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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Murphy's Awe


It was the perfect scene.  The wind was up, the waves were bright, the sun was warm, the sky was baby blue.  From the sea wall, the prettiest little double masted gaff-rigged boat was being brought in.  The couple had it all, right down to their sun-repellant clothing, polarized sunglasses, all-terrain shoes.  These people really know how to have fun, I thought. They know exactly what to do with a weather-perfect Sunday.  I was impressed.  These people make grand use of a Sunday.  Such ambitious fun.  I was very, very impressed.

But then along came Murphy.  Dear, dear Murphy. In the distance, barking was making a crescendo. It was the kind that said "I see land! I see land!" but in this case it meant "I see water! I see the water".  And then all of a sudden and from out of nowhere, this one-dog stampede named Murphy came crashing down the boat ramp and rocketed into the water like he was a magical amphibious machine.  

"Throw the ball, throw the ball!" he begged from the channel.

She threw, and threw, and threw.  Maven Murphy performed each fetch with Olympian execution and gusto.  Passers-by couldn't help but stop and marvel at his energy and happiness.  He pranced back and forth as she would stoop down to get the ball at the water's edge and the second it was locked into her snazzy mega ball launcher, he would bolt over the waves and out to retrieve his ball. On his way back, ball in teeth, he would snort-snort-snort, cutting through the waves while keeping his eyes locked onto his cheering fans.  

"Thank you! Oh, thank you for throwing the ball! Please, mother, please! Throw it again!" barked he.

And so...she threw, and she threw, and she threw, and she threw, and she threw, and she threw some more.  A teenaged chocolate lab just couldn't help himself and broke free from his spectator parents, leash flapping behind him as he bounded into the water after Murphy.  He so wanted to share!  Murphy handled the sudden disruption with exemplary sportsdogship, and allowed the youngster to take a few turns before returning to display his winning skills in this Fetch Open.

In the background, the couple with the pretty little double masted gaff-rigged sailboat were now exchanging hushed, unsportsman-like words through gritted grins and teeth.  He was the apparent expert, and she just wasn't getting that through that thick skull of hers, as they tried to get the trailered Subaru down the ramp, and the boat hoisted onto it. Did he just say winch?  Or wench? I wondered.  It had looked like so much fun--that boat, the duds, the picturesque-nesss of it all--but it sure wasn't sounding like fun.

In the meant time, Murphy was showing his stuff and working the onlooker crowd.  Each throw of the ball was met with the same energy and joy of that first pitch.  He was in the Zone, that magical Zone.  I wanted that.  He came towards me and let me meet him.  I found that he was just as amazing up close and personal. I asked for his autograph, a picture and a quick chat.  At 10 years old, he's the Master of Fun.  I hope that when I'm 10 in dog years, I can have such fun.   I am in awe, Murphy....

Thursday, May 27, 2010


One of those Verge-y things happened last week.  It was a quiet and fleeting moment with loud repercussions. It caused me to pause.  My Verge existence has become my quiet refuge, my place of safety.   Here, questions are unnecessary.  Answers are irrelevant and obscure possibility.  Uncertainty, the place I have often feared, has become very comfortable--not by my effort, but by the very Verge itself.

Life on the Verge has become the destination.  I hadn't planned on that. I admit that I want it to last awhile.  I am frequently asked where I'll go when the house sells, or what I'll do for work if I don't get un-pink-slipped.  I like the casualness of my "I don't know" response.  People get irked by that.  They want answers.  "I don't know" is my answer.

But during this particular Verge-y moment last week, the decision to a question I hadn't pondered came rolling in like thunder.  Ba-Boom! I knew something for sure.  I know something for sure.  This suddenly put one toe of mine just outside the Verge.

I'm getting a dog.  That's what I know.  I'm getting A Dog this summer.  This summer!  It's the one thing I know and knowing it feels like Bingo!  Implied in this one decision is an entire continent of destinations--and possibly the ultimate un-verging of my circumstances. I don't know details, but I can be sure that every other decision will stem from this one Dogged-determination.

Meet my friend here.  She's sweet, yes?  A girl of grace and dignity, she can also tell a good joke and is a serious goofer-offer. Though she is happily settled on her own mountain top with an adoring pack, she has persevered through her own Verges of certain uncertainty.  I hope that this Eventual Dog of mine will follow in this girl's paw prints.  Her doggedness is admirable.

