15 November

Reflections: The Move

by Jon Katz
Reflections On The Move

We put Bedlam Farm up for sale last December, it is almost a year that it has been on the market. People come sporadically to look at it, but no buyers yet.  Many wrinkle their noses. Too much acreage, no attached garage, a kitchen that isn’t spanking new. The farm will find its lover, I am sure.

In the late Spring, we made an offer on our new farm and moved in before Halloween. As is obvious, it has been exciting, creative,  financially stressful and both exhilalrating and exhausting in other ways. We are in a transition, ending one phase, moving into another. The major work on the farmhouse and on Maria’s ecstatic studio are done. The driveway is not filled with trucks and cars. The hose has been rewired, painted, scubbed, there is new plumbing, roof and beams and sills. Floors have been shored up, beams sistered.  It is a different house than the one we bought, its spine and guts new and strong. Ben did a lot of it, so did we, so did others.

Ben comes by every now and then to fix a piece of slate or rebuild a door or rotten sill but he has moved on to other projects and is busy, as he  deserves to be. Much as I love him, I am ready to claim my office and my house and our life here.

Florence’s spirit is here, but it is not her house any longer. It is beginning to feel like ours. New paint, curtains, a wood stove.

We very much appreciate and enjoy being near a town like Cambridge – close to a hardware store, small market, Battenkill books, friends. We are driving less, things are closer. The farm is compact, sensible for us to manage. Two or three times a week we get a sandwich at nearby Mama’s. The animals have settled into their routines. The sheep go to their feeder, the donkeys to theirs.  They know where the sun is, when they get fed, and how to find the shelter. There are lights in the barn, the hay is where it ought to be.The Pole Barn is sturdy, spacious and dry, even in hurricane rains.

Maria and I still feel the presence of Rocky, but that is fading also. Red is an invaluable dog in many ways, he helps organize the farm, move the sheep. He is moving into Rose’s role as a farm manager, these amazing border collie dogs taking responsibility and learning the routine. Frieda now understands that she lives here and has two tasks – guarding the farm, sitting with Maria in her studio. Red and Lenore mostly hang out with me go on walks, sit in my study while I write. Lenore is this farms’ greeter too, and spends her days basking in the sun and looking for love. We have neighbors who care about us and watch out for us.

People ask me if I regret our moving here, if I wish I had waited. No, I am very happy to be here. It is where we needed to be. I’ve written many times that money doesn’t bring security and I will get to find out if that is really so. This place feels right. A self-determined life is important to me, and it has brought me here. There is loss, too. Money, for sure, savings and nest eggs. I’ve separated from the medical and political and media systems, they are simply not compatible with the kind of life I wish to live. I am working hard as always on my spiritual life, deepening my practice of meditation, seeing how much it is benefiting me. I still struggle with some fear, but less and less all the time. The hardest work of my life, and the most important, next to finding love.

Somehow, this all feels like a respite after a long battle, the battleground smoking and still filled with debris. Busy days filled with intrusions, decisions, labors. Going to the dump. Waving to the trucks that go by.  And casualties. My beautiful Bedlam farmhouse and barns, my path in the woods, the breathtaking view, the light on the hills. Mother, and then, Rocky.

The greatest thing about our moving is that Maria and I did it together. We needed to do this. And it helped me grow and grow.  It opened me up to new experience, from painting her studio to scraping off the wallpaper to sanding and working closely with Ben to build a pole barn, spackling and glazing, a skid barn to build, fencing to plan and the need to organize the farm so it works for us, and the animals. I continue to grow up, learn how to be a man, how to be a human. Hay, storage, fences, gates, water, heated hoses, rakes for manure, a coop for the chickens. Those are the measures of a farm that works, not a working farm but a writer’s farm, his place to live with and study animals and rural life, his Peaceable Kingdom.

The move was costly in many ways, and I am still recovering from it, Maria too. I am so happy we did it.  I learned a lot, grew a lot. There is no price too high to pay for a meaningful life, a feeling reaffirmed when I went outside to photograph Maria working in her new studio and saw it glowing like a radioactive jewel.

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