24 July 2017

Exploding Garden

Exploding Garden

The rain has caused our gardens to explode in the color. What is a huge problem for farmers – they can't hay their fields, they are so wet – is a boon to gardens. I love these flowers and there are a lot of them, but I have no idea what they are and don't much care.

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At The Mansion: Art And Faith, And Air Conditioners That Move Quickly

The Moving Finger

Red and I visited Art this morning for the first time, his room is on the upper floors of the Mansion. He is a man of great faith, and appreciates receiving messages from people of faith, he is a devout Christian. He sends tracts in return.

We brought a Honeywell portable air conditioner for Shirley and Robert, who live upstairs,  but when we arrived with it, it seems that Shirley's sister brought some window fans and the room was better and Shirley forgot about our discussions.

Robert confided to me that Shirley doesn't really care for air conditioners. I sensed it would be awkward to try to put the air conditioner in her room, yesterday was yesterday,  but I am used to this, at the Mansion, plans are fluid and ever evolving. People forget things, get sick, move on.

I went to Art's room, which I know is also warm in the summer, and he said he would love the air conditioner, but he was moving to a room two floors down shortly,  his brother, who lived in that room, had passed away. He came to the Mansion to be near him. That room needed a window unit, not a portable.

I said I was sorry, and went searching for another home for the air conditioner, which we brought over and was unloaded into the Mansion basement by Kevin, the maintenance director. He installed Connie's unit. I didn't have to go far to find a need for the unit.

The Mansion Activity Room, presided over by Activity Director Julie Smith, is often boiling on warm days, there is a floor fan but it offers little relief from the heat. More  residents are in the Activity Room at any given moment than anywhere else in the Mansion besides the dining room at meals.

They attend religious services there, draw and sketch, watch movies and the news, sit and talk, paint and sew.

Julie said she would be thrilled to have the Honeywell there, and we agreed to give it to her.  It made perfect sense.

It will be installed later this week and will offer a cool and quiet respite for anyone in the Mansion who needs it, all day long. There are always people in the Activity Room. Curiously, this all turned out for the best.  Help for the residents requires flexibility and creativity. It always works out

We are doing our own survey of the upstairs rooms to see who might need a smaller, cheaper window air conditioning unit than the Honeywell, which cost $349 dollars. I can get a window unit for much less than that – about $122, and will begin working on this project. The room son the upper floors get especially warm in bright sun.I think $500 will do it.

If anyone wishes to contribute to that project, I think I will need four units, you can donate by sending a check to my post office box, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or donate through Paypal Friends And Family, ID [email protected]

If anyone wishes to write Art or the residents of the Mansion, here are the first names of those who wish to receive messages.

Jean, Ellen, Mary, Gerry, Sylvie, Jane, Diane, Alice, Jean, Madeline, Joan, Allan, William, John K, Helen, Constance, Robert, Shirley, Alanna, Charlotte,  Barbara, Peggie, Dorothy, Arthur, John R., Brenda, Bruce, John Z.

Thanks for the good that you do. The residents have soap, everyone has books, the cards and letters are still coming.

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Gus And Connie. Coming Of Age

Coming Of Age

Gus did some remarkable therapy work today, he is evolving rapidly into a sensitive and intuitive therapy dog. When I first brought him to the Mansion, he would squirm restlessly, as all puppies might. He is beginning to sense the moods and needs of the people he is seeing, and I am rewarding him for paying attention to people with praise, body language and visualization.

Connie was in some pain today, and seemed weary and discouraged. I cannot talk about the details of her health, but it was a hard day for her. Gus crawled onto her lap and looked up at her for the longest time, and did not move for many minutes, an unusual behavior from any 12-week old puppy.

After four or five minutes, Gus closed his eyes and slept a bit. Connie held him, rocked him back and forth, I believe it was comforting and healing for her. But for the second or third time this morning, I saw the makings of a dog who can connect with people and uplift them, if just for a few minutes.

I will continue to work with him and encourage and support him in being calm, in settling down with people and on their laps and making eye contact with them. I am glad my instincts about him seem to be founded, he may bring great pleasure to me as well as others.

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Gus Became A Therapy Dog Today

Gus Became A Therapy Dog Today

Today was a big day in the life of Gus, and in my own therapy work at the Mansion and other places with my dogs. Red is a wonderful therapy dog, and today, Gus became one too. This was his fourth visit to the Mansion in training, and today he got it. He grasped what he is supposed to do.

Gus lay in the laps of people who needed to touch him and love him at the Mansion today, and he lay still, was endearing and affectionate, and brought great joy and comfort to people who needed it.

