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March 21, 2014

Part of a series of interviews between Julia Ferrari and Jane Noyes

Noyes: Where would you like to go?

Ferrari: Well, you asked some questions last time, I’m trying to remember what they were.

Noyes: Yeah me too! I should write these down because then I kind of blank out on where we were.

Ferrari: One question a number of weeks ago was who were we before we knew each other? Then there was a new one that you posed which was along the lines of what would have Dan thought about where I am right now?

Noyes: Well, that’s a good enough question right there! I can’t remember both my questions, I’ll write all of this down when we finish because when we spend an hour talking, it’s a very rich territory but then we say goodbye and I kind of go, “Huh! Now let’s see, what were we talking about?”

Ferrari: I remember the bulk of our conversation last week was me dealing with new relationship things that are such a confounding part of losing a spouse which continue to be. It’s like every day, I get up and scratch my head and say “Gee, is this what I want? Is this the person I want to be with?” I never thought about these questions when I was young, you don’t think of stuff like that

Noyes: No you don’t

Ferrari: You don’t ask these kind of questions. It’s bizarre but that’s how I seem to approach it now. Maybe it’s because I didn’t break up from a relationship, I had one taken away.

Noyes: Well, that’s exactly right and also it would seem at this stage of life, you take a relationship more seriously than you might have as a young person even though then you took it as seriously as you could

Ferrari: Right

Noyes: But now you have different views, there’s been a few years, a lot more wisdom and a lot more sense of not wanting to waste your time but kind of wanting it to be meaningful and if it’s not or doesn’t have some degree of satisfaction or something’s missing, maybe that’s it. Just sort of seems like “Well, why am I doing this?”

Ferrari: Yes. It’s almost gotten a little bit clearer knowing what you need in life and I keep asking myself, is it because that’s what I’ve had and that’s what I was used to, or is that really me? And I think it is me, I’ve discovered the things that I like and so I’m very painfully aware when they’re not there. I’ve been pondering upon the question you asked me earlier too — “Why are you still with that person?”

Noyes: Yes, I did ask that, didn’t I?

Ferrari: Yes! I realize it’s because it’s comforting to have companionship

Noyes: True

Ferrari: But I’m trying not to be too hasty at the same time while I’m listening to all this inner dialogue because it is all so new and I’m trying to see all the qualities of that person that are there

Noyes: And not just be dismissive of it

Ferrari: Yes

Noyes: Makes sense, it’s also a process

Ferrari: Yes and I think sometimes being in the country, I could be completely wrong on this, but I haven’t been approached in my life otherwise and that’s kind of scary. In other words, I’m self-employed so I’m not working somewhere where I can interact with men — the pool of people is limited, I don’t seem to be finding anyone anyway. It’s sort of frightening.

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: Because when I work at the co-op, once in a while on Saturday nights, I see a lot of people and some come up to me and say something or I’ll look at someone, just in my inner eye, I’ll look at people, look at men and say “There’s an interesting looking person”, just as an observation. Inevitably, because I have to help people, that person will come up and they’ll say “Yes, I’m looking for my wife!” Nine out of ten times, basically! So I think it’s a different and slower game when you’re older and you don’t have a mate. They’re further and fewer and farther in between.

Noyes: That’s true by a certain point. You’re younger than I’m but by not that much but still there are probably lots more single women out there than there are single men. Statistically, probably more men have died than women. Women tend to outlive men and especially if we get older then there will be many more women than men

Ferrari: Right

Noyes: And it’s easier for men to find attachment and be attached. I’m going to be making broad generalizations, but I think they seek it even a little more than women do and feel that they need it and find someone more quickly

Ferrari: Yes, maybe

Noyes: So, I guess, statistically we could say that it is sort of true but I know it doesn’t mean you give up

Noyes: Yes and some parts of me kind of wonder at the edges whether or not I’m missing the opportunity to meet someone else because I’m hanging out with a person but like I said, I haven’t seen anybody come out on the horizon at all so it could’ve just been me walking around by myself for the last year and a half whereas my friend Brian is fairly tolerant actually of my need to have companionship and not be rushing into something too permanent, solid, intimate even. I’m lucky I guess in that because I guess he’d be long gone.

