10 November

What Home Is For Me: Why I Must Be Here

by Jon Katz
Why I Must Be Here
Why I Must Be Here

I was sitting at a table at the Ted Talk listening to some of the other speakers when a man came up and introduced himself to me, “do you remember me?,” he asked, “I used to work for you at CBS News. I did remember him, he was a producer then, and he told me that now he teaches journalism at a big midwestern college, has is paid well, travels all over the world with his students, gets health insurance, and will have a big fat pension in a couple of years. He had lost track of me, had never heard of my books, and when I told him I was living on a farm in upstate New York, he was incredulous. “A farm?,” he kept saying, “why?”

I smiled and shook his hand and wished him well, I think he wanted to talk more, he seemed very eager to figure out what had happened to me,  but I wasn’t in the mood to explain myself, and I think I knew better than to try. People either know or they don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it in the back of a crowded room with big crowds and loudspeakers going. I wasn’t really inclined to, I don’t argue my life much or explain it. I did feel a stab of envy, I admit it,  I know I could have had a teaching job, gotten that health insurance, had a nice pension waiting for me down the road. I know that would be nice.

But then I remembered the drive to New Jersey from the farm just a few hours earlier, we drove outside of Cambridge, it was a sparking, achingly beautiful day, the light was popping in and out behind the clouds, there was a gentle breeze, it was just glorious and we passed a huge sheep farm with sheep, lambs, a conscientious old Maremma dog guarding the sheep out in this wide and green pasture. The old boy got up barked and me and rush to the fence to determine my intentions, I walked up to him, showed him my camera, and came slowly to the fence. I know working dogs, and this one wanted to look me in the eye and make up his own mind. “Hey old boy, I am just her to take photos, I am no trouble, I have working dogs and sheep myself.” He woofed once or twice to let me know who was in charge, and then sat down next to the curious ewes, keeping an eye on me but giving me silent permission to do my work. I had my wide angle 14mm landscape lens on the camera, I stepped back and let the sun warm my face, I waited for it to come out and shine.

Maria was in the car, patiently sketching as she always does, she is never impatient or upset at my taking photos, she always uses the time to sketch, I am always eager to show her the photos I have taken, we go over each one, I look at her graceful sketches. I hope she sells them one day, they are lovely.

I stood there for about 15 minutes, the old guard dog came up to the fence and I gave him my hand to sniff. Perhaps he smelled Red, he seemed to approve of me. I told Maria that I could not bear to live in a place where I did not drive by sights like this every day, this beautiful, timeless scene, this ballet between man, dog, nature and sheep. It kissed my soul just to look at it. Then we drove on to New Jersey.

I thought of this scene as my former employee walked away, shaking his head a bit, shocked at my life now, I suspect feeling I had fallen off the edge of the earth, I saw in his eyes that he felt sorry for me. Maybe I have fallen off the earth, but this is my home, this is where I belong. Standing there on the road, Maria up in the car, I knew what home is for me. This Is why I must be here.



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