22 November

Thanksgiving: Walk In The Woods

by Jon Katz
Walk In The Woods

I loved Thanksgiving this year. There is a sadness to it, apart from Maria, my original family is either scattered far from me, or we have grown out of contact with one another. I miss my daughter in Brooklyn and wish life had brought us closer to one another. I take responsibility for moving to the farm, moving away from what was familiar. She has a great and fulfilling life and I am nothing but proud of her and happy for her. My Thanksgiving began with a call from her, a good talk, a good start to a good day. Perhaps one day we will share Thanksgiving together again.

My Thanksgiving was so different from the many Thanksgivings I shared with family and friends in the other world. Sometimes I just blink at the different phases of my life, how different they were from one another. I am working hard on my spiritual life, to understand the power and nature of fear and anger in my life. When I meditate on a day like this, my mind drifts back to the other Thanksgivings, and I try and simply accept them. They are all my life. They are all me. People tell me I have changed, but I do not believe that people become other people. They simply change and evolve, if they are lucky.

And there was great joy in this Thanksgiving, it was one of the most meaningful of my life. Maria and I  got up early, went out in our nightclothes to feed the donkeys and the sheep and let the dogs out. I am usually wide awake in the middle of the night, but I slept well last night.  We read in bed for hours, talked, got up and made breakfast. We took the dogs for a walk in the woods. We went to visit some friends nearby and we had an easy, sweet and completely comfortable time. I am so lucky that Maria and I found one another, and the day was suffused with appreciation of that miraculous thing.

We came home, fed the animals again, sat by the fire and read, talked until we began to drift. It was a crisp, warm day.  I meditated then, feeling some fear rising up in me with the old memories, and I worked on breathing, deeply and slowly. The more I do this, the deeper it goes, the more peaceful I feel, the more I see the fear as some alien system running inside of me, becoming smaller and less coherent. And then, as I almost always do at the end of my day, I came to blog. I loved everything about this day, and am grateful for it. It was a day filled with love and peace and ease.

Tomorrow, the book tour officially ends at Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, Vermont. I am coming to an important point in my long fascination with fear, coming face-to-face with this beast that has stalked me most of my life. I am so grateful for that as well.


22 November

Thanksgiving Day. The 10-Point Buck

by Jon Katz
The 10 Point Buck

It is hunting season here, and two younger people I like and trust have asked me for permission to hunt on my property. They are good and ethical people, respectful both of animals and of the land, and I am happy to give them use of my land. They will hunt carefully and safely and if they shoot any deer, will use and eat and share the meat. I am not a hunter, but I have no objections to hunters like these, I am pleased to have them on my property.There are plenty of jerks with guns who are not responsible or ethical, and I am lucky to have two people like this hunting on the farm. I could not shoot a deer, I think, I am just not skilled enough to do it cleanly or swiftly. And I don’t eat much meat.

One of the hunters went out Wednesday afternoon and came back and reported that she saw a 10-point deer just behind the farmhouse pasture. I went out looking for the buck after she left, and I am pretty sure I saw him come out onto the edge of a nearby field, a tall proud thing who gazed right at me, the late sun casting his tall shadow on the meadow. I thought of that wonderful scene in “Elizabeth” where the Queen, a passionate hunter,  goes to see the carcass of a stag a neighbor has killed, her face filled with pain and respect.

I told the Jeremy, the other hunter about him, and he was excited and went out early Thanksgiving morning, just after 5 a.m. He spent hours in the woods, but in accordance with a deal made with his wife, “the old lady,” he had to go home for Thanksgiving Dinner. Jeremy ran into another hunter who did not have permission to be there, flashed his light towards him to let him know he was there,  and the other hunter ran away. He is not like Jeremy, and doesn’t ask permission to hunt.

Jeremy said he saw some deer trails, and one of them might have been the buck, he wasn’t sure, he was coming back Friday with a friend to try and track him. He had a pretty good idea where the buck might be tomorrow morning. I like Jeremy, he is honest and hard-working. Hunting is important to him. He grew up hunting with his father, and I had the sense he knew what he was doing. I had the sense this would be the buck’s last day. And I was excited for Jeremy. I hope he hunts here every year.

The buck is on my mind, perhaps because I saw him, perhaps because I tend to identify with any underdog being hunted, animal or human. I did not grow up in this culture, in my world fathers and sons went to baseball games to bond, and then rarely. Upstate, the hunting ritual can be beautiful and important, to me much more meaningful than sitting in front of a TV watching big men plow into one another while devouring nachos and wings. The real hunters are the most passionate environmentalists I have ever known, and respect Mother Earth. They know what it would mean to lose her.

Still, it is strange to think of the buck being gunned down a few acres from the farmhouse. We kill animals all the time – euthanasia, slaughterhouses – and it is hypocritical to me to pick one or two out for survival because we happen to know or see them. I couldn’t hunt, but my gun is important to me. I would not want to be without it here when the next rabid skunk comes after Lenore.

But it is, for me, one of those gray things in the black-and-white world. The deer here are struggling, starving as early frosts killed off the apples and nuts they feed on. They are on the move, and wildlife experts say many of them will starve when the snows come. The state is issuing extra permits to cut down on the number of deer to save many from that slow and painful death.

The hunters I know are admirable people. They understand guns, they love the land, they respect life and property. Yet I know it would take a piece out of me to kill a healthy animal just as it takes a piece out of my heart to put a dog or pony down.

Tomorrow, I will be listening in bed for the sound of gunshots in the woods beyond our house.

I hope Jeremy gets the buck. I hope the buck runs far and wide.

22 November

Thanksgiving Rite: Reading “Platero And I” To Simon

by Jon Katz
Reading “Sweetheart” To Simon

When Simon came to us, and was so sick, I would go out into his pasture – he couldn’t stand up them – and read stories to him. I fell in love with a gentle Spanish classic short story collection called “Platero And I,” stories told by a nameless narrator about his donkey Platero and their meanderings and observations through the countryside. Simon seemed to love this story, and almost visibly drew strength from it, watching me with  his soulful and alert brown eyes.

Somehow, attention and voice pulled him back from the abyss. He still loves to be read to and on Thanksgiving I read one of our favorite stories, “Sweetheart.” In this wistful tale, Platero falls in love with a burro he and his human walk by every day. The man is sad to deny Platero access to his beloved burro but Platero always stops to look.

I read this story to Simon yesterday and you can see for yourself how much he loves to hear them.


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