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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oakley Dokely

It was a late call about someone in great distress.  I turned on the back lights and opened the office door. Come on in, I said.  On his heels came Oakley.  She had come to help out--to be available, just in case.  I asked that she wait in the waiting room while I assessed the situation.  She quickly took her place in the darkened room, quietly waiting.  I was reassured that she was there. She had unintentionally become my anchor. After I awhile, I asked that she come in and sit close to him.

We sat together quietly.  I watched her watch him.  A sturdy stance and softened eyes provided him kindness and strength. Urgency gave way to calm.  Air began to circulate again. With no words spoken, Oakley gave him a home, a future, a reason to smile.  She liked him and let him know it.  Suddenly the world was safe again.  And so was he.

I don't exactly know how she did it, but I know exactly what she said.
To me, she said It will be ok.
To him, It already is.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010


This is one serious diva.  She lives at the flower shop in town.  She loves to sprawl among the petals and ivy, looking very lovely, and very Rubenesque.  I go there just to see her.  She graces the shop as if it grew up around her.  Quietly dignified, her presence is enormous.  She floats about, overseeing the entire operation while ever-so-elegantly greeting her guests.  She has a very solid handshake and like any stylish diva, beautifully manicured nails on four silky paws. Lovely and understated. Poised. Savvy. Delicious. Several women work for her, all busy arranging vases and cuttings, tying wreaths and wrapping bouquets.  All she has to do is look at them--a single glance--and they acknowledge her command.  It all happens very quietly.  Such a good, good manager.

Getting in and out of the shop presents the opportunity to engage directly with her. This is an important  part of her business strategy.  You see, she lounges right at the door.  Though somewhat problematic for the uninitiated, in order to get in or out of the shop it is necessary to gaze at her longingly.  Accolades help.  Exaltations help some more.  Noticing her gorgeous brown eyes and fine sturdy tail finally will earn you a long and approving gaze.  It will also gain you entrance into her shop, and as long as you have tossed her a little treat, she will step aside and bid you farewell as you leave.  But you'll be back.  And she knows it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Prelude to a Memory

I am just back from Prelude in Kennebunkport.  This was my second tour. It's Down East meets Who-ville.  Every single living, breathing thing is wearing lobster-themed Christmas rigging, complete with Bean Boots, hand knits, toggle coats, lobster cracker wreath hats (no joke--see below), and bees wax hand balm. The shops are be-decked in glitter and garland, and tables of hot mulled cider, cookies, dog treats, and stocking stuffers are all wrapped in stereophonic Christmas tunes.  Fa-la-la-la-la, La-la-la-la... Streets are closed and the crowds flow. Sail boats are buttoned up along the dock.  A large green wreath with a gingham bow hangs on the town pier. The town square is home to a plump and merry Christmas tree--the perfect backdrop for a family photo. The ocean sparkles.  Historic colonial inns reveal blazing fires.  Everyone is cheerful and happy.  Everything seems perfect.

We are walking towards the car.  We are crossing over the bridge that leads to Dock Square.  A man sees us from across the street.  He's yelling something.  He's walking very quickly towards us.  We stop.  His walk has become a charge.  He's yelling louder. His fists are clenched, his neck is taut and his eyes bulge in rage.  He's yelling as if he knows us.  He comes right up to our faces, and is firing off words and urgencies and blasts of cold, cold heat. We speak to him quietly.  He yells more.  He suddenly steps towards us.  My heart...I am very aware of the icy water just below us on this narrow bridge.  I look at Pam.  Fear.  Neither of us can move. We are madly working to understand what is happening.  He's well-dressed, young, very handsome--something about being thrown out of a bar, but we know he isn't drunk.  WHAT KIND OF TOWN IS THIS? he yells.  WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS THIS? he demands to be told.   He is becoming more desperate.  So are we.  He shouts so loudly that his voice cracks, breaks. His eyes are wild--desperately looking at us...or maybe to us. He finds us, and then loses us again.  He comes in and out of Now. Fear, his.  He yells again about the bar.  He hollers that he is an Iraq vet--that he has seen three tours in Iraq--and WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS THIS....

He lunges closer.  His desperation grows.  He wants to smash us into pieces, and he wants us to save him from wherever he is.  A crowd has formed across the street.  They are watching.

They are just standing there. Watching. 

We talk to him but he can't hear us.  His terror engulfs us like fire.  He's stuck far away, lost in Iraq.  Somewhere way back in Now, unmetabolized.  We can't bring him back.  All three of us are trapped. Here we stand, on this bridge, in this town. Not here, not there. 

And they are just standing there, watching.  

Joy to the world....   

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Got GPS?

Artemis and Biscuit

Beloved Navigation Specialists
Experts in 360 Degree Perspective and Hindsight
"You ride, We guide"

Sunday, November 21, 2010



The sun pushed against our backs and we paused to feel it. Our silhouettes were black and floating on the surface of earth. And we paused to feel that.

We walked for a long time.  No one said any thing about any...thing.  Grasses and trees and sky opened to us as if we were born there.  

I watched us for a long time.  One two three. We three opened to the grasses and trees and sky as if they were born in us.  I could find myself in the weight of the sun.

And I paused to feel that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

From the Ledge(r)

Mary and Pam

I am sitting here in my office writing this blog (shhhh...) while Pam reads to me.  She's reading one of my favorite columns:  the Monadnock Ledger Police Log.  It's a treasure. This is one of the most precious aspects of my work--not the Ledger itself--but the sharing of the Ledger.   And the sharing of everything else.  In the case of the Ledger, we always share a great rip-roaring laugh.  In the case of this morning, we shared a collective gasp.

I have to write about this.  Have to.  We show up in this office to help usher people through hard times.  Sometimes hard times change and become good times.  We like it when that happens.  Sometimes hard times stay hard, so we try to help people feel heard and maybe a little less alone.  Sometimes that is all we can do, and most times, it's the best we can do.  We carry many stories with us, but the stories that cut closest are the ones we share with each other--about ourselves. These early morning check-in conversations are an important part of preparing for the day's work we are about to undertake.  And for me, they have become an essential part of my heart.

