verge (vʉrj)
the edge, brink, or margin (of something): also used figuratively the verge of the forest, on the verge of hysteria

to tend or incline (to or toward)
to be in the process of change or transition into something else; pass gradually (into) dawn verging into daylight

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dear 2009

October 24, 2009

Dear 2009,

It's very hard to let you go, but the time has come.  You will take with you treasures I have held so close, and then you'll very matter-of-factly place just them beyond time's reach.

I will miss Lucky, who quietly stood in the doorway saying hello, with his unassuming smile and crooked ears, and an optimistic handshake.  We walked under cool white pines on soft cushiony needles, and we would spy on the mergansers in the pond.  Remember how they always noticed us, no matter how invisible we made ourselves? You never asked for much, and in the end, you left more than you ever took.  How did you do that?

And Diane, who wasn't ready and didn't want to go, but then went anyway.  I have your old red shirt, dear friend.  And your forever wishes. Your determination was trumped only by your courage. You did it so well.  How you did that.....

And 2009, you'll take with you my precious memories of Stuart and its little white birds who dazzled me so, and then in one sudden gust...were gone.   I savored their presence and grieved in their absence, and learned from them the solitude of freedom, and the changelessness of change.  White birds--they don't stay long, but they stick with you forever. How do they do...

But 2009, I gladly leave with you one whopping college tuition bill, a finicky furnace and deadbeat dishwasher,  and the crumpled back end of a (new) Toyota Corolla.  I also leave you my forties, 20/20 vision, my short term memory, and all hope of ever getting them back.

And in between these shades of goodbye are budding beams of hello, and these new beams flirt me forward, offering a platter of possibility more abundant and colorful than I could ever imagine.  I step forward in this 50 year old rig with the license to not care what you think about what I do, or how I look doing it. I have a blog to write! I look forward to two more college tuition bills, maybe lots of work--and then again--maybe not, and more dances to dance. I look forward to walking Reilly down the Champs Elysees, to transition-dating my way to freedom, to selling my house, to kibitzing with devil-dawgs Pam, Jess, Ellen, Brian, Peter, Mary-Claire, Lori, Gerry, Mike, Jimmy, and Tobi, and to being my new-old self.

But 2009, I will be taking my greatest treasures with me through the night and into the next year.  Sara, Libby, and Meredith, Mom, Dad, and Maeve, Mark and Genilson, Avery and Dave, Molly and Nell...I love you always, and thank you for being the bones.

Tonight brings the hardest of goodbyes, and the gentlest of hellos.  It's silent and still here tonight, dear 2009, and you will soon be gone.  But I'll still be right here, and I'll be just fine.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Dog Walker Tip #7: Routine Maintenance*

Otis has gone home and alas, I am without Dog today.  This is quite rare. This means I am unleashed.

I am also unhinged, unstrung, and unsettled.

For starters, I overslept.  To my shock, I slept right past my ridiculously habitual (and involuntary) 5am wake-up and, unlike certain airline pilots, I can't even blame it on Facebook.  Once awake, I twitched and trembled my way through the day, painfully discovering my dependency on the routine of Routine. Ohhh, how this hurts!

To some, this might have been welcomed day off--a day of quiet repose spent near the fire with yummy books, the Sunday puzzle, endless amounts of dark roast coffee, the glow of the slightly leaning tree, and perhaps Schubert's C Major Quintet playing on the stereo.  But I blew it.  I made a fire and then ignored it.  I picked up the Book Review but got only as far as Letters before having to reheat the coffee I lost but then found again as I wandered the house.  I looked for my reading glasses only long enough to discover that the fire had died and needed restarting. I then discovered the wood on the porch needed to be moved to the rack inside.  But after only one armload of wood, I noticed that the birdseed needed refilling so I abandoned the logs for the feeders. I then tried to look at dog pictures to stay on the cutting edge of dog-ology but then remembered I hadn't found my glasses.  This temporarily motivated me to take a dog-less walk until I noticed the snow and consequently changed my mind, opting for the fire, books, coffee, and the Schubert--only to realize that I don't have that particular Schubert.  This took me on a cruise through itunes to see what's out there, only to find that I have a bunch of unidentified music in my library.  In the end, I accomplished nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  And if I had wanted to do nothing today, I would have done a much better job of it.

Routine is a great invention.  It gets things done.  It provides security.  It makes cumbersome schedules cumber-less.  Routine is both liberating and grounding.  But, as in my case, too much routine leads to mental stupor.  Routine gets me dressed very quickly everyday, and while I can be sure that I'm dressed, don't ask me what I'm wearing because I probably have no idea unless I look.  Clearly today's twitching proves that I have failed to heed the call for Routine Maintenance--a process whereby a routine is un-routinized, scoured, rinsed, re-evaluated, and then reinstated.

To maximize the benefits of routine, schedule in regular maintenance checks. Trade the art of routine for the art of spontaneity.  Dismantle your current routine, no matter how well it works. Learn how to temporarily function outside a routine.  Forget the clock, the chores, the plan.  Pick something--pick a few things--and do them backwards, upside down, inside out, or not at all.  But do them with purpose and resolve.  Then, when reassembling your old routine, pick one teeny little part of it that you can enhance or do without.  This will keep you fresh.  This will enhance your alertness when you resume your routine.  You will know what you are wearing because you paid attention when you put it on.

