History of the Heart


deCordova Sculpture Park

Monday Morning Musings:


We listen to our hearts, traveling north

we listen to NPR, switching stations as they fade in an out.

I wonder about all who’ve journeyed up and down this coast,

on rough paths, on old turnpike roads, in birch crafts on the rivers,

and on the sea–

sailing into the bustling seaports of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

They were looking for America

from across the ocean, from across rivers and bays,

they arrived in a land of wonders, one not unpopulated,

the people already there displaced, their way of life disrupted, changed forever


Long ago, my husband and I made this journey, headed to Mystic.

we were about the age of our older daughter now,

our hearts were young, filled with passion and uncertainty

in equal measures,

the way it is then

before life tempers, and provides nuances,

But joy comes in seeing the world in different ways

as we journey through life

down roads uncharted

then, now, the future

all merge on this highway

heading north.


We stay at a lovely inn in Old Mystic

with each room named for a New England author,

the perfect place for a writer,

don’t you think?


Mark Twain Room, Old Mystic Inn

We’re in the Mark Twain room,

decorated with both flair and whimsy–

a mysterious note appears on the bathroom mirror

in the steam, and we laugh.


“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Mark Twain (The message appears on the glass when the room steams up.)

It’s the day before our wedding anniversary,

our hearts have traveled.

miles and time together

beating close together

and far apart.


We eat the delicious breakfast

(strawberry stuffed French Toast

and herbed scrambled eggs, corn cakes with fruit

the second morning)

and head off for the seaport.


We climb aboard a whaling ship,

the whalers long gone, but the ship restored.

Men sailed away, often for years,

women waited,

life echoing the sea, back and forth, like the tides

towns and cities grew from

and became dependent on this life,

money to be made from whale oil,

and maritime business

coopers, chandlers, rope makers,

but broken-hearts for those who never returned.

Hearts have chambers,

rooms, like a house or inn,

blood travels through them,

leaving traces behind

as a person’s scent remains in a room.

Hearts hold our love encased within them.

Whales hearts, so much larger than ours,

do they hold more love?

Did their families cry and mourn for them, too,

when they did not return?

A history of hearts, human and whale, entwined


We eat dinner at a restaurant on the river,

we look down upon the sailing boats,

leaving a V trail behind them in the water,

the setting sun casts a glow upon the water,

we discover my husband’s knife is magnetized,

we laugh as he uses it to pull a fork around the table,

such entertainment,

and the food is great, too.


Off to Boston and another inn,

our bed has a four poster bed with steps to get up onto it.


The Bertram Inn, Brookline, MA


Our older daughter walks with us to

the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum,

and how amazing she must have been

to collect such works during the Gilded Age

(and the fortunes and friendships to make it possible)

to create a Venetian palace and garden


Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum, Boston

I look at the paintings.

I love that my daughter also walks slowly

reading each sign, examining the lines and details

I watch the people, too,

the young Asian woman in the dirndl style dress,

the skirt a pattern of giant books, a ribbon in her hair–

What is her story?

does the dress reflect her heart, an open book?


The next day with our daughter and her wife

we spend hours wandering through the deCordova sculpture park.

It’s a beautiful day,

my heart sings with the joy of being alive,

walking with my husband, my daughter, and her wife

looking at sculptures, smelling the flowers

(Where is that cinnamon scent coming from?

We never do find out.)

It’s a lovely day to walk among the works of art,

outside and inside.

We rest after that

then have pizza, walk through a bookstore, and eat ice cream for dessert,

because it’s summertime,

food for the body, and food for the soul.


We leave the inn, the next morning,

we leave the sea and its tides,

beating with life’s rhythms,

we follow and cross rivers

the Charles, the Connecticut,

the Hudson, the Delaware,

the earth’s arteries,

lead us home,

where a grey cat and a white cat

are waiting for us.


We stayed at the Old Mystic Inn.  Our room was in the carriage house—the rooms have separate entranced and a porch with chairs and tables. There is also a gazebo. This is probably the best inn I’ve ever stayed in. Lovely room and setting (outside of the commercial area), and delicious breakfasts created by innkeeper and chef Michael S. Cardillo, Jr.  There was a fireplace in the room, too, which would be beautiful in cooler weather. We ate our anniversary eve dinner at S & P Oyster Company. It was expensive, but the food was excellent, not an overpriced tourist spot. Call for “priority seating.”

We stayed at the Bertram Inn, in Brookline, outside of Boston, near where our older daughter lives.   It was also wonderful with nice touches, such as turn down service with chocolates each night. I was surprised to find that it was once the home of a family—and their servants. Lovely rooms, friendly staff, and delicious buffet breakfasts (with cold foods available for early risers, like us.) We ate our breakfast on an outside porch beneath a trellis

In the Boston area, we visited

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

And the deCordova Sculpture Garden





42 thoughts on “History of the Heart

  1. I love that museum! How did you manage a photo? They let me sketch, that’s all…
    Sounds like a wonderful trip. Let the dreaminess last awhile and don’t work too hard just yet. (K)

  2. Looks wonderful! I will make a note of these places for some future visit in that direction. 🙂 Happy Anniversary! And thank you for that glimpse of all the travelers who have gone before, especially in birch canoes–for some reason that one grabbed my fancy.