Today during our morning conversation Pam shared a story. Pam also has a blog and I don't know if this story will make her blog, but it's making mine.  Pam's mother is dying of Alzheimer's.  Outside Mary's room is a memory box which contains mementos from Mary's life:  photos, a plate, small trinkets of the past.  This glassed-in box has shelves and a lock.  Last night Pam discovered that some of the items had been rearranged, and others had been removed.  Pam found the missing pieces carelessly stuffed into a magazine rack in her mother's room.  It remains a mystery as to how or why these items were moved.  An explanation is in order, and I'm sure it will come.

But as Pam shared this story with us, we became riveted. As we heard that the memories from the memory box had been unexpectedly handled and moved, we became disturbed and upset.  Mary is unaware that any of this transpired.  But Pam--Pam knows it happened.  That was hard to bear. Pam felt it for her mother; we felt it for Pam. It's hard to not become terribly protective of each other.

We share our stories in the office.  We laugh, we share silence, and sometimes we cry.  Thankfully for the Monadnock Ledger Police Log, we always get back to laughing pretty quickly.  As she sits here reading to me about some drunken hunter, I am grateful for the chance to tell and hear these stories.  As she ushers her mother forward, I realize that all I can do is listen and help her feel a little less alone.  And knowing that--that is the best I can do.

*Pam's blog:

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I heard this milkweed pod.  It was worth the hike to get there.  Artie, Biscuit and I walk through this hidden field late in the afternoon.  Here the fields and sky touch each other as if they were two hands folded together, cupping a secret.  I come to hear fall.  Traffic, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers are far away.  We lean into the sound of fall, the sound of wind, of leaves, of grass, of nothing.  Even my dogs sense this.

The magnificence of this spot is its quiet.  Silent sacrament. The colors of the leaves, the substance of bark, and the fabric of field are in concert here.  The black glassy pond is so silent, it's audible.  Milkweed pods are one of the virtuosic highlights of our visit.  Poised in their finest attire, they amplify the wind's presence as they trill and tumble into space towards oblivion.  I am struck by their individuality.  And their sound.  Maybe they make the sound of faith.  They don't know where they are headed...only someplace...but they go.

I don't go to church, but if I did, this is where I would go.  I come to here, this field.  I come to hear...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Boxed In

This is Tiger. 
Hear Tiger hiss.
Hiss, Tiger, hiss.

My ears are back too.  Ask anyone who has seen me lately.  The Verge is a great place for me to hang out but I have managed to box myself in a bit, causing me a small internal hissy-fit over my writing and the sound of my own niggling thoughts.  I have tried to keep to a certain format--discipline is a good thing--and I've tried to describe my Vergy experiences through my walks and works with dogs and cats and chickens and rabbits and their humans.  But this box could use a good airing out right about now.  You've been there too.  You look at your favorite room and suddenly think yuck, ugh, boring! so you decide to rearrange all the furniture and though nothing is new, it all feels refreshingly different.  There most likely won't be any obvious changes--this is mostly an inside job--but I am going to veer off just a bit and see what happens.  The dogs will still be with me of course, and if we get too lost in the woods, they'll lead me back to where we started.

So for today....It's a stunning day out there.  Cold, crisp, bright, still.  In the absence of leaves, the birch trees are now marching forth, preparing for center stage.  I love how they fade forward to winter like this, these brave ethereal souls. Tiger has to stay inside, but I don't.  Millie, Boo, Artemis and Biscuit await their turns in the sun.  Decked in hunter orange, we're heading out to the woods to see what we find outside this box.  We'll also blow the stink off while we're out there.  Mine.   

Friday, November 5, 2010


I was in the woods last weekend.  I walked alone.  Well, sort of alone.  I passed lots of dogs being followed by dog-parents who were each anxiously fussing over their own dog, giving nervous and stern directives about not jumping, about being nice, about stay here, about being a g-o-o-o-o-d dog.  Most of the dogs blithely blew off their parents to go sniff something just off the path, or to trot a few feet ahead.  As I trudged along, I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by the constant stream of disciplinary directives, wishing that parents would hush themselves and trade in control for silence. The woods felt more like Wednesday than Sunday. Silently, I praised dogs like Hannah The Young Shepherd who happily and freely ignored her mother's rapid-fire commands and skipped ahead on the path towards me to say hello.  Mother was overly aghast by Hannah's behavior but I happened to have a treat in my pocket and as soon as I whispered "Hannah", Hannah became an instant listener and expert sitter. I am aware that I probably rewarded Hannah's rebelliousness but that is an aspect of my own rebelliousness which happens to emerge now and then. (Quite truthfully, I actually considered telling Hannah's mother to sit and stop barking but I only had one cookie with me...)

In spite of barking parents, I continued along the path, seeking aloneness.  I crave this solitude.  My work requires constant expert listening.  Constant unsilence. When I can be alone like this, I trade in listening for hearing.  I don't always like what I hear on these solo walks, but I seem to have no other way to hear my own echo.  On this day, I noticed how restless and unsettled I feel.  Unhappy?  No.  But un-comfortable, yes. And to my consternation, my own echo was feeling a lot like those dog-parents were sounding.  The day was particularly beautiful which only seemed to accentuate my disconnect, my discord, my diswhatever.  I was struck hard by beauty and struck hard again by how distant it seemed; a barn recently painted in crisp cold white and outlined in warm copper gutters, perched starkly against a thick stand of dark shadowy pines, the smooth-as-glass river sneaking and snaking beneath fallen limbs, the emergent lush mosses braving the decayed leaves.  These images were both glorious and private.  At best I could only observe and acknowledge these artful scenes.  I was unable to breath them in, to be penetrated by them.  I felt so outside of outside. I don't know why.  

But I did become curious about these sculptures.  Both were as friendly as they were indifferent.  How is that possible?  Both tree and dog were rooted in their places.  Content.  Fixed.  Dispassionate. Peaceful.  Cold.  Unflinching. Friendly.  So what? they said. I liked that.  In fact, I thrived on their quiet indifference and found comfort in it.  My disconnect was put into a context that seemed safe and gratifyingly insignificant.  Control gave way to a rebellious and penetrating silence. I was inside the outside--or perhaps the outside had finally come in. I doubt I can explain it.  I left the woods the same way I went in, but I knew that I had heard the echo I needed to hear, and finally standing back I could just say so what...


