used to call the country.
When the farms fail, and as communities lose their institutions and economic support, as callings become part-time jobs in fast food franchises and giant warehouses, as people fall farther and farther behind and lead lives of struggle and fear, as the children are forced to leave their families and migrate to big cities for lousy jobs working for people who care nothing for them, as all of rural America now sits condemned in the shadow of free markets and the new economy, the media report from their big-city studios that there will be some winners and some losers.
Tsk, tsk, say the politicians. Progress is never free or easy, the world is changing.
  Out the country, where America was built and conceived, they are still looking for the winners.
You cannot see these people from a lobbyist's office in Washington, or an academic's perch in New York, or a talk show panel in Washington. Nobody there seems to have noticed that they are out there.
These people have deferred for years to their leaders and assumed the experts and politicians and academics knew what they were talking about and were telling them the truth. They believed the promises made to them.  And today, everyone is stunned at their anger and disappointment. They have lost so much, in my town,  they do not mean to lose their cafe.
The Round House Cafe is our remaining place to find community, connection, good and warm food, much love and warmth.
People need those things.
For many, in my town and elsewhere, the Round House has become a symbol of the rape of community that has to stop.  We have a Subway, and if the Round House goes away, that will be our community gathering place.
Enough is enough. We have lost our hospital, many of our mills and factories, our pharmacy. We have lost enough.  The economists don't come to the farms, to the small towns. We are determined not to lose our cafe as well, the last stand against the box stores and food franchises that gobble up community and spit it out. Communities bleed.
Thanks so much for helping in this fight,  Scott and Lisa Carrino have earned almost about a third of their goal in a week. This money matters, $5 and $10 contributions are just as important as bigger ones.  People are independent here, but this small town can't do it alone.
If you can and so desire, you can help save the Round House Cafe here.
Posted in General

Firewood: Seasons Of The Farm

Seasons Of The Farm

Seasons Of The Farm

The old farmers say that every season on a farm leads to another season. Actually, I say that, the old farmers don't. I love the patterns and rhythms of the farm. We start preparing for winter here the minute Spring arrives. Ed Watkins (right) and Chris are beginning to cut and load firewood into our woodshed behind the house.

We went through six cords of firewood this winter, our February heating oil bill was $75. But in fairness, this was mostly due to the warm and unusual winter. Our two wood stoves were one of the best investments we have ever made.

Up here, firewood ranges from $170 a cord to $250, depending on when you buy it and who from.

I enjoy it when Ed and Chris come by, they are hard workers and honest and genuinely nice. They care about people. Ed ribs me because whenever there's a decision to be made about wood or any kind of construction, I go running for Maria. She makes the decisions.

He calls her the "old lady." He always asks where the "old lady" is, he always remarks on how nice she is. "Is she from down South?," he sometimes asks me, "cause she's awfully nice." He said some people get ticked off he  refers to women as "the old lady," but he is country, through and through, and I do not mind at all.

I've started calling her the "old lady," and she just laughs. I told Ed I couldn't repeat what she calls me. So we already have a cord of wood in the barn, more coming throughout the summer. I trust Ed and I like  him and Chris, his brother is just as nice as he is. I asked him how he drives to New Hampshire where we are going Monday for a day.

"I've been with the old lady," he says, "Jon, get yourself one of those little machines you can type into." I showed him my Iphone. "There you go," he said. We'll start order first cut hay in a month or so. By August, we are ready for winter.

Posted in General

The Rights Of Animals: Hearing The Farmer’s Cry

The Farmer's Cry

The Farmer's Cry

It was a sad day for animals when a new social movement coalesced around the idea that animals were the moral equivalent of people and must be given the rights of people.

Not only is this cruelly misguided and not remotely plausible, it has deprived animals of the chance for their true needs,  rights and welfare, to be defined and protected by their guardians, on whom they are so dependent – people. If they are the same as us, then we have no obligation to understand them or save them, they will somehow take care of themselves. All we need to do is rescue them from us.

