27 January

Books For Laura, Blogs For You: I’m Haunted By Johny Appleseed’s Ghost

by Jon Katz

“Do not worry at being worried, but accept worry peacefully. Difficult but not impossible.” – Johnny Appleseed.

I brought Laura three books today. She told me she loves to read but has not focused on reading. I offered to help. She said she’d love to read.

I went and picked out three books for her with the always helpful Battenkill Books staff.

But first, the rest of the story. It’s a curiously familiar one with me.

Maria told me the other day that I am the Johnny Appleseed of books and blogs. I am always urging people to try books I recommend, and I am, she says, a zealot for the idea of personal blogs.

This struck a nerve; I feel haunted by Johnny Appleseed. He planted trees; I plant blogs. Books too, sometimes. We are different in many ways. I shower every day.

Generally, this is thankless work; I lose much more often than I win. You really can’t tell other people what to do, and you shouldn’t. But like Appleseed, I was seized by demons years ago, and they live inside of me still.

I buy a lot of books, give them all away. I’ve gotten good at choosing books for people, something I love to do for the most selfish of reasons: it makes me feel good.

Nothing makes me happier than turning people onto books. I got two cardiac rehab nurses into reading. the first week.

When I first met Maria, I started giving her books. She appreciated this and told me it was evidence I wasn’t just a jerk. She says it was a major reason that she fell in love with me.

I feel the same way about helping people see the power of blogs.  I badger and pester people about blogs, I preach and bloviate about them. Many people understand the value of books, not so many grasp the importance of blogs.

And today, a lot more people read blogs than read books.

Blogs are important; they are, to me, our truest and purest media, the greatest form of individual expression since the printing press. A blog is just how Thomas Paine would have written Common Sense, which was a pamphlet.

I know so many people who would benefit from having a blog, but it’s not for everybody. I have nothing to say, they tell me. I don’t want to upset my family. My grammar isn’t perfect.


Look at all the ways we silence ourselves.

It’s true, I have annoyed,  pestered, and lobbied countless people in my life to try starting a blog, and quite often been obnoxious about it. I am very used to the rolling of eyes; it is, to me, the best imaginable way to try writing and learning how to do it.

It isn’t really for me to tell people what to read or whether or not to blog; I’m trying to curb the habit.

The books I got for Laura (above)

Maria and I have learned firsthand about the importance of blogs; they have given a voice, meaning, creativity and sustenance to both of us. They have permitted us to explore authenticity, live where we want, and do the work we love.

They have taught us to be honest and open and share our lives’ trajectory with others.

More importantly, they have given shape and dimension to our identity.

I’ve lost some friends through my advocacy for blogs.

One artist I knew stopped speaking to me because I offended him by suggesting he should put his art upon a blog to sell it, which he was struggling to do.

He was horrified; he thought putting art on a blog was just a digital form of commercial prostitution, like strolling around Times Square with a sandwich board plugging his work.

I have not seen him or heard from him since. Good riddance to a snob.

I don’t suggest a blog to everyone, just people I think are naturals for it – curious people, people who have things to say, want to find a voice,  need to show their work, learn how to write, find their place in the world, form their own community.

Of the hundreds of people I’ve suggested a blog too, six or seven have actually done it, none of them have any regrets.

I also volunteer to help people – mostly women, start their blogs or help people who have blogs and improve them.

Three of my favorite bloggers are women who started their own blogs without me and have excellent ones but are willing to sometimes listen to my ideas and/or ignore them.

One is the artist and baker and collage maker Emily Gold, who has become our good friend.

Her blog is called papercakescissors.com. Another is Julz Style, a belly dancer, weight lifter, cook, and founder of the Vermont Spatzel Company.  She is the author of the blog cooking and living my way. She has lots to say.

A third is Rachel Barlow, one of the most gifted creatives I’ve yet to meet, a former student in my writing class and now a blogger, author, painter, artist, and illustrator, the creator of rachelbarlow.com.

I consider Rachel’s blog (and Maria’s) and Emily’s and Julz to be models for creatives who wish to share and share their lives and work.

I am especially admiring and fond of John Greenwood’s warm and innovative blog, Raining Iguanas. John was one of the best students I ever had in my years of a teacher, his great heart shines through on his blog, and he is one of the most innovative bloggers I know.

I can’t honestly say I read the blog of another man.

I closely follow Eve Marko’s thoughtful and very honest and open blog, Eve Marko. It flows like a river stream. A Zen master, she brings a special kind of wisdom and meaning to her writing.

