31 January 2015

Friendship: The Gulleys

By: Jon Katz
The Gulleys

The Gulleys

There were all kinds of good friends i was very happy to see during the first two performances of my friends. The Gulleys were special. Carol and Ed Gulley run the Bejosh Farm in White Creek, N.Y., I met Carol in my cardiac rehab class, we became good friends. We had Christmas dinner at their farm (on New Year's) and they are a cherished part of our lives.

Carol and I text each other all day like teenagers, she is a sweet and good person, Ed is a fierce individualist, a hard working dairy farmer, loving father and husband and gifted folk artist. I was moved when Ed told me "you nailed it," after he saw the play. Can't get a better compliment than that. We are bringing pizza over to Bejosh for dinner next week. These two work so hard, getting up in the dark, going to sleep int he dark.

The Gulleys are coming to see the play again on Sunday afternoon, they are bringing some of their family with them, I am honored by that. If you look over Carol's shoulder, you'll also see Tyler Lindenholl's head, Tyler is our farm manager pretty much, he started helping out after my surgery and we can't really imagine life without him. He came with his brother Matthew and father Justin. It was a gift to see them there.

Three more staged readings of "Last Day Of Maple View Farm,"  2 p.m. and 8 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday. I am thankful for Carol, she was the first reader on my play and helped me with farm terms and technology. She is a sweet and generous soul.

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A Picture I Never Thought I’d Take

By: Jon Katz
The Picture I Never Thought I'd Take

The Picture I Never Thought I'd Take

There are some photos I never thought I would ever take, and this is one of them.  For most of my time with her, Frieda was a hunter and a cat chaser, even killer. Whenever she could, she would hunt the cats, she nearly killed Mother, our other barn cat and chased Minnie up a pole a dozen times.

Frieda lived in the Adirondacks for years, and even whens he was with us, she hunted rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, moles, skunks – and killed many of them. Minnie has decided to be friends with her, and Flo took one look at her and swatted her in the nose. Since then, they have been circling one another, Frieda has avoided the cats, they often avoid her.

And Minnie and Flo are both barn cats, hardy, resilient, wary. Even six months ago, I would have bet this would never happen.

This morning – it is frigid here – we came into the living room and saw the three of them all huddled up together. In my years with Frieda, I have never imagined her lying down on a dog bed with a cat. A photo I never thought I would ever take, but was happy to be able to.

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30 January 2015

The Look In Red’s Eyes

By: Jon Katz
The Look In Red's Eyes

The Look In Red's Eyes

The temperature dropped to well below zero this afternoon, Red took up his position across from the Pole Barn, keeping the sheep in place. Someone on Facebook said that Red looked cold, but that, of course, is a projection. Red does not notice the cold or the heat, he will sit outside forever if not commanded to do otherwise. He gives the sheep his best eye and holds them in place as the snow piles up on his head and the wind shrikes.

Red loves every second that he is working, it is the point of his life.

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Therapy Dog: Visiting Irene

By: Jon Katz
Visiting Irene

Visiting Irene

I had to go to Bennington this morning to see a doctor, Red and I stopped at Cardiac Rehab to see Irene, a friend we met there.  Irene is an animal lover, she struggles with several chronic diseases, she has cats but says she would love a dog like Red. She keeps asking me if she might buy a puppy from Red, and I tell her he is neutered, but she forgets and always asks the next time we see her.

Red spots her and goes right to her, she puts her walker to the side and leans down to hug him and talk to him. "I didn't give him a piece of cake," she said, "I know you don't like that. If you weren't looking, I would have," she said, "a dog deserves a piece of cake."

I explain to Irene every time we see her that it isn't good to give food to therapy dogs, it distracts them from the work and teaches them that food is the reward, not the attention of people. Still, Irene is Irene, headstrong and determined. Red's visits mean something to her, she tells me stories the dogs and cats she has owned. She and Red are good pals.

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Gratitude: “Last Day At Maple View Farm”

By: Jon Katz
Grateful

Grateful

I am filled with gratitude tonight. For David Snider, who agreed to let me write a play for the Hubbard Hall Winter Festival. I am especially grateful to the seven members of the cast, who performed my play, "Last Day At Maple View Farm." I appreciate Maria, as always, who encouraged me and listened to my first drafts. And to Carol and Ed Gulley of Bejosh Farm, who read the script and guided me in my language and terminology. They have become valued friends.

I was very happy to see friends and neighbors in the audience, including Tyler and his brother Matthew and father Justin. It was so good to see them there. The play is taking shape, the dialogue is leaner and more efficient, the actors are comfortably with the story, adding their own stamps, ticks and mannerisms to the characters. David did a great job, trimming the script, tossing out repetitions and strengthening some of the scenes.

I think I want to expand and complete it.

This weekend, three more performances, two on Saturday (2 and 8 p.m.) and one on Sunday (2 p.m.) There will be other plays and works performed as well on those days, looks like the festival is a hit, new people are coming to Hubbard Hall, people who have not been there before.

I think people liked the play, Ed Gulley said that I "nailed it," great praise coming from a farmer. Tomorrow, there will be talk-back discussions with the audience about the play. Writing a play is so different than writing a book, it is a collaborative experience involving many people – a director, stage manager, lighting specialists, actors. Everyone puts their print on the work in one way or another, and I like this process, the play keeps getting stronger and more focused. I'm eager for this weekend, I have been thrilled to see the play begin to take shape and come of age right before me.

And we had a good crowd tonight, the snow let up early this evening, tomorrow a clear, sunny and frigid day but that does not usually slow people down up here. My bronchitis seems to be easing, still some coughing, but i am getting stronger. I am grateful for new experiences, for creative challenges, for things that stretch me and make me think.

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