Dog Walker Tip#637: Know When Pheasant Season Begins

...and don't dress up a like a pheasant that day and walk around in the woods with pheasant-colored dogs.


But if you decide to do it anyway?

Make sure one of those dogs is Artemis.  She tackles shooters.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

But I Can Still Write About It.

My Mom and Dad

See how they are both smiling?  Well, that's not what they'll be doing when they read this. They will kill me for this.  Absolutely kill me.  I just sent them an email promising I would stay in the back seat and shut up.  And I will. But technically this is writing and not talking, and so technically I'm not breaking a promise. And as long as I don't get too specific about anything (like their h**lth) then I think they'll recover from my blog-o-blabber (as well as from their unspecified recent "things" having to do with their h**lth). 

Oh me, oh my.  Parents these days.  The things they do.  As they get, um, more mature, they also get a little more, um, shall we say certain of themselves.  [Older and stubborn are words that don't belong here, whatsoever. No siree, nope, no way. ] Recently when they both experienced not-to-be-mentioned unspecified "events" that required the attention of folks who happen to do "rounds", they became as impenetrable as the Pentagon,  expert in all matters and, after years of adversarial cut-throat NYT crossword puzzle stand-offs against each other, they were suddenly, well, like an old married couple.  On the same page. Totally on the same page. 

And if you happen to be a daughterslashblogger who is trying to stay in the back seat and remain supportively quiet from a slightly long-ish distance away, even though it looks like they have all their hands firmly on the big steering wheel, there are moments when it doesn't quite feel like it.  I mean, don't get me wrong--I'm all for risk-taking. Try to get a seat at Arnold's on a Saturday night or--I dare you-- try to wedge into that spot just outside of Mark's in P-town, or even try to sneak popcorn while Maeve is asleep.  Go ahead--go for it.   But my parents have a way of suddenly ( and I mean suddenly) going from all conservative-y about what they do, to getting all "wild" with things I wish they could approach in a softer, more measured way--especially those matters having to do with their h**lth.   

So here I sit in the back seat. I'm keeping one eye shut on this trip.  I'm trying to hide the fact my knuckles are white from gripping the door handle and I've bitten all my nails.  My right foot keeps hitting the invisible brake hard enough to drive it through the floor. I'd like a smoke and I don't smoke. Making this a bit more nerve-wracking is the fact I happen to teach "driving" for a living--the very same kind of "driving" that might (I only said might) be helpful in caring for their (fill-in-the-blank) circumstances pertaining to their h**lth.  But alas, I am still the kid (a very gray and menopausal 50-year-old kid) and I can already see that they have things under (their) control and so that pretty much leaves me one thing to do.

(Closing eyes and assuming lotus position)
Innnnh--Hey, up there! I can drive anytime you want to take a little break.  If you want.  Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


This is one of my most favorite places to walk.  It's just a few steps from my door and the dogs love to run there once they see where we are headed.  This is the kind of landscape that I too could tumble across--the kind that makes me want to venture beyond its horizon, tracing the curves of the landscape with my feet and vertical curiosity.  These curves roll right into each other without ownership or apology. For a year I walked here nearly every day and watched the seasons transform the land the way a painter does a canvas, one subtle layer at a time.  The effect is a masterpiece of earth and sky. Today's visit was like stepping into an old familiar hug; the path was quiet and gray, and the trees with their tattered sleeves of golds and reds and greens and browns invited quiet companionship.  I wandered close to their branches and acknowledged the friendliness of familiarity. Except for these trees, I was solo today. I listened to the wind. 

In the distance is a barn.  I like to imagine the farmer who used to whistle every morning as he rummaged around inside.  I watch my dogs as they vigorously sniff the area, imagining their own tales about what has gone on here.  The landscape offers tiny clues.  A pond.  An old orchard.  Stone walls.  Berries.  A telephone pole.  The wood pile. A path worn with tire tracks.  Broken glass.

As I walked back out of the woods towards home, I scanned the landscape again.  Soon these same trees would be bare and the field would be brown.  Or white. I have it memorized--the sight of a gray sky over a brown and white field, punctuated by the lonely, cold and gray silhouettes of the trees.  I chuckled and then shuddered to myself.  But those days aren't here yet, I said out loud to the wind.  For now, the trees offer bouquets of warmth and friendship.  The path home curves the entire way so it's often hard to see what's coming up ahead.  Between now and then is a mystery lined with gold.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


This little bunny is a blessing.  So are the other rabbits, and so are the chickens.  Hmmm.  Hello, dear creatures.

I find it to be such an oddity.  Though I am a therapist, there are days and weeks when my work feels more like roller derby than a place of reflective and deep listening.  This week was particularly difficult.  There was a pile-up of catastrophes and instinctively, I retreat from headlines and the public and private conflicts in order to stay afloat.  Solitude is my retreat, and quiet be-ing helps.

But this appears like a gentle wind, and right on time.  I took care of the bunnies today.  There is a barn full of them for me this weekend.  Last week I spent time with such sweet and lovely chickens, with their pale green eggs. But today I stepped into the barn and was greeted by silence.  It's a meditative routine; fill the feed pails with grain, fill the watering cans with water, and push the cart to each hutch.  The barn floor is solid and gentle, soft, and so, so kind. I wear barn boots but this kindness works its way up through my soles and through my soul. It kindly bears my burdens and I am grateful for it.  The grain is sweet smelling and simple.  Each bunny is curious.  In silent acknowledgement, we share communion.  I feed each one, but I am fed. How odd and how right to find it here....

Such creatures are blessings. A piece of reverence, the peace of reverence.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Show and Tell Time

Routine starts in our feet.  Boo and I got back to ours this week.  We spent Labor Day weekend together and are now back in the swing of school.  We spent the long weekend playing Show and Tell about summer and all that took place there.  Sounds like Boo had fun in the pond and with his girls.  It also looks like he enjoyed some yummy food and long, lazy days, judging from his harness and its fit.  It was a happy reunion for us both.  He did his customary lean against my foot while I worked at the computer and occasionally he would sit up and offer his paw for a little benevolence.