With one toe dipping into the stream, I am feeling a tiny tug.  Verging on uncertainty opens doors.  Vagueness avoids them.  This door has opened a crack.  I'm stepping through. Perhaps Bingo will be her name-o.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jingle Bell Schlock

There's a bear out there.  Don't try and tell me there's not because I know there is. And don't try and tell me that It's more afraid of me than I am of It. Because It's not.

Being a dog walker of the 21st Century, I have incorporated the latest technology advances into my work.  I have weather alerts texted to me on the phone, forewarning of incoming blizzards and thunderstorms and floods.  That same phone doubles as a camera. I have biodegradable poop bags.  I even have organically grown, petroleum-free home made dogs treats.  But so far finding a tool that warns of nearby bears up has been a difficult and complicated task.  Call me a scaredy-cat, but I have absolutely no desire to see a bear.  No thanks.  I get the idea.  Big, black, furry.  That's quite enough for me.

Lately I keep getting emails from the local listserv that oh boy, The So-and-So Family had a bear in their yard that was eating the bird seed! And oh boy again!  That same bear--NO, a different bear was spotted in another part of town.  I really, really don't want to know this.  Well, ok, I do want to know approximately where they are, but I don't want/need/have to know how big they are or how much they weigh or how sharp their claws are.  Or how fast they run.  Or that they have 4 wheel drive. Or that they have two cubs in tow.  Or that the one on Longly Road had a tattoo and a little gold hoop earring.  I try to get all this information to go in one ear and right out the other so that I can focus on my walks.

I'm walking.  Walking some more.  Keeping on walking.  Whistling and walking.

Still walking. And then my head says:

don't think about bears don't think about bears don't think about bears... but I'm still thinking about bears i'm still thinking about bears...stop thinking about bears stop thinking about bears stop thinking about bears...there's no such thing as bears there's no such thing as bears there's no such things as bears...bears don't like this trail bears don't like this trail bears don't like this trail...bears love this trail bears love this trail bears love this trail...

This only makes me a walking raving scaredy-cat.

So I get clever.  Snitching a jingle bell bracelet from a little friend and strapping it onto my wrist, I test drive this anti-bear rig on my next walk with Artemis and Biscuit.  They seem annoyed by the sound at first, but run ahead and I fake-relax.  As the walks continue I decide to do a little behind-the-scenes research.  All bear hot-lines strongly suggest avoiding any encounter with a bear.  But just in case, they offer a couple suggestions.  They point out that a bear's nose is very sensitive and giving it a good whack might help (whack? the bear??).  Another source suggests playing dead, even if the bear is attacking you (play dead?).  And yet another source suggests making yourself grow very large and shouting "GO AWAY! OOGA BOOGA BOOGA."  Um, no.

But at last I was shown the answer.  A couple of walks later and with jingle bells in motion, I noticed something.  Artie and Biscuit, who normally go at their own paces (Artie to the left on high speed, Biscuit to the right on low) were glued to my sides.  They were sticking right with me, being uncharacteristically attentive, and going very slowly.  Their nostrils were onto a scent. Clearly, they were concerned about something. And they were dead serious about it. And so I knew.  I knew for sure.  They were telling me.  They were telling me exactly what I had wanted to know. Something was nearby.  Something big, something black, something furry.  I had no doubt about that.  I was swept with relief and fear.  I now KNEW that there was reason to have some fear.  The good news was that I knew what the bad news was.  We quietly and ever so gracefully turned ourselves around tip-toed toward home.  We all sat on the back steps and told bear stories while we panted and drank from the pool.

I'll keep the bells, but screw technology.  I've got the dogs. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Art of Driveway

 Henry of the West End

To think I almost missed him.  I just happened to look to my right while desperately trying to keep up with the Maeve Contingent (that's a whole other blog), and there he was.  I had to stop.  Just had to.  Is he not perfect?

At first glance, I thought he was growing right up out of the driveway.  I approached him.  He didn't move. I took a step closer.  He didn't move again.  I decided to introduce myself and see if he'd be up for an interview or a little chat.  He blinked when I spoke.  But he didn't move.  He indicated that he had nothing in particular to say to me and that he had zero plans to step towards me at all.  This was clearly his driveway.  And while we're at it, it's also his boat, his tarp, his truck, his oil funnel, his gas can, and his harbor.  Those boats moored in the harbor?  His.

