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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

River Birch

I didn't feel like writing these last couple of months, and so I didn't.  I loved letting it go even though I did miss it.  Over the summer I made hundreds of mental notes of dog moments and landscape moments to write down...and then I'd let them go. I enjoyed doing that. It was enough to simply notice things.  I knew I'd come back here though I wasn't sure when or why or what might spark it (or if I even should) and that was ok.

The other day when I was playing with Otis his ball rolled under an amazing tree. As I stood under its leaves I was quickly taken by the orangey-golden glow of the trunk and the filtered sun beams coming through its branches. The papery ruffled gown that formed the trunk was so magnificent that I nearly thanked it out loud for its beauty and jubilance.  If trees have personalities (I tell myself they do), then this one was as friendly as it was whimsical.  We circled the tree many times, admiring its way of being--both playful and profound.  We then quietly resumed our game, as if all this had been just another ordinary moment.

I simply had to tell you about it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Have a Camel

It's Farm Day today--a very exciting occasion at Springdell Farm--and the heat is so oppressive that I thought I was seeing things when I saw Joshua-the-Camel grazing in the field.  I wandered over to say hello and he was quite perky and very friendly, in a camel-y sort of way.  Joshua was quick to show me his many talents, including a few impressive camel acrobatics which included balancing on just his knees, rolling onto his back and circling his four legs through the air and finally, folding his front legs into a lotus position while stretching his very long, flexible neck to eat the grass behind him.  It was really quite spellbinding! I felt as if I was watching a great camel yogi (or something equally magnificent) performing his morning rituals.  Joshua knew I was impressed and as he batted those big eyelashes at me, I could tell by the sparkle in his eye that he was thoroughly enjoying the attention--and is perhaps a bit used to it!  I asked him for a few pictures and he immediately began to offer me wonderful poses.  He seems particularly happy with his mouth and with each picture, he made sure that it would figure prominently.  His beauty--so fierce, wouldn't you say?

I left Farm Day with a box of beautiful raspberries, sweet corn, fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, honey, and zucchini.  Even better, I forgot about the heat and humidity. After all, Joshua-the-Camel is the essence of cool.

Check out all the activities at Farm Day today!  Say hello to Joshua and meet Patty Pig, a true celebrity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Doodle Doo

I'm in love (again).  This time with a rooster.  I know, I know--he's a rooster, but I love him. I think about how we are going to begin the day together, and my heart soars.  He makes a marvelously grand fuss every morning when I open the coop, carrying on as if he's been counting every single solitary minute of our time apart (and every morning I buy it). But--alas--in one fowl foul swoop he storms right by me to strut atop the can of oats and then yells (directly at me) that he wants his breakfast, and he wants it NOW.  And much to my chagrin, I hustle right over--breathlessly, no less--to get it for him.  The truth is that he's bossy and impatient, and as far as chivalry goes, well, you can forget that.  He's not particularly passionate and he's a very big show-off, but I am hopelessly undone by that magnificent comb and wattle he sports--the brightest and reddest I've ever seen.  Is he not spectacular?

And did I mention all the other girls in his midst? He's surrounded by them. Constantly.
He's killing me.  And I love him.
Long, deep sigh.
Love hurts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dear Rick

Dear Rick, dear Rick...

A loyal friend, you never let us down, but you are leaving much too soon.  It's been a long road and your journey has been nothing short of stunning.  As you round this next bend, we stop in our tracks and think intently of you.  In your last entry you wrote 

 ...And you see a little light at the end of the tunnel. It's not very bright yet, but it's there, a sign of hope that maybe sometime soon, the thought of being won't be a curse.

The light gets brighter.
I hope it's not a train.

Even in your hardest moments, you manage to laugh.  May the light continue to brighten, my dear friend.  And may the thought of being finally fulfill your wildest dreams.

Common Good Gardens

Common Good Garden
Old Saybrook, CT

This little garden is a quiet wonder.  It sits on a very long and narrow strip of land Grace Episcopal Church made available to the Common Good gardeners.  The stone church sits neatly on one side of the garden, and the Connecticut River gently passes along the other.  The garden's quiet and peaceful presence seems fitting for what happens here in this little humble spot. 