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: But you know, I see these things and I do worry sometimes, it’s like what you said why am I still with someone who doesn’t energize my mind?

Noyes: Well, I guess, you said it yourself it is companionship. So there must be something that’s satisfying enough. It’s somebody to do some stuff with and that’s okay. It’s really okay. I guess we live in a society which pushes us in two rigid ways — right or left, left or right — that’s silly. We need to put that thinking aside and accept the moments for the moments and not have a particular agenda. You know, taking the good way and find it and enjoy it and that being so often the case, I mean when you sort of least expect something, sometimes there it is.

Ferrari: Yes

Noyes: Anyway, there you are.

Ferrari: I’m in a whole other universe, trying to figure out stuff.

Noyes: What would Dan think? Would he want you to go down that path? I mean would he have wanted to see you with someone else, to find someone else?

Ferrari: Oh yes, I’m sure he would. He was realistic enough to care to want me to keep going on with my life. That’s the thing that keeps me going sometimes. I thought about this recently because our little grief support group still gets together and it was the idea that I still have this alliance with him, in spirit. That maybe another thing that’s going on for me in terms of relationships because I haven’t completely let go of my alliance with Dan because I feel that it is the thing which is helping me to approach the monumental task of keeping this press alive and all the things which go with that, along with the nuances of the future which I have to create myself. I feel a certain support and camaraderie because we had a bond and we knew parts of each other inside and out. Not all for sure because there were always the mysterious parts of both of us which we kept to ourselves, I know Dan did, because you can never know someone completely. I don’t think

Noyes: Right, no, I think you’re right

Ferrari: But we carried that for so many years, that strength and vision that I haven’t lost it, it’s interesting but that’s what I feel. I feel this ability, almost as if we were together, thinking about well how do we tackle this next challenge? And it’s not that I necessarily think about what Dan would do all the time but the vision was so entwined that it still is. I don’t feel like totally alone, it’s interesting. I feel like I’m carrying on the legacy of this press and the life that we lived together is a part of that foundation but in terms of looking to the future, I don’t feel like I stand alone.

Noyes: Well, in a broad sense that seems like a good thing to feel — who wants to be alone? He’ll always be a part of you. I suppose anyone who has lost somebody in a deeply caring relationship, off course, you won’t. You have become so much of who you are because of all those years

Ferrari: Right

Noyes: And you can’t suddenly go back to being either who you were or some vision of yourself in the future

Ferrari: Right, it’s what you carry with you

Noyes: But at the same time, it’s just how you view yourself as you go forward, imagining some other man in your life I suppose. It’s like will the new guy always feel like that Dan has a little bit of presence

Ferrari: Yes

Noyes: Or will Dan always be sitting a little bit on your shoulder? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that whole thing of grief anyway, it’s a process and nobody says you ever get over it, you just change and adapt and all that. You’re in the middle of a process

Ferrari: Well, when I’m alone and have to figure out what I’m going to do next which is what’s coming up right now because I had a little bit of a reprieve as you know, I was able to work at Keene State and that paid my bills but now, you know, the ladder has hit the road.

Noyes: I was going to say when the shit hits the fan

Ferrari: So the real challenges are right now and you know do I figure it out in the next few months or do I have to get a job again or something? I think about these things and I noticed I can to some extent tap into some of what we would think together because we just did it for so long and then try to find the other half of being me as being me.

