13 March

The Living Living Room

by Jon Katz
The Living Living Room

The farmhouse is really a living art gallery, my wife the busy curator. We stayed home to rest on Sunday and have a quiet day and that means Maria buzzes around the farmhouse like an artistic bumblebee and changes everything. She moved Lenore’s painting over the fireplace, painted a box with some beautiful old ceiling tiles and finished putting up the Sari curtains from India.

She painted the door to the woodshed, and moved about 100 things around.  Various India treasures are popping up here and there, the fan is gone from the mantel. Her idea of a quiet day at home would leave most people staggering.

The living room is quite different than it was just a few weeks ago. I like it. I know it will not last long. Next week we’ll maybe go to the movies.

13 March

Hug Goodbye: At The Mansion

by Jon Katz
At The Mansion

We stopped at the Mansion to hang a painting in Barb’s room, she is the second room in the Mansion Wall Project, the plan to is to put something beautiful – a painting or photograph – on the blank walls in the residence, there are not too many. Lisa Carrino of the Round House Cafe wants to sell some of Connie’s knitting  when the cafe moves next door to Hubbard Hall in April.  She wants her to make some knitted cloths for the kitchen.

Connie is thinking about it, she’s not sure she knows how to do that, she is plenty busy.

Someone sent her three lovely necklaces and two beautiful soft rabbits (not real.) They sit on her walker right in front of her. Connie’s work output is building up, bags of caps, some mitten,some blankets underway.

She always has a letter or two to read to us when we visit, she has every one of the letters she gets in a neat stack next to her chair and on a table next to he bed. She and Maria talk for awhile, and then, they always hug when it’s time to go.

I was surprised to hear that Connie plays games on her computer at night before she goes to sleep,  her computer is broken, she can’t play for awhile. We might be able to help her get it fixed, I’ve met some good computer repair people lately.

She asked after Christy whose room is right next door. I think she misses her. At the Mansion, I learned that Herman is in the hospital and will be away for a few days. One of the blog readers bought him a beautiful white stuffed baby goat which arrived today at the farm.

I think I’ll put it on his bed to surprise him – perhaps on his pillow – when he gets back to the Mansion. You may remember he loves goats. You can write to the residents of the Mansion at 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

13 March

Visiting Christie In The Hospital. At The Mansion, A Different Reality. “Be Good, Red.”

by Jon Katz
Visiting Christy

When Red and I met Christy a month or so ago, she was getting sick, bronchitis, she thought, or a bad cold. It persisted, we saw her in her room a few times, and a week or so ago, she wasn’t there, everyone said she had gone to the hospital. She and Red had made a connection as Red often does with people.

Nobody knew when she might come back, or if she would come back.

At the Mansion, the staff and residents live in a different reality People come and go. (Herman is in the hospital now, he is expected back at the Mansion in a few days). The residents understand this is their reality, they tell me all of the time that they might not see me again when I visit, some of them say farewell to Red each time.

I learned in hospice work to not be surprised or discouraged if people were not there when I visited. I learned that this was not drama, or even tragedy. It was life. The staff at the Mansion knows this. In public, they are always up, always hopeful, always optimistic. In private, they feel everything.

The staff, devoted to the residents, accepts this curious reality, so different from the lives of most people. They have no choice, really. And if I want to do therapy work with Red, neither do I.

People are there, talking and walking sitting in the Activity Room one day, sitting and chatting, laughing and kidding, then gone the next. Just vanished. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they go to nursing homes, sometimes they are transferred out for more care.

Sometimes they die. The residents note these changes, but they have also learned not to show much emotion about this coming and going, it is their life.

The staff is always up, always optimistic. They always have a smile for everybody, sometimes I need one, sometimes they need one. I make sure Red spends some time with them also.

They say they expect everyone who leaves to return and are excited if and when they do, and largely silent if they don’t.

Connie is friendly with Christie, they often ate together in the dining room. I asked Connie how Christie was doing and she said she didn’t know, she seemed worried about her. I asked a staff member how she was doing, and she said she was having a hard time.

I don’t ask many questions because they can’t give me any answers, asking a lot puts them in a bad spot.

The other morning, I was surprised to get a Facebook message from Christie, I didn’t recognize her full name at first until I read the message: “I am going home from the hospital tomorrow. I look forward to seeing Red and you. You all bring such a wave of joy and warmth. So, see you soon!”

I was happy to see this message, technology permits me to continue this work, even if we are not present.

