23 January 2017

The Circus Travesty: Do Your Dogs And Cats Entertain You? You Just Might Be Cruel.

By: Jon Katz

Elephant Train, 1956

Every dog or cat who makes us laugh or smile is entertaining us. Are you cruel and abusive? Will your animals be next and suffer the fate of the elephants,  torn from their safe and loving homes and sent to mostly mythical preserves or what little is left of nature?

Because if you believe the entertainment and uplifting of people by animals is cruel, and your dogs make you laugh,  then you are most likely a hypocrite, judging others from the soft cocoon of your computers and Facebook pages.  And as the moral philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote, the criminal confronts us with the perplexity of evil, but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.

If they can do it to the elephants and horses and ponies, they can do it to you and your dog or cat or parrot. You might console yourself with the idea that dogs and elephants are different, but in truth, the principle is very much the same. Like dogs, the Asian elephants have been working with people – and entertaining them –  for hundreds, if not thousands,  of years.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened," wrote Anatole France.

Gandhi said one can judge the moral character of a nation by the way it treats its animals. How can we awaken our souls and love animals if there are none around us to love and care for?

The true moral issue facing animal lovers is not how to keep animals from uplifting people, but how to make sure they always are here to uplift and entertain people.

That is our real challenge.

It is not to wipe out the work and way of life of animals and of the people who work with them. The moral failing comes when we sent them away without process or real cause to vanish or die and we devastate their people so that we can feel superior to others and good about ourselves.

Dozens of animals, including elephants tigers, camels, horses and llamas and goats will be in need of new homes by the time Ringling Brothers shuts down its circuses in May, reports Time Magazine.  The circus says it is trying to place the animals in zoos and conservation centers.

And who, reading this, can tell me with certainty where a single one will go, or for how long?

The stories of the circus workers and elephant trainers are heartbreaking, the animal rights movement has just wiped out 800 jobs,  destroyed a way of life that will vanish for good in the Corporate Nation. And is gleeful about it, as if it can be a great victory to hurt so many people.

"I wish everyone could see Otto," wrote one circus worker to me a few months ago. "He sleeps with his elephant sometimes, he has been weeping ever since he knew they would be separated, they have been together for 15 years. The idea that he would abuse her is just a crime in itself. It is unimaginable if you see them together. She loves to nuzzle against him. Will anyone ever tell Otto's story."

Probably not. The easier story is the one handed out by PETA.  It's a juicy narrative. The circus people, like the New York carriage drivers,  are evil abusers and deserve no concern or quarter.

The people celebrating the expulsion of the elephants from their circuses have not helped one elephant, or done one any good.They have done great harm to human beings.

They have disrupted their safe lives and greatly accelerated the almost certain  extinction of these animals from the earth. The circus has not been convicted of animal abuse or neglect. They have won every lawsuit they faced.

There is no place for these elephants to go in nature or the wild, and the one place where they were safe and assured food and medical care and survival has been taken from them.

There is little left of their natural habit, ravaged by development, corruption, poaching and climate change. It is not humane to put a working animal on a preserve where they will atrophy and become disoriented for lack of activity and stimulation. It is traumatic for working animals to be taken away from the people who train and care for them.

Out of sight, they will have no oversight, no protections. We will never know what becomes of them, and soon, we will forget about them, condemning our children to a screen life free from animals or nature.  The people who think circuses are cruel do not  believe in zoos either.

Our descendants will never know what people and animals can do together, or how much they can love one another.

The elephants in the Ringling Brothers Circus were the lucky ones.  A Mexican journalist contacted me recently, she is a former circus worker, she says there were more than 1,300 animals banned from circuses in Mexico  and more than 1,000 of them have already gone to slaughter. That is the likely fate of most of the elephants and other animals in the circuses.

It costs $65,000 a year to feed, bathe and care for an adult  Asian elephant. Much of the money to pay for their care comes from circus tickets, says the circus.

Ringling Brothers says it plans to care for the elephants for the rest of their lives, but cannot say how that care will be funded, and they cannot speak for the scores of other elephants being removed from circuses under pressure from animal rights organizations.

Ringling Brothers already has 26 elephants in their center, 11 of them recent refugees from their own circuses. It cannot take any of the others, believed to number well over a hundred. The company has no legal obligation to care for  elephants at all, even the ones already living in their preserve.

I wonder as well how many good and well-funded homes there are for 18 Asian tigers.