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: Two halves, unless I ever find someone who’s another creative teammate which would be fun and good but right now that’s not an option

Noyes: So how does that make you feel? You feel…I don’t want to put words in your mouth

Ferrari: Well, I have two emotions sometimes. I have been staying in Brattleboro for a while with a really cold weather and I accepted it, I said “Okay, I’m not going to freak out or be bummed out every day because of this, I’m just going to say this is a little vacation and I’m going to use it, going to do some writing and maybe do some other things.” There’s good internet where I’m staying so I’m just going to do these things and I come over here every day but I haven’t had evenings here so I always say “What’s the weather like?” I keep looking for when it’s going to break. I took Wednesday and Thursday because again thirty something degrees, twenty-six last night and it was chilly but not bad, I was able to sleep. A part of me says “Oh my God, I feel lonely”, a lit bit, you know because I’ve not been alone before and yet another part of me, by the second day, is like “Oh great! I’m here in my house, I don’t have to go somewhere else, and I’m here!” that’s my inner dialogue, “I’m here and I can do whatever I want, I can be alone in my sanctuary here.” That’s what I see. I think a part of me really likes being alone and has missed that opportunity because it’s meditative and helps you think about what you need to do in your future. Too much doodling around watching some TV or Rachael Ray or whatever

Noyes: Just stuff that wouldn’t have been so much of how you would spend your time.

Ferrari: Well, it may have been how I might’ve spent some of my time but because the world has changed, I feel like I need to have a little bit more of quiet time in it than people time. Certainly, I had plenty of people time with Dan, we were together a lot.

Noyes: When you say people time, you mean because you had Dan?

Ferrari: Well no because like, I mean if I can’t be alone now I sort of seek some refuge in aloneness because of the weather I haven’t been able to be alone as much in the evenings. I’m alone during the day and that’s good but for a while it was actually so freaking cold, it was forty-four, I couldn’t even be in the shop when we get those brutal days!

Noyes: Oh yes, no, those are awful

Ferrari: So for a day or so, or for a few hours, I have this inner voice which says “Oh, I’m lonely” but then I get over it and sort of come back to this inner companionship that I seem to still have

Noyes: Yes, you mean with just yourself?

Ferrari: With myself and my spirit of resource of Dan

Noyes: Well, I was going to ask, it seems to me that you and Dan, as close as you were, and I mean the time you spent with each other in your work, in your home, in your marriage, all of that, there must’ve been somehow though for each of you just from my scan of who you are, who you were then, that your relationship allowed you each to have a deep, rich, inner personal life.

Ferrari: Yes and we had alone time or things that we did alone. Dan was reading constantly so he was in his own world as much as he wanted to be and I was reading too, not quite always as deep things as Dan was reading. Towards the end of our lives together, it was kind of a new stage where we were both doing things for the community independently of each other. I was a community organizer and Dan was a state representative. So there were times where our worlds were totally different

Noyes: And yet what you also had was the thing you had for so long which was your relationship which nourished you but also allowed you to move on as fully formed, standalone, secure individuals because you always knew you had the other.

Ferrari: Yes, I’d say that’s true. Interestingly, at that that time our business kind of had slowed down as the economy really got worse and we were relying on Dan’s pay check for his teachings. So there was less time when we were working in the shop and also as Dan was getting more ill, he had only so much energy and he was trying to put his energy into his new thing which was being state representative and teaching and so it was like he had three things he was trying to do so we didn’t spend as much time together in the shop which at the time really disturbed me or hurt me, I felt a loss. I was crying one day because towards the last year and a half he wasn’t working with me down there

Noyes: Did you know he was sick at that point?

Ferrari: Yes, we did

Noyes: It’s kind of like here’s this thing that’s potentially going to separate us and yet he was literally separating himself with the State rep stuff

Ferrari: He did, he separated himself from the shop and I asked him before he died actually. They said he had two years because of his cancer, actually he had one but in that one year we knew. Even before that though, he was just not feeling well. I’m glad I asked him because if I hadn’t, I fear it might have affected my feeling of going on. When he was in the hospital, I asked him, “How come you’ve stopped working in the shop?” and he said “It’s because I just didn’t have the energy to do it all.” And that was a good thing to-

Noyes: Hear that

Ferrari: To talk about because I remember it was devastating, that time for me. I didn’t have three things which I was doing, I wasn’t teaching like he was and I wasn’t a state representative. I was a community organizer and that took time but still he had three things whereas I had two so he had to trim one of his things thus, he didn’t work in the shop as much.

