This Open House has a special feeling about it, I'm not sure why. It is all coming together beautifully. One very important reason is that my friend – our friend – Cathy Stewart has agreed to be her for the Open House and help me with some daunting organizational issues.
In my mind, the Open House is divided into two parts – the inside part, which is Maria and her art show, and the outside part, which is me, the outdoor talks, the dogs and the donkeys.
It is exhilarating to working on the outside, it is also exhausting and confusion. Scheduling and organization are not my strengths and it is difficult for me to balance donkey tours, sheep herding, poet and farmer talks, greeting visitors, signing books and giving autographs.
At times, hundreds of people come streaming through the farm, and I feel obligated to say hello to each one. We do four or five donkeys talks and visits and in the afternoon, the poets and me gather for some readings and presentations. I am not comfortable sitting in the house and resting while people are standing close-by outside waiting to say hello, I just can't rest at that point.
Sometimes, the press of the crowd and the managing of so many events is a crushing nightmare. I believe this year will be different.
Cathy Stewart is a friend – she is also a supporter of the New York Carriage Horses -and she came up to an Open House a couple of years ago. She lives in New York City and is a community and political organizer (for independent politics), so our Open Houses are not daunting to her. She is also a gifted photographer and blogger.
She has devoted her life to supporting good causes and honesty in politics and government. Helping people is natural to her.
It has been very difficult for me to find someone who would help me organize the Open Houses. One insisted she wanted to help, but mostly she wanted to yak with friends. Another said she would help but disappeared frequently to take walks or chat. Some people like the idea of helping, but would rather not when push comes to shove.
Cathy is the real deal, she said down with Maria and me this morning, and re-organized the schedule of events, moving people from one time to another, and limiting the time of talks. I can't tell you how good it feels to have Cathy around. This is something I needed badly. She is one of those people that lives to help others and means it. That has been her life.
I take the Open Houses seriously, I want people to enjoy them and bring something home that is worthwhile for them. Sometimes that is art, sometimes it is encouragement and inspiration. I want to have some time to talk to people and thank them for coming. I want to talk about the amazing creatures that donkeys are. I want to talk about my next book and introduce the poets and other speakers.
I don't want to put too much pressure on Cathy, but she believes in the Open Houses and gets the point of them. She is sincere about helping. This will make the weekend even stronger. This morning, she and Maria said down and did all the labeling for the Open House, quickly and efficiently. She saved Maria hours of work.
And when I look around for help tomorrow, I doubt I will have to shout her name again and again. I bet she will be right there.
She even helped Maria make some artistic decisions about display and pricing. It was good to see that Maria trusted someone to do that with her, she takes curating very seriously.
So I am especially grateful to Cathy. For her friendship, her good heart, and her belief in the real meaning of the Open Houses: to affirm and encourage, something she has been doing all of her life.