Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

6 October

As My Day Begins, As My Day Is Ending. Embracing The Little Ways Of Doing Good

by Jon Katz

As my day begins, I set aside a quiet moment to breathe, feel the silence and read a meditation for the day, usually written by Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen, or St. Augustine, and lately, the writings of St. Terese of Lisieux, who preached doing good in the little ways.

This was the meditation of hers I read this morning. She wrote it in her autobiography, The Story Of A Soul.

I can prove my love only by scattering flowers, that is to say, by never letting slip a single little sacrifice, a single glance, a single word; by making a profit of the very smallest actions, by doing them for love.

I embrace and love the idea of little ways of love, the small acts of great kindness; I suspect I first heard of it in her writings, although I can’t remember.

It is something I can do to be grounded and stay grounded and keep my soul from the world’s discord.

We sometimes think doing good can only happen with money, with billions of dollars. But anyone can do good in a little way, money or not, every day.

And I often think they do the most good.

I do not begin my day with the news or end it with information from the outside world.

I don’t follow hate and rage into my head when I get up or end the day or practice it when I am in control and do my spiritual work.

My meditations in the morning set the tone for the day; they are selected to give a spiritual focus, a spiritual center for the day. I read slowly, very slowly, and then reread it.

I end the day in the same way. I find a quiet place and quiet my soul and my sometimes troubled spirit. I end the day in peace, no matter what is happening on the outside.

We live in uncertain and angry and sometimes frightening times; we are leaving the familiar behind and heading to a different place; I won’t succumb to it, join in with it, or permit it to overcome me and dominate my thoughts.

I will accept what I can’t control and go inward and work on myself so that I can do better with and for other people. That’s my spiritual goal.

I find a quiet place and breathe deeply.

You know the story – inhale, exhale – slowly and deliberately, as often as it takes to feel my body let go of the tension and worry of the world, which surrounds us and pursues like an owl after a mouse.

I am seeking and have found small groups of people to find support and deepen my spiritual life and commitment to humanity. Being human is the answer for me.

Most recently, I have also been ending my day in meditation, especially one written by Merton, my longtime spiritual inspiration and guide. Medicine for the time:

A person who is not at peace with himself projects his internal fighting into the society of those he lives with…We must withdraw from effects beyond our control and be content with the goodwill and the world that are the quiet expressions of our inner life…We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting an immediate reward…

I can’t control or understand or predict the world. I can’t tell other people what to do or feel.

I can only try to be as good as I can be.

If every flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness,”….so despite my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.

—St Terese

6 October

Learning To Play The Ukelele. My Teacher Says I Can Do It, No Sweat. I’m Not So Sure

by Jon Katz

Today, I had my first ukulele lesson with Bob Warren, a well-known singer, composer, and music teacher who lives just about 15 minutes away. He was patient, clear, and very supportive.

He knows what he is doing. He exudes confidence and calm.

My Dyslexia makes it very difficult for me to learn things like chords and finger positioning and remember them. I’m wary of teaching things like that, but I want to do this.

Bob was patient and creative in teaching me the G and C chords, two of which were necessary for learning our first song, “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. I’m a big Guthrie fan; I even visited the Woody Guthrie museum in Oklahoma and have a woody Guthrie cap around.

I’ve been practicing at home to see if I can remember it, and I’m doing well. Bob insists I’ll be playing the ukelele in a few weeks, well enough to join his ukelele and guitar club which meets once a month.

I’d love to be able to play with that group and will work hard at it. I warned him it might take me a little longer. He said he saw no signs of that. I played it for Maria when I got home, and she said she liked the sound.

 

The ukelele is a sometimes goofy, sometimes silly starter instrument for people who want to have fun and are perhaps too old to learn a more complex tool. I’m in both categories.

Many music teachers start people out with the ukelele and move on to guitars. I think I’ll be happy to stay with the ukulele.

It’s recently become wildly popular; it’s caught on with young musicians and older people. There are ukelele clubs all over the country. Lady Gaga and Betty Midler are ukelelu players.

It seems to me not to be as easy as everyone says, but that might mean it’s not going to be that easy for me.

There is a lot to learn, but even if I master just a few chords, I can play a thousand songs on the ukelele, which would be enough for me, especially to start with.

Bob was teaching me chords as simple as they get, but I was sweating it a bit. I admit to being nervous.

I was very comfortable working with Bob in his garage, which doubles as a music studio. He is easy to talk to and gentle in his teaching. I told him I didn’t have much good luck with teachers, but I was okay with him.

He never seemed to mind going over it again and again and again.

I almost had fun.

(My homework)

Bob and I are becoming friends. In addition to his music, he and his wife Bonnie have launched their very successful food cart, “A Little Paris,” making delicious crepes in Paris style. We only met a few weeks ago at his food cart.

We just hit it off.

He insists I’ll have no trouble picking up on playing the ukelele.

I’m excited about it and am taking it seriously.