Summer tends to fling itself in many directions and so our reunion signified the return of our soles onto the earth.  Grounded-ness in the face of whirling and swirling change.  As we walked and I followed behind, I was reassured by this old and familiar routine.  Boo presses on--you can feel it in his leash. He has destination in his feet.  As we do every September, we both dodge those falling acorns as they bullet their way to earth, and then laugh at the sky when we manage to succeed.  There's really no way of outsmarting gravity--it's pure chance as we amble along.

But nonetheless, we defied gravity several ways this summer, as I shared with Boo.  Sara took flight in July, and Libby and Mere followed in August.  Off they go, looking back only occasionally while aiming towards new horizons.  No, I'm not sad. I am awed. Empty nest isn't what I thought it would be. Empty nest isn't really empty, nor is it actually even a place.  Emptiness is full with possibility, and our nest is found in the soles of our feet--and in the tips of our wings.  We are all together (there's gravity in that), no matter where that is (how we defy it). That's how it feels.

And as I also shared with Boo, the house still sits waiting for a buyer to come along and make it home.  Brian, a life-time friend who is also a sucker for trampolines, performed magic when he wrapped mine in plastic wrap and put the whole shebang in the trunk of his car. Our old trampoline-turned-tanning bed-turned-retrampoline now boings Fred and Zoe into orbit in Rochester, NY. One trampoline up for them, one trampoline down for me.  Gravity defeated!

And then I told Boo about one more thing.  I told him I had been struck hard over the summer.    Like a meteor from very far way, love landed smack dab in the middle of my path.  I have fallen hard (there's gravity in that) and I am letting it lead my way (how we defy it).  Madchen's Man is a study in gravity defied.  He doesn't amble--instead he trips along, and yet like Boo, destination is in his feet.  Rooted in the Unknown and the Uncertain we were each committed to not finding the other. Looking only at our own feet, we have both been unexpectedly launched into a gravity-defying, deep, deep orbit together.

As I return to fall and the start of school, my soul finds its way again along the September path of routine.  Benevolence. There's nothing routine about this routine.  In fact, I'm laughing at the sky.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hey Mere


I have my shades on because I can't quite take this all in. You caught me in the kitchen this morning--it looked like I was crying about my banana and yogurt blender storm, but then you stopped and noticed, and then you cried too (silly kid).  I can't quite believe that this week has arrived although I know we both saw it coming in plain view.  Remember when it was always a long ways off?

We've knocked around the house for the last eighteen years.  Sometimes those knocks were more like booms, and other times they were like tiny whispers.  And somehow, to our mutual delight and occasional horror, we went to school together--every school you ever attended, and every day. Thank goodness we could laugh about that.

It's not easy being the baby of the family.  You got left behind a few times.  Where's Meredith? someone would ask.  Silence, followed by a gasp, followed by a frantic rush as we quickly scrambled to pick you up from wherever we had inadvertently stranded you.  Back-to-school shopping for you always started in the hand-me-down pile.  As a baby, you slept on the fly. Or we simply didn't let you sleep.  You were making your own sandwiches by the time you were three.  One day we noticed you could drive.

Our family changed shape right when you were old enough to understand the significance of shapes and their changes.  Some shapes and some changes were harder than others. Being the youngest, you watched from the front door or your bedroom window as everyone else moved out and on with their lives.  Once, you looked at me and said that it seemed to you as though everyone had up and left, that the house was empty, that you missed having them home so much, so so much. You were left here to keep on keeping on, making this house a home, making your family still a family. 

And yet, just look at you, darlin', all grown up and smart and beautiful.  This time it's your turn to head out the door and holy cow, you are so ready. You stagger me with your confidence and poise!  Your bags are packed and the hours are ticking by.  But listen--I'm not coming to school with you this time--this will be have to be your adventure.  This shaping change of yours is one we all notice and feel deeply.  You, the baby of the family, leave an enormous echo, as only the youngest can.  You unknowingly launch us all on a new adventure while we still keep on keeping on, and making this family still a family. Silence, followed by a gasp, followed by a tear or two or three, followed by an enormous hug....

Be on your way.  Shine.  Be here now, darlin', wherever you go.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Threshold Thirty One

I arrived and Paul was in the fields, mowing.  Harris was in the kitchen.  A large vase of dancing,  handpicked flowers waved from the table.  And the birds are back...

Harris was laughing, her eyes sparkled.  Paul wiped the sweat from his brow and smiled at her when she wasn't looking.  Bellows appeared for the fireplace. And the greenhouse was at long last open to the summer breeze. And Diane's echo....

Tools in boxes awaited their places on the wood worker's table and shelves.  Man-Town, he called it while she giggled. The barn floated on lady's mantle, its doors opened wide. And horses and chickens will soon be back...

Thirty-one, your threshold beams.  Hopeful feet step across into a worn, ready nest.   The pegs hold hats, again.  The twinkly tin light still chirps hello.  The sink is full of freshly cut greens. Pictures hang from those stoic nails on storied walls. And a faith-filled friend is back.....

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Art of the Sand Dollar

I used to spend my summers on the Cape looking for sand dollars.  For countless hours I hunched myself over the sand, covering one square foot at a time while squinting my eyes and gritting my teeth, trying to force sand dollars to materialize right there before me in the sand. I did this for miles of beach, day in and day out. C'mon!  I know you're there! Show yourselves, dammitall... Once in a while someone would walk by carrying a few.  Show offs....But each year I went home empty-handed, defeated, disheartened.  Finally I surrendered.  I quit the search.  Not only did I refuse to try, but I made a point of not looking.  Nope, not going there anymore.  A waste of time.  Always turns out the same. Eventually, I even forgot about that too.  I didn't look for them, and I didn't not-look for them. I just walked on the beach. Just simply walked...on the beach.

And I kept walking, summer after summer.  Those walks became magnificent.  No cares.  How beautiful is the ocean and that undulating verge between sand right here and water, right there.  My feet mind followed.  I found an odd and unexpected fulfillment in my emptiness.  I knew that there were millions of sand dollars out there, and I didn't want a one. There was way more peace in not seeking than in seeking. At last, I had conquered the sand dollar.

