16 May 2017

Our Times, Our Temperament. The Things We Love Tell Us What We Are


I am not here to tell  you if Donald Trump is a good man or a bad man, or to tell you if he has done good things or bad things, or if he should go away or stay. There are many places for you to go to read about that in detail, and if you wish, to argue about it and boil and stew.

This blog is not, I hope, one of those places. Either way, you will have to make your own decision, I am  not here to tell you what it should be.

National politics are not the main focus of my blog or my writing, I sit on my farm too far outside the circle to know what is happening or to tell other people what has happened. I have my own ideas and the right to them, I have no right to tell you what your ideas should be.

Neither am I an ostrich, deaf and dumb and blind to what is happening in the world beyond me. Many people i know and many people who read me and many people on all sides of things are upset, some deeply so. It is a time for me to consider what it means to be a free man in America in 2017 and what I wish my country to be.

The news is like a flock of shrieking ravens, gathering in a cloud. calling out in fear and alarm. There is no escaping it, it is a monster that never sleeps.

I read a young poet's account of the mood of the country a few years before the Civil War. He said he could feel a great cloud approaching, a great conflict in the air. He did not imagine a Civil War, and neither do I, but there is a great struggle going on, and every thinking person will be called upon to decide what he or she believes in, and wants to do.

That is all I can do. I am not going on TV to shout at people or to town halls to scream at politicians and throw things at them.

I  can only share what I think. I am going ahead with my ideas about doing good, doing the best as I can for as long as I can. I am focusing my heart and soul on my farm, the animals, the blog, Maria, the Mansion residents and the refugee children. I am not jumping into that awful pool, there is nothing there for me..

The very personal part of this for me is about temperament.

Temperament is important. It speaks to a person or animal's nature, it affects their disposition, character, personality. Temperament is the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person; his or her natural disposition.

St. Thomas said that a man is good when his will take joy in what is good, evil when his will take joy in what is evil. He is virtuous when he finds happiness in a virtuous life, sinful when he takes pleasure in a sinful life. The things we love tell us what we are.

A temperamentally angry man or woman may be more inclined to anger than another person. But as long as he remains sane he is free not to be angry. Anger is, in my mind, a force in character which can be turned to good or evil, according to one's desires.

We remain free to make our own choices.

I choose not to be angry.

I choose not make my life an argument.

I choose to take joy in doing good, and not in what is evil.

I choose to listen and learn empathy, to stand in the shoes of others.

It is not what comes at me from the outside that determines my freedom, it is what happens inside of me that keeps me free or takes my freedom away.

Temperament does not guarantee one man's sanctity or condemn another to evil. My temperament is a gift, a part of my soul, a talent I can do with as I choose. I can make it serve my good desires, I can do better than someone who gives his temperament over to rage and jealously and argument.

I am feeling strong and clear.

It is easy to turn away from all of this cheap emotion and rage and farce with a kind of unyielding despair, and seek God, as Thomas Merton writes, "in a desert where the emotions can find nothing to sustain them."

If our emotions really languish and die in this desert of anger and accusation and conflict, then our humanity and compassion dies with them. That is not my choice.

I look at parts of the exterior world now as a desert, free of empathy or compassion. I can either go to the desert, or stay outside and keep myself and my temperament free and intact, my capacity for feeling expanded and deepened, growing stronger every day against the lure of deceit, anger, resentment.

I want to go instead of me where t is great, noble and pure. That's my plan. The things we love tell us what we are.

Posted in General

Mickey And Me. This Thing About Smoking…

This Thing About Smoking

I have a deal with Mickey, he is our town's part-time street person. He has a place to live and food to eat – he is George Forss's stepbrother. He patrols Main Street during the daylight hours. He is my only paid photo subject. Mickey has a face and bearing I love to photograph. His eyes have their own life.

When he was younger, he had a schizophrenic breakdown in New York City and was hospitalized. George, the famous landscape photographer and my friend, brought him up to our town and has cared for him since.

Mickey has many friends in town. He can get food and coffee anytime he wants at the Round House Cafe. As my only paid photo subject, we agreed that I would pay him $2 for every photograph and portrait. Sometimes we talk, sometimes I just take a photo and drive off. Mickey is very friendly and on occasion, is quite chatty.

But we are still working out the smoking thing, and I am uncharacteristically confused about what my position should be, and Hannah Arendt, my favorite moral philosopher, is no help.

Mickey loves to go to Stewart's, the local convenience store and buy cigarettes and coffee. On occasion, when a portrait session goes long, or it's a holiday, I have paid Mickey more than two dollars, and I see that when I do, he goes out and buys cigarettes.

