Just Two People

Fanny and Lulu

I drove in the tracks of the Real Estate agent’s car who we were following.  The dirt road wasn’t plowed and it had been snowing all morning. This was the last house we’d be looking at for the day.  If it were any other season the winding dirt road would have seemed charming, but now it was just treacherous, especially since my friend who was looking to move to the country didn’t have four-wheel drive.

I had helped two other friends look at houses in our town that year.  It seemed everyone was moving.  It seemed perfectly normal that I’d be helping this friend too. And eventually, she did find the right house and moved in.

But our friendship deteriorated.  And after it ended I would wonder if it were ever real.

This past week that day kept coming back to me.   When I think about driving up that snow-covered road together, I remember something real between us. I believe that we really were friends.

On Sunday, Jon and I saw this friend again for the first time in months.   We found out that she was sick and helped get her to the hospital.  Jon has been writing about it, but I haven’t been able to.  I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know how.

But it has taken up so much space inside of me for the past few days, I’ve come to the point where I can’t write about anything else, without writing about it first.

Months ago, when I realized that my relationship with this friend wasn’t healthy for either of us I closed myself off to it.

I’ve done this with people before and when this happens, I feel a steeliness inside of me.  Even just thinking about them, my eyes get hard and unyielding, the space just below my ribs tighten.  My mind can say what it wants, but my body says “no more”.  It’s as if a steel door or wall separates me from them.

On Sunday, when I saw this friend in great need, that wall came down.  And in the moment, when I was trying to help her, the hurt and anger I had felt toward her were gone, we were just two people.

And I’m so glad that Jon and I were able to help.   That our friend would be in a  place where she would be safe and taken care of.

But I can’t live in that space.

In the days after I felt the effects of being opened up again to those old feelings that I shut myself off to.  And after seeing my friend in the hospital all the reasons why we couldn’t be friends came back to me.

I decided I  would not see her again. I felt I had done all I could do for her and once again I felt the hardness inside of me,  I felt that protective door slammed shut.

Until last night when I got home from Bellydancing and Jon told me that this friend has inoperable cancer.  This doesn’t change the reality that our friendship isn’t healthy, but I did feel that protective wall to melt a little.

In the next day or so I’ll visit my friend in hospice.

I’m not looking miracles or a Hollywood ending. I just want to acknowledge that feeling I have when I think of the day we drove around in the snow looking at houses.  The feeling that at one time there was something real between us.   And, to be helpful to another human being, if I can.




Suzy’s Shawls For Sale. Just In Time For Valentines Day

Winter Sunshine is  65″x 20.5″ and is $150 + $8 shipping.  You can buy it here.  Or email me at [email protected].  I take checks, PayPal, and Venmo.

When Suzy was telling me about the latest shawl she was making, she said it was natural gray and white with a strip of mustard or maybe pink for Valentine’s Day.

She still hadn’t decided.

Gray and pink are lovely together, but in my mind, I could only picture the mustard, like a bit of sunshine on a winter day.  Ultimately, that’s what she chose to do.

With Suzy’s blessing, I named her shawl Winter Sunshine.  It’s 65″x 20.5 ” and is $150 + $8 shipping. You can buy it here in my Etsy Shop.  Or you can email me at [email protected].  I take checks, Paypal and Venmo.

I’ve lost count of how many of Suzy’s Shawls and Scarves we sold this winter.

Usually, she takes a break after Christmas, that slow, going-inward time of year, and starts spinning and knitting again in the spring.  But this year, since her shawls are so popular and so many of us are spending a lot more time at home I asked her if she was interested in making more.

“People will want shawls in February too, “I texted her.  I was thinking of myself sitting by the woodstove reading as the wind and snow howled outside the window.

And then there’s Valentine’s Day.

Just today I got a Valentine from Jon in the mail.  It’s an adopted Madagascar Hissing Cockroach from the Bronx Zoo named Full Moon Fiber.  Jon got me one last year too, but this year I also got a stuffed roach, a candle and a Zoom meeting with my Roach next Sunday at 12 noon.

But not everyone wants a Roach for Valentine’s day.

A handspun, handknit, mohair Shawl lovingly made by Suzy, is a wonderful gift.  It’s soft and warm, a unique and beautiful piece of functional art.

And there are two of Suzy’s shawls Winter Sunshine and Winter Fields to choose from in my Etsy Shop. 

