20 May 2017

The Community Responds: Puzzles And Games For The Refugee Kids

By: Jon Katz

Puzzles And Games

I am happy that my community is joining in our plan to support the RISSE refugee children coming to America, about 100 will be coming in small groups to Bedlam Farm in July and August, and people in my community-minded and generous town of Cambridge are going to be a big part of this.

Scott Carrino is going to show the kids how to make their own pizza when they come and eat at Pompanuck Farm and the Round House Cafe. Carol and Ed Gulley are opening up their Bejosh Dairy Farm for visits from the children, they will learn about cows and milking and many mysteries of life. Our friend Mandy Meyer-Hill, a healer and massage therapist will talk to the children about health and stress. Rachel Barlow, the Vermont Artist who donated 90 art creativity kids to the kids, will come and help them learn to paint and draw.

Other people are asking how they can help.

There will be a dozen visits to the farm in July and August – every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Our community is a welcoming place, and I would like these children to see that. Many have lived most of their lives in refugee camps and have  seen some awful things in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

These children are working hard to assimilate to life in America, it is not easy.

They have lost almost everything, including many of their own values and traditions. RISSE, the refugee and immigrant support center in Albany, is working hard to help them, all of these children are enrolled in their summer and day care and educational programs. (You can donate to RISSE here.)

Today, Mandy gave us several huge bags of games and puzzles collected from children who are now heading off to college.  some good stuff in great shape. Maria cleaned and dusted the games and checked to make sure all the parts and pieces were there.

Maria and I are taking the first load to the RISSE Soccer Team game in Williamstown, Mass. tomorrow. We have a game and puzzle for each one of the team members.

The first visit to the farm will be a week from today, my daughter and granddaughter will also be here on a visit from New York City.  Emma is excited to be here when the kids come.

This is pretty exciting for us. (In a week or so I plan to ask for funds to buy a projector and screen for the RISSE teachers so they can teach. I also hope to raise funds for six lawn chairs and a small picnic table for the Mansion residents in their assisted care life, so they can be outside in the good weather and have places to sit.  That does not appear to be too expensive. I'll offer some details once I have them in hand.)

Please don't send games or puzzles to me, thanks,  I want to know more about what the needs are and if they are specific, I will pass that along.

Community is central to life, and I am deeply moved that my community, left and right, Republican and Democrat, farmer and newcomer, young and old, are stepping up to welcome these children and show them the true heart and soul of America. Almost all of us have been there, all of this fear and hatred are not the real America, but a passing fever.

These children and their families are desperate to be here – I met a mother the other day who walked across Africa for three months to get to America with her children. She is no threat to America. She lost a son along the way. Her surviving son is on the soccer  team.

So I'll see the team tomorrow in Massachusetts and bring more puzzles and games to RISSE later in the week. It feels so good to give and to do good, I have never felt stronger or more  hopeful in my life. There is an Army of Good All around me from everywhere, and we are on the the move.

Onward, the work has just begin.

Posted in General

New Glasses. Ghosts Of Vanity.

By: Jon Katz

Ghosts Of Vanity: Photo by Maria Wulf

I got a new pair of glasses today in Bennington, Vt., they cost $383 dollars. The frame cost $88, the lens made up the rest. I love these glasses, I did not care for the ones I was wearing. I am vain about my glasses, it is one of the few affectations left to me as a writer.

I want them to look writerly. To me, that means small and round. I e-mailed a photo of them from the store to Maria and she approved. When I told Bob I wanted to look writerly, he cracked up. No one had ever said that to him before, he said, but he pulled out a few pairs that worked for me.

Vanity is not something I indulge in, not at my age. I've been wearing the same clothes every day – blue work shirt, jeans, a sweater in the winter and suspenders, for about 15 years now. I change clothes every day or so,  but the are always the same thing, jeans, work shirt, suspenders an a sweater in the winter.

Maria thinks it's time to mix things up a little bit – she got me into colored socks – but I like the clothes I am wearing. Like Mao, I think clothes don't really matter, I just want something to cover my body so I can work. These glasses just fit me, and they fit my idea of myself.

I never look at my clothes in the mirror, my face is the only part of me I ever see in the mirror, and I loved my glasses from the start. Bob says these are on of the earliest style frames made, they were one of the original frames. I am very happy to have them, all the better to see you with.

