Delve deep into the dark
Retrieve your spark of greatness
Dec 30, 2010
Dec 20, 2010
Nov 29, 2010
Hydrotherapy for dogs has arrived in Marin. Merlin’s vet, Dr. Michelle Rose at the Animal Wellness Center of Marin, invited Merlin to experience their new underwater treadmill. Merlin’s been struggling with a bit of back leg weakness so a walk in a warm water tank sounded delightfully buoyant.
I first heard about veterinary hydrotherapy after a California horse was injured in the 1996 Belmont Stakes. Cavonnier had lost the Kentucky Derby by a nose (the closest finish in four decades), and the subsequent tendon injury was a disastrous career ender. Instead of putting him out to pasture, his Santa Rosa owners invested in an experimental underwater treadmill. Cavonnier recovered and won again two years later, making veterinary horse history. The rest of the high stakes horse trainers stopped laughing at California and started secretly fitting horse ramps into pools.
Merlin enjoys racing around in wet sand at the beach, but declines to swim. Paws always touching the bottom, water adds splashy fun. The vet’s warm water treadmill promised a low-impact workout, without a car full of sand. It’s discouraging to exercise when one is ailing or in pain, so taking weight off weak joints sounded like a grand idea. Merlin trotted into the physical therapy room and inspected the giant fish tank. He walked up the ramp, Dr. Rose closed the glass gate, and we reassured him over the open top as water flowed in the bottom. He looked a tad concerned when the water covered his belly, supporting 40% of his weight. “Walk!" we suggest as the treadmill started and he glided backwards. He gave us his this is really weird look and moved forward, raising each paw extra high, swim-walking. "He’s so clever," Dr. Rose said. We agreed.
Merlin was pleased to be having a bath with dry ears and without shampoo. After a few steps, his walking confidence soared because he couldn’t stumble. His joy was contagious. With a few breaks for rest and treats, Merlin completed three runs of increasing speed, trotting merrily in slow motion. He barked happily as the water drained and pranced wetly about, playing towel tag.
The Hydro Physio underwater treadmill is from England, an exciting addition to our vet’s commitment to animal well-being. Merlin needs to build muscle mass in his back legs but other dogs use it for post-op recovery, agility training, or weight loss. There’s life jacket vests for skittish dogs and frozen peanut butter or squeaky toys for motivation. Trainers bring Guide Dogs, young dogs, lazy dogs, hyper dogs, and post-op dogs. Water walking gives quite a workout, ramping up to 5 mph. Surgery patients can start 2 weeks after operations to foster recovery and get off drugs quicker. Dr. Rose is going to start her own blog with patient success stories. Merlin’s waiting for the first cat volunteer.
Along with hydrotherapy, Merlin is continuing his home cone course and sit-stands to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion. The tank workout immediately improved proprioception and vitality. Maybe it’s the novelty, or the center of attention effect. Merlin’s other chauffeur suggests it’s the British love of dogs that transmits through this marvelous, futuristic contraption. I know it’s Dr. Rose’s healing presence.
Merlin now looks forward to vet visits. Water walking! Here comes Aqua Dog!
Oct 15, 2010
Blog Action Day 2010: WATER. Bloggers around the world write today in global conversation to spark discussion and drive collective change. Water is life. Our planet glows a soft liquid blue in the dark star field of space. Merlin's latest Road Trip was two weeks around the 100° deserts of southern Utah so we're especially appreciative of clean, clear, cool water from our local dog-friendly drinking fountains.
We are thinking of our Minnesotan friends, Jill and Tim Geoffrion, who have just flown to Rwanda and the Congo. Africa makes one keenly aware of water issues. Tim teaches ministers, Jill installs labyrinths. Together they instruct, inspire, and create space for spirit led leadership through their Faith, Hope & Love Global Ministries. I mentor Jill on her location photography, and she is generating some magnificent photos in some very difficult situations.
So, enjoy a glass of clean, clear water today. Sip with deep awareness.
Write, make art.
Oct 10, 2010
Blue Angels roar overhead, thin specks of blue fire spiraling white smoke splitting clear blue sky. The F/A-18 Hornet delta pattern morphs into a diamond formation, bright yellow wing tips separated by 18 inches, at 400 mph. Knife edge passes and 360 rolls keep the earthbound crowds cheering, gasping, and screaming with the afterburners.
