Birds, Wine, and Life

Monday Morning Musings:

 “In all the universe nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit.”

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage If no one is thinking of firing it.”

Anton Chekhov, Letter to A. S. Lazarev-Gruzinsky, November 1, 1889.

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” John Keats, Letter to his sister, Fanny Keats, 28 August 1819


On a beautiful day in early fall

we go to see a play,

a play about love and loss.

of life and death and sorrow and hope,

a play that discusses not only whether

life is worth living,

but how,

and can one enjoy life

without actually being happy,

or happy, but not very happy,

a play that breaks the fourth wall

and invites the audience to participate

(Perhaps with a little prompting–

because that seagull does need to make an appearance)

with characters who know they are fictional,

but are nevertheless real.

For all its existential angst

the play is funny

though of course, a gun on the stage must be used,

or must it?

And balloons that appear

will be popped,

it’s a question of when,

I suppose that is like life, too.

(Though being me,

I wonder how many people hear “Chekhov”

and think of the Star Trek character

and how sad is it that Anton Yelchin who played

Chekhov in the movies died in such a freak accident?

It seems more Twilight Zone than Star Trek, doesn’t it?

In a Star Trek world, there would be a way to bring him

back. And so this has me pondering a whole different set of philosophical questions about life and death. But not during the play, you understand,

only after.)

(But really that whole killing a seagull thing. Isn’t that seriously psycho behavior?)

My husband and I have a lot to talk about after this play—

which we enjoyed, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell,

great acting, some funny songs, and a well-designed set.

It is a beautiful day,

and we sit outside drinking coffee,

a little cobble-stoned Philadelphia street.

People walk their dogs.

there is the man with three—

like Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear

They have smiling doggy faces amidst tufts of hair

that attract a gaggle of women.

We look at the buildings around us

and the birds hunting for crumbs,

we walk back to our car

observing the people,

the coffee crowd morphing into the Saturday

night drinking crowd

(two women talk about where to get moonshine

is that a thing now?)

and the police officers on their horses,

watch the people,

one horse, unconcerned, gives herself a bath



A character in the play asks what is the point of creating

and producing more stories and art

when so much exists already?

The answer, of course, is that we have a need to create.

Since prehistory, humans have created

cave paintings

multi-breasted earth mothers–

to go with the stories we create

to explain our existence.

Music, art, poetry,

to express and honor beauty.

We imitate and create

old and new

invented and inventive


ever changing

and static.

We are complex creatures,

but also simple


We go to a wine festival the next day,

wine also a human creation,

though perhaps its existence came about by accident,

grapes left to ferment,

and we eat cheese

perhaps also an accidental creation–

because we learn by experiment—

Eat it, drink it, and see what happens.

And I think of ancient humans discovering that food

can be cooked, spices added,

the appreciation of complex flavors and aromas

and that food and wine

become even more pleasurable when shared with loved ones.

And so we do just that at this wine festival.


I think of the stupid fucking bird,

the seagull

that stole my daughter’s sandwich right from her hand

at the beach this summer.

It is funny now, a story

I can share with you, Reader,

in verse here that I feel the need to create.

My spirit flies high like birds

though sometimes I may be stupid,

well, human.

I may stumble a bit

(well, there was that wine)

But still,

life is worth living,

life is good.


Thanks to Elusive Trope for the Camus quote. (And for the philosophical explanations.)

We saw Stupid F**king Bird by Aaron Posner at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.

We went to Old City Coffee

And the Heritage Wine Festival in Mullica Hill, NJ.

12 thoughts on “Birds, Wine, and Life

  1. Your post reminded me of a quote I saw not long ago: “It is the still, yellow kind of afternoon when one is apt to get stuck in a dream if one sits very quiet.” ~ Dodie Smith
    You have a rainbow of colors in this inventive post, preserved here for posterity. Well done, Merril!

  2. well, to throw some more Camus out there: if we could achieve clarity about our life, we wouldn’t need to create art.

    We are so busy always trying to make sense of everything around us. And confusion (if not misery) loves company so we just gather to share it with one another, whether on a cave wall or in a theater, .Confusion also is a good excuse for a glass (or two) of wine…one might as well have a good time while we’re stumbling around in the dark.

    • Life would be very boring if everything was clear and there was no art (or wine). Being able to explore life’s mysteries is part of the fun.
      I guess I will always be the half full type of person–though I may wonder about where the other half got to. 🙂

  3. You three had quite a variety of activities to attend and get involved in. I remember your post about the seagull and the sandwich “ambush!”
    I like the photo of your husband, at the table of the cafe. I enjoyed the photo of you, this was such a great response to attending a musical/dramatic play. My family loves going out for dessert to discuss concerts, movies, plays or performances afterwards. 🙂
    The wine festival looked like fun, Merril!

    • Thanks, Robin.
      Daughter did not go to the show. (My husband and I are subscribers for two different theater series in Philadelphia.) If we can, we like to go out for coffee or dinner or something after movies or shows to discuss them.
      She went to the wine festival, and her wonderful husband chose not to go, but he got son-in-law points for being our designated driver! 🙂
      I’m glad you liked the post.

  4. What a delightful poem that goes from suicide and seagulls to the joy of living, the simple things in life that make life worth living. Poetry musts be included in that list – poetry and prose that helps us realize the struggle to LIVE is worth the pain. Because if we search for it, reach for it, there is joy. Your poems end in joy, which I love.
    P.S. I grew up in Pitman, NJ, just 30 minutes from Philadelphia, but never got to explore the city as an adult. I like learning of it through your eyes.

    • Thanks so much, Pam. I love your comment about poetry and prose (and of course your kind words, too).
      I don’t really know the city that well, but it’s fun to walk around in when the weather is nice.
      My brother actually does know Philadelphia though, and he lives there now.
      And NJ wineries definitely were not a thing until fairly recently. My husband’s retirement job is at Pitman Golf Club, and that’s where younger daughter got married. Small world. 🙂

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