Did you read Shiv’s message on Facebook?

Shiv’s message came through on Facebook the other day.

“I finally decided to take the step and become a Tibetan monk after taking instruction with HH Yangsi Rinpoche, shaved my 30 years of dreadlocks and beard and now I’m getting my robes today.”

April 1, 2015

1:54 am.

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Although I didn’t know him personally, he was a popular  face at Monday night poetry readings at the Colony Cafe.  I noticed him each time he attended a poetry reading, with his massive mound of dreadlocks wound around the top of his scalp.  He also had an open smile and everyone  seemed to like him.  And, of course, silly me, what did I know?  Here he was, living and breathing…the most famous of the famous.

One of the first things that impressed me about Woodstock was the prevalence of artists, writers, poets, musicians, singers, actors.  They move about town as if no one knows who they are.  And, indeed, many are not known to people on the street.

It’s been that way for years.  Byrdcliffe has attracted people in the arts since  the early 20th century years.  Artists live at Byrdcliffe both permanently in their private homes and temporarily through the artist-in-residence program.

And, then, the famous Woodstock Music Festival  brought another group which also never left.  They are seen about town today.  Some of them are now local businessmen.  The story goes that the original owner of Taco Juan was at the festival, for example.  Ditto for Not Fade Away.  The new Shindig is owned by a “festival family”.

But, back to Shiv,  the most talented in a lineup of many.

Both famous, semi-famous, and unknown talented people in the arts used the food pantry regularly after the downfall of the economy in ’07.  Because Woodstock attracted artists, musicians, and writers, many of them had second homes in Woodstock.  Some of these creative and talented people saw their incomes totally dry up.

I heard similar stories.   They essentially went like this:  the person would have a home in the Woodstock area in addition to a place in New York City or Paris or Dubai, Katmandu, Delhi, or Miami or someplace…anyplace else.  As the income dwindled, the person looked around, assessed his/her situation and tried to unload the most expensive place which was usually in the someplace else location.

Some sublet.  Others sold.  Still others underwent foreclosusre.

They came to Woodstock to live in the cheaper home, only to find   zero opportunity to earn $$$ away from  the city environment.  So, here they were…down and out in Woodstock and Bearsville.  Some even experienced foreclosure of the Upstate New York home.

The pantry line filled weekly with intelligent, well educated, talented people who were stranded because their support system was just not what it should have been.  They, for the most part, made the best of it.  What else could they do?  Artists, musicians, writers, actors…talented…all.

Eventually, some established new lifelines.  A few ended up homeless.

Battling the restrictions of the building committee, while trying to serve everyone who needed food was challenging for the volunteers.  Often the wait was over an hour for a 3-day supply of food  during the darkest days of the depression.

Somehow, I felt these talented people deserved better than a begrudging attitude offered to them in the cold basement of the Woodstock Reformed Church.  As volunteers, we did the best we could to make them feel welcome, safe, accepted but it was hard.

Shiv Mirabito was  the center of the group in the food pantry line each week.  He  offered strength with his positive attitude and smile.  I credit this with the essence which makes makes Shiv Mirabito the person he is.  He has spent his entire adult life studying Tantric Buddhist philosophy and lives what he studies.  Each moment is a religious experience for him.

Now, time has passed.  Possibly life has improved in the bowels of the church on pantry day.  Hopefully fewer of these talented people need food from the pantry.  I’m not sure because I moved  to Reservoir Food Pantry where the atmosphere is totally different.

We’ve all changed.  Especially Shiv who will be totally unrecognizable for awhile on the streets of Woodstock.  I’m hoping to see him soon in his new robes.  Without his dreads, the robes will be the only way I’ll be able to recognize him.

Shiv has a publishing house in India for his fellow writers/artists.  He prints their work on handmade papers.  Shiv has been doing this for years.  Shivastan Publishing uses traditional printing methods to craft print chapbooks and broadsides on handmade paper.  Each of these books is a work of art unto itself in addition to the poetry printed on the page.  There are typos to be found.   After all, the people doing the printing don’t read or write English.

And what has happened to the other equally talented artists, writers, musicians who were stuck for awhile in Woodstock?  Hopefully times have changed for them too.  I occasionally see 1 or 2 of them in Kingston.

It was gut wrenching to see the effect of the foreclosures on them in Woodstock.  And, it was difficult for them to leave Woodstock.  For some, foreclosure affected their emotional health.

A few, I know, returned to the primary city where life is easier for them now.  They are happy for the return move.

RUPCO is opening a new housing unit for those in the arts.  It’s located in the newly refurbished, historical Lace Mill in Kingston.  I’m hoping some will be lucky enough to get an apartment there.

Opening soon, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom lofts will be available with mezzanines and high ceilings.  Several gallery spaces,  designated shared and private work studios are planned.

A common artist utility room is being built on every level.

Outdoor sculpture areas are designed for public art.

I’m hoping some of those in the arts in Woodstock will be lucky enough to get an apartment there.  I’m hoping they’ll enjoy it.  It’s  gorgeous!

www.shivastan.org

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Good luck to us all.

Thurman Greco

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