We are so disconnected from animals, from our food, from the natural world that most people no longer have even a remote clue about what helping animals means and how it can really be done. Farmers do, they live closer to nature and to food and to animals than any of us, but the wise men and women who govern our society decided long ago that they are no longer important or relevant to the global economy, and can safely be ignored and roll away, like Tumbleweeds in the great plains.

Ed Gulley is a dairy farmer, a self-described dinosaur, a fiercely individual and honest man who, along with his wife Carol,  started an instantly popular blog called the Bejosh Farm Journal. Gulley, a life-long farmer, and an artist and sculptor, wanted to give the farm a voice again and let people know what the lives of the farm and the farmer and the real animals in the real world are like.

There is no human being I know who grants animals more rights than Ed Gulley does, the screaming anti-carriage protesters in New York are not to have saved one single animals with their millions of dollars and campaign of hatred and lies. Ed Gulley had a crippled chicken born nine years ago, and he built a special pen and roost for her to keep her separate and safe from the other animals. She lives there to this day.

Any one of us who lives on a farm with animals know the truth about animals has been lost, a message powerfully reinforced by the angry and profoundly ignorant movement to drive the carriage horses from New York City and put the in peril in order to "save" them from the awful cruelty of working with people in cities.

We cannot possible help or save the remaining animals in our battered world if we know nothing about them. And the people who know something about them have no say in their future or welfare, they do not have lobbyists and legislators in their pocket.

The animal rights movement is long on money and ideology and short on knowledge and understanding of animals. The same, sadly, is true of the many good and naive people who give them money.

The animals are left in an awful place, their only true advocates and the people who give them work and food and safety, people like the farmers or the ones in the carriage trade. And they are targets, bit red bulls eye's planted on their bags, they are too busy struggling to defend themselves from increasingly ludicrous accusations and to survive to raise their voices and be heard. In our world, your voices have to be loud and ugly and expensive to be heard.

Farmers and carriage drivers have no time, they are busy working.

Any farmer or anyone else who lives on a farm or writes about animals know that the lives of animals have been so emotionalized and exploited and distorted that few people understand their real needs and natures. If you write about a calf, you will immediately  be inundated by messages wondering – often quite angrily – if the calf will be separated from its mother. Animals are not our partners, they are perpetual victims, their natural lives no longer acceptable.

If you post a photo of a horse with its head down( a sign of relaxation), you will be flooded with messages demanding to know why the animal is sad.

Increasingly, animals are seen through the narrow prism of abuse, cruelty and neglect. If you believe an animal is the moral equivalent of a human being, you will expect the animal to be treated just like a human being, or a human child. We are literally sucking the souls and lives out of them so that we might feel better about our selves as human beings in a disconnected world.

This idea of animal rights is driving animals out of the world. Because that seems to be the only real idea of the animal rights movement: to take them away, where they will vanish from our everyday lives. The Ed Gulley's of the world are the solution, not the problem. They love animals, keep them among us, give them care and purpose, and feed us.

The idea that animals are due the same rights as people is a standard that cannot be met, and should not be met.  Animals have lost their true and natural place in the world, they are adrift. We are loving them to extinction.

This idea is what leads to people choosing to kill the carriage horses rather than leave them in their good and save lives. This idea threatens the farm and livelihood of  people like Joshua Rockwood, persecuted by secret informers because his water tanks froze in -27 temperatures and one of his 200 pigs might have gotten frostbite on the tip of an ear. You ought to see the faces of farmers when they hear that story.

I think often about the Asian elephants in the circuses, animal lovers have fought for years to ban them from the circuses that have entertained countless people for centuries, but seem not to care at all what will become of them now. People who really love animals know what will happen to them now. They have not been saved.

Ed Gulley is a busy man, he has made time to speak out.

A couple of weeks ago, a male calf was born, his name was Peeps, Ed had to reach into the mother's uterus and tie a rope to Peep's hind quarters and pull him out, the mother was struggling. He posted a video and of course, all of the questions were about whether he would be getting back to his mother.

