Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Papa's Marlin

Here's a confession. I'm a huge Hemingway fan, and yet recently I realized I could not remember reading The Old Man and the Sea - meaning I probably sped-read it in high school two hours before a quiz (one of many gaping holes in my have-read list.) Embarrassing, right?

So I revisited the little book, and had some lukewarm moments with Papa - but this passage got me:

He remembered the time he had hooked one of a
pair of marlin. The male fish always let the female fish feed first and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic-stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her, and all the time the male had stayed with her, crossing the line and circling with her on the surface. He had stayed so close that the old man was afraid he would cut the line with his tail which was sharp as a scythe and almost of that size and shape. When the old man had gaffed her and clubbed her, holding the rapier bill with its sandpaper edge and dubbing her across the top of her head until her color turned to a color almost like the backing of mirrors, and then, with the boy’s aid, hoisted her aboard, the male fish had stayed by the side of the boat. Then, while the old man was clearing the lines and preparing the harpoon, the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep, his lavender wings, that were his pectoral fins, spread wide and all his wide lavender stripes showing. He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed.

What's that? you ask.
Oh, just the sound of Hemingway breaking my heart with a grieving male marlin. I mean, I can't shake it. Days later and still thinking about that damn marlin...

Photo Credit

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Mad Moves of Manakin Birds and Internet Rabbit Holes

I love birds. I love Michael Jackson. And as ridiculous as this lady is, I love her, and want her job. In fact, I think if I was left alone in the woods by myself for too long, I might become her.

Watch some of my favorite things converge.

(And yes, I know you've seen this video before, but it deserves second and third and fourth visitations.)

I went back to find this video for "story research." "Story research" is how I justify the insane internet rabbit holes I find myself in....

Dogtor: Megan - for real - why are you watching Kids Incorporated re-runs on You Tube?

MMB: Story research. Do you want to watch pre-teen Fergie cover Belinda Carlisle and dance with a midget alien?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Snow, Sun, and Woodford

I was going to start my day off with a long training run, but the thermometer read 9 degrees this morning. Whaaat? I can do 20 and snow, but 9 is just mean-cold. 9 is when you can't feel the inside of your nose and you wonder if you are still breathing. 9 is when you worry your insides are crystallizing.

So the Dogtor, Fray-monster and I enjoyed a hike in the snow at Woodford State Park. We were feeling Jesus-like, as if we could walk across deep snow without falling through the crust - and for the most part, we did. Except when we didn't, and we were knee-deep in the stuff.

Three men passed us - they had beer in the front pockets of their flannel shirts. It was that kind of day, I guess.

In other news, when the wind blows just right, I have hair like Justin Bieber. And I hate myself for knowing who that is.

(Imagined photo captions: Toyota commercial in the woods! You're really going to let me navigate?! And - Swoon. My two favorite people.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meet a Mayhew-Bergman: Betsy Spaniel

Betsy Spaniel
  • Age: Unknown -6ish?
  • Provenance: Rescued from a vet clinic - originally scooped from the side of the road with mange. Potentially a mix between a King Charles Spaniel and a Brittany Spaniel - with a heavy dose of AWESOME.
  • Likes: Flushing birds, pollinating, consuming dairy products, weaving between the legs of the horse for goat pellets, sprinting uphill, getting lost in the woods, pregnant women, kittens, independently roaming fields, dreaming loudly, jumping above snowbanks and tall grass
  • Dislikes: The UPS man, strange people at urban dog parks in sunglasses, getting her tail brushed
  • Vices: Goat pellets, rolling in dead things (e.g. porcupine), eating socks
Betsy Spaniel is a total feminist - there's a lot of dog in that little body - don't be fooled by the "all party" tail. She and I went on a solo hike at Lake Shaftsbury today. She tried her best to flush birds while on a leash and gave two geese the stink eye.

Miss Betts reminds me of the little "fyce" in William Faulkner's short story The Bear (probably my favorite story - not so short, though - and later incorporated into Go Down, Moses) - a dog that would attack a bear even if it meant certain death - so she could "keep on calling herself a dog."

For more, see Snowy Pantaloons.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm the Firestarter!