  3. “But joy comes in seeing the world in different ways” jumped out at me. What a lovely way to phrase it. I’m partial to joy, as you may know. And I’m partial to travel and seeing the differences among us. If I did needlepoint, this would surely make it onto my wall. Alas. …

  4. The journey to Mystic woven with those who came to America plus Mark Twain! Wow, wonderful and magical poetry.
    Happy Anniversary and may you celebrate many more! ❤ ❤

      • I like how you mentioned seeing the ocean, then crossing rivers leasing you home. . . to where your gray and white cats were, Merril. Home is wherever your husband is; but where you set your anchor down on land, this is also where you sigh and feel Home once again. . .

    • Lots of heart woven into the tapestry of your marriage and family life, Merril. I am up at my Mom’s who is still asleep in her senior apt, while I hope to play a little “catch up” on blogging before my oldest daughter and her two sons arrive here for breakfast. We are all going garage sale-ing in my hometown where I attended junior high and high school but have lived in my own children’s home town now for thirty years.
      You may know, but not sure if you do, so please excuse my repetition. . . I got divorced and moved to a small town halfway from my ex and halfway to my parents with a 1, 3, and 5 years old children. . .
      So, am happy to be here visiting, as always. But my grown children and grandies all are part of my heart, too. So glad they chose where they attended elementary school to “settle down” and make it their home, too. ❤

  5. Hearts have chambers. Love that line, Merril. You made me want to spend our 50th anniversary in Mystic. We probably will return to Nova Scotia where we honeymooned in 1969, but your lovely poem reminds me that we also visited Boston, so maybe that will be part of our trip too.

    • Thank you, Shirley for your kind comment. I’m sure Nova Scotia will be wonderful to return to (I’ve never been there). Boston is also a great place to visit, and plenty of things to do, even if the weather is not great.

  6. What is true for this Monday Musing is true for them all, but the quality that is so mesmerizing jumps out to me with such clarity…the weaving of the personal and the (collective) historical and the metaphorical (ontological and metaphysical?) in a “voice” that is both casual and meditative, authoritative although musing.

    One of the few things that was drilled into my head way back when I was “studying” poetry and writing poetry was juxtaposing a litany of phenomenon and / or thoughts was not inherently poetically meaningful by the mere fact they were juxtaposed. You have that authentic voice which brings to the surface, poetically, the deeper ties to be seen between the items on list. Whale hunters and messages in the steam and spending a day encountering sculptures…and more…the whole becoming greater than the sum of the parts.

    The difficulty of making it all work is on par with pulling off good comedy improv. There isn’t much room for err before it slips over into being a train wreck. Yet it is as I wrote above, an authentic voice that allows you to make it work (given all the other challenges we face in composing a poem or other writing endeavor). I can say this voice reminds me of those of Jane Hirshfield or Maxine Kumin, not because yours is a good mimicking, but rather your sensibilities are in similar, not identical, orbits.

    Just wanted to add (since it is already a long comment), in writing this comment I came across an essay by Maxine Kumin “Our Farm, My Inspiration” in the American Scholar — https://theamericanscholar.org/our-farm-my-inspiration/#.V3V5pOsrLnA — demonstrating what I am trying to get at, in part, above, she writes:

    “Our garden became so fecund that we eventually bought a second freezer to contain the quantities of veggies and soups we put up for the year. But the real reason for our success lay with the byproduct of our horses, described in this excerpt from ‘The Excrement Poem’:

    We eat, we evacuate, survivors that we are.
    I think these things each morning with shovel
    and rake, drawing the risen brown buns
    toward me, fresh from the horse oven, as it were, …
    And wheeling to it, storming up the slope,
    I think of the angle of repose the manure
    pile assumes, how sparrows come to pick
    the redelivered grain, how inky-cap

    coprinus mushrooms spring up in a downpour. …
    [T]rundling off today’s last barrowful
    I honor shit for saying: We go on.”

    • I’ll try for a bit more this time in response, although I can’t guarantee it will be coherent. But–I truly appreciate your thoughtful, expansive, and generous compliment.
      I’ve always liked words, and I’ve tried ensure the nonfiction books I’ve written were interesting to read–some more than others, of course. But, I’ve never taken a poetry course, so perhaps that’s why I’m able to break the rules in juxtaposing various thoughts and items and mixing them all about. I like connections and tend to find them in all sorts of things. Watching a movie, I’m reminded of something I read or saw at some other time.
      In any case, thank you again, Doug. I truly appreciate your comment–and the Maxine Kumin!

      • that was coherent to me, although i’m not sure what that implies. 😉

        in a world in which there are no truisms, i would tend to agree with the notion that if you want to really write poetry, don’t study poetry writing academically. Of course, there are always exceptions. And anomalies.

      • I was really tired, so I’m glad I made sense. 🙂 I don’t expect at this point to go back to school for any sort of academic poetry study. I don’t need another degree. I’ll stick with my “on-the-job” training, and just enjoy it.

  7. You have a great talent with merging history, family, and poetry into a wonderful post. I love the feeling of observing a quilt or a piece of tapestry with all the intricate details that are woven into your art. Thank you for an incredible journey! 💐

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