15 October

Take Off

by Jon Katz

Gus inspires me to take off, he has wings.

OK, I’ve got to get out of here, I’m not good at waiting or sitting around, I’m beyond restless and I have to go, Maria is finished blogging and we are finished packing. I’m outta here and thanks for coming along on this remarkable journey. I should surface again here Monday night or Tuesday, and hope to share bits and pieces of this trip.

Blogging and photo-taking is not work for me, it is pure joy. Watching the news is work, and I will take a week off from it. Shelby says we can go early, so we are gone. Blessings to you all. Stay tuned.

15 October

On Being Yourself

by Jon Katz
On Being Yourself

A friend I haven’t seen in years wrote me to say he enjoyed my blog and he could see how happy I am to be with Maria. “I’ve never actually known you when you were happy,” he said, it sent a bit of a chill down my spine.

Maria, I said, is always herself, that’s the best I can do for you. Whenever I see her out in the pasture, shoveling manure, in her leggings and skirts and necklaces and many colors and imported Thrift Store boots, I am reminded of just how much herself she is.

When I met Maria, I don’t think either one of us really know who we were or wanted to be. We were both broken, but I was in more pieces, I think, once Maria started doing her art, she simply started rising and has yet to stop. I think she will eventually soar right up through the clouds.

Looking at the photos of George O’Keefe in preparation for our trip to Mexico tomorrow, I keep thinking of Maria, I am not comparing their artistry or fame, but I sense the same kind of identity in O’Keefe, she knew precisely who she was and insisted on being who she was, she permitted no one to tell her who she is.

(I am not like either of them, but I have this same instinct when it comes to dealing with social media, I bristle every time someone tells me what to do or who I am or what I am feeling.) Identity is precious, and you have to have a strong sense of it to go out in the morning many mornings and shovel manure in your wedding dress, which cost $15 in a Thrift shop to begin with.

I married well. We are both on an identity mission together much of the time. I have an identity too, it is not as exotic as O’Keefe in her spooky black designer outfits or Maria in her many skirts and colors, but is is mine. I wear a blue shirt and blue jeans every day of my life, no matter where I am or what I am doing. I care nothing about clothes or fashion, clothes are just something to cover my body and keep me warm.

Maria considers it a great breakthrough that I am wearing red suspenders. Many people have remarked on them.

Susan Jackson wrote a lovely message saying she has always seen Maria as a New Mexico kind of artist, and I know what she means, that is so, I think. But identity is a tricky thing, and I think our identity often comes from the place where  you find yourself, where you learn who you are.

O’Keefe clearly found her place in New Mexico, it is a special place. Maria found herself up here in the country, in the mountains and hills and woods. That is where she is drawn, and is most at home. It will be  fascinating to see how she reacts to New Mexico again, I know it is important to her.

This farm, this country, is my place also, it is where I have found myself and learned who I am. In this way, it is in my blood. I was reading this morning about Henry Roth who write the novel “Call It Sleep,” considered to be the greatest American novel of the twentieth century. After publication of this book he vanished, he had fled to New Mexico, where he spent the rest of his life living and writing in a trailer. I’d love to find it and pay some respects.

I also want to see D.H. Lawrence’s grave in Taos, if that’s possible. Otherwise, we will be exploring galleries and museums, I guess and maybe a pueblo or two.

I love Maria’s sense of identity, I love that she is always herself, and has no false or phony faces to put on. She knows who she is, and if the New Mexico desert was O’Keefe’s place, Maria is in her place, at least for now.

15 October

New Photo Gallery. A Big Step For Bedlam Farm.

by Jon Katz
Morning Pastoral

I am very happy to be finally figuring out how to sell my photos – occasionally and inexpensively, but printed in the highest quality way. I have a new photo-for-sale gallery up on the blog, and I can print photos that are wanted and ordered, rather than matte and frame them for hundreds of dollars.

This has, as a friend suggested, opened up a small but steady new revenue stream for me, and I love doing it in this way. Check out the photos for sale.

This has become part of Maria’s art universe, she handles the sales and takes a commission, as she should. I found a wonderful photo lab in Vermont, they are meticulous (not cheap) and print on the highest quality rag paper. I love the work they do, I ship them the images and they ship the photos back.

Maria handles the invoices and shipping, and sends the photos off in a secure tube.

This is rewarding for me, and I hope, for you. I pick a small number of photos and print them only if people want to buy them. All of my other photos are free, and are not bookmarked or copyrighted. If you don’t care to buy one, please enjoy browsing the gallery, it will grow and deepen.

I long ago abandoned the gallery experience, the truly expensive part for the photographer is the matting and framing. And lot of people with smartphones are good photographers now.

Photography is now as important to me as my blog, and my blog is now as important to me as my books, and my books are important. Creativity is about evolving and changing and growing, I hope I never stop.

I’ve ordered another art lens for portraits and landscapes, it should arrive after Christmas.

Thanks for your support as always. I’ve sold about 75 photographs (some of them are small prints) in the past few weeks, this is a very happy development, and for me, an intensely creative one.

Thanks for supporting my work. You can see the photos here.

15 October

Heading Out Tonight: Pilgrimage To New Mexico

by Jon Katz
Pilgrimage To New Mexico

Our flight leaves very early Monday morning, and to make it on time, we’d have to get up shortly after 1 a.m. So we decided to book a hotel room near the Albany International Airport, we’ll get a jump on the morning and find a good restaurant

We are both excited, this seems to be something we need. For Maria, this is a kind of spiritual homecoming, she is very drawn to the desert, she fell in love with New Mexico when she was there for nearly a year. She is excited to show it to me, and I think that is one of the things love is about, when you are eager to share your life with someone, rather than hide it.