“We will come and see you at the Mansion, Christie,” I replied, and the next day we did.

But she wasn’t there. She had been rushed back to the hospital. I got a message from Christie the next morning: “Well, I am still at the hospital. Maybe tomorrow.” I hope so, I answered. I asked her to let me know.

The next day, it was my turn to message first, Christie seemed to be up early, like me.

“How are you, Christie?”

She answered right away: “Hello, I am not doing so well. I don’t know when I will be  home. How is Red?”

I told Maria I needed to go see her in the hospital, I just had a sense about it. This morning, Red and I drove to the hospital,  it was not too long a ride, I had his rabies certificate and therapy badge. At hospitals someone always stops me and says dogs are not allowed,  but I always call first to make sure they are.

Many of the volunteers don’t know about therapy dogs. In some wards, Red and I have to wear paper booties, I carry them in the car.

The nurses love to see the dogs, they always come over to say hi and pet or hug Red. They always tell me about their dogs and say they will be jealous of Red if they get his smell. I never tell them that dogs don’t get jealous, that is a human trait.

A doctor walking by smiled at Red and said that dogs were allowed, he said I had the right papers and Red had the right tag.

We went up the elevator, Red was terrified of the shiny floor, we had to walk slowly. We got up the right floor and found Christie’s room, she was sitting up next to her bed, breathing out of an oxygen mask, half asleep. She had wires and tubes coming in and out of her from all directions.

When she saw me and Red, she lit up, pulled the mask off.

She said she was having some tremors, and couldn’t remember things and she told me the long list of things that were bothering her. I listened. She said she wasn’t doing so well. She never stopped smiling.

She had a table in front of her, all kinds of wires running between her and the table, it couldn’t be moved, her lunch was on it. Red navigated the space beautifully, he weaved between the wires, crawled under the table, and popped his head out in Christie’s lap. Red is a pro, he never even looked at the food sitting on the tray right above his head.

The smile on Christie’s face when she saw Red was well worth the trip and time. We were there for a half hour and Christie began to get tired, and I knew she had to eat. We said we needed to leave her with her lunch.

Connie had told me to make sure and scold her if she wasn’t eating right. But I didn’t know what she was supposed to eat and if she was eating it. I don’t ever scold the people I visit about their health or habits, not my job. I just bring the dog and listen. Christie and I had a good and open talk. She said she didn’t know if she was returning to the Mansion, it wasn’t decided, she said. She kept smiling at Red and bragging to the nurses about him.

I said I would try and come back after the big storm that is supposed to hit tomorrow and Wednesday. We talked about the weather. She said somewhat ruefully that weather didn’t matter to her any longer, one way or the other. She thanked me several times for coming, she said it was a wonderful surprise to see me and Red.

I squeezed her hand and the took Red’s head in her hands and held them there. “Thanks for coming, Red,” she said. “Be good.”




13 March

Pinhole Photography

by Jon Katz
A Pinhole Photograph

Pinhole photography is complex. You can’t see through the viewfinder,  you just have to point the camera and look at the display screen to see if you hit the target. Pinhole photograph is the antithesis of digital photography, it is never sharp and clear.

Pinhole cameras were perhaps the first cameras, they were invented in China thousands of years ago, the photographer stuck pins in a box or paper and the pin hole was the lens that let in light and captured an image.

I got a pinhole mount for my Canon and it bring me back to another time and captures the feeling of something in a very special way. I like the feeling, it is very different from the photos I usually take and thus healthy for and challenging. I am learning a lot this week, between the pinhole mount and the Petzval lens. I haven’t begun to figure out how to take pinhole photos, almost all the ones I take are black. But not this one, this one I like.

13 March

Onsale Now: The “Show Your Soul” Posters. $16.

by Jon Katz
Show Your Soul: $16

Maria’s very timely “Show Your Soul” posters are on sale today, she picked them up at the printer and he did a great job. They feature the “Show Your Soul” goddess from one of her quilts, and they sell for $16, which includes shipping. Maria is not looking to make money from the posters, she says they are about the need to show your soul in difficult times, and to keep showing your soul again and again and again.

They are about being true to yourself, not about defying other people are arguing with them.

Maria has a lot of orders for these posters, and picked up 30 today.

Most are already sold, but she can order more almost instantly from the printer. I imagine she will need some more. This goddess is a favorite of mine. If you want to order one, you can e-mail her at maria@fullmoonfiberart.com or learn more about them on her website, fullmoonfiberart.com.

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