Off-Season Sunrise

Dawn at Ocean Park, Maine, from the porch of Twin Gables.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bliss on a Shoestring

Steve Foss, a 10th-generation Mainer, works on a harness for Claire yesterday in South Portland. Steve has his business, the Shoestring Exchange, in his garage at 32 Fickett Street. He shouted upstairs in Spanish for his wife, Daisy, to come see the little dog. They met in Ecuador when he was in the Peace Corps.

Once in a while when I'm traveling, I fall into a sweet zone of contentment. Steve's cozy shop, smelling of leather, brought me into the zone by surprise. I sat on a chair, reading Corker's Freedom, a flawless novel by John Berger, while Darlene explained how the harness needed to be made smaller. Steve had the Portland Oldies station playing all my favorite songs. A beautiful tall young blonde woman came in with a shoe needing repair, because her dog had chewed it up. I realized I was in the zone when a Beach Boys song came on the radio. Berger's character, Mr. Corker, was describing a favorite ice cream place in Vienna named Dehmels. "The inside is all pink and blue and crystal candelabra hang from the ceiling. In the days of the Emperors the aristocrats used to go to Dehmels for their ice-creams and to say hello to each other. And it hasn't changed." I was taking in all the elements of the scene in Steve Foss's garage at once--the music, the book, my wife and little dog, the calm artisan, the pretty girl--and they magically added up to a state of bliss. It made me remember Garrison Keillor in one of his Lake Woebegone sketches describing a ride on a bus in Minneapolis, when he recognized a retarded boy he'd known in school. It was a rainy day, so steam was rising off all the bus riders. He felt overwhelmed by contentment and wondered why. So did I.

Sibling Poetry

My sister and I are preparing a poetry reading, titled "Sibling Poetry: A Brother-Sister Conversation in Poems," scheduled for next week in Cambridge. I used this photo, taken by the Sudbury River 40-some years ago, for the invitation. I love the haunted look of our beloved basset, Pokey, because of how it balances the sunny smiles of the siblings. Childhood is a mix of smiles and haunted looks, just like any other time of life, it seems. Steph began writing poems way before I did. The poems she will read are concise, powerful little stones of insight and sensibility which prefigure the work she did later as a sculptor. Mine are chatty and discursive by comparison. I think they go well together, and we plan to alternate back and forth, letting the poems talk to one another. I will be listening carefully to see what they have to say.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mainely Claire

Darlene, Claire and I are enjoying quiet, off-season days at Ocean Park, Maine. Our three-pound Yorkie is a random smile generator wherever she goes. In this photo, Darlene presents her to a couple on a bench in front of the cottage. At My Wonderful Dog in Portland yesterday, our ace trainer, Elsa, worked with Claire on several important skills, including how to wait for permission to walk through a door. Elsa said Claire at four months has reached a phase where she is more skittish. This means making sure Claire gets lots of opportunity to interact with strangers. After the training session, Darlene made sure everyone who came up to admire Claire had a chance to feed her a treat. This is to embed the idea that people = treats in her permanent memory.

Darlene is amazing in her friendliness with people who want to visit with Claire, spending all the time they want. I confess to getting irritated with how long it takes to walk a block in a city with this adorable little fur ball. I have to muzzle my temptation to respond perversely to the same old questions. "What kind is she?" "She's a cross between a sabertooth tiger and a mouse." "What's her name?" "Rabies." Etc. But mainly, it's a delight to accompany Claire and see how much fun she distributes. I notice that even those who don't stop will often walk by with a smile at the sight of her. When she runs on the sidewalk, she often raises both her front feet at the same time, prancing to some inner joy at her own movement. This is a good thing.

By the end of the afternoon yesterday, Claire and her handlers were all tired. After visiting my favorite Portland used bookstore, Cunningham's on State Street, we caught the Number 8 bus back to the waterfront. Claire slept in her black bag next to Darlene, who fielded a cell phone call from her friend Tish in New Zealand. Back at the cottage, I built a fire in the fireplace, and Darlene made oatmeal cookies. Unlike our visit in August, we sleep with the windows closed against the crisp fall air. But I can still hear the muffled sound of the surf, and I sleep like an adorable puppy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

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