"We are one giant family and a grieving family right now," said circus worker Christine in a message to me over the weekend. "I think we are starting down a very slippery slope that could force humans to give up owning pets in the not-too-distant future."

I have not seen a single circus worker or elephant trainer interviewed anywhere, even as animal rights officials line up to gloat about the loss of their jobs and way of life.

It's too bad, their stories are compelling and powerful.  They remind us that the people in these stories are humans, not just fund-raising tools for animal rights groups.

The trainers are devastated to be separated from their elephants, many of whom were powerfully attached to them. The other circus workers are devastated to lose their very special way of life.  It is especially cruel to remove working animals from  their familiar environments and from the people who care for them. It is hardly a "liberal" or progressive action.

We are well down that slippery slope, Christine, the not too distant future is right at our doorstep. Just ask the pony ride operators, carriage horse drivers, many dog and cat owners and farmers all over the country.  Ask the homeless man whose beloved companion dog was stolen from him and killed that very night by animal rights workers who decided it was not a good home. His pain and sorrow are great.

Or the elderly sisters whose cats were taken from them and face thousands of dollars in fines and the loss of their reason for living. Or the widow who couldn't adopt a dog because she had a low fence.

Christine understands something that many of the people cheering the end of the circus do not,  that the elephants and other animals working with and for people are in danger now, along with many species of animals who are disappearing from our only world.

When the animal rights movement sought to ban the New York carriage horses, they were asked what would happen to the 200 horses that would lose their homes. Everyone single one, they promised, would go to an animal preserve. It was all taken care of.

They never named a single preserve that would promise to feed a single one of these huge draft horses for the rest of their lives. That is because there were none. The very idea was a lie.

The evocation of these mystical preserves soothe the consciences of people who see themselves as liberators of animals, but anyone who truly loves animals would want to know the who, when and where of it.

And the term "preserves" has no real meaning.

Preserves of all kinds in America are underfunded and many are small and have few resources.

There are long waiting lists for animals, the ones taken are usually old and sick, not young and healthy. Many of the carriage horses would have been slaughtered if the ban had been approved. More than 150,000 horses in America go to slaughter each year, there is simply no place for them to go. Why aren't they all on these alleged preserves?

Janet, who runs an animal preserve in Pennsylvania, laughed bitterly at the idea that she could take an elephant or a carriage horse. "First off, I don't take healthy and strong animals, they can go out and work, they are valuable. I take the lost cases, the sick and abused and starving ones, and I don't have anywhere near the money to feed an elephant or a horse. People hear "preserve," she said, "and they think of a big plain in Africa or the Disney Animal Kingdom. We wouldn't fit into one of their hotel lobbies and we beg for hay and feed money every month. Animals that are well cared for don't need preserves. They are lucky."

Why would it be easier to find life homes for huge elephants, who cost up to $800 a day just to feed? Or for tigers?

Christine has been arguing with her "liberal" friends for years about the elephants and has persuaded many of them that the elephants at Ringling Brothers are content and well cared for, and are not being abused. She has a harder time, she says, persuading them that animals should never be used as entertainment for people, as they have been throughout all of recorded history.

This is an important discussion to have, as it is a primary excuse for taking animals away from people, and destroying human lives and work. The idea that is cruel for animals to entertain people is an opinion, not a fact. If is, like anything else, open to argument.

There is absolutely no scientific or behavioral evidence of any kind that I know of that proves that animals suffer from entertaining people, there is much evidence to the country. Working animals love to work with people and seem to greatly enjoy entertaining them, as almost any large animal veterinarian, behaviorist or trainer will testify.

Many people believe that carriages horses hate pulling light carriages through Central Park, but people who actually know something about the big draft horses know better. The horses love  – and need – the stimulation, exercise and attention they receive when they work, as opposed to languishing idly in fenced in areas for the rest of their lives. Famed horse trainer Buck Brannaman – The Horse Whisperer – says the carriage horses are the luckiest horses in the world.  They almost died for it.

It is as easy to abuse animals with misplaced love as with sticks and kicks.

We need to know what we are talking about when we make decisions about animals.

Animals are disappearing from our world at a horrific rate, and people who say they are for the rights of animals are doing their best to speed up the process. Every animal we save is precious, every decision urgent.

"I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights," wrote Abraham Lincoln. "That is the way of a whole human being.”

But how can we be whole if there are no animals?

For me, the most urgent right of an animal is to survive in our world.

