1 October 2017

Into The Pole Barn

Into The Pole Barn

One recent morning, we had to get the sheep into the Pole Barn, the large animal vet was coming to check on the sheep and give them their shots. There was a heavy mist over the farm, and we couldn't see the sheep, they were grazing far back in the outer pasture.

I sent Red out to find them and soon enough, they came charing i a long line out of the pasture and up the hill and into the Pole Barn Fate lay still, waiting for Red, he was far back in the mist, almost out of sight, moving quickly towards the sheep. I couldn't see him ,but they always know where he is.

Posted in General

Mental Illness And Me: Recovering Every Day

Mental Illness And Me

I didn't learn until middle age that I was mentally ill, and I can't say if I was born that way or not, but I know now I became ill when I was very young, and was not properly treated until much later. All told, I was in various forms of therapy – talking, psychoanalytic, dynamic social work and medications – for more than 35 years, my treatments stopped just after I married Maria eight years ago.

Someone sent me a jeering message the other day, saying he was a voyeur and Drama Queen just like me, and I thought to myself – this is one of the things I dislike so much about social media, people making assumptions like that without ever having even met me. He needs to buy a police scanner and some binoculars. I've spent most of my life in therapy, and I can tell you there are far worse things about me than that, but being

a drama-sucking voyeur sure ain't among them. Anyone who knows me knows I've had enough drama for a dozen lifetimes, I just hate to even  hear the word.

Why do I write about these encounters and interactions? I think my fellow dwellers in this realm know. Because it is dangerous when people invade my space, label me, when amateurs analyze me, when boundaries are crossed. In my interactions with the world, I have become wiser and stronger, I learn every day about myself, and about what I can do and can't do.

I have support from my wife and friends that I never imagined, I have finally shed decades of therapy and  decades of medication, for better or worse, I stand on my own two feet, make my own decisions, take responsibility for myself. To be the moving and continuous target that American public life now requires of the creative and the ambitious and the outspoken is both a blessing and a gift. It is disturbing, it is revealing and affirming. I am here, I am very happy and very busy and very productive.

My cardiologist told me just the other day that I had the most precious thing in all of health and medicine – a vital "life force" and a great attitude about life. Great, he said, for someone who had open heart surgery just a few years ago. You will, he said, be around a good while. He could not have known how much that meant to me.

If you are mentally and have spent thousands of hours in therapy and analysis, you might not be normal, but you sure know yourself,  good and bad.  You know what you are, or you wouldn't be walking around. You have faced worse truths about yourself than anyone could say about you.

And if you can't see the bad, you can never get to the good.

I know not that my mental illness is treatable and controllable, but never completely curable. I am reminded often that I have mental illness, that I need to be aware of it.

This morning, I woke up at 3 a.m. – this is familiar to many people with depression, anxiety, or various bi-polar disorders, anxiety is my disease – and for some reason, began thinking of the opportunities, friendships, life experiences and collateral  damage in my life, much of traced to my illness.

My family wanted to know nothing about it, and yet I began asking for help from the time I was 12. I knew something was broken in me, I just didn't know what or how I could live with it. So I went through life like a runaway freight train, crashing through friendships, jobs, relationships, a marriage, fatherhood, and an endless stream of rage, panic and disorientation.

Wherever I was, I needed to be somewhere else. Whoever I was with, I needed to be with someone else. I moved again and again until I finally ended up on a farm in Hebron, N.Y., with nowhere else to run. There, I broke down completely, lost my perspective, gave all my money away, was overcome with delusions.

The good news was that breaking down caused me to face up to myself. I had no other choice: change or die, and I was very close to dead.

My illness was a great gift to me, the greatest. I found the right help, i took it seriously, I worked so hard at it. My very wonderful therapist told me she had never seen anyone work harder.

It's hard work to be crazy, hard work to get sane, or at least sane enough to live with yourself.

I like myself these days, if I don't love me, I can't love anyone else.

I know now that I can manage my life with illness, but i must never forget that I have it. The rage, the panic, the delusions are, I think, a kind of chrysalis, just sleeping below the surface, gathering strength waiting.

They can open up or be triggered in varying degrees by a lot of things, and it is my job to keep track of those things, and of my responses to them. To stay strong and aware. To never tell myself or anyone else that I am cured. There is no cure, of course. My illness can be controlled, it can never completely disappear.

It's sort of like the spiritual journey, you never quite get there, the point is to stay on the path.  To be conscious, to be authentic. To be open.

I write this for two reasons, one because it is healthy for me to do so, another because it is important to share the experience.

It is a big deal to be mentally, but not as big a thing as one might think. You can write best-selling books when you are very sick, and get good jobs and fool the smartest people in the world.

More than 43 million Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, or bi-polar disorder. What I learned is that I could be mentally ill and still do my work, be successful, fall in love, have wonderful friends, write 26 books, take lots of pictures, write a blog with millions of views each year.

I can live with this and then some. There is help, and it helps. We crazies can often recognize one another, we are a tribe and a community, we offer support to each other and console one another and offer hope and inspiration to each other. We learn empathy or we pay.

It is so essential to stand up either to the mirror or to the world beyond and said "Look at me. I have suffered from mental illness, and  here I am, loving my love, living in happiness, finding meaning. I am hope."

