Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Are you distracted?

I've been talking to a lot of people about the current climate and news cycle being such a distraction to the creative spirit. I am never in a creative flow in August, but I do start getting percolations and the itch to be in my studio once I feel autumn coming. There is so much to do on the farm in summer that my writing and art take a bit of a backseat.

But the current world situation and the constant chaos in our country right now really has a lot of people feeling agitated and ungrounded. We are charged up in many ways but I for one am now going to make an attempt to tweak how I go about the day. I've fallen into the habit of checking news online a million times a day like an addiction. This is not necessary, and certainly isn't really helping me in any way. This happened after 9/11 too and I remember people were being encouraged to step away from the TV. There was no Facebook [oh how glorious!] but still we became addicted to checking the TV to see if anything else had happened.

I am lucky I have so many chores. It grounds me to go the barn and work with the animals twice a day, muck stalls, carry buckets, look at trees and faces. Today I noticed the shifting sounds of the seasons-fall is upon us and I love fall more than any other season. The leaves sound different when the wind blows this time of summer and the insects are rabid right now-to get as much biting and blood in so they can lay eggs before dying.

The animals are not impressed with news nor do they need it. They have no idea the turmoil we are in right now. They don't fear global war or white supremacists or leaders lacking in morals or empathy. But I do. Can my art change any of it? I don't think so. I think all it can do is calm me, and maybe others. If I'm calm at least half the day, I can project the best parts of me to the world-which means standing up for the downtrodden, or speaking up when I see something that is racist or unfair. Not checking news all the time doesn't mean I will shut up. We can not be silent.

I've been doing more morning walks with Muddy. He knows when I put on my Muck boots I'm going to the barn but when I put on my walking shoes he gets to walk down to the sea's internal cove with me. He just is so happy when I put on the walking shoes and looks so disappointed when I put on the Mucks.

In this small way-walking with my dog, being engulfed in the Queen Anne's Lace, feeling the dampness of the fog-I am reminded of one thing-I'm of Nature, and Nature is not evil. It might throw a storm our way and take down a tree or flood our villages with mud and rock-it can kill us without motive or ego. But as part of Nature, I'm reminded on my walks that I breathe from the ground up, the air comes from a spiritual space and allows me to live. I do not breathe from the heart of ugly, misinformed people and I will not let their hate or bigotry drown out my creative spirit.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

14 years ago..."I do..."

It seems like a lifetime ago, but also very close to now-that gathering 14 years ago today, amongst so many family members now gone...it was a beautiful day amongst our gardens, in our side by side houses where we met one year earlier, me having just moved to Portland, Oregon. I met Martyn the first day I was in my house, he came a calling to meet me because he had heard we had the same last name. I never told anyone, I didn't even put that in the memoir, that I knew I'd marry him when I shook his hand, but I did. We became friends and then a couple within months-much to the irritation of a few people I'd met there who said, "You can't date the first guy you meet!" Um, yea, I can, sod off. We married on year after meeting, age 44. Anyway, the cake was lemon poppy seed, we had salmon thanks to my mother who insisted I could not have a hot dog machine, which was my choice. We walked into the little patio outside to canned music-Doc Watson "You Are My Special Angel". I wore sparkly $20 flip flops and Martyn had that sweet, crooked bow tie. He still fits in his wedding pants...I've grown a bit, but it's nice to look back and see that younger version of me, pre-Apifera looking so shiny.

It's been a great ride and I hope for many more years of health so I can be with my best friend. I don't take it for granted.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Animal Conversations: The llama speaks, doesn't she?

Birdie popped her head into the barn the other morning, while I was finishing some cleanup of hay spread by sloppy chewers, and then she departed as quickly as she had appeared. I took this to mean she was just letting me know she was getting out to the field again. the flock comes and goes from the larger field this time of year, they get to eat there in the day and the equines eat there at night. This time of year rotating fields is even more important with the grass beginning to fade.

I didn't think much of it. I had to water the vegetable garden so followed her outside and there she was, standing with the small flock, calmly. White Dog was already out doing his daily periphery check of the fence, his morning obsession and of course his job.

I stood and watched.

You know I have a vivid imagination–we aren't a Disney movie but I have many moments in my life including when I didn't live on a farm, where the scene in front of me comes with a soundtrack, or maybe another way to look at it is I am always seeing scenes as story with sub titles. Every minute of the day can be a story. I get great amusement out of my minute by minute stories here on the farm, or comfort, and sometimes even clarity about internal struggles. The animals I guess are conduits of perspective just like a good Shakespeare play.

