Return to Bedlam Farm Part 3: an Exhausting Afternoon

So fellow travelers, I am about to discover the Cambridge spirit of generosity author Jon Katz often writes about in his blog.


When I pulled the very noisy loaner car into the parking lot I knew what I found would not be good.  As suspected I saw an exhaust pipe hanging loose. I shook off needle pricks of panic by reminding myself these are the moments for which I have my triple A membership.

However when I got through to emergency road service I was told even though the car was driveable it would have to be towed to a service station. I knew that would guarantee a delay of several hours and I was literally ten minutes away from Bedlam Farm. I said I would call back if I wanted a tow truck.

Shooing away angry thoughts of how could this problem have been missed during a recent brake check,  I forced my mind to focus. I knew all I needed for the moment was a way to secure the pipe to keep it from hanging lower and dragging on the road.  As my mind started racing through my options of how to get help I caught sight of a tiny building on a corner across the street with an auto repair shop sign.  Inside the open garage door was a young man working on a truck up on a lift.  I drove my car over to their parking lot and went inside.

“Hi there,” I chirped in a squeaky attempt to sound calm, “I need some help with my car.”

The young mechanic grinned “I know, we heard. Let’s take a look.”

He went out, looked under the car and came back. ” Exhaust came apart at the catalytic converter. ”

“Mmmm, I know my brother-in-law the mechanic would say that’s not good.”

When coping with automotive emergencies away from home I make a point of working in a reference to having a brother-in-law who is a mechanic.  In fact he owns and operates successful two service stations.  I refer people to him all the time.  Honest mechanics are a precious find worth sharing.

Nodding in agreement, the young man went on to explain it would not be difficult to fix, but they didn’t have the parts in stock (“because Ma’am it IS an older Toyota”) so they would have to order parts which would take several days to arrive. I explained I was just visiting the area and I asked if there was anything they could do so I could drive the car until I could get the exhaust fixed.  He thought for a few minutes and asked how far I had to go.  I told him home was about 175 miles west on the NYS Thruway.  He went into the garage, talked with the fellow working on the car out there for a few minutes and stuck his head in the door.

“Boss says we’ll see what we can do.  Just sit tight.”  Relief flooded my eyes. I blinked rapidly hoping it wasn’t obvious.

Less than ten minutes later I was on my way with their confident assurance I could drive across several states and not worry about losing the broken pipe. They said there was no charge, but I set a twenty on the counter even as they protested it was not necessary. I insisted they just go get themselves a pizza or a few beers after work as my thanks for helping me out when I needed it. Did I mention good honest mechanics are priceless?

When I pulled onto the road, instead of heading left into town towards Bedlam Farm, I found myself turning right and driving back to the loft apartment.

“Where are you going? The Farm is that way” I asked the Deborah at the wheel.

“Shut up,” she snapped. “We need time to regroup and figure out our options.”


to be continued

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.






Return to Bedlam Farm Part 2: the Evolution of Experience

So fellow travelers, a new day brings new perspectives.

I woke to the cheery serenade of a song sparrow perched in the grape vines which festooned the windows off the back porch. Relieved I had not been spirited away by demons from the dark gallery basement, I said a few prayers of gratitude at the Buddha altar while my coffee brewed.



As the morning chorus of birds cleared the fog of fear which had descended on me the night before I began to feel the rising tide of joy in my heart as I thought of the reunions and new connections about to unfold.  I had already shared a wonderful dinner and conversation at Marigold Kitchen with my friend and fellow “farmie” Candy and  the blessing of many sweet kisses from her beautiful dog Tess.  These reminders of the profound connections which would be forged and reinforced among our creative circle gathering together this weekend had me smiling as daylight graced the darkest corners of the loft.

The first time I attended a Bedlam Farm Open House, the focal point was the almost surreal experience of “being there.” I have a distinct memory of standing along the fence watching Red herding the sheep as Jon Katz spoke and finding I had tears in my eyes.  Someone, it might even have been me, whispered ” We really are here,” and I turned to see several of my newly met creative group friends also dabbing at their eyes.

There is something magical about seeing stories come to life.  This is why books are made into movies and while the transition is not always successful or accurate (Jon Katz has written about his own experience of the HBO film made when he lived at the original Bedlam Farm) it’s a consistent source of material for the entertainment industry.  When people come to the Bedlam Farm Open House weekends, they are for at least an afternoon not just seeing, but actually living Jon’s stories from his books and his blog.

Beyond this element there are the friendships which come to fruition out of the connections made through the online Creative Group Jon started a few years ago.  “Old friends, who’ve just met,” we say.  I see it happen every single time a “newbie” comes to their first open house. I never tire of the incredulous exclamations of how grand it is to find out fellow members are as warm and encouraging in person as they are on line.  “Farmies” are as authentic as they come.


Christy Dale Wilson meets the Creative Group’s youngest published author*, Miss Abby Meyer  and her mom Faith. Christy and her husband John came all the way from Mississippi for the Open House weekend. 

