5 August 2017

Update From The Front Lines: Devota and Mawulidi

Updates: Army Of Good

I have updates from the front lines for the Army of Good. I so appreciate these small donations that keep coming in, to my Post Office Box, and to my Paypal, for Devota, who spent a year walking across Africa to get to America, and for Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa, a wood carver who had to leave his grandfather's carving tools behind when he came to America last November.

We are hoping to pay off much or all of a $10,000 loan Devota took out for her college-bound son, thinking it was a financial aid grant, an all too common mistake involving student loans. So far, we have raised more than $5,000.

You can read about Devota here. You can read about Mawulidi here. I've met both of them in Albany, at the RISSE (refugee and immigration center) there. I will see them both again this Thursday, and will bring them the funds we have collected for them.

I hope can clear Devota's $10,000 loan, but whatever we collect will help her greatly. I think we will get there, or get very close.

One reader of the blog, a self-described member of the Army of Good, is sending $300 to help Mawulidi buy the tools he needs.  I am also bringing him a wood carving kit so he can resume his smaller carvings. The bigger tools will have to come from Home Depot. I believe we have enough money to help get his tools now, and thanks.

Scores, if not hundreds of people are sending checks and donations for $5, $10, $20, even $100 for Devota, a woman grace and love for the four children she is raising by herself, the children of the rapes she suffered by soldiers along her long march.

I'm excited about the help we are going to give these two brave and loving people. They are our brothers and sisters in America, they came for the same reasons our grandparents and parents came, to live freely and give their children better lives. Thank you.

If you wish to contribute to the work with Devota, or other refugees or the Mansion residents, you can do so by sending a check to my post office Box, P.O. Box 205. Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or through Paypal, [email protected]

Tonight, the RISSE soccer team is going to see "Spiderman" and eat lots of soda and popcorn, this was my idea and I paid for it, I didn't wish to ask for donations for it. Monday, another portable air conditioner goes to the Mansion, this one for bill.  I think one more, perhaps to Sylvie, will do it. Thanks again for that. Life is good.

Posted in General

The World Is Perfect. The World Is A Mess. The Job Is To Straighten Out My Life.

Helen Frankenthaler: Maria at the Clark.

We live in a small village in upstate New York, but we are at the center of a vibrant and diverse world of culture. We are in the center of a ring, all kinds of compelling places almost equidistant from us – Williamstown, Mass., Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls, N.Y., Dorset and Manchester, Vt.

None of them is more than45 minutes away, and almost all are much less. We feel the benefits of a small town – beauty, quiet, community, inexpensive housing – and we have access to all of the good restaurants, theater, cultural resources we might want.

We go to Mass MOCA, the Clark And William College Museums, the Tang at Skidmore, the Hyde in Glens Falls.

It isn't Manhattan, but it is close enough and much saner. The Williamstown Theater Festival is quite often as good as New York theater, so is the Dorset Playhouse.

We have everything we need around us, we have to get places, but the drive is usually nicer and quicker than many cab or subway treks around New York City.

We also have hills, meadows, and a nice cool water  hole a mile from our farm. Not to mention two donkeys out back.

Today, on impulse, we decided to head to the Clark in Williamstown, they had an exhibit of the artist Helen Frankenthaler's wood print painting and her striking abstract impressionist works.

I didn't go to museums much before I met Maria, she has opened up this world to me, and as it happens, Frankenthaler was one of the few artists I have loved and followed for a while.

I love the way Maria and I do museums. There is nothing intense of pretentious about it, we zip from gallery to gallery, stopping to look at something we like, taking a photo or two. We are rarely in a museum for more than an hour.

It was a pleasure to see Helen Frankenthaler's work in such a lovely setting. Apart from the obvious, I loved her embrace of rule-breaking and experimentation. She loved to do the things you are never supposed to do and supposedly couldn't do. I can't remember much about artists or flowers but Frankenthaler always stuck in my mind.

She broke rules and experimented all the time. To me, her work is warm, rich and powerful. The Clark, recently renovated to look like the corporate headquarters of a major oil company, had her work in two places.  Despite the soulness new campus, their galleries are bright, open and beautiful. And they have great stuff to show.

One of the Frankenthaler exhibits up on a hill, a half-mile from the main museum, a beautiful walk on a marked trail. You could take a shuttle, but I am way too prideful for that.  On the way back, we got soaked by a sudden thunderstorm. We were back home by 3 p.m., just in time to greet a pleasant and welcome cold front.

I love watching Maria watch art. It is so different from the way most people look at art.  Artists look at art differently, they see things I don't see and ask questions I would never have thought to ask. They are businesslike and professional, they move briskly through big and boring galleries, I appreciate that. They cut to the chase.