Mickey is a grown man, he makes most of his own decisions about life, and I do not believe I have the right to tell him not to smoke, or to make that decision for him. On the other hand, and knowing his personal situation, I know Mickey's doctors and friends and family very much want him not to smoke.

He and George are both getting older and health matters.

I am clear on one thing:  I don't really care to be the enabler of his smoking. It is one thing to let  him make his own decisions about smoking, quite another to make it possible for him to smoke.

So we have come down to the $2 or $5 portrait fee. I know Mickey has friends in town, young men who often come by to give him cigarettes. That is not my business. I am not his mother or guardian. I have talked with Mickey about this, and he says it's okay to pay him $2 or $5, and he knows he shouldn't smoke.

But he likes it, smoking is a central pleasure in his life.

So that is where we are. Mickey walks down Main Street, he almost always has a cup of coffee and a cigarette. I think I'm often buying the coffee, I think I almost never buy the cigarettes. Perhaps I am fooling myself.

Posted in General

My Journal For Today: Spring In A Small Town

At The Bead Shop

There are lovely things about living in a small town on a warm Spring day, one of the very first after days of cold and rain and, of course, winter itself. All down Main Street, people pull chairs out of their shops and sit and read and wait for customers to wander by. Heather is often outside of Over The Moon, her beat and bracelet and socks shop, she has become a popular stopping point for visitors to our Open Houses or tourists coming to town in the summer.

She yelled down the street to ask how Red was, and gave me a wave as I took her photo. People expect me to take their photos, and no one asks why, another thing I love about a small town. If I lived in New York City, where my daughter lives, shopkeepers don't sit out in the sun reading, and people get anxious and suspicious when you take out a camera.

Community is not about being loved, it is about being known. I am known  here.

I am beginning to ease away from the Red crisis, he is doing well, I am resting him, not taking him places with me, not letting him run. I think he still tires easily, but he has his appetite back and is looking like his old self. I resisted the impulse to go to the Mansion today, he just needs some interrupted rest, and if you accept the Chi idea, which I do, then I see his energy is depleted, and needs to be restored over time.

It's up to me to be his Protector Of Energy, I'm not taking him out on the rest of the book tour, either. I am not as cute as he is, but I will have to do.

The vet wants me to keep on giving him Chi food, to restore his Chi (his life energy) but I am weaning him off of hamburger and meatloaf and back to his high-priced kibble. I am s till squirting chicken broth onto his food and he is still taking antibiotics and some anti-nausea medication.

Once again, he is hopping up and going to the door whenever I get up, and so is Fate. When you live with border collies, no movement goes unnoticed and every moment is seen as an invitation to get to work.

I am eager to settle back into my book, which I got away from last week. I loved my walk down Main Street with Maria, I signed some copies of Talking to Animals at Battenkill, Books and bought Maria a neat and interesting necklace at the Artisan's Market on Main Street.

I stopped in to see Scott Carrino at the New  Round House Cafe, but he was int the basement working on wires and plumbing. He loves this stuff. I would hate it. But I will love eating there and eating their wonderful soup again.

I went to the bank to make a deposit, the teller at the drive-thru window thanked me for taking photos of her friend Kelly at the Bog. That was nice.

On a Spring Day, a small town comes alive, especially an agricultural community after a long winter. I know everyone I see, and everyone I see knows me. I don't know if they love me or hate me, but it doesn't matter. We all belong here. We are known.

Posted in General

The Spring Open House: The Art Of Rural Life

Open House

We are a little less than a month away from our Bedlam Farm Spring Open House, Saturday and Sunday, June 10-11, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both days. The Open House has evolved into a quiet, creative, and peaceful celebration of our lives together and of the art of rural life.

I'll conduct sheepherding demos on the hour, and Maria will host her ever more popular art show from her Studio Barn. There will be talks and some poetry readings. Ed Gully is selling her art, Maria and five local artists are selling theirs, Ed Gulley is selling his farm sculptures and may bring a cow over.

We started the Open Houses some years ago, the first one had more than 1,500 people. They are quieter now, we only promote the event on our blogs, there is a quiet but steady flow to them and an intimacy that we love. Maria loves curating her art show and showcasing the artists whose work she finds.

The donkeys love to meet people and Red and Fate love to show off in their different ways. Farrier Ken Norman is coming to trim some hooves. I'll have new books to sell an sign. Hope to see some of you, people usually come from all over the place. Details on Maria's blog. We even have a new motel in town where people can stay. It's called the Motel Cambridge. On her events page, Maria lists places to stay that previous visitors have loved.

Today, we kicked off the Open House in a way by planting our banner on the front lawn of Bedlam Farm, next to Ed Gulley's famous goose sculpture.

Posted in General

Get Well, Red

Get Well, Red

I got this lovely get well card (or Red  did) from the Mansion residents, much love from them and to them.

Posted in General