Known to the West End of Provincetown as Henry (not Hank), he makes his way each day to this particular spot in the driveway and does what you see him doing.  He sits.  Apparently he's guarding it.  That's pretty clear. He's been doing this just about most of his life--at least 48 years.  He prides himself on not taking bribes from strangers who wish to access his harbor.  Not once in all those years has he accepted a kick-back.  And he's never called in sick or taken time off. He's a guard dog with a strong work ethic.  He won't bite, but sorry,  you're not gettin' out to that harbor, no way, no how.

They say that couples who have been together forever begin to look and act like each other.  They say that weeds will begin to take on similar characteristics of the plants they surround.  They say water seeks its own level.  They say that birds change their colors to match their landscape. They say that sympathetic resonance is when a passive cello string will spontaneously vibrate in the presence of an equally-pitched string that is already humming.  They say Emerson wrote about the "transcendental eye" in which the human "I" is absorbed by the greater Universe.

I say that Henry is The Art of Driveway.

In fact, he's more than that. I say

Henry Is.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maeve Rhymes with Behave

Nana and Gramp have a farm.
As a couple they have golden charm
There's compost and soil
 and laundry and toil
And there's Maeve to keep them from harm.

Yet the order of rank is quite clear
And you had better be in the right gear
Number One bosses Two and Two bosses Three
And your ass had best be Right Here.

Now Sara writes poems that don't rhyme.
But I am not quite so sublime.
My task is quite daunting
and I risk so much taunting
If I waste on this poem your good time.

But I am really being quite brave
When I say the rank starts with Maeve
 And it's quite plain to see that
the real job (to me)
 is getting you both to behave.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Dog Walker's Variety Store

2 One-of-a Kinds

I'm not much of a shopper.  In fact, ugh.  I have abandoned half-full carts and baskets all across the northeast because I couldn't manage the chaos of all those people and all those carts and all those announcements and all those aisles.  But take me to the beach or out onto the trails with the dogs, and I become an ambling Saturday stroller at the market who could stay until long after closing.  I don't have the need to "buy" everything, but I do love to browse. And, I confess that even though I don't consider any of the goods to be mine, I can never quite leave empty-handed. I inevitably come home with some little gem stuffed into my pocket.

Today Artemis, Biscuit and I went for a slower than usual stroll out on the trails.  I talk incessantly to them because I know we have a bear family out there and, well, I'm not really hoping to get a close-up glimpse of them--if you know what I mean.  But we wandered slowly.  We stopped to soak up the sun at the stream.  As I sat life-guarding the dogs (who were doing more drinking than swimming), I started to  note all the different items in Nature's stock right at that moment.  I lost count pretty fast...

A pair of cardinals.  Blue-eyed grass (strikingly poised--which of us is the observer?). Tight, compact greeny-pink wild blackberries.  A red-winged blackbird.  Round smooth stones.  Coyote scat.  Racoon prints casually imprinted in the mud. Reeds.  Blueberry bushes.  A woodpecker's sculpted tree.  The tiniest littlest whitest ground flowers I've ever seen.  An orange moth.  A beaver's lodge.  Ducks. Jagged pieces of a broken mirror.  Two Canada geese.  Boot prints, about a size 13.  Pebbles.  Boulders. Lots of beautifully shaped stones. The wind...

Lining the stream bed and the trail is a jumble of rocks and stones.  They own a very strong presence in this landscape. They require our concentration. Artie, Biscuit and I travel slowly over the stones--they are looking for something putrid to eat and I am just looking.  Biscuit, dear old Biscuit, breathes laboriously and lumbers along as if his All-Fours are of varying lengths, but he's smiling as we go.  Artie waits for him, patiently.  She looks back at him and says "You coming, Dear?"  He pretends he doesn't hear (but she and I know he does), and he comes along.

I am taken aback by the variety and the abundant uniqueness of these stones. They are magnificent. I wonder why all the stones of the universe haven't been snatched up and displayed on mantles and dining tables and book shelves across the globe. And then I'm thankful they're not.  This display puts me in my place.  We three continue on together, wandering these aisles, happy as can be.

And in the midst of our walk and the hustle and bustle of the birds and wind, I found that one particular one.  And in a while later, I found an-other particular one.  And I just couldn't resist.  Don't worry--there are many more still back there for you to see, if you'd like.  But right there under our noses were these two distinctive heart stones, as distinctive as my Saturday companions.  One for Artie, one for Biscuit.

