8 March

Voice And Word Post: Must You Write? Must You Create?

by Jon Katz
Must You Write? Must You Create? Zelda on the manure pile.

More than a century ago, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his classic work Letters To A Young Poet, a collection of letters Rilke wrote to a young poet seeking his direction and encouragement. The work,  long a classic for people seeking the strength to find a creative life, has encouraged and inspired generations of writers and artists.

I went into the Red barn today to read an excerpt from the first chapter, I hope to read it to my writing class when we next meeting. It is quite beautiful and will touch the heart of any creative who needs the strength and encouragement to live their life. I recorded the passage, and I also am re-printing it here, a voice and word post. The recording is the fourth “Inside Jon Katz” recording.

From February 17, 1903:

“You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before.  You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now, I beg you to give up on all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way.

Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write, find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity: your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

Then draw near to nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Do not write love-poems; avoid at first those forms that are too facile and commonplace; they are the most difficult, for it takes a great, fully matured power to give something of your own where good and even  excellent traditions come to mind in quantity.

Therefore save yourself from those general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires,  passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of  in some sort of beauty – describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the objects of your memory. If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it, blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.

And even if you were in some prison the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses – would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly possession, that treasure-house of memories? Turn your attention thither. Try to raise the submerged  sensations of that ample past; your personality will grow more firm; your solitude will widen and will become a dusky dwelling past which the noise of others goes by far away.

And out of this turning inward, out of this absorption into your own world verses come, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good verses.”

I believe this would be a wonderful thing to ready to anyone, especially the young or the restless, who is considering the creative life, and since there are so many of you reading the blog, I wanted to share this book with you, I am soaking it up again. Since I was eight years old, I knew that I must  write, it spread its roots in the deepest parts of me. I no longer ask anyone but myself if the words I write are good words. I have learned to look inward for those answers.

You can listen to my reading of these words here. Please note the commentary from one of the sheep.


8 March

Some News About Chloe

by Jon Katz
Some News About Chloe

Sometimes we love an animal the most by letting go. Maria has decided to give Chloe to Treasure Wilkinson, a friend and a passionate animal lover. She feels good about the decision, but is also sad about it, she loves Chloe a lot and the two are attached to one another.

I believe it is good and loving decision.

Today we went over to Treasure’s farm saw her other horse, the barn, the grounds. Maria and I are both convinced that there, she will get the work and attention she needs and deserves. Treasure has visited  her many times and loves her, and Chloe loves her back, the two are quite wonderful together.

Maria doesn’t really have the desire or the time to ride Chloe, and she has also gotten extremely busy since Chloe came here. We know that there is nothing sadder than idle horses who can’t get the work and stimulation they need. We are happy to be giving her the life she deserves, no animal can do much better than to belong to Treasure and her partner Donna.

Maria will write about this herself when she can, probably tomorrow, but she isn’t ready yet. I know she felt Chloe needed more work and attention than she could give her, and she came to see that Treasure could provide everything we couldn’t. Treasure and her family are avid and experienced riders, they live near beautiful trails, they have access to two big pastures and Chloe will share her life with one or two horses and some miniature goats.

Every living thing should be fortunate enough to be an animal who belongs to Treasure, they are cosseted and fussed over day and night, and worked and ridden and loved. They get the best hay – we saw it – continuous grooming and their own sheltered stalls.

It’s the right move, I believe. Although Chloe was Maria’s pony, and i was slow to get to know her, we eventually won each other over, and I love starting every day with a kiss on the nose from Chloe. She is a headstrong but very sweet creature, and we will both miss her, but she will also be quite close by and we can visit her whenever we wish.

Treasure will come to get the pony sometime in the next few days. It was a hard and painful decision for Maria, she loves that pony very much, but also a brave and compassionate one. If you can improve the life of an animal, it is a sacred obligation.

8 March

High Noon At Bedlam Farm. Chloe Tells Red To Move. He Won’t.

by Jon Katz
High Noon: Red and Chloe

It was High Noon at Bedlam Farm this morning, a long standoff between our headstrong pony Chloe and Red, one of the world’s most professional border collies.

Red was standing in the outer pasture, keeping an eye on the sheep when Chloe, a territorial and fiercely independent pony came in the pasture and made a bee-line for Red. Chloe does not step aside for any thing except Maria and I thought of calling Red off – he and Chloe have had some confrontations.

But there was plenty of room for Red and Chloe to maneuver and Red has been around horses his whole life, he can handle himself. I decided to stay out of it, mostly a good idea with animals and their feuds. Red is very savvy. Chloe is very stubborn. Red will never abandon his duty, he would sit outside in the same position and starve to death of I didn’t bring him into the farm house and release him.

It was a monumental confrontation in Bedlam Farm terms, the sheep were mesmerized, the two strongest personalities in the pasture confronting one another. The donkeys made themselves scarce – donkeys are very smart – and scooted back to the pasture. Fate ran behind me and watched from safety.

Her ears were not back and she wasn’t snorting, so I watched She stood and lowered her head, Red completely ignored her and never took his eyes of the sheep, he is the Gary Cooper of dogs, nerves of steel.

I don’t know how long the two of them stood like that, Chloe could easily have walked right past him on either side, she had plenty of room, but ponies are headstrong and temperamental, this was her pasture and she was not going to go around him, am animal game of chicken.

Chloe moved closer and blocked Red’s view of the sheep, and I knew that would get to him. I took a photo, of course. This did get to him, he just moved about one foot to his left, where he could see the sheep again and ignored Chloe. She got what she wanted and declared victory, she walked right past him and the stand-off was over.