Every animal that uplifts or entertains a human being is a saved and rescued animal. Animals that interact with human beings and have value for them get to live, to survive, most of the others are dying off.

The first people in this world did not consider it wrong for animals to entertain people and lift them up. Nor did those many succeeding generations. This is a new idea, born from the movement that wishes to liberate animals from people. Suddenly, and in the late 1980's, it was declared that it was wrong for animals to entertain people. It was hard to imagine then that this would spell the end of the circus, an entertainment forum much loved all over the world.

The first cave drawings showed people playing with dogs and training wild animals. Animals brightened dark lives, then and beyond.  From the beginning, they have helped us endure life in a difficult world.

Every dog and cat who makes us smile is entertaining us. My dogs and donkeys and sheep and barn cats make me smile and laugh and know joy every day of my life.

Does that make me cruel?

Should they and all the other dogs who make us laugh be banned and removed from our lives?, because our friend Christine is correct.

We have started out on that path, and we are already sliding down the slipperiest of slopes.


Posted in General
22 January 2017

Passage To India: The Bedlam Fellowship

By: Jon Katz

The Bedlam Fellowship.

All along, I've been planning for Maria's trip to Kolkata, India, from February 16th to the 29th.  I was prepared to be something of a martyr, stoically running the farm by myself in Winter, proving that I can still handle all of the chores by myself, shovel that snow, haul that firewood, feed those animals,walk those dogs, shovel the roof, shop, shovel manure, do laundry and keep the house clean.

My testosterone told me I had to prove to myself that I still had it, I was going to be quite stoic. My editor and Maria upended those plans by meeting with me to strongly urge me to hire someone to come by every morning to do the chores and haul some wood. I protested that I could handle the farm by myself.

But they both pointed out that this wasn't about my ability to handle it, rather it would be like a fellowship at one of those fancy writer's retreats where you can just focus on your work and worry about nothing else.

I needed some convincing, and got some strong-arming.  I said it felt like Downton Abbey, and they both laughed at the ludicrous comparison. These two women know me better than anyone on the earth, and the seed they planted grew and sprouted. It just took a few days for me to crack.

I came to see the idea and accept it without too much fanfare or drama. I could see it would make Maria feel easier and better about going away for two weeks, and i could see it would be a rare opportunity for me to focus on my book project – "Lessons Of Bedlam Farm," while still publishing the blog and taking photos. I won't hire anyone to do that.

Rosemary Ahearn, my editor, sensed it would help me really focus on the book (I've done three chapters) and have less distraction. Maria does a lot of the chores that are sometimes hard for me to do alone.  it would take me a good while every morning.

The backdrop for all this pondering is perhaps obvious to everyone but me. It is the experience of aging, getting older, understanding the new limits on my life, adjusting my sense of self. There are somethings that are just hard for me to do, or that bother my angina, or that are just plain difficult.

I saw Maria's trip as an opportunity to show myself and the world that  I could still manage my own farm. But now, it is an opportunity to do something else. And I will manage my farm for much of the day, just not in the early morning. Win-win, all around.

Maria will, I see, be even freer to focus on her amazing trip, knowing I am not slipping and sliding around in the mud out in the pasture with a bunch of animals banging into me.

I have spent a lot of my life alone, and I know I will miss Maria quite acutely, but I also know how to handle being alone. Voluntary aloneness is very different from the other kind. She will only be good a couple of weeks. And she will be coming back.

I was alone for most of the six years I lived on the first Bedlam Farm, and for much of my life before that. I don't know if that will make it easier or harder, Maria and I are close, we share everything with one another.

I am so excited for her trip, that will compensate for the dislocation and loneliness. I called Cassandra Conety,  vet tech we know well, and respect greatly. She is a farm girl and loves animals and the outdoors, she will come by in the morning on the way to work,  bring in firewood, take the hay out to the animals, fill the water tanks, shovel out the manure in the barn, check on the animals.

I will get up early – I am usually awake around 4 or 5 a.m. and simply go straight to work. It will, as Rosemary and Maria suggested, be like a fellowship. Hmmm…I have never applied for one, they seemed indulgent to me.

I have rarely had the opportunity to focus like that on my work. I can blog as usual, take the dogs out for a walk, take photos. Otherwise, I will get my head around and into this book, an E.B. (hopefully) White'ish report on the things one learns on a farm. It is the kind of book that needs one's full attention, Rosemary knows I suffer from distraction and many other mental disorders. But this is the kind of book that requires much concentration and thought.

