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Tuesday, October 17, 2017
 
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The Meaning Of Movement: Choreographer Paula Josa-Jones

By Amy Krzanik

You don’t need to be a “horse person” to read this article. You don’t have to have a background in dance, either. Although Paula Josa-Jones has had years of practice as both a rider and a choreographer, the only thing she asks you to bring to her latest venture, her book, is an open mind.

After all, therapy – be it sitting in a chair across from a psychologist, painting alone in a quiet room, or working with horses – isn’t about the psychologist, the art or the animal, but about you. No one can force you to look, but if you’re open to learning, they can make you see.

There are examples of this, along with strategies, and more than 65 meditations and gentle exercises, in Josa-Jones’ new book, Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering the Common Body – Meditations and Strategies for Deeper Understanding and Enhanced Communication. In it, she marries her long career in dance and choreography (having taught at Tufts, Boston University and other schools) to her even longer adoration for horses. And while Our Horses, Ourselves will help you interact better with your equine, it was written to help you outside of the ring, as well.

The book focuses on improving consciousness of breath, movement and touch to better communicate with both animals and people. “Movement is our first, native language,” says the Kent, Connecticut-based Josa-Jones. “It connects us to others. Unfortunately, it’s not understood and not something people are fully conscious of.” Understanding the more subtle dimensions of our movement exchanges, she says, makes us more trustworthy, more comfortable in our own skin, and better prepared to act with balance, sensitivity and kindness in all of our relationships.

Although she rode when she was younger, Josa-Jones’ time with horses was limited during the years she ran a dance company in Boston. But about 20 years ago, she began to wonder if therapeutic riding would help the strain that years of dancing had put on her hips. “They taught me something far greater,” she says, “including connection, softness and compassion.” She says that, in addition to riding, she wanted to be on the ground with them and find out how she could be understood, speaking through the shared language of movement. “I hoped to understand them, and be understood in a more profound way.”

She began bringing her dancers to interact with the horses, too. “We began to understand how our movement languages were connecting, how to create an inter-species communication,” she says. It was a learning curve that led ultimately to her first dance performance with horses, “Ride,” which was then followed by other performances, classes and workshops with horses.

A TTEAM (Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method) practitioner, somatic movement therapist and Somatic Experiencing (trauma healing) practitioner, Josa-Jones offers a way for people to explore their own relationships with horses and without, and to learn and explore on their own. It’s for horse owners, sure, but it’s also an open door for people who are curious, or even afraid.

“Horses aren’t here to win ribbons or help us achieve technical perfection” she says, “but for a bigger, more soulful purpose. Horses reflect our inner emotional landscape rather than what we may be trying to project.” She tells the story of her 22-year-old Andalusian gelding, Amadeo. “He continues to be my most amazing teacher because he has the capacity, in the most subtle ways, of showing me when I am out of sync, emotionally or physically. I came to his stall one day and wanted to pet him, and he moved away. I felt in that moment that I ‘needed’ something from him and that need was in the way of making a true connection. He felt it, too. I stood and waited, and when I settled into just ‘being,’ he moved toward me and placed his nose in my hands. That level of teaching is something that they can do, but you have to be willing to take the time. The real goal, and gift, is the ability to understand ourselves better, to ‘get ourselves right.’ We have to do that hard work to become more human, open, playful and compassionate.”

You can hear Paula Josa-Jones speak and answer questions at these upcoming local events:

September 30 at 2 p.m.
House of Books
10 N. Main St., Kent, CT

October 6 at 6 p.m.
Equis Art Gallery
15 W. Market St., Red Hook, NY

October 14 at 12 p.m.
Merritt Bookstore
57 Front St., Millbrook, NY

October 21 at 7 p.m.
Scoville Memorial Library
38 Main St., Salisbury, CT

October 28 at 1:30 p.m.
Mason Library
231 Main St., Great Barrington, MA

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 09/25/17 at 04:55 PM • Permalink

Food, Farming And Sex: Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley Series

By Andrea Pyros

Inspiration comes at the oddest of moments. For best-selling romance novelist Alice Clayton, the idea for her sexy, saucy, food-obsessed Hudson Valley-based trilogy — Nuts, Cream of the Crop and Buns — came to her while she was waiting in line to buy cucumbers at her local St. Louis farmer’s market. “The dreamiest farmer I’d ever seen was there,” Clayton says. And although, at the time, everyone else was writing romances about billionaire bad boys, she had other plans.