The care and devotion to this magical garden is unmistakable.  Each neat and tidy row is marked with a detailed note about what was planted and when.  Soaker hoses are securely in place, providing gentle moisture to each little plant in each row.  Thoughtful attention is given to each section of the garden so that the true essence of each different vegetable visibly thrives.  I couldn't help but notice how much the vegetables seemed to be enjoying themselves, hosting what looked like festival celebrations of their occupancy in the garden. The peas were being very pea-like as they danced along their stringy fences, leafy romaine stood proudly at attention while beets flexed their bold red veins at the muted and waxy cabbage heads.  Beyond these glorious beds you'll find the just-as-glorious compost section--a hotbed of science and earth and my father collaborating to create organic nutrients to feed the garden.  The simplicity of compost-making, as laid out in Common Good's piles, seems almost too simple to comprehend.  Green and brown plant matter--along with water and air--equals magic.  My father has learned how to work with these elements, and the compost production is uncommonly magnificent.   (Please, if you are ever in need of a spiritual transformation, ask my father to tell you about compost.)

But here's the real magic. The beauty and productivity of this garden is a reflection of its dedicated volunteers.   Yet this garden isn't for its volunteers.  This isn't a community garden where people raise their own food to take home to their own tables.  All of the food produced by Common Good Garden is given to the needy and homeless.  A corps of 20 or so people work this piece of land on a day-to-day basis while a variety of others help as they can.  Cafes and coffee roasters donate their used coffee grounds.  Young submariners from the nearby navy base help to do heavy jobs a couple times a month.  Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pitch in when they can.  A local builder donated a shed. Someone else donates manure.  Volunteers collect day-old produce from other local farm stands and, combined with Common Good's yield, they donated nearly 35,000 pounds of produce to local soup kitchens to feed the needy and homeless last year.  I think of it as The Little Garden That Can.

What strikes me the most about this endeavor is the quiet goodness of the Common Good people.  Like their gardening practice, they have kept things pretty simple and pretty quiet.  They work very hard.  They care for this garden as if it were for their own selves.  Humus, humility--they are as humble as the soil they work and the people they feed. Common Good-ers do the most important work there is to do.  Those dancing peas and proud romaine leaves and red-veined beets not only feed the hungry with fuel for the body, but also goodness for the soul.   I am quite certain that the fruits of such work extend far beyond the garden gate.

To learn more about Common Good Gardens, visit their website at

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Through the Lens...

It always happens around now.  The academic year ends and I say goodbye to some of my clients who will move on from here. No matter how right or how well the ending goes, it's still a hard transition, saying goodbye.  I mentally replay sessions and missed sessions, introductions and endings.  Goodbye happens over a period of time, beginning long before the final session and sometimes lingering long after.  I am finding this to be particularly true this year.

I live within many lifetimes in my work.  There is always the polite beginning of a new relationship--sometimes urgent, sometimes tentative--but I marvel at the client's courage to come inside to take this awkward and often difficult step.  I am both curious and cautious as I take my seat and meet someone for the first time.  I often imagine that if there were a way to hear both the inner dialogues as we face each other that first time, they would sound very much alike.  How does she seem?  what is she thinking?  does she think I'm weird?  how much do I say right now? is this safe? where is this conversation going? have I said too much? will we meet again?

As clients settle in and begin to reveal more of themselves, a resonance occurs within me that is familiar and binding.  It's not that our stories are the same.  They are not.  But the feeling of joy, or the feeling of loss, or the feeling of fear--these things we share and know.  As clients seek to find their most honest and authentic truths, I work to do the same--to participate and respond in the most honest and truthful form of my own self.  It's a mutual risk and reward to be exactly who you are in front of someone else.  We dare to show ourselves and find courage in acceptance.  It's sometimes hard to get there, yet what emerges is a tightly woven trust--a mutual recognition, a shared hope.

As time goes on, we criss-cross our way through what happened in the past, what might happen someday, and what is happening right now.  Sometimes my heart could break in these stories--sometimes it does.  Yet remarkably, what transcends these stories is not the heartbreak, but rather each client's very own striking resilience and tenacity.  I am touched by the stories people share, but I am even more profoundly moved by the ways people manage to cope and persevere. I have the greatest admiration for those I have known in this way.