Ed is not a politician, he stands in his truth. No, he wrote back, the young calf will either be going off to breed or going off to slaughter. This is where food comes, this is how farmers pay their bills, this is how fresh and natural milk is truly made.

"Most urban shoppers would tell you that food is produced on farms," writes poet, author and environmentalist Wendell Berry. "But most of them do not know what farms, or what kinds of farms, or where are the farms, or what knowledge or skills are involved in farming. They apparently have little doubt that farms will continue to produce. For them, then, food is pretty much an abstract idea – something they do not know or imagine – until it appears on the grocery shelf or on the table."

Americans love to eat, but they have lost touch with the reality of farms and of animals. Most of us used to live in farms, we knew work was not cruel for working horses. But now 90 per cent of us live in crowded urban areas, we never see farms, farmers or farm animals, we no longer know much of anything about them, other than they are to be seen as piteous and dependent creatures, in constant need of rescue.

But we do assume that when we go to the market or buy milk, there will be lots of food for us to buy that is healthy and, compared to the rest of the world, cheap.

We love to rescue animals they feel are being abused, or not being treated as people.  But we don't care about farmers, we are forgetting what people are for. If you live on a farm, you know the truth. Animals are not like people. Sheep and horses and cows give birth, and look for their babies when they are gone, and in a day or two are grazing contentedly in the barn or the pasture. It is just not the same.

Yesterday Ed wrote a piece on his blog in the voice of Peeps, his new calf. Peeps explains, directly and honestly, just what the two paths ahead of are. If you care about animals, you ought to know the truth. I recommend Ed and Carol's blog, it is the voice of real farmers and also the voice of real animals in the real world. If you like to eat, you ought to read it.

Posted in General

God To Abram: “Go To Your Self. Fulfill Yourself.”

"Fulfill Yourself"

"Fulfill Yourself"

Sometimes I take a photograph that is larger than itself. I am not a great photographer, I don't have the best equipment, I do not often grasp the technical nature of it, but some photos reveal more than I saw, and in this photo, I was touch by it's iconic nature, it captured for me the feel of the farm, the great and open character of my wife, walking among the sheep,closing her eyes to the wind, the hay blowing behind her in the wind.

I came into the house and started at the photo for awhile, moved by it and I picked up my book on the Kabbalah, the mysterious writings of long hidden  unknown Jewish mystics in medieval times. I love the Kabbalah, it is the first Jewish texts I have ever read that did not make me angry or disturbed. The Old Testament is an angry book. The Kabbalah is a beautiful and affirming series of writings.

The Kabbalah is about love and exploration, creativity and fulfillment. It respects women and cares about Mother Earth. When I opened it, as I often do for inspiration in the morning, I came to a passage called "Go To Your Self." I was astonished that the book opened to this, it could well have been a caption for this photograph. I often think these texts were written by women, souls are always referred to in the feminine gender.

"God sad to Abram: Go forth. Go to your self, know your  self, fulfill your will." In the Kabbalah, God and his angels do not threaten people with death and disaster if they disobey him, he urges his people to follow their creative spark and do what they love.

"This verse," writes the unknown author, "is addressed to every person. Search and discover the root of your soul, so that you can fulfill it and restore it to its source, its essence. The more you fulfill yourself, the closer you approach your authentic self."

This is our idea, the central idea that connects my heart and soul to Maria. We search every day  to discover the roots of our souls, so that we can fulfill them and restore them to their source, damaged by life and unknowing and oblivious people. The more we fulfill ourselves, the closer we get to our authentic selves. That is why we are here on this farm, that is what our life is about.

And I wish the same for every person reading this. Fulfill yourself.

When I saw the photo, I knew it was about something larger. I am not a deeply religious person – I don't think of myself that way – but there is meaning in my opening a book and finding this passage just as I wondered what the photograph I took really meant. Now I know. That is a photograph of fulfillment. It's as if God were talking to Maria, and she heard his command.

She has gone to herself, is knowing her self, fulfilling herself. That is what we are about.

Posted in General