For a few moments we all soar high and hang in sunlight silence in the untrespassed sanctity of space. Floating beyond terrestrial form, we could, with WWII pilot, John Gillespie Magee, Jr., Put out our hand, and touch the face of God.
Merlin usually watches the October Air Show from the Marin Headlands where it is a bit less ground-shaking terrifyingly loud. A few years ago the US Navy Blue Angel Boss team leader was also named Merlin. Our telephoto lens tracked plane #1, Aussie dog Merlin barking for Captain Merlin. Smoke on! Ready BREAK! The sparkling echelon salutes center point, converging on show line at a combined 1,000 mph. We hold our breath, then explode with approval. Human and machine defying gravity, denying death another day.
My dad was in the Air Force and Fleet Week San Francisco is our annual local celebration of American services' dedication to precision, excellent, and preparedness. Thank you for responding and protecting. Be safe.
Aug 31, 2010
Merlin has a special place in his heart for British ladies. They are the best Dog People, clever and quick with the treats. So when we heard an English accent at the the Grace Cathedral labyrinths, we introduced ourselves. Turns out, we were all in San Francisco for an urban pilgrimage weekend and when our new friend Felicity asked about local labyrinths, Merlin suggested a local labyrinth road trip. So,the next day we collected her at the Sausalito ferry and drove out into the Tiburon peninsula fog.
First labyrinth: Community Congregational Church, Tiburon. Our good friend and labyrinth facilitator extraordinaire, Anna Cook, was the creative force behind the new labyrinth installation of cement and packed sand. Sonoma labyrinth gal pal, Lea Goode-Harris, consulted. If you're tall, you can just see the Golden Gate Bridge peeking over the shrubbery. The site held an Amiens pattern of flagstone and thyme that was a fragrant delight to walk with each herb crunching step. The new labyrinth is settling in nicely, awaiting its public dedication celebration Autumn Equinox Saturday, Sept 18, 10am. Merlin's chauffeurs have hung fine art photography of sacred places in the CCC gallery, presented pilgrimage travelogues, and played original compositions on their grand piano for labyrinth walks. The annual Winter Solstice candlelit walk is a Merlin family tradition.
Second and third labyrinth: San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo. Geneva Terrace presents a marvelous seven circuit medieval cross labyrinth aligned to Mount Tamalpias. A classical pattern of white brick is sunk into the retreat center yard. Merlin appreciates the cooling grass of the Spirit Walk Labyrinth, the walking path connected in the English village green style to the surrounding lawn, Ariadne's unbroken thread of contemplation and living relationship.
After a lively lunch we continue north to San Rafael. Fourth labyrinth: Church of the Redeemer. This full size Chartres pattern in brick, gravel, and sand was created last fall. Nestled into the open space next to the church on ancient Miwok Indian land, the labyrinth entrance connects to the public sidewalk, inviting neighbors to stroll through. Friendly and open, the space welcomes lingering.
Fifth labyrinth: Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. A few blocks from Merlin's home, this outdoor Chartres pattern in rope features a refreshing fountain in the center. Merlin's interns did a photo shoot here last summer. The church hosts First Tuesdays Labyrinth Walks every month on their indoor canvas, a seven circuit design by Robert Ferre. See you there?
Last labyrinth: home. Merlin's favorite labyrinth is the double spiral mounded earthwork in his own backyard garden. He trots along the paths every day, brushing rosemary bushes and ducking under lavender. The main feature in Merlin's private agility course, he’s swift to show off for visitors, pointing out the location of the doggie biscuit reward box. Afternoon tea and fresh scones for all.
Six Marin labyrinths in one delightful day. Thanks Felicity. Merlin enjoys playing local labyrinth tour guide host. Keep walking!
Merlinmobile: 48 miles.
Labyrinth walkers: 1/3 mile x 6 labyrinths x 3 people = 6 miles.
Plus Merlin = infinity and beyond!
Jun 27, 2010
Summer Art Festivals beckon. Merlin looks forward to art walkies walkabout. After the spring Classic cars drive away, the streets in front of Mission San Rafael are resurfaced for the Italian Street Painting Festival. Sponsored by Youth in Arts, our local event attracts world class madonnari, chalk drawing artists. Masters willingly work alongside local artists and students for two days in the hot sun to create 200 vibrant street murals. Thousands of spectators mingle in the street, watching designs take form as the madonnari apply chalk and blend color with hands, cloth, sponges, and tools from their indoor studios.