And yes, of course. That's right when it happened.

I was doing my thing, walking my walk, minding my business of solitary nothingness when there before me, with unassuming beauty and unmistakeable spirit lay a single sand dollar on the sand.  I stood frozen. I blinked, and my eyes filled.  The hallowed space between my eyes and this elusive sand dollar was infinite...and I couldn't move. With unutterable joy, I scooped this treasure into my hands.  I kept this our secret, our find, our silence.  I held it quietly in my hand and said nothing.  

I continued my walk, now carrying this small piece of magic in my hand.  To my amazement, I found another, and then another.  In all, I collected twenty sand dollars during my stay and not one--not one-- did I seek.  I simply can't explain that. But I now know my searches had been misguided all those previous years. I thought I knew what I was trying to find. I thought I could make It happen. I had practiced The Art of Manipulation only to come up sorely disappointed and very lonely in it. Painstaking loneliness, yet unspeakably loud.

But in that unassuming surrender, some inner barrier was dislodged.  I had begun to take in the wider landscape. There was so much to see there.  I was only a small part of it...I found a quiet and joyful anonymity in such a landscape.  How freeing to join it in that way. As I began to spot more and more sand dollars, I began to pay attention to their prompts.  Sand dollars reveal themselves when the eyes sweep the landscape, without censorship. While scanning, the thin, crescent-shaped shadow of the sand dollar will reveal itself first, as it rests near the water's edge.  It's that little sliver of a shadow, a knowing slice of smile, that makes itself known.   It catches the eye, and it says hello....

But don't look for it. No, don't. Instead, practice the Art of Giving Up.  You will find yourself in precious company, and very rich in sand dollars.

Photo by Meredith Bempkins 

Dog Dude

Man-Oh-Man--has it ever been hot! This summer's been a-sizzlin'. For you too, probably, wherever you are.  One can hope...

Hanging out with Otis the other day turned the heat into a little lesson in Cool.  Otis was born cool, as you already know. Wicked cool. Take his name. I mean, Otis? If there really is a dock at the end of the bay, that's where he was born.  He's the essence of cool dude-ness.  

The two of us got worked into quite a lather during our visit recently. It was stinkin' hot--so hot that even the birds were silenced.  The trees didn't dare sway out of fear they wouldn't be able to straighten back up.  Otis, hottie that he is, was undaunted and coaxed me into a little frenzy of Go Fetch which I handled like any out-of-shape, aging and immature 50 year old dog walker would.  I whined and I sighed, I gasped and I heaved, and I pretended I was proud of my underarm sweat stains while little gnats stuck to my legs and teeth and forehead.  And my feet...oh wow--yeah--my feet.  Let's just leave it at that.  

But then there was Otis. Imbued with dude-ness, he managed to settle us both.  He wandered us over to the center of the shade under the umbrella-ish apple tree in the yard, and he got his belly all down-low in the grass and flopped those two hind legs of his way behind him while he lifted his eyes upward, a big ol' smile rising across his face and that mouth as big and open and grinnin' as it could be.  And his eyes blinked big blinky-blinks at me...slowly, happily, cooly, and so dude-ly.  

I stood there all stink-like, looking as slimy and greasy and uncool as I felt, and so I figured I would take a page from The Book of Otis and find me a way to get down and get cool, and sample a little piece of this dudeness.  We sat there looking at each other.  As I looked at him and he looked at me I could start to feel my stink blow right off.  And then came that nice cool giant wet kiss and Man-oh-Man, being hot never felt so cool. Like hey, what a dude, Man.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ms. Mammoth and Her Man

I met a little slice of perfect this week.  Her name is Madchen and his is Her Man. They love each other. That's not the perfect part.  The perfect part is in all the ways they adore each other.  Rich, simple. A piece of perfection, if I ever saw it.

She knows what a beautiful field looks like and how to rove it.
He knows how to tend it...

She knows just what's in that special drawer in the kitchen.
He knows exactly when to open it.

She knows how to savor those made-with-love cookies.
He knows how to make them, with his hands, and with love.

She knows just how to rocket through the air to snatch a frisbee as it skims across a baby blue sky.
He knows just how to send her flying.

She knows just how to instigate a little jelly-belly rubbin'.
He knows exactly how to tickle her fancy.

She knows how to make her mammoth self fit snugly into his lap.
He knows just how to make himself as big as comfy a couch, cradling her there.

She knows how to wiggle her tail and do a little dance around the room.
He knows how to sing to her.

She knows when and where to get the mail down the road.
He knows just how to make the mailbox a journey.

She knows how to sit elegantly tall and straight.
He knows how to treat her with grace.

She knows how to anticipate his glance as she sits close by his side.
He knows how to meet her eyes...and smile with his.

She knows how to announce a visitor venturing across the bridge.
And they know how to make her feel quite at home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Millie and I have our morning ritual.  It's just ours. Its predictability feels like worn-in leather. Gentle, durable. We step into our morning with the reassurance that another day is here, and that we get to go meet it, just like we did yesterday, and the day before that. We have our customary good morning wags and kisses and then skip out the door towards the very same route, in the very same direction, saying g'morning and hello to all the very same birds, and rocks and mail box posts and flower boxes.   We love the rhythm of those greetings, the two of us.  Every so often we catch each other steeling glances at the other and that seems to make us walk a little faster and and a little sillier.  We make a little deal with each other to be as silent as possible while we pass sleeping households and other sleeping dogs,  and as we pass them by our insides are laughing free and easy at our companion ritual-ship.  The shared certainty of this routine makes us both a bit giddy.

After we get home and take care of breakfast, we both have a little quiet moment before heading in different directions as day wears on.  And it dawns on us again and again in each morning pause that the predictability of our routine serves to nurture and cultivate the unpredictable. Unpredictability is an open door. Neither of us really knows what's on the other side.  But based on the routine of So Far,  it's going to be pretty good.  It's quite worth waiting for, and hoping for, I predict. C'mon--the door's open, curious one. Keep walking with me here. I look forward to the next one, and the next one.

