19 November

Barnyard Afternoon: Photo Composition

by Jon Katz
Barnyard Afternoon

I had a Christmas fantasy, that I bought Canon’s stellar new 1D Mark III. I got a little depressed reading the specs. It isn’t just that I can’t afford it now, it is that I will never be able to afford it. It’s $6,800. I guess this is growing up. I love my 5D and it works well for me, but that is the thing with photography. Always some camera to want.

I was standing by the barn looking at Red sitting there, waiting for me as he does. I would not normally have taken this photo because it seemed to static to me, and then it hit me that it would make a lovely photo because of all of the different and balanced elements – the shadow, the barn, the gate, the dog, all moving in a slope. A photo I would normally not have taken but when you look at it a different way, it tells a story and the composition is attractive. I have to expand my horizons in seeing what a photo it. It was taken with a Canon 70-200 mm, f/4.5, 1/320, ISO 11  at 105 mm. I like the photo more each time I look at it.

19 November

Being Strong. Gratitude Friday. Go Julia.

by Jon Katz
Gratitude

Holidays are individual, like anything else. I met three women this morning who love Thanksgiving because of Black Friday, a corporate nightmare I have been huffing about for years.  They plan their shopping all year, look for bargains, strategize about shopping, plot intricate maps, dress carefully, stuff their pockets with water and cookies, launch at 8 p.m., each with lists of things they want and bargains offered. Each has to get something one of the others really wants or needs, and nobody quits until everyone has their lists filled. On top of that, everyone gets a surprise for themselves, something they wanted but couldn’t afford normally. They save up for it all year.

“We have so much fun,” Julia said, “we really take care of each other, text constantly, call on our cells when we strike gold – we always strike Gold. Then sometime Friday morning, when we have what we want, and are ready to drop, we meet for lunch. We love it, it is just the best time. We are such good friends.” Donna and Cindy were just as enthusiastic and each regaled me with their plans, their great stories of previous trips, their careful plotting – parking lots spaces, hidden mall entrances, secret websites with tips for them, even friendly store managers who whisper tips in their ears (they bring gifts for them).

I told them I had been stewing for weeks about the perversion of Thanksgiving into a shopping fest rather than a holiday of gratitude – why can’t they do this on Friday, not Thursday? –  and I still feel that way, but I also realize that it is so easy to slip into righteousness, to see the world through my own prism. I don’t like it when people do it to me, why should I do it for other people? I hope one day Thanksgiving is reclaimed from corporate greed, and I will not spend Thursday in malls looking for bargains, but there was much joy, gratitude, friendship and connection in what these three women are planning.

I told them I was going to have a gratitude Friday. Celebrating what I have gained, not lost, what I love, not dislike, my strength, not weakness, my courage, not my fear. My hopes and achievements. I will think of five ways to be creative, of good photos, of what might make Maria have as happy a day as Julia and her friends, of walking the dogs, communing with a donkey. They thought it was great for me.

It is amazing to me how people can find their own joy in strange and simple pleasures, and I can always learn something from watching and listening. I wish Julia and her friends good luck, and when I think of them launching their party at dusk Thursday, I wish them well. They make me smile. That is also something to be grateful about.

19 November

Tale Of Two Farms

by Jon Katz
Tale Of Two Farms

I never imagined having one farm, let alone two. I never imagined that Bedlam Farm would still be on the market after nearly a year, but it is. So what is the message for me? Is it “the economy?” The evil banks and their mortgage policies? My beautiful farm is not so beautiful or as special as I think? That following the heart is not a sensible thing in our world of warnings, cautions, lawsuits and regulations?

I don’t think those are the messages, although I feel them and hear them sometimes. I think the message is that this is life, it’s beauty and wonder. The farm brought me Maria. Seven books, children’s books, thousands of photos that I love, an awakening that has opened up my life, spiritually and creatively. The new farm has brought its own gifts. We have this idea about life, that it is a straight line, that we can alter it by going to doctors, listening to lawyers, watching the news, texting our alerts and warnings, putting on our seat belts and scaring our children about strangers, sex and life.

Here is the message. I have two farms. Each a gift, bringing me treasures, reminding me that a perfect life is not a life without trouble or surprises, is not a life with a fat IRA, is not a life without fear or anger, but a life in which we let go of our hubris, our discouragement, the anger and fear that flows around us like a river. We accept the nature of life. Sometimes we get what we want, sometimes we don’t, sometimes our animals thrive, sometimes they die, sometimes there is gain and sometimes loss.

And always, always, there is light and beauty and meaning, if we can be disciplined and caring and strong enough to look for it.

That is the meaning of my two farms. Beauty here, beauty there. I am not in charge.

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