I’ve decided to bring the regular camera rather than just the monochrome, I think I will be drawn to some of the colors of New Mexico, from what I see online.

I will be blogging almost every day, mostly putting up a photo or two. You are welcome to come along for the ride, it won’t be as wordy as my blog is now, which is perhaps a good thing for everyone. We’ll be back in about a week.

I feel this blog is part of my home, I feel the people who read it are part of my family, we have our disagreements and squabbles, but there is great love and connection. I thank you for that.

15 October

The Art Of Leaving Animals Behind

by Jon Katz
The Art Of Leaving Animals Behind

Leaving animals behind is one of the most emotionally fraught elements of owning a pet like a dog or a cat. We love our donkeys, but we never think much about leaving them behind when we go away, they are quite self-sufficient and independent.

Dogs are a more complex matter.

Red, in particular, is difficult for me to leave behind, he is with me everywhere I go and will leave his food uneaten and go off and search for me if he doesn’t know where I am. When Maria goes out to the farm chores on mornings when I am busy, Red goes to the gate and watches for me.

I am also concerned about Gus, he is still a puppy and needs some extra attention.

Leaving dogs behind is an art. I do it very casually, but also, thoughtfully.

There is no question that the dogs know we are going away when they see out suitcases or when we pack, they become clingy and anxious. So I let them outside while we pack. People love to believe their dogs pine for them – many people can’t go on vacation without them – but dogs mirror us, it is easy to confuse disorientation with grieving or anxiety.

Let dogs be dogs, they can live easily and happily without us for a week or so, or even for good, if it comes to that.

If you doubt that, just look at the many thousands of hurricane dogs who are already happily and comfortably re-homed. I haven’t heard of a single one who died of grief from being re-homed or separated from their people. Dogs are wonderful, but they are also opportunists and among the most highly adaptable creatures on the earth.

Keep some perspective. They can be left behind, it is often the best thing for them.

When I leave, I never say goodbye, or hug them desperately, or talk about how much I miss them.

For one thing, it just makes them anxious, and signals to them that I am upset – they can read that emotion easily.

For another, it isn’t true. Once I pull out of the driveway, I rarely think about the dogs when I am gone, I love them dearly, but I need a vacation from them as well as everything else, and I believe it is also healthy for them to be cared for by people other than me and Maria.

They need vacations too.

I don’t believe in separation anxiety among grounded or well-trained dogs, I have never seen it in my dogs, perhaps because I don’t think it is as true as many people would like to believe or need to believe.

When I leave the house, I don’t say goodbye or make a fuss, and when I come back from wherever I’ve been, I just come into the house and check the mail. I act normally.

The bigger the drama we create, the bigger the drama we will have, dogs are very good at that. They take our cues from us, and dogs that are hysterical or out of control when their people leave them are not healthy and have not been trained well. Same goes for the people.

I have no quarrels with good kennels, but generally, I prefer to leave the dog at home, I think it is where they are the most comfortable.

I look for experienced dog and cat handlers, professionals who love animal but are not looking to project their own needs and emotions onto them. I look for people who will move into the house and watch over the farm.

I look for animals lovers who also have balanced lives and broader concerns than pets. It’s a fine line.

In Shelby, I have what I think is the perfect balance. She is a vet tech, she knows about animals and their health, she knows what to do if they are injured or sick. She is independent and confident, she will make her own decisions and only contact us if there is a serious emergency. Vacation is vacation, I don’t need videos of the dogs, or daily reports on their bowel movements and moods.

I guess the best way to put it is that I am not looking for drama, or anyone who is drawn to drama. Pet-sitting is a profession, and the good ones are thoroughly professional.

Shelby is also a farm girl, and can care for the donkeys and sheep, and knows who to call in an emergency. Like most farm kids, she doesn’t do drama. There is nothing much we can do from New Mexico. We’re not going there to worry about dogs.

For the past month, Shelby has come once or twice a week to get to know the dogs, feed them, exercise them and, I am sure, do some cuddling. She and her boyfriend Kirby have become friends, we are fond of them and much impressed by them. She asked the right questions and knows how to handle dogs. She was great helping out at our Open House.

When she comes to the door, the dogs rush to greet her,  shower her with kisses, happily run outside with her, and chase balls and run for her. They aren’t worried about where we are.

This is what I want to see, the art of leaving animals is making sure they are well cared for.

The human sets the tone, if I’m not frantic and crying and dramatic, they will be fine. It is not a  tragedy to go on vacation without animals, it is essential to our health.

The art of leaving animals is about getting out of your head and into a vacation mind, which means leaving the farm and the dogs and my town behind. I want to see new things, and rest and be refreshed. New technology is a snare in many ways, because it keeps people from ever disconnecting, everyone is always in touch with everyone. I don’t like that on vacations, I will assume the dogs are fine unless told otherwise.

And towards the end, I will miss them and think of them, and be very happy to see them again. I told Shelby half-jokingly, that what I really want is for them to be healthy and alive when I return. I leave the rest to her.

I also  left a note for Shelby asking her not to feel any pressure to give us daily animal reports and live videos. No news is no news. And in our time, good news.

I’m just about packed. Maria is blogging.  The dogs are in the yard.

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