Or, I wish I was. I want to be a better firestarter. I have killed two fires this week. @#$%!

Every time I look at our beloved woodstove, I think of the Prodigy tune Firestarter. (Can such a musical tirade be called a tune? Is that like calling something by System of a Down a jingle? BYOB is totally on my running play list - you will slay hills with this song. And Radiohead's Myxomatosis. And then, you know, something by the Four Tops, Wham!, or Phil Collins to keep it light and absurd.)

Firestarter is one of those songs I have to sing with an accent. Other accent-necessary songs include anything by Pink Floyd, Julie Andrews, or Lily Allen.

Knock me down - I'll get right back up again...Come back stronger than a powered-up Pac Man! - sounds beautiful in "Mockney." Really.

I wasted at least five minutes this evening thinking about what life would have been like if I took Keith Flint -the lead singer of Prodigy - to a date function in college.

He sure dances differently than the Dogtor.

Off to drop a few matches into the woodstove, ball up some more paper, and make tee-pees with kindling.

Needed: Neanderthal Sommelier

I had an all-out war with what seems to me an early hominid version of a corkscrew. Why so much elbow grease involved?

I forgot that our "nice" wine opener was broken (What can I say? Sometimes there is a real sense of urgency when opening a bottle of wine in our house.)

As soon as I realized it would be difficult to open the bottle, I needed it that much more.

Must. Not. Fail.

Having the house to myself tonight = critical brooding moment. Malbec was necessary.

The goal was attained while two houselions looked on, mocking me, hoping for a spill. Suck it, houselions - Mama's got a full glass now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Think Your Tractor's Sexy

For a week, some lovely folks at UVM have been calling our house, looking for answers for their tractor safety survey. After three times of calling and getting just little old me, they finally settled, and before I knew it, I was ten minutes into a survey regarding a vehicle I have no idea how to operate. (Which I aim to change this summer.)

Q: How many tractors does your farm have?
A: One. But we don't really have a farm. (The Dogtor later tells me I am wrong - we have two tractors.)
Q: That's okay.

Q: Do you have a cab or roll bar on your tractor?
A: I don't know.
Q: I just need you to rate this as Very Important, Somewhat Important, or Not at All Important.
A: Somewhat Important.
A: Do you mind if I multi-task? I have to feed my daughter.
Q: No - that's fine.

Q: Do you know someone who has been killed or maimed by a tractor rollover?
A: Oh God. Probably. I don't know.
Q: Would you say Very Important, Somewhat Important, or Not at All Important?
A: Very Important?

Q: Where do you go for tractor safety information?
A: Do you want me to tell you where I'd go or where the people who operate the tractor would go? Because they are very different.
Q: Where would you go?
A: A neighbor. The Internet.
Q: A neighbor. That's a good one.

Q: Do you have any farm animals?
A: Kind of. They're pets.
Q: What kind of farm animals do you have?
A: Two sterile goats and a lame, thirty-year old horse.

Q: Thank you. You've been very helpful.
A: I'm not so sure about that. I'm sorry.

"Q" was super kind, and in retrospect, I feel awful that I may have skewed her academic data. So, when you are reading the tractor study, please ignore the outlier that screams "former corporate consultant masquerading as farm wife."

Sunday, March 21, 2010


What is the difference between Civil War re-enactments and the "live action role playing" world of LAIRE from the movie Role Models?

Not much.

From the Raleigh News and Observer's coverage of the Bentonville Re-enactment:

"Nobody wants to be a Union soldier," said Raleigh resident Wes Jones, 58, of North Carolina's 6th Cavalry Regiment, Company I, before Saturday's battle. "Playing a Confederate is more fun. Even though we lose, you get to play the underdog."...Sometimes a Confederate soldier, such as Jones, will don a navy blue jacket the first day to level out the numbers. And sometimes, dead Union soldiers come back to life to shore up the North's numbers.

Not the boys from Chicago, though.

"Our unit says that once you've been hit, you stay on the ground," said DellaVedova, who works at an electrical power plant in his civilian life.

