Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

6 July

Friendship Diary, July 6, 2022.

by Jon Katz

They are there, curled up together, every morning when I step out onto the porch.

I know to look at them now, I get closer, to make sure they are okay and breathing. Minnie used to jump off the chair when I did that, and Flo would stand up immediately and demand some attention.

They are very still now, neither one moves much except to eat. That is sad for me to see.

When they walk, it is slowly and perhaps painfully.

They have joined together for this next chapter of their lives, these two wild and independent creatures. I don’t know how long it will take or where they are going next, but the comfort they now provide to one another is a beautiful thing to see.

Barn cats live most of their lives alone, away from people, and often invisible to us. Now they are almost never part. Animals have taught me so much, perhaps they are teaching me something about true friendship and death. They are preparing together, I can see that.

I’m going to post a daily photo so others can keep up with this touching journey.

Animals inspire me and humble me comfort me and teach me, almost every day.

5 July

All Is Well At Bedlam Farm. Maria Returns To Me, Our Lives, Her Life, Her Smile, The Animals, Her Blog, Her Work

by Jon Katz

Maria had the most challenging time I’ve seen in our marriage and time together. I don’t want to talk about the details; she has written about them on her blog:

I write about her, but I never speak for her. She speaks very well for herself. Slowly, day by day, she is coming back to her full and rich life, the one she patched together, day by day, for the past decade, all by herself.

She returned to her creative work, quieting the voices in her head.

This one was difficult, challenging, and complex.

It went deep and lasted a long time. She is coming back to me, and our life together and herself.

Tonight, she sat across me at the dining room table, and we laughed together for the first time in a while. I made a neat dinner – fresh scallops with wheat couscous and lots of vegetables.

I could tell she was happy with a new quilt she was experimenting with; it brought her back to her place, a creative place.



She is starting her new quilt, a Crow Quilt Red; it is already impressive. When she sees a quilt in her head, her face turns mad and wild-eyed, like one of MacBeth’s witches. I saw the look in bed this morning.

This is how I know she is getting well; she couldn’t work last week, a rare thing for her. She said she felt like hiding, so she decided to write about it.

That was a good decision; it seemed to liberate her from the pain and memory. She is learning to be authentic, which is sometimes very hard and painful.

This is good news; we can all breathe, the donkeys know, and so do the dogs.

I could see she was back. She started giving me shit about looking down (I was low), she had her chipmunk smile, she threatened to molest me, she cried a dozen or so times, and we talked about our friends and work and ideas.

She came back slowly and  steadily, “God Bless You,” I said, “you are unstoppable!” She laughed. I sang two stanzas of “Old Man River.” It didn’t quite fit, but it felt right.

After dinner, she started rolling an empty tea mug back and forth across the dining room table. This, I thought, was a Leica 2 picture, and as it happened, I was holding the camera in my hands.

All is well at Bedlam Farm.

5 July

Meditation Class. “Poverty Is Not Just About Having Things”

by Jon Katz

Today, in our meditation/prayer class, we talked about poverty and the idea that it is only sometimes about money and things. The residents very much wanted to talk about this since many of them are all too familiar with poverty.

As someone who struggles to figure out his place in the spiritual world,  and figure out what the idea of a God means to me, I never imagined being asked to do pastoral work. And the odd thing is that I love it.

Since the  regular pastor had to leave the Mansion during the pandemic, I’ve taken over her duties. My meditation class is also a brief prayer class and spiritual discussion.

We are not focused on one religion, but almost all of the class members are Christian, so I’ve read from Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen before we meditate.

I do often read from Christ’s sermon on the mount the best definition of true Christianity I have yet read.

The class ranges in size from 6 or eight to 12 or 15. It rarely gets larger than that, and this is a good thing because our round table in the activities room usually fits about 10. If it gets bigger, we have to bring in more chairs.

The class has jelled; there is an extraordinary commitment and comfort level. The three people from the Memory Care unit are the first ones in the room; they always ask the aides when I’m coming – they can’t quite get my name –  and come to every meeting. They listen carefully.

I know they are hearing something.

Merton’s argument in this essay was that the poorest man in a religious community is not necessarily the one who has the fewest things or objects.

Poverty, he said, is “an attitude which leads us to renounce some of the advantages which come from the use of things. A man can possess nothing but attach great importance to the personal satisfaction and enjoyment he wants to get out of things common to all” – music, conversations, books, free time, friendship.

Poverty, he wrote, ought not to make us feel inferior or peculiar. The eccentric man or woman is not poor in spirit.

What the residents took from the reading was the idea that they had few possessions didn’t make them poor. What made them poor was losing hope, friendship, and the ability to laugh or find joy in the world.

I love the way the memory care visitors react to the conversation. They don’t remember the details, but something always sticks.

“My sister has a lot of money,” said G, “but she is sour and bitter about her life and the world and can no longer laugh or sing. She has no friends. She is poor.”

Then I talked about breathing and meditation and why it was so important.

When you slow down your breath, inhale deeply, and exhale slowly, I said, you are also slowing down your heart and lowering your blood pressure.

Meditation practiced regularly and in silence is healthy, I said. It helps with stress and fear and confusion.


Silence is the only real chance in our distracted world to look inward and see the truth about ourselves. Four different residents in the meeting said they meditated for five or six minutes when their alarm went off and they woke up.

Years ago, before TV, electricity, and the Internet, people, had silence in their lives. They were often alone and in solitude; they could think about their lives and what they wanted to do and be.

Our culture leaves no time for silence, so we have to find it ourselves and make room for it in our lives.

I am starting to bring some photos of my flowers on my Iphone. The residents love to see them before they meditate. We are planning a meditation session at the farm, alongside the donkeys and Zinnia, all great meditators.

The Meditation Class is meeting this morning at ll a.m. Our regular day is Wednesday,  but the holiday threw all the schedules off. Our first Men’s Club Meeting, scheduled for tonight, has been moved to Thursday.

Zinnia is a great addition; she goes under the big table and licks everybody’s hands. The moment I start talking, she goes to sleep. She is a born meditator.

5 July

More Begonias. Emergency Planting!

by Jon Katz

My begonias are so beautiful they are blowing my mind a bit. I thought I planted a dozen or more but it seems I only have two. I might have torn up some by mistake.

Tomorrow I’m doing some emergency planting.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to Country Power Products and getting the 10 begonia bulbs they still have. They say it isn’t too late to plant the bulbs. It takes two to four weeks for them to come out.

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