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21 September 2016

Red On The Hill: “Especially He Loved To Run In The Dim Twilight Of The Summer…”

Red On The Hill

Red On The Hill

For me, the greatest dog book I have ever read and believe I will ever read is Jack London's Call Of The Wild. It is powerful enough story in its own right, but I love it especially – and it influenced me greatly – because London understood where dogs came from and what their loyalty and ecstasy was truly about.

More than any writer, he captured the mystical appreciation for the binds that hold us to dogs so powerfully.

London wrote about Buck in the days before dogs were given anti-depressants and confined to back yards and considered to be children and emotionalized beyond their history or recognition. Before we got so close to them they caught our craziness and fear.

Dogs came from wolves, after all,  and their spirits were formed by great loyalty and blood and the call of their own wild.

The greatest dogs I have known – Rose, Frieda, Red, even Fate in her own way – are like that, they have kept a sense of wildness and ecstasy about them, they are loyal unto death, parts of them are unreachable, and there are parts of them that are simply beyond the range of human understanding.

Red is dedicated to me in this way, as he is to his work. I sat out on the hill with him this afternoon, a new and pleasant ritual for us, and he never once looked at me – only the sheep – yet I knew he was completely connected to me and aware of me. He is doing all of this for me. I have a copy of Call Of The Wild in my cell phone and I was reading the book while I sat with Red watching the sheep.

I thought of Red as I read this passage: "But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest,  reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called – – called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come."

I often feel this powerful thing in Red, as much as he is devoted to me, that is always seeking something beyond us, beyond the narrow visions and ideas of a human being. He is always reading signs as I might read a book, and seeking the mysterious something that calls him to come.

And then in the book London wrote a passage that spoke to me, as well as Red:

"There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-made in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight."

There is a mystical part of dogs, big and small, and a mystical connection that binds them to us and us to them, I felt it sitting on that hill with Red, understanding I was experiencing something larger than myself.

Posted in General

The Battle For The Round House: Redeeming The Holy Earth.

The Battle For The Round House

The Battle For The Round House

When I took the cheap, ugly and intrusive "For Sale By Owner" signs down from the Round House Cafe a couple of weeks ago, a number of people were horrified, they were worried about the poor landlord and his rights. As a reporter and former resident of New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.,  Dallas and Atlantic City, I learned that landlords seemed to do pretty well at taking care of themselves, the people I always met and saw who got screwed were tenants.

Just ask the hundreds of thousands of tenants in Boston, San Francisco and New York City who have been kicked out of their homes and apartments to make way people with more money. The landlords are doing fine.

In America, money speaks more loudly than anything else, certainly louder than community or the environment. It is heresy to some to protest what landlords do, we are supposed to roll over quietly while the corporate economy ravages our communities. There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations devoted to protecting things of value that town after town has lost in America: peace, kindness, community, freedom, work we love, health, callings and good jobs, factories and businesses, wilderness, farmland, small family farms, families, wilderness, rivers and streams, fish, species of plants and animals, trees and bees, the very atmosphere, scenic roads, fine old buildings, community businesses and cafes, pharmacies and grocery stores, country roads, scenic views and landmarks, historic places, quiet, darkness, the stars int the sky.

"Collectively," writes the famed author and environmentalist Wendell Berry, "these organizations comprise a movement of redemption, a movement to deliver the holy earth from its ruthless exploiters who are claiming everywhere their "right" to plunder, waste, corrupt, and destroy the great possessions that have been given to us on the condition only of our devoted care."

I embrace the idea of the "holy earth," and I plan to be a part of this movement.

One reader demanded that I apologize for taking down the landlord's signs, signs it seemed were meant to bully, not sell. And I do apologize, I am sorry that I didn't take them down a second time. Scott Carrino asked me not to.

The signs could, in many ways, be a mixed thing, even a blessing. They seem to have inaugurated a new chapter in the struggle to save our community cafe, they might yet do a lot of good. Everyone is about to exercise their rights.

The landlord is asking $250,000 for this building, an old bank building that has been on the market for nine years. "There is no building in Cambridge that is worth $250,000," one real estate agent told me last week. I am not an assessor, I can't say what a building is worth. Negotiations have begun.

But the signs have refocused the community's attention on the urgency behind the campaign to save the Round House. On their gofundme project,  and thanks in part to many of you reading this, and from loyal customers, Scott and Lisa Carrino have raised more than $60,000 to buy the building where the cafe is located, and where they have worked so hard for three years to make it a going concern.

