25 March 2017

Do You Believe In Magic? Lou Jacobs Found Me Here.

By: Jon Katz

Do You Believe In Magic?

“And above all," wrote Roald Dahl, "watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”

I confess I tend to divide the world into two very different and distinct groups, those who believe in magic and those who do not. I have always watched with glittering eyes the whole world around , and looked for the secrets of the world in all sorts of places.

One of my favorite places was in the eyes and face and work of Lou Jacobs, one of the greatest circus clowns who ever lived, he was a sorcerer, a creator of magic that made the eyes of countless children glitter. I think he was a powerful spirit, I think he knew the secrets of the world, and he shared them with me, I traveled far and wide to see him ride around the ring with his chihuahua knucklehead.

Lou Jacobs was one of the greatest clowns in the history of the circus, he was a magician through and through.

"In the future," said Kenneth Feld of Ringling Bros, the man who hired Jacobs, " circus lovers will be able to open a book and look at paintings of Lou Jacobs, Master Clown. They’ll look at photographs of Lou, watch movies of Lou, and see hours of video. They’ll even be able to collect a postage stamp of Lou. But those of us who worked with him, those of us who learned from him and those of us who had loved him … we were the lucky ones. We had Lou."

I have Lou, too. He hangs on the wall in my study,  one of those paintings of Lou Feld was talking about. I found him at Jack's Outback on Main Street, and what are the odds of that, I go in there all the time. He could have ended up anywhere on the earth, but he came right here.

it was magic that he came her to find me, and I bought him for $200. Jacobs said the most wonderful thing about his job was that it was all about making children laugh. There was, he said, no reward greater than that.

Jacobs died some years ago, and the circus will not be making any children laugh after May. Ringling Bros. is shutting down the circus after 140 years of making children laugh and their eyes glitter.

I do believe in magic, and I also know the angry and joyless and humorless people of the world will never find it because they don't believe in it. Whenever I forget it, I can just turn around and look at my wall.

Posted in General

Horse Love: How Animals Mark The Passages Of Our Lives

By: Jon Katz

Maria and Rocky

It seems another world, another life, when we first met Rocky, the blind 35-year-old Appaloosa Pony who lived on our farm for many years before we bought it and kept him. I will always remember this photo, this was the first time Maria met Rocky, she fell instantly in love with him and began grooming and caring for him in the most loving way.

Rocky lived with us for two years,  he was traumatized by Simon, a male donkey who rejected him and thought him a danger to the herd –  him, Lulu, Fanny. We had an awful time trying to get past this and Rocky. already in failing health, began to fail. Our vet told us it would be merciful to spare him another winter, so we put him down.

Rocky was the first horse we loved. Horses were to become a substantial part of our lives. Rocky opened us up to having a horse on Bedlam Farm, along with the donkeys. I was deeply involved in writing about the New York Carriage Horses, Maria and I had both discovered Blue Star Equiculture, the mystically loving and powerful work horse sanctuary and farm in Palmer,  Massachusetts.

More than a year ago, we had to chance to get another pony, Chloe. Maria planned to ride Chloe and work with her, and Chloe fit well into our lives. She was a sweet and independent creature, headstrong but well behaved. As happens, our lives changed.

Maria's studio became much more active and successful, she was working hard almost every day of the week, morning into the night. She was making things, shipping things, printing invoices, blogging, taking videos and photos. We both love our blogs, but they are not simple or easy to product and update every day.

Maria loved her time with Chloe, as she loved her time with Rocky. But she had less and less time to do the things that horses love and need to do. She decided to get Chloe to a better place, and today she is going there, to Treasure Wilkinson and her partner Donna.

Maria has explained her decision, and I think it is good and loving one. I had little to do with Chloe when she came here, horses seemed somewhat beyond me, but that changed over time. We learned to talk to one another, and every morning, I was greeted at the gate by a kiss on the nose from a pony. That was a new and loving experience for me.

I loved seeing the affection that Maria and the pony had for each other, I loved seeing their walks together in the pasture. Maria felt badly every day that she was not spending enough time with Chloe, a working animal. Chloe is just going up the road, we can see her as often as we want.

The farm is a living thing and animals are not our dependent creatures or siblings, but citizens of their own nation. Chloe will be with other horses, will be ridden often and loved by children and grandchildren. And some adults as well. She will love that, as working domesticated animals do.

Maria has very intense feelings about Chloe, someone suggested horses were a "phase" for us. But that is not so. Horses entered our lives in the most profound way and altered us. Chief Avrol Looking Horse was correct when he meet me in New York and told me the horses had summoned me to join the other people who were speaking for them. They wished to remain in the city, to do the work they had been doing for people for thousands of  years.

What the chief said was true, it came to be. The New York carriage horses turned out to be much more powerful than the people who were trying to drive them away.

Life is a wheel, it keeps turning. Maria and I are both believers in rebirth and renewal.  Chloe changed her, and touched her deeply. Chloe's leaving is a renewal for us, a rebirth for her. She will have every that she needs and wants and we will move forward with our lives, her departure marking yet another passage in our lives that has left us wiser and richer.

I can't speak for Maria, but I believe in looking forward, not backwards. One thing leaves, another comes, our lives moves forward, hers too. Spirit animals mark the passages of our lives, they come when they are needed, they go when they are done.

Posted in General

Red’s Stare

By: Jon Katz

Red's Stare

I think Red's stare could stop a train. It has stopped many a sheep. During feeding time, it is Red's job to keep the sheep off of me and Maria as we carry hay, and also to keep them at their feeder, and not at the donkey and pony feeder, where trouble can erupt.