We hunt for art pals Mark Wagner, Clayton Thiel, and Joel Yau. Mark, his dog Mr. Z, and 5,678 school kids hold the official Guinness World Record for the largest chalk drawing, 90,000 square feet of imaginative image on the old Alameda Naval Air Base. Mark's mission is to re-enchant the world through art, cultivating creative collaboration to open hearts, awaken senses, build community.
By the end of Sunday afternoon, hot, tired, chalk covered artists remove the boundary tape and step back to appreciate the free flowing gallery of expression and vibrancy. Merlin sneaks in after hours to look for depictions of dogs. He spotted a cow, by Art Works Downtown volunteer, Allison Snopek. and declared it his favorite. We tweeted.
Our favorite summer outdoor art event is the Marin Art Festival. Located at Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin Civic Center lagoon, 250 fine artists inhabit white tents in a spectacular setting 15 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Flags flutter over airy art booths dotting the lush green lawn around dance and music stages. Costumed performers greet guests as they engage with artists. Merlin presents his own on-going performance art piece, Gopher Discovery, to the delight and amusement of all. This year's Marin Master Artist is our art friend Phyllis Thelen, who's imaginative sculpture of vessels, habitats, and creatures transform natural materials like bark into profound containers of journey, safety, and home. Phyllis was the main force behind the creation of Art Works Downtown, where Merlin greets visitors to the Pavlinac studio and cleans up after receptions. Cindy photographs artwork for artists and has documented Phyllis' work for over 10 years, featuring her voyage vessels in the Marin Arts Council's Artist Dialogue Magazine when she was Editor-in-Chief, in the last century. Phyllis is indeed a master artist, residing in the process, embracing the journey. Merlin appreciated her bark fish.
Stilted Steampunk birds wobbled along artist alleys as Merlin found shaded refuge with wild animal artist Marne Jaye. Her vibrant oil paintings are some of the most exciting work at any festival and Merlin treated his chauffeur to one of her new canteens. Look for us sipping from the electric turquoise, dark gold ribboned zebra water bottle. Merlin is enticed by the enchanting music of Aryeh Frankfurter’s nyckelharpa to plop down in the thick grass and settle in for a gentle recital in the sun. Celtic motifs flowed over and around us in a well-tempered aria of memory, myth, and magic.
We awoke to a gopher staring at us, daring Merlin to pounce. He followed its tunneling sounds to a herd of giant metal animals by the lagoon. On safari from Santa Fe, the kinetic steel sculptures of Fredrick Prescott form colorful creatures that nod in the breeze. Merlin's favorite? The cow!
Art stimulates, enriches, integrates, invigorates, entices, excites, energizes.
Art nourishes our soul, relaxes our minds, opens possibilities.
Art does indeed re-enchant the world.
Some of the best road trips are close to home. Merlin delights in finding old friends in new settings. And we all treasure visiting with our artist pals, basking in tender melodies, discovering new delights, sharing creative expression, traveling in our imaginations to wondrous locations, and finding COWS!
Jun 13, 2010
Sometimes, the road trip comes to Merlin. Every spring classic cars roll into San Rafael for auto events and admiration. Merlin sniffed out a Model T that drove the Great Race across the Bonneville Speed Flats, several futurama Rocket 88s, a pristine El Dorado, and an intriguing Delorean. The longest running street car show in Northern California, May Madness draws hundreds of vintage rides for a Fourth Street cruise. Merlin supervises from his usual perch on the curb in front of Art Works Downtown, home of the Pavlinac Photo studio and 2nd Friday Art Walks/Cheese Receptions. This year everyone in the afternoon cruising parade pointed and clicked as they drove past Merlin. He smiled politely at his admirers, dwarfed by a giant Iron Horse vehicle taking up two parking spaces in front of the art center. Created out of recycled car parts by Scottie Collinson, it is a Burning Man Art Car and a pun; the horseless carriage horse-shaped vehicle.
A sporty race car zipped in right before the parade to squeeze behind the Iron Horse. Merlin approved of the open air maximum wind-in-your-ears styling, but decided the seat was too buckety for a proper road trip. Cougars, Impalas, Mustangs, Vipers, Roadrunners, and Coyotes rolled past, honking and laughing. And snapping photos with cameras, video, and phones of Merlin, and the giant horseless carriage horse and sporty roadster.
