1 November

Living With Fear: The Storm Within

by Jon Katz
The Storm Within

For me, the images of the storm outside this week – those awful and very beautiful swirls –  mirrored the images of the storm inside of us. This was a manifestation of fear come alive, it’s birth and purpose, it’s living form, the swirling giant, multi-colored and uncontrollable mass of power and terror, roaring towards us to obliterate our lives and belongings.  They see it coming days and even weeks away and when they do, we see it coming every minute of every day countless times. Hard to imagine a more graphic system of fear than that,  far beyond Mary Shelley’s biological imagination. Imagine if Victor Frankenstein had Storm Center on a screen in his lab, he would have thrown himself off of the tower long before his creation stirred.

From my perspective, these images were mirrors as well as manifestation. Our lives are a series of storms swirling around us, frightening us, challenging us to ground ourselves and overcome our fear – medicine, politics, the law, climate change, the media, the institutions that bring us storms, legions of politicians, doctors, “activists,” bureaucrats, regulators and overseers,  legislators, scientists, professional warners, armies of alarm-sounders. All speaking as our friends and protectors. So why, in the face of all this warning and fear and concern for our safety and well-being, do we feel so uneasy, so frightened so unsafe?

I’ve been nose-to-nose with fear for decades and I have along and close relationship with it. I have learned that the real storms, the real disturbances are almost always internal, inside of me, not out there. Many physicists believe that the storms out there are manifestations of our own anger and disconnection, our own restless energy. I don’t know about that. Sounds a bit  like blaming the victim to me. Once in awhile, as in this past week, a real storm comes along and I look up at it, watch my interactive maps, and I see myself in the mirror, I see  the inside of me, a graphic portrait of the storms inside of me, the real things to fear.

Our world sometimes seems to be constructed around a series of storms, systems of fear, swirling and raging around us, an overwhelming system than can envelop us and choke our spirits.

What am I learning? What stymies and confuses fear, diverts and distracts it, shrinks and diminishes it?

Appreciation. I give thanks  a dozen times a day for the things I appreciate rather than the things I fear. Maria, my farm, my friends, my work, my photos, the dogs, donkeys, my blog, my chance to be what I always wanted to be, a writer.

Authenticity. Who am I? Am I strong? Determined? Smart? Or am I vulnerable, weak, distracted and frightened?

Awareness. We are porous beings, especially those of us who choose to do work that comes from inside of us.  We can not keep the storms a way, or wall ourselves off from their awful effects. All we can do is understand ourselves, understand that what comes in, comes out, and often at 3 in the morning.

Choice. We can control some things and not others, but we always have choices, no one can warn us away from our choices or medicate us from them. In the dark of night, when my storm tracks right through the window and into my soul, I have choices to make. What do I believe? Who am I really? How do I wish to spend my life?

Determination: Fear has stalked me for many years, and chased me through the dark, and stolen my dreams, but it has not gotten me yet, and will not get me in my remaining time. In the midst of my worst fear, I found love, direction, some small wisdom, and a sparkle full of creative sparks. Fear is a space to cross, a geography. I live my life within the swirl, every day. It can only frighten me, it cannot stop me. It is not real. It is a symptom, a disorder, a wart on the soul.

I don’t fear the storms outside, I can’t do anything about them. I fear and wonder at  the storm within, and so I have my own exclusive inter-active map, red for panic, blue for concern, yellow for becoming alert to my own life and emotions. There is no storm so great as to wash away a meaningful life.

1 November

Seeing Eye Dog. What Red And Rocky Are Saying.

by Jon Katz
Seeing Eye Dog

It seems we have a seeing eye dog of sorts. Rocky and Red sit together and gaze out at the world. It often looks as if Red is seeing the world and conveying it to Rocky, perhaps in some instinctive way we primitive humans cannot understand, something only dogs and horses can grasp. Or maybe they can converse in some language we don’t know.

Rocky: Hey, that white sheep is smart and tough. She blew you off in the pasture yesterday.

Red: I know, man, you should have been seen her run me and Jon over when she led the escape through the fence. We didn’t see it coming.