Posted in General

Recovery Journal: Red. Say “Sheep!”

By: Jon Katz

Just Say "Sheep"

Red is in his second week of recovery, we are taking it easy, but he seems himself to me. A good test is to see his reaction when I just say "sheep." When I said the word a week and a half ago, he barely moved. When I said it today, his eyes got wide and his ears went up.

It's much better than a thermometer.

The healers like to talk about Chi, and Reds Chi – his life energy – was very evident. He needs more rest, but is getting stronger by the day. I sat on the grass and he came over and put his head on my chess and we just lay there together for awhile. I am getting stronger too, Red can do that.

We are visiting the Mansion in short bursts, but he isn't going much of anywhere else for now. I'm not taking him to Oblong books in Rhineback Tuesday night (I have a reading there at 6 p.m.), I think the driving and book reading is still a bit much for him.

But this photo tells me Red is coming back strong, and that is good news.  He'll be on anti-biotics for about three more weeks. I'm not letting him run much, but he looks great. A time to be patient, he is still very much recovering.

Posted in General

Oops! Photo Bombed!

By: Jon Katz

Photo Bombed By Fate

Maria was trying to take my picture this afternoon, and I was startled by a head popping up between my legs and trying to grab my hand to get me to wrestle with her, as we are known to do. Fate must be in the center of things, she wants to know what everyone is doing at ever moment, and she seemed determined to let anyone take a photograph without her in it.

She definitely had me jumping for a bit, and she did disrupt the picture. Fate misses nothing and sticks her nose into everything. We ended up on the ground wrestling.

Posted in General

Visiting Paradise

By: Jon Katz

Life In Paradise

A reader of the blog and my books e-mailed me this week, he said he was coming to the Northeast this Fall – he lives far away – and wanted to know if it would be possible to visit the farm. He said he wanted to spend a few minutes in paradise.

Each year, we get a number of requests like that, and we tell them that we have two Open Houses, one in the Spring and one in October, and that would be the time to see us if he wished. He messaged back to say he would change his travel plans to make sure and be here on Columbus Day Weekend, the date of the October Open House.

I wrote back and said I needed to caution him about the visit here. Often, people will tell me that I have the perfect life or live in paradise, and those words, while flattering, always make me wince. People who come here in search of the perfect life or to visit paradise will certainly be disappointed.

Because my life is far from perfect, and our farm is not paradise. Paradise is defined as an ideal or idyllic place. In some religions, it is the heavenly abode of the just. Before they got greedy and hungry, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, described in the bible as a paradise.

I spent much of life in search of the perfect place, the perfect life. I coveted the lives of many other people, I always wished to live somewhere else, to move somewhere else, to search for the perfect life.  This is a kind of envy and spiritual emptiness that was painful, mostly because it is such an illusion, just as this nice man has in thinking he will find paradise here.

I was always wanting to move, paradise was just around the corner. And one day I realized that the problem with moving was I always came. I haven't moved more than a few miles ever since. Home is where you make your stand, paradise is where you come to terms with your life.

I am responsible for this, I take photos of beautiful animals in a beautiful place. I don't photos of the inevitably dark side of life that exists in almost every geography of the world. Just a few years ago, I learned that paradise, if it exists, is inside of me, not outside, and I will not find it looking at someone else's live or wanting it to be mine.

I am just like you in so many ways, I could not list them. I worry about money, my feet hurt, I wait in long lines at the pharmacy, and sometimes have to split prescriptions up so I can afford them, I mow my lawn, my knees hurt, take pills,  I argue with my wife, get on people's nerves, get hate mail, struggle with issues of family, worry about my friends.

I will be honest and say I love my life, every day of it, ups and downs, darkness and light, successes and failures. To me a perfect life is a full life, one with triumphs and failures. Paradise for me is learning to be authentic, opening up to life, forgiving and letting go, facing the reality of things,  living in nature, being with animals, accepting myself, learning to listen, learning to do good.

I told the man e-mailing me he is welcome here, but if he is looking for paradise, he best keep on going North or going up to the angels, paradise is not a place I would ever want to live or visit. How shallow and dull it would be.

Posted in General