“I thought, ‘Farmers are the new alpha. I think they need their time in the sun.’” She’d wanted to write a story set in a small-town agricultural center, and although Clayton is “a Midwestern girl, born and raised,” she’d always been intrigued by the Northeast, so she decided to set a series of books here.

“The first time the Hudson Valley came on my radar was when I saw Dirty Dancing as a kid. I’d never even heard of that region of the country. I loved the idea of these wonderful old mountain resorts in the Hudson Valley and Catskills and Adirondacks. Years later, I was watching No Reservations when Anthony Bourdain visited the Hudson Valley and he went up to Mohonk Mountain House, and I was mesmerized. I started doing research on the area — it didn’t look real! — and I fell in love.”

Clayton and her publicist took a research trip to the RI region, renting a car and tooling around towns like Hyde Park, as well as Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, marveling all the while at their “picture-book, Disney cinemascope” charm. The pair made a stop at Blue Hill Farm, and Clayton said that was when everything really started coming together.

“As a Midwestern girl turning her gaze towards this part of the country, I loved the idea that you have these wonderful communities, some artsy, some are agrarian, some full of big houses, and wonderful little mom-and-pop stores next to wealthy bankers’ wives; it’s a really different way of looking at small-town America and a really different slice of life in the Northeast.” Using inspiration from places she’d seen, Clayton created the fictional Bailey Falls, New York, and its appealing cast of characters.

Each of the Hudson Valley books have sexy farmer types with dirt under their nails, quirky small town characters (if you’re a “Gilmore Girls” fan, we need say no more), plenty of banter and R-rated shenanigans, and a big-city woman who comes to town and finds her life — love and otherwise — completely upended. True to our region, cooking and eating are front and center in the series, from descriptions of lovingly baked pies and vintage flea-market cookbooks to arguments over whether Cadbury Creme Eggs are gross or amazing (answer: both).

“Barefoot Contessa is my life,” Clayton jokes. “And I’m obsessed with “America’s Test Kitchen.” I’m a foodie who loves to cook and loves to eat, and in the last 10 years I was taken with slow food and farm-to-table and getting to know the local growers who bring you food. It just seems natural to incorporate that into a writing project.”

Even though Clayton’s not a local, she gets letters from readers in our area asking if she’s writing about their town. “So far, so good in that I’m representing the region. That’s all I want to do — create a place where people who don’t live there want to go there.”

Buns represents the last in this trilogy, but Clayton admits she’s been thinking about another series set in our region. After all, Clayton, who dedicated Buns to Mohonk Mountain House (“where inspiration becomes reality,” she writes), has fallen in love with the Hudson Valley and says she’ll use any excuse to visit the area. Stay tuned, then, Clayton may have more food, fun, farmers and romance for us.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/22/17 at 09:51 AM • Permalink

Dani Shapiro’s ‘Hourglass’ Explores A Marriage Over Time

In her new memoir, Hourglass (Knopf), Dani Shapiro of Litchfield County excavates and celebrates her marriage of nearly 20 years to screenwriter/director Michael Maren. In her previous critically acclaimed memoirs—Slow Motion and Devotion —Shapiro has put her personal history under the microscope to come to terms with her parents’ deeply flawed marriage and to search for a meaningful spiritual practice.