And free, for me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How Artemis and Biscuit Liked Rick's Ridiculously Delicious Dog Dunks

Psssst, Biscuit.  Do you smell what I smell?
She's got those famous home made biscuits in her hand...

Sit real still-like and we maybe can have some.

We're supposed to sit, right?
I'm sitting!  See?  I'm sitting. See me sit! 
Biscuit's not sitting. He's not.
But I am, right?  Right?

Chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp
We don't care chomp chomp chomp if the floor's dirty
Chomp chomp chomp

We're like, so happy now.
Like, ridiculously.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rick's Ridiculously Delicious Doggie Dunks

This recipe comes from my friend Rick.  Rick is an expert in The Distance Between Any Two Points but he is especially wise when it comes to homemade dog cookies and the art of Not Screwing It Up.  Recently he mentioned his recipe and was kind enough to share it with me.  I tested the recipe myself in my testy kitchen and was quickly reminded that the way I bake is exactly like the way I drive.  Mishaps abound.   Therefore I have included Rick's recipe in its entirety, and for those who drive the way I do, a repair-kit version follows.

With many thanks and humble apologies to Rick.....

2 1/2 C Whole wheat flour
1 C Oatmeal (Quaker Quick Oats, uncooked)
1/2 C Corn meal
3/4 C Non-fat dry milk
1/4 C Peanut butter
1/4 C Canola ( or olive) oil
1 1/2 TBSP Wheat germ
1 Egg (beaten)
1 1/4 C Water (approx.)

Mix dry ingredients, add mixture of Peanut butter, oil, and beaten egg, add water, and knead thoroughly.

Separate into two equal amounts (easier to work with)
Place in sealed plastic container overnight @ room temp. (optional)
Roll out to approx. 3/8" thickness, and cut shapes
Place on greased (or non-stick) cookie tray, and bake 50 minutes @ 325 degrees
Turn off oven, and let cool IN oven for several hours (or overnight)

And now for the recipe-challenged folks, the All Else Fails version:
  • Forgot to buy non-fat dry milk? Just pretend you did and then don't look.
  • Waitaminute.  It says whole wheat flour?  White, brown--if you squint, they all look the same. 
  • Knead? Thoroughly?  Oh. Oops.
  • Too impatient to seal in plastic overnight?  Me too. Hit fast forward and don't worry about it.
  • Roll out into whatever thickness it takes to make it stop sticking to the counter, rolling pin and fingers.
  • Skip the greasing the pans part if you're pressed for time.
  • Cool IN the oven?  Oops again!  Just let them sit on the stove for a very long time.
  • Dog treats? As in canines?  Aha!  No wonder the baby finches are barking....

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear Mother Finch

Dear Mother Purple Finch,

We need to have a heart to heart talk.  Mother to Mother.  At first I wasn't too sure why you selected my porch and the inside of the plastic globe feeder as your top choice for raising your family. I mean, I can see that it keeps you dry when it rains, and that you're high off the ground away from snakes and predators, and yes, the view is quite nice.  But a plastic bubble?  I'm pretty sure that in your parenting manuals, you didn't read anything about finding yourself a large plastic bubble.  I'm pretty sure they were talking trees and fences and barns and bushes as suitable settings for your family's home. But in any case here you are, and we have some things to talk about if we are going to share this porch.

Let me start by saying I was impressed by how well you endured some very strong winds and rains in order to stay perched on the five little eggs in the nest in the bubble.  There were nights I wanted to bring you in and hang your rig from an inside hook so that you wouldn't be blowing around so much out there.  And then came a few unseasonably warm days.  I feared it would get so dangerously hot in that bubble-nest that your brood would melt. Or worse. And because I didn't want you to get arrested for neglect and endangerment, I tried to hang the Little Mermaid towel from the eaves, despite your protests.  Not only would it have provided shade, but if your chicks are anything like mine, they would have loved the Ariel motif.

And then, and then!  The magic day came when your five little eggs hatched into five little (and forgive me--very odd looking) babies.  They always tend to look a little squished up at first.  It's ok to admit it--yours did, mine did.  But you love them anyway. We all do. And I understand those first few days can be overwhelming to any young mother.  Seems like all they want to do is eat or sleep and fuss or cry, right?  What's a mother to do?