As loved as the cafe is, it is still a small town of less than 2,000 souls, and  Scott says he needs between $10,000 and $15,000 more dollars to make the offer he wants to make in order to purchase the building. He and Lisa are launching a month long funding campaign that will culminate in a special evening  and dinner at Pompanuck Farm, he will be providing the details as updates online and on his gofundme project.  People who can't get to the dinner can contribute to the gofundme project and in other ways to be revealed.

Scott and Lisa are thinking about holding their dinner during the Bedlam Farm Open House on Columbus Day Weekend in October. We will support it in any way we can.

I believe this goal is achievable, people all over the country have chosen to support the Round House as it struggles to keep community alive.  People who aren't here understand its value, one lover of community far away sent a check for $5,000. The cafe is important to those of us who live and gather here, but it is important to everyone who cares about community anywhere, and who wishes to reverse the relentless tide of loss and deprivation that rural communities have suffered.

This is America, and almost everything is controversial. People have protested that they see no reason to support one family's  personal business. People have told me it is none of my business. Many more people get it and are on board.

My message to those who disagree, is simple enough. Don't read my posts, don't contribute.  Eat where you wish. Subway and Applebee's don't square with my idea of community.

When democracy works, it is a sweet thing to watch. We are going to have a fun month raising this additional money. Scott and his landlord will each make their own decisions, and that is their business, for sure.

Scott and Lisa can buy this building, which is their wish. Failing that, they can take their money and find another, even better place for the cafe. There are, alas, some beautiful buildings up for sale in our town.

If plan B fails, Scott and Lisa can regroup at Pompanuck Farm, their beautiful home and farm retreat. The landlord can sell the building at his asking price, lower his price, or wait for someone else to come along. Money always speaks in its own language, and in America, money is louder than almost any other sound. It is our national religion.

I believe the movement to save the Round House is a movement of redemption, a movement to deliver a piece of the holy earth from the people who see their "rights" in a different way than I do. All of life cannot be about the highest bidder, the biggest profit. At present, it sometimes seem that there is nothing, literally nothing, held sacred by the proponents of the marketplace.

So the next chapter is upon us for the Round House Cafe, maybe the final one, maybe not. I will be there to root for Scott and Lisa and see what we see. I told Scott today that a lot of people, in many different places, are watching. You can contribute here.

Posted in General
20 September 2016

Video: Red On His Hill



Red has a new routine for work, I send him out on some outruns and then he settles at the top of his hill, where he can keep an eye on his sheep and his responsibilities – his kingdom. Red is running very well these days, he is doing his usual good work for us, but I see it is time to slow him down, to protect his arthritis and sometimes sore legs.

The regimen of laser treatment and massage is working beautifully, I think, I'll keep that up. Our new system is good for him, he loves to sit up on his hill, and I love to sit up there with him. I believe we can prolong his work life by a number of years and his other life for even longer. Sitting on that hill with him is good for me as well, a kind of meditation.

I can learn a lot from Red, and I feel his calm and affection.

Posted in General
19 September 2016

Zelda, Semi-Retired



Zelda is semi-retiring, she is getting older and her wool is no longer long enough to send to the mill for yearn. This year, the Gang Of Four will supply most of the wool, we had the others shorn for the Spring Open House and it may not be long enough to shear this October.

The four Romney's will  bring a lot of wool for yarn, and we may just let the others grow their wool through the winter. Zelda still watches over the other sheep, she is still independent and alert, but she's getting up there, she will have an easy and undemanding life for the rest of her time.

I fondly remember when she ran over Red and knocked me down and led a breakout through the first fence and up the highway for a half mile or so, Red in hot pursuit. I never thought any of us would survive that. She has mellowed quite a bit.

Posted in General
18 September 2016

Portrait Reception: The Spirit Of Alfreda.

Honoring Alfreda

Honoring Alfreda

The very beautiful spirit, Alfreda, came to the portrait show reception, the portrait of her and her boyfriend Reuben are among my favorite. She works long and challenging hours on a farm, and we have gotten to know her well and love her. Reuben couldn't come but she hopes to  come back to the Round House cafe with her to have coffee and a muffin.

Alfreda has enormous grace and presence – she sat for me underneath her portrait –  she has worked hard for years to help her family back in Mexico, and her spirit is all love and connection. I tried to capture some of that love in her portrait with Reuben, and it is one of the favorites, people were talking about that photo all day.

We share our community with many farm workers, they are rarely seen in town or on Main Street, they work and work. It has been a blessing to us to get to know Alfreda, and share in the glow of her loving spirit. She stayed at the reception, talking to people in her broken English, laughing and share our community.

Posted in General