16 February 2017

Left Behind: How I’m Doing


Tonight I had dinner with my friend Scott Carrino at a restaurant in Bennington. Scott has been one of my closest friends for several years now, but this was the first time the two of us had ever had dinner together. It was a special time, we had two  hours to talk and listen to one another, to share our lives and fears. The whole time I kept thinking, this is what women do, this is rarely what men do.

I enjoyed it, and I think Scott did too.

The one- on- one conversation was very different than a foursome would have been, it was much easier to focus on one another, to talk freely. How strange that we are so rarely alone together. Men often put everything else above friendship, their loss.

Scott's wife Lisa was busy, and Maria was in India. In a way, I suppose this is the only reason Scott and I were alone together, and as anyone with a friend knows, friendship comes out of time alone with people, when you make those connections and  have the chance to talk honestly and openly. It is rare for men to find the time to talk to one another alone.

I notice that while Maria is away, women shy away from being with me or inviting me out if Maria isn't there.  It isn't personal, not something that is conscious, I have learned that women are always more comfortable when other women are around. And I do make some people uncomfortable, I have always known that.

Several women friends have mentioned that I ought to be alone with their husbands if we have dinner "I'll leave you two alone" they say, but they seem reluctant to come if Maria isn't there. Women are not always comfortable with men, especially if there are not women around.

Some people take pity on me because Maria is away and assume, that I am either lonely or unable to cook. People in town look at me with some concern, as if they assume I am withering away. They usually see me and Maria together. "Have you two ever been apart?," they ask. Well, yes we are – all day most days – but not so long and no so far away.

They don't quite accept the idea that Maria never shops and rarely cooks. I have good stuff to eat, and lots to do here. I cannot believe  how quickly the day zips past.

My daughter Emma sends me photos of Robin, and that always makes me smile.

I am happy to go out to dinner with friends, but the truth is, I am not hungry or in need or lonely. It might be fun for them to be with us when Maria is back, they all want to hear about her trip.

This is evolving differently than I imagined.

I thought Maria and I would be unable to talk much on her trip, but we always seem to find a way to communicate – e-mails, face time audio, cell phones.

Technology has changed travel, I don't speak to Maria often, but I have a sense of where she is and what she is doing.

My plans for a creative followship have been disrupted by heavy snow and serious computer troubles. Maybe the dramas are over. Life is like this, it decides for itself each day what it will bring, and the wise people just go along rather than rant and complain.

I haven't had a day yet to focus on my book, and I'll know in the morning if my computer is coming back or when. It does seem to have stopped snowing for awhile, I am sick and tired of shoveling.  I'm writing this on Maria's old laptop, once mine.

How am I doing? I'm doing well, despite the bumps. I miss Maria all the time, but in a low-yield kind of way, it  just feels like something is missing. And something is.

I often turn to talk to her or show her something or tell her something but she isn't there, and she does the same with me. At night, and in the morning, we talk about our days, our fears, our challenges. She is always rooting for me.

I miss her presence out in the pasture, with the animals, and they are always looking for her.  She is a radiant presence at the f arm, it seems darker.

The animals like me fine, and I love them, but I don't speak to them in as personal a way as she does, it is different with me, perhaps because I am a man. I still can't tell all the sheep's names, one from the other.

I am learning that our connection, mine and Maria's, is not really bounded by geography after all. I feel quite close to her, as if she is right by my side. She is thinking of me, I think, and I am thinking of her. But we are also doing our work, telling our stories, taking videos and photographs and writing about what we see and feel.

Maria and I are always looking out for one another, always trying to support each other. Of course, I miss that, even thought it is still there.

And I miss her body in bed, we sleep like two octopuses wrapped around one another.  I can never quite believe my good fortune. Fate is curling up next to me, but it isn't quite the same.

At night, I am doing the chores of two people – dishes, laundry, wood stoves, animals, dogs and cats. I try to read and often blog, and because I am busy all day, I am sleeping easily and deeply, a rare thing for me.

My heart and my angina have not acted up much, despite all the shoveling. Cassandra Conety is a wonderful presence, I get it now. I get up early to work (when I have a computer) and Cassandra sweeps in quietly, mucks out the barn, brings hay to the animals, checks on the chickens, runs the dogs a bit.

I need to take advantage of this while it is here, but life, of course, has its own plans for me.

I am fresh and ready when I get to work. And I am mesmerized by the wonderful writing and blogging Maria is doing from Kolkata, the trip is a triumph for her, and I am very happy for her.  Maybe my computer is telling me to be quiet for a day or so.

So time for bed soon, I am grateful for the quiet and the solitude, I am getting to know me a little better.

I will think of my computer tonight, and  hope it is well and wants to come home to me.

I have to let the dogs out, check on the wood stoves, turn the heat on in the upstairs bedroom, wash the dishes, let Minnie in the basement, read Maria's blog posts, put some laundry in, turn the dampers down, set the thermostat on 50, take some pills.

Life is good. I am doing very well.

Posted in General

The Spiritual Life Looms: Descending Into Computer Hell

Lulu's Acceptance

There is some suggestion that someone sent  some fiery little e-bomb into my computer, perhaps the Russians are annoyed with me. Yesterday my computer crashed and after seven hours or so on the phone with Apple tech support (it was getting surreal, they were going deeper and deeper into my computer with more and more chaos) I bailed out and took my computer to a friendly place nearby.

