11 April 2016

Fate And The Hamburger Wars: I Get A WIn

Fate And The Hamburger Wars: I Get A Win

Fate And The Hamburger Wars: I Get A Win

The training of a dog is always mysterious, it often turns out differently that I expect. Over the last two weeks, I thought Fate had completely outsmarted me. She took hamburger meat, crackers and bread off of the counter, almost at will. She was quiet and dexterous and clever.

But it turns out I did better than I thought, I might even have won this contest. Fate won't go near the counters now, not even to sniff crumbs up off of the floor. She hated the noise of the mouse-trap snapping while I tried to set it up. If something is left on the counter, she looks up at it and backs up, nearly out of the kitchen.

I've done a half-dozen tests this week, and all kinds of tempting food has been left on the counter. She wants no part of it. Over time, we'll see how lasting this is, but I think I have broken the automatic habit of counter surfing. Dogs are very noise sensitive – we forget that sometimes – and just seeing and hearing the traps seems to have been enough to discourage here.

This afternoon, there was an empty chocolate candy wrapper left on a table in the dining room and she pulled it off (there was nothing in it) and pulled the paper into some pieces. I think Fate will always be what I call a canine "opportunist." Given a clear shot, she will take it from time to time. She is curious and daring.

But I think she won't be pulling food off of the counter anytime soon. Without knowing it, I might have won.

Posted in General

Good Camera Fund News: Monochrome Conversion! $3,000, Not $15,000

Monochrome Conversion

Monochrome Conversion

A new plan for a digital black-and-white camera.

As many of you know, I was thinking about launching a gofundme project for a new Leica Monochrome M camera, the best digital black and white camera on the market, it would cost in entirety, $15,000. The price made me uneasy, that is just a lot of money, and I was having trouble pulling the trigger, so I have been exploring possible alternatives for several days, from used cameras to some kind of conversion.

There is a new idea, and a much cheaper one.

I am seeking $3,000 or a Canon XNite 7D, a Microchrome digital camera built for black and white photography, a camera I did not know existed until today. I appreciate the many offers of support, contributions can be made via my Post Office Box (P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816)  or via Paypal, Friends And Family, [email protected]

I was touched by the many messages of support I got, there were also a number of critical responses as well. Crowdsourcing is still new and unpopular with some people. Sometimes, there is the sense that people as rich and comfortable as me – heh-heh- should not be asking for outside help. After all, wrote one man, we went to Cape Cod a couple of years ago.

The readers of my  books and my blog know me well enough to decide if they wish to contribute, or if they don't. That, as my friend Ed Gulley said, is the end of it.

My photography is my art, it is shared and free to anyone who wishes to use it. I am comfortable asking for help in moving to the next level and exploring black and white photography as well as digital color. I was looking all week for an alternative to the Leica, I kept choking on the price tag. I was stuck.

But the blog is my mother, it provides. Here's what happened:

Yesterday I got a message from Susan, a long-time blog reader steering me to a column about Monochrome technology, it led me to explore two new possibilities – buying a new Monochrome Canon or paying for a Monochrome Conversation,  the re-building of one of my two existing Canon cameras by a highly-regarded tech firm in New Jersey called maxmax.

This firm said it could replace the sensor in my Canon 5D and convert the camera to black-and-white monochrome, they call this "visible light" monochrome, it cost $2,500, and while talking to their staff, I explored a new Canon Monochrome  on sale at maxmax for between $2,500 and $3,000. I looked through the portfolios for the black and white photographs this camera has taken and I was impressed, I was  happy with the enhanced detail, shade and quality.

A new camera at roughly the same price makes sense, it will last longer, come with a guarantee and require less maintenance.

This camera will help me do what I am trying to do, but what the digital SLR's were not built to do. And I will continue taking color photographs – the farm and landscapes, the animals, the farm. I wouldn't wish to cast my life her only in black and wite.

I can't say these new cameras were quite as good as the Leica is supposed to be, but they are very good and I would be fortunate to have one. I want to grow as an artist, I want to move forward with my photography.