Now, Shapiro focuses the lens on life with her husband and teenage son, Jacob, and the hard realities of looking into the rearview mirror in late-middle age: “Some things that definitely won’t happen,” she writes poignantly. “We won’t have more children; we won’t host big family reunions; we won’t own a compound where generations will spend summer weekends playing badminton and roasting s’mores. Jacob won’t grow up in the city. I won’t enroll in a doctoral program to become a psychoanalyst, nor will I go to rabbinical school. M. and I will not move to Nairobi, where he will be based as a correspondent. He will not accept a job from the CIA, or the World Bank.”

Shapiro has two readings this month in the Rural Intelligence region — on Wednesday, May 17, at the Merritt Bookstore to kick off the Millbrook Literary Festival, and on Thursday, May 18, as part of the White Hart Inn’s Speaker Series in Salisbury. She took time from her cross-country book tour to chat with RI co-founder Dan Shaw, who profiled her for The New York Times in 2013, after she had appeared on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday.”


In Slow Motion, you wrote unflinchingly about your “difficult” mother while she was still alive. In Hourglass, you expose your husband’s dreams deferred. “Where does hope go when it vanishes,” you write. “Does it live in a place where it attaches itself to other lost hopes? And what does that place look like? Is it a wall? A sea? Is it the soft bafflement I sometimes see in my husband’s eyes?” Who was it more challenging to write about?

In one sense it was easier to write about my husband and my marriage, because my marriage is much less conflicted than my relationship with my mother was. In Hourglass, I was attempting to write about a happy marriage from inside of it — to ask the question, what does it mean to walk alongside someone over time? It was, of course, still terrifying, because I wanted to tell the truth of my marriage without betraying it. Writing about my mother, on the other hand, meant writing about a thorny, enormously complex relationship. She was the single most challenging person in my life, but still, I never wanted to hurt her, so I tried to be careful, while still telling my story, a story which, by necessity, had to involve her.


Why did you call Michael “M” in the book?

It was an intuitive decision — and I think it came from two places. First, in a literary sense I just thought it was more poetic.  Virginia Woolf, often when writing about Leonard, referred to him as “L.” And Mary Oliver, when writing about her longtime partner Molly Malone Cook, referred to her as “M” as well. It may also be that it made it purer, in a sense, to think of Michael as a character, which is what a writer of memoir must do, with herself and those she writes about.


Did Michael read every word of the final galley? Did Jacob?

Michael not only read every word of the final galley, but he read every word as I was writing Hourglass. He’s always been my first and best reader, and writing this book was no different. In a way, we were able to work together in the same way we always have. To put aside the fact that this was “us” and talk about the book in a literary sense. At the same time, Michael had total veto power, as far as I was concerned. If he had asked me not to write the book, I simply wouldn’t have. As for Jacob, he didn’t read Hourglass (by his own choice) until it was a finished book. It must be weird to read about your parents, and to a lesser degree, yourself, but he’s the kid of two writers, and he understands and thrives on the creative process. He told me he loves Hourglass, and that means more to me than just about any reaction from anyone else!


You are forthright that writing and promoting your books (especially on Facebook and Instagram) is the way you make a living and not about ego.

I can’t imagine what writing out of ego would be like. The writing life is way too fraught and full of indignities and rejection to be approaching it from an egoic place. If I can make the distinction, I don’t write my books in order to make a living (god knows there are easier ways to make a living!) but it is how I make my living, it is my “job.” And these days, a writer can’t simply publish a book and go back in the cave to write another one. I’m fortunate in that Knopf, my publisher, is sending me on a significant (26-city) book tour for Hourglass, and there’s a lot I enjoy about it — meeting readers, connecting with booksellers, traveling, running into friends I don’t get to see much. I think readers really appreciate meeting writers whose work they’ve responded to.


What aspect(s) of the book have readers reacted to most strongly?

