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

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...


1 comment:

  1. There's a Brahms art song, set for a caplella choir, titled (loose translation) ... "Gloom of Woods" that i feel the same distant beauty from.