Learn from my mistakes.  Practice spontaneity. Do this routinely.

*I dedicate this post to my Mom and Dad. Wink, wink.....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Otis Morning

Otis is back.  His timing is always impeccable.  He moved in on Monday with his special blanket and duffle bag, and his favorite bedtime sweet potato snacks.  He brought me a very sweet gift--a lovely book, and his own gift to himself to put under the tree.  He thought of everything.

My timing, however, is horrendous.  Some people have built-in dimmer switches--little dials that provide a nuanced range of choices between all-the-way on and all-the-way off.  I'm not one of them.  Instead, I have just two settings: overdrive and sideways.  Consequently, I am just now cleaning up from Thanksgiving and doing all the Christmas shopping, cooking, and cleaning in the two days before Christmas (overdrive) while also deciding that there's no better time than Right Now to sit down to write some blog (sideways).

Otis' timing requires that I forgo overdrive and sideways every four hours to go out and play with him.  He's my plug-in dimmer switch.  He has a way of getting his point across:  when I get going too fast and he starts seeing contrails in my wake, he comes and leans all of his weight on me.  He's very big, so it's impossible to ignore his message.  I sigh, he barks with delight, and off we go to run and laugh at ourselves.  And whether I'm writing, working overtime, or madly careening through the stores, my mind is grounded by Otis and our walk schedule.  Otis keeps me on task.

Overdrive and sideways are useful settings at times.  They demand great efficiency and creativity. I've done my best work in these zones. They are also great noise-makers, the inner racket usually being the loudest and most distracting. But something caught me this week. During our early morning walk when it was just the two of us and the earth, I was stunned to suddenly hear the quiet of winter.  There was no sound at all. At first I didn't know what I was hearing--I didn't recognize it. There was just gray on white under a pale pink sky. It was so painstakingly quiet that had it not been for Otis and his stride, I might have crumpled under the weight of such stillness.  It's easy to miss this in overdrive.

Perhaps overdrive is easier.  Overdrive allows me to mask the solitary stillness of my winter.   This quiet is slightly uncomfortable. As I said, Otis came at the right time.  I might otherwise miss this. Early each morning he nudges me back out into the deep quiet.  I trust him.  And then it dawns on me.  Perhaps it is in the deepest of quiet where the best work is done.

Otis and I wish you joy in the noisiness of this season, and peace in its quiet.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Love Story

[Don't laugh.  They're serious.]

They've been together a long time.  They are no longer madly in love.  No, better.  They're quietly in love, the kind of in-love that doesn't require ownership.  He does his thing, she does hers.  He walks along slowly and mumbles to himself about this mailbox, or that pile of leaves, while she races up ahead and back behind, always circling back to him, to check.  That's the quiet part.  Those checkpoints.  A lot goes on in a checkpoint. They're brief, but key.

I've studied this.

At dinner time, he wolfs his food and then waits over to the side while she chews each bite eighteen times, then sips a little water, and briefly admires the presentation before taking her next bite.  When she's finally finished, she looks over to him and again, that checkpoint.  Something is conveyed.  She leaves the room for who-knows-where, and he ambles over to lick her bowl clean.  She has left a little something for him.  She does every time.

One day he wanted to build a snowman.
She said sure.
When they finished his snowman, she wanted to get dressed up.
He said sure.

It didn't get any louder than that.  They each did their own thing, making some sort of quiet magic together.  I'm in love with these two. They love me back. We have our own checkpoints.

That's how I got in the picture.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Awed and Shocked

See  that patch of green behind Millie?  Don't count on seeing that again until April.  That was only a few days ago.  Since then, the snow has fallen along with the temperatures, and it's now so cold that I'm sure it will be April Fools Day before anything thaws.

But make a note of Millie's face.  Looks pretty happy, doesn't she?  She is.  And if you can imagine it, she looked just as happy today when I took her out for her mid-day walk through bitter cold howling winds and crusty jagged snow banks.  You had to be there to see it, but when I opened the door to let her out, without hesitation, she barreled onward without so much as a shudder or flinch. She seemed to vibrate with enthusiasm.  She's undaunted by winter, and I am in awe of this.

I, however, have known about winter for the last 50 years and yet every year its arrival comes as a shock, and even within each day, I experience secondary shock each time the door opens.  I let everyone know about my shock.  I curse it, I whine, I refuse to take my coat and hat off in the house, I count the days until Opening Day, I horde root vegetables, I lean on the andirons.  The catalogues refer to Thinsulate, down, fleece, and shearling as outer wear.  For me, it's inner wear.  I'm certain the cold air is hurting me.

One of the perks of being a dog walker is being so intimately involved with the changing of the seasons. Walking the same routes 365 days in a row provides an opportunity to see, smell, and feel the land rhythmically age.  Only a few days ago did I pay attention to the span of field I was on, noticing how unsuspecting it seemed.  I knew what was ahead in the days to come, but this span seemed so trusting and open, and I was awed by this.

