3 March 2017

Returning To Life: The Call To Good. It’s Time.

The Call To Good

Maria's  trip to India was both wonderful and disruptive, it took both of us all week to begin to get back to a normal schedule. We are returning to life. Today was the first day that Maria was back in her studio, she had lunch with her friends, she looks and seemed normal. She didn't crash until the late afternoon.

I think she is herself again, and she is talking about her work, I am getting finally back to my book. I went to the Mansion today, and Connie cautioned me to make Maria rest. Tell her I said so if she fights you, she said. Good luck, Connie, I said. But Maria has been listening to me, she is coming out of her great fatigue and emotional exhaustion. She did rest, and tomorrow we will begin venturing out.

It's also time for me to re-focus on my life. I am getting my head back into my book – naive to think I could do that while the trip to India was underway. What's in my head is answering the call to good. I do not, will not, expend my energy arguing about politics, I do not need people to agree with me, I am not seeking the approval of others.

Nancy messaged me on Facebook in a polite but huffy message requesting that I remove her from my blog mailing list because she loved reading about farm animals and rural life but I had been mentioning politics, and she was getting uncomfortable. I told her she could unsubscribe from my mailing list at any time, she didn't need any help from me and I wished her well. I have no interest in publishing a political blog, but even less in only writing about cute animals and pastoral farms.

I share my life wherever it goes, and I will not pretend the outside world does not exist. Nancy will be happy, I hope,  on many other blogs that do just that. I sincerely hope she finds what she needs to find.

For me, this coming time is not about the left or right,  or supporting one politician as opposed to another, it is about pursuing my own call to good. This is not something Nancy or anyone else needs to agree with or disagree with, it is just another chapter in my curious life and I would be lying to my readers if I did not share it, along with the colorful photos and the appealing animals. I have never misrepresented my blog or my life. It goes where I go, and that seems to have worked well. Nancy seems quite alone in her complaint.

What is my idea of good? Pursuing compassion and empathy and humanity. A government that cares about human beings and protects them and treats them with compassion.  Caring about the weary and the dispossessed.

I define that in as focused a way as I can. I will not turn over my peace of mind or hard-earned life to a political party or leader. I will not spend my time arguing my beliefs.  I will instead go out into the world and do good as I see it, and very little of that is political to me.

One effort is the Mansion, an assisted care facility I have focused on, with the remarkable support of so many people. We are reaching out to isolated people at the edge of life. We are sending them letters, messages, photos, gifts, yarn, games, cookies and flowers. We are raising $10,000 so they can buy a new van for the Mansion. We are sending them messages regularly so they understand they are loved and cared for, we are marking the holidays with them so they will not feel abandoned or alone.

When they have individual needs we can fulfill, we try to do so.

This is a long-term project for me, and I think for others. I want to stay with these people and help to brighten their lives and give them hope and joy.

It helps me to stay grounded, to do good,  it is quite selfish, it is a way for me to transcend discord and hostility and channel my own energy into a series of positive and for me, uplifting visions. Around me is an Army of Good. Everywhere I hear lament and complaint, I will not speak poorly of my life or complain about it.

I am working, where possible to support the idea of community in rural communities, whether that means supporting farmers in their many struggles or helping the Round House Cafe stay on Main Street. We have helped to raise nearly $70,000 so they can survive and help turn the tide of destruction and ruin that has engulfed so much of rural America.

Along with others, I support the struggle of farmers and animal lovers to keep their animals and property in the face of natural calamities and  a strident and often cruel movement that claims to support the rights of animals, but does not. Sometimes  this movement wantonly tramples the rights of people and treats them cruelly and without empathy or respect.

I believe this movement is driving animals away from people and placing them at risk.

We helped raised more than $70,000 so the farmer Joshua Rockwood could defend himself against demonstrably false charges of animal cruelty, keep his farm and get his horses back after they were, for all practical purposes, stolen from him.

