26 October

Army Of Good: See What We Have Done. On To The Statue…

by Jon Katz
See What We Have Done

Dear Army of Good, see what we have done. Got this wonderful coming home present a few minutes ago from Ali, (Abdul Mohammed), this is the design of the new soccer uniform the RISSE soccer team has chosen, and we have funded.

The only thing that remains to be done are the numbers. These uniforms are so important to the RISSE team, composed of refugee children living in upstate New York, almost all from Asia and Africa and the Middle East.

These uniforms are all about identity, and also about supporting these brave and compassionate children, who have seen too much of the world sometimes, and are living in America in a difficult time for refugees and immigrants.

I believe this children have suffered enough. We have sent them on retreats, to amusement parks, supported their gifts and aspirations. In a few weeks, and especially in the Spring, they will take to the field against richer, more powerful teams, but with a new kind of pride. They have the uniforms they deserve and designed.

It was their idea, not mine, to call themselves the “Bedlam Farm Warriors,” and I am a bit embarrassed that they did that, but also proud. i never once imagined that name would ever adorn a sports uniform. I have never played a sport in my life, it is quite alien to me, but I am much inspired by their hard work and dedication, for them, it is about community as much as victory.

So there it is. They said they loved the spirit of the farm, and how could I be anything but proud of that. Risse is a wondrous group of dedicated people working so hard to support the vulnerable and needy among us.

The immigrant story is one of the great stories of America, and it breaks my heart to see it so politicized and tarnished. I will not sink into the pit of argument and politics, I hope to keep working to support these children and show them what America is really about – it is about you, the Army of Good. See what you have done.

As the descendant of immigrants, I know how much America has meant to so many people. I see this passion in the faces and hear it in the voices of these kids and their parents.

These kids have suffered plenty,and are in great need of us. Ali tells them all the time that what they see and hear on the news is not the real America. I think we are the real America. Because of  your generosity, they are beginning to believe it.

We could use some additional support for our refugee fund, we’ve spent it wisely and well. There is more to do. If you choose, you can sent a donation to my post office box, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or to my Paypal account, jon@bedlamfarm.com. Please mark the contributions for the refugee work.

I am hoping to organize a trip for the team to the Statue Of Liberty in New York City, a place they are eager to see.

You can also contribute directly to RISSE here.

Thanks so much, I am happy to share this with you so you can see what you have done.

26 October

Transition: Ghosts, Love And Life. I Am Happy To Be Me

by Jon Katz
Could We Move?

We are in transition, still unpacking, still with New Mexico in our heads, feeling a bit low on this rainy and cold November day, the gray month is descending on us, winter is a shadow beginning to spread over us. I love this photo of Maria at Georgia O’Keefe’s famous white space, a great source of inspiration for her, and also for us.

I am mostly unpacked, I spent much of the day shopping, there is absolutely nothing in the refrigerator. I got some haddock and salmon cuts, breaded chicken breast, fresh roast chicken, vegetables and some zucchini for zucchini pancakes, some spinach and greens, cat food and dog treats, and some canned soup for cold days.

In our home, I am the cook and the hunter-gatherer, I like to plan ahead for two or three days, we often go out. This weekend, we are hoping to see “Victoria and Abdul,” a movie about Queen Victoria and a friend she made who changed her life.

We are both feeling a bit low In New Mexico, we talked quite a bit about moving there, we both felt so alive and at home there. I don’t see it happening, but it was good to talk about. Moves are expensive, so is restoring old adobe homes and finding water rights.

We love our town and feel very connected her, and I am always wary of people – myself included – who are forever seeking happiness wherever they are not. For years I wanted to live in Cambridge, Mass. or Provincetown, or towns in Vermont where artists and writers go to live.

I fantasized about the creative life, I wanted to write literary books on the dunes near Provincetown like Eugene O’Neill did.

I have learned that fulfillment doesn’t come from where I live, but from who I am. It is not external, but internal, once I began to love myself, I began to love my life. I’ve moved about 16 times in my life, and was miserable almost everywhere I went. When I did the long and hard work on myself I began to find peace and happiness.

I have often wondered about the life of Henry Roth, the tormented author who wrote one of the classic novels of the 20trh Century, “Call It Sleep,” considered one of the greatest stories ever written about immigration. and the best novel of his century.

Roth wrote this classic, and then vanished from view for six decades, working in Maine as a laborer, ending up living and  writing in a trailer in Albuquerque. Before we went to New Mexico, I searched for hours to find out where he lived there and if there was any place of his I could visit.

But there was no trace of him or of the trailer he wrote in for years before his death. His memorial service was in New York City, not New Mexico. He seemed quite forgotten there. I think of Roth often and of his six decades of silence and retreat. He wanted no part of fame or commercial publishing.

He spent the last days of his life with his lover in a trailer in the middle of the city. Until the very end, nobody knew he was there.