Every day in my therapy work, I see people with illnesses and challenges that cannot be cured, from which there is no recovery.

I get to recover every day of my life. I am both fortunate and blessed, in too many ways to count.

I would not trade this illness for any other, or for a life without it. It has shaped every good word I write, every good thing I do.

Without it, life might have been simpler or easier, but not necessarily better. The dark of night is when the demons dance for people like me, there is nothing to distract them or fend them off.

As was the case this morning, I sometimes wake up in a cold and fearful sweat, shaking and gasping for breath, remembering how close I came to tipping over the edge so many times, and when I finally did, there were angels and magical helpers waiting to help me back to safe ground, just like in the old myths.

The warm and loving body in my bed calms me and grounds me.  I remember all those years when there was no one there. It's all right, I tell myself, it's all right.  No one else can tell me that.  I know how to do that now.

Still, i won't lie, I am sorry for the friends I lost, for the loved ones I hurt, for the dreams I abandoned, for the troubles I fled, and all of the glass that I broke along the way. I was hurting, but hurt other people along the way.

I have sadness but no regrets. I have no apologies to make.

I know who I am and am peace with who I am, at long last and great cost.

I did the best I could for as long as I could, until I couldn't do it anymore.

And then I began to get well.

Posted in General

The Magic Farmhouse On Route 67. For Sale.

Magic Farm On Route 67

This is the second photograph of "The Farm On Route 67," it is actually on a different route, but I like to change the names of the places I photograph, I think it preserves the mystery a bit for me. People loved the first one, and are still buying it, but I went up there this morning, and took a picture from a different perspective, and I love this one as well.

It also looks like a painting to me.

It reflects the meadow turning brown, and the beautiful barns.

So I've offered to put it up for sale, it will cost $130 plus shipping and will be printed on rag or archival paper, signed and unframed, an open edition.

This farm  captures this beautiful country side I live in, the sweeping hills, the old white farmhouse, the big red barns. This time, my Archomat Art Lens focused on the barns instead of the house,  and I got the dreamy, magical and other worldy quality I was hoping for, and which I was able to capture in the Blue Heron photographs.

If you are interested in this photo – the prints will be 81/2 by 16, on Canson rag paper, you can contact Maria at maria@fullmoonfiberart.com. She is handling the photo sales. I'm hoping it will also be on sale at the Open House. I think this photograph is special.

An earlier post listed a lower price and a smaller print, but a printing expert told me the photo needed to be larger to look it's best, so the price will be $130 plus shipping and the size will be two inches larger, 8 1/2 x 16.

Posted in General

Portrait: My Friend Scott. Tired Eyes Smiling.

Tired, Smiling Eyes

If I want to see my friend Scott, there are three ways to do it. I can go to the Round House Bakery while he is baking bread; I can go to the Round House Cafe on Friday night and order pizza, or I can go to the Farmer's Market on Sunday where he is usually setting up his wood-friend pizza often.

Scott works every day of the week, and when he is baking,  he's teaching Tai Chi, cooking in the cafe, or tending to the grounds at his Pompanuck Farm, all of which he runs with his wife Lisa. Once in awhile, we try and get together for dinner, but he usually falls asleep on his couch at hime before dinner time.

Sometimes, he goes to sleep if we do meet.

I can't begrudge Scott his fatigue or inaccessibility, he works all of the time, running a family restaurant or cafe is  grueling, eternal, and sometimes thankless work. Scott is passionate about the food he serves, and there are no short cuts in the cafe, or in his life.

Scott and me too, I think, suffer from the male habit of rarely leaving room in our lives for friendship. I talked about this a lot with my friend Paul Moshimer, he told me we had great things ahead of us in our friendship, and then he took his own life. I am still trying to understand it.

I do worry about Scott, but I am not his mother or wife. His face is a smiling face, full of smile wrinkles. But lately, it is a tired smiling face, and today I think I captured the duality in his eyes, genial and open, but nearly exhausted.

He loves what he does, and is determined to make his cafe work, he has been through seven levels of Hell to get this far, and he won't quit until he makes it or goes down in a blaze of glory.

Scott's birthday was last week, and I've been trying to give him his present ever since, I'm hoping for Tuesday or Wednesday.

When we do see each other – sometimes he pops into the farmhouse to say hello for a few minutes en route somewhere – it is always a pleasure. I feel very connected to Scott, we trust one another and are honest with each other. I have very few friends, my own fault,  I was not able to do it for much of my life. This is a keeper,I think.

I like this photo of Scott, I believe the best portraits are of people you love.

Posted in General

Long Days Farm, The Farmer’s Market

Long Days Farm

I love the Long Days Farm stand at the farmer's market in my town of Cambridge, N.Y., which is open on Sundays, at least for a few more weeks. Anne, Edwin's daughter helped him to design the farm, which grows all kinds of vegetables and specializes in different forms of garlic.

The displays are so enticing I bought a sample bag of garlic and will start trying it out tonight, on a vegetable casserole, and maybe on some fish. I've never seen vegetables look so inviting. I took the photograph with my Archomat Art Lens.

Posted in General