29 January

Healing Myself

by Jon Katz
Healing Myself


There are times when I can heal myself and times when I can’t and I have spend some time in the last couple of years trying to sort out which is which. I’m going to the optometrist next week to get my eyes and glasses checked, and that isn’t something I can take care of myself. Neither is a broken leg or many chronic illnesses.

But there are many more ways to heal myself than I imagined, and given the chance, the body is an astonishingly effective healer. Even though our social system keeps alternative practitioners on the fringes, I have found some wonderful healers, and they are constantly showing me how my mind and soul and body can take care of me. When I began this process a few years ago, I was nearly broken, body and soul. I am learning all the time.

I had a bad fall last week, banged up my knee. I was heading for x-rays, pain-killers, probably an MRI, I was told. I went to my chiropractor myself and we decided to first see if the knee and bruise would heal. I got wobbly for a few days, as the pain was attention-getting and I was having trouble moving. But I used ice, elevated the foot, rested it, and I walked a lot, because I just felt it was helping my knee. I’m seeing the chiropractor again tomorrow and am happy to be able to tell her the knee is much better and getting stronger and more fluid every day. I admit to wondering how such a painful injury could heal itself. I trusted my health care, and their sensitivity to my feelings and comfort. I trust them even more now.

My health care is not casual. Except for emergencies, I avoid conventional medicine which has always left me feeling powerless, confused or frightened. I accept blood work, but in three years, no other tests.   Although I was on prescription drugs for nearly 40 years for various things ranging from sleep to cholesterol, I am on none now.

I see a naturopath who gives me some herbal and non-prescription medicines. I take vitamins. I am learning about nutrition every day. I shop carefully, study labels, eat little or no fat or sugar, lots of vegetables in many forms and ways. Health through nutrition involves knowledgeable cooking and I do that as well. I am active in many ways that fit into my work and life and are comfortable for me. I seek a spiritual life and see a spiritual counselor, for I have learned that one of the elemental foundations of health is treating the soul as well as the body. They work in tandem for me.

I sought and found connection in my life, love and friends, and animals have been a seminal part of that. So has my writing and my photography, which has engaged me in the natural world in the most extraordinary way.

I meditate, every day. I see a massage therapist, and this, which I was intensely skeptical of, has powerfully altered my body and brought me a window into peace of mind and perspective. My fall was a blessing. Life sometimes brings pain, and not too long ago I would not have given myself the chance to heal. I am learning all the time. I am coming to see what holistic means. How wonderful a thing my body – which I have hated all my life – really is.

I consider each of these new practitioners friends. They take the time to know me, to talk to me. They respect me, and I am fond of them. I love seeing them, talking to them, sharing my life with them. I bring them books and photos and stories of my life and hear about theirs. They are available to me and take the time to get to know me well. I can talk to them about anything, all of them. In the face of pain, it is difficult not to panic, as the world is always encouraging me to do, and plunge into the other system. I did not do it, and I hope I will not do it. My health care is effective, inexpensive, compassionate and individual.  It is efficient. My health has never been better.

Corporations, politicians and governments have little to do with my health care, other than to keep it marginalized.

29 January

It’s never too late to love a donkey

by Jon Katz
Donkey Time: What Life Means


I don’t recall every seeing a donkey for most of my life, except perhaps in a circus. I got to know my first donkey, Carol, while herding sheep in Pennsylvania, and she came to Bedlam Farm and I fell in love with her. Now, I cannot imagine a life without donkeys – or dogs –  the first question we ask when we look at a new place, is where will the donkeys go? One of the things we love about the new farm we hope to buy is its excellent horse barn, stream and hill, perfect for Simon, Lulu and Fanny. Every day we are here, there is donkey time.

We go to the pasture, open the gate and as we come out of the house the donkeys look to see whether we are heading for the car or the pasture, and if choose the latter, they come down. We give them some a carrot or apple, sometimes a cookie, and then put some hay in the feeder. Maria often will talk to them or brush them, and they stand still and brush against us, waiting for some attention – brushing, talking, just being with them. They seem to need that as much as food. I have become a donkey advocate, as these precious creatures are vanishing from our world. They are wonderful guard animals, and very bright and affectionate. They are as willful and independent as they are smart.  For most of my life, I never imagined a life with a donkey. Now I cannot imagine a life without one. Isn’t life strange and wonderful? It is never too late to love a donkey.