The computer, which is almost new, kept freezing and crashing and finally flamed out completely.

I think it had a nervous breakdown from all of my gassing on.

I did back up the computer just yesterday, blessedly but the techs did something called partitioning to my hard drive and it is partitioned nearly into oblivion. I love Apple, but sometimes they try a little too hard.

So everything is an opportunity, and everything happens for a reason. I will not whine or complain or speak poorly of my life, which is quite fine. I will have some time to work on my spiritual life today, walk with the dogs, meditate, read. All my photos are unavailable to me, hopefully only briefly (they were stored in an external drive, but that seems to be in trouble also), but here, on Maria's old laptop, which I am using to post this message, was a photo of Lulu I took earlier this week. Don't know how that happened.

I hope to be back fully online tomorrow, or maybe will be trying to get a new computer going. You haven't heard the last of me, but in the meantime, you cannot do better than follow Maria's wonderful words and images coming from Kolkata, better than anything I could write or post. We always did work as a team, even 8,000 miles apart. More later tonight.

It is unnerving but healthy when life is upended. My whole creative life is in that machine, including the first five chapters of my new book, and my creative idyll is not off to the greatest start. When it comes, I will appreciate it all the more, but for today, I might try and plow through the snow to get to my meditation bench. Might be a good place to go if I can get there.

Thanks for your loyalty and your patience. It is always healthy to get off of these devices for a bit.




Posted in General

A Street In Kolkata. How Spoiled We Are

How Spoiled We Are: Photo by Maria Wulf

India is many things, not one thing. It is a land of great wealth and beauty, of extraordinary poverty and suffering. It is a rich feast of images and colors. Visual artists often make great photographers, and Maria is becoming a wonderful photographer, this is a great photo, and it makes me want to go to Kolkata if she goes again, with my camera.

It is simple to stereotype a place, and I don't wish to suggest that this is the whole story of India, a deep and very diverse world I am told But it is an image that sears, people cleaning and living and sitting by a running sewer.

I talked with a good friend, a social activist last night, her name is Eve Marko, and she is widely traveled and has been to India. She said that whenever she returns to America, she thinks about how unaware most of us are of how fortunate we are to have electricity when we want it, heat and clean water, not to mention shelter and gasoline and plenty of food.

I believe this is true, when I look at the political news, I am struck by how angry, whiny and self-absorbed we are in danger of becoming as a people, so many of us seem only to care about money and ambition and false notions of security. There is no spiritual dimension to our national political life beyond jobs and business and profits and loss, no national aspiration other than a "booming" economy, which means a booming economy for very few of us..

It sometimes seems that every other value is subordinate to that. When I speak with the refugees or hear about them, I hear of their shock and bewilderment when they go to a Wal-Mart or American mall and see this staggering wealth of things to buy, a hundred different kinds of cosmetics, food and produce stretching to the horizon. The refugees simply cannot believe how much we have.

We take our lives for granted here, and a photograph like this reminds me to not be selfish and narcissistic. In a country of such enormous wealth, it just stuns me that so many people want to slam the doors in the face of such neediness, when we have so much to spare. There are many people in India and elsewhere who would be happy to live off of our waste.

I believe the true soul of our nation is generosity and selflessness, that is what we aspire to, even if we can't always make it. If we lost that, we lose who we are, and the world loses who we are. That would be a tragedy on so many counts.

(Speaking of which, you can help newly arriving refugees by going here, to a gift page established by the U.S. Committee On Refugees and Immigration.) And easy and inexpensive way to help and feel good and do good.)

Posted in General

Maria’s Triumph, A Coming Of Age. My Wife Is Amazing.

Maria's Triumph: Photo By Dahn Gandell

I doubt if Maria can see it from her end of things, she is deeply absorbed in the rich feast that is India, but from this end of things, it is clear. The trip, just two days in, is already a triumph of voice and perspective for her, she has already, and in the midst of exhaustion and so much to take in, found her voice there and in so many ways – photographs, videos, words and emotions.

Her writing sparkles with feeling and detail, she is a writer now, as well as an artist. And her visual skills infuse her videos and pictures.

India calls out her great heart as well.

In the above photo, Maria is teaching some of the victims of sex trafficking how to make tote bags to sell that are, in her style, spontaneous and free-form. This was a revelation to some of the girls, as they have been following forms and patterns. They loved drawing freely, and this, of course, is pure Maria.

I can see from a distance on this trip things that are so familiar to me, her radiance, generosity and visceral creativity.

Art and love are an integral part of her being, India calls them up. These gifts are so natural to her,  they are simply who she is. India is the perfect vehicle for her gifts. It is a feast of good and bad, happy and sad, love and cruelty, prosperity and poverty. Also a tapestry of color and life, I am so happy she got to go on this trip and am overwhelmed by the richness of her voice and feeling.

You can follow her trip here.

Next time, I think there will be a next time,  I'm willing to go if I am invited. Maria wants me to come. I had a dream  last night of bringing my camera to Kolkata. I wondered if I would be able to handle it there, my heart and all. But I know I can. I'll just make sure not to leave in a howling blizzard.

I've always loved Maria, from the first time I saw her, trying to keep her dog Frieda from eating me. From here to there, wow. And now I admire her  greatly as well as love her.

As Dahn texted me from India, "you know this but I'll re-iterate. Your wife is amazing." Yes, she is.

Posted in General