Long live Augie Marks: "Naysayers tell me 'You should be embarrassed. You should not be fighting. You look like Marvin Hamlisch. I say: Nay, I am not embarrassed. I will fight!' "

(Augie photo source; Bentonville photo source.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Second Favorite Bird

I am crazy about loons. I am a loon lover. But my second favorite bird is the Pileated Woodpecker. I've only seen three; the first when I was walking through the Bennington College campus one early morning during a grad school residency. I was amazed - the size, the red crest...

Today, Fray-monster and I took an early morning walk at Mile Round Woods, and just as I was kicking the mud off the stroller wheels, I heard - then spotted - a Pileated. Rapture, always.

(Picture sourced from Pileated Woodpecker Central. And one day I'm going to dork out entirely and become an ornithologist. Just not now.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And Then There was Pea...

He swims alone. R.I.P. Lou. (See The Life You Save May Be Your...Goldfish for details.)

I'm drinking Makers on the rocks and flushing fish. Listening to Brook Benton and Otis Redding, missing people. Not so much missing the fish.

Decorating Tips

Just another gem in a veterinarian's barn.

Nothing like finding a gnarled, amputated hoof with a label.

The Life You Save May Be Your...Goldfish

(Title inspiration goes to Flannery.)

This morning I woke up to find there was only one fish in the tank. I searched and found what I thought was a dead fish (Lou of Lou and Pea) behind a row of shoes - apparently he had jumped to his death sometime in the night. I buckled Fray-monster into the high chair because I could tell this was going to be a hell of a process.

I should say now that there is a tradition of fish life-saving in the Mayhew-Bergman house. So, I relied on earlier narratives provided by my father-in-law, who, I believe, has saved the lives of two fish. At least. So, hoping no one had told me lies, I used a spatula to pry the dry fish off the floor. He looked pretty dead. Dehydrated. Sad dorsal fin.

I filled a cereal bowl with water and dumped him in it. I put my thumb and forefinger around his body and began moving him around the bowl, hoping to get his gills working. I used the tip of a pen to loosen the dog hair that had dried around his body. Suddenly, Lou did a victory lap around the bowl and breached the water like a Great White off the coast of South Africa.

I squealed; Fray cried.

I dumped Lou back into the tank. Pea nibbled at him for a while. Lou looked good for most of the afternoon...he's awfully still now....

Pick Up Sticks

I want to impress the Dogtor when he gets home (he's traveling), so I'm taking on yard projects.

Lesson learned: 5 dogs greatly reduce the efficacy of post-storm stick pick-ups. (You want that stick? That looks like a good stick - mind if I pull it out of your cart?) Old photo, same idea.

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones

I made them twice today - they are that easy, and that good. Reminds me of the white chocolate baguettes at La Farme.

For once, I didn't bastardize a recipe: Cranberry and White Chocolate Scones.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

High Above the Mucky Muck

Real women have real muck on their muck boots.

The Vermont barn in mud season is a messy, messy thing. Just ask the dogs.

I, however, have had a Tenacious D song in my head for a week. Wonderboy - what is the secret of your power? Won't you take me high above the mucky muck?

The Small Things

This one's for Jane. Be restored.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Goat Fashion

The Casa d' Mayhew-Bergmans....Where goats wear dog collars.

The Dog That Wouldn't Die

I've never disliked a dog. I can love almost anything. And yet I've always nearly-hated my in-laws' giant Airedale, Walker.

For a while, the only good thing you could say about him was that he was, well, a damn good killer. He'd catch birds mid-air in the barn. He took down a wild turkey in the back field. On one of my first dates with the Dogtor - a picnic - Walker mauled a fawn. Family friends fear him. When we have parties, he is relegated to the garage or truck.

After seeing hundreds of wonderful dogs being put down in shelters, I'll admit it's hard for me to tolerate mean dogs.

Walker reminds me of the "blue dog" Lion in William Faulkner's AMAZING short story (and part of his novel Go Down, Moses) The Bear. A dog who is more himself than anything. A dog who is too much dog to be a pet.

For two years, we've been expecting Walker to die. There have been tumors, a bad eye, degenerative issues in his back legs. And yet every morning, and every evening, he does a lap around the property - willing himself to put one foot in front of the other, willing himself to live.