As our friendships have evolved, the “ministry of encouragement” which Jon intended to support our creative growth has increasingly been extended in support of personal growth as well.  While there are well justified boundaries which keep the Creative Group’s on line pages from spiraling into therapy sessions, personal interactions are not bound by those parameters. When we meet at the open house events certain people naturally gravitate back to each other, drawn by common bonds of personal experience past and present. The threads of conversations started at the Round House Cafe or between herding demos and poetry readings at the farm are picked up again online after we disperse at the end of each weekend. As unique and genuine as the online interaction is, it is not the same as the heartfelt exchange of energy when we can sit close enough to feel each others souls.


me, Jennifer Bowman and Beth Heffern at the Round House Cafe.   Photo courtesy Anne Wilson Sweeny.

As the mystique of visiting Bedlam Farm has blossomed into a more organic experience of personal interactions, I find myself looking forward to the reunions, hugs and anticipated new connections with growing joy. I know whatever my state of heart and mind are I will come away feeling renewed, the sparks of creative ideas fanned into life by fresh inspiration. This year I was coming with a deeper need for renewal and inspiration. In the past two months I have realized my feelings about the impending departure of my college bound youngest daughter were more powerful than I expected. She is not the first child to fledge from the home nest. Independent and fiercely determined to experience life on her own terms, she has done a good job of pushing me to the point of feeling ready to have her leave home. So some of the waves of emotion have caught me off guard.

In the process of working through these emotions I have uncovered a nagging sense of fear I managed to bury quite deeply for years.  As I scurried around the loft preparing with increasing excitement to head over to Bedlam Farm for the afternoon, I had no idea an unexpected turn of events would bring it to the surface.  I danced around the kitchen as I prepped the dish I was making for the potluck barbecue at the beautiful hill top home of Jeff Anderson, our group’s photo guru (some of Jeff’s equine photo art is displayed in the Round House Cafe shot shown above.)  I washed dishes, popped the salad in the fridge to chill, tucked my cell phone into my camera bag and set off to convene with fellow farmies at Bedlam.


The road between Greenwich and Cambridge is a winding, hilly journey with breaktaking views at every crest, but not many spots to pull over and get a photo.  The car seemed to strain a bit going up the hills and the engine sounded loud to me, but as I was driving a borrowed vehicle I did not think much about it.  I was focused more on the spectacular views of the Green Mountains which run just over the New York Vermont border a few miles away.  At least the view commanded most of my attention until the last hill before coming into town when the engine sound grew distinctly louder even when cruising downhill.  As I coasted into town, I heard a signature rattling noise under the car.  I pulled into the closest parking lot, shut off the engine and looked under the car.

A pervasive sense of panic began to creep up my spine as I realized my plans for the afternoon, perhaps even the weekend, would have to be changed.

to be continued

* here is a link to  Miss Abby Mayer’s book. Do read her work, it’s quite good.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.





Return to Bedlam Farm : Living in a Gallery

So fellow travelers, I was on the road again last weekend for the Bedlam Farm Art Show and Open House.

Several of us are stayed at a very unique apartment in Greenwich ( that’s Green-like-the-color-Wich  not Gren-as-in-Connecticut-Wich see sign below for verification. )


That’s ok. I took me a few seconds to laugh too


The “Loft Apartment on Main Street”, as it is dubbed on Air B&B, is spacious and truly unique.


We were  surrounded by books




sacred icons


and some eclectic items


Indeed yes, this is a large vertabrae.  I realized when editing I needed something in the shot for scale.  For reference my hand would fit inside the center circle.

From a photographers perspective the space is challenging because it is so cavernous and diversely, even dimly, lit. Good practice for working with camera settings.


SOC image of the first try on manual settings.

And I will be honest, being there alone the first night was more than a tad eerie. The mind does crazy things once it gets spooked. I passed on the scenic art views and easy access to the kitchen from the central suite and opted to bunk in the rear bedroom which had the door to the back deck.  You know in case one of these fellows started talking and I needed a quick exit point.


The bed in the back room also featured a set of two beautifully embroidered pillows


Great Blue Herons are one of my spirit guides and guardians. Spotting one is always an affirmation I am on the right path, so finding these gave me a feeling of peace. I set out on this trip acutely aware I was carrying more than the bags I had loaded in the borrowed car I was driving. Processing change leaves me feeling vulnerable and I was grateful to know who stood watch at the foot of the stairs as I slept that night.

kwanyin edit

to be continued

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Puppet on a String

So fellow travelers,  sometimes the answer we seek is simply hiding in the shadows.




In the quest for light

Shadows reveal hidden truths

Fear’s puppet no more


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Poem: Summer Solstice

In honor of the summer solstice, a moment most welcome after the harsh trials of this past winter. Tom’s beautiful words are perfect

Quarry House


Summer Solstice

It is a new season,
a time when the newness of spring morphs
into something richer, something greener,
when the longest days begin again
to grow shorter, and there is less light,
more night. The air is heavy
with the promise of storms.

