30 June

Happy Anniversary: The Crocheted Gun

by Jon Katz
The Crocheted Gun

Today, Maria and I are finally celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary, which actually occurred on June 10, but we are just catching up with it. We’re heading to check in on Carol and Ed Gulley, then to Massachusetts to hole up for one night in a cheesy motel, go see a play, go see the Mr. Rogers movie, have dinner and hit a museum in the morning.

I have the perfect anniversary story to tell, it involves the crocheted gun (above) that Maria carried when she marched for sensible gun control some months ago after the Parkland, Fla., shooting.

Friday night, we invited some friends over for dinner, and I was cooking some pizza for dinner, and I couldn’t find the metal pie pan I usually use to serve the pizza at the dinner table. After much banging and crashing around, I yelled out to Maria if she knew where it was.

She didn’t answer at first, then signaled me to come out into the living room, where she was standing with a smile on her face and pointing to the corner. I was confused, all I saw in the corner was the crocheted gun (an old pellet gun she crocheted for the demo in a baby blanket.)

I couldn’t imagine why she was pointing to it. “It’s in there,” she said, a bit sheepishly. I needed to use it as a backdrop to  hold the thing together.”

So the moral is if you live with Maria, you might well be living with a crocheted gun, and it is not surprise for the metal pizza pan to be commandeered in the name of art. Everything else I wear is.

“I needed it,” she explained.

This, of course, is what I love so much about Maria. We are excited to be celebrating our wedding, the most consequential event of my adult life, as it turns out.

I love you so much, Maria, and thanks for loving me back. We caught one another at just the right time, and for all of the best reasons. Be back tomorrow. Stay dry and cool.

30 June

Me And Ed And Friendship: My Brother From Another Mother

by Jon Katz
Making Sense Of Friendship

I woke up feeling a great sadness this morning, my friend Ed is dying, bit by bit, and right before my eyes. So many people have and will experience this, yet it is rarely acknowledged or brought out into the open. Ed and I do not wish to continue that conspiracy, so here I am, at the keyboard, where I go to understand what it is I feel.

I’ve never quite been able to figure out friendship in my life, I’ve often been able to make friends, but I rarely, if ever keep them. There is hardly anyone in my life that I knew more than a few years ago.

I have a version, I think, of what the shrinks call reactive attachment disorder, when people get too close, I push them away. It is a very common abuse response, say the trauma people.

Like Dyslexia, it is one of those things that shapes and shadows life, baggage I am always learning to carry.

Maria is the first person who simply broke through that wall, the first person who really got close and stayed close, and I have never wanted to push her away or run from her. Well, hardly ever. She is a profoundly emotional and open human being, and I do sometimes tremble at that, but I also love it more and more every day. I could never have handled that for much of my life.

I think the reason that our love grew and deepened was that I was breaking into pieces, and the gates all opened up. Once you open up, it is almost impossible to go back, even if you try. Once you are broken, you can, if you wish, put the pieces together I believe love comes when you are open to it, the same is true of friendship.

Unlike Ed, I get to recover every day.

For many years, I was convinced the problem was them, all those people, that it was all outside of me. Then I came to see that it was me. Most problems end up that way for me.

Ed Gulley and I are, on the surface, not likely candidates for friendship.  Our language and history is different, our core values are different. Ed is as at home rebuilding a tractor as he is milking a cow or making a farm sculpture. Basically, I just love Maria and my dogs, take photos, and write.

We live in alien worlds. I love his family, but I am always aware of coming from a very different place, I will always live outside of that circle, as gracious as they are, we often simply don’t know what to say to one another. They stay out of my way.

At the center, Ed and I have much in common. We grew up in difficult circumstances, came to consciousness later in life. I am drawn to his honesty, his thoughtfulness, his intellectual and creative strength.

He is an artist all the way, as well as farmer who loves his cows, his land,  the natural world, the world around him. Ed talks to crows all the time, there are not many men like him. We have a creative connection, and also, a soul connection.

Somewhere in there, we are brothers from the same mother.

I suspect our bond is a respect for the intelligence of each other, we both seek the truth, even if we don’t always find it. We are both awakened,  and think about our lives and what they mean. Ed, like me, accepts the worst parts of himself and has no secrets to defend. He is a presence, everywhere he is, he is the embodiment of the idea of Larger Than Life.

He tells me all the time that his cows have always been his best friends. I tell him I haven’t had any best friends, at least not for long. We both believe that death is sad, but not only sad. It can also be beautiful and profound.

Living where I live, I have come to know and love the small family farmers who live around me, and have taken thousands of photos of them. They are a wondrous and doomed culture shrinking in numbers every day. Ed is absolutely nothing like me in the way he lives, in the way he sees animals, in the way he sees life and family and work.

He sees no contradiction in the fact that he knows the small family farmer is lurching towards extinction, but he wants his farm to live forever. If strength of will is the barometer, Bejosh Farm will go on forever. If life and reality prevail, it is a fantasy. We talk about that all the time.

In our own way, each of us is a dinosaur, the world has moved past us in many ways. I am lucky to have found a new role for myself amidst the turmoil of the world, I am reborn, my life is just beginning in so many ways,  Ed was in the middle of his own rebirth when he was struck down by life.

When he told me last year that we are brothers from the same mother,  something inside of me recognized that it was true. Ed has always been generous in crediting me with his creative awakening late in life. It would surely have happened without me, Ed’s creative spark was ready to ignite in a big and loud way. Maria and I struck the match.

Here we are, at the edge of life, Ed and seem to be very close friends, the kind of friends I have always sought and wanted to have. Since he is the kind of friend I always wanted to have,  I am becoming the kind of friend I always wanted to be.

Simply put, we would do anything for one another, no worries or hesitation. In deep trouble, he is absolutely the first person I would call, and he would come like a rocket.

Except he can’t come anymore, not now or ever.

I have never been so closely entwined in the death of a friend before, and that has challenged me in all kinds of ways, opened me up, shaken me up, enriched me and saddened my deeply.

Our videos together are a boon to both of us. Ed gets to get his message out, I get to find a small way to help him through this whirlwind. He wants his life and death to have meaning, he is making it so.

Death is, of course,  the elephant in Ed’s room, and we both acknowledge to each other that he is dying, we both accept it, and we do not see it as a fight, as our culture often suggests, rather as one of the great and inevitable passages of life.

So we have entered into this great dialogue, mostly because Ed wants to use his cancer to do some good, and having an ego like a Tyrannosaurus, he is convinced his story will do good for others. I am coming to see that this is true, although I was doubtful.

In his last days, Ed has become a teacher to me, and a prophet. He is teaching me about death and friendship, i think we were always learning from one another. One of the things I am seeing and learning is that although we are terrorized by death and hide from it and see it as nothing but sad, it’s not all that different from birth.

Death is our universal experience, about the only place in life we shall all go. I don’t want to run from in horror, but accept it and kiss it right on the lips. I believe Ed feels the same way.

Death just happens, and in happens to all of us. I told Ed yesterday that I will not spent too much time mourning his him,  I choose to celebrate his very wonderful and fulfilling life.He has left a big mark on the world.

Ed, after all, is one of those blessed few people who spent his life doing what he loved with people he loved.

That is something to celebrate, not just mourn.

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