23 November 2017

To Love, Greetings And Thanks

Greetings And Thanks

"Loving one another isn't enough to make a relationship last. The real glue that holds a couple together is the effort both put into helping others who are in need of financial, health, personal or emotional assistance." — the Kabbalah.

Today, the birds found the feeders we filled the other day, and I stood by the Lilac tree and watched them come, one by one. Today, a celebration of life and love here on the farm, mine and Maria's.

We are stepping out of our daily routine to go off and be together for one night, and consider what is important in life. Sometimes, when I Iook beyond our farm, I see a world where love is forgotten, full of conflict and lament.

I don't with that to ever be my world.

This day is devoted to my gratitude for love.

"Love is a weapon of light, and it has the power to eradicate all forms of darkness," says the Kabbalah.

Love is the point, God tells his people.

"That is the key," wrote the mystics. "When we offer love even to our enemies, we destroy their darkness and hatred….what's more, we cast out the darkness inside ourselves. What's left are two souls who now recognize the spark of divinity they both share."

Hurt people hurt people. That's how pain gets passed along, generation after generation. Today, I will break the chain. I seek to meet anger with empathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. To greet grimaces with smiles. Forget arguments and blaming and hating others. Love is the weapon of the future.

That is how I wish to share my life. They can offer all the discounts they want on material things, but they can't take our inner spirits away.

I'll be back in the morning, and I wish you a peaceful and reflective day.


Posted in General

Prayer To Life, Greetings And Thanks. Now We Are One.

To The Earth

Native Americans have always been part of the Thanksgiving experience, and for all kinds of reasons. Alana, from Tennessee sent me a prayer of "Greetings And Thanks," a Thanksgiving prayer spoken whenever members of the Onondaga Nation gather. For those of us struggling to find more meaning in the holiday than bargains online or in malls, I recommend it, it is both beautiful and timeless.

The prayer reminds me to grateful for life and the gifts of life, things we take for granted in our sometimes selfish, complaining and divided world. Our culture reminds me of the pain and anguish and division of a world committed to greed and self-interest, and without common values and purpose. We have forgotten who we are and where we came from. This prayer remind me today of the days' true purpose.

In this, perhaps, we are of one mind. To the earth, greetings and thanks.


Greetings and thanks, to each other as people.

To the Earth

mother of all, greetings and thanks.

To All The Waters

waterfall and rain

rivers and oceans,

greetings and thanks.

To all the Fish Life, greetings and thanks

The Grains and Greens, Beans and Berries,

As one we send thanks to all food plants.

Medicine Herbs

of the world, and their keepers, greetings and thanks.

To All Animals

and their teachings, greetings and thanks.

To the Trees

for shelter and shade,

fruit and beauty, greetings and thanks.

To All Birds,

large and small,

joyful greetings and thanks

And from the four directions,

The Four Winds,

thank you for purifyig

the air we breathe,

and giving us strength,


and now The Sun

for the light of a new day,

and all the fires of life,

greetings and thanks.

To Our Teachers

from all times

reminding us of how

to live in harmony

greetings and thanks.

And For All The Gifts Of Creation

for all the love

around us, greetings and thanks.

We end our words.

Now our minds are one.

Posted in General
22 November 2017

SOS From Ali: A Rescue Meeting For A Soccer Tournament

SOS From Ali

Just after noon Wednesday, I got a text from my friend Ali (Amjad Abdulla), coach of the RISSE soccer team and a good friend. It was an SOS.

"Hey Jon, they are doing a small tournament at Afrim's Sports  (near Albany) for Thanksgiving, it will be a great experience for the kids because they haven't played a game in a while and it cost $285 for the team to play. Do you think there is anyway you can help us with that…and I'm so sorry, I know we been asking for a lot, but you are our guy, we have no other choice…"

I am always in awe of Ali's dedication to his kids, to the soccer team, almost all refugees.  How could anyone decline a message like that?

He never stops thinking of these kids, he drives them around seven days a week, watches over them, teaches them how to behave. And they behave  beautifully, they are great people.

Ali is a godsend to them. He tells the boys he loves America, and this time is a temporary time, and they will see the true heart and soul of America again.

He is like a father to many, there are a lot of single parent families in the group. When I got his message,  I was heading over to the Mansion to teach my poetry class.

I called Ali back. We had to do some brainstorming.  No bank would be open in the morning, we had to figure it out right away. I asked him when he needed the money, and he said today, the  deadline for registering is the morning, when the tournament starts. And they only took cash.

"How am I supposed to get this money to you, Ali?," I asked. He had no idea. His bank has no branch near me. We went back and forth and I proposed meeting him halfway between Albany and my town, Cambridge.

