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“Your real duty is to go away from the community to find your bliss.” – Joseph Campbell
28 July 2016

The Connection Cactus. Small Miracles Of Rebirth

The Connection Cactus

The Connection Cactus

I have so little connection to my own past. I moved about 20 times, abandoned my family in some ways to move to the country. I have no friends I have known longer than a year years My sister is the only person I ever speak to from my original family, my daughter the only connection to the life I lived for a generation.

I am in touch with none of the hundreds of good people I worked with in more than a dozen different jobs. Disturbed, angry and frightened, I tore through so much of my life, always able to get a good job, move up, make money and then run. It was a long time before I realized the person I was running from was me, the person I was angry at was me. I was a genius at seeming well but being sick and broken inside.

Nobody could see it from the outside, including me, at least for awhile.

In the past six or seven years, I have been rebuilding my life. I got help, faced the truth, undertook to do the hard, hard work of recovery and rebirth. You cannot become someone other than yourself, but you can certainly be a better, happier and healthier self.  I faced the truth, found life, heard the very hard news about me from good and tough and professional helpers. I broke my heart a million times, and the hearts of many others. I turned to the creativity inside of me for salvation to a wonderful woman for trust and companionship.

I was not well, I was determined to get better. This is work that will never be done, never be over. It is not up to others to be responsible for the life that is mine,  or to be blamed for it, it is up to me. It is the mission and purpose of the rest of my life. Fate has given me a partner to help me on this journey, and life has given me the opportunity.

The goal of my life is to be whole, to do good, to be authentic, to be creative, to love well and live simply.

This morning, Maria reminded me of the cactus sitting on the porch. I had forgotten it, of course, I have always forgotten things I can't see right in front of me. But it is so important to me in different ways. The cactus in the middle is from the cabin found when I first came to upstate New York about 16 years ago. It was in the cabin on Colfax Mountain where I wrote "Running To The Mountain."

I don't care much for cactus plants, they seem ugly to me and out of place in the country, but I cared lovingly for this one, and brought it from my cabin to the farm in Hebron, watered it from time to time, kept it near the sun. For all of the years  I had the plant in the cabin or in Hebron, my cactus plant never grow, not an inch. Since we moved to our current home together, the plant has doubled in size – the section on top is all new, since we came here.

What explanation for that can there possible be? Can plants sense people, and respond to them. I feel as if my unloved cactus – it is loved now – is cheering me on, growing with me.

The taller cactus on the right is Maria's, she bought it when she was in high school. The two small cactus plants in front were in our farmhouse, they were owned by Florence Walrath, about the only thing that wasn't sold off or removed. These cactus plants were jammed into a small old white pot, which now holds a different plant in our dining room windowsill. Maria saved them, she cut them up, gave them space and light.

I didn't even notice that she had done it, I never thought about these plants. I am so conditioned to shedding the past.

I was very much struck by her intuitive decision to bring these three things together, put them in one pot. They have all thrived. In the summer, they get to take in the sun out on the porch. In the winter, they come inside and sit by the windows. Small miracles, all three.

These are the only three things that connect me, Maria and Florence Walrath, that tie us both to one another, that tie me to my past, to one another, to the present and to the future.I don't own a single thing from the house I lived in in Montclair, New Jersey for nearly 25 years, where my daughter grew up and I began to write, not even my grandmother's dining room table, or the Chagall print my mother gave me on my first wedding day. I couldn't bear to take any of it with me, I didn't ask for one thing when I got divorced, I don't know what happened to it or where it is.

Perhaps I needed to shed my past to get my life back.

The past is too painful for me, except for my daughter,  my life began after those things when I came to awareness and faced the wrenching tasks of seeking authenticity and healing myself.

The Connection Cactus is here for a reason, it reminds me who I have been, where I have been, and where I am and wish to be. I am just beginning to grasp the power of the natural world, the magical helpers – animals, trees, plants, flowers, light, my dogs – that have guided me and helped to save me.

I will not forget the Community Cactus again. Perhaps it will end up one day in my granddaughter's house, she may wonder about the strange  man she heard so many stories about but never really got to know.

Posted in General

Maria In The Three Sisters Garden

In The Three Sisters Garden

In The Three Sisters Garden

Every morning, a delightful new tradition/chore for us, we go and inspect the Three Sisters Garden growing next to the farmhouse. Today we found string beans and peas to harvest, they were delicious. The corn stalks are shooting up sprouting tassels, the squash are sprouting yellow leaves, the cucumbers are growing in the back and we have two pumpkins well along.

Maria hops around in the garden checking the growth of the vegetables. It is a wonderful experience to eat the food you grow.  We are eating a zucchini from the garden today.

Three Sisters Gardens have special meanings, they were developed by Native-American women many years ago to grow squash, beans and corn – enough healthy food for people to live on. The Native-Americans brought this tradition to the early settlers from Europe and these gardens became a feminist symbol of women's support for one another.

This garden has a lot of good in it and we can hardly believe its growth, even since yesterday. We plan a bigger Three Sisters next year.

