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.





Deborah H Rahalski

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