It was about a half-hour ride for each of us. It was a rainy and gloomy day, but Ali always has a smile on his face. It is always good to see him.

I love the big heart of this man (thanks to the restaurant owner in Albany who recognized him from the blog and refused to take his money for dinner.) It is a gift to be able to help.

After his call,  I left the workshop early and drove to Schaghticoke and I was only there for five minutes before the familiar white van cruised into the parking lot. We hugged and I gave Ali the check. I made him pose in front of the diesel gas pump at Stewart's, I liked the price screen in the background.

Ali is my brother and I am proud to be his emergency go-to guy for the soccer team, that is a promotion. After all, they chose to name themselves the "Bedlam Farm Warriors," over my objection.

I understand the importance of this tournament. It's getting cold and Ali is looking to rent some space in an indoor soccer arena for the winter, like the wealthy suburban teams do, he is checking out the cost. This will enable the team to practice all winter and stay off the streets, and keep their very close community together. It will also keep them in shape when the Spring games begin.

I plan to try to help him. I feel this is an important message about the real America, the one I love. These young people are no threat to us, they belong here and have suffered enough in their lives.

I wish I was rich, I'd send them all to Disney World.) I did have the $285, thanks to the Army of Good.

Ali told me his mother is coming from Egypt for a visit in a few weeks and the first thing she wants to see in America is Bedlam Farm. She is quite welcome here. Ali is my brother from a different mother, as my pal Ed Gulley likes to say.

When I first put his photo up on the blog, Ali sent his mother a link and she panicked, calling him up and asking if he needed a lawyer, she couldn't imagine why his photo would be on the Internet from America, and she didn't think the possibilities were good.

She's gotten used to it, and she wants to cook for me and Maria at Ali's house when she comes. That would be delightful.


Again, thanks for your support. You made this possible. If you wish to help these children and support my Children's Refugee Fund, you can send a check to Jon Katz, Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or via Paypal, [email protected]  Small donations are very welcome. Please mark payments "for refugees."


Posted in General

All In The Family: Robin’s Thanksgiving

Robin's Thanksgiving

Almost everyone in my family has an Apple computer and is a writer or an artist. Robin is following in our footsteps.

She is already typing words onto Emma's new MacBook Pro.

This Thanksgiving, she is  walking, talking, smiling and laughing. She seems a genial and curious soul, Emma called on Facetime and Robin loved watching Gus leap up and shower me with kisses.

She said "hi" to him, not quite to me It's time for me to see her, but it may have to wait until January. New York City is a madhouse this time of year and trains and accommodations are complex. Emma might be off for a week at Christmas and may come up for a couple of days.
That would be sweet.

Posted in General

A Poem From The Mansion: “What Is Getting Older About?”

What Getting Older Is All About?

A month ago, Mansion Activities Director Julie Smith and I began a poetry workshop for Mansion Residents. The participants range from six to ten in number, and we meet every couple of weeks.

The last topic we chose was "getting older," and who better to talk about it that these eager and opinionated students, who range in age from their late 70's to mid 90's? They answered questions verbally and shared their thoughts,  I took notes and collected their thoughts into a single poem.

I tried to respect the original language and phrasing.

I did some editing, but the words and thoughts are theirs. I hope to collect the Mansion poems and have them printed and sold in a pamphlet. The workshop will continue for as long as the residents wish. Red always comes.

What Is Getting Older About? The Mansion residents.

Getting older is so many things, Our lives are so different.

Getting older is about being lucky and plucky.

Being lonely, being afraid.

Having courage,  staying alert, staying healthy.

Losing friends and dogs,  and cats and husbands and wives.

About leaving your home, and having your home leave you.

About being alive, opening your eyes.

About finding safety, living some someone who cares.

About not being forgotten.

About knowing you are never going to be what you were,

You can't look back, you can't do that.

Being older is sometimes about telling people to stop

telling us what we can't do.

Rather than what we want to do.

It's about being helped, and missing others.

It's not the same as having your own home, you always miss your own home,

your curtains, and kitchen, your own things, your own dog and cats,

you always miss the animals,

every day.

You always miss the people who shared your life.

About never forgetting, and not looking back,

all at the same time.

It's about being wiser, and learning,

what it means to love.

It's about not being hungry,

and having help, someone to do the laundry.

And cook good food, and come if you fall. Or call.

If you belong to good, everything is good. Shiny as a golden coin.

Even if you are a pest, I'll take you along with the rest.

Being older is about talking with each other

listening to each other.

We are not lonely now, we are all in the same place.

We do feel forgotten sometimes, the world flies bye,

and doesn't think about us You have to live your life,

it's like being born,

all over again.

Getting older is about helping each other, we are all lonely sometimes.

You have to be lucky and plucky.

Being old is not like anything else.

Posted in General