9 June 2016

Portraits: Seeing The World Anew



I've had my monochrome camera for a month, and I want to report that it is changing the way I see the world and the people in it. For reasons I cannot entirely explain, it seems, as one photographer said, to look into the soul of a living thing, rather than just capture the image.

The best I can do is say that I think black and white captures emotion better than some elements of digital photography, which captures color and light.

I have great respect for cell phone photography, you can make some beautiful pictures, but this kind of photo – taken when Fate jumped up on a stone wall to figure out what I was doing –  captures something special, it looks into her soul a bit, captures her curiosity, her affection, her intensity.

When Fate is showing love, her ears go back, unlike a horse, who shows fear and anger in that same way. She came to say hello to me and, I think, to see if I am okay, and what I'm up to, which she sometimes does. I am heartened by this black and white experience, it has altered my idea of art and image quite a bit. I am determined to get a new portrait lens, the 85 mm from Canon, I have saved up nearly $1,000, I have about $800 to go.

With the 85 mm, Fate's face will fill the frame, be closer, even more impact and detail. The 35 mm, used for this photo, is my main lens, my favorite one. I love the detail in the eyes, tough to catch in a dog at best, and the reflection of the light in her pupils. Also, the white eyebrows and whiskers balance one another.

I remembered when I first started taking photos, I would just call up B&H Photo and charge it, I never really had to think about what it costs. This is more meaningful in a number of ways. I have to think about what I want, research it and wait for it. It makes it all the more precious.

I am learning to save and wait for the things I want, and  appreciate the help I got in getting the monochrome. It turns out to be as powerful a tool as I sensed it would be, and I can't even recall where the idea came from. I think it started out with the $15,000 Leica, an idea I abandoned. Too much money to raise and to ask for, and I wonder if it would have been much different.

Anyway, thanks again for your support in my getting this monochrome, which I am sharing with you. It really got me started in a powerful new direction.


Thanks for the lovely letters I continue to receive at my Post Office Box, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. They mean a great deal to me.


Posted in Farm Journal
12 December 2013

Creative Aging. Stop Getting Animals? Hmmm…Maybe Not.

Getting Animals

Getting Animals

I ran into a friend I haven't seen awhile at the dentist's a couple of weeks ago, we stood in the parking lot and caught up a bit. I asked her if she were planning to lamb this Spring and she got a very somber and serious look, and said, "oh, no I don't think it's right to bring any more animals into our lives that might outlive us." She looked quite grave. Really, I said, Maria and I were lambing in the Spring and thinking about getting goats. Then I realized what she was really saying, she was in her 60's and expected to die before any of the lambs.

When I told her that I intended to lamb, even at my advanced age, she looked at me uncomfortably, as if I were about to beat a kitten with a stick. I might have included this in my "Creative Aging Manifesto," part of my Ted Talk being edited right now. There is this very somber idea about aging – my friend must have said a dozen times, "you know we aren't getting any younger," "we need to face reality" – that suggests it is time to begin slipping away from life, even before you leave it.

And, she added, shaking her head sorrowfully, her dogs were getting older too.

My friend is roughly my age and I told her that I have no intention of abandoning my writing and life with animals because I am getting older. Nuts to that, I thought, I know where I am, for one thing Maria is younger than I am, but for another I can always make plans for the animals in case something happens to me or us – Maria and I have talked about that. Animals have provided great life, work and health and connection for me. And it's a good idea, if something happened to both of us, our friends ought to know where to bring the animals in our lives.

For me, a life with animals is all about life, not death. Farm chores keep me very active and busy and engaged. So does sheepherding with Red. And walks with the dogs. And wrestling with sheep. And brushing and doing Tai Chi with donkeys. They provide me with many gifts, from photography to my books. I don't speak ill of my age, or apologize for it. I never say "we aren't getting any younger" or "at our age." My age is my age, and apart from sore knees and chilled bones in the winter, it does not define me, I am writing more than ever, taking more photos than ever, I have plans for a bunch more books.