Winter Fields, is the colors of winter before the snow.  The Chartreuse, a bit more optimistic than winter grass.   A little light in the dark days.  It’s 64″ x 19″.  You can buy it here. Or email me at [email protected].  I take checks, PayPal, and Venmo.

Winter Fields is 64″ x 19″.  It’s $150 + $8 shipping. You can buy it here.

And as most of you already know, much of Suzy’s wool comes right from her own mohair goats, Ruth, Alice, Anne, Lucy, and Larry.  Each one is unique in its colors and patterns.  And if they weren’t already soft enough, she washes them in a natural softening solution.

Here’s a couple of more pictures of Winter Sunshine and Winter Fields.

Take a look out of Suzy’s window behind each shawl and see how Suzy’s color choices are influenced by the natural world around her. 

Winter Fields

Winter Sunshine


Two More Shawls From Suzy Sold

Suzy’s Turquoise and Black Shawl is 51″ long and 15″ from top center to bottom point.  It’s Sold. $138 including shipping and you can buy it in my Etsy Shop. 

Our plan was to try and sell a couple of Suzy’s shawls on my blog and she’d take the rest of them to an Art Fair near her.   But the shawls I posted on my blog sold so quickly and then she sold another that I didn’t even get a chance to post.

Suzy has two more shawls that she just finished so we decided, since so many people want them, that it made sense to sell the last two shawls in my Etsy Shop.

Suzy’s Turquoise and Black Shawl as she was working on it.  You can really see all the colors in this photo and the lovely turquoise locks that she spins into her wool.

The wool Suzy hand spins and hand knits with comes mostly from her own mohair goats, Lucy, Alice, April, Ruth and Larry, and then she suppliments it with wool from other fiber artists.

Suzy’s Turquoise and Black Shawl is 51″ long and 15″ from top center to bottom point.  It’s Sold $138 including shipping and you can buy it here. 

The back of Suzy’s Turquoise and Black Shawl.
Suzy spinning her wool

Susan, who bought two of Suzy’s shawls, wrote this about them…

“Simply gorgeous. I have two from prior Open Houses. They are truly scrumptious. I loved seeing Suzy spinning and those sweet goats. That natural color wool shawl is so intriguing with the curly locks and the vivid colors of the other is just beautifully complex and equally wonderful.”

All of Suzy’s shawls are as soft as they look.  The other one for sale is her Red and Gray Shawl. 

Suzy’s Red and Gray Shawl.

Suzy’s Red and Gray Shawl is 53″ long and 18″ from top center to bottom point.  It’s Sold $138 including shipping.  You can buy it here. 

The back of Suzy’s Red and Gray Shawl.
Suzy’s goats April, Alice and Ruth
Lucy and Larry (below)


Living In Two Worlds

Pamela riding Piper
Pamela Rickenbach with Piper  (photo by Jon Katz)

There was a lull in the crowds coming into my art gallery during the Open House.  Carol Law Conklin was at the farm most of the day, she was there when Pamela walked into my Gallery to look at the work.  I introduced her to Pam and immediately saw something happen between them.  It was the horse connection which both women intuitively have.  Carol told Pamela how when she had to give away her horses she felt like now she was alone and had to walk on her own two feet instead of the four feet of her horse that felt most natural to her.

Then Pamela told Carol some horse stories from the Native American Blue Horse to the Ancient Greek Pegasus.   Carol listened, soaking them up, I know I’ll see those stories  appear somehow  in Carol’s Batiks.  I could feel the connection between these two women who had just met for the first time.   A knowing energy pass between them.  An understanding that went beyond words.   Neither of them doubts the importance of horses in our lives.  Carol expresses it in images, Pamela in stories and the way she lives her life.

I’ve seen this type of thing happen with Pamela before.  And I’ve experienced it myself.   When Pamela starts to talk to me about the horses, their hearts and the way they think, when she tells the stories of us and them, I feel myself shift.  It’s similar to what happens to me when I’m making my art.  It’s as if this world that I live in, my day to day existence starts to slip away.  And soon I’m inhabiting a different space.  I slip into another world.  And the stories become more real than the chair I’m sitting on.

I think there are some people who are not of our world.  People like the saints and the mystics.  When I think of Pamela my mind goes to Johnny Appleseed (who was a real person, a lover of the earth and animals who traveled around planting trees and had the first horse rescue farm in what is now Ohio) and St. Francis of Assisi.  Both of them lived a wild sort of life, not fitting into society in any traditional way, if at all.   But with meaningful messages about our connection to the earth and nature that have lasted through time.