So the first Bedlam Farm Writing Fellowship goes to me. In the old days, I was actually planning to offer writing internships at the old farm, which had plenty of room. Now I have one. Life is a wheel. If you wait long enough, everything will come around.

So in the mornings, starting in the dark, I will write as long as it is fresh and forthcoming. There are only so many hours in the day that one can be creative. Then, I will run the dogs and blog. Then lunch, maybe a short nap, another walk, a visit to the Mansion, shopping, the afternoon farm chores – all the things Cassandra will do in the morning. Then reading, dinner, more reading, chores, cleaning, more shopping, doctor and dental visits, and sleep.

I am shedding my reluctance and getting excited about it. I will have to work hard to focus on this, it is not something I have ever done, and I have great trouble about sitting at my computer concentrating while someone else is doing the work of the farm. I don't wish to waste this opportunity, it is, I see, a gift.

You could not find anyone better than Cassandra, she will pay little attention to my fussing and get things done.

Maybe she'll even walk the dogs when I am on a hot writing streak. I will, of course, share the experience.

Posted in General

Help For Refugee Families

By: Jon Katz

Help For Refugee Families

Several hundred refugees are arriving in upstate New York, they could use some inexpensive help with household items like silverware, sheets, glasses, plates, pots and pans, blankets, light strollers, soap, shampoo, teapots. You can see the items requested here. The gifts range from $7 to $30. I will soon be meeting one of these families, will plan on mentoring one, helping them to learn English, fill out forms, take tests, file applications – the stuff of life we take for granted.

Some of these refugees lost everything and have never experienced winter weather like that of upstate New York. They need the smallest things – soap and toothpaste and towels. They do not ask for much. But they need everything.

In the coming years, I believe it is important for me and others to look for ways to do good, to show up, to support the idea of America as a welcoming place, and as a country that does not only welcome the rich and highly trained, but also the tired and the weary and the poor.

I don't want to be part of the argument or the problem, but part of positive solutions. I don't feel superior to anyone or condemn anyone, I just want to help good people who need help and I wish to support the idea of America as a sanctuary, a welcoming and safe place. That is why I am here, that is why I am alive.

There are many demands on your time and money, but I hope you will consider purchasing one of these inexpensive household items for people who are coming to America at an uncertain and are afraid and in need. An Amazon page has been set up for them by the Albany Office of the U.S. Committee for Immigrants and Refugees. If you can, please mark the gifts to the attention of Jake. He is the warehouse manager for the USCRI.

Most of the refugees are settling around the Albany area, about an hour or so from me. If you can help out, that will be great. If not, there will be many opportunities and thanks for considering it.  In a few weeks, Maria and I will get to meet some of the families and the one we will be helping. Thanks for all of the support you have given Maria and I for this work. The Amazon page is here.

Posted in General

Slipping Into Self-Righteousness, The Seeds Of Polarization

By: Jon Katz

Self-right-eous: Having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior. sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, complacent or pious. preachy, superior, hypocritical.

Last night, I wrote a poem about why I marched with Maria in Glens Falls, N.Y. yesterday, it was a very personal poem, a kind of love letter, I suppose, about why going on the women's march in this small upstate New York city was important to her, and thus to me.

It was simply an expression of how I felt about Maria, and her idea of her rights. My poem was not an argument or debate or a cable news panel discussion, and I was not urging anyone else to agree. I write about all kinds of things on my blog – animals, farming, life, community, health, books and movies, photography and friendship.

In a few seconds, a man named Timothy L. Ritchie posted this message on my Facebook Page: "I thought this was about dogs and the farm. If this is gonna be about leftwing pro – abort politics, let me know and I'm out. I want to read about farming and working dogs."

Well, Mr. Ritchie is out, and I wish him the best. I said I write about what I want, not about what he wants. I told him there are many good blogs about dogs and farming, I imagine he has found one now by now, or perhaps, started one himself.

His message was mild by the standards of American political discourse these days, and since Mr. Ritchie had never spoken with me and had no idea what my website is about, I thanked him for coming and said he was probably better off leaving, he had made a good decision.

The exchange was interesting to me, because I was thinking about this relatively new reality in American politics, the rapidly growing idea that the person who disagrees with me is my enemy, not simply another human being seeking to figure out the world, as I am, in his own way. This idea is, to me, a malignant tumor on the American character and soul, it is ripping us apart. I don't wish to do it.

