From the first week she came to Bedlam Farm to her last day of life, Rose never gave up her pursuit of the squirrel she saw when she first walked on the path. She waited every day and watched for her return, and her focus and diligence became an inspiration to me and many others and a symbol of her remarkable and very professional work ethic. Rose got it done, and she never quit on anything she undertook. I try and do the same.
When Simon came to farm and was lying near death in the back pasture, I would bring books out and read stories to him. He seemed to love it, lying in his bed of straw, often too weak to stand up. It nourished him somehow, the sound of my voice in the dark. He watched me closely, his eyes wide, his ears up. Ever since those says, I have read things to him – short stories, poems, things about donkeys. And he always seems to listen. Tonight, I am giving a reading/talk in Saratoga (at the Spring Street Gallery, 7:30 p.m.). I dislike reading from my own books, I don’t think I do it well, but they want at least a few minutes, and I will do that.
I decided to read from “Luther And Minnie Got To Heaven” one of the short stories from “Dancing Dogs,” out in September. The story is about a woman who wanted to meet her dog Luther in heaven when she died, and when she passes, she finds the Dog Angel and asks her if she can go see Luther. Okay, says the angel, but you might be surprised. And she is. I read a section of this story to Simon this morning, and as you can see, he seemed interested. He is a good audience. He snorted once or twice, brayed once, then came over for a brushing and a cookie.
I don’t say as often as I should how much I love this donkey. I love his spirit, his determination to live, his loving nature. We are connected for sure. We do talk to one another, all of the time. And we listen to each other. I’ve got the excerpt all worked out.
In the New Bedlam Farm, I saw some of Florence’s old lampshades out in the barn, and this image spoke to me of a life lived in her dream house, now our dream house.
I spoke with a friend this morning and he told me the work in his law practice has declined considerably in the last couple of years, and for him, the economy was not improving. He wasn’t worried. He told me that he had saved money into a slush fund for years and now, when he needed it, he could dip into it and weather the decline in his revenue. Another friend of mine, a writer, says he is writing three times as he used to for half of the money. Sounds right.
When I heard about the slush fund, I confess to having felt a pang. I sometimes wish I had a slush fund, especially as we are about to buy a house and we have not yet sold the one we are living in. I have had a few dreams about that, and Herman, my scary voice in the night, has returned to jeer at me and clap his hands about the dangers of life. This morning, at 3 a.m., I was up listening to Bonnie Raitt. I wanted to go to Maria and apologize for not having such a fund – I would like to have one for her sake – and then I saw how sorry that kind of thinking really is. Echoes of another world, a habit.
Maria would have snarled at me had I said that, irked that I might think I owe her something like that, or that I am responsible for her life or feel I owe her anything more than love and encouragement.
In the middle-class world in which I grew up, a slush fund – retirement funds, pensions, IRA’s – was something mature and responsible people did for themselves and their families. Yet I do not regret my life, and am not honestly sorry for it. For me to have a slush fund, I would have had to make very different choices. Work I did not love. A marriage that did not work. Life in a place I did not want to live. Farms and slush funds don’t go together. Neither does the life of a writer, or, for that matter, a life with animals. So once again, I am making some choices about my life and once more, I do not seem to be choosing security, not getting closer to a slush fund life.
I suppose there will always be some voices in my head scolding me for this propensity for living on the edge, to plunge off of one cliff, and then another. I lived with those voices for much of my life. But this morning, when I woke up with my arm around Maria, this beautiful and loving spirit, and listened to Simon bray good morning, and Lenore rolled over from her corner on the bed to lick me softly on my nose, and I helped clean up the dishes from the good meal I made for some good friends last night, and went outside to feed the chickens some left over pasta, I saw the sunlight hitting on this red azalea, I heard another voice in my head, so loud and clear: What good choices you have made. How lucky you are to have love, to live in a beautiful place, to do the work you so dearly wish to do, to take your photos, write your books. To live your life. It is not a slush fund life. It is just a wonderful life.
There are so many voices in the world telling us what to fear, how to submerge ourselves and our lives in what-we-ought-to-do, what-we-ought-to-need, how vulnerable we are. I know now those are not the voices I will ever listen to again. I want to hear voices like Thoreau’s: “However mean your life is, meet it and live it. Do not shun it and call it hard names.”