Along with many others, I have written about and tried to support the cause of the New York Carriage Horses, who have faced harassment and unjust efforts by the government and animal rights groups to take away their freedom, property and way of life without cause. The carriage trade has beaten back two serious campaigns to ban them from New York City without cause or due process, and end their 150 year old business.

They are the safest and most regulated form of transportation in all of New York City, no New Yorker has been killed by horses in the entire history of the carriage trade, and very few horses have been injured or killed in the course of their long and glorious history there.

Doing good for me means supporting refugees and immigrants as they struggle to embrace the American Dream in the face of fear and defamation and misunderstanding. We have raised thousands of dollars for the Amazon Refugee Gift Page, a simple and inexpensive way to welcome legal and hard-working refugees to America. To me, this is an honored American value, one that is close and personal for me, and I see, for many others.

I will pursue this idea of good while continuing to write about my life, my farm, and the animals who live here. I choose not to argue, but to do good, not to divide people but to help people in need.  I will always listen to the ideas and wishes of people of conscience. I do not ask others to argue with me, or tell other people what to do or think.

I seek to use my words and photographs to do good, bounded and within reason and without judging or condemning people who have different values or who disagree with me in a civil and respectful way. People who are uncomfortable with my efforts are welcome to stay and free to leave. I will not argue my beliefs with you.

As always, I want to be open about what I am doing.

People with different values and ideas are welcome here, and this will always be a safe place for them.

As the fog and emotion of the India trip recedes, and Maria regains her energy and creativity – she is already selling  tote-bags made by young women in Kolkata – I will keep moving forward.

Maria is the Queen of Good. Those of you who wish to join me in some or all of these ventures are an Army Of Good in my mind. We have already done a lot of good, there is a lot of work to do. I'm ready for it. My blog can be a force for good, and I am so very proud of that.

I will continue to focus on and expand this idea of doing good, but I don't want to wear anyone out or lose focus. I want to be thoughtful about it. I wish I could do more, but I believe in doing good in small  ways, one step at a time.

I think good is just as infectious as argument, and much more powerful. This is my faith and my purpose, I feel awakened, hopeful, energized and relevant. Doing good feels good and thank those of you for following me in this new chapter and for joining it.

Posted in General

Pins In Red

Pins In Red

Red has his third week in a row of acupuncture treatments from Dr. Suzanne Fariello. He takes to them well, he is running well, seems peaceful and at ease. Curiously enough, I believe it helps him in his therapy work, he is focusing on people and being more intuitive than ever. Dr. Fariello believes there is a mystical part to acupuncture treatment, and I believe that is so.

The journals I've read praise acupunture for dogs, especially dogs that are getting older. I am working hard to incorporate preventative care into Red's medical treatments – massage, laser, acupuncture. A year ago, he was lame and struggling, now he is pain-free and running and working freely.

Dr. Fariello examines Red, sets some goals – muscle  relaxation, blood flow – and puts 20 pins in where she thinks they will be needed. After a few minutes, the body "releases" the pins, that is they begin to loosen and pop up and they are removed. Red is still and at ease after the pins come into his body, and usually sleeps for awhile when he gets home.

it all feeds good, I can see the benefits, they are visible.

I know it sounds strange but I believe the treatment has helped ground Red, helped him find his spiritual center. One more week of treatments to go.

Posted in General

The Mansion Van Drive. Close And Getting Closer. $7,740. $2,260 to go.

The Mansion Van Fund Drive

For the staff of the Mansion, hard working people who are paid little, Red's visits are as important as they are for the residents. In the Mansion, everyone needs a lift, needs to nurture, needs release and connection. I remember at times – today – that Red ought to spend as much time with the staff as with the residents.

I was happy to take this photograph, it captures the warmth and openness of the staff at the Mansion. Their works is intense and relentless and sometimes draining, they keep their spirits up and everyone elses.

When Red comes into the Mansion, he makes a beeline for the office and spends sometime there. He does love women.

I joke that nobody says I'm cute and ooohs and aaaaaah's at me, but then, I don't expect it. Red does, I think. He loves the Mansion staff and they love him.