Today he lay on the laps and in the arms of several people, he lay still while he was touched and petted, he even fell asleep in the arms of some of the residents, they held him so dearly and smiled so broadly.

Gus is really getting that he needs to be still and move gently and slowly. He loves to crawl up the chests of the residents slowly and lick their chins. In the world of the Mansion, the residents will speak of their loneliness, how they miss being touched, how they miss living things other than themselves.

"It isn't that we don't love each other here," one told me last week.

There are many questions about how much good therapy dogs actually do,but watching Gus today, there was not doubt in my mind he was doing good.

There are loyd of therapy dogs running around, and many do much good. But there are some dogs – Izzy was one, Red is another – who bring a certain intuition to the work, who go beyond training to sense need and dispense love and joy  and connection where it is most needed, safely and sensitively.

A good therapy dog knows who to approach and who to avoid. They do not scratch skin or bump into frail people.

They know how to be still and submit to being touched and hugged and squeezed. The Mansion residents all tell of how sad it is to never be touched. The best therapy dogs know how to offer feeling and love, to leave feelings in their wake.

Dogs provide feeling and emotion, the residents drink that up, like thirsty people in a desert. I wasn't sure about a small dog, I never did this work with one before. But I saw what i needed to see today, and I will keep on working with Red. He loves older people, he loves to be touched, he can be still and appropriate with people who are not strong and quick. He responds to need and affection.
Red and Gus and I will do some beautiful work together, he came of age today.

I was watching Joan and Gus closely.

Joan has suffered much in her life, her memory sometimes fades, but she remembers when her daughter was murdered, shot by her boyfriend and she has written about it, her story will be in  the book of Mansion stories we are working to publish shortly. She is gifted, she has drawn poignant works of art and told powerful stories.

She remembers my face but often forgets who I am, but I think she will remember meeting Gus, we put him in her lap and she knew what to do. I have never seen her laugh and smile in that way, and he was patient and calm with her. Gus has the makings of a great therapy dog, I saw it today. He is coming of age.

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The Spirit Of Our Farm: The Free Little Library Is Up And Running

The Little Free Library

The new and wondrous experiment has begun, our Little Free Library is up and running. Our friend Jay Bridge came over today and spent several hard hours digging, sawing, trimming and bracing the beautiful library which he built and we painted. Maria and I both rushed to load up the library with books we have read and enjoyed and happily share with others.

The Little Free Library program is a movement, one of those wonderful ideas that the Internet makes possible from time to time. There are more than 40,000 Little Free Libraries all over the country. LFL people consider themselves a community and talk to one another, even sometimes visit one another.

The idea is not to toss old books out or send old books out, but to share books we love and get a book in return. "Take A Book, Return A Book" is the simple motto of this grass-roots community sharing program. Thanks for your generosity, but please do not send us books, we have plenty of them. If you love the idea, and have lots of read books, start your own LFL.

Maria and I love to share books and we love to promote community. We were practically dancing, we were so happy to see this months long project finally go up in front of our farmhouse. What a great symbol for a writer and an artist.

"Why are we so happy?," we asked one another. Because, I said, "this is the spirit of the place." And it is.

We were especially lucky to have asked our friend Jay Bridge, an engineer, carpenter and sheep farmer to build it. It took him weeks – "I got a little carried away," he said. I expected this to cost a lot of money – he did a beautiful job and it was worth a lot of money. But the bill was only $200. He worked long and hard for the idea of it.

I protested a bit. "Was he sure about the low price?

Yes, he said, he didn't want more, it was aa good thing for the community. Jay is a class act, on many different levels. I am very proud to call him a friend.

Thanks Jay, for making this happen in a more beautiful and meaningful way than we ever imagined.

There is only one other Little Free Library around here, it is on the other side of my little town. I think it will take some time for people to get used to the idea. People here are not used to free things. It is wonderful to think of these books setting out like little angels, and having more lives than a cat. Books do not deserve to die on shelves, they should go out and give rebirth to themselves, again and again.

This is a timely, grass roots community building idea, it is the right time to do it. We are just proud and delighted to see it.

We placed it right in front of the house, people can pull over, look at the books, take one they want, and then, hopefully and when they get the chance, return one. I can't wait to see what happens. Maria put a couple of my books in there, and we both hope young people will discover it and get the chance to read some good books for free, and with no danger of penalties and fines.

We are eager to see what goes out, and what comes back. I love the way it looks, it is a beautiful thing in its own right, inside and out. It is the spirit of the place.

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