I can’t take credit for any of them, but they all show us why blogs can transform lives, shape our dreams and creativity. They are my argument.

Rachel took the idea and ran with it and is still running; she has one of the most graceful and beautiful blogs anywhere.

Emily and Julz didn’t need me to start their blog, and they don’t need me now. They are really making their blogs work for them and their art and work; they are inspirations for anyone who wants to find their own voice and follow their heart.

People like me would explode if I didn’t have bedlamfarm.com to express myself.

I feel the same way about books, but blogs have become more central to me in recent years. I wrote books for 40 years, now blogs are my creative outlet. The form works for me, just as books once did.

It is the present and the future. It is my living memoir.

I never before thought Johnny Appleseed was haunting me, but I see what Maria means. I’m just as crazy as he is and just as much of a fanatic on the subject of books and blogs as he was on apple trees.

Books marked one passage of my creative life, blogs another.

I’m sure there are deep and meaningful reasons why I do this, but this isn’t the time or the place.

But back to Laura.

I’ve gone to a gym not too far from where I live for several months after my recent heart surgery.

I have never found gyms comfortable or right for me until this one. One of the reasons I like this one is Laura, who is kind, cheerful and helpful. She is one of those larger than life personalities, chock full of charisma and ideas.

She comes right over to help if she sees me struggling with equipment or straps. She makes helpful suggestions about what equipment I should use. She is great fun to talk to.

She made me feel welcome and at home at the gym, even though I didn’t feel either at first or ever. She helped me feel easy there. And Laura is awfully smart.

I gave her these three books to read today. As I rode on my bike seriously and conscientiously, I turned my head over to see how it was going.

One seed at a time.

She had her head down and nodded over “Beach Read” by Emily Henry. It lifted my heart, and I looked away so she wouldn’t see me watching her. I could see she was into it.

Keep your fingers crossed. No strings attached.

I was thinking today how she’d be a natural for a blog. She has an awful lot to say and a ton of attitude. We’ll see.











  1. Your blog inspired me to blog SO many years ago. But I was working at something I loved nd supporting several people and I didn’t do it. I have always been an avid reader, but you have suggested several books that are wonderful, yoy do have a gift. A few times over this time you have reached out and strongly encouraged me to blog. The timing is almost right and soon I will make that leap, I have already laid the groundwork and done the research. Thank you for inspiring me, encouraging me and most of all for making sense ofvthe last 4 years, I always do better when I consider things from a grounded abd educated perspective, you gave me that and helped me to never board that horrible train. Thank you for that!!!

    1. Thanks Deb, I look forward to reading your blog. You have a way with words, and have things to say. Good luck with it.

  2. 1. Thanks for your honesty. I have read you since your first few books about your dogs and the year you spent writing in the country/”wilderness”. Then, great reason to buy a farm because you have border collies! Love it! My first dog was a border collie – Australian Collie mixture. Never bought a farm though.
    2. While I have no need to blog, your writing partially inspired me, along with my kids, to start recording my memories of my 76 years experiencing life.I’m up to 1972, married, teaching and pushing past 25 pages!
    3. I’m in need of some new books to read and your recent gift to Laura has given me two titles to reserve from my local library. Thanks.
    4. Stay safe Maria and Jon and continue to be well and love your productivity. It is inspiring.

  3. I too love to read. I am currently reading The color of Water by James McBride and Izzy and Lenore by you!
    Happy Birthday to Maria. Enjoy your start of your year. Thank you for sharing your wonderful world.

  4. I have been reading Maria’s blog for over 7 years now and I would read yours Intermittently or when Maria would mention your blog’s subject for the day. I started to read your blog with frequency
    when you started the army of good and during and after the 2020 political strife (after Heather Cox Richardson!). Since I am already an avid bookworm, I am enjoying your advice on blogs because I have been thinking of starting one but was hesitant because I read several years ago blogs were becoming less attractive due to Facebook and Instagram, which made me sad and upset because I have now decided to start a social justice business. What I really like is how you have incorporated your business functions on the blog which I have seen on other blogs and personal websites. I was planning to run my biz the “old-fashioned” way by sending online newsletters, announcements on my FB page and send customers to my PayPal account to make a purchase! More later and Thanks! I’ll be sure to say Happy Birthday to Maria on FB.

    1. Thanks Lamar, reports of the death of blogs were premature..blogs offer much more individual identity than Facebook mine gets four million hits a year…and my blog also feeds onto Facebook….THere are nearly 40 million blogs in America now, the number is rising rapidly..good luck..

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