28 April 2017

The Round House Boys: The New Cafe Rises

Victory For The Community

I thought they looked a bit like a Vermont Blue Grass band, but these are the hardly people who are transforming a beautiful open space in Hubbard Hall into the Round House Cafe 2.0, which  your contributions last year helped to become a reality.

The first Round House Cafe (Scott Carrino holding the spackling second from right, is a co-owner) is closing on Sunday, as soon as this gorgeous old space right next door is finished, Round House Two will re-open.

It is a labor of love,as  you can see on the faces of the men working hard on the new cafe.

This is landmark victory for our community. Like so many other rural towns and villages, my town has been losing its local institutions and Main Street businesses to the new global economy, government indifference, box stores, and the rise of online retailing. The Round House tried to buy its building, but could not reach an agreement with the landlord.

Hubbard Hall, our glorious old vaudeville palace, now an arts and education center, had a beautiful space available right next door, with old wooden shelves and floors. It is four times larger than the first Round House, and has a full kitchen and cold room.

The new cafe is expected to open sometime in May.

The cafe will be able to greatly expand its food offerings and seatings and event space. It will have a full working kitchen and retail space for local crafts and for cakes and pastires. The the room just reeks of history, warmth and character. It is a very special place, Scott and Lisa Carrino are wildly excited about it. So is my town.

For us, this is a miracle of community and connection.

Thanks to lots of you, the Army Of Good, The Round  House been saved, and our community will keep its precious gathering spot. Thanks to you, this is a huge victory for community and for rural life. I'll keep you posted.

Posted in General

Jane At The Mansion. Changing A Life

Changing A Life

Jane is a new resident at the Mansion, I am just getting to know her. She was excited to work on some art for the Mansion Art Show, she told me today it changed her life,  and she didn't have words to say how excited she is about learning how to do art.

I have seen this before, Jane's creative spark was lit, and I can see there is an artist in there and it wants to come out. I've given Jane some art books and seen her sketches, and so has Maria.

The Mansion staff says this work has brought Jane to life and transformed her, she needs a wheelchair to move around and cannot hear, she communicates through lip reading. She is extremely intelligent and looking for ways to enhance her creativity. She said she is going to paint the tulip.

I am excited to know her better and support her creativity. She has a good pile of books to read. If you wish to writer her, you can do so c/o Jane, The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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Tulip Time At The Mansion. And A Special Request.

Tulip Time

I went to the florist today with Maria, she was stopping to buy some flowers for her mother, who recently had an 88th birthday. While in the shop, I got this impulse..I wanted to buy a bouquet of tulips and hand the out at the Mansion, one to each of the first people I encountered. I had 12 flowers.

I dropped Maria off at the farm, and drove with Red to the Mansion. It was a delightful experience, three people were sitting on the porch in the sun – Alice, Jane and Ellen. I gave each of them a tulip and they were surprised and delighted. I walked down the hallway to the activity room and handed out more – Jean, Alice, Connie, two staffers, and then six more on the way to the activity room.

I came across Sylvie, who wanted one, but correctly insisted that there must be a vase.It took me ten or 15 minutes to track down a vase, and then some plastic glasses for the other residents to put their tulips in. I hadn't really thought this through, everyone doesn't have vases there, so there was some scrambling for awhile to get all the flowers in water.

Several people put the flowers down and then forget that they had them, so there was some more scrambling to re-unite them. The looks of surprise and delight and wonder was a joy to see, it lifted me up and left me with a warm glow. It just feels very good to do such a simple thing, it brings so much pleasure and color.

We ended up in Connie's room, she had a small vase, of course, and in a flash it was filled with water and the flower was in it. Connie has her stuff together. Sylvie sat with her flower for a while and looked out the window, she said she was excited to take it back to her room in the downstairs wing.

I think sometimes that the smallest things are the most important things to do.

Sylvie was worried it might wilt, she will take good care of it, she said, and "Jon, thank you for my flower." You are welcome, Sylvie.

Mansion Note. It's a Friday evening, and I don't imagine too many people are online right now, but a resident came up to me, and said they had something to ask me, if I didn't mind. I said sure. The resident said that Julie Smith, the activity director who has done so much for the residents and works so hard to do things like the art show, has a printer that has stopped working. She said we have all done so much for the Mansion that Julie doesn't want to ask for help in getting a new one.

Julie said she thinks all donations should go directly to the residents.

But the residents benefit from the printer all the time, Julie reprints articles, letters, drawings and poems on the printer. Besides, said the resident, Julie never asks anything for herself, and the residents would love to help her get her printer.

My idea is to let them present the printer to Julie directly. They would love that.

I checked printer prices and they range from $40 to $90 for a printer in the range that the Mansion might need. I'd like to get a cartridge or two also.

I know people want to be given a chance to help out – I can handle all or most of this one myself, I think – but I do want to permit others to help the Mansion residents. And I also want to resist the temptation to buy too many small items myself.

If any of you wish to contribute a small amount, you can do so by writing a check to me, c/o Mansion, Printer, P.O. Box 205, State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Or you can contribute via Paypal through Friends and Family, my ID is [email protected] In either case, please mark the check or Paypal payment "Mansion Printer" so I can keep my records straight and account for the money.

