20 November

Return To Bedlam, Cont. Burying Orson.

by Jon Katz
Return To Bedlam, Cont.

I’ve been meaning for weeks to go back to Bedlam Farm and reclaim Orson’s grave marker. That day in August of 2005 is very vivid for me, although standing up on that hill today with Maria, it seemed like a long time ago. It was a sweltering day and I had just come back from the vet, where he was euthanized after he bit three people and a platoon of vets, communicators, holistic healers and behaviorists had run out of ideas. I had run out of will and money and ideas. I made sure none of the workmen repairing the house and barns were around, and I carried him up the hill. It was sweltering and Rose was with me.

I lay the body down on the grass – it was wrapped in burlap – and Rose sniffed the bag took off to find the sheep. I dug and dug, it was so hot I had stop several times and I was shocked to see Winston, my rooster and Orson’s pal hobbling all the way up the hill on his one good leg, the other crippled by a hawk attack. Orson and Winston used to sit together on the front lawn, looking out at our beautiful view. Winston was the only other animal besides Rose that Orson could bear to be around.

Winston reached the gravesite, clucked and strutted around it, and then sat down next to Orson’s body. For many months, I would see him hobbling up there to sit by the gravesite, and I would wonder at the nature of animals, their mysterious minds, their alien language and mysticism. We dug up the marker, hauled it to the car and brought it to our new home, were we planted it in the garden by the house.

It is not simple to return to Bedlam, so much of my life echoes off those pastures and barns. I am glad to have Orson here. He brought me to my writing about dogs, to Bedlam Farm, to my books about animals, to my life with Maria.  His was the most complex relationship I have ever had with an animal, and it came at a point in my life where I was least able to deal with it clearly or well. I have no regrets about Orson’s life and death, I will never again have a dog that harms people again and again, but it speaks to a time when my life seemed like a maelstrom, a whirpool, and I was just a twig spinning around and around and around.

I remember walking down that hill in tears, calling out to Rose. There were no tears today. I accept my life, and the person I was and am. It is just me.

20 November

Return To Bedlam: An Album

by Jon Katz
Return To Bedlam

Maria and I and Red returned to Bedlam Farm this afternoon. I wanted to pick up Orson’s grave marker, at the top of the hill, and we had to get some things out of her Studio Barn. There are still things in the house we needed to remove, and it was emotional for both of us to go back there, as it always is.

So many memories, feelings, experiences. Orson buried on the hill, Rose’s ashes by the pole barn, Izzy in the garden, the path, the chairs on the top of the hill where I read St. Augustine to the dogs and began another leg of my search for a spiritual life. The Studio Barn where Maria and I came together and where she came alive with her art. A place I wrote seven books. Wow, can any place ever match those kinds of memories and experiences, including divorce, loneliness and a painful break down. I stood where the HBO film crew first interviewed me and plotted their movie.

We both were shaken by it, can’t do it too often. I hate to see it in limbo, such  beautiful place, but it is being well cared for and maintained. I’m putting up a photo album of the visit on Facebook.

20 November

Virtual Cash Mob: Monday, Battenkill Books

by Jon Katz
Virtual Cash Mob. Monday

Red and me checking out Richard Russo’s new memoir (we bought it).

On Monday, November 26, Battenkill Books will hold an all day Virtual Cash Mob. A bunch of local writers – me, Jenna Woginrich, James Howard Kunstler, Megan Mayhew Bergman – have banded together to sign and personalize any of our books if they are purchased at Battenkill Books, our local bookstore. Jenna and I will be hanging around taking phone calls. You can order by phone, 518 677-2515, or at Battenkill’s easy-to-navigate website.

Connie Brooks takes Paypal and ships anywhere in the world.This is a neat way to support writers, bookstores and the whole idea of individuality, seeking to re-assert itself lately in the Corporate Nation.  If you don’t want to only shop online or in a mall or box store, this is a vote for independence. This is also part of the booming “Plaid Friday” movement, which asks us to shop local and leave some parts of our world free of the corporate maw.

If you’re around on Monday and so inclined, get some great books from a great independent bookstore. If you call in the late morning, you might get me too, which I hope is worth something.

20 November

Thermal Heating

by Jon Katz
Thermal Heating

Animals remind me to love Mother Earth, to use what we need, take and give back. All animals are efficient environmental systems, the donkeys dramatically. They use their waste to fertilize gardens and pasture. They remove brush and scrub, are rarely sick. On cold days, they position themselves in the direct ray of the sun, and move with the sun all day, offering their broadsides to soak up as much heat as possible, using their large expanse of skin and fur to soak it up and retain the warmth.

On some secret signal, they simply stand still, and are immovable until they get what they need.

20 November

Hey! Wake Up!

by Jon Katz
Hey! Wake Up!

When Simon lay near death in our pasture, I brought him some fresh hay and medicine. At that time, Simon could not stand up, he was too weak and his legs were too twisted. I read him a story one day from “Platero and I,” the Spanish classic I still read to Simon two or three times a week (I’ll do a video this week) and I remember reading him the story of Platero and his owner, walking on a path. Platero loved a little burro on the farm by the path, and he would always pause and look for her on his walks with his owner. She mostly ignored him, and he would stand staring at her, love-sick, until his owner gently plodded him along.

One day, I told Simon, you will have a girlfriend, and he looked up at me and let out a loud bray. (He now has two girlfriends, Lulu and Fanny).  I don’t really know what Simon was saying, but this is what I heard him saying and still do hear him saying:

“Hey! Wake Up! Pay attention to the real world.”

“Life is too short to spent it quivering, listening to small people tell you how to live your life! Too short to be angry, or hopeless.

Use your time to find love,  to avoid the angry and judgmental legions. Your life is not an argument, but a choice.  Life is a privilege each day. I have learned to be grateful.

Hey, he tells me, don’t be a mope. Don’t be a dope.”

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