The staff is all eagerly watching the gofundme drive to help the Mansion buy a van. They check the page regularly, we are all excited that we are getting closer – $2060 away – from the $10,000 needed to buy a new and specially equipped van to take the residents back and forth to and from the outside world.

The van is their lifeline to the world, to their doctors, families, to shopping, the outdoors, parks and farms. Please check out their gofundme page, not even a week old. We are close and getting closer.

Posted in General

Meeting Herman, At The Mansion. A Hard Place, A Gentle Place

Meeting Herman

Some people fight to stay out of institutions, some people fight to get into them.

Herman fought very hard to get in. He is the newest resident at the Mansion, he was in a nursing home downstate for more than five months, he had a series of falls that kept him there. He worked hard for five months to get better, so he could come to the Mansion,  a Medicaid facility for assisted care.

He told me he was "so happy" to get there, he didn't have words. Herman is a lifelong animal lover, he had cats and dogs and goats, he was very happy to see Red. When the residents can't make eye contact, it takes Red a few minutes to understand his role. He realized Herman's need and bonded to him right away.

I also bonded with Herman, he is the sweetest and most gentle man, the staff loved him instantly and urged me to go meet him on the lower level. Red and I will be seeing him regularly. I am touched by the gentle nature of so many of the residents, and the patience of the staff.

It feels very safe and very comfortable to be there.

I think life is not simple or easy for Herman anywhere, but he told me it feels like coming home for him to be there. Nursing homes are especially difficult environments, there is little in the way of normal life and activity in most of them,  some people just wither there. Bill, a Mansion resident we visited, died days after being sent back to one.

Assisted care facilities are a middle ground between normal life and the other side. They assist people who need care, they help them to live as fully as possible, they are places of life.

Sometimes, the Mansion is a hard place  by its very nature to visit, to be in, but it is never  harsh or cold place, and that means a lot in a culture that often forgets gentleness and compassion. Almost everyone I meet there is grateful to be there. You can write Herman c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

The Mansion Van Fund Drive is now at $7,740, moving steadily toward its goal of $10,000. The Mansion desperately needs a new van to bring the residents to doctors appointments and to go on field trips and shopping trips and to visit friends and family, go to funerals and weddings and plays.

The Mansion's owner has raised $10,000, he needs the other $10,000 to buy a van that is specially outfitted for the elderly and the handicapped. Your generosity is miraculous to behold. You can see the gofundme site here.

Posted in General

OK, I Met With The Russian Ambassador Last Fall. We Still Text…

We Still Text

This morning, on Sound Cloud, I disclosed that I met with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, last September. Ambassador Kislyak contacted me because he saw online that I had a dog named Red and he is an animal lover and he assumed Red came from Russia.

We did meet on the farm. We did not talk politics, or discuss Hillary Clinton's e-mails or Donald Trump. I was not a "surrogate" of any kind for any reason. Foreign ambassadors visit me often here at Bedlam Farm, my blog is read all over the world.

I am told that Steve Bannon is an avid reader of my books on dogs and rural life. He was especially fond of Orson, my border collie who bit three people.

Perhaps the Ambassador knew that.

Ambassador Kislyak and I had much in common.

He grew up with a donkey in Kiev, the Ukraine, and my grandmother grew up in Kiev.

He had a big bag of carrots with him. He fell for the donkeys big time. He was disappointed to learn Red was Irish, and that Fate was from Wales. I told him my grandmother, Minnie Cohen, was raised in Kiev, but he didn't seem to know about her and wasn't that interested. He said they often thought of emigres to the United States as traitors.

He didn't want to talk about the Ukraine. I heard him muttering something under his breath to an aide about making sure I was the right Katz. But I'm sure it wasn't a mistake.

I took him to the Round House Cafe for lunch (his bodyguards had some vegetarian chili) and I waited for him to ask me about one of the 24 books I had written. But when I mentioned them, he said he had never read one of my books and did not know I was a writer. He seemed surprised, a bit uneasy.  He thought I was an animal trainer and dog breeder. It was awkward for a moment, but we got past that.