Noyes: It was because of his level of energy left

Ferrari: Yes and I think things were happening to him where he saw he couldn’t do some things. It was affecting his eyesight, I think it was discouraging for him.

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: Because he was a Virgo, sharp as a tack and he would be able to look at things and find details and he talked to me about how he couldn’t see well anymore. I think that bothered him.

Noyes: Yes, it must have but it sounds as so he didn’t talk so much about it specifically

Ferrari: No

Noyes: When you were a community organizer, what were you doing?

Ferrari: It started in 2004. Dan and I got interested in Howard Dean when he was running for president. There were a lot of people in New Hampshire who really liked him and there was a whole movement of people. So we were sort of part of that and he enthused us to continue with politics in the sense of like making sure that you work within your community or your work. You do more than just vote and we kind of took that to heart and I joined and ran for trustee in my library

Noyes: Oh you did?

Ferrari: Yes and I made it and he ran for State Rep. The first time he didn’t make it and then he had to wait two years, maybe waited a few more years actually to try again because he was unknown that’s a harder thing to do.

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: So as a community organizer after doing that, in 2008 I got involved with the Obama campaign.

Noyes: Oh okay

Ferrari: And I became an Obama fellow, a part of the pre-campaign team that was organizing in advance and they trained, it was mostly young people

Noyes: That it was

Ferrari: But there were a few people and I had bid on a job for binding and it had fallen through, they got somebody else and I got an email which said, you know, are you interested in working for something with the Obama campaign and I said “Gee why not?” The next two months had fallen through for me so why not? It was a short commitment like two months, full-time and unpaid

Noyes: Of course

Ferrari: But I decided to do it and I was a very shy person actually

Noyes: But you were committed to what you were out there for so that’s a good thing

Ferrari: Yes. It actually made me less shy, it was an interesting thing and it changed me in a fundamental way

Noyes: Wow

Ferrari: Which I wouldn’t have expected at, how old was I? Fifty something you know

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: It was good. I remember thinking to myself “Julia, you’ve got to think beyond this fantasy, what are you really going to be doing?” I said, “You’re probably going to be talking on the phone to people” and I went, “Oh my God, how frightening, how horrible!”

Noyes: That thing I don’t want to do and that I don’t like to do

Ferrari: Yes and then I said, “Well, I’ll take it in little steps and if I can handle, I’ll do it!” So my enthusiasm carried me forward in terms of being able to have a reason why. I still am shy but when I’m motivated for issues, I can become not-shy

Noyes: Right, you said it’s bigger than you. I’m always trying to talk myself into those kind of things, that kind of thinking because it’s important and how often does anything ever get done? To move forward in this world, you have to be passionate, it’s not about you, it’s about the good idea, a strong candidate, whatever it is

Ferrari: And it doesn’t have to be something you do forever, it’s always a period where you have time, when it is fallow and you’re active. I did that in 2008, I guess late 2007 into 2008 and then after that being on my library board, I discovered that it was not managed to the advantage of the community and I worked to turn it around a little bit because no one went there. It was a village library, no one went. I discovered the reasons why and tried to work to change that and worked on it, got new people on the board that were enthusiastic. I mean, they would meet once a year the old way because no one went

Noyes: No one went so there was no need to meet as a board and it was business as usual.

Ferrari: Yes, old times stuff

Noyes: Interesting

Ferrari: So I worked on turning that around and the first issue was that the building needed a paint job, it was peeling terribly. One person said “Well, if you had a grant we would do it but there’s no way we’re going to get a grant” I said, “I’ll apply for a grant!” So I applied but it was too late to paint, it was October. I applied for a grant to the most applied grant in the State of New Hampshire and I was one of three people that got it and it was a ten thousand dollar grant and we painted the building.

