The sheep are in the pasture, ready to work with Red and Fate. This is the gallery where people can see the dogs work up close, it is the North pasture on one side of the house. Red is waiting his turn, Fate is doing her wonderful outruns around the sheep (they pay no attention to this,). I'll do three or four herding demos a day this weekend, we have fresh water out for them.
We got a "welcome" banner last month, the dogs are the official welcoming committee, they love to see everyone. But we wanted to know people are welcome here, the farm is open to them. The house is looking good, the art is wonderful and varied, the artists exceptional people. Eager to get started and see what the day brings.
We got up before dawn today, 100 things to do. First, manure removal from the pasture, Maria has set new trains for farm chore fashion design – the artistic way. There was mowing, moving chairs around, getting water out to the side pasture, getting the barn ready for shearing and hoof trimming, rushing into town for food for helpers, moving the cars, getting out the signs and chalkboard – and about 100 other things. People still aren't due for an hour, there is still an hour's worth of work to do.
Our chief want, said Ralph Waldo Emerson, is for someone to inspire us to be what we know we could be.
All we really have to do is to decide what to do with the time given us. And to be encouraged to believe that this is possible and right.
Encouragement is the Mother of Creativity, the ideology of the Open Houses.
What is encouragement?
Encouragement is something that makes someone more determined, hopeful or confident. It is the act of making something more appealing or more likely to happen.
It is about being truthful and authentic. If is about helping people to see what they can do, not what they can't do or must do.
Encouragement is about helping to see that their stories are precious and important, and deserve to be seen and read and heard.
Encouragement is about nourishment and safety.
What is encouragement not?
Encouragement is not about telling other people what to do.
It is not about rescuing people, or giving them money, or solving their problems.
it is not about speaking for others.
Encouragement is not therapy.
It is not about false or excessive praise.
it is neither an elixir nor a miracle. Encouragement works only when the spirit is open to it.
Encouragement is not the spark, it can only light the spark.
It is not about the self, but the other. It is not for me, but for them. My conscience is the measure of the honesty of my selfishness.
So every year, we dedicate the Bedlam Farm Open Houses to encouragement, the fuel that lights the creative spark.
"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate himself by a conscious endeavor." – Henry David Thoreau
Saturday marks our fifth year of hosting Open Houses and sharing our lives. I thank Maria for it.
I've been posting portraits of the Open House artists and this wouldn't be nearly complete without a portrait of Maria, and I got her radiant smile, which I wanted in my portrait of her. It can light up a lot of space.
I can't be objective about her because I love her, but she is founder of our Open Houses, a kind of patron saint of artists seeking strength and guidance to share their work with the world and follow their bliss.
The Open House was her idea, and it came out of our new relationship eight years ago. Maria had started making her art again, after a long and painful hiatus, she drew from the encouragement she received from people and wanted to do the same for others. It also offered her a chance to show her own art, that was a great way to do it.
I thought it was a wonderful idea. It began with Mary Kellogg, our dear friend, who published her first volume of poetry when she was 81 (she will be reading at the Open House on Saturday). Maria, who had never edited a book in her life, edited Mary's first volume, "My Place On Earth." It is a beautiful book.
Maria decided the best forum for her idea of support and our ideas of celebrating and encouraging creativity was an art show, the first Bedlam Farm was ideally suited for such a show with its four restored and beautiful barns. The first art show drew more than 1,500 people. We were shocked, the only publicity we have ever undertaken was our blogs.
But we had to move on.
Our new farm is not quite so grand as the first but very beautiful in its own way, but our Open Houses are even more successful in a number of ways. We have learned about what people want to see and how we can best present it. We have even learned it's okay to put out a voluntary donation box.
The Spring Open Houses usually draw between five-and eight hundred people, the October Open Houses more. They are essentially Maria's vision, she chooses the artists, works with them, curates and hangs the show, sells the art. People come from all over the country, it has become a tradition for many.
I stay out of the Schoolhouse Studio except to bring Maria some food, she would never otherwise bother to eat. I do sheep herding demos, talk to people, sign books, give donkey and other talks about my books, introduce poets and speakers. As always, we work together, and respect the space and boundaries of one another.
Maria has no desire to give talks, I have no desire to choose the art for her shows. It is a beautiful partnership.
Her openness, warmth and radiant spirit set the tone for the Open Houses, and her passion for art suffuses the weekend. She loves to curate shows, and she loves to sell art. She works just as hard – harder – to sell art for the other artists as she does her own. She is overjoyed when any artist sells any piece of work.
She used to forego her own commission because she doesn't want to take any money away from the artists. She was persuaded not to do it.
That is who she is. The Open Houses have come to define us in some ways, and help us focus on our purpose for being around.
But Maria and her story and her art are the heart of it, and I am, as always, proud of her and admiring of her. I am perhaps one of the very few people who understand what she went through to get from there to here, and it is wonderful to see just how far she has come.
Maria keeps me focused on the purpose and mission of the Open House, and I am lucky to have found her.