31 July 2017

There’s A New Baby Monster Around Here

There's A New Baby Monster Around Here

We used to call Fate the Baby Monster, she was often nearly out of control, bursting with energy and a fierce desire to work. Now, there's a new Baby Monster around here and he routinely grabs Fate by the colllar, rolls her over on her back and gnaws on her head. And she seems to love it.

Gus has changed Fate, settled her down, brought out her softer, more nurturing self. Fate does not love to be touched by people, except for Maria and I, but she loves to be touched and chewed on by Gus. They are having fun and it is fun to watch them. Gus is calm and appropriate with the Mansion residents, and with children.

He goes to town on Fate, and she couldn't be sweeter or happier about it. There's a new Baby Monster in town.

Posted in General

From The Mansion Residents: An Invitation To A Contest For You

Portrait: Sylvie

Today was cheesecake day at the Mansion, many of the residents were gathered in the activity room. I had an idea for them, and Julie Smith, the Mansion Activity Director, embraced it. Two of the residents had told me they were grateful for all of your letters and messages and photos, they wished to do something for the Army Of Good, whose soldiers had done so much for them.

I suggested a contest. The people out there, the ones sending them all of these wonderful messages, photos and gifts, would be invited to send a favorite photo of one of an animals – a dog, cat, bird, fish – to Julie Smith at the Mansion. The residents would meet to choose three winners, they would be awarded prizes.

We decided only to include messages that came in after August lst, in order to level the playing field. The photos sent in would go up on the Mansion bulletin boards.

So the contest is  underway. Send your favorite photo of animal – yours or anybody's, dog or cat or cow or elephant or bird, etc. – to Julie Smith, Activity Director, The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, NY., 12816. The contest will end on September 1, 2017, the winner chosen a few days later.

The photos should be smallish – roughly postcard size, as display space is limited, but the limits are flexible, there just isn't room for huge pictures. I love this idea, they want to give something back and this is a good way for them to do it. I look forward to seeing these photographs up on the walls of the Mansion hallways.

You have brightened the lives of these people, and they would like to brighten yours. Good luck. I can't wait to see these photos.

Note: A few weeks ago, writing about some of the residents running out of personal funds for soap and shampoo, I also said that some residents were running out of money for medication. That was an error on my part, no resident has ever run out of medication there that I know of, the staff does not permit it. I was referring to one  resident who was having issues with her insurance company, but that had nothing to do with the Mansion, and in fact, the staff resolved the dispute for her. My mistake

The residents buy toiletries like soap and shampoo out of their own personal accounts, and some do struggle towards the end of the month to buy what they need. That is no longer a problem, thanks to you, there is no plenty of soap, shampoo and body wash. But no one is left without their medication. I wanted to clarity that.

If you wish to write to the Mansion residents, here is a list of the residents who would like to receive your messages: Jean, Ellen, Mary, Gerry, Sylvie, Jane, Diane, Alice, Jean, Madeline, Joan, Allan, William, John K., Brother Peter, Helen, Connie, Robert, Shirley, Alanna, Charlotte, Barbara, Peggie, Dorothy, Art, Brenda, Bruce, John Z. You can write them c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Posted in General

The Art Of Joan, At The Mansion:

"My Art Helps Me To See Clearly"

Maria first called my attention to this water color painted by Joan, a resident of the Mansion. This is the third watercolor of Joan's that I have seen and I was struck by the detail, thoughtfulness and feeling in it. Joan usually paints abstracts, and she won an award at the Mansion Art Show earlier in the year.

Joan can be forgetful at times, and confused. I asked her about the painting and she told me how important art is to me. "I love painting," she said, "it helps me to see things. Thanks for liking it." It was the longest conversation I have yet had with Joan, and the most revealing, I think.

Her art connects her to h er life, her past and to the rest of the world. That, I think, is what her paintings are about. Maria said she is a better artist than many of the abstract painters whose work she has seen.

Joan is sweet and gentle soul, she is one of my favorite portrait subjects at the Mansion, and she very much enjoys being photographed.

Posted in General

This Week, Comments Finally Come To The Blog

Comments On The Blog

(They say if you shoot portraits of people you love, they will be the best portraits. I have never loved anyone the way I love Maria, and to me, every portrait of her is beautiful.)

This week, another big step forward for the blog, starting Tuesday or Wednesday readers will be able to comment directly on the blog for the first time since the blog was created in 2007. There will be a small reply or message button at the bottom of the page.