Noyes: Wow, good for you, that’s great!

Ferrari: Yes and I got it on crap.

Noyes: I think the whole counsel felt better about that

Ferrari: Well, some people did. There was a certain reticence. There’s a funny reticence in some of the town officials.

Noyes: They are often like that

Ferrari: Because I had to get it on the state register of historic places before I could get the grant, so I did that too. After that I did organizing for a couple of things that were in the town, local stuff, you know — prevent a dump from coming here, trying to deal with some people that were concerned about an asphalt plant moving next to the neighborhood, that kind of stuff. I joined my historical district commission and campaigned on this issue of a dollar store coming in and tearing down a 200 year old house. So that’s the extent of it.

Noyes: Yes but that’s great. You know if you’d stuck with it or things hadn’t had gone the way they did, you would have ended up as a State Rep.

Ferrari: Yes, that’s right! This reminds me, people asked me when Dan died, “Are you going to become State rep? Are you going to run? Going to step into his shoes?” and I had to say, “Well, you know, I can’t do that right now. I have to do this.” It’s unpaid in New Hampshire. I said, “I have to do this, my first priority is Golgonooza, I can’t run around and do other stuff.” I could see the appeal of it but I had a stronger issue

Noyes: Well, sure. They were looking for a replacement for what they must’ve been happy with and were kind of hoping that you would step right into his shoes. Anyway, that’s pretty interesting, good for you, I appreciate those folks wanting you to step up to the place

Ferrari: And I’ve stepped back now, I’m not as active with my library and all sorts of stuff because I’m trying to focus on what’s in front of me

Noyes: Well sure and you know those opportunities will always be out there in one form or another and there will certainly be some time possibly when you can do it if you’re interested. That stuff is there, it’s always there

Ferrari: Yes, exactly! And now I’ve got enough of a challenge to recreate or as my friend Gahlord says, “To refound Golgonooza” The refounding of Golgonooza Foundry!

Noyes: Yes, there you go

Ferrari: I’m thinking about trying to get myself together and teach a workshop up in Burlington. That’s a challenge for me, I’ve never had to teach a workshop alone

Noyes: Yes

Ferrari: I did it with Dan

Noyes: But you did do it with Dan, right?

Ferrari: Yes, I did

Noyes: So it’s something you can do

Ferrari: Yes, I did a broadside workshop with Dan, number of times, but I’m thinking of doing a binding workshop. I’ve never done that before nor have I ever done it alone, never done it, period. It’s a challenge but I think I just have to jump in and not think about it too much. I have to be prepared but I don’t think I have to caution myself too much, you know fear kind of stuff.

Noyes: Yes, it sounds like you’re just in that phase right now but if you commit to it, it’s just work that you know — organization — and you’ll be pulling it off on your own right?

Ferrari: Right

Noyes: But still you know all the steps. So this would be in, you just mentioned Burlington?

Ferrari: Yes

Noyes: What is it that they have started up there that you would be a part of?

Ferrari: My friend Gahlord who came on the trip with me last spring, he lives up there with his wife Megan and with the shop being so cold, he said, “Well, why don’t you come and work in my studio and just do that, come up and have a workshop!” And I said, “Oh yes, that sounds good!” And starting out, you know, it didn’t happen when it was the coldest but on the other hand because I wasn’t quite really ready to jump in and do it because I have to get materials together. If I have a class of ten, I have to make sure I have ten scissors, ten rulers and all that stuff, but I think it was just an encouragement and to have that support of somebody else, an actual person who’s supportive, that would maybe be in the room so it’d be nice to just go up and visit there

Noyes: Is there something standing in the way of you doing that?