I do not live in denial about my age, I am aware of it, I am much closer to the end but the beginning, but I will not close life off to me because the culture around me has turned getting older into a capitalist race for health care, IRA's and medicines.  I will downsize my life when I must, not when the world beyond thinks it's a good idea.One day I'll be lying in bed, propped up on pillows, Maria will be reading me short stories, Red will be gray and wobbly, lying at my feet, Lenore will be curled up in a ball by my toes. I don't see animals out of my life when I picture it.

Animals have brought me love, health and connection, work and stimulation, creativity in every imaginable way. I do not choose to reduce my life with them to an insurance adjuster's calculation of now many years I am like to live before they die. I told my friend that I did not wish to give up life now for somebody else's idea of life down the road. I didn't think she liked hearing it.

We each have our own stories. She has hers, I have mine.

Posted in Farm Journal, General
3 October 2013

Lessons With George, Cont.

Lessons With George

Lessons With George

George is a humble man and he doesn't like to tell other people what to do. Plus, he mumbles a lot. To learn from him, you have to sit near  him and listen as he runs through the settings and angles and mechanics he is employing to take a photo, in this case with a homemade 200 mm macro lens he build out of glass and metal scraps – he had to take it apart yesterday because it had a spiderweb in it. He got some parts on E-bay and built a converter so he could use it on the Canon Digital Camera I bartered with him in exchange for one of his classic photos.

George does things with exposure that nobody can do, even with a digital camera, but he can't really explain how he does it, you just have to listen to the stream of consciousness that emerges from when he starts thinking about a photo, he holds the camera up and down about a dozen times, trying different settings until he gets the one he likes. You can look at his wonderful work here.

We never did get the glint of light off of the crystal that we wanted, we came close though and we had fun.

Posted in Farm Journal, General
28 August 2013

Dog’s Heart: Lawsuits Of The Brain

Lawsuits Of The Brain

Lawsuits Of The Brain

So listen, dear person, it is not all about loyalty and love,

but frustration and commitment too.

We are always watching,

always listening to you.

If I could I would make you

stop all your lawsuits of the brain,

hold you upside down and shake

all of your nonsense out,

all of your arguments, your waste,

your violence and fear,

that make you fight within yourself,

dear ones,

and with others.

You say you love us so much,

but love is sometimes blind,

you are not like us,

perhaps you can't bear it,

one day I will tell the truth to you.

You say much, listen little.

You cause the world to weep

on so many beautiful days.

My prayer for you is not just to

love us, but to listen,

Some days I would  drag you

around the room by your hair,

ripping from your clenched fists and

bleeding souls all the toys of the world

that bring you no love or joy.

Sometimes I howl at the moon

and she covers her face with her hands.

I can't bear to look.


25 June 2013

The Dahlia Garden

The Dahlia Garden

The Dahlia Garden

Our Dahlia Garden is coming up. Maria worked hard at digging it up, and we both have been watering and weeding it. The hot and muggy and wet weather has been good to this garden, it is coming up and it has a special meaning for me. This was, we think, the original garden at the farm, there were Irises and tulips popping up, it is right on the edge of the old stone wall that bounded the pasture. I thought of Florence Walrath when we dug the garden, and I thought of us, it is really more our garden than hers now,  I suppose, if I'm being honest about it.

We honor her spirit, but it has become our place, as it needs to be, ought to be.

We bought about 20 Dahlia bulb groupings and about sixteen are in this garden, we put the others  in some of our other gardens. I gather I will have to get stakes for the Dahlia's and I am eager to see these flowers begin to sprout. The Dahlia is native to South America, it was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963, it is a sensuous and unpredictable kind of flower, growing in all kinds of colors and shapes. It is a symbol to me of our new home, our new life together, our love and commitment to one another. Gardening is hard, more difficult than I remembered it, worthwhile and rewarding. In one way or another, we care for these gardens every day. The chickens help out by pecking away at the bugs, the site and soil are good. I am eager to meditate there, it gives off a peaceful and rich feeling.

Posted in Farm Journal, General