These photographs would, as always,be shared with the readers of my blog. I give the photographs away for free, I have given away more than 50,000 photographs so far, which makes me comfortable seeking help in their purchase. They were worth a lot of money.

So after talking with some other photographers and doing some online research,  I've decided to buy the Canon XNite 7D which is built for black and white photography only.  I can use the Canon lenses I already have, but would need new batteries, chargers, cases, etc. The single Leica lens alone cost more than this camera. So I will not be using the camera Henri Cartier-Bresson used, I will be using mine. That sounds right.

And if I get a new one, I could keep the 5 D as a spare, both of my Canons have been used so heavily in all kinds of weather and been dropped so often that they need some repair. I will pay for those myself. I think it's a good plan, but I can't do it by myself.

So I'm going to go for this and ask your help, I'm going to skip the gofundme – which takes seven percent of the donations – and instead open a Camera Fund through my Post Office Box in Cambridge, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. People who are so inclined can send checks there in any amount. You can also send money  via Paypal to "Friends And Family," all you have to do is type in my e-mail, [email protected] and the amount you are choosing to send.

All you will get is my photographs every day, to use in any way you wish. I hope that is worth something to you, it means a lot to me. I will not watermark my photos or charge for their use. They are free to anyone who wants them.

You can leave a message for me on Paypal if you wish, mentioning the camera.

The Leica was a sweet dream, I didn't realize this other option – quite good enough for me – was a possibility.  I think a Leica is not in the cards for me in this lifetime. Perhaps the next. I am grateful to Susan.

I don't want anyone to feel pressured into contributing if they are not able or willing.My good life will go on either way, and lots of you have experienced financial challenge, as I have.

This is not a crisis or a drama, it is a way of supporting an artist in the new world in the new way artists are supported. The camera my readers bought for me so that I could work on my Talking To Animals book was invaluable, the book will be published next Spring, the photographs will appear online. Crowdsourcing is a way scores of artists are doing their work in an era when many of the traditional sources of funding – in my case, royalties and advances – have dried up.

So I'll go ahead and accept contributions to the Post Office Box,I will contribute as much of my own money as I can. This feels right to me, and much more manageable.Thanks for your encouragement and support, whether you choose to contribute or not.  We are a community. Contributions can do to the Camera Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or Paypal, "Friends And Family" to [email protected]

Posted in General

Morning Light

Morning Light

Morning Light

In the morning, I get up early to try and catch the sunrise – photographer's light – and one of the first things the sun hits in the morning is the silo of the farm down the road, and then races across the highway to touch the trees there. This silo tells me what the day will be like, where the light is, brings me the first color and light of the day.

Posted in General

Confessions Of An Older Lover

Confessions Of An Old Lover

Confessions Of An Old Lover

I am 17 years older than Maria, I am not old but certainly closer to the end than the beginning. Thomas Merton says at this age, we are beginning to be old. I am healthy and happy and ridiculously active, but I know where I am.

One way or the other, Maria and I  do not have as much time together as either of us would have wished, or that couples who are roughly the same age can expect to have – even if that is not, as we know, always the way it works out. Life always has its own plans.

I joke sometimes with Maria that I have a have a lifetime of wisdom and experience beyond her young years, and it is a joke, but also, in a way, not a joke. Seventeen years are a long time, and I was a reporter for a good long time, and  like a lot of police officers, I've seen more of the world than I sometimes cared to see, and got out of it before my soul hardened too much,  and got too comfortable with what I was seeing.

Still,  I often have to fend off cynicism, even despair. Hope lies in faith, not always experience.

Given the chance, people are good, I think. But good or bad, life can be hard and unpredictable.

I am an ex -racetrack gambler, I often play the odds, and the odds are that I will leave before Maria does. I see it all the time.

When we first got together, I was worried that people would think I was her father – she is very youthful, there is a vibrance about her that makes her both beautiful and young.

People don't ever think we are anything but lovers, and I asked a friend why. She said it is because we are always touching and looking at one another in the way that lovers do, not the way that fathers and daughters do. People can see that, she said. It must be true.