And the one after that....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Lily...the essence of cool.  Cool, clean, smooth.  And very, very, very quiet.

That is such a lie. 

This little lady has enough energy to light Manhattan.  She's Thelma AND Louise. Standing all of  6 inches high, this little dahling diva rrrrreally rules the roost.  From her beautifully coiffed shag to her pale pink diamond-encrusted choker, she's got opera-soprano style, celeb, and well, spirit, shall we say.  She sparkles.  Literally.  She's never ever without her bling. When she zooms by (which is always), dizzying dazzling sparkles sprinkle the air in her wake. And when Lily's around, there's no doubt whatsoever about what's happening next and what your particular part's going to be.  Don't even THINK of tip toeing past.  She's all over it and voicing her opinion about it, besides.

But then too, there's her heart. It's as big as her sparkle. Once she knows you, you're in.  You're so in.  She'll shower you in love and adoration,  giving little diva kisses while telling you how perfect you are,  and she'll see to it herself that you are made to feel comfy, cozy, and cared for at all times.  

She's a handful--one mighty hot ticket.  I've grown very fond of her in the past year.  She keeps me on my toes and barely one step ahead.  She has certainly brightened my world.  That's so hot, it's cool.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Surprise Beginnings

Things have a way of coming 'round.  And when you least expect it.  Endings have beginnings attached to them, the sort that aren't always evident.  And they manifest as surprises...the very best sort.

Diane's farm.  The precious farm--the one where she planted her feet, and finally her soul.  The one where she hunkered down and gave it life...while hers gave way.  Diane took such care.  Nothing was left undone.  Each detail had a reason and a thought.  But as October descended and her days there reached their end, the details of its future lay fallow by winter's weight.  Yet, as if by an unspoken promise, The Pony Lady and Her Partner stumbled onto the farm and fell in love with it just a short time ago.  They see what Diane saw...its river, love gardens, and a life abundant tucked between wood and iron, rocks, memory birds, and deeply webbed roots.  A tangle of history, housed in those tendrils.  And in their search to learn more about Diane, they found me.  And as we scrambled to find each other, we found ourselves in a new story--one that takes an ending thread and braids it together with a beginning and a promise.  And so we arranged to meet, only to discover that our lives have crossed paths unknowingly over the years, for they live just down the street! In a teary-eyed evening, an ending was woven into a new that Diane would have loved and chosen.  The farm is in good hands.  That's a promise, my friend.

Another Ending-Turned-Beginning is the story of the Baby.  This grand Baby has raised three generations of children.  All those curly fingers, all those melodies!  It too has ended its days in our hands, but has begun a new life in the happiest of places.  As the team of expert movers rehearsed and rehearsed its exit down my long stairs and into the van, I too rehearsed my goodbye, preparing myself to let it go so that it could come back.  That turning point happens in a subtle quietly it comes. But come back it will, to new curly fingers and new melodies, and with generations of joy as its echo....And as they drove away, I intuitively knew that I was saying hello to a new life.

And now there's now.  Right now.  A Now that's also very right. Another ending is making its beginning, surprising me in the most quiet of ways.  I am rapt as it unfolds.  This Verge began at an ending but has unintentionally become a beginning.  Such beginnings keep themselves secret until the right moment and right time, when they can at last be born. I am trusting what I know about that and trusting even more what I don't know.  And to that end I welcome these Surprise Beginnings....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Photo Shoot

All I did was ask for them to get in the picture.
Isn't that right, Artemis?

Hey Baby

When I have dates with my DogBF Tucker, I get all smitten-y. But look at him--who wouldn't get all love sick and giddy around this boy? We did our usual top secret morning routine (see below) and then we decided to spend this Sunday like all Sunday diggin' dawgs do and throw the ball, take a hand 'n paw walk, make slobber faces and call each other Baby. 

During our mid-day walk today, we picked a bunch of flowers along the side of the road.  Day lilies, painted daisies, and Queen Anne's Lace were the offerings along the roadside buffet and we liked them all.

Hey Baby, those flowers you're picking are real pretty, he woofed.

Why thank you.  I love these the best,  I said back.

Wanna put them on the bench for our dinner tonight?  he asked me, all smilin'.

That would be really nice, I blushed.

After our walk and a little more practice catching pop flies, we had a rest and a couple of snoozes on the porch, and said goodbye.

I'll see you tonight for dinner, Tucker, Baby...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Morning Secret

I have a secret.  When morning nudges me awake, I know it's there, waiting, and with single-minded swiftness, I am on my way to go find it. This morning I let Tucker come along to see it too.  We move about without talking, as if we are on a mission.  No one is there when we get there.  It's only us. It's just us....

We move along quietly--we are part of this secret, now that we're there.  Along the way, clues are revealed. A mother duck and her six fuzzy babies. The fog hovering over the water and young geese swimming stilly.   The swamp with the band of bullfrogs, invisible, playing their jazzy sounds, and vibrating the air.  Raspberries cheerfully dot the greens. No one is there but us, making this morning secret ours, alone.

We find the spot to sit and watch.  Tuck has a sip of the pond while I study a lone white lily pad.  The geese stir a bit as the sun breaks over the orchard and the red-winged black bird settles close by.  And then it appears. We both spy it. Don't move--be very still.  You'll scare it off, I remind us.  We are both still, breathing only shallow breaths, taking it in slowly and again and again.  Tuck and I look at each other and say nothing, but we smile as we leave. This is the sweetest of secrets.

On our way back, the early morning of morning is melting away.  The fog is lifting and the buzz begins.  Cyclists zip by.  The church bell chimes.  Koby and her friend are coming our way.  Tuck and Koby exchange nuzzles and he looks back at her as she heads down the path. Tomorrow's coming, I remind him.  We'll be back.

Until then Tucker, shhhhhhh....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

River Dance

A River Dance takes years to master.  First you have to have your routine down pat, and know your part.  He knows exactly what to do outside and it's like magic.  She knows just what to do inside and it's home.  As long as he does his part and not hers, and as long as she does her part and not his, the parts get stronger.

Then comes the Dance, when the two parts move as one single pair.