And damn it, I've come to admire him for it. He's bitten me twice, snarled at me countless times, made me cry as he killed some vulnerable animal....and in his twilight years, I almost, almost love the damn thing. And so every morning, and every evening, I cheer him on.

Here's to mean, old dogs.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Garden Logic

The incomparable Dogtor (pictured above, with baby AFB, from last summer) and I sat down to plan this year's garden.

The usual suspects (lettuces, kale, collards, peas, broccoli, beets, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, zukes, cukes, corn) will be joined - hopefully - by pumpkins and sweet potatoes. We're also talking about constructing some homemade teepee trellises for the climbers.

Lessons learned last year: Don't let your broccoli flower when you are on vacation. Tomato blight is wildly contagious. If you get lazy about weeding your lettuce, you will eventually eat weedy salads.

March, Roaring Like a Lion

Today, the Dogtor and I took Fray-monster for a walk in the fields behind our house. She took the sleet pellets like a champ. We're so close to spring - I can feel it - which makes this weekend's snow (ice?) more painful. When spring comes - and it will come! - I won't take a moment of warmth or a crocus for granted.

For me, the day summoned Jane Kenyon's poem "February: Thinking of Flowers" - excerpt below:

Now wind torments the field,
turning the white surface back
on itself, back and back on itself,
like an animal licking a wound.

Nothing but white--the air, the light;
only one brown milkweed pod
bobbing in the gully, smallest
brown boat on the immense tide.

A single green sprouting thing
would restore me. . . .

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Up for Breakfast

The Dogtor, Fray-monster and I rose with the sun and scurried up to Manchester for a reliably amazing meal at Up for Breakfast. Saddled with the Sweet vs. Savory dilemma, I went for calorically-friendly oatmeal, while the Dogtor ordered the good stuff: Blueberry pancakes.

You. Must. Order. These.

Soundtrack on the way home: Rick Astley and Whitesnake. The radio gods delivered, and the morning was made.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting Sappy

It's time for sugaring! The taps are on!

Gimme some sugar.

Extreme Strollering

I'm always hearing about "technical climbs." Yesterday, I did a technical stroller ride. It's mud season in Vermont - but early mud season, which means weird ice shaped like mini moguls + muck - and, in our case - a downed tree. And we went right over that sucker. Popped a wheelie in the BOB.

Who says you can't have swagger driving a stroller?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rolling Out

Leaving Beaufort tomorrow; Vermont-bound on Thursday. Snow in the forecast this weekend, and a broken K key on my laptop keyboard - it requires excessive keystroke force.

Here I sit - looking like one of those angry typers. KAPOW. Or, as originally written: APOW!

Hipsters Scare Herons

I went on an early-morning kayak today. The water was glass, and I saw herons, a pair of common loons, a kingfisher, brown pelicans, and wild horses.

I had ambitions of taking the best camera-phone photo of a heron EVER SEEN, but every time I floated quietly by, they squawked and flew away.

I think it was the cheap hipster glasses from Urban Outfitters. Herons can spot a poseur a mile away.

Beaufort Scary Mannequin Tour

A Visual Aid

Not to out myself as a dork or anything, but I once made a model of the Hammock House (above) using straws and poster board. Blackbeard allegedly lived here with a mistress, and it is mega-haunted, as all old things in the south should be.

When we had our place at the beach, I was starry-eyed over Charles Harry Whedbee's books on legends of the Outer Banks. If there was a sea witch, girl-turned-albino-deer, ghost ship, or mysterious skull cup, I tried really hard to believe in it.

I'll have to make sure Fray-monster is exposed to tall tales, even if I have to make them up. (Lord - what do I know about New England lore? Well, Frasier, these people were very cold and ate a lot of apples… There was a sleigh, and snow. Crap. Already bored. Maybe the Dogtor can do better?)

This fascination with myth reminds me of something the character Sophia from Djuna Barnes' novel Ryder says: Realism is no food for a child.


Monday, March 8, 2010

See You at the Pleistocene Seabeach

I'm always reading about 7 books at once, and one of those is The Great Dismal by Bland Simpson, a memoir/natural history piece about NC's Great Dismal Swamp. He drops the term "Pleistocene Seabeach" like it's nothing, and I'm totally wrapped up in the assonance. So, in addition to the medley of obscure hip hop on repeat in my brain this week, I'm saying Pleistocene Seabeach over and over.

