24 October 2014

Poem: Winter Is A Big Deal Here

By: Jon Katz
Morning Walk

Morning Walk

Winter Is A Big Deal Here

Winter is a big deal here,

it comes in bits and pieces,

autumn is hanging on,

the colors fading in one

last and defiant cry.

The winter comes to kiss

the Fall, to say goodbye,

Autumn lingers, dawdles,

hangs around.

Winter is a big deal here,

it creeps in slowly,

the trees are bare,

the leaves turning brown,

the nights cold,

the mornings dark,

the dry wood popping

in the stove.

The animals at the feeder,

inside the Pole Barn.

Winter is a big deal,

scary and beautiful.

 

 

Posted in General
23 October 2014

Fall Carpet

By: Jon Katz
Fall Carpet

Fall Carpet

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Tai Chi Journal, First Day: The Path To Awakening

By: Jon Katz
The Path To Enlightenment

The Path To Awakening

I have been on a spiritual path, a path to awakening, for much of my life, especially the past two decades. I am grateful for my hero journey into the spiritual world, it has saved my life. I have also been disappointed by some of the false promises offered by the booming universe of spiritual healing to people in need, in particular the suggestion that there are simple, often ancient remedies to cure illness, bring happiness and wealth, make us secure.

The idea that if we think only positive thoughts, the things we wish for will be drawn to us, we will attract what we need. If we plant statues and shrines on our lawns – or talk to our homes – our  houses will sell. If we take this tonic or weed, or meditate, or take certain kind of yoga our diabetes can be cured, our hearts will heal, we will live long and happy lives.

I have watched our deepening fascination with Asian culture, and the persistent believe that the Chinese and Japanese possess ancient secrets and wisdom that can transform our bodies and our lives if only we will submit to them. My spiritual work has been long and hard and difficult and gritty, no magic lotions or ancient practices have helped me conquer the fear that crippled me for so long, or cured my diabetes, or healed my broken heart. That took many difficult hours of therapy, and yes,  spiritual counseling, prayer, meditation. I look out at the Asian world, and I do not see the peace and health and contentment that persuades me that culture has so many more answers than ours.

Nothing helped my diabetes more than a tough nurse-practioner, many nutrition lessons and rigorous monitoring of my blood. Nothing has helped my heart more than miles and miles of walking, sweating, moving and the hard and good work of rehabilitation. It is difficult for me to navigate between these two worlds – the secular and traditional and the spiritual, they exist not in harmony but in conflict with one another, there are places where they collide, many more where they diverge, I am constantly being asked to choose between one and the other, and forced to do so, for my very survival.

This dichotomy has been heightened by my marriage to Maria, a passionate spiritualist, a practitioner of yoga, a meditator and dancer,  lover of the natural world, of dirt and rocks, of  animal spirits, a student of spirituality in all of its forms. She is convincing, she is persuasive. We are close, she has drawn me closer to this world.  But we are each on our own separate paths, we are not one thing, we will each get there in our own way. I am committed to awakening, to a spiritual life. I almost lost my life in oblivion and disconnection, I will not go back there.

I can say this, there is no simple way of thinking, no tonic or remedy, no ancient practice of movement that alone brings awakening, it is scut work, long and hard and relentless. It is clear to me that I will never complete this journey, I will only stay on the path and work every day to give my life meaning, to learn the true nature of compassion and generosity of spirit. I am a long way off. I hope Tai Chi will help me get there, I trust Scott and he says it will.

My good friend Scott Carrino is a Tai Chi Master Instructor, we have embarked on good work together, the teaching of writing, the teaching of Tai Chi. Yesterday, I began my first real lessons, Scott showed me three exercises to begin my Tai Chi work, all three designed to increase mobility and center me, to connect my heart to the world around me. Today was a good day to begin, cloudy, angry, rainy and windy skies. I love this weather.