It seems readers are seeing themselves, their own marriages, partnerships, relationships in Hourglass — whether they’re at the beginning of a romantic relationship or well into a committed one. I’ve had it said to me that every mother-of-the-bride should give her daughter Hourglass, and I really love that, almost as if the book is a glimpse into the future, after the bouquet and the champagne and wedding cake. But I have also had readers who have been married 50 or 60 years tell me that I got something right about contented long-time partnerships, and that means a great deal to me.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/09/17 at 09:49 AM • Permalink

‘Love Where You Eat’ Brings Joan Osofsky To The Table

By Dan Shaw

“Here in the country, when you invite people to dinner, they always ask, “What can I bring?” writes Joan Osofsky in her new book, Entertaining in the Country: Love Where You Eat (Rizzoli.)  Osofsky, who owns the Hammertown stores in Great Barrington, Pine Plains and Rhinebeck, understands better than almost anyone that friendship and community — not competitive, showy cooking — is the raison d’être of dinner parties and luncheons in our neck of the woods. Indeed, bringing people together is her life’s work. “Entertaining is at the core of the Hammertown style,” she says.

Like her previous book, Love Where You Live: At Home in the Country, this new volume is our story. It is filled with recipes, tips, and table settings from neighbors such as Andrew Arrick and Michael Hofemann, who own Finch in Hudson; Michael Trapp, who owns an eponymous antiques store in West Cornwall; fashion designer Patrick Robinson and Vogue editor Virginia Smith of Ancram; Dana Cowan, the former editor in chief of Food & Wine, who lives in Amenia and who enlisted Serge Madikians of the restaurant Serevan to prepare and share his recipes for falafel and eggplant dip in the chapter “Cocktails on the Terrace.”

Photographed by John Gruen of Lakeville and co-written with Abby Adams of Ancram, Entertaining in the Country is about actualization, not aspiration: the tables are set simply and realistically; the recipes require a minimal amount of time spent in the kitchen, so inviting people over for a meal does not become an ordeal. Sourcing of ingredients is important. “Food has more meaning in farm country,” says Osofsky, who was once a farmer’s wife and provides sources for local produce, meats, cheese, charcuterie, and spirits. And she suggests local shops where you can pick up desserts if baking is not your thing.

Abby Adams and Joan Osofsky. Photos: John Gruen.

Sometimes called the Martha Stewart of the Rural Intelligence region, Osofsky is not a perfectionist or taskmaster, but a soulful and supportive Jewish mother.  She is generous with crediting other tastemakers who’ve influenced her such as Lee Bailey, Mary Emmerling, and Bunny Williams of Falls Village, whose An Affair With a House is still one of the most successful books in the country lifestyle genre 11 years after it was first published.

One chapter of Osofsky’s new book is devoted to the quintessential country party — the potluck supper. But Osofsky doesn’t want to ever pressure friends and family so invitations to her potlucks ask guests if they would like to bring something. “It would be terribly rude to demand that they do so,” she writes.

Entertaining in the Country
is, quite simply, empowering and embracing. (It has the same down-to-earth sensibility as The Pollan Family Table by Sharon weekender Corky Pollan and her four daughters.) It will inspire you to bring people you love together around your table. And when your friends reciprocate, it would be the perfect hostess gift to give them.

Book signing with Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams
Sunday, May 28, 2-4 p.m.
Finch
555 Warren Street, Hudson, NY

 

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/02/17 at 01:54 PM • Permalink

Joan Juliet Buck Leaves Paris And New York For…Rhinebeck

By Dan Shaw

Like many other “expats” in our region who’ve traded urban glamour and turmoil for rural simplicity and quietude, Joan Juliet Buck once had power, influence and an expense account. She was formidable, as they say in France, where she was editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris from 1994 to 2001.

For the last few years, Buck has been living in a modest rental apartment in Rhinebeck and writing in the basement of Rhinecliff’s Morton Memorial Library, where she completed her just published memoir, The Price of Illusion. She will be speaking and signing books at Oblong in Rhinebeck on April 1, and at the Chatham Public Library on April 8. Kirkus Reviews describes The Price of Illusion as a “relentlessly candid and often absorbing account of a complex life spent in and out of the fashion spotlight.”