Rocky: I can’t see anything coming.

Red: Oh, sorry dude.

Rocky: Where are those *(&))))))$$$%%#!  donkeys?

Red: Down below, Simon is gazing at you, glaring. I’ve got your back

Rocky: What is his issue, man?

Red: He thinks you’re after his girls.

Rocky: Well, I sort of dig that Fanny. She smells sweet and I love her soft bray, brings back a lot of memories.

Red: I’d cool your jets, man, Simon is all fired up.

Rocky: Okay, okay. Do me a favor. Walk me to the barn so I can get some grain when Maria comes out. She is a sucker for giving me grain. Sweet thing..

Red: Don’t…

Rocky: Just kidding, just kidding. I’m a hundred years old, for God’s sake. Let me at least dream a bit.

Red: Don’t be down on Simon. He’s just an ass. He’s been through his own stuff…

Rocky. It’s exciting around here at least. For 15 years, all I heard was the sound of me chewing grass. A lot is happening, good buddy. Glad you are around.

Red: It’s nothing, really.

1 November

Sheep Of Bedlam Farm

by Jon Katz
Sheep Of Bedlam Farm

So we have five sheep at Bedlam Farm, and they are here because Maria wants to sell the wool as yard through her website. It is also great for Red that we have sheep, we get to work them almost every day. These sheep are flightier than the old sturdy Tunis I had, warier of the dog. But Red is getting them into shape. They are pretty much dog-broke, as they say. Zelda, the white one is the leader. She keeps an eye out for Red and leads the flocks to and from the feeder. She is smart and loyal to her flock.

1 November

Breaking Through: What I’ve Learned

by Jon Katz
What I’ve Learned

We are breaking through with Rock and the donkeys. Rocky and Simon were out grazing within a few yards of one another, and when I joined them, all three donkeys came rushing up to me. They seem at ease together and Rocky shows no wariness of them at all. What  have I learned?

To be patient, move slowly. To give them an opportunity to work out their differences. My life with animals has always been marked by diverse creatures living together – my idea of the Peaceable Kingdom. It involves accepting the true nature of animals and learning from them. In the world outside, it is shocking when our leaders speak to one another and put the  public’s interest ahead of their own ideologies. This is why I am drawn to my life with animals and to telling their stories. Here we have a blind pony, a protective donkey doing his work, a border collie who seems to take the pony under his wing.

In this sense, they are superior to us and we can learn from their acceptance, ritual, instinct and sense of community. Rocky was trying to survive. Simon was trying to protect his flock. Red had taken Rocky on as part of  his work. The role of the humans was to observe and respect and, where possible, to protect. A big step for the new farm. Life has become simpler, easier. I make mistakes. I make good decisions, a blend.

Once we understood the dynamics, this one was well handled. I have learned a lot about animals – not to emotionalize or romanticize them, not to offer them a perfect life without trouble. They have so much more to teach me and I am eager to learn. Knowledge begins with accepting what you do not know, not by arrogantly asserting that you have the answers.

And yes, I did communicate with Simon.  I did come to see how much he needs me and my attention, how closely he watches me. Last week I kicked him in butt. This week I kissed him on the nose every single morning and led the way, showed him Rocky was a part of us, not a danger or intruder. Maria did the same. This week he got the message. The new farm is taking shape, or ethos emerging.

1 November

Friends: Guarding Rocky

by Jon Katz
Guarding Rocky

The dogs and donkeys surprise me almost every day. This is my purpose in a way, watching them, learning from them, listening to them. Red, a working dog, seems to have become aware of the tension between Simon and Rocky and has entered the equation. When he goes into the pasture now, he sits close to Rocky if Simon is near, and keeps an eye on Simon. Rocky seems safest when grazing right next to Red, and I get the sense that Red is bolstering Rocky, giving him some confidence and direction. I don’t know how this works, but I am seeing it every morning. I love the intuitive nature of dogs. They never stop amazing and delighting me. There is a mystery to them, a mystical and unknowable part.

Email SignupEmail Signup