Posted in General

Portrait: Soul Of A Human

Portrait: Soul Of A Human

Portrait: Soul Of A Human

I've been trying to take a portrait of Cassandra Conety for some months now, and I had some great full-face shots of her – she is going in my portrait show, "Cambridge People," at the Round House Cafe,  in September, but I was troubled about it. Cassandra has a great and expressive face, but it didn't say much about who she was.

Some portraits are simply close-ups of someone's face, and those are fine.

But when I can, I want the picture to show something about them.

I get a little twitchy when some of the photos don't really show a bit about the life of the subject, where they work, what's around them, what they are about. When that happens, I got back again an again until we figure it out.

I don't know a lot about her life,  I only see her at the vets – she is a tech at the Cambridge Valley Veterinary Service, where I often go with my dogs.I know she is a country girl, she loves the outdoors, and loves goats and dogs.

And when I think of her, I think of her soft and easy and calming way with animals. All of my dogs love her, and they barely seem to notice they are getting stuck with needles or poked and prodded in sensitive places. Fate comes tearing into the vet office, looking everywhere for her.

Red has been doing massage and laser work with Cassandra, and I have known her for years now, she has seen a lot of my ups and downs. She inspires trust and affection, in animals and people, she is unusual. How do I capture this? Yesterday I brought Red in for his laser treatments, and I asked if we could put him up on the operating table, Red is calm and stoic, I knew he would stay there.

That would give me a better angle than I had when the treatments were done on the floor, it was hard to get a perspective down there So we put him up on the table, and then I turned on the operating room overhead lights, throwing some light on Cassandra's and on Red. There, I thought, I had it, the photograph shows Cassandra, her environment, her gentle, thoughtful way of treating animals, and the trust and connection between her and Red.

The surgery room adds a touch of drama to the photo.

Digital photography is fast and impulsive, but portraits challenge you to slow down and actually think about what you are doing. I like this photo and the hard-nosed curator thinks it ought to go into the show. Portrait photography is defined in many ways, I consider the effort to capture the soul of a human being.

Posted in General
27 July 2016

Windowsill Gallery: Can Older People Be Beautiful? Can I See You?

WIndowsill Gallery: On Getting Older

WIndowsill Gallery: On Getting Older

I was naked for a bit the other day and walked by a full-length mirror,and I was startled, as I sometimes am, to look at the man in the mirror, I was shocked, at first, to see it was me. I am getting older, and I look older, and I suppose that is appropriate for someone who will be 69 years old on August 8.

I look at the beautiful flowers on the windowsill of my study and saw that they are beginning to die, they are getting older and losing some of their color and strength. Me, too, I suppose. I wonder if, like me, they see themselves in their minds as young.

I don't feel old, and I don't think old either. I don't define myself in terms of health or my age, I don't wish I was young again, I don't believe the old days were any better than the new.  I'm still younger than anyone running for president.

Life is beautiful, for sure. This is not nearly the worst time in our history, or the history of the world. It isn't even close.

History is the great teacher of perspective, we never know how lucky we are until it is too late. The young are not supposed to be wise or pliant, that is the job of older people. If the young were like us, there would be no hope for the world, it would be dull beyond imagining and stale.

My flowers are beautiful, just as much today as when they were picked. I'd like to think I am more beautiful than I was when I was young. Maria says I am beautiful, but I confess I don't believe her.

But when I look at my windowsill, I think differently. I might be beautiful in the eyes of others. It's not really for me to decide how I look. Looking at my older flowers, I think it's possible for me to be beautiful, our world has trained me to think differently, old people are hidden away from the world, we are not in movies or on magazine covers. In books we are all doddering droolers.

When i take photos, I know it is possible to take a beautiful photo of anything. Maybe it is just as possible for someone like me to be beautiful in the same way. It isn't what we think, it's what people can  see. Can I see you? Can you see me?

Posted in General

Cassandra And Red: Laser Treatment


Cassandra And Red2 Cassandra and Red: Laser Treatment

Red continued his laser treatment today, he seemed sore after his run in with the ram when we went to get Rosemary.

Red got whacked around pretty well, and he seemed sore, so we went to see Cassandra at the Cambridge Valley Vet, she applies the laser wand to his arthritis and sore back.

Red is  in continuing treatment for his back, and it is working well. He gets laser treatment twice a month, massage twice a month. Down the road, we may try acupuncture as well. I am getting comfortable with the idea of preventive car, something new to me. It works for Red.

I enjoy my time with Cassandra, she has an easy and loving way with animals. They pick up on her calm, they accept her treatment.  I enjoy getting to know her. I'm still working on my portrait of her for the Portrait Show in September at the Round House, so we put Red up on the table so I could get a better shot of her.

This photo was taken with the infrared camera, and I like the way it captured the overhead lights and the soft feeling in the room. Red trusts her completely and didn't need to be restrained on the high table in the operating room.

I don't think this is the portrait I will use of Cassandra in the September Portrait Show at the Round House, but my photos are evolving, I don't just want a face shot, although that sometimes works, I want to the portrait to also capture a place, and a portrait of Cassandra would not be complete if it did not include a sense of her at work.

The IR can soften a scene.

Posted in General