The more I get to know Pamela, them more I feel she’s not of our world.  She doesn’t have the same sense of time, money or ownership that most of us have.  Her passion and calling is to protect the horses, to remind us of the important part they play in our lives.   She does this by bringing the horses to us one at a time, and by telling their stories.

I understand Pamela, because I’m a visitor to that other world.  I’m drawn to it.  It feels like a safe place I forgot existed but am very familiar with once I’m there again.     I go there, but I always  have one foot grounded in this world.   The other world,  is boundless and mysterious,  more of the air than the earth.  And when I think of it, my heart swells and I can’t help but cry.  It’s a place where time melts  and there’s hope for what in this world seems impossible.

But I have this practical side to me.  I think it’s always scared me, the idea of staying in that other world.  As much as I’ve felt that I don’t fit in here, I keep trying.  And I’m finding in some ways I do fit in.  But I’ll always go back and forth, because that other world calls to me.  And I think living here on Bedlam Farm with Jon and the animals and being able to do my work, I’ve figured that out for now.     How to be a part of both worlds in a way that works for me.  Surrounded by people who understand.   But I imagine that will change and evolve too.  As nothing in life is fixed.  I think there’s a place for all of us, no matter which worlds we inhabit.  It’s just a matter of trying finding it.  And to never stop searching.



“Standing People” Some Tree Potholders Sold Out

You Are Beautiful
I Am  Beautiful Sold

I wasn’t planning on making this tree look like a very confident woman, but that’s just what I saw when I finished it.  Can you see it in her posture? She’s saying,  Here I am and I am beautiful.

Janet wrote to me and said some Native American tribes called trees Standing People.  That’s just how I see trees.  And I think it shows in my Tree Potholders.

Yesterday, Kim finished assembling my Tree Potholders and I have a few for sale.  Sold Out. They are stitched on tea-stained Vintage Hankies and are $23 each + $5 shipping for 1-2 and $7 shipping for 3 or more.( shipping is a bit more outside the US)   If you recognize one of these Standing People and would like to have them in your home, just email me here at [email protected].

Here’s the rest of my Tree Potholders….

Lovers SOLD

You know how sometimes two trees will grow so close to each other they start to grow into each other.  When I see this in the woods, I always think of them as lovers.

Wise Old Tree
Wise Old Tree Sold

In the book, Ancient Trees by Beth Moon, she has may photos of big old oaks with giant trunks and tiny leaves. They’re a bit misshapen by  their life experiences and many of them are hollow.  All the living is in the bark and a thick layer of trunk beneath it.  But, often, the center of the tree creates a cavern big enough for people to walk into.  Looking at them, I know they have something to teach us.

Twin Tree
Giving Trees Sold

Trees are so alive in so many ways.  From what happens inside of them that we don’t see, to the evidence of life in the leaves and growth that happens every year.  But there’s also all the creatures who live in them and the food and oxygen they give to us.

Dancing Trees
Dancing Trees SOLD

Those trees that grow so close to each other sometimes, but are not yet connected, often make a kind of music when the wind blows.  When they rub up against each other, I always stop to listen, to see which trees are singing.  And if they’re singing, they’re dancing too, every time the wind blows.


“…two lovely thoughtful women…”

I got some great potholder stories from the potholder contest.  So I thought I share some of them.  This is from Karen Kosky Coker one of the winners:

“Many moons ago(in the early 80’s) I was delivering mail in Staten Island NY.  Some people just took for granted that mail would appear in the box hanging by their front doors.  Others had a keen appreciation for the folks who make that happen.  Two elderly sisters on my route each quilted a potholder for me.  What a wonderful and personal gift.  (And they worked,  nothing worse that burning one’s hand on  a poorly crafted potholder)  Every time I use these potholders (yes, I have them after all these years) I think of these two lovely and thoughtful women.”

(The night sky potholder was a pretty popular.   Since I have more of the fabric I’ve decided to make more.  The one above is in it’s early potholder stage.)

Religion, Superstition and the Number 13

Mayflower bud

We went to a contemporary Catholic church.  It had traditional stained glass windows, with scenes from the bible, but was bright with natural sunlight and pale green walls.  The Folk Mass was my mother’s favorite, she liked the music.  They played acoustic guitars and sang If I Had A Hammer and Blowin’ In The Wind.