This is a relatively small amount of money needed, so please, if you contribute, keep it small. And thanks.

If there is an overage, I will use it to buy other supplies that the Mansion residents need.

Posted in General

Knowing Oneself: The Desire For A Happier Life

The Gift Of Self-Awareness. Red On Duty.

In his classic work, "The Art Of Listening," the analyst Erich Fromm wrote that the most intensive talking therapy ends when a person begins to analyze himself every day for the rest of his life. I underwent analysis for six years and when it ended I began to analyze myself, and have done so every day of my life.

Almost everyone seeks a spiritual life, but very few people can or will make the time to have one. For me, self-awareness is the key not only to a spiritual life, but to a good life with love and meaning. I understand such a gift will never be handed to me, or bestowed by a fairy's magic wand. I have to work at it.

Fromm calls it Self Analysis, I call it Self Awareness.

By any name, it is the constant active awareness of oneself throughout one's life, to be  aware, to increase the awareness of oneself, of one's unconscious motivations, of everything which is significant in one's mind, of one's aims, of one's contradictions, discrepancies, self-delusions and true motives.

This is the path to understanding oneself, to being selfless enough to truly love another, and to finding meaning in life rather than frustration, regret, anger and argument. Self Analysis has helped me remain grounded, especially in difficult times, and to continue doing the work on myself that brings me happiness, creativity,  and fulfillment.

In recent years, this has helped me to face up to the truth about myself, much of it unpleasant, even shameful to me. But always productive, I always grow and learn from it.

I can only say that I self-analyze myself every single morning of every day, often in the dark while lying in bed, sometimes sitting alone in the living room by the window, sometimes sitting outside in the Adirondack chair near the donkeys or dogs.

It took me many years to do it, and now I could hardly live without it. It is one of the most important things in my life, at the core of whatever progress I have made in treating and coping with the mental illness that so often crippled me and nearly destroyed me and the people around me.

The truth is, it cannot be done without great seriousness and purpose. It is important to me, as important to me as almost any other thing in my life. If I did not see it that way, I could never be able to do it.

As Fromm writes, "there are things in life, if one really wants to take life seriously, which one has to do not because they are in themselves pleasureful but because they are necessary for other things."

If I didn't know the truth about myself, I could not possibly understand the truth about life.

This morning, right before my self-analysis, I read a story about President Trump, in which he said he misses his former life, the freedom he had, he never grasped how difficult the Presidency could be. The story prompted a wave of jeering and derision, many pundits acidly wondering why he thought being President would be easy.

But I felt differently. I felt empathy for him.

At one point, he talked about how much he loved to drive, and how much he misses driving, and how much he misses the simple freedom to move around as he wishes. He had everything he wanted in life, and gave it all up for something he thought he wanted, but perhaps did not. How often have I made that mistake.

Mr. Trump looked tired in the interview, he is my age, and I felt sympathy for how tiring that job must be, how draining. Being 70 is not the same as being 30, or even 60.

In my self-analysis I thought about all the writing I have been doing about empathy, but was it honest, I wondered, could I really feel it? I don't care for Mr. Trump's presidency so far, I am much bothered by his passion for frightening and hurting helpless people.

But when I thought of him driving one of his own cars on his own golf courses, happy and free, able to soak up the fruits of his long labor, I did feel a wave of empathy.

I was able to put myself in his shoes, I did feel for someone who has given up a life he loved for a life he thought he wanted, but doesn't seem to love yet. I can relate to him as a human being in that way, and i do feel for him.

You don't have to agree with someone to empathize. You don't have to even like them. This is why empathy is so difficult, yet so important for my own humanity. This is one of the insights that comes from taking the time to look at oneself seriously and continuously.

Self-awareness has to be learned, it has to be practiced. It depends, says Fromm, on the strength of desire to really have a happier life. And this is when I often think of Grandma Moses. Life is what you make of it, she often said. I wanted to have a happier life, but the roadblock was always me, not fate or the bosses or other forces and villains of the universe that I always  blamed.  It is not the left or the right.

Every morning, I face myself and day by day, I am coming to see the truth about me. I like some of it, I don't like some of it. But it has become a reflex now, I don't have to think about it, and it has helped me to have a happier life, and I meant to continue to do it for the rest of my life.

 

Posted in General

Where Is Fate? In The Marsh, Cooling Off

Fate In The Marsh

Of all the dogs I've lived with in the country there were only two that I am certain could survive in the wild by themselves, as most dogs once did: Frieda and Fate. Both understood nature, knew where to find food and water, knew how to take shelter, had the speed to escape predators and also catch some prey.

Both were foragers like bears, always on the looking for nuts and berries. Fate can hear a mouse from 50 years away, and so could Frieda. Fate has extraordinary instincts.  Frieda and Fate both knew how to dig holes, hide food, burrow in for warmth or shade.

Fate knows how to stay cool and when to pause and breathe. This morning, running like a fiend around the sheep in their open pasture, we lost sight of Fate.

I looked around, and I saw she was four out in the wet and marshy swamp, just lying in the mud and water getting cool. Fate knows how to take care of herself, and she knows how to use nature to survive. In a minute, the was running again.

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