Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

17 March

On To Brooklyn. Life’s Journeys, Big And Small

by Jon Katz

I have always seen life as a series of journeys. Some, like going to the hospital for open heart surgery, are big. Some, like going to Brooklyn today, are smaller.

I love the energy of New York, especially Brooklyn these days, and I love the peace of coming  home. This is a curious journey for me, in part because Maria isn’t coming. She’s staying behind to make are and care for the farm.

But there are few few trips we don’t take together. In a sense, I’m going into strange territory, even though it’s family. I don’t see Emma and Jay and Robin often, that makes the trip all the more necessary and important.

They are all that is left of my family in many ways, and it is important to know them and be with them. My life on the farm, is deep and rich and full, and it is hard for me to leave my farm, Maria, the dogs, my photos and my blog. It’s silly, really, I’ll be back on Tuesday.

But in a large sense, you are my family now, complete with all of our adventures and spats and lively conversations. There is a lot going on in my life, which is the way I like it, and I value the great dialogue we have together. I also value the good work we are doing together.

I’m excited to be getting on the train, seeing some different things, clearing my head, getting a good look at my charismatic granddaughter, meeting her dog, re-connecting with my daughter.

Her husband and I are not close, we rarely communicate when I’m there. But he is a gracious and warm host.

He is a great husband and father to my daughter and granddaughter, that’s about all any father could really want. So another journey, perhaps bigger than I think.

I’m off to the train, which I love riding on. I can’t wait to absorb some of that New York energy. I can no longer live without nature and animals, so two days is about right. I am excited to be taking Emma and Robin to see the Frieda Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, I hope to bring something back to Maria, who I will miss a lot. I have my earphones and a good book – the memoir Small Fry by Steve Job’s daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs.

It’s beautifully written. Soon I’ll be looking out the window at the beautiful Hudson River, chugging along on another journey.

16 March

Maria’s New $65 Metal Mystery Desk

by Jon Katz

Maria and I stop by Shiny Sisters, a “Repurpose and Re-Imaging” shop that is a combination antique, restoration and just odd and amazing things. I got my desk there, and we got our neat nightlight/lamp there, Leslie is a lot of fun, and the place is so full of things I want that Maria sometimes makes me stay in the car.

The minute I walked in, I spotted this very strange heavy metal desk on one side, Leslie had just gotten it from a farm and put a $65 price tag on it. I saw Maria staring it at, an as sometimes happens, it practically screamed “I am Maria’s Desk.”

I said we have to get this, and she said she thought it was right for hear. It is a curious thing, I can’t quite imagine how old it is, but I know nobody makes metal desks like that, complete with a row of bins for papers or flowers or whatever.

Since it came from a farm, I’m guessing it might have been used to keep records in a milk house or sheep farm. It would make  perfect desk for Maria in the living room, she usually does her writing and paperwork on a sofa.

The price was sort of unbelievably good, Leslie’s price are always low. And she is a lot of sun. She is great salesperson as well, helpful and a good listener but never pushy or too intense. She absolutely loves what she does and there are always a bunch of things we love – old tables and chairs, curious lamps, dresses, I got my beautiful bankers  desk from London there, it was about $200.

Because of my Dyslexia, I am forever struggling to keep my study from being overrun. Because I can’t remember things I don’t see, I’m always piling books and papers near me and in plain sight, otherwise they don’t exist for me.

The result is chaos on one end of my office, barren space on the other. Leslie says she can help, she got the issue right away. I don’t think it is soluble, I’ve been trying for years.

But I’m thrilled that we got this desk for Maria. When it warms up, it needs a good deal of work, lots of hosing and scrubbing, and perhaps painting. It will fit perfect in our house. I am resigned to the probability that we will never know where it came from, what it was really used for or how much it was worth.

We will just have to use our imagination. It’s parked under the roof on the side porch until we can get to clean it up. Maria will get the drawers later in the week. I can’t wait to see what she does with those filing spaces.

16 March

Spring Pizza: Chopped Clams, Mozzarella, Cow Cheese, Kale

by Jon Katz

Tonight, a chilly and windy and cloudy night, I launched one of the first of my Spring Pizzas, simpler, mostly meatless, tasty and healthy meals.

I got wheat flour for the crust, and used fresh Mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, chopped fresh kale, small bits of cow cheese, a can of chopped clams, and some vegetable sprouts.

Plus my signature pine nuts for crunch and flavor.

I par baked the crust for 10 minutes at 475, then added the ingredients, then cooked the pizza for ll minutes at 475. The crust is crispy, I love this one. The farm stands open around Mother’s Day, I’ll have fun exploring different veggie combinations.

Except for  occasional slices of sausage, I’m going meatless until Winter.

I love the simplicity of this pizza, and the flavors mix beautifully and it is a light and healthy Spring meal for us.

16 March

The Hen Who Isn’t Going To Brooklyn

by Jon Katz

I am heading to Brooklyn tomorrow – Sunday morning – to make my two-day pilgrimage to the Sacred Temple Of Grandparenting where Grandfathers and Grandmothers expected to go in a shower of rapturous, over-the-top love and joy.

How interesting it will be to come face to face with this new person in my life, who has been on the earth for two years, but has only seen me  a few times. I am told that nature will take its course, and I suspect that is true.

Emma says she is a lot like her, God help her, but I wonder why, if this is so, that Emma was not exactly wild about my own willful self.

I come with several boxes of good stuff – a guitar, DVD player, books and DVD’s that I think may grease the wheels a bit.

