On Route 68, a horse and a donkey stand out in the snow and find a way to graze. They caught my eye.
Last week, I saw that Connie's big screen computer was missing from her table. She said it was no longer working, she could receive e-mail but could not play the Facebook games she loves to play at night before bedtime. I think they help her relax and sleep. Someone had taken it to a repair shop but they couldn't fix it.
I decided to give it a try to I took it to the very sharp Apple Computer people who saved my computer when it crashed two weeks ago. The owner – he is a licensed Apple repair person – took one look at it and shook his head. Save your money, he said, its eleven years old and Facebook has upgraded its graphics in that time way beyond the ability of the computer to keep up with games.
There was no way to fix it, he said, and no point. The computer was just too old, the Web had passed it by.
I brought it back to Connie and she was disappointed but accepting. I toyed briefly with the idea of trying to raise money to a computer, perhaps a used or re-fitted one with a big screen.
Connie asked me not to, she didn't wish to take any money from people for that. She was clear about it.
I agree with her.
The Mansion experience has been extraordinary and a great gift to the residents, but I see it's my job and responsibility – I am the one taking these photos and writing these words – to put some boundaries around it, there are a lot of generous people out there and their hearts have been touched by the stories of the Mansion residents and many have contacted me offering expensive gifts for the residents and other ideas for things to give them.
I have learned a lot about boundaries in recent years, and I realize that if we are to stay in this for the long haul, and truly be helpful, then there need to be boundaries. That can get unhealthy.
The most helpful things for the residents are letters and photos and cards, these tell them they are not forgotten, that they are connected to the outside world.
We are helping them with some big things – a van, for example, some art for the walls that are bare, gifts and special surprises for the holidays, letters from school children, yarn and puzzles and games. Those are all big things, most are inexpensive. In conjunction with the blog readers, we are zeroing in some games and entertainment ideas I know they want and need.
My criterion is that they must be modest, considered and inexpensive. I consult with the staff on every gift.
We should not, I believe, play God, or spent enormous amounts of money, equate money with love. Connie was – is – thrilled with the yarn and needles and patterns she has received, but I am also sensitive to the fact that she would be uncomfortable getting a new computer or accepting money for one.
It strikes both of us as beyond the boundary.
I am in this for the long haul, and if there are no boundaries, people will burn out, so will I. Expensive gifts can also be disruptive, and cause some upset, even jealousy, among the residents. People have been good at asking me if some gifts are appropriate and I have recommended against some that are not. So far, so good.
There was a time not too long ago when I would have rushed out and bought a new computer and hauled it right in. That was my idea of doing good. But pity is not compassion and sympathy is not empathy. I am not here to alter anyone's reality or take over their life. No one can save us from all the problems of life.
The best help is small and steady. A boombox is on the way, I got hold of a much requested puzzle today. I bought something small that was needed. Small acts of good have enormous results. Connie is wise about what she wants and needs, and I am happy to follow her instincts and judgment.
I bet there is a simple way to do some gaming. And an inexpensive one. One of the staff at the Mansion has a used big screen computer that might work. If it is meant to happen, it will happen.
I saw this wind chime on Ed Gulley's blog this morning it was also on You Tube, and I texted Carol Gulley and said I wanted to buy it. Ed has sold a number of his wind chimes in recent weeks, I thought there was something special about this one, it was made entirely out o implements, tools, keys and fixtures from the farm.
It was a Farmer's Wind Chime, and it makes the most beautiful sound, he got some spoons from a neighbor. It has joined the Ed Gulley Gallery on the back porch.
It cost $75, anyone else might have charged much more.
I went to Bejosh Farm this afternoon, I sat and had a long talk with Ed about his art, and how difficult it was to find the time to create his art and run a busy dairy farm, there is always so much to do and he said his hands hurt constantly in the winter.
So does one knee.It is, he said, much better in the warm weather.
Ed is not one to take a few weeks off and get things taken care of, he just works through it. Ed and Carol have decided against a gofundme project to buy a new computer. They just don't feel right about asking for it, they are going to save the money from the money they earn on the farm.
I think Ed is struggling with the insecurities of the artist, after all of the certainty and ritual and routine of the farm. Am I any good? Can I sell my work? How will I provide for myself and my family?
He denied that he was feeling low for about 20 minutes, and then Carol and I badgered him until he admitted he had fallen into a bit of artistic funk, wondering if he good make and sell good art in the face of so many other responsibilities and so much work.
I said being an author or artist is lonely work sometimes, you never really know if what you do is any good, and you have to keep cranking yourself up, because there is no one else to do it. You've got to ask for help sometime, I said but I don't know if he heard me or not.
The farmer's life is hard, so is the artist's life. It's hard to carry the weight of two difficult ways to live.
My wind chime is, I think, an exceptional work of the imagination. So are many of his others.
Farming is a hard, 24/7 job, it is the ultimate distraction. It's amazing that he turns out so much interesting and unique art, he is also beginning to sell a lot of it. His wind chimes are taking off. I told Ed I believe he is the real deal, so does Maria. As I write this, I am listening to those chimes in the wind, not too far from me. They are beautiful. You can see the video here.
I often photograph the yellow barn on Route 22. Farmers have always favored the color red for barns, as the paint and dyes used to be cheap and durable. I have seen very few yellow barns, but they have a beauty and simplicity about them that draws me to taking photos of them. I took this photo the other day, just after the blizzard with the Petzval 58 lens. I love the clarity of the detail, highlighted by the blurred background.
It was good to see the equines at the gate this morning, they couldn't get there yesterday. We are digging some paths, they are making their own paths. These are hardy animals, farm and desert animals, they are symbols of acceptance and adaptability. They do not ever complain about their lives and the snow, they are an independent nation, in no way inferior to us, they are not to be pitied. There is, I wrote the other day, a difference between pity and compassion, between empathy and sympathy.
I embrace compassion and empathy, I am not comfortable with pity or sympathy. One affirms living things, the other patronizes and diminishes them. I appreciate Renee Brown's thoughts on the difference between empathy and sympathy.