2 March

Treasure, Screaming Mimi, and Maria.

by Jon Katz
Baby Goat

We were both tempted by Screaming Mimi, the five day old baby goat Treasure brought over to show us the other day She was cute, and Maria loved holding her, but we both think we have enough animals and enough things going on in our lives. Treasure lives with her baby goats, sometimes even sleeps with them (in diapers) at night. Some are bottle fed, which means they can obsessively attach to people.

They easily jump fences, eat gardens and all kinds of things you may not wish then to eat. Bottle fed goats, in my experience, don’t have independent lives like donkeys or a pony or sheep, For Maria and I that is important. We need some space, so do our animals.

But it is fun to watch Treasure with her babies, she loves every one and delights in everything they do. She is going to join me soon in an appearance at the Mansion with Screaming Mimi.

2 March

The Winters Are So Confused

by Jon Katz

Politicians confound me. You cannot live on a farm and deny the reality of climate change. When I moved here more than a decade ago, it started snowing in October and the snow and ice stayed on the ground until April. The ground was hard as a rock, and ticks and bugs and flowers did not dare show themselves.

If you weren’t ready by November,  you were screwed and would struggle all winter. It was common for the temperature to be – 30, I got frost bit on fingers and toes form being outside even for a few minutes. I feel on the ice constantly and still feel those wounds.

In the past few winters, winter has redefined itself. It appears for a few days, and then melts away. The animals are confused, holed up in the barn one day, grazing in the warm sun the next. Their winter coats grow, and then shed too soon. The flowers come out in February then freeze to death. Some will never come back.

Two weeks ago, an awful blizzard came and covered the farm in snow. Four days later, the snow was all gone.

Still, the images of the winter pasture are beautiful, if short lived. Tomorrow and Saturday, bitter cold, single digit temperatures. By Sunday, they will be up in the 50’s’ and 60’s. I would love to bring a congressmen who scoffs at global warning to the farm for awhile, I was talking to some farmers today in town, and they kept shaking their heads.

The winter used to be so sure and confident, they said, now the winters are so confused.

2 March

The Aftermath: Exhaustion, Guilt and Recovery. Is It OK To Do Nothing?

by Jon Katz


Exhaustion And Guilt

The trip to Calcutta and other parts of India was emotionally and physically exhausting for Maria, beyond what either of us quite imagined. I traveled overseas frequently in my former life and am familiar with jet lag, but I never endured so intense and prolonged and grueling a trip to such a challenging country as she has.

On the return alone, Maria was in the air for more than 36 hours over several days. She met with endangered children in Hellhole districts, women at risk in small villages, walked and drove through some of the worse and most impoverished slums and streets on the earth.

She met loving women at risk who opened their hearts and souls to her. They are still making the potholders she taught them how to make.

Since coming home, she has been on a physical and emotional roller coaster, made all the worse by her belief that being idle for any reason is a character flaw, and that she is not entitled to rest.

A dozen times a day, she asks me or herself if she shouldn’t be doing something, making something, selling something, helping someone, accomplishing something. Is it really okay to rest? An hour later, she asks me again. She just isn’t ready to be normal.

Like a border colliie, she knows how to do everything but nothing, doing nothing is an awful sin to her, “loafing,” “lounging around,” “indulging myself.” She berates herself constantly for being so tired and drained.

Was I like this after my open heart surgery, I wonder, or my bouts with Lyme Disease or flu? Probably. Yes, she says.

For us, doing nothing is a black hole, we fill it with awful things- guilt, fear and frustration. The idea is to fill it with good.

Like Maria was, I am a bit of caretaker now, watching for the crashes, the need to rest, the need to be outside. Being a caretaker is always complex, it calls out for patience and love. I want to be a comfortable place a safe space. I need to be available.

The conventional wisdom is that it takes a day to recover for each time zone change. I heard that when I traveled overseas, but found it to be useless, at least for me. Every person and metabolism is different.  Some people don’t feel jet lag at all, others know how to deal with it, others suffer.

I have been feeding Maria Vitamin D and C, recommended to me by regular travelers, making sure she drinks a lot, gets as much sunshine as possible, gets some exercise, takes enough naps to rest but not to keep her from sleeping. She managed to get into her studio for a bit today to write, but she was quickly worn out.

Day by day, I see her body figuring things out and adjusting. The hours of energy and spark are getting longer and more frequent. She sleeps like a cat during the day, long and often. In the morning, she seems herself. But not for too long.

It will take a few more days for her to be back to normal physically, I don’t know exactly how long. Longer perhaps emotionally. She saw some hard truths about life in Kolkata especially, and she will be processing those images for a long time. They would keep me up at night, and have already.

What, in my mind, is healing for her?

Time and rest, mostly. Work will be healing when she can return to it, she is always lost without her art. She is in motion almost all of the time.

I hope she gets into her studio for short bursts, maybe comes up with something to make with the wondrous fabrics she brought home. That would be healing. But you can’t rush art, it has a life and will of its own. Writing is healing for both of us. She’s not ready to finish anything or sell anything, to put any deadlines on herself.

Some people depend on external things to guide them, I am one of those, Maria works from the bottom up, inside out, her art will tell her when it is ready to come out and in what form.

Writing will help. It turns out she is a natural and lovely writer, and writing about this extraordinary and life-altering experience will help her to understand how she feels about it.

Spending some time with her friends, who she trusts, will be helpful. Walks in the woods are already helpful, time with the animals. Long and soft talks with me, some meditation, maybe some yoga. And some reflection. In a way, the trip to India was a wondrous gift, in a way, a trauma to someone as sensitive to her.

Mostly time will help her, it is the most healing thing of all. I have to try to checkmate the self-abuse and doubt, it is also a part of her. She asks for help when she needs it.

Maria will be dogged by images of some of the beautiful and loving children she saw playing games on dirt floors, hiding out in a safe place,  the horrors of the sex trade waiting just outside a few feet away. She is a magnet for emotion and feeling. Those are not images someone like her can slough off  It is hard to see despair and be helpless about it. You just have to work it through.

She is strong and self aware, she will work her way through it.

So this has been a beautiful week of closeness and healing and recovery, a harder week than I expected. In a way, a beautiful week of closeness and connection, we need each other.

It was – is – more intense than I expected.

But then, nothing about this trip has been what I expected, except our love and commitment for and to one another. The best thing I can do does not involve advice or medicine but is to offer understanding and encouragement. Be good to yourself, I keep saying, let yourself process this and heal.  You are a good person doing good, a good artist using your art for good. Give yourself permission to recover,  and follow your heart.

Your spirit and body will let you know when you are well and ready to work. Not yet, not yet. It’s okay to do nothing, sometimes it is the best thing in the world.

2 March

Battered Bridge

by Jon Katz
Battered Bridge

I called it the Ed Gulley Memorial Bridge because I knew no one else would call it that when Ed passes away, if that ever happens. But it might have been an apt name. We had a wild windstorm last night and the stream has overflowed the bridge and made it impassable.

Ed did a good job laying out these boards and stabilizing them, but they are a bit wobbly under the flowing stream, and I don’t blame them. It’s wild out there. We got across Monday but since then the stream has risen quite a bit. Ed, the Godfather of our woods and our bridge, is threatening come back and shore the stream up and he was too much of a wussy man to come the other day, he thought it might rain.

We told him not to come today, it was just too wet.

I think it’s just as well he waited, as there’s water every wear and the stream is quite strong. The wind knocked down a tree on the other side of the bridge and the bridge was covered with smaller branches this morning. We got them off, the rest will wait until the wind dies, the water recedes, and Ed arrives.

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