Scott suggested I practice Tai Chi in my study, before working. I did, Red and Lenore at my feet. I turned back and forth, lifted my arms, relaxed my body and my legs. It felt strange, awkward, I was impatient to get to work, to write. I felt resistance to this new thing, more instructions, more movements, another chore amidst all of the responsibility and detritus of recovery. But I did it, and I will do it again tomorrow, and the day after. It will take more than one day. I want to see where it goes, I want to open up to it.

I see there are issues related to aging as well. I am walking more stiffly, perhaps more tentatively. People are beginning to open doors for me, offer to carry things I have always carried and can carry now. I have always lived a life of the mind, I am ready, I think, to life a life of the mind and the body. My open heart surgery has given me rebirth, my body is moving in new ways, I am feeling clearer and stronger than I have in so many years.

This may be the gateway for me to accept Tai Chi and understand it, to connect my body and mind in a new awakening. I am anxious to pursue this, also to share it with you, as I have shared my recovery. And this Tai Chi is, I think,  a part of recovery, my heart has been returned to me, my body as well.

I see Tai Chi as a way for me to introduce the two to one another, a coming together of spirit and body in a different kind of soul. I have reached no conclusions, made no judgements. I am open to new experience, crisis and mystery is just around the corner, always.

Posted in General

Flo: In From The Cold

By: Jon Katz
In From The Cold

In From The Cold

It is cold and stormy up here, we are in the big change. Flo was hanging around the porch this morning, she told me clearly that she was ready to come in, and she came into the house, had some breakfast, hopped up on the top of a sheepskin rug on a big chair and went to sleep. She will go in and out some, but she has come in from the cold. I am happy to see her here, Minnie will follow shortly, I suspect. I love giving the cats their lives and their freedom. They can be in on cold nights and stormy days, they can go out and live the lives of cats. I like having Flo around.

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Morning Chores. Writing A Play, “Last Day Of A Dairy Farm.”

By: Jon Katz
Morning Chores: My Play

Morning Chores: My Play

We last saw the sun yesterday morning, it is a stormy, rainy windy day in Bedlam – my favorite writing weather. Today, something different, a creative stretch. I had coffee with David Snyder recently, he's the new muck-a-muck at Hubbard Hall, our beautiful arts and education center (housed on a former vaudeville house, an "Opera House."). I'm not precisely sure how it happened, but when I left, I had agreed to write a short play for the Hubbard Hall Theater Festival in January.

I wrote part of a play once before, it was based on the day AT&T laid off many thousands of people in Northern New Jersey. I wrote it from the point of a 28-year-old "outplacement" counselor "advising" the middle-aged men who mostly made up the company's workforce and whose lives had been unimaginably shattered. My play was shown in Soho on a new playwright's theater night.

I'm taking on a similar subject for Hubbard Hall, I'm calling the play "The Last Day Of A Dairy Farm," and it was inspired by my many visits to dying dairy farms in my agricultural county. I was so moved by the pain and loss these farmer's faced, and by how society  – the politicians, economists and food consumers – has  abandoned them, discarded them like trash,  and left them behind.

I am intrigued at the idea of the discarded man (or woman), something that once was a shocking idea in American business, but it now business as usual. Once there was a contract between employee and business, now people are tossed out into the street like trash whenever stockholders get nervous.

My play will focus on the last day of Ralph Tunney's dairy farm, as a small family farmer – his family has owned the farm for 200 years – has run out of money and options and faces the awful reality of shutting down. For Ralph, this also means that his beloved cows will never set foot on grass again, they will most likely go to a corporate farm where they will spend the rest of their lives on concrete and be put down the second they get sick. A wrenching thing to see, a hard thing to write.

I write here on the blog, and I write books, but a play is different, requires a different head. This morning, I'm holing up in my study, driving rain and wind keeping me inside. I'm trying out my new Tai Chi drills to get limber in the head and body (more about that later) but a good play is a tough thing to write. Wish me luck. I love trying new things creativity, love stretching my mind, keeping it open. You can put up photos of cute animals all day, but that is not really creativity to me, it is taking the leap and jumping right over the cliff. I have 15 pages so far, 30 or so to go.Have to think visually and in terms of good dialogue.

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