The older man/younger woman is sometimes a cliche in our world, not always a pleasant one. But I know you can not listen to other people when you make the big choices in your life. This was a good one, for both of us. But in our daily lives, we are hard pressed to even remember how old I am.

I suppose my first shock was sexual. I had not had love in my life for some time, I found that my  body had changed. I couldn't do all of the things I once did, but a therapist explained to me that this often made men better lovers, they had to  be more creative, patient and sensitive. I was pleased to take up this challenge, it is very important to both of us.

Neither of us will ever have a loveless relationship again, no matter how long I live or what shape I am in. It is better to be alone that without love, and I have been alone.

I am here to reject the awful stereotype of aging that the media and the popular culture puts on us older lovers. We love to have sex, and more than anyone, we need to have sex. It means we are very much alive. Love is the ultimate connection, the spiritual tryst, the joining of the soul.

I suppose the big difference is perspective. Maria is 52 years old but there is a big difference between 52 and 68. We each grew up seeing different things, values, watching different TV shows, different politics, seeing different movies, listening to different music, reading different books. We had to get to know each other, it would be easy to be disconnected. We are not.

The thing about aging is that is a continuing process, every day takes things away and brings new things. There are many things I cannot do now that I could do a few years ago. And many things I could not do that I can do now. That process will continue and I have no idea how quickly it will proceed or how it will affect Maria and our lives together.

Older men feel acutely responsible for their lovers, perhaps because they know they might not be around forever.  The young are blessed with obliviousness, it gives them the strength and courage to take chances. The older lovers have seen too much, perhaps, we move more slowly.

Maria and I both took the risk of creatives lives, we do not have the security or savings we are told we are supposed to have. That was our choice, and we do not regret it, not for a second.

I have worked hard to let go of this idea of being  responsible for Maria. It is both patronizing and sexist, a throwback to another world. This was one of the diseases of my generation of men. It is not a good weight for us to carry on our backs. We are responsible for ourselves.

Maria can take care of herself, wants to take care of herself, she does now, and will probably have to in the future. In the world of writers, I will not be able to leave her a ton of money, the million dollars we are supposed to have when we get old. I have to let go of the idea that I have to take care of her and her future. That is hard, but I am doing it. She will figure it out. She is charismatic, smart and gifted. She has all of the tools, she is better prepared than I ever was.

I think older men love more maturely and wisely sometimes. I think a lot of the bad genes die off as we get older, the testosterone fades away. I see the world with more patience and humor, and much more sensitivity. And so much less anger. A marriage often fills up with little irritations and annoyances, they can add up. We do not acquire them. I don't care if there is fog on the sink, she does not care that I am chaos machine, I can clutter up any space anywhere in the world in seconds. We accept one another as we are. We celebrate each other, we know what is important, and what is not.

When you get so much closer to the end than the beginning, you have seen things and learned things about life. You just see the world in a unique way, the other older lovers I know understand this intuitively, we often hug one another, something most men don't do.

If you apply the lessons, life gets better. I finally know a thing or two. That helps in relationships. I have made so many mistakes, I know what not to do as much as I know what I ought to do. I know when to laugh and when to shut up and take a walk. I know to remember the little things and to make sure she knows every day how much I love her and how much she means to me.

I want a kiss every time one of us leaves the house for any reason, or go upstairs. When we have to, we talk about my age and how we will deal with my getting older. I see, she said this morning, that there will one day be things you just can't do. It is sad to hear that, but also a relief. Love is truth in its own way.

Somehow, I have learned what is important. Younger people often do not know what might be important one day, why should they, and how could they?

I see time differently than I used to, and sometimes, differently than Maria does. I want to make her happy every day in every way that i can, I want to cherish the time we do have and do what I can do, every day.

There is an urgency to that I never  had before, and that men rarely seem to have. Sometimes, in the night, the enormity of aging envelops me like a shroud, and I am frightened. I hold Maria close to me and feel her heart beating next to mine. She is younger, she stays asleep. I am older, I stay awake.