Between my strange chanting and FEMINIST LEGS, the locals are keeping their distance.

Still in Beaufort. Went for a jog this morning, brooded on the end of a pier, and racked up an impressive wildlife count:

-6 wild horses
-1 heron
-1 ibis, stalked by two enterprising gulls
-the Birdshit Hipster on a bike! True story. See earlier post.

We closed out the morning at the NC Aquarium - Fray-monster and I cooed at some otters and got touchy-feely with skates and rays.

Going to hit up some antique shops soon - the owners start sweating when they see me and my giant diaper bag coming.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Half-Nekkid at the Crystal Coast

I'm in Beaufort, NC with my family, and it's fifty degrees. Which means my Vermont blood is saying to me: WARM. Which means I am in shorts, and the native beach people are hoofing around in turtlenecks, fleece, and gloves looking at me like I'm Canadian or something. (Close.)

I am a notoriously bad packer, and focused my packing energy on Fray-monster, so I made it to the coast with no razor. Which means FEMINIST LEGS. In shorts.

(and taking bad camera-phone pictures)

Truckload Meat

Norovirus, have you no mercy? Two times in two months? At the start of my family vacation? (I AM a hand-washer.)

Two Eastern North Carolina visions that were immediately unpalatable to this post-norovirus sufferer:

1 - Truckload Meat Sale (+ hobby horse!) at the Beaufort Piggly Wiggly
2 - A man in the coffee shop caked in bird shit drinking beer at 7 AM (who subsequently pulled a laptop out of a leather attache - whaat?)

Back in the homeland.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Even though spring is near, the houselions continue to lord over the wood stove. And drink out of the fishbowl. And eat your dinner when you aren't looking.

Above, Frau Greta (from her more svelte days) soaking up the heat.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Last Snow Shoe

…required no snowshoes. Only hiking boots and gators, which made me feel less intense than I wanted to feel, so I brought my ski poles (and my trusty Opinel!). Nothing like gear to make you feel athletic.

I did a loop around Lake Shaftsbury—no other humans in sight. It was a balmy 46 degrees, so I tied my hat’s ear flaps on top of my head so I could hear the birds. And, you know, any bears waking up early from hibernation. (I may have, at one point during the hike, pictured myself fighting for my life with ski poles.)

Hiking out west, I’m like Mitch’s girlfriend (Vicki?) in Parent Trap—clapping sticks together and singing just so the bears know I’m coming. We all live in a yellow submarine!

I’m more comfortable hiking solo on the East Coast, and most of the time wish I could be invisible. I sent some geese flying from a newly thawed pond today, and felt a nagging pang of human-guilt. Millay expresses the idea of wanting to be an accepted part of the natural landscape beautifully in her poem, The Fawn.

Certitudes: I have a thing for Millay, and I suffer from predation anxiety.

Unicorns, Lil Troy, and the Best Bookstore in VT

Yesterday I graded essays at Northshire, THE BEST BOOKSTORE in Vermont. I got hopped up on cappuccino, scrawled notes about comma splices, and laughed at the unicorn in the children’s section. (Anyone watch HBO’s Bored to Death series? Schwartzman, Danson, and Galifianakis.) Anyway, the unicorn reminded me of the infamous Janet. She extends!

Shockingly, Lil Troy’s Wanna Be a Baller came on while I was in the cafĂ©. In Vermont. It was kind of…magical. (...and as I was mouthing every single word, I was reminded of David Gates' provocative essay It's a White Thing. Makes one think.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Last X-Ski, For Me

For the season, most likely. And the first, if I’m being honest. I did more running and snowshoeing this winter—overcompensation for Pregnant Winter ’08.

X-skiing from our back door is one of the best parts of living in Vermont, but I’ve learned to take my skis off before I hit the Poo Gauntlet (5 dogs, people) – a radius of yellow snow and frozen you-know-what that surrounds the house.

My ski boots look like moon boots, and every time I wear them, I want to go en pointe. So, to celebrate the last X-Ski of winter, I did.

It felt as bad as it looks. And I’m totally holding onto the counter.