They both had matching caesars, but he had iced tea and she had lemonade.  They each got forks and napkins--for each other.  There was an abundance of straws too.  They each savored their food while also keeping a close eye on the other's progress.  Do you need a knife? he asked.  Yes, I think I do, she answered.

Where do you suppose we take our plates?  they asked each other when they finished.
Maybe over there?

Oh? But do we recycle the forks and knives? What about the cups? Do we just throw those out?
I'll ask.  Excuse me but are these cups recyclable?  And what about the forks and knives?
She says that she ordered the cups herself so she knows that they are recyclable.  But the knives and forks aren't...

What about the lemon slices? What should we do with those, do you think?
I'm going to throw mine out in the trash. I guess we have to.
But oh look, we can dump our ice in these stones right here.
Oh, good idea.
We're so clever...

Wanna walk down to the river?

These chairs are really quite comfortable.  Not all Adirondack chairs are comfortable but these are quite nice...

This river is really an estuary. So is the Thames, you know...

Look--there's the osprey family.  I can see some heads poking up.  Did you bring the binoculars?
They're in the car.
Not the ones in the car--they don't work.
Well they work well enough.  I'll go get them...

Can you see anything?
Yeah, I think it's the mother and a baby.  The father must be fishing,
Wanna look?
I can't see.  I can't find where they...wait, there they are. But how do I focus these?
Turn the knob, no, not that one, there you go...the one on the center.
Oh now I see!
Their main job is to teach the babies how to dive.
They'll be gone by September, you know...

I'd like this to be my yard.
Me too, he said...

This was quite nice, she said.
Perfect, said he...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Farmer Joe

Lucky me today.  I mosied out to the farm to get my spinach, eggs, strawberries, and lobster (yes, I said lobster) and happened to catch Farmer Joe taking a break from herding the galloping snap peas, bok choy, and broccoli.  He was awfully hot but he was patiently accepting visitors.  And there were many today.

Lobster Bob wasn't in yet so I kindly thanked Joe for the veggies and strawberries and chatted awhile.  He mentioned that he's 13 years old now but with this thriving family farm, he's got too much to do to be laying around in front of the summer screen door all day long.  As we chatted, more and more people arrived looking for fresh-picked goodies for their Saturday night dinners.  Joe, clearly the farm's patriarch, seemed cool as a cucumber towards his herd of veggie-seekers.  Can I pat him? they'd ask of his family.  A-yup, Joe would say.

In the back field, Joe's other herd was lounging in the shade of the trees.  Chickens and lamas kept their backs to us, seemingly bored with us all.  It's just another day on the farm....

Joe asked about Maeve, the very pretty and wildly rambunctious Corgi from Connecticut.  He said blueberries would be in later this summer and he remembers how much she loves them.  Tell her to stop by and see me, he said.  But only if she wants.  Not because I want her to or anything like that, he blushed.  It's up to her. Either way, makes no difference to me, he shrugged.

We chatted a bit longer and then I stepped back to take in the rhythm of the farm.  It's very, very beautiful, this farm.  There's a breeze blowing there that seems to sweep up the joy that grows from the soil and is echoed in the eyes of its inhabitants.  It ripples through the clothes on the line, dancing as friends do together.  The sweet smell of the earth draws us all there.  You really must come...

Go home and enjoy your veggies, Joe said.  I certainly did.  And don't forget to tell Maeve about the berries.  Tell 'er Farmer Joe says he'll be waiting right here.

Farmer Joe's bounty

Dump Diva

"Because I like it right here..."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bye Boo

So long, Boo.
I'll be thinking 'bout you...

Today I said goodbye to you for the summer, dear one.  And dammitall, Boo--of all days for you to be all  mushy and lovey with me.  Today, of all days, you greeted me at the door with those bright eyes and that bushy tail instead of playing the fake-sleeping game you find so amusing when I whistle my daily arrival and pretend I don't know where you are.  And then you just had to keep putting your paw in my lap, didn't you? Boo....

Ok, yes, I was walking slower than usual. But you were stalling too.  I could tell, clever one. You stopped walking and pretended you were trying to hear something so that I would think to take some pictures. I love this one of you.  It's paints your beautiful Boo-ness. And we kept sitting together--that's not our usual way of walking.  I liked sharing the shade and sitting quietly next to you.  You kept nuzzling me.  I heard what you were saying.

A couple things to remember over the summer...
  • Mind your manners with your dog treats.  Try not to snatch them--it startles people.  Remember what we practiced: Eeeeasy does it when they are offered to you.  Be gentle.  This encourages more offers (and we always like more, don't we!)
  • Don't eat those little critters.  Remember that one time?
  • Please, please don't chase the UPS guy.  It's never a good thing.  Never.  
  • That little Yorkie is all talk.  She won't hurt you but I think you better be careful.  She's making it pretty clear that she's just not that interested.  Sorry Boo, but keep lookin'! 
  • The Landscape Guys still aren't hiring.  I know, I'd be great and all, but they are trying to those fill holes, not dig them deeper.
  • Play with your sisters.  They have waited all year for school to be out so they could play games with you.  You look so handsome in a fairy crown.  Shows what a good sport you are!
  • Chase a chippy or two around the yard every day.  The exercise is great and it will keep them from making problems for your parents.
  • Make sure you have fun. Make sure of that, dear friend.
Hey, Boo.  Let's make a little deal.  At noon each day, look up towards the sky.  I'll be looking up there too.  We'll see each other there for a second or two.  August is coming, and a little too fast. Until then, I'll be thinking of you, Boo.  I'm really going to miss you, my dear friend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Buddy's System

Buddy was awake when we arrived today.  He jumped right up for us.  Bright eyes! Usually he's so sound asleep that I inadvertently startle him each time I arrive.  He was up and at 'em today, though.  He has no time to waste.

The note on the counter was unusually long.  I could see right away that there were too many words on the page.  Too many for comfort. Don't think I'll read this, I thought.  But I knew better, and I read it. And then I had to read it again. These are the wrong words. They must be.  Buddy is sick, the vet says.  And, he's 15 years old. It's running through his system, but he doesn't seem to be in pain. Oh....

But I am.