I remind myself all through the year that I am with my clients for only a sliver of time, a cross section of their lives--and mine.  I am only one small part of many, many parts.  I try to see our relationship in that context.  Timely and important, impermanent and complete.  Nonetheless, a whole relationship occurs in that short space of time and goodbye signifies an inevitable turning point.  While I must let go of our week to week sessions, I hang on to what was significant. So many remarkable changes took place this year by people who are so, so quietly magnificent and unforgettable.  I am changed for the better by who they were and who they have become.  Such resonance will echo within me for a very long time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Knee Jerk

As my friend just pointed out to me, it's been two months since my last entry.  I chuckled when I remembered that my last post was titled Looking Up.  Well, while I was so busy looking up last month, I completely forgot about looking down and when Mercy suddenly lunged for An Extremely Important and Invisible Thing, I (being still attached to the leash while gazing at the stars for a long enough period of time to forget that we were actually out for the nighttime piddle) was jerked back towards earth, crashing down to the ground, and twisting my right knee enough to do some damage.  Alas, a trip to the ER yielded a pair of crutches along with a referral to the orthopedic surgeon for a possible torn whatchamacallit--a situation which I felt could wait until the semester ended, just two weeks later.  In spite of my knee discomfort, 'two weeks later' became 'three weeks plus one trip to Manhattan later' because, well, the title of this post says it all.

I became quite proficient with crutches, or perhaps more accurately, getting people to do things for me.  My boss brought me my coffee.  She and numerous other colleagues (I managed a whole fleet) carried my lunch plate AND cleaned it up in the dining hall.  Students ran ahead to open doors.  I had rides to and from work, door to door.  I got to sit wherever I wanted needed and lounge my leg in any direction that I wanted to claim as My Space.  Pat (a manly man with a beard and tattoo) carried my purse and my knitting when I needed to run errands. Meredith vacuumed the floors.  I gave directives. It was wonderful. It was quite a feat.

I am now in line for the MRI followed by the repair work.  With the semester now over I can take it a bit more easy.  I hope to resume my writing on a more regular basis--I have some things rattling 'round my head. And perhaps in between the cups of coffee I will now be pouring for myself, I need to work on teaching Mercy about The Art of Not Lunging (otherwise known as How to Avoid a Knee Jerk's Reaction).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Looking Up

Things are looking up.  We have some clarity and the days are starting to resemble days again.  For the last couple of months I've been at a loss for words--no, I've been lost in the words.  I've opened and closed my writing each day, having put nothing down.  I could have written about dogs or this merciful winter or my walks in the woods, as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary here, but that's not so.  That's just not so. Instead I've stuttered around the keyboard and screen, starting-stopping,  yet producing nothing more than a pile of silence.

I work in the mental health field as a therapist, seeing and hearing the effects of depression and anxiety daily. I've been able to navigate the vocabulary--speaking and listening--in my attempt to help others. I'm not afraid to go there, usually. And yet even when the therapeutic relationship is strong, the true distance between chair and chair remains beyond words.  I love what I do, and while my care and help is genuine, I cannot know exactly what you feel.  I can often reconcile that in my work.

But here at home, not so.  I notice that it's easier to talk about mental illness when it's over there and somewhere else.  It's easier to know what to do and what to say if you are talking about it in a general way.  At home and in the world, it's easier to grasp and understand when it isn't actually happening.  It's easier to know what you're doing when things go just as you planned.  When it hits home, the words suddenly scatter and fall out of order and without meaning. Unlike anything I've known, a wave began to rise here in the fall, rising so fast and so every which-way that when it finally crashed around us, I found myself fumbling with words and the spaces between them, not knowing what to say.  Or sometimes the words would come--but with no way or no place to say them.

My daughter became the victim of unspeakable bullying last semester.  As the fall months unfolded anxiety took hold of her, followed by severe depression which resulted in nearly two months of hospitalization.  Through the course of all this, we found ourselves oddly wrestling our words, as if the words themselves were too heavy or too awkward or too stiff to say or use around others.  It's not that we were hiding--it's that we were out in the wide open without a way to speak it.  Suddenly, the answers were elusive.  The questions were worse. As she struggled, our attempts to help seemed foreign and clumsy. Sometimes all we could do was just sit as close as humanly possible and say nothing.  While doctors and staff prescribed pills and plans and did their routine check-ins, the most tangible help we experienced came in the form of silence. Of Hershey bars and jigsaw puzzles. Of acceptance.  Silently putting the pieces together--putting something in order--seemed to give her comfort and safety.

Depression and anxiety come as invisible aggressors.  No two days are alike.  What worked yesterday doesn't work today.  Progress is measured in different ways by different stakeholders.  We all agree and then we all don't agree.  The loss of control she senses is real and terrifying.  How can you describe that? And how does she? The medical doctors order pills and then 'pathologize' their side-effects.  They don't often listen.  They sit across the room on the other side of that gap, and then they leave.  As practitioners, we often fail to grasp the distance between knowing solutions and experiencing solutions.  I watched my daughter attempt to cooperate with her treatment, but no one could really begin to loosen the invisible handcuffs of her darkness--except for her.