Yet last week's flash of insight failed to prepare me for the onslaught of winter when it arrived this week. I indeed knew it was coming until it actually came, and then it came as a shock.  As I was walking with Millie this afternoon, I watched her happiness.  Wanting this for myself, I followed her lead and began to run up and down the crunchy banks behind her.  My scarf was triple-wrapped around my head and I had so many layers that I couldn't bend any joints, but nonetheless, I felt something new.  It was fleeting, but it was there.  I set aside my shock just long enough to experience the soothing consistency of the earth's rhythm.  Winter is here again.  Here, and again.  Its dependability is a comfort, and I am in awe of this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dog Walker Tip #6: Disregard Dog Walker Tip #3

Um, yeah.  That thing I said about wearing cowboy boots while you're walking dogs?  That only applies if there's no snow on the ground.

Don't wear cowboy boots right now.

Boots, yes.  Cowboy boots, nope.

Trust me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Prelude Pride

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I am just back from my first Kennebunkport Prelude.  I was in the best of company--5 of the smartest, sexiest, and most sophisticated women I know.  Maine sizzled from the moment we crossed over the Pisquata until the moment we crossed back, no doubt.  But while I was made to feel welcome by the locals and shop keepers, I worried a little about a group that was under-represented.  

Prelude is a weekend extravaganza to welcome in the Christmas season.  Not holiday mind you, but Christmas.  There's a spectacular tree lighting.  Streets are closed to traffic.  There are fairs, food fests, elves, Santas, and people dressed in red and green sparkles with Christmasy doodads on their coats and bags.  There are chestnuts roasting on open fires while Jack Frost nips at your toes. The weekend culminates with the famous Hat Parade, a splashy hoo-ha where hundreds of jolly Xmas-uals march in outrageous costumes, hats and paraphernalia. You could call it Christmas Pride.

But imagine my dismay when on the first morning out, we came across this sign:

I was mortified.  Right here--posted smack dab in the middle of the post office door--was this sign!  If it had said No Dogs, Cats, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, Goats or Cows, I might have felt less shame.  But it just said No Dogs.  No dogs. Horrors. What kind of place was this?  And how did I get here? Once I was able to catch my breath I decided I would proceed onward.  Surely this sign was a mistake and not representative of the whole dang town.

We were quickly swept up by the Christmas razzle dazzle and enjoying our stroll when I became aware that actually, there weren't many dogs.  The more I looked, the more scarce the sightings.  Maybe one here or there, but mostly the streets were eerily devoid of four-leggeds.  I became more anxious.  I began to sweat.  I raced to the pet shops--two of them--to find some sign of doggy diversity.  At last!  I found a pair of beagles--a brother and sister--who were being suited up and made to look like--yup, you guessed it--a couple of yule tide dogs.

Now I didn't get the feeling Brother Beagle was too thrilled with the red snowflake rig his mom was making him wear.  He seemed to be blushing with embarrassment.  And to make matters worse, his sister was wearing a matching outfit. Yes, that's right.  Matching.  Brother and sister. Like, yuck. Though Sister seemed to be more willing to cooperate, I couldn't help but feel apologetic for their predicament.

And then after spotting the twin beagle yule dogs, along came a solo boy dressed as a reindeer. He was practically sobbing in his water bowl. And of course, in this town of mostly Christmas two-leggeds, dogs in drag get all KINDS of attention. I thought of the post office.  I looked at the spectacle before me.  I now understood.  This was not a fun place or a fun time for a dog. Hummmph.

Humbled by a new awareness, we went on to the rest of the festivities.  Being a two-legged, I felt quite welcome and accepted.  I knew I could walk in to any shop, restaurant, or post office with no worries.  I had The Look.  I shopped and I dropped.  I communed with the cool coffee crowd at the crowded cafe.  I oohed and awed the tree lighting.  I braved the infamous foot bridge through town and I payed homage to the lobster pot tree.  Hell, even with chattering teeth, I admitted the snowfall was pretty. And it was...

And then one of the five from the team of Smart, Sexy, and Sophisticated--let's call her Pam-- came up with a brilliant but daring idea.  Instead of  standing idle in the face of such dog gone inequity, we would join ranks and march in the grand hoo-ha parade.  That's right.  We would march for dogs everywhere.  We would march to end the post office ban on non-seeing eye dogs.  We would march for dog dignity.  We would march for dog nation. We would end this dogscrimination.

With that, we donned our marching hats and began our walk.
Crowds gathered and cheered.  We waved, they praised. From one end of town to the other, we turned heads and changed hearts.  [We also froze our asses off.] Using our two-legged power, we worked for change for our four-leggeds friends.  We know it worked.  As we were heading out of town the next day, we drove to the beach and looked towards the sea.  There, running along the sand, free and unfettered, were dogs.  Beautiful dogs. Dogs, as dogs. Big ones, little ones, fat ones, skinny ones.  They were chasing balls and sharing them. They were kissing the waves on the water's edge. They were smiling with pride. They were welcome, and they were very happy.