Not Buddy--certainly not today, anyway.  We walked in his brand new red harness and he loved it.  Much more comfortable than his old collar.  He didn't care about going to far, but he did want to inspect every plant and rock and tree stump along the way.  Quality over quantity, he said.

Buddy's an avid Red Sox fan.  He witnessed the Reverse of the Curse.  He likes what he sees of the new Nava and he predicts a very good season for the Nation.  Late October is high season for us. Buddy and I have our secret October rituals.  He and I--we'll be rooting them along. That's what buddies do.

Sit. Stay.

I am on Tuesday.  All day, it will be Tuesday.  From the time I got up, until the time I go to sleep tonight, it will all be nothing more than Tuesday.  A plain, simple Tuesday.  Just one day, a single day, the whole lifetime of this one Tuesday lived between sun up and sun down.

In spite of that, as I sit here waiting, I keep leaning myself over the rail into Wednesday as if I could be in both days at once. And no matter how far I lean trying to find Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I keep seeing Tuesday and only Tuesday. Wednesday simply isn't here yet. So I keep sitting.  And staying. And tapping...

But as I sit here on the back deck and look at Tuesday's back yard which happens to be --of all things--in my own backyard, I can't imagine why I keep trying to hop into Wednesday.  After all, I know nothing about Wednesday.  But about Tuesday, this particular Tuesday, I know quite a bit.

The sky is a deep, deep blue.  Parts of it are.  Other parts have clouds here and there--the clean, white, puffy kind.  The wind is blowing through the trees.  Some of the trees.  Some are standing very still and silent while others are blowing with some seriousness about them.  The sparrows are busy.  Well, some are and some are not.  Some are in and out and in and out and in and out of their nest in the house on the post by the fence near the shed under the oaks carrying snacks and stems and bugs and parcels and ritual to their babies. And some are just sitting on the rail, silent, peeking at a secret.  Some dogs need walking today and some do not.  Buddy needs his walk.  Boo does not.

And like the randomness of Tuesday's ongoings, parts of me are unsettled and parts are not.  The unsettled parts can sit and stay here--they belong to this day. And as for the settled parts of me, they can sit and stay, too.  It's this one and only Tuesday, settled and unsettled, clear and unclear. It will be here for only a few more hours.  I don't miss it.

Wednesday is only my imagination.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dear Class of 2010

Dear Class of 2010,

I find myself trying to catch my breath around you.  It seems as though you've taken it from me with your sudden arrival on the Launch Pad. How in the world did you get here so fast?  Weren't you just learning to ride your bikes a few days ago? Just the other week you were trying out cursive writing and waiting to see the orthodontist for the first time. And I could have sworn that it was only a few months ago that we were turning over the keys to the washer and dryer for you to take on spins of your own. It seems like we've been watching you grow up with the clicker on fast forward, the end of this chapter abruptly upon us while we puzzle over how we zipped through your childhood so fast.

You are the Instant Generation. You grew up with click-of-the-mouse spontaneity and convenience, the world literally at your fingertips.  Instant food and meals.  Instant internet from anywhere, anytime. You were born prewired for wi-fi. Instant big money.  Instant big loss. Instant "Breaking News" reports.  Instant shopping.  Instant downloads.  Instant banking. Instant reruns. Velcro! Instant lockdowns. Flash mobs. Flash floods. Flash drives. Instant photo developing. With GPS, instant directions to anywhere. Instant messaging. Instant proofreading.  Instant calculations. Instant fame. Instant sex. Instant election results.  And not only do you have all these things at your busy fingertips, but you have become multi-taskers in a way that no previous generation has ever fathomed or experienced. You text, chat, talk, poke, like, unlike, tweet and navigate data bases while listening to your mp3s, and you can do all at the same time. Even more remarkable is that you do these things while non-chalantly zig-zagging between countries and continents, the world made smaller and closer than ever before.  And yet this leg of your journey which began over 6570 days ago, seems to have suddenly culminated in a single point, in a single flash, in a single instant. So many days gone by so fast...

I have a message for you as you leave this nest you've known as home. I'm not a philosopher or an academic. I'm a mom--your mom. And I want you to hear me, so I figured I'd deliver it in the way I know you'll get the message.

Messages. OK.
New text message OK
Recent Contacts OK

We hvnt left the wrld n very gd cndition 4 u. But u, u brng a frsh pair of eyes. U no wht u cn do. U have the tech skllz 2 nt only repar the earth, but 2 restore it 4 all life. But it isnt gng 2 b technlgy skillz tht heal the wrld.  It will take cmpassn.  B cmpassnate. & cmpassn cn only come frm eye2eye, voice2voice, touch2touch contact.   Cmpssn cn only come frm ur <3, nt frm ur cell. Dont just txt xoxo & ilys 2 ur bffl; give xxoo 4 real, & say ILY OUTLOUD 2 each othr & the earth we share. tht dsnt come instnly. Luv takes time. Jst rmembr that, k? & plz tcoy.  & dnt 4get 2 call ur mom.  Or send txt whn u gt there.

xoxo ILY <3
; )

Thursday, June 3, 2010


We had a little mishap yesterday.  I wasn't going to mention it, but brushing it aside is failing me.  The memory keeps bouncing back to front and center, so I need to place it here so that it settles into some point on some line.

I was on my way to walk Boo.  On a busy road, I saw a woman pulled to the side going in the opposite direction.  As I passed by, I saw that she had Biscuit by the collar standing along the verge.  He was panicked.  His eyes were so fearful. He was breathing hard. His legs were stepping back and forth, but going nowhere.  I pulled right over and he jumped right into my car in relief.  I know you, Alice.  I don't know where I am, but I know who you are.  

I took him towards his home.  In the car, he seemed so upset by it all. It was as if he was shaking his head at himself.  I reached back to pat him and talk quietly to him.  But he was so shaken and scared that as I touched him, his bewilderment and fear touched me back.  I'm scared too, Bisc. We weren't far from his home, but we were too far for Biscuit. He hadn't meant to be on that road.  He hadn't meant for that to happen.

A bowl of cool water and the familiarity of his home and yard was relief to us both.  You're back, safe and sound, Old Man. Please stay right here....