Well, NOT what you did last night, sister mama!  I don't know where you were for the whole entire night and half of today, but NOW I see why you moved to the porch!  You figured I'd be your babysitter, didn't ya?  You figured that since I know something about babies leaving the nest and how to get dogs to Sit-Wait-Stay,  I'd keep your brood all safe and sound, right?


I spent the entire day going up and down the street looking for you, asking if anyone had seen you or knew where purple finch mothers go.  I even started talking to the jays and squirrels, who, if you can imagine, wanted to know what it was worth to me (the indignation).  In the mean time, your five little babies were hollering for food and some fanning, and making me very anxious.  I paced, I sang, I did magic tricks, I told them bird jokes, and I even pretended I was the Blue Bird of Paradise. But they only grew more and more anxious--we all did, in fact. And I was on the verge of calling the missing mother bird hotline (1-800-Bir-Dmom) when you casually reappeared in the bubble, looking a little bit finchy and feathered out, as if you had not a care in the world.  Of course we were immediately relieved that you returned safe and unharmed, but now that things have settled down, it's time to get something straight.

Do not go missing like that again.  Between the dogs, the jobs, and the kids, my own nest is a-hoppin'.  And besides, I don't know the first thing about teaching your babies to fly or finding worms.  My own kids won't eat my cooking and I'm pretty sure yours won't eat it either.  But Mother Finch, listen to me.  It seems like they'll be there f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  You think that no matter what, they'll be right there, mouths always open about something.

But they won't be.  That day's coming soon, Mama.  Suddenly, very suddenly, they will be ready to go.  You don't want to miss a single day. You'll be very glad you stuck around.

Trust me on that.  And trust me on this:  I don't bird sit.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

April Fooled Me

I know we had April, because my accountant made several appearances and that's his favorite month.  But I seemed to get lost in these woods for the last several weeks.  Worry not, I was fine.  I had Otis with me for much of it and we walked our way from March's madness to the warmth of May.

We began each day with a very private and quiet walk along the pond where we were tiny souls among the large white pines.  The ground was covered in dried pine needles and so even we couldn't hear ourselves coming.  No one was awake in the wee hours, not even the pond.  On this particular morning we stopped awhile and looked out into the nothingness of the fog.  It was as though the bank was right where the edge of the world stopped and the edge of the universe began.  We could see nothing beyond that point and our eyes couldn't penetrate its depth.  Even Otis paused to pay reverence to the stillness. We walked along together, Otis with his leash slack which, if you know him at all, doesn't happen too often.  This became our morning ritual.

And while we were out there I would earnestly say to myself


And then later in the day I'd earnestly say


And then tomorrow would come and I'd earnestly say

"I don't remember how".

And the more I did this, the more daunting became The Verge.  Finally I made a deal with myself to write one thing--just one little thing--before April ended.  Simple.  I could do that.  I felt relieved by the plan. Well, that's exactly what I thought I was doing today--making good on my promise to myself-- but to my shock, I see that April slipped away while I was busy thinking about it.

The Verge posts that you haven't read because they didn't make it to the keyboard include:

  • House Hits the Market
  • Dumpster Diva-hood:  Turning That Useless Junk into Useless Garbage
  • The Benefits of Having Oil in Your Recalled Toyota
  • Puttin' on the Pink Slip
  • Septic Systems and How Much You'll Pay
  • The Divas Do Shay's
  • Nice Walmart People Who Don't Steal Your Wallet When You Accidentally Leave It There
  • Backing the Recalled Toyota Really Hard into Agway (at least it had oil)
  • Backing the Recalled Toyota Really Fast into PB's car (at least it had oil)
  • Making Friends with Scrap Metal Experts
  • See Libby Stroke!
  • Sara Heads to Brighton
  • Meredith:  Excuse Me, But Just When Exactly Did You Grow Up, Kid?
But for today, I've met my goal.  I have broken the ice once again.  Time is going by too fast to think about where it's going.  Otis, Boo, and Millie were constant companions in April, along with the regulars.  They rolled with time, while I just rolled. But I noticed something in that April roll.  It revealed itself to me on the last day of April.  At one end of my day was a family memorial service where I saw again the fog of the unknown beyond the world's edge.  And at the other end of my day was Meredith's prom, where in her eyes I saw where the edge of the universe begins.