They are happy but exhausted at Battenkill Books. That is one day’s book signings of “”Dancing Dogs” in that photo. I have sore wrists and a happy heart. I will sign and personalize any book bought through Battenkill Books and they will include a free signed Bedlam Farm notecard with every purchase as well. Support my work and a great independent bookstore by calling them at 518 677-2515. We need physical bookstores in our communities. You can also purchase my books or any other books through the store by checking in on their website.
Also an important note: I will be talking, reading and signing at Northshire Books on behalf of “Dancing Dogs” this Friday at 7 p.m., not Saturday as previously reported.
6 a.m. Red is waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me when I come down. We go outside to feet the cats and let the chickens out of the yarn.
6:30. Red takes a walk on the path.
7:00 a.m. Red goes out again to walk us to to the barn where we check on the donkeys. He circles the pasture looking for sheep, who are no longer in residence at Bedlam. I send him or two or three jaunts around to keep him occupied.
8:00 a.m. Red lies down by my desk while I blog and write. While I am at the computer, he does not move. Two interviews for “Dancing Dogs.”
8:30: I have to stop working. Red goes with me to Matthews Automotive in Salem to get an oil change. Red gets out of the car, greets Adam, the owner, and circles around the garage to visit the mechanics. He doesn’t like the screw gun noise and comes back to me. We sit outside and wait and when the car is done, he hops in.
9:00 a.m. We drive to the new house to meet with Ben, check on the fences, check on the sheep, give Rocky some grain, polish the old wood stove a bit.
9:10 a.m. Red and I do some sheepherding. We work on our voice commands and movements together. I go to the farm corner of the pasture and he brings the sheep to me. I am getting him to slow down a bit.
10: a.m. I go into Cambridge to get a massage. Red lies down on the floor and doesn’t move for an hour.
ll a.m. Back to the new house to talk with Ben, drop off some furniture that was in the car.
1130: Red comes with me to the hardware store to get some paint. Walks the aisles, greets shoppers and staff.
Noon. Stop at Sheldon’s market, Red gets out to greet his girlfriends behind the register.
l p.m. Lunch at Bedlam Farm with Maria. Red sits on the porch looking in.
2 p.m. Interviews. Red sits by my side while I give interviews on the phone for “Dancing Dogs.” Won’t get much of my own work done on the book tour.
3 p.m. Go out for some photos. Red and Lenore come.
4 p.m. Red and I go to Battenkill Books to sign copies of “Dancing Dogs.” Red greets Connie, Marilyn, customers, then curls up on the floor and goes to sleep.
5 p.m. Back to the new farm for more sheepherding practice, check on the Studio renovations, send photos to Maria.
6 p.m. Back home to eat, walk on the path with Lenore and Frieda and Maria. Barn and farm chores, closing up the chickens, feeding the barn cats, checking water and fences.
7 p.m. Dinner, blogging, last walk.
8 p.m. Machines are turned off, reading, meditation, quiet. Red vanishes under the table, is not seen or heard until bedtime.
At least once a day someone refers in a well-meaning way to our moving as a “downsizing.” It is so fascinating, wrote one man to me in an e-mail, to see how you and Maria are downsizing your lives. He could not know, of course, how much I dislike the term, or how little meaning and relevance it has to my life. The term “downsizing,” like “middle-aged crisis” is most frequently used as a club to shrink the expectations and ambitions and dreams of older people, or in the case of the latter, to ridicule and discourage men who would like to change their lives.
In America, older people are expected to get their blood pressure pills, take their tests, obsess on their health and get out of the way of people with more years of purchasing power. There is no role for older people in our media culture other than to shrink, shrivel and due, spending as much on health care as possible along the way. Past 50, people are expected to “downsize,” and it is assumed, when they move, that they are getting tired and nervous and are shrinking their lives so they can make the great march to oblivion and vanish out of the sight of better marketing prospects. I have not and will not downsize my life. The term does not cover my life. At age 58, I bought Bedlam Farm without ever having set foot on a farm and at age 65 Maria and I (she is younger) are buying another farm, and although some people might assume I am downsizing our lives, I can testify it is quite the opposite.
My life – our lives – are expanding, not shrinking. We are thinking differently about building things, spending money, animal care. We are challenged to be more creative than ever, to meet and engage with new people. Since we bought the New Bedlam Farm, I have expanded into e-books and e-essays, learned how to communicate with a blind pony, de-wallpapered three rooms, painted two others, studied new and cheap barn construction, planned fences and pastures, scraped paint, re-thought electrical connections, studied foundations and heating systems, found ways to clear an old barn cheaply and with great environmental consciousness, changing every idea I ever had about money, altering my publishing life, using new technologies to communicate, learning how to clean a century-old wood stove, planned culvert and drainage operations, met a score of new people, found new restaurants, taken completely different kinds of photos. That is a very partial list, truthfully.
Not to mention falling in love and staying there. I cannot conceive of how all of this adds up to downsizing one’s life because the acreage is less. And seventeen acres is plenty to manage.
My life is expanding, every day in every way. I do not accept the narrow and unthinking characterizations of our culture which often seeks to diminish people, make them small and fearful. I know the people using the terms with me have no such intentions, they are just repeating what they hear and assume to be true. I am happy to tell you that to the end of my days that “downsizing” does not describe my life. I will be expanding my life, looking over the horizon, working to grow and change. How nice that I am moving to a new place and expanding my life even farther.
Ben started putting up Maria’s Studio Barn ceiling this morning. He’s trimmed the windows, is blowing insulation through the tops and bottoms of the walls, patching holes, replacing boards. Saturday Maria and I begin scraping the outer walls, in preparation for painting them, We are hoping to get Maria’s studio nice and tight for the winter. She is beginning to feel leaving her current Studio Barn, where she says she felt she was born. It was how we first came together, this barn, where we first talked and fell in love and decided to be together. Where she became an artist once again. The new place will have its own joys and creativity, I am sure, but we both feel the impact of leaving the Studio Barn on Bedlam Farm, where I saw Maria come to life.