It was Maria’s idea to have a small meal and dinner gathering on the patio of our new home. I was hesitant. We won’t move in for weeks, we have no furniture, food or tables in the new farm. Not a problem. Jenna Woginrich and I each cooked a pizza – mine with roast vegetables, hers with enough meat for a cowboy bunkhouse. Ajay helped us set up the tables. The flagstone patio sits by the side of the old farmhouse, and we patched together a bunch of chairs from the old house and the barns. It was such an important meal for us. People brought food, wine, gifts, flowers, a walking stone. Jenna brought her fiddle and played it after dinner.
It was the perfect group to welcome us into our new home, have our first social event, our first meal there. Jenna came, Ajay, Ben Osterhaudt and his wife Liz, and Bailey Guidon a friend who also helps us clean and care for Bedlam Farm. And Maria and I, the first time hosting people in the new place. We cooked the food in the Bedlam Farm kitchen and brought it over. We got a blueberry pie from Gardenworks. I drank enough wine to get slightly buzzed. Red came and dozed on the grass. We lit our beeswax chandeliers in the old candelabra we got from George Forss at his gallery. I was the oldest person there by far, and that felt quite good, and I plugged my Ipod into a speaker and we were serenaded by Jenna, Aretha, Leonard Cohen, Dylan, Thea Gilmore, Van Morrison and Allison Krauss.
Good group. The food was good, the wine was good, the music fine, the company and conversation excellent, warm and fun. An important night for Maria and I, our first night welcoming friends into our new home. What a good idea. Back to work in the morning. Towards the end of the evening, Jenna leaned over and asked me how I was. Good, I said, a little pressed and frantic. I know, she said, but isn’t it good to be here in your new home, surrounded by people who care about you. Jenna is amazing sometimes. Yes, I said, it is good.
It is messy to take wallpaper off. It takes two people to do it relatively quickly. An easy, patient hand to keep the wall from getting damaged. I enjoyed it and much of the advice I got from bloggers was helpful. I appreciate it.
The room already looks bigger and brighter. We are moving forward. My long-time hay supplier punked out on me and I am looking for hay for the winter. I’ve contacted Common Sense Farm, a religious community to see if they can’t help get the collapsed barn hauled off. Ben has lots of work to to in the next few weeks. Can’t wait to polish the old wood stove, now in the dining room. We are grateful for the presence of Ajay, who is caretaking the new farm, dug out some old flagstones yesterday. It is curious – we didn’t know him a week ago, and now he is living in our home, and we couldn’t be more comfortable with him if we had known him for 20 years. He is making a huge difference as we struggle to manage two farms, get one ready for us and the animals, and plan our move.
We finished taking the wallpaper off of the living room walls today, a week-and-a-half after we started. It was creative, challenging, interesting, painstaking, tiring. Fabric softener and tons of hot water spray worked, and the walls are in very good shape. Ben will take it from her, at least as far as spackling. Maria and I will paint. This will be a beautiful room, and we are very happy about the work that we did. Next, polishing the wood stove, putting another coat on the pantry. Tonight, we are having some friends over for home-made pizza (I’m cooking). We have no chairs or furniture, but it will be our first party or dinner at the New Bedlam Farm.
Almost as a reward for getting the wallpaper off, we came down to some beautiful old patterns and I was able to capture a few. I’ll put up a wallpaper album later on Facebook.
Somehow, Red’s foot injury has turned him and Lenore into best pals. I see them together everywhere, on the path, in the fenced in yard, in the house. Who knows what goes on in the mind of dogs? It’s neat to see though.
All day Friday, everywhere I went, people were talking about Clint Eastwood and his awkward conversation with an empty chair at the Republican Nominating Convention. I don’t watch the conventions – I was happy to be wallpapering instead – but I heard about the Eastwood performance so frequently that I got curious, weakened and called up the video of it on my Ipad. Maria came over to watch with me. After a couple of minutes, we looked at one another, and I said, “do we really need to watch this?” and she said no, and so did I and we were happy to turn it off. I am so grateful to love a person who did not need to watch this and did not consider it an exercise in citizenship or fun to see an elderly man struggle and drift on national television for seven minutes.
One friend told me she was stunned to learn that Eastwood was a Republican. She couldn’t imagine, she said, that a Republican could make such interesting movies.
Last month, a truly awful TV show called “Hotel Hell,” in which an angry chef eviscerates restaurant and hotel owners came to Cambridge, the nearby town we are moving to. In the show, the owner of a local hotel, an honest man struggling to make his hotel/restaurant work was repeatedly humiliated – yelled at by the host and by his family, banished to an upstairs room as punishment for his bad taste and make to look foolish whenever possible.
It was much like the Eastwood appearance for me – everyone in town watched the show and loved it and I didn’t hear one person express any discomfort at seeing a neighbor this man diminished in this way. People were much more excited seeing themselves in cameo appearances on the show. I asked a friend if it didn’t bother her that this man was treated so cruelly on national television, and she said, “oh, I didn’t really notice.” Why should she? People are humiliated all of the time on television news and entertainment programs, one reason we cancelled our satellite TV and read or talk at night (and blog.) I have come to believe my humanity and spirituality depends on my not being “informed,” rather trusting my own instincts to create my own news.
As people in America get angrier, more divided, frightened and confused, they seem to turn to more and more information, more media – TV channels, You Tube, smart phones, computers, texts and e-mails. It seems to me that we are not better informed, more humane or more aware.
I didn’t find the Eastwood appearance significant or interesting. It was like watching someone writhe in pain in front of millions of people. It was certainly not funny to me, and I’m not talking about politics. I remember when I was traveling through the country on my book tour in 2008 right in the middle of my crack-up and I was at a podium in a bookstore in the Southwest and I simply lost it. I hadn’t slept in days, was on anti-anxiety medication, my head was spinning and spinning and I just couldn’t keep a train of thought. I mumbled, forgot what I was saying and helplessly watched the nervous and puzzled looks of the people in the audience. Maybe you have to breakdown or be 65 to know instantly what was happening on that stage, and for me it felt invasive, unbearable. I hope I never watch a thing like that and think it’s my political duty. Jefferson might come right out of his marble tomb at the degradation of politics.
Next week I will be hearing a lot about President Obama and the other half of the country will be jeering and looking for mistakes and missteps. I won’t be watching that either. I am not on the “left” or the “right” and refuse to help my mind shrink in the way it has to to participate in this political system. We are, in many ways, empty vessels and I do not choose to let media or politicians, TV or culture fill me up with anger, disconnection and the inability to distinguish anger and cruelty from the practice of democracy. There is nothing in this system for me. This is not my politics.
At this time of year, I am acutely conscious of where I stand, somewhat like a wanderer staring at a vast river rushing by, unable to find a place to cross. I do a lot of listening, little talking and few people notice that I am not participating. Rants are not about listening.
In this political season, I will be giving birth to another chapter in my life, moving to a new home and working to make it ours. I will not be laughing at 82-year-old men who took the stage one time too often and call that news or revel in it. There are enough people around getting angry and picking one another apart. I will fill my vessel with something else.