It was the best kind of stand off because nobody really won. The animals figured it out, as they often do, given the chance. I did hold my breath a bit, but stood my ground. Red is a thorough professional, I knew he would figure it out and still do his job.

He wasn’t going to let any fight with a pony distract him from his duties, and it was kind of funny seeing him slide one foot to the side as if nothing was happening.

8 March

Re-thinkingBedlamfarm.com. A One Time Donation Button In Any Amount

by Jon Katz
A One Time Donation Button

A great number of blog readers over the last few months – years, actually – have suggested a one time donation button where people of limited resources or patience can contribute to the blog in any amount they wish as often as they like, or as infrequently.

Here it is, a new  Donate Button at the bottom of every blog post.

This does not replace the voluntary payment program where people can contribute small amounts of money monthly, it is for those people who can’t contribute regularly but wish to contribute when they can, or in small amounts, and for those who just don’t want to contribute that often.

You can donate any amount at any time using Paypal or or major credit cards. The first donation – $15 – came in instantly, and the sender was grateful for this option. The payments are one time only.

FD said she loves  the new button, she was the first to use it and she thanked me for it and for the message I wrote thanking her.

The one time donation button on each post is great, quick and convenient, ” she wrote. “P.S. If the donation could have fully reflected how deeply I enjoy everything on your blog, especially your honesty, there would have been more zeros, lol.)

A nice note to get, thanks FD.

My blog, going on ten years old, has nearly four million visitors a year now. It is a full-time job for me, along with my books.

It is expensive to maintain, the maintenance fees and updates are costly and so is my photography.

I will  need some new equipment shortly, and hope to repair a broken lens.

All of my photos are free, to be used in any way you wish – I don’t bookmark or copyright them – and if you see a photo you like and are using or printing out, the donation button is a quick and inexpensive way to show your appreciation for my work. I suppose it can be an impulse button, I love impulse buttons.

The voluntary payment program has been more helpful than you might imagine, and I will be honest, I could not sustain a blog at this level of quality and production without it. I think in the coming years the blog may be more important and relevant and helpful than ever. I hope so, and plan to make it so.

On the voluntary payment program, people can give $75 a year, paid annually or in small installments. They can also contribute $5 or $10 a month. Lots of people are in transition, and lots of people are struggling, so I thought the “donate” button at the bottom of each post would make it easy for people who have a lot of demands on their money, as so many of us do.

As always, no financial information of any kind is stored on my website or server, I have no access to your money or accounts, I cannot authorize or cancel payments for your own protection, only you can do that through your own account or through Paypal or your credit card company. Paypal seems popular for people who are in a hurry.

For those who don’t care to use the Internet, you can also send a payment or donation to Bedlam Farm, P.O. Box 205,  Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. I love getting your notes and letters, they are especially touching and personal, and also fun when money comes out (money is not necessary in order to write me, I love your letters.)

For those who can’t or don’t wish to contribute at all, you are welcome, the blog is free.  It costs nothing to subscribe. Just type in your e-mail and the blog will be delivered daily, the blog will always be free, I appreciate your loyalty and will not ever forget it. The subscription has nothing to do with whether you support the blog financially or not.

I earn my living as a book writer, but as many of you know, publishing has changed drastically and royalties and advances have shrunk dramatically. I work every day on the blog, and I work hard. It is always changing. These payments are the new revenue source for writers willing to write online. I am all for change. My life is creative and exciting.

The blog is the account of my life as a writer and someone with a farm, and of my life with Maria and the animals here. I promised to be open about my life and I am. I will always be honest. Sometimes you will agree and sometimes not, that is fine with me, and I hope it is fine with you. Because that will not change. All kinds of people are welcome and safe here, including those who voted differently from me or who disagree with me. I have never understood the point of reading someone I never disagree with. Why bother?

This is not and will not ever be a political blog but as my life evolves, I share it, wherever it goes.  And I feel strongly about some issues – immigration. I do not practice rage or hysteria, I have many friends and readers on both sides of things, I wish to keep it that way.

I abhor argument and  hostility online, I ban it as often as soon as it appears. My blog is a monologue, not a dialogue, and I do not permit comments there, but the blog does feed onto Facebook – Jon Katz there – and civil comments of agreement and disagreement are welcome there.

As you know, I am undertaking some new directions – helping new refugees to America and their children, the good people at the Mansion.  And keeping my focus on the animals and my life on the farm.

These initiatives have generated a tremendous response, and they also take a great deal of time and energy, and sometimes, money. Your donations and voluntary payments make all the difference, and they matter.The blog could not survive without them, and while it took me a long time, I appreciate being paid for my work. The blog is a work in progress, I will never stop trying to make it better.

My idea for the new writer’s life is called macro-payments – lots of people giving small amounts of money. We’re getting there. A very small percentage of my blog readers contribute at all, so there is great room for growth.

Thanks for considering the new donation program – one-time payments in any amount, as often as you like. Or as infrequently. You are totally in control.  I have a good feeling about it.

Small payments – $5, $10, $15, $25 matter. Thanks.

8 March

Tableau: A Moment In Time

by Jon Katz
A Moment In TIme

This sunrise moment is one of my favorites, it is a moment in time, the beginning of the day. Our farmyard tells so many stories. There is the newly trimmed apple tree, looking graceful and dignified, Fate sitting with her pal Chloe, the pony, Red poised to go to work, as he always is, the morning sun just glazing off the old red barn, doing its duty for so many generations. In a moment, the gates will be opened, hay ferried out, water tanks filled,  a new day underway.

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