1 January

Tomorrow, The Whirlwind Calls You Back

by Jon Katz
Into The Whirlwind

Somebody gave me this body, but what do I do with it,?

It is a very remarkable body… I am alive and I breathe,

I am strong and tall,

Can somebody tell me who to thank for all this?

I am the gardener and the flower too,

and in this prisoner of the world I’m not alone,

Life beyond the glass may darken, day-to-day,

But my mark on that window pane will never go away,”

Evgenia Ginsburg, Into The Whirlwind

For the past few years, almost everyone who thinks and cares and feels has been led, or perhaps manipulated and seduced,  into a new kind of whiirlwind, a firestorm of argument, rage, fear and distraction. You can call it the right, you can call it the left, you can call it the President, you call it the media,  you can call it whatever you want.

I don’t wish to be pulled into it.

Every day we have been drawn closer and closer into the world of confusion, outrage and grievance, and over the holidays, and for most of this year, I have rejected this world.

It is exhausting and disturbing, I won’t be sucked in. I’ve  chosen to create a positive and useful alternate reality for myself: doing good and adding meaning and support, not argument and complaint, to my life and the lives of others.

I am, as you know, no saint, no Mother Teresa, just a flawed human being trying to be a better human being in a time of endless conflict and disturbance and violence.

Many of you – we call ourselves the Army Of Good – have joined me. This holiday has been restful for me, I have stayed far from the whirlwind, I am learning to relax, Maria and I spent quiet and lazy days loving and reading and creating and talking, this is new to me.

A sweet time, a special time, no news or phones or cable news brawls for days at a time. The whirlwind is an ugly place to be, no matter what side you join, which label you paste on your forehead. It is the place of perpetual division and rage. Hope begins when the whirlwind dies and spins away.

Tomorrow, the holidays end, the politicians and the journalists return, the whirlwind spins.

We are called upon to return with them, to pick up our phones, turn on our pads and screens and let them define us every day.  The whirlwind depends on us coming along. I won’t This is not my place, it is a place where people and institutions who pretend to be different but are often quite the same feed on our passions and anxieties and fears for their own greed and power.

I will not permit them to shape my moods, tarnish my hopes, make me feel small and discarded.  I have good work, real work, to do. They will never control my consciousness or define me.

I have ambitious plans to do good rather than argue about good. I will not argue my life, I will live it by my actions, by small acts of great kindness, by the practice of empathy and compassion and listening. By trying to be better every day.

There is no path forward for me in the left or the right, in tweets and accusations, in press conferences or fund-raising campaigns or violent videos from everywhere.

I am not an angry white man, there is no label you can put on me that I will accept. So I am a refugee too. I am my own party, I have my own label: me. I have no President, there is no political party that cares about me or speaks to me.

The whirlwind leads nowhere and offers no hope. I will continue my search for humanity be seeking out the poor and the vulnerable, just as Christ preached and did and even though I am the farthest thing from a God.

You don’t have to join a thing to come along with me, you need not label yourself or let anyone else label you.

Come along this year if you wish and do a bit of good when you can. This month, the Army Of Good begins our Refugee Grocery Project, we will begin delivering $150 each month to a refugee family in New York state in need of food for themselves and their children. These families have been brought her to start new lives, and then abandoned and left on their own. They are us, they are new politics.

If you wish to donate, you can do so by sending a contribution to me at P.O.  Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com.

I wish you a meaningful year full of compassion, peace and fulfillment, I thank you for supporting this work, I feel it is the future. One day an Army Of Good will rise up and create a different kind of whirlwind, one of hope and promise and good faith. Perhaps we will be around to see it.

When men sow the wind, it is rational to expect that they will reap the whirlwind.” – Frederick Douglass.

1 January

Study In Cold

by Jon Katz
Study In Cold

The best way to deal with bitter cold, I believe, is to keep moving, keep creating, keep feeling. The real challenge is not to survive the cold, I will certainly do that, but to capture the feeling of it. It is now too cold for me to stand outside for any more than five or ten minutes, and by the weekend, I will not be able to stand outside at all, if the forecasts are correct.