I’ve always loved listening to music, and I very much love the idea of making some, even if it isn’t worthy of the New York Philharmonic or Billboard.

My will is strong, my goals are modest, and I will be rehearsing over the next week and will keep you all posted.

I’ve never really been a good student, but it’s never too late to try. Working with Bob is an excellent way to start.

6 October

Bright Lights At The Mansion: LED Lights, Witches Craven, Clay Birds

by Jon Katz

It was an especially bright and beautiful day at the Mansion when I visited to drop off some fresh paintbrushes, small painting boards, and canvasses.

(Above, Meg and June taking in some sun on the porch)

The LED lights we ordered for them were all over the place and graced a Witches Haven in the hallway corner (our Amazon Wish List from a couple of months ago.)

 

 

I brought some art supplies into the Activity Room and saw Maria’s clay sculpture work with the residents this morning, a flock of birds in quick-drying clay.  Maria said everyone had  a blast.

It was a full house for Maria’s art class, as usual.

Sharon passed on thanks to me for buying her a life-like toy cat that meows and moves. She said she had no words for what this meant to her.

It was quiet at the Mansion today and peaceful. The Mansion was full of light and warmth. They are getting ready for Halloween. Our Wish List got everyone into the spirit.

 

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Thanks for supporting our Mansion work. If you wish to donate, you can do so via Paypal, Jon Katz, Mansion Fund,  [email protected], or via Venmo, [email protected] or by check, Jon Katz, Mansion Fund, P.O. Box 2502, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. We’re getting ready for winter.

Small donations are just as welcome as big ones.

6 October

Farm Journal, October 6, 2022: Milestones; Granddaughter’s Visit, First Ukelele Lessons

by Jon Katz

Three essential things in my head this morning.

At 11 a.m., I’m going to Greenwich, N.Y., for my first ukulele lesson with Bob Warren, a musician, teacher,  composer, and the co-owner of the “A Little Paris” food cart, also in Greenwich.

I’m mentoring Killian this evening.

My daughter Emma and granddaughter Robin are coming to spend much of the weekend, their first visit in three-plus years.

The Ukelele lesson comes first.

Ukeleles have always seemed silly to me, something for amateurs to play, not real musicians. But the more I know about them, the more fun I think they will be, and the easier for me to learn than almost any other instrument.

I love the idea of making music; I see myself playing “Ode To Joy” at our bi-annual Equinox bonfires.

I have a rocky history with education. I left or got kicked out of two colleges, and my teachers all found me frustrated, and some thought I was just dumb (they didn’t know much about Dyslexia then). I like Bob Warren a lot, and I trust him.

I’m unsure why I am doing this or if I will stick with it. But something inside of me is you is saying, “give it a shot, give it a shot.” It just feels like fun.

Tonight, my creative writing student Killian and I have scheduled an hour or so to go over his short story. It’s called “Horror Story: A Night At Prochtman’s Bowl.” I’m looking forward to it, and so is he.

I think he’s learning that I’m about as scary as a turnip. I like working with him, he’s awfully nice and bright, and it’s great fun patching a horror story together, something new for me.

I am enjoying our friendship and relationship.

The weekend is a significant milestone.  I’m a bit anxious about it.

My daughter and granddaughter are coming in Saturday on the train; I’m going to pick them up in Albany and take them to their Airbnb in town.

They’re staying until Monday morning, and their only request is to go apple picking; no problem there.

This is the first visit since before the pandemic, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with Robin, my granddaughter, who I barely know.

Emma and I have stayed in touch; we are both good on the phone. She’s bringing the Canon camera I got her for a birthday last year, perhaps we’ll go out and take some photos together.

There are vast cultural differences between a kid growing up in Brooklyn in 2022 and people who live on a farm in upstate N.Y. That’s nobody’s fault, it is what it is, and I am preparing to love and fully accept these two people as I get to learn who they are once more.

There’s a lot to connect us. I have a robot to assemble and a big stack of books to read together. Saturday night, wood-fried pizza from Shift, the rolling wood-frierd pizza place.

And she says she loves dogs and animals. Should be fun, then.

I have visions of Maria and Robin feeding the animals together, but these are not people who like bugs, ticks, and manure. We’ll see. I imagine I will seem strange to Robin (I already seem strange to Emma), and I am learning to remember that I can make people nervous without even trying.

A whole few days. I’ll share it all, as always. Off to learn the ukelele, I expect to come home with one.

6 October

Love In The Mist. Prey Animals Get Nervous In Fog

by Jon Katz

Even though the donkeys guard the sheep, both donkeys and sheep are prey animals; they are always vigilant and stay close together, always scanning the horizon and the woods.

Fog and heavy mist make them nervous because they can’t see far away and ensure no predators are around. Donkeys always have an escape route in their heads.

I’ve noticed over the years that they need attention and reassurance (especially the donkeys) when the fog is heavy.

I saw this vividly this morning when Maria went out into the mist, and the donkeys stuck close to her and needed some attention. They’ve got the right human.

 

 

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