All comments will be moderated, which means I will have to approve them. I will be straightforward and tell the nasty people of the world not to bother, they will never get onto the blog. Neither will anyone whose message begins with "I know you don't like unwanted advice, but…"

I belong to the Church of Mind Your Own Business, and I do not wish my life to be a debate among strangers. I cannot up the lives of all of the animals here to everyone on the Internet, so the comments are not a place to know how Minnie is doing. If you wish to know, please read the blog, I work hard at it every day.

I have always seen the blog as a monologue, not a dialogue. I have no wish to argue or explain my life on the Internet all day. And I don't wish to spend a lot of time on the Internet at all. I love writing and taking photos, and that is what i want to spend most of time doing. The rest is spending time with my wife, friends and dogs. Facebook and  Twitter or other social media sites just doesn't play a big role in how I live.

But my blog does. I love this blog, it is my great and lasting work, my living memoir, a radical experiment proven that has gone well. We have become a community in recent years, I want to hear from you, and you have the right to be heard right here, where the community is.

I see the comments on the blog as a safe space, a place for people to share ideas, agree or disagree. It is not a place to argue or attack, or to post comments without giving them at least a little bit of thought.  No hostility of any kind will be tolerated. I'm not online all day, to it might take a few hours, or even a day, before your comments will go up.

You are quite welcome to disagree with me, most people do much of the time, and we get along quite well as a rule. I think the blog is ready for thoughtful and interesting comments, and it will be free of the chaos and mindless cruelty that sometimes infuses social media. There, people don't need to think to send messages.

On the blog, my wish is that people will think a little bit. So I am happy about it and look forward to it. The geniuses at Mannix Marketing say it will be ready by Tuesday, so please look for it. And please feel free to comment.

I understand that there are many good people out there who have no appetite for social media, and I hope they will feel comfortable commenting on my blog. Thanks much. A big step, but a good step for bedlamfarm.com. My gut always tells me when it's time for the blog to chance, I feel I was born to write in this medium.

We live in an interactive and I have learned much from  your comments. You are very welcome here.

Posted in General

Bedlam Posse: Into The Deep Woods. Training As A Spiritual Experience

Into The Deep Woods

We invited Gus along for our morning walk in the deep woods today, it was the first time he has been in the woods. It seemed like he had been doing it for years, he sniffed around, kept up with Fate and Red, kept an eye on us, loved the smells and sounds. He sits and stays now, up to 30 seconds (we are expanding it slowly to three minutes, the length of time required for a dog to really "stay.")

He seems to have grasped that essential Bedlam Farm dog trait of posing well for photos, he is a ham, like Fate and Red. Gus is beginning to try out his sea legs, he can run fast and far, faster and farther than I would have thought, looking at his small body. He is not built for long-distance running like the border collies, but he keeps up with them in the woods.

Out of the bright sun, he seems quite athletic, he does tire easily in hot and humid weather, although he can play all day long in any weather.

It is a great pleasure to have three great dogs who will walk with us anywhere, not run off, sit and stay when told. We never have to worry about them, we are free to walk and think and be. This was my first time in the woods for awhile, the bugs get to me, and I hurt my back a few weeks ago, it is getting better.

Today, walking in the woods with Gus, we gave him yet another way of succeeding. Our training with him is going beautifully. He is (we think) housebroken, he sits on command, is learning to stay, mostly comes when called. He is socialized within an inch of his life and can go anywhere. He loves riding in the car.

Red ignores him but tolerates  him, Gus has opened up a new Fate, she is having a blast chasing him around. I loved the image of the three of them, sitting ahead of us on the path, waiting for us to catch up to them. It's a kind of family portrait. Some of you may remember the walks on the path at the first Bedlam Farm, that has always been a hallmark of our lives with dogs.

Gus always looks odd to me in a photo, mostly because I have never had a small dog or photographed one. But he seems to fit in well here, he's a quick study and figures things out. I am surprised by how intelligent Gus is, he really looks at people and pays attention, a key to good training.

Gus has really brought out the trainer in Maria, she is doing a wonderful job training him and loving it. She always told me she wasn't good at dog training. This is what the dog gurus make us think, so we will buy their books and videos. The people who know and love their dogs are always the best trainers, they just need to be encouraged.  The famous trainers all like to create the impression that training is a complex and mystical skill possessed by the few and if you buy their books, you will have the perfect dog.

Nuts to that, there is no perfect dog, and if there was one, I wouldn't want him or her. We do the best we can for as long as we can. I have learned to give he dogs a chance to succeed. We took Gus into the woods, took  his leash off and went on our walk.

He succeeded, and then some, a beautiful, even spiritual, thing. Training is not about obedience, it is about communicating, it is a spiritual experience, not about domination, but about living in harmony.

Posted in General