29 January

Birds Of A Lesser Paradise. Pre-Order A Magical Encounter

by Jon Katz
Birds Of A Lesser Paradise


When I began my life as a writer, I wanted more than anything else for someone – another writer hopefully – to pick up one of my books and say, “wow, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and this writer is really going to go places.” Perhaps because it never happened, at least not in that way, I have found the experience of coming across a wonderful book by a young writer to be among  the most thrilling and meaningful experiences of my life.

I rarely focus on the work of other writer’s because I think people can make their own choices, and are bombarded by so much hype. Publishing has changed since I began writing, and it is much more difficult for brilliant new writers to be seen and read. Especially literary writers and even more so, short story writers. I was introduced to Megan last week, and I not heard of her even though she lives near Bennington, Vermont and teaches at Bennington College. I fell in love with this book almost from the first page, at the wrenching descriptions of a mother and daughter struggling to connect and the equally wrenching portrait of a parrot named Carnie.

Megan Mayhew Bergman is, in my mind, one of these amazing writers I always dreamed of being. Encountering her first work – “Birds Of A Lesser Paradise,” out March 6, from Scribner is one of those magical encounters. My first short-story collection, “Dancing Dogs” will be published this September and I hope people love it as much as I loved this book. Life is curious, in the coincides and connections it offers up.

Megan’s new book – I see that is is getting lush and richly-deserved reviews –  is extraordinarily powerful and beautifully written, and I related to so many of her themes – an astonishing ability to portray the spirits of animals, a fierce believe in self-determination, an elegaic sense of family and place. You and I know one another, and I believe just about everyone reading this on this site will love this writer’s work. You can check Megan out on her blog. (Megan is overcoming her literary sensitivities and is building a new site). And more good  news – Connie Brooks of Battenkill Books is taking advance orders for “Birds Of A Lesser Paradise.”  Megan will personalize any books purchased through Battenkill, which can be reached on the store’s website or by calling 518 677-2515. The book will also be available anywhere books are sold. The Battenkill Experiment only grows.

How fortunate I am to have come across a gifted writer like this. She lives on a small farm with goats, dogs, a horse and some chickens. I think I will get her to go for a donkey. I can so imagine her writing about a donkey. She is coming out next week to meet Simon and Lulu and Fanny.

I can’t tell you how much I look forward to reading and seeing how much you enjoy this very striking new work, the first of many from a very brilliant new literary voice. I love that my dream comes true, also, even in reverse and over time.  Do not ever give up on your dreams.

29 January

Day Of Rest. Spirituallly Speaking. Call Of The Wild

by Jon Katz
Day Of Rest


In preparation for my e-book “The Story Of Rose” I’m reading some of the timeless dog-human stories. I think of “Call Of The Wild,” “Lassie,” “Rin Tin-Tin,”and “Old Yeller.” All of these stories are different, yet all are also very similiar. Dog enters the life of a human, changes it, saves it, defines it. Of these stories my favorite by far is “Call Of The Wild” by Jack London. It is the most raw, the best written, the most wrenching and it goes right to the heart of what it means to be an animal, where animals like dogs really come from, and how they intersect so powerfully with human beings. Buck journeys through the spectrum of dog’s interactions with human – a pet, abused, challenged, and finally, called up to reach back in time, his wild and mythic roots. “Rose In A Storm,” in some ways.

This, to me, echoes my life with Rose. Our story is not so savage, not so wild for sure. The other stories, although I think they are weaker and less focused, also touch me and I see some of my own life with dogs in them. To me, Rose was on the level of these mythic dogs. She was a remarkable creature, and did some remarkable things, and they saved, changed and shaped my life. I don’t want to write more about it, because I’m saving it for the E-book. I re-read London yesterday and it touches  me as deeply now as it did when I first read it. We have so emotionalized and infanticized the experience of having dogs, London reminds us of what the experience has always been about.

Day of rest. See you later.

Email SignupEmail Signup