My father never went to church, and my only mother went reluctantly.  Once we were old enough to go by ourselves she stopped taking us.

When she did take us to church, my mother would give us each a quarter to put in the basket.  Men in suits would walk up the aisle on either side of the pews with a basket on a long handle.  They’d pass the basket in front of us and we’d toss the money in before they pulled the basket back and moved on to the next pew.

When I learned that the money went to the church and not poor people I was shocked.

Then, one day I saw a very old woman, whose face was folded with wrinkles.  She was stooped and held onto the arm of a younger woman when she walked. I saw her put money into a metal box on the wall, with the words For The Poor on it.

After that, I put my change in that box instead of the basket.

I was searching back then. Looking for something to believe in, for a way to do good, and I wasn’t finding it in the church.

So when my grandmother gave me a chain with the Virgin Mary and a pendant with the number 13 on it, I wore them religiously, never taking them off.  She told me the “13” was good luck and I didn’t think more about it.

I know now that was more superstition than religion.

I hadn’t thought of that medal in years until someone sent me a message on Facebook about how the number 13 was a holy number in the ancient goddess culture.  I don’t remember the specifics, but it got my attention.

In many ancient cultures, a full year had thirteen moons.  These moons correlated with women’s 28-day menstrual cycles and their fertility.

I’ve read that in Italy, where my grandmother was from,  the number 13 is still seen as a lucky number.  And even though there are more recent connections to the Virgin Mary and the Last Supper, I have no doubt that the meaning found in the number 13 goes back to the days when women (not male gods) were still seen as creators of life.

I have a feeling, from what I remember about my grandmother, that she was more superstitious than religious.  I never talked to her about it but looking back it seems to me that what she did was mostly about Goddess worship ( the Virgin Mary being the Goddess), and about bringing good fortune.

I stopped going to church soon after my mother stopped bringing us.  It just didn’t give me what I was looking for.  And when I was a teenager, I took off the gold medals my grandmother had given me and put them in a box in my dresser drawer.

I don’t know what happened to them but now I like that I had that connection to the number 13 early in my life.  I still gravitate toward the number, it’s always felt witchy, in a good way, to me.

My grandmother was a difficult person and I did not like spending time with her, but she’s been dead for many years.  The distance makes it easier for me to find a gift in the relationship.  The first was when I made my Mother Mary fabric painting.   The conch shells in the image I created came from the Madonna my grandmother had in her garden.  She was surrounded by conch shells.

Now I have another in the number 13.

But this connection is with women in general and spans thousands of years instead of just two people’s lifetimes.   It also speaks to all the work I’ve created around Goddesses in the past years. To my “Flying Vulva” and the power that women continue to fight to reclaim.

Making the Holidays Mine

finding her own way 2

This Thanksgiving, is the first Thanksgiving that I’m actually freely choosing how I want to spend the holiday and doing it.  It’s been a long road to get here, 49 years.  For most of my life I didn’t think about it much, or at all.  I just did what I had always done, never considering what I really wanted to do.  The past couple of years, I broke away from my tradition of having Thanksgiving with the family I grew up in and had it with friends instead.  And this was nice, and I would do it again.  But it was in keeping with the same tradition I grew up with.

This year, when Jon and I talked about how we wanted to spend Thanksgiving, it was different.  I didn’t feel bound to any tradition.  I didn’t feel guilty (well, maybe just for fleeting moments) about not spending it with the family I grew up in.  I just thought about how I, without the baggage of past years and other people’s ideas about the Thanksgiving, would  really like to spend the day.

My first thought was to stay home and just take the day off, be with Jon and have a nice dinner, not necessarily turkey.  But that was just an antidote to the holiday, not something I really wanted to do.  My next thought was to go to our favorite Inn in Vermont.  But I didn’t even get a chance to say it out loud when Jon suggested the same thing.  And when I heard the words, I knew there was nothing else I’d rather do.

A big part of Thanksgiving is family.  It’s the most traveled day of the year in the United States, people driving and flying miles to be with family.  But for me when I think of the holidays and family, I feel a loneliness that I’ve known my whole life.  A loneliness that I thought was normal, until I met Jon.

Even though I was married to my first husband when I was 22, since I never had children, I never saw myself as having a family other than the one I grew up in and the one I married into to.  I never considered the idea that just two people, like a wife and her husband could be a family. So when people said things like, “my family comes first”  or “spending time with family”,  I always thought it was about other people, not me and my husband.