The following weekend the Marin Sonoma Concours d'Elegance gathered several hundred classy classics in fog shrouded Mill Valley at 7am on Saturday morning for The Drive. Porches had their own route over Mount Tam while the pre-1978s roared along the Hwy 1 Pacific coast. Merlin zipped up the freeway to head them off and after a bit of a delay in Petaluma's annual Salute to American Graffiti, we arrived in position for photos as they drove past. Everyone was amused as they began to recognize the big, red, non vintage, but still classic Saturn Merlinmobile. We all rendezvoused on a private ranch/air strip/boat launch for catered lunch and lavish auto mutual appreciation.
Sunday found us on the Concours green with historic autos, hot rods, more Porches, and vintage delivery trucks. Merlin especially enjoyed the Good Humor Ice Cream Truck sign inviting dogs to run off with ice cream bars. Merlin's chauffeur drooled over the lime sorbet 1954 Kaiser Darrin Roadster, built in Michigan, which won a Best in Class Award. Janis Joplin's psychedelic 1965 Porsche was surrounded all day by enthusiastic reminiscers. Merlin's too young to remember the Summer of Love but he experiences the delight of driving freedom, the open road, the journey, his own trippy road trip.
What's your favorite ride for your road trip? Merlin hops into his mighty Merlinmobile, where his dog blankets cushion the entire back seat and the windows wind all the way down.
Dogs remind us to pay attention to the journey, nose to the wind, ears swept back, blissfully drinking in life, full each moment. Enjoy!
The Drive: 150 miles
The Cars: Just over a Century.
Apr 30, 2010
May 1st is World Labyrinth Day. Everyone is invited to locate a labyrinth to walk at 1:00 pm, local time. We will Walk as One at 1, creating a wave of meandering paws and peds rolling around the globe.
Merlin has meandered labyrinths from San Fransico’s Lands End to Mount Shasta to Detroit, and trots his personal backyard garden double spiral everyday, when he’s not away on a road trip. For last year’s World Labyrinth Day, we walked our labyrinth for an hour, inhaling rosemary and lavender, carrying wild flowers and prayer flags, holding thoughts of personal and world peace as we wove through the garden along the gentle sine wave circuit of Merlin’s Labyrinth. We could almost sense others waking their labyrinths at the same time all along the West Coast. Hundreds of labyrinths are participating this year, including Grace Cathedral. The Labyrinth Society lists resources, and you can find a labyrinth near you with the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator. Check our pal Meryl Ann Butler’s OpEdNews article for more WLD info.
This year the Marin Arts Open will be the first two weekends in May and Merlin will be greeting visitors to the Art Works Downtown studios. Merlin chauffeur Cindy Pavlinac has tidied her studio and printed new work of Marin road trip views. CampingRoadTrip recently interviewed Merlin about his adventures as a road tripping dog, and you can read his responses here.
Back-up chauffeur, Martin Gregory, entertains in the Art Works gallery Sunday, May 2nd, 1-3pm. His keyboard music magic will feature Merlin’s Lullaby, from an upcoming album, Celtic themes from Bishop’s Palace, Labyrinth melodies from Labyrinth Walk, and rhythmic selections from the film score Dancing with Gaia.
Along with Merlin, 37 artists at the Art Works Downtown Art Center will open their studios to show new work, demonstrate artistic talents, and entertain questions from technique to equipment. Organized by the Marin Arts Council, 315 artists throughout the county open their studios both weekends this year.
The 2nd Saturday, May 8th, is an extra exciting day in downtown San Rafael with May Madness, the longest running classic car street show in Northern California. Merlin has his eye on a red convertible Mustang and will be sitting on the curb for the 5 pm cruise parade. The Pavlinac Photography studio has fresh photos of fabulous classic cars.
May first is the ancient Celtic holiday of Beltane, spring at its height, celebrated with garlands of flowers and dancing around may poles. It’s also Merlin’s chauffeurs’ anniversary. So passion and puppy kisses all around. Adorn yourself and everyone you love with colorful ribbons and fresh flowers. We wish you classic cars, fine art, and a wondrous World Labyrinth Day meander, wherever you walk. Ah, Spring!