On a good day, they arrive slowly,
creeping towards you, dark and foreboding,
a presence more than a thing,
with bass thunder echoing in them,
angry light cracking just out of sight
as you stand on the grey slate summit
pondering how long you can wait
before fleeing to the safety of your home
down, down, down below the quarry.

For that is the problem,
as you have aged, you have become less afraid
of storms, less afraid of the angry weather
of God and men, more aware that though you are tender,
you are not, and likely never were
fragile. .

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Getting Ready

So fellow travelers,  I don’t know what it is about my family, special events and severe weather.


The day before my daughter’s graduation party the weather reports turned serious. High winds, severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch. Tornadoes? Really?  We live in Central New York not the Central Plains.

No matter.  I have been down this trail before, for our oldest daughter’s wedding. Just as I did then, I kicked full gear into “everything is going to be just fine” mode.  The worst of the weather was predicted to blow through the night before. Rain would lessen through the morning, with clear skies even sunshine by the afternoon when the guests would begin arriving for the grad party.

My main concern was the tent. which my husband and my brother-in-law had set up in the back yard.  Granted this was a heavy duty tent, with large, sturdy poles, staked down with impressive thick “guy” ropes.

I am convinced the ropes earned that name because they are the kind of thing guys like to tweak and check often and then point to with the utmost confidence saying things like “This sucker’s not going anywhere anytime soon.” Just the kind of let’s tempt fate statement which requires me to commence ritual chanting of prayers of appeasement to Mother Nature and her whimsical Spirits.

Let the guys tweak those ropes, not to be sexist here, but as party coordinator I had plenty of other details to tweak myself. Hence my second concern: having adequate rain free time to get essential things done. There were signs to hang



balloons to put up



lights and lanterns to string,



candles ( both citronella and festive ) to prepare


All this in addition to setting up the second tent for the food, which being a smaller screen tent had to wait until the morning of the party when the storms had passed, graciously leaving the main tent damp but otherwise untouched. In fact the added greenery of leaves scattered on the roof looked rather festive. By mid morning the sun was shining and so were my spirits.



My daughter had graciously chosen to share her event with a friend whose circumstances would have made hosting a party difficult. There were some logistics which ended up being a little awkward; the other girl didn’t show up until nearly half an hour after the party’s start time, leaving me and my daughter to handle all the final preparations. But as my husband reminded me in the end it didn’t matter since we would have done all this for our daughter anyways. Her friend’s sister made two beautiful watermelon fruit baskets and a delicious mac and cheese which was a huge hit with the girls’ friends, who came and went throughout the afternoon.  The kids sat around the tables laughing, played badminton and volleyball at the far end of our big yard and were appropriately impressed with the power of my husband’s monster stereo system, which allowed our whole neighborhood to enjoy the girls’ selected playlist. Lucky for them we timed the festivity to end well before dusk, to avoid guests needing blood transfusions to survive the onslaught of mosquitoes.

I was busy greeting guests as they arrived, keeping the food table supplied (my buffalo wing dip was in constant restock mode) and making sure my husband as grill master was a round ahead on burgers, so I shot very few photos once the party got rolling. I did have a chance to snap some shots when we served the cake.

IMG_3082edit  IMG_3089edit

The next morning I woke before dawn. I sensed I would be not falling back asleep even though I had gone to bed completely exhausted the night before. I got up and headed downstairs. As the coffeemaker steamed life sustaining brew into my mug, I lathered on herbal mosquito lotion and gave my perplexed dog a very early breakfast.  While she sniffed the critter trails around the dog yard, I sat by the pond listening to the morning chorus of birds.

I watched as first light began to lighten the sky. It occurred to me I might want my camera, a thought as fleeting as the moths fluttering against the lights still shining in the party tent. I was transfixed by the subtle dance of light as daylight gradually dimmed the brilliance of the tent. Waves of emotion began to wash over me. Tears tumbled down my face. I closed my eyes, listening to the pond’s waterfall. I was filled with simultaneous joy and heartache. One thought kept echoing in my awareness ” I am not ready for this.”

I thought I was.  From the age of about ten or eleven my daughter has done a most excellent job of pushing for her independence.  As a woman I know the strong willed, fierce determination with which she pursues every goal is the fuel which will carry her forward.  As her Mom those same strengths often push my patience beyond some elusive limit I expect myself to have. There have been many, many days since she turned eighteen last March when I have said “I am so ready for her to move out.”  Yet there I sat in tears, the dissonant chords of ” I’m so not ready for this” stretching my heartstrings.  I let the feelings come; I have been here before too, when my other daughter and son-in-law left for the west coast.

No, I am not ready, not yet.

But when the time comes in August to see her set out on her own journey, I know I will be. I will be ready, even with the heartache of letting go because love will guide me there.


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.