My belief is that we are all doing the best we can, struggling with the same questions, trying to make a life and understand life. I don't believe I am smarter or wiser than anyone, and I have always learned much more from people who disagree with me than anyone else.

When people tell me they enjoy my writing despite the fact they sometimes disagree with me, I find the statement puzzling: Why would anyone want to read someone with whom they never disagree? What can be learned by that? Why bother?

Mr. Ritchie was quick to label me as a "leftie" and to make it clear that if I was going to favor abortion rights, he was leaving. He seemed to feel victimized and aggrieved that I had a different idea about a very complicated and difficult issue than he did. The truth is, I have a lot of ideas, and they change often. Some are conservative, others are not. I have no idea what to call myself, and I don't accept the labeling of me by  other people.

Mr. Ritchie would have blown a fuse reading my blog if he stayed, but if he really wanted to know what I believe, he could simply have asked me or read a few posts on the blog. Instead, he wrote a quick snarky message on Facebook, the new idea of human contact.

Mr. Ritchie could not cross that iron bridge – ideology – and simply see me as a human being –  in most ways probably much like him. That's the struggle I think, to see the people as well as the ideas, to see past the labels and the ideology to connect with another human. A farmer friend told an uppity neighbor one day to settle down, "we both pee standing up." So do Mr. Ritchie and I.

I should say that many of my blog and book readers disagree with me on many things, including abortion and the question of abortion rights. I do not hate them for it, or wish they would go away. They take what they want from me, and leave the rest behind.

How curious, I thought, that I had become Mr. Ritchie's enemy for having a different opinion.  But if you follow cable news or politics, this should not be surprising. I decided I didn't wish to see Mr. Ritchie as an enemy, and that is not up to him, but me.

This is the very heart of the Orwellian idea of a totalitarian society, one that permits only one point of view and punishes disagreement. I don't want to live in that country. Nor do I believe intolerance for free speech and differing opinions is a "right-wing" idea. Many of my readers voted for Donald Trump.

I did not, and I am happy to say that not a single one of them have stormed off (that I know of) or stopped reading my writing or my blog. I have written several times that I hope Donald Trump succeeds, he is our President and I hope he keeps his promises. That upsets people, they feel I am supporting his agenda, much of which is disturbing to me.

But I disagree. I am supporting this man with great power, he is our leader, I hope he finds his humanity and expands it and does some good, whether I like everything he has done or not.

I am proud of the people who stay with me even though they quite often disagree with me. That is the kind of blog I wish to have.

I believe there is always a point of human contact, if one can work at it, and if the doors blocking the way are not too thick. I have learned when i am trapped on those corporate phone trees to seek out the humanity in someone. Once I find it, my troubles are over.

I do not consider people who voted differently me my enemy. They do not consider me their enemy, hopefully, and they are very welcome to read my blog,  which is frequently, but not exclusively, about dogs and farms.

Carl Sagan argues that the greatest detriment to reason is if we let our reasonable and righteous convictions slip into self-righteousness (a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior) that is the deadly force of polarization. I have witnessed this often in my writing about politics and also in my writing about animals and the animal rights movement.

There, I have seen the deadly force and power of self-righteousness, the embedded idea that the people we disagree with our enemies, to be seen as something other than human, to be seen as immoral and hypocritical people beneath the consideration of the moral society. This is a signature element in the campaigns against the New York Carriage Horses or the elephants in the circus. It is also the signature of discussions on cable new and on social media platforms.

I see epidemic self-righteousness in the animal world, where people believe their beliefs give them an innate sense of superiority over others, and an absolute certainty about what is or is not correct. This idea has infected our politics as well.

Writing more than a century ago, the poet and essayist Walt Whitman, worried about the fragile underpinnings of democracy, urged his fellow citizens to " best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present…. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believed in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believed in."

Whitman warned that while America had become a wealthy industrial power and a creator of great wealth, it was becoming an almost complete failure in its social aspects, literature, religious, moral and aesthetic ambitions. We have only grown in wealth and power since his time, but we have somehow been left with little or no soul. Spirituality, humility and self-reflection are no longer part of our political system.

When Mr. Ritchie dismisses me so casually and contemptuously for disagreeing with me, he is dehumanizing me so that can ignore me.  Once I am tagged with a label that is not his, he has no use for me, even though he would gladly use me to amuse him about dogs and farms.