But I’m just realizing, for the first time, that Jon is my family.   And I want us to have our own traditions, the traditions we choose.   So I’m spending this Thanksgiving with my family.  We’re doing something new, something neither of us has done before and something we both choose to do.   Something that makes me smile when I think about it, something that makes me feel grateful that I’m able to do it.  Something me and my family love to do.

Swallowing the Universe

I keep my Heart Open and my center Strong

Yesterday I emailed Lisa to let her know her pillow was done.  Today she wrote me a long email explaining why it was so right for her at just this time.  She saw things in the pillow I hadn’t thought of.  It was a connection straight from me to her.  I cried.

And I realized that this is what it’s really all about.  Making that connection with someone.  I think so much of life is about belonging, about knowing we are not alone. And I believe that connection is bigger than just two people having a shared experience.  It’s like swallowing the Universe and filtering it through our being then sharing it with the world.

I keep my Heart Open and my center Strong
dare to Live A Full Life
Let your Soul Lead Your Mind
feel my words


Bellydancing At The Mansion

Me, Emily, Trish, Callie and Julz  The Bennington Beledi Bellydancers.  

Jon and I had to turn around and go back home.  I’d forgotten my earrings.

But a little while later,  as we walked up the stairs at The Mansion, Julz, my Bellydancing teacher,  opened the front door.

“I always show up early to case the joint before everyone else gets here, that’s DJ Julz’s job,” she told me later.

I wanted to get there early to make sure the space was set up for us to dance and to rally people in case the audience was spare.

But Janine, Sunday’s activity director, had pushed the couches and chairs to one side of the room and left a huge space for us to dance.  That polished wooden floor was the best stage I’d ever danced on.

And the couches were already filled up with an enthusiastic audience.

I was especially glad to see Jenn there.  After learning that she was in the Boston Ballet, I wanted her to see us.  She was supposed to go to church with her sister, but she told me she decided she wanted to see us dance instead.

More than once I looked at her smiling as we danced and it made me smile back.

I went up to each person and made sure they recognized me.  Many were from my art classes and weren’t used to seeing me wearing makeup or dressed as a Belly Dancer.

Emily, Trish, and Callie showed up soon after and we began the performance with “Gratitude”, the movements we begin each class and performance with.

We danced two songs (you can see us dancing here) after that, we took a break and Julz explained how our dance isn’t choreographed, but improvised with certain moves that we string together.  She explained how different people take the lead and we all follow.

We danced to two more songs after that.  Then Julz taught everyone in the audience how to do floreos with their hands and explained what a Zaghareet was (an expression of joy and support).  Later Peggy, who lives at The Mansion, asked how to do a Zarghareet and Julz demonstrated.

Jon was there taking videos.  You can see the video of us dancing, watch the audience doing floreos and hear Julz zaghareet here.

After the performance, Emily said she had never seen me so relaxed while dancing.  “It was like you were dancing in your own living room,”  she told me.

I wasn’t surprised at that, I feel so comfortable at The Mansion, and with the people there.  I could plop down on the couch in the great room or on one of the rockers on the porch and start a conversation with the person next to me as if I belonged there as much as they did.

It was only when I got home that I realized how much dancing at The Mansion with my sister Bellydancers meant to me.  I didn’t know how much I wanted these two important parts of my life to come together.

I wanted them to meet each other.  And I wanted the people who I have come to know so well who live at the Mansion to see this part of me.

As I let go of the family I grew up in, I’m finding my new family in people and places I hadn’t expected.  As if they were there all along.  It may not have the stability of family as we traditionally know it, it’s more like a rotating family.  But it works at the moment, and I’m beginning to trust, one way or another,  it always will.

After the show, Julz told Paryese, who set the whole thing up, that we’d love to come back in the dark days of winter and dance again.

This was the first time Jon had been back to The Mansion since his stay in the hospital.   When Julz found out she said it was a great way for him to come back.

She was right.

There was a sweetness to the morning that filled my heart and made me feel a little softer.   I can still conjure that feeling up.  It’s like when I have a really good dream that I want to hold on to, but I know the feeling will eventually fade.

But unlike a dream,  I do have the videos to watch whenever I want to.

Jon took two videos of us dancing today. I can’t post them on my blog, but you can see them on Jon’s YouTube.  Just click here and here. 

Full Moon Fiber Art