The sheep had gathered at the newly opened gate, saw Benedetto had run down to the bottom of the fence line to make sure there weren't any prehistoric elephants or bears and they began to gather themselves into a tidy line, just like I used to do as I entered a subway car in Manhattan decades ago, preparing myself to get in line to get the seat to get to the office.

But it wasn't until they were in a tidy line that Birdie turned her head to them, ever so slightly but deliberately and if there had been a sub title in a Disney movie, she would have said,

"Slowly, one at a time, go on now."

And as I turned to go back tot he house I heard the faintest voice of the smallest sheep voices call out to Birdie,

"Llama! Look, I'm fourth in the line today instead of last!"

"Good work, Sylvia, good work," the llama said.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trying times for all

The sun rises and sets, still...
These are very trying times both politically and emotionally for most Americans. The underbelly has always been here, waiting to rise up without white cloaks or masks this time, and they have found the perfect moment in history to do so. I have been depressed about it all, and angry, all of it, the killing, and the racial injustices that are still going on, the threat of war by someone not capable of leading, the lack of dignity bashing us in the face everyday like the country has become one non ending blaring AM radio station.

There have been some spot on opinion pieces of late. I just hope people read them. I'm afraid we are all reading what we want to read to justify our own opinions. I wonder how the ignorance is being educated out of some people that don't know they are ignorant, and that would include this administration and his followers. Anyone who stands with this President needs to look in the mirror. Anyone who is white in this country needs to look in the mirror too, all of us.

Perhaps one of the best things I've read in the past day was this piece, and I urge everyone to take time to read it. Take some breaths. Some people will feel agitated and uncomfortable with what is said. But my hope is that in this turmoil we are in, still in and bound to be in for many months and years to follow, my hope is the underbelly of America be exposed for what they are.

But each day, for now, the sun still rises and sets. I focus on that, the nature all around me. The animals and my work give me hope when I allow it too, when I remind myself not to wallow in muck created by hateful people. But that muck abounds, and we need to stand up against it and hold our leaders accountable for their words and actions, and lack of words and actions.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Opie the Love Ambassador

Opie was in true loving form on our visit this week to our elder friends. The day was warm with a breeze and we sat outside under the tent. I have to say, Opie is presenting himself as a very intuitive therapy goat-which was what I was hoping for when I found him. He is very calm with the elders, and even almost fell asleep again with one of them. I truly believe he senses they are not as strong as other people he knows. He sits calmly in their lap and doesn't fidget. An elder's skin can be tender so I'm careful about that, not wanting his hooves to break skin, but so far he understands his mission is to commune.

I am really having a good time getting to know these people. I told them all I wanted to learn all their names better, so Thursday I practiced and now have their faces in my mind when I repeat the names: Joe, Richard, Sylvia, Evelyn, Ruth, Jean, Mary and Mary.

We also talked about getting everyone a photo of Opie for their rooms, they liked that. The people at this residence are of varying degrees of physical limitations and backgrounds. I found out that Jean is the resident dancer, even though she walks hunched over with a walker. I am going to explore that more next visit. Joe always has questions about the farm and other things-but they show a man still very engaged in the living world. Evelyn calls Opie "Darlin'" and says he's so cunnin'. Both Marys are quiet but there is a life under there, a history. Richard seems to like cards better than Opie but that is okay. Ruth is funny under a quiet front and Slyvia just is so proud when Opie sits on her lap. We all remembered last visit how Opie seemed to go right to her and he sat with her and fell asleep. Eventually, he made his way to her again this visit, and she just looked so pleased.

I do not like to talk down to elders, or talk to them like they are children, or only talk about happy thoughts; nor do I talk to children like they are invalids or babies. I'm taking my time exploring the people at the residence, but this last visit I felt we were starting to really get to know each other. I also think they realize I am committed to coming to see them regularly and that means something. The days get long for an elder, even one with a good life and caretakers.

I really loved the photos where you can see their beautiful hands. I like to visit when I'm there, and don't want to sit there snapping photos. But I had to take some, and am working on getting each of them a photo.

We also talked about making sweaters for Opie-he actually doesn't need one to stay warm, but I thought it would be fun to get him a traveling wardrobe-he is just as worthy of one as the Von Trap children, don't you think? I'm thinking an autumn sweater, and then a holiday one. I'm not one to dress up animals, but Opie is about the town now and will enjoy it I think. I know my pug does.

Apifera Farm is a non profit in the state of Maine and a pending 501c. Our mission is to not only help special needs/elder creatures but to share them with our elder and needy people that need recognition and love. You can help support our efforts here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Cat Heaven

"Cat Heaven"

He found her again, looking just as he knew her to look, and now they were reunited, forever, in their own cat heaven just a leap from his old home.

{This piece is available at the shop, and I do have a payment plan}