That is a shock to me and also a wake-up call, as it leaves me with many things to do. One of them is to get into the car and drive around looking for ways to capture this brutal cold wave that has engulfed so much of the country, and caused much greater hardship than Maria and I face.

I thought all day of my farmer friends and what they must endure to keep their tractors running and manure cleared and cows fed and milked. I hope they find relief and comfort soon.

I have learned in my life to reject drama in all of its forms, it is distracting and paralyzing to me. Up here, the weather will sometimes turn hard, and you just deal with it, like the death of a dog. It doesn’t make me hard, it makes me soft on life. I have never gotten anywhere in life by pretending that life is anything but what it is.

I may be limited in what I can do outside, but I am not l limited in what I can do. Time to get creative. I got in the car and drove around.

I know that many people simply stay inside when the weather gets this extreme, but that is not my choice. If I can’t be in it, I can capture what it feels like, and on a hill near the farm I took this photo with my Petzval 58 art lens around 2 p.m. That is what it felt like.

Standing outside did get to me, I won’t pretend otherwise, I just felt drained and exhausted when I got him, it took me a half hour to stop shivering. Maria made me a mug of hot chocolate, which turned things around.

This, I think, is what cold looks like, it was -2 degrees at 2 p.m. Today will seem balmy next to what we are told is coming. The high on Friday will be -3, the low – 18 to -20. I know our animals will be okay, but we feel for them, it is not a comfortable time to be a sheep or a donkey or a cow.

Our barn cats are in the basement, they have heat, food, water, two furry cat beds, and even some mice. They will be there for awhile.

We still don’t know if a brute storm charging up the East Coast will get to us.

I was sorry to cancel our trip to New York this weekend to see my granddaughter, but we couldn’t leave the farm in the care of a house-sitter, no matter how competent.

Gus needs particular attention, and if there is a big and damaging story we ought to be here. We want to be here.

I like the “Study In Cold,” I can feel my cold feet whenever I look at it. I did have to get out of the car to shoot it and it felt like my bone marrow had turned to ice.

1 January

My Beautiful Farm: The Winter Landscape

by Jon Katz
My Beautiful Farm

I went back to the most beautiful farm I know of, I’ve taken photos of it in the summer and fall and sold some of those, and I wanted to see it in the winter, I knew the red barns would stand out in the snow and the cold clear air and they did.

The farm looks strong and sturdy and lovely against the snowy backdrop and the biting cold, which one can almost touch in the landscape.

1 January

The Little Free Library Holds Its Own

by Jon Katz
The Little Free Library Stands Tall

Our Little Free Library is holding its own, standing tall and open for business.

A couple of days ago, it was covered in snow and cut off from the road. We liberated her yesterday and she is open for business, tomorrow I’ll go and clean off the glass (spattered by snow plows, I imagine. The library doesn’t mind the bitter cold.

It is full and the books are dry and clean.

Our library has a following now, books come and go, like they are supposed to. You take one, and when you can, and if you can, you bring one back. The Little Free Library is all about community. We stock it regularly with the best books we have read.

1 January

Out Of The Cold: “Circle Of Women Is Done”

by Jon Katz
Circle Of Women

Maria spent several days working in her very cold studio – the heat usually works well, but – 20 taxes the baseboard heating system a bit – and just about finished it. But last night, chilled to the bone, she came into the house to finish it at the dining room table.

It is a hanging piece, “Circle Of Women,” a striking work made from vintage fabrics, felt from a shoe liner and dolls mailed from the Midwest, and it speaks for itself. Like many others, I love the creative way Maria weaves so many disparate things into one whole.

She finished it this morning (back in her studio) and it will go on sale tomorrow on her blog for $200 plus shipping. You can e-mail her at maria@fullmoonfiberart.com or follow the story of this piece here.


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