Chewing on a blueberry scone, he asked me if I believed Russia and America could get along. Sure, I said, we're having a fine visit right now. We are all people. We all love our dogs. The visit seemed perfectly natural to me. He visited senators and surrogates, why not me on my farm? I mean, my blog has a lot of readers.

I did have this strange feeling I might not be the right Jon Katz. There is another one, I know, who lives in Washington and writes about politics there, and another who is a famous scientist. But we went ahead with our lunch anyway.

You may be wondering why I did not mention this meeting before, as I have occasionally commented on politics, and the answer is really quite simple. Ambassador Kislyak was talking to me in the context of Red and the donkeys, I wasn't even thinking about politics or the election campaign.

The ambassador fed some carrots to the donkeys, visited with Chloe, who tried to eat his jack and pick his wallet out of his pocket to chew on it, and he laughed out loud when Rosemary, one of the Romneys, chased Fate away from the hay feeder. He thought it was a riot, he laughed so hard his jowls wiggled.

From  Wales, eh?, he said. He could not get enough of Fate. I love baby animals, he said, I watch baby animal videos on You Tube all the time. You too?, I asked. So does my wife.

I did promise to be straightforward with you, as I have pledged to be open on the blog.

Ambassador Kislyak and I are still in touch, he texted me several times about a problem he was having with  his dog, an Alsatian who attacks people and rips other animals to pieces. Did I know a good breeder? I don't know any breeders to recommend, I said, that isn't my line.

It isn't his fault, the Ambassador said, the dog was almost surely abused.  He did eat a Pekingese near the French embassy, he said, he had to get out of there in a hurry. Aren't dogs just wonderful?, he said, chuckling warmly.

Ambassador Kislyak had contacted an animal psychic and communicator – he knew I had written about them once or twice – and asked her for advice. She told him the dog loved him and that he was doing the right thing. The dogs, she said,  was an old Communist re-born, come back to life to restore the glory and might of the old Soviet Union.

Think of her as a symbol, she said, and let him sleep near your bed at night. He should not ever be corrected or trained, she told him. He had suffered enough.

I liked the Ambassador, he had a good sense of humor, and he was a good listener, which surprised me.

I told him I was not a trainer, he ought to go out and pay for one and get some real help for the dog, before he bit the wrong person or ate the wrong dog, if you know what I mean. He seemed disappointed, but moved on. I don't think it was what he wished to hear.

He gave me his card and asked me to call if I ever heard anything he should know up here on the farm. I said the only thing I ever heard up here was complaints about the weather and grumping about Washington. And frankly, people didn't like Hillary Clinton all that much, there were Donald Trump signs sprouting everywhere, like dandelions.

Really, he said, his eyebrows rising almost to the top of his head. Let's have another cup of coffee. He told me Hillary Clinton had some calluses on her feet that nobody knew about, she was getting him trimmed later in the week. She got them on her Stair Master, he said, smiling.

She used to come up here all the time when she was a Senator, I said. One of the farmers here told me she didn't like cows very much. Oh?, he said, gulping down his scone. Can you speak into my tie about that? But I didn't know much more.

Really, I said, impressed. How did you know about the calluses? He just chuckled some more. The animal communicator tells me, he said, guffawing loudly,  the jowls swinging again, causing heads to turn in the Round House. You never hear real guffaws there.

It's good to be out of Washington, he said. It's a cesspool down there. I went to shake his head when he got into his limousine, but the two bodyguards blocked me. He waved from the car. "Say goodbye to the dogs," he said, and was off.

I want to say that I recuse myself from commenting in any way about the Intelligence services, Washington, Hillary Clinton's e-mails, Donald Trump's attitudes about women or any other Russian-American intrigues. I see now that I am compromised.

The ambassador said he wanted to come back up here in the Spring with his dog to see if he would like to herd sheep. Red shivered. Let's talk about it, I said, waving goodbye.

You have my e-mail address?

But he was already far down the road.


Posted in General