I think the thing about it is that Maria and I are simply in sync. And I know what it is like to be out of sync with people in my life.

We just see the world in the same way, and there are not many people who see the world in the same way either of us see it. The creative life is intense and challenging, and quite often difficult. But there are things we can learn from one another, and art is one of the things she has taught me much about.

I never feel self-conscious around her, even though I usually don't think of myself as an artist and have little understanding of most art. She has the gift of teaching me without making me feel small or stupid.

Creativity is my life, and Maria's life. I can't speak for her, but I feel I am open, open, open and finally open to the mystery of my self, whether it be Buddha consciousness or the Christ. I think this is what artists and writers do.

The world is perfect. It's a mess. It has always been a mess. My job is to straighten out my own life, not to tell others how to straighten out theirs.

Posted in General

The Happy Drummer Bangs Away

The Happy Drummer: Photo by Emma Span

When Robin was here briefly last Friday, I bought her a drum  from the hardware store. Emma gave me a somewhat dirty look, but Robin loved it right away and has been banging away on it ever since. Emma hopes this phase will pass soon. I consider it my sacred grandfatherly duty to buy her things that annoy her parents.

Posted in General

Birthday Week. Quiet Day. Lucky Life.

Quiet Day.

"One great thing about growing old is that nothing is going to lead to anything. Everything is of the moment." – Joseph Campbell.

Tuesday, August 8, is my birthday. My mother said she remembered it by thinking the Hiroshima bombing date was one day earlier, I guess that says a lot about my mother, perhaps me as well.  I will be 70 years old this week, and Maria is determined that we have some kind of celebration.

I don't think much of birthdays, any idiot can have one, all you need to do is stay alive.

My parents used to complain that every day was a birthday for children, and I think there was something to that. They meant it grudgingly, not lovingly, but that doesn't meant it's false.

I am nothing but lucky, very much in love, loving my work, making true friends, writing on my blog, my books, loving my farm, taking my photos, have three very fine dogs, two sweet donkeys, two loving but murderous barn cats, doing my work with the Army of Good.

I don't care for old talk, life is what you make of it, I'm just getting started, just learning how to be and how to love. I've  wasted enough time being crazy, I want to live fully.

As you get older, a lot of the bad genes die off, the nasty people of the world seem like peas off of a tank to me, they are just not very important any longer. Argument and resentment seems pointless as well as poisonous.

My favorite quote about aging comes from Joseph Campbell, appropriately enough, he says that one great thing about growing old is that nothing is going to lead to anything. Everything is of the moment.

This is very true, I think, at least for me. I can live freely and authentically, perhaps for the first time in my life. Thanks to my therapy, and perhaps the blog, my life is open, I have nothing to hide, nobody can say anything about me that I haven't said myself. There is something very liberating about being open. Free at last, to be myself.

For all that people whining about it, there are many great things about being older. I am finally understanding who I am, and I know a little bit about life. I work hard to share what I have learned, that is my duty and responsibility. Older people have a sweet sense of humor and perhaps some perspective on life. The world is a mess. The world has always been a mess.

Life is a gift and glory, I give thanks for mine every single day. Miracles do happen, about 10 years ago I met one named Maria in a very unlikely place, and we set off on our great journey together. It gets better every day. I do have an angel, and she is taking care of me.

What a strange year for me, in some ways disturbing, but mostly, one of the best  years of my life. We are doing good, and it feels good, I sometimes even like myself when I wake up. I am so grateful for my photography, it has unleashed the artist in me that wanted to come out an give me a rich and creative new way to tell my stories.

I am grateful for the Army of Good, a wondrous new community – and quite a birthday gift –  that is touching and changing and comforting and uplifting a lot of people. I think we are a tolerant bunch with hearts that have not yet turned to stone. Bless all of you.

Maria has bought tickets for a play Wednesday and wants to take me out to dinner Tuesday. I don't celebrate birthdays that much, they are just another day in the calendar, but being so happy and fulfilled at 70 is nothing to sneeze at. Sometimes you give by letting others give to you. Another late lesson of life.

Today, I need to rest a bit, I can feel it. I have learned than when I feel like resting, I need to do it.

And I really need to do it this weekend, this has been an intense time for me. Intense is good, it means I am very much alive.

We are heading off to the Clark Museum in Williamstown to see Helen Frankenthaler's paintings, which I like very much,  and some other stuff, and maybe, get some Thai food at a good restaurant there.

I will of course, be taking my camera. You never know. My birthday wish is peace, happiness and fulfillment for all of you.

Posted in General