I am taking her and her mother to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and I will meet the reportedly affable new dog, Sandy, a Kentucky Cur that Emma still claims is mostly a Lab. How strange to see a museum without Maria.

I’ll bring back some Frida memorabilia, which will undoubtedly piss her off.

I will try not to annoy anybody while I am there, mostly by keeping my mouth shut and adoring this adorable child. But the hen, originally purchased for Robin, is gracing the head stand on my bed, where she is staying. I’m keeping her.

And I feel no guilt whatsoever. Robin has an apartment full of stuff, and I’m adding three shipped boxes to the pile.

I don’t have a name for her yet – I’m thinking Gertie – and would welcome any suggestions anybody out there has.

When all is said and done, I’m excited about the trip. I wish Maria was coming with me, but I always wish Maria was coming with me. It’s good to be apart once in a while, makes me appreciate her all the more.

But I need a name for the hen. Gertie is just one idea, she looks like a Gertie to me, but I’m open to other ideas.

16 March

Mary’s Hard Journey: Embrace And Practice Change

by Jon Katz

There are all kinds of messages for me every day of the year, they are invariably fascinating.

They are  sometimes uplifting, sometimes, disturbing, sometimes extremely helpful. The messages I love are much like the ones Jeanne Blue send me yesterday when I wrote about our visit to our friend Mary Kellogg, who is 88 now, in an adult home 30 miles from the farm.

They are just wise.

Mary sorely misses her farm, she left in ambulance months ago when she fell down, and has not been back. It is not clear, give her health and confusion right now, if she should see it again or not. I can’t really know the answer to that.

A lot of people responded to this post, and I was moved by how many cared about Mary and were upset that she hadn’t been back to see her farm, where she lived alone for 30 years after the death of her husband Dick, and where she wrote her beautiful poems..

“Why on earth can’t she be taken now to her farm?,” asked Ruth. “And if not now, when? What criteria need be met? Do they not understand time is running out and there may not be a ‘better’ time. I am so sorry to read this though I don’t know the details, it seems heaven and earth should be moved to make it happen.”

I got several concerned messages like that, and I wanted to tell them that all that Ruth was right, the answer is in the details, and if we don’t know them – I don’t know them  – then none of us can judge from a distance what Mary should or shouldn’t do.

Heaven and earth don’t ask my advice, as a rule.

I feel so badly for her very loving family, it falls upon them – at Mary’s request – to make these difficult decisions, and I know how much they care about Mary, I can’t imagine knowing what they should do or telling them. If they think it’s a good idea for Mary to see her farm and Maria and I would be happy to take her back, and I know they would also.

But that depends on the details, and there are many to consider, and none of them are visible to us.

These were messages of our times, impatient, angry and demanding. I wonder if sometimes social media has destroyed our ability to listen and consider. We are so quick to judge, we are so reluctant to listen. We live and write in grievance.

That’s what I loved about Jeanne Blue’s lesson, it was thoughtful, empathetic and helpful. It didn’t presume to know, it made no assumptions, Jeanne was simply sharing some wisdom that was very helpful for me to hear. In a few considered words, she really said it all.

“In 30 years of working with seniors the largest truth I have learned is that the people who have had the least amount of change in their lives have the greatest difficulty coping with aging… Embrace and practice change. It is the one thing we can all count on.”

This is such a wise and useful message for me, for everyone, for Mary too.  It is also what my life is about, embracing and accepting and practicing change.

Talking to Mary yesterday, listening to her, I thought things I didn’t say, she was not in a frame of mind to hear them, and it was not my place to say them. She kept looking at me for guidance, wanting to know what Maria and I thought, but I didn’t tell her, it just didn’t feel right. This is not a decision for me to make.

But this is what I was thinking:

I kept thinking of Paul Tillich, who wrote “it is our destiny and the destiny of everything in our world that we must come to an end. Every end that we experience in nature and mankind speaks to us with a loud voice; you also will come to an end.”

Mary’s life on the farm had come to an end. I might have said this:

“You had such a wonderful for 87 years Mary, you told me you loved every minute of it. You were always surrounded by a cloud of love, your husband Dick, your children, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, your friends, your beautiful farm,  your birds, cats, squirrels, wildflowers, garden, your deer, your books. So many treasures of the heart. Towards the end of a life, you fulfilled your dream to be a published poet, and brought your beautiful poetry out into the world.

I am sad about where you are right now, but I celebrate your life. Where you are is nobody’s fault, it is just life. You are where everyone of us will be, if we live as long as you, and it will be no simpler for us than it will be for you. There is no changing it, turning back the clock, giving back your clarity, mobility, health and strength. The dead cannot return to you, neither can the fierce clarity of your mind. And yes, it is sad, it is a shame.”

Jeanne is so right, she is really talking about my cornerstone faith: accepting and embracing and practicing change.

I believe if I continue to work on this now, perhaps I can accept the harder realities of my life when they get to me.

I have a good friend who simply does not know herself, and runs away from taking responsibility for her life and her choices.  It is always the fault of someone else, nobody else gets it right, life is unfair. She is learning now and will continue to learn the hard lesson that Jeanne already knows and I am beginning to understand.

Everything anyone says about me is true, to them, if no one else. That’s why I need to listen, and not always know.

If we were living totally within time, we would not be able to elevate ourselves to the eternal in prayer, meditation, honesty and thought.  We could not ask the question of the meaning of time.

It’s nobody’s fault, Ruth, that Mary may not ever see her farm again. It’s just life.

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