He grasps this task and takes it on with the greatest purpose. He cannot be bribed or distracted. He gets it done.

Posted in General

Christie’s Journal: “My Old Life Is Over.”

By: Jon Katz

Fighting For A Better Day

Christie L left the Mansion nearly two weeks ago for the hospital, on Tuesday she was transferred to the Indian River Rehabilitation Center in Granville, N.Y. It was not where she wished to go, but  there were no other beds available, and the hospital would not keep her longer.

She was disappointed. The rehab center she chose was four blocks from her mother and near her children, she was disappointed they had no room for her.

She has no choice about where she goes.

The day before she left, her back began to spasm, she was in great pain and heavily medicated.

She has continued her dialogue with me. Her doctors tell her that if she will work hard, she can return to the Mansion, where she wishes to go, and where she would be welcomed. Christy is  young and very clear-headed. She is a former nurse, she knows the score.

She is also shy and withdrawn, but she and Red and I have made a connection and are continuing a dialogue that is unusual and revealing about the struggle for the elderly to stay healthy and thus control what remains of their lives.

I'll just re-post some of her messages to me this week:

Tuesday, first day at Indian River: "It feels so bad here so far.  It is now 11:30 p.m. and I have not had any of my meds. I wonder if they forgot me. I just lost it! They claim they are waiting for orders from the doctors. I just can't understand how they would not have my orders already.I am exhausted, I will talk to you tomorrow."

Me: "Christie, you will have to fight to get out of there and back to the Mansion."

Wednesday: "I read what you wrote about me on your blog this morning, it made me cry. No one has ever said such nice things about me I do want to go back to the Mansion. I just have to get stronger. My hands are shaking as I type. I have never liked being a complainer. I always felt better in the back row, so to speak. My old life is over now and I have to make a new one. Well, I need to go. I look forward to seeing everyone at the Mansion."

Me. Thanks Christie, good to hear from  you, keep on fighting. I believe you will get there. I hope to see you soon at the Mansion, Red will be there also.

Thursday: "I am having a very tough day. My back spasms are so very bad. It makes it hard to think straight. I did do physical therapy today and I pushed myself to do what they asked me to do. I want to get out of here soon. Sorry, I am talking confusion, I will go and try to sleep and hope tomorrow is a better day. Thank you for being my friend. Give Red a hug for me. Tell Maria hello."

Me: How are you feeling? Are you better today?

Saturday Morning; "I just got up. I slept good. The nurse is here to give me my meds but she has a lot to get out. lol. I take too many. I am going to hope for a better day. I have to look at is as a new day, right? Well, I will catch up with you later."

Me: Have a better day. Maria says hello. Fight your way home.

To me, the messages are hopeful. Christy is showing determination and some humor. She is owning her own care, she is listening to the doctors and nurses, taking her medications, eating properly, exercising. If she continues on this path, say the doctors, she will get back to the Mansion and regain some control over her life.

If she doesn't or can't, then she will go to a nursing home.

Most of the Mansion residents dread nursing homes, they feel there is often no return from them. So the stakes seem high for Christy, who seems to me to be fighting hard. I keep my messages brief, this phase is up to her. I want her to know I am her friend and am listening, there is not much more I can say.

For now, Red and I will stay away from Indian River and Christy's  rehab, I sense this is something she must decide to do herself. Normally, the role of the volunteer and therapy dog handler do not extend beyond the place where we visit. But Christy has touched a chord in me, and if there is a connection, perhaps it can be encouraging to her, she is at a crossroads.

I've not done it before, I have no sense of what will happen. Christy has a lot of serious health issues to contend with, and she has to decide if she is ready to follow instructions. No one else can make that decision, surely not me.

Christy welcomes letters and messages and finds them encouraging.  if you care to write to her, you can write her at this address: Christie L., c/o The Indian River Rehabilitation And Nursing Center, 17 Madison St., Granville, N.Y., 12832.

And thanks.

Posted in General

Weekend Notebook

By: Jon Katz

Weekend Notebook

Today, the thermometer is creeping back up to the 40's. It's like November here (the photo is of the blizzard, not this morning), it is gray and wet. My writing class resumes at Pompanuck Farms after three weeks of weather cancellations, I'm eager to get back to it.

I am exploring joining the ACLU's Freedom Cities program, to work with local police (in a very civil way) on immigration questions and issues, I am drawn to working with the agricultural farm workers in the area, many of whom are undocumented, and all of whom are terrified. The farmers here are very supportive of them and are encouraging me to support this program.

I think working with agricultural workers is one of the ways in which I can be helpful.

Also, I'm going to visit the offices of RISSI refugee aid program in Albany, operating out of a local church there. The group is sponsoring an immigrant art show focusing on the meaning of home on March 30 at the Albany Repertory Theater. It is a fund-raiser, they are a very worthy group.

I hope to meet some artists and refugees on Tuesday and I will write about them.

I'm not looking to turn the blog into a political forum or preach or argue, I'm just sharing my life and the directions life is taking me.

We are also going to get some buckets and taps at the hardware store today to get some maple water out of our big maple trees. Should be fun.

Tomorrow, two things happen that are important. We go to Vermont early in the morning to pick up the yard milled from our sheep, including the Gang of Four, the Romneys. In the late afternoon, Chloe goes to live with Treasure Wilkinsong. Maria is much affected by Chloe' leaving, but is solid about her decision to let her go, for a fuller life.

Tonight, four friends from New York City are coming for dinner. Pizza is the menu.  Life is glorious. Don't argue, do good. More later.

Posted in General