In that misty place of rising, when I am lifting out of a dream and into the waking world, the visions in my head become vivid. Short lived sometimes, disappearing like the steam rising from a pot of water. But sometimes they strangely remain, indelibly infused on my brain like the scene from a movie which has been left on pause too long on our LCD TV screen. My dreams hover there in my brain, faintly visible under the moving pictures of the day, and they haunt me even when I’m fully awake. I found myself this morning walking along the edge of our driveway on Old Clairton Road in 1967. I am tiptoeing there still.
In order to build houses along most of the streets in southwestern PA, the natural God given lay of the land was chipped away to create semi-level spots on which to build dependable foundations, The houses stack like giant steps along the rolling hills of our hometown, aptly named Pleasant Hills. Our driveway was unusual in that you could drive straight into the one car garage from the street. Most houses had driveways that followed a sharp steep grade down to the back of the house where their garages tucked underneath their kitchens. Instead, our driveway was up top, and we had a large basement that sprawled under the whole house, including our garage. So the driveway had to be built up and there was a steep drop to the grassy side of our house from the edge of the driveway. I searched Google Images for a representative picture to show you. I typed in the words “Old Clairton Road”, and lo and behold up came our next door neighbors, the Kotsko’s, old house, listed on some real estate site a while back.The red brick house next to the white painted one is ours. You can see the wall of red brick below our driveway.
We used to walk along the edge of that driveway like it was a balance beam, our arms stretched straight out to our sides, our eyes keenly focused on where our feet were placed. We were careful not to play night games around the driveway because the fall looked so painfully far from up there when you were 8 years old. And a fall in the dark is the worst nightmare. I only walked the edge of that structure when I could focus intently, in the light of day. When it wasn’t snowing or raining. And when I was feeling brave.
So early this morning, when I was rattled to my senses by the buzz of Dave’s razor, I wondered what I had been doing there at the old house. I rose too quickly from the dream and never did get that figured out. But I have been pondering the concept of edges the remainder of the day, in between guitar lessons and a few tidbits of the Nate Berkus show as I was fixing my salad for lunch. Even then, when I was thinking of other things, edges kept showing up. I lamented to our Girls With Guitars class that I had dropped my Taylor guitar during Thursday’s lessons and put a chink in the edge of the headstock. And as my paring knife slipped through the piece of grilled chicken I sliced onto my salad, I pondered the blessing of a good sharp edge in the kitchen.
Everywhere I looked, in fact, there was evidence of edges. They define, visually, nearly everything around us. We use words to describe things and they almost always start out talking about the shape between the edges: “The room was rectangular.” “The clock is round.” Our most primitive pictures only show the edges. Little child hands pick them out and imitate them with their dads’ pens on the back of the church program on Sunday mornings. People and pets are reduced to thin black lines against plain white air. Here, for instance, is 3 year old Parker’s picture of his dad. I transferred it to a chocolate cake for Johnny’s birthday. I used melted chocolate chips to draw it.
Some people never outgrow the need for sharp edges on the things they know. Life is one side or the other of a black sharpie marker. Black or white and not much gray. For others just about everything is drawn with the side of the pencil lead, smudged and shaded so you have to stand way back to see the shape, rendered is soft muted edges. My Sarah learned to love watercolor because the water was a beautiful unknown that left to fate some portion of the final picture. She could push the paint with her brush and sometimes it would stop when she did and sometimes it would continue to bleed against the thick cold pressed paper made for watercolors. That’s what made the medium so lovely: The mystery of the edge.
I prefer, I suppose, the soft green edges of the fields and forests, and the pulsing, living edges of the beach at the cottage on Lake Huron. And yet I live in a world of cold hard edges that I have to deal with whether I want to or not. Sometimes I walk too carefully the edge of things for fear the fall to the side may be damaging or deadly, like the wall of my driveway. This isn’t necessarily evil, I know. But it is limiting. Perhaps it’s because I respect the damage that can be done by falling off some edges.
I reason with myself and my children that it is better to stay far away from many of them.
I guess I would say that if I am going to allow myself to walk an edge, I’d better be sure the fall from it will not be too risky for my body or my soul. And when I do seek the buzz that edge walking offers, I hope I will have my wits about me enough to do it in the Light.