Ferrari: Not really. I just have to pretty much on my own write down the names of what’s being taught, figure out how much it will cost, try to make an advertisement, buy the materials — it’s a little shopping list of things I need to do because I’ve never done it before, I can’t just say “Oh yes, this is what we’ll do and so on” and have a bag packed with everything in it, I have to do both. I see this little reticence in me

Noyes: Yes sounds like there is a little

Ferrari: And I don’t know why, but I think it is fear

Noyes: Oh yes sure! That makes sense, I understand that, yet I suppose if you can do it once then you’ll get something going because that can translate to “Yes, I can do that, you know here or in another format or with this organization, something”

Ferrari: Yes so I might bumble through it or I might do it fine but I have to try to get it under my belt, I guess.

Noyes: Just thinking, this probably takes some planning and not saying it immediately but you never know. So as you know Putney School has a summer program for kids, not necessarily Putney students at all. It’s all arts programs and my daughter had taken a bookbinding class. I mean it was some years ago now, probably eight years ago but she loved it. I think I even told you recently she sort of dug out her old materials and she’s putting together simple books because it’s fun.  

Ferrari: Yes exactly. That’s cool, I can do that. I’ve met one of the women who works in the office of the summer program there, she’s in my grief support group so I should really get going on that!

Noyes: Those kind of things are finite, I mean it’s a summer program and they are paying the right people to do these things, they bring in all the kids

Ferrari: Right

Noyes: You just have to be part of the greater whole, let someone else worry about all those details

Ferrari: Was that for the whole summer or for a weekend?

Noyes: No, it’s not a weekend, I wish I could remember exactly. Chloe is not here right now but I’ll ask her. It’s not an entire summer but it’s probably something like six weeks, I should see again, I can’t remember. It might be two-three week program, same program but different groups of kids come, something like that but it’s probably over the course of six weeks. It’s pretty intensive because the kids are there all day, they live on campus. It’s for the most part not any of the teachers at the school because of course, they’ll need a break but you know people come in from different places, some local, some from away. They offer everything from drawing, pottery to book binding, jewellery-making, you know, everything that my kid would have wanted to do but the kids do have to pick and choose.

Ferrari: That’s good.

Noyes: But you know, there’s probably other programs like that, around and about. I mean this is just my great idea but you could probably go online and see what other programs exist

Ferrari: In New England. I noticed that UMass had one called Summer Fuel and I bet you there’s other prep schools like Deerfield Academy that have programs like that, I’m sure. That’s a good idea

Noyes: I mean it’ll get young people who’ve maybe never done some of this stuff before and are hungry, creative and it’s inspiring for them to find out about things that they wouldn’t really have the opportunity to so much. In ordinary, certainly not in regular public schools so it’s a great opportunity.

Ferrari: Yes, I think I’ll start making some phone calls

Noyes: Isn’t there somebody who was working at in Brattleboro at the Museum doing some kind of a Book Bindery thing. I mean not on the level that you’re used to doing it, but still I feel like there was somebody offering a thing.

Ferrari: I don’t know. I haven’t been looking at what the Museum’s doing.

Noyes: Well, I think they’re trying to do a lot more of weekend workshop things, stuff to bring people in and probably a little revenue for them but broadening rather than just “We are a museum, come look at what’s on the walls.” You know Brattleboro, such an active community anyway. Probably just going on their website too, see what they are offering special on weekends, maybe you can even go to them at some point and say “You know, I can do a weekend workshop” Who knows what

Ferrari: Exactly, that sounds good! So that’s what a part of me saying, “Just get your materials Julia because you’ll use them no matter what”

Noyes: Just be ready to go, get your little toolkit all ready

Ferrari: Exactly! Something on which I got to get a move on

Noyes: Yes, well, you will, in your time, maybe when the temperature goes up to forty and stay there

Ferrari: Well luckily it’s moderately good now, being inside here, I’m doing okay

Noyes: Oh that’s goodIt can’t be too long before better. Well, Julia it’s getting closer to noon for me so I think I’ll get going.

Ferrari: Thank you for your call!