I still don't know what to say about it all.  But here's something: she's getting better.  She's home with me and home in herself again.  I don't know why or how--it's too elusive--but I know that we are coming out of the woods and back into sunlight.  I can take my eyes off of her and look around.  I know this because she is able to look through her camera lens again.  I love what she sees and where her eyes are taking her.  I can see...and she's looking up.

Photo credits: Meredith Bempkins

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012


He had me at woof

I met Blu at Joe Coffee and Cafe in Provincetown (the best, best, best place ever). The door swung open and just ahead of the winter air blast came Blu, accompanied by Kaolin, his very beautiful and friendly mother.  Just one long gaze into his eyes and I became utterly smitten with him.  Yes, his eyes are half blue and half brown.  The effect gives him a look of anticipation or hopefulness. He's sturdy and quiet and friendly.

Kaolin was equally captivating.  Friendly and vivacious, she visited with the other customers, smiling and laughing with little effort. As I was quietly making eyes at Blu, she turned her attention towards me and spoke to me as if we always visit each other at Joe's.  Blu stayed by her side and listened to our talk while keeping one eye on Joe's infamous jar of dog treats on the end of the counter.  He seemed very at home and wonderfully at ease.

They are quite a pair, these two, and they have quite a remarkable story together.   He is a Hurricane Katrina survivor from Mississippi. He was plucked from the flood and rescued by Chris McLaughlin, the founder of Animal Rescue Front, a non-profit organization devoted to rescuing animals caught in natural or man-made disasters. With the help of ARF, Blu was ushered up the east coast through a railroad of volunteers, until he made his way to Massachusetts. He arrived with parasites and heart worm.  He was very afraid of people. His chances of survival were only between 20%-30%.

With patience and gentle care, Kaolin has nursed him back to remarkable health.  She tells about the regulars in Provincetown who have helped him feel safe and welcome, such as Ann, the parking lot attendant who would always give him cookies when they passed by.  She beams when she describes her experience of getting him back into water again.   Using pails for his baths over a course of years, she was able to rebuild his confidence and gain his trust.  Finally last year, she was finally able to get him into the ocean in water up to his chest, and he was able to swim.  "I was so thrilled when we conquered that final hurdle", she beamed.

Kaolin has no way of knowing about his Mississippi family and no way to let them know his fate.  I bet they would be very happy to know he had landed in such a loving and healing place--as Provincetown is.  And if they could meet Kaolin?   She'd have them at hello.

Please read more about Animal Rescue Front at

*And for a really, really good cup of coffee?  Stop in at Joe's Coffee and Cafe, Commercial Street, Provincetown.  Woof.

Winter Mercy

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Provincetown Redux

Race Point

This is where the day ended yesterday.  I waited for the early morning sun and found it peeking between the rooftops on Conant Street, sanguine and serene.  I'd been waiting such a long time--maybe months--but there it was again. I followed it along the soft wavy brick walks of Commercial Street, past Joe's to the ripply low tide harbor, and finally to its grassy cradle beneath the icy winds of Race Point.  This is how day ends here.  

The bright colors and characters along the streets and lanes here speak an uncommon joy. I saw someone wearing seriously bright, bright purple leather boots.  I beamed.  My own feet cheered at the possibility.  I saw sparkly scarves and mad bomber hats.  Black glitter sneakers.  Friendly faces. Swirly snow.   Even in the dead of winter, these streets infuse joy and warmth.  

Yet, that wasn't really it this weekend.  Look up.  Or try not looking up. In spite of your joy boots on the ground, your eyes will drift upward. Town Hall, The Meeting House, and Pilgrim Monument all seem to point you there.  The Provincetown sky arcs over head like a transparent shield, expanding forever and ever, but tucked around our edges like a blanket...and here we are, under cover, safe and sound.  

I walked from the West End to the East End and back again, retracing summer steps, remembering the happiness of that time.  I could still hear the echo. But my eyes were fixed on now, the present sky, my feet following the sun to the edge of the night, the edge of the sea, and the very edge of the sand. Racing forward into the wild wind, I opened my arms wide and ran down the beach, silently shouting thank you to something or someone, and holding on to this peace.  I watched as the last drop of sun was absorbed by the earth. 

This is how day ends, here...