And if I hate him for it and see him as my enemy, I am dehumanizing him. I don't think I would like him very much, but he is not my enemy. I'll stop it there.

Hating each other leaves neither of us with humanity or compassion. We lose our moral ambitions to grow as human beings, and co-exist peacefully and productively with one another. If it's all about money and power and security, there is no aesthetic, there is no moral ground to walk on. Just think about our paralyzed political system, legislators dug in like trench fighters in World War I, taking turns trying to kill one another, never advancing or learning or giving up.

There is no humanity in self-righteousness.

For me, this is at the heart of it, this idea of humanity. It is clear that we have lost it in our civic and political world, and in our technological gathering places, our new communities,  and perhaps by our own hands and fingers.

Whitman was prescient, he foresaw that we have lost our spiritual and moral bearings, we are so preoccupied with money and greed and security and power that we are losing our humanity.

It is wrong for me to believe that people who view the world differently than I do are stupid, immoral, bigoted or inferior to me in my reasoning. There is so much I do not know.  It is a mistake for them to do it to me, neither of us wins, gains, persuades or advances our ideas and values.

Those are the seeds of polarization. I am not more virtuous than anyone else, I do have my own virtues. I believe my convictions are reasonable and sometimes even righteous, but not self-righteous.

I do not ever believe I am totally correct or morally superior. I know that is not the truth, even if I sometimes lapse.

The world is not black and white. The true thinker changes his mind constantly. The ideas of the "right" or the "left" are far too shallow and too narrow to encompass our world. They exist only as shills, to persuade us that we have choices. We do not really.

We are all righteous in our own way, we have our own truths.

Like most people, I sometimes find myself slipping into that way of thinking, but mostly, I try very hard not to do that. We share a common interest – our own country, our own humanity and dignity.

There are so many ways to see the world, not just one, not just mine. I can cling to my beliefs and my values, or change them. If Mr. Ritchie had contacted me, or messaged me, I would have told him that I choose to share my life openly and honestly, and that really has nothing to do with him or what he believes.My life is not an argument, neither is his.

There is plenty of good stuff about dogs and farms for him, and it is free.

Henry David Thoreau, scribbling in his journal on Walden Pond, would not have had to contend with Mr. Ritchie – I doubt he would even have comprehended the idea of him – sending him an instant angry message the moment he expressed a thought, dismissing rather than considering, denying his very right to think freely and express himself, and walking away if he saw anything he didn't agree with.  He is so certain of his beliefs he doesn't need to think about them.

Thoreau was alone on his pond, I am alone in mine. On Facebook, we often do not even permit the other to think, or to respect the process, or give it a chance to breathe.

I am no Thoreau, and I live in a more open world.  Cutting myself off from the world is not an option for me.

It seems we have to decide how to learn to talk to one another again. Our very existence depends on it. We have only one world, we are all heading for the same destination.

The prophets said we will live with one another or perish together, and I believe that. The people who disagree with me will never be my enemy, I hope we will continue to live with and challenge and inspire one another.

And never run away from each other or become enemies because we have different ways of experiencing and understanding the world.

Posted in General

The Meditation Bench: Over The Gulley Bridge

By: Jon Katz

Meditation Bench

My friend Ed Gulley came over yesterday to harass me and muddle over how to pick a spot in our newly-accessible  woodlands behind the farmhouse for a bench to sit on, rest or meditate in our woods. We've been thinking about this for years, but were stumped because of a fast-flowing stream between us and our woods.

Ed came over with a tree stump, some boards and a drill and nails and put a bridge together in about five minutes. He returned with a metal pole he drove into some rocks for me to hang on too. I call it the Gulley Bridge.

We can now access our woods. Ed is not finished. He refuses to discuss this with me, mostly because he knows I am seriously challenged when it comes to mechanical things or details. He will only talk to Maria about it and he will translate for me.

The new idea in this very fertile mind – the say agriculture is the mother of all arts – is a bench built into the base of this leaning tree, I can't really explain it, Ed was acting it out. Ed is into the arts, they are his world, and he has become astonishingly creative, as many farmers with little money and lots of work become.

Sometime in the future, I will have a bench to sit on out in my woods. Ed described it in great detail, I do not understand a word he said. A friend once told me I am very lucky to be alive, given the way my mind words. It would be a good spot to meditate and think about what I am going to write. Maria and Ed understand each other, I know my place.

Posted in General