The book chronicles her privileged childhood in Paris and London as the daughter of Jules Buck, the producer of every film made by the actor Peter O’Toole in the 1960s including Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye, Mr. Chips; her brief college stint at Sarah Lawrence and various interludes in Manhattan; and her eventual return to France and the Vogue job and the concomitant fabulousness, fickleness and backbiting of the high-fashion world.

And then there’s the inevitable downfall: Her parents lost all their money and moved to Los Angeles, where her beautiful mother, Joyce (a former actress who counted Lauren Bacall as one of her best friends), took a job as a saleswoman at Pratesi, the fancy linens boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, to stay solvent. After her mother’s death, she brought her down-and-out, manic-depressive father to live with her in Paris, and then she was fired by Conde Nast (and pushed to enter rehab though she was not an addict). She regrouped by maniacally writing freelance pieces for Vanity Fair and American Vogue (which ended devastatingly as Penelope Greene reported in her recent cover story for The New York Times Style section.).

Nevertheless, Buck is buoyant, not bitter. Like most expats, she stays with friends when she craves the cosmopolitanism of New York, and she suggests we meet at one of her go-to city spots, the venerable Three Guys Greek coffee shop on Madison Avenue near the Met Breuer. “New York without a local diner does not make any sense,” she says, settling into a booth and ordering a double espresso and a Corfu Salad without looking at the menu. Dressed in all black like a chic French intellectual, she is eager to talk about the contentment she’s found living in the Hudson Valley.

“I discovered that the slowness and quiet is my real pace. In New York there are so many distractions,” says Buck, who has been a film critic, a novelist and currently contributes essays to Harper’s Bazaar. Living in the city and riding the subway is antithetical to her writing process. “I get too absorbed in other people.”

She has made new friends in the Hudson Valley, like Carolyn Marks Blackwood, the movie producer and photographer, and Gideon Lester, director of the Theater & Performance Department at Bard College. She enjoys taking walks and scenic drives. “I love going to Saugerties, which has two really good junk stores,” she says. One of the places she treasures in Rhinebeck is Oblong Books & Music. “I wanted a copy of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, and they had two editions! They are on it!”

Of course, country living has its frustrations. Since her “college flat” apartment has no washer and dryer, she longed for the convenience of a “wash-and-fold” laundromat and was elated when she discovered Classic Cleaners on the road to Tivoli. “God bless them!” says Buck. And because she can get lost in her writing until after dark, she wishes there were restaurants that delivered. When she has the time, she cooks and likes to buy fresh chickens at North Wind Farm. “Discovering their chicken was life-changing for me,” she says.

Besides writing, Buck, who appeared in Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, has been acting again. She did a graduate student’s play at the Frick Collection and a play with Irina Brook in Hudson and at La MaMa in New York.

As much as Buck seems to be made for Manhattan, she calls living there “an illusion, a trap — it takes all your money and keeps taking from you.” She doesn’t miss her old life when “all I had to do was sustain an aura of importance with good clothes and a cheerful attitude,” she writes in the book. “I resented being taken at face value, but that was all I was offering.”

Buck likes the Hudson Valley because she doesn’t feel self-conscious and does not compare and despair. “There are no ‘mirrors’ in the country,” says Buck as she bundles up to go to her friend’s nearby apartment to freshen up before a promotional event at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble. As she hits the sidewalk and lights up an American Spirit, she bumps into the friend with whom she is staying, Allegra Huston, the sister of her best childhood friend, the Academy Award-winning actress Angelica Huston. Although Buck has flourished and found her “authentic self” living upstate, it seems clear that she could own Manhattan (or London or Paris) if she ever decides to return full time to city life.

Meet Joan Juliet Buck
Saturday, April 1 at 7 p.m. at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck (RSVP requested)
Saturday, April 8 at 3:30 p.m. at the Chatham Public Library in Chatham

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/20/17 at 07:56 PM • Permalink