In a sense, my open heart surgery was a wake-up call for both of us, a preview of down the road. Maria had to take care of me for a while, I couldn't drive or lift anything or even dress myself for a bit. I had bottles of pills lined up like figurines on a mantle. She had to help me go to the bathroom, something that nearly killed me, but did not bother her. I was a vet tech once, she told me, I don't care.

I remember the first time we made love after the surgery, I wanted to dance around the room. Yes!

I saw that she would take care of me, and wanted to very much. She did not resent me for it, or love me any less. I hate the idea of her having to take care of me, but she does not hate it. I trust that, we will each do for one another whatever it is life calls upon us to do, that is the contract of love, not obligation. We will love to the very end, whatever the end is.

We have a good friend whose husband had a sudden and debilitating stroke, and just like that, their lives and love changed and they moved to the other side of the shadows. They are working their way back, and doing well, but it is also a reminder of the way life works.

We are walking on air, we control nothing,  especially us older lovers who happen to be men. We are living on borrowed time. Some of us remember what it was like to live without love, we will never take it for granted.

So time matters, I am determined to use it well, to tell my love every day that I love her, to make love to her as often as I can, and as lovingly as I can. To think of the big and small ways to make her happy and support her life. More than anything, I want her to be fulfilled. I want her to look back on her life with me and say with an open heart that I supported her in every way one person can support another. I want to be her cheerleader and great friend, the one she can always trust and count on, the one who always makes her feel better about herself and not worse.

It helps to be proud of her. And I am.

That is my standard, that is the creed of the older lover. We older lovers are done with wasting time, needless quarrels, angry posturing, throwing away opportunities, closing up, and taking life for granted. I will not be a fussy, grumpy and irritable old men, that may take some work, but I will do it.

As I get older, I know that I will diminish. Everyone does. Many of the things I do now will be difficult. I have to pay more attention to the cold, to the heat, to weather, to ticks, to medications and their side-effects, to the steepness of hills, to the shoes I wear, to driving at night, to carrying bird seed from the hardware store to the car, too good orthopedic shoes,  to the rest I need. I am not there yet but I am edging closer.

My gut and my doctors tell me I have a good long time to live my life if I take care of myself, and I am doing that. Love, my doctor told me, is the best medicine on the earth. I take this medication daily, it is free and no  insurance company can refuse me or make me pay more when my time comes in the donut hole, no government bureaucrat can manage my care.

So I am proud to be an older lover, and I want to take a moment to speak on our behalf. Life is always a series of trade-offs, the older lover knows this as well as anyone. We are wise and mature, like old and beautiful trees in the forest. We know what it important and what is not. We cherish time, and understand its great gifts and awful limitations.

Do not pity or patronize us, we know what is important in life. Love is the point, and we can love as well as any lover on the earth, maybe better.

Posted in General

New Home For the Bejosh Farm Journal

New Home For The Gulley Blog

New Home For The Gulley Blog

I'm happy report there is a new online address for the Bejosh Farm Journal, the wonderful new blog from Ed and Carol Gulley at Bejosh Farm. They have moved their blog to WordPress to make it easier to find it online and also to post comments. Ed and Carol are seeking a dialogue about their lives as small farmers and also their remarkable lives together. You can find the new blog here, the new URL is the bejoshfarmjournal.wordpress.com.

Their blog offers are rare and uplifting and honest account of the real life of a real farmer, you can learn how cows actually live, how milk prices are manipulated, how two honest and hard working people have put a beautiful life together caring for their family their animals, their grand-children, the land. Carol and Ed have become treasured friends of me and Maria. Ed is also a folk artist, he makes original and eclectic sculptures out of farm implements, discarded bricks and old tractor parts.

The Gulleys are natural writers, they both have distinct voices, strong opinions, a live filled with the daily dramas of many animals. Here, you can learn more about the real lives of real animals.

They are also putting up regular videos that will take you deeply inside the life of the farm. We are proud to know them and support their work. They are the real deal.

The blog is already a hit, now it will be even easier to find and comment on. Thanks to Deb Foster for making this happen.

Posted in General