3 February

My Writing Class, the Fifth Year. For Me, A Labor Of Love.

by Jon Katz
My Writing Class: Liz Haggerty

My four week writing workshop is not in its fifth year, and I have resolved that no one else will ever be admitted, and that the class will continue to meet until every single person has left, moved, or gone away voluntarily. We have not met for some weeks due to the holidays and some savage winter weather.

We got back into it today, there were only five students and me in the class, and that, I see is a perfect number. Everyone gets to talk, to listen, to read. Jackie Thorne read from her high school book of poems, and her gifts as a poet were evident then. One of the students had slipped into a deep funk and told me she might have to leave the class for awhile, but the class wouldn’t have it.

We threatened to drag her out of her home – I said I would parade naked in the streets, that usually works – and she came to class and is going to write about in instead or running from it. She feels better.

Sandy Van Dyk wrote a powerful account of her trip to Kenya last year, she met an impressive young man working as a social worker and became friends, she found out this week that he had been murdered while swimming in a pool.

Amy Herring give us all her latest chapter in a young adult thriller and we talked for a long time about her character and how she makes decisions. They all asked me about my eye surgery this upcoming Monday. I told them I had asked the doctor for a patch, whether i needed one or not, and she laughed, she said I could not have a patch, she thought, unless I really needed one.

I said I would love to wear a pirate kind of patch and be rakish, along with my slouch beanie hats. Half of the class couldn’t make it, I think some are just not into writing right now. We’ll talk about it, the class might get smaller of its own natural accord.

The class are like family now, to me, to one another. We have already cranked out several books and are working on several more. Jen Baker-Porazinski has finished the first draft on her wonderful book about being a caring doctor in American in 2018. We talk about voice and  fear and  funks, we know and trust one another by now.

I’ve learned that trust is essential to teaching writing well. The students need a safe and supportive environment to find their voices and believe in their stories. You can’t teach that in four weeks.

I am so glad I didn’t stop after four weeks, I would not have gotten to know this gifted and marvelous group of people.
I lectured a bit about creative funks – they are inevitable, useful, painful. Joan Didion has them, Gabriel Garcia Marquez had them, so did just about every famous artist or author in human history.

They are part of it. Life happens to us all.

3 February

Well, Well…The Fish Return. Life As A Wheel.

by Jon Katz
Well, Well…

Well, well, two new living creatures join the Bedlam Farm family, actually three if you count the bottom feeder. There are two goldfish, Frida and Diego, and the odd looking sucking catfish Boris. Plus two small black snails, called Bumblebees.

This started as a surprise birthday present for Maria, who loves to watch fish swimming. I got one goldfish in a tiny tank. Then there were two goldfish and some snails, the tiny tank was too small. Now there is a 10 gallon tank, a crackerjack filter and quiet aierator pump. The bubbles add a lot.

Fish were a huge part of my young life, I had a half-dozen 25 gallon tanks and bred the fish, performed surgical procedures to save their lives, and created beautiful and exotic environments. I was God, they were my kingdom.

I spent countless hours holed up in my room landscaping tanks, supervising mating, rescuing and incubating babies. It was a truly insane ritual of obsession and withdrawal and hiding, and a truly horrible way to spent years of one’s young life.

I did not expect to have fish again, but there I was, in deep conversation with a fish geek salesperson at a Petco store, choosing live plants, artifical plants, colored gravel, an air pump, a filter and an overhead light, along with various drops and algae pills.

I worked all afternoon to get the tank up and then transferred Frida and Diego into their more spacious and well-equipped homes. We put the tank on the table where  we eat our meals together in the living room, we moved a larger table down from upstairs and have plenty of room for our food and Iphone charging pad.

We had dinner – I went out for Asian takeout from Bennington – and then sat for an hour or so watching the fish acclimate, check out their new surroundings, and seemingly flourish. I was careful to acclimate fish and water to the room temperature and let the water sit for a day or so.

It all came back to, even as I began to receive messages from the great digital beyond advising  me there were filters to keep the tank clean,  that the fish need to be fed or they will die, and the usual horror and grieving stories about illness, death and evil spirits.

I like the tank, I want to move the plants around a bit. The fish look quite happy and busy, and I felt as if I was rushing back in time. Maria said in her chair and we had a meditative few minutes – the fish do make me calm, that also came back – and Maria announced “I love watching these fish, I just love it.”

So the fish are back for a reasons, and these fish are not those fish, and I am not that poor and lonely but obsessive boy.

In many ways, life is a wheel that just turns and turns. Everything is there for a reason, and nothing that ever happens really goes away for good.

When the fish experience ended in a series of thermostat heater explosions that destroyed every tank I had and every fish in them, I knew then that this was for a reason. I  had to get out and face the world. I never looked back or paid attention to fishes in tanks again, that world was dead to me, or so I thought.

But I was wrong. The fish are back also for a reason, I will pass it along as soon as I figure it out.

The tank is pretty, and I love to look at them too, at least for  awhile.

3 February

New Home For Frieda and Diego

by Jon Katz
New Home For Frieda And Diego

Well, one thing leads to another. Fish tanks were a big part of my life as a child, and I did not expect to ever have one again But love leads us on strange paths I got a small tank for one goldfish, which Maria named Frieda. Then we had to get another goldfish to keep her company, and we named him Diego. What else?

We got some bottom feeders and snails, but they died, as often happens with fish.

Frida and Diego are thriving. So we got a bigger tank, a 10 gallon tank, and found a good place in the living room for them. We have two small bumblebee snails, they are doing well I loaded the tank up with water last night, installed the filter – this is part of Marias birthday celebration – and am giving the water a day or two to settle and exhale any chemicals.

Today I’m going to get a light for the tank and look into an air filter. Tonight, Diego and Frida come into their new home. I saw Maria looking approvingly into the side of the tank and grabbed my Iphone. I love the shot. Maria loves all living things, and fish can be quite meditative. They bring back lots of memories for me, some not good. I’ll get use to them.

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