But New Mexico has always pulled writers and artists, from Georgia O’Keefe and Roth, and I could  see us holed up there with a studio for Maria and grazing ground for the donkeys and sheep for the dogs. This yearning made me melancholic and brought up the ghosts of those other places I yearned to live to find happiness and connection.

I am wiser now, I know myself better. It is natural to crash a bit after vacations, away so far I can leave life behind, and just love Maria and the things we can see and do together. Magical time. Now, back to the mundane details of life and work  – food, shopping, the news, the dentist, the pharmacy.

Make no mistake, we had a powerful visit, the kind that has caused so many people before us to move. But I have been on this path before, and it did not ever bring the happiness I fantasized about.

I am plotting to get my hands on the new Iphone X, going on sale tomorrow. I will have to be patient and save some money or buy into one of those leasing arrangements. It costs over $1,000. I may be able to trade in my existing phone for it. I think I need to have it. Apple has been a part of my creative life since the beginning, I have to stick with it. Steve Jobs was a ghost in my life, giving me the tools I needed to do my work. It is not about being cool for me, it is about being creative.

But I am back in the world today, and feeling it. So is Maria.

A woman on Facebook asked me why I didn’t just stop looking at the news, I told her I couldn’t do that, I am not an ostrich living with my head in the ground, I don’t want to hide from my country and my world. And I don’t want to move to seek happiness.  I’ve done that, it does no good. I have good and righteous deeds to carry out.

I am older now, and I am wiser, and I see the melancholy for what it is, a cleansing emotion, a transition from a beautiful and restful and care free time to the reality of life itself. And I love one just as much as the other. I have to be happy inside, no matter where I look outside. I learned this lesson just in time.

I have so many friends who tell me all the time they can’t wait to live here, and live there. But they will not do the long and hard work of self awareness, they believe in the magic of the move, as I did for so long.

I know now what I did not know before, that I must face myself and know myself and look inward if I am to find peace and happiness and compassion in my life. It is not out there, outside of me, it is right here, inside of me. For me, happiness is not to be found outside of me,  not even in so beautiful and appealing a place as New Mexico. I am finding it in my battered and muddled self. I like it in there.

I decided some years ago to make a stand, and this is where I stand.  I have worked hard for my life, and I owe much of it to the generosity and openness of the country, the tolerance and generosity of the people, people here who believe work is a calling, not the point of living.

Where else would I have met this sad-eyed artist looking desperately for a studio, and had a barn to offer her in friendship, and ultimately, love?

I am where I belong, and where I need to be. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a lot of money, I’d probably be on the phone to realtors now causing trouble. I also understand that I am not unhappy enough to upend my life or Maria’s. We are both happier than we ever imagined. That is not a good inspiration for moving.

But still, I feel the old ghosts. That is an inevitable part of being me.

Melancholia is, like fear, a geography, a space to cross. I have lived with it all of my life, and it has never struggled more to be seen than it has here, where I am happier than I have ever been.

When we came to the farmhouse last night, we  both saw clearly that we were home, and were not moving across the country, not even for the spectacular landscapes and rich cultural and artistic ethos there. It’s okay to be low for a couple of days, and then, to myself: get over it, there is much life to live.

By tomorrow, I will no longer be melancholic but frantic to get on with things, there are Mansion residents to see and refugee kids to cheer on. I am needed, and happy to be needed. I am knowing me, and happy to be me.

26 October

The Rose And The Valles Caldera

by Jon Katz
The Rose And The Caldera

Earlier this week, we drove to the awe-inspiring Vallles Caldera, a vast plane of volcanic ash formed by massive volcanic eruptions a million years ago. It is an utterly hypnotic place in Northern New Mexico, where we were staying. The ash is covered by a vast meadow where coyotes and prairie dogs and herds of elk live. Along one fence, I saw this rose planted on the caldera fence, it was an especially beautiful thing to see in this very spectacular setting.

I assume the rose is planted as  a memorial, but I’m not sure.

26 October

Saints (Retablos) For Dogs And Cats

by Jon Katz
Saints For Dogs And Cats

I came home with a retablo for the dogs, and then I remembered that Theresa and Richard  Montoya paint and sell them for cats.

I have learned to take Theresa and Richard very seriously, they  are gifted artists and good witches, they have a lot of spiritual mojo, I can feel it in their lives and their work. I like the idea of having a saint for the animals here, I think we will need to get a saint to look over the barn  cats also.

Theresa’s Enserado cream has awakened me to the power of old and tested herbal medicine, the hives that have plagued me for some years due to the medications I am taken are gone. I take these inspirational works seriously, I can feel their presence.

There are at least a hundred retablos on the wall of Theresa’s gallery, there seems to be a saint for everything.

Retablos, popular in Mexico and the Southwestern United States are devotional paintings drawn from Catholic and other spiritual cultures. I was given one as a gift  for the dogs, Maria got one from Diana Breyer inspired by Deborah, the Old Testament warrior.

You can see Theresa’s work and get her contact information here.

I think Fate and Gus and Red need at least one saint to watch out for them.

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