29 September

Big Whinny: Animals, Love And Food. What Rocky Told Me.

by Jon Katz
Big Whinny

This afternoon, when I entered the barn I got a big whinny from Rocky, as I often do and Maria often does. I was talking at my reading Friday night about what I have learned about talking to animals on my farm and in my research, and I said that food was the foundation of love for animals. Food is life and death to them, and when people bring them food day after day, it builds trust and connection. I have been feeding Rocky for nearly two years in one way or another, and he is very aware of me and my movements.

Many people prefer to think of animals differently. People might think Rocky is grateful to me, that he appreciates being kept on the farm. Some people tell me I “saved” Rocky which is not so. He was healthy when I arrived on the scene and is healthy now. People want more than connection from animals. They want unconditional love, gratitude, appreciation. I don’t want that. A woman at the reading ask me if I expected to see Rose and Izzy at the “bridge,” and I said, Lord I hope not. The last think I want to see when I die is all my border collies running in circles, driving me nuts for all eternity.

The way I have learned to talk with animals is to not talk with them. I don’t know their language and they don’t know mine. They are alien minds, and gratitude is a human construct, not an animal one in my mind. We all see the stories we need to see, tell the stories we need to tell.

Rocky is very connected with Maria. She feeds him, brushes him, talks and sings to him. More important, she listens to him, and does not tell him – or anyone else – what he is thinking. She doesn’t know, and I don’t know either. I am sure that it is not, “wow, I love Jon and Maria because they are  saving me, keeping me here.” It is perhaps an image of hay or grain, something that matters to him very much, something emotional, an exchange of feelings, of images and emotions. I am listening, working to figure it out. I will share what I learn. Rocky is a teacher, I do know that. Maria and I both believe we are communicating with him, mostly through tone, voice, feeling and body language.

So many people have expressed concern about Rocky’s acclimation to other animals, but it is clear that there is no basis for concern. He has been missing it, waiting for it.

He is, it turns out, a very social being, he will have no trouble with the donkeys, he has told me that very clearly in his own way in his own kind of language.

29 September

Portrait: Louise Fairbanks. Momma’s Restaurant. Strong Women.

by Jon Katz
Portrait: Louise at Momma’s

I promised myself when we bought the new farmhouse that in my new neighborhood I would take more portraits of people with character in their faces, and incorporate them into my blog and my writing. I want to do this to expand myself, my photography, the range of the blog. I love taking photos of cute and appealing animals, but that’s not all the blog or my photography is about.

Louise Fairbanks has great character in her face, and in her life and work. It is not easy to take a rundown roadhouse with a bad reputation and turn it into a friendly and successful family restaurant with great burgers and wraps and a good long bar at the back. “This economy” does not seem to have discouraged her. Some friends and I met at Momma’s Restaurant in Jackson, N.Y., not far from our new home and I saw the light coming in through the side window and ran home to get my portrait lens (70-200mm).

I love to photograph women in part because I love women and because very few women like to be photographed. Most fuss, frown and hesitate. It is almost always a challenge, a seduction, if you will. Some women just look me in the eye and dare me to shoot away – Judy Rouse at the Rouse farm was like that. She looked at me as if she wanted to strangle me, but never flinched from the camera. These very strong women accept themselves as they are, and they dare you or your damned lens to do otherwise.  Maria just pretends I don’t exist, that is the way she deals with my recurring invasions of her privacy. Louise Fairbanks, the owner of “Momma’s” is also somewhat like that. Like many country people, she is open and accepting. She never asks me why I am photographing her, never asks what I am going to to do with the pictures, never primps or checks her hair or make-up, never worries about the image she projects. This determination and strength projects itself into the photograph, and when I came rushing back into the restaurant with my camera, I said “I’m her to take your photo while the afternoon light is coming through that window, and all she said was “here?” and I said, “yes, there,” and I took the photo and said goodbye. I’m going on a book tour and will be gone for a week or so on this part of the tour, I said, and she said, “good trip,” and I left.

We are very happy to have a restaurant like this in our neighborhood and will be happier still when we can rush up to Momma’s in the winter and get a nice meal and a drink for $30 or so. We used to drive a lot farther than that.

I was very happy with this photograph, the strength in her face, the shadows highlighting the character, the blue neon beer sign, the kid seat, the coats, it captured what she does, how she feels about it.

I hope to be doing many more portraits in the next chapter of our lives.

29 September

The Heart Is Right To Cry

by Jon Katz
The Heart Is Right To Cry

The Heart Is right to cry,

When the smallest drop of love,

is taken away.

When the smallest beam of light,

goes dark.

When the smallest taste of fear,

prevails. And the heart is right to weep,

when hope grows pale and dies.

When anger beats reason and connection,

into mud.

And the Heart is right to sing,

when the light comes on,

inside of us,

and we light our golden spark,

and let it shine.

The Heart is right to sing,

when love and hope and strength


To you.


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