Ephemeral Beauty in the Book of My Memory

Monday Morning Musings:

In the book of my memory—the part of it before which not much is legible—there is the heading Incipit vita nova [here begins a new life].

–Dante Alihieri, Vita Nuova

“There are lovely things in the world, lovely that don’t endure, and the lovelier for that.”

–Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song

“People like films because stories are a structure, and when things turn bad it’s still part of a plan. There’s a point to it.”

–Tom Buckley in Their Finest


Dawn opens the book

write or draw upon the page

ephemeral life

transitory beauty, grasped,

chronicled by poet’s hand



Every morning, I wake and turn another page,

what will be written there that day?

Not a book, a story, a movie, a play,

our lives

we plan, we think there is a structure, a plot

reasons for our rhyme

we study the past

but put our trust in hope and beauty


My husband and I eat Chinese food

sitting in our living room we watch a movie,

about a woman who lived a hundred years ago in Scotland,

using technology that did not exist in that era,

and that will become outdated all too soon,

it’s a rural life of hardship and beauty,

of fighting and song,

an abusive father, a depressed mother, a brother who leaves,

she puts away her books,

but there is the land to sustain her

she falls in love and marries

but the land is still there,

glowing through the director’s vision,

though the work is hard,

her husband goes to war

(the war that was to end all wars)

it changes him

it changes the nation

and all the nations that lose so many of their young men

the poets write, the tyrants sing

dulce et decomum est pro patri mori

the old lie,

that vicious lie,

life is ephemeral,

but love,

that is true and lasting


In the morning, I wake and turn another page,

we see another movie

this one about the next big war

about keeping the spirits up and boosting morale,

the movie is funny and charming and sad,

I enjoy it very much,

my husband does, too,

though he says, “It’s a Merril movie.”

And I guess it is,

though I’m not sure what that means,

the movie is mainly about a woman

who gets a job writing “slops,”

the women’s dialog for war movies,

this one is about unlikely women heroes at Dunkirk

the war ministry wants it to have everything though—

even an American and a dog–

and we see the writing (the clicking of typewriters)

and the construction of the movie

location and studio

while the world around them shatters,

and we know that the world will get worse,

and women will take “men’s work,”

then be forced back into their boxes,

but there is romance and Bill Nighy

and really what else do you need in a movie?


After the movie,

the spring day turned fine,

we walk around the old city,

where traces of the past remain,

though much has vanished,

structures, people,

and before that

giant creatures who once walked the earth



American Philosophical Society


we drink coffee,

enjoy the view,




laugh at the booming voice of a tour guide

helpfully informing a group that

“Carpenter’s Hall was built for carpenters.”

(though the term carpenters is misleading)


Nearby stood the house of a bodice-maker

now house and man, long gone—along with the fashion

all fleeting moments in time


Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia


In a garden, we see tulips

FullSizeRender 109

but many of the early spring flowers are already gone,

the petals of the flowering trees float to the ground

joining piles of catkins

(leaving pollen to blow everywhere)

the fleeting life of a butterfly,

helping to create beauty in the world,

ephemeral beauty


the beauty of spring, fading into summer

lovely things that don’t endure

and are they lovelier for that,

and is that the point?

What will I remember,

what will be retained in the book of my memory?

These moments of beauty, I hope.

We go home

feed our cats and ourselves,

the mundane tasks of life

that have their own beauty and joy,

we sleep,

and in the morning

I wake and turn another page,

hoping for beauty, though it may not endure,

wondering if there’s a plan

wondering and hoping

holding love close


We watched the movie, Sunset Song, on Netflix. Here’s a review. I haven’t read the book, which I know is a classic in Scotland. We saw Their Finest in a theater. Here’s a trailer.






30 thoughts on “Ephemeral Beauty in the Book of My Memory

  1. Hi Merril,
    Your poem and the photos were so poignant, especially so as I read your momentsa of Spring and the loss of the early Spring flowers, denying that Winter is just around the corner. Where I live, there aren’t many deciduous trees with their leaves changing colour and falling to remind you that Winter is on its way. I am wearing long sleeves today, but was too hot at times. My electric blanket is on at night.
    I was in the car yesterday and we like a band called Delirious. I was half-glancing at the cover in the car and instead thought about deciduous. I am deciduous. I’m now working on two poems. The first was pretty dark and bleak but suddenly took a u-turn when it sudden dawn on me that being deciduous isn’t hopeless. That a deciduous tree might lose its leaves and look like a dead skeleton in Winter, but once Spring returns, it’s leaves return and they’re so fresh and beautiful. There might even be flowers. I am going to put some thought into this and thought it might be a word for you too.
    Enjoy your lovely weather. No complaints here either.
    xx Rowena

    • Thanks so for stopping by, Rowena. That made me laugh that you misread Delirious and thought it Deciduous. Though people and animals–maybe plants, too, get a bit delirious at spring. Spring fever and all that. I haven’t used the word deciduous, but I’ve written of rebirth at spring. Our climate is different, so we get crocuses blooming through snow. This year was crazy. We had some warm spring days in February, then it got cold in March. So we had daffodils in bloom, and then got snow.

      • Your weather really sounds crazy…alarmingly so when you think about global warming. Those crocuses sound beautiful as well as the daffodils in the snow (as long as you’re not the daffodil).
        We benefit here from many of the migratory birds from the North coming here for a holiday.

  2. Your weekend sounds so lovely and, like the flowers, ephemeral (one of my favorite words) as it passes from the moment to the memory. I love the opening to this post (“Dawn opens the book” etc.). Beautiful. 🙂

  3. What impressions you are making on the pages of this blog: weekend wonders, movie sketches, personal musings. We saw “Julieta” based on Canadian author Alice Munro’s book. It strikes me as a “Merril” movie though your life appears happier than that of the protagonist. Have you seen it?

    I just left PA with its red bud, Japanese cherry, and dogwoods. Now until mid-May when I return, I’ll be enjoying petunias, impatiens, hibiscus in Florida. Yes, it’s ephemeral, but a “thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

    • Thank you, Marian for your kind words.
      I had to look up “Julieta.” I’m not certain now if I’ve seen it or not. One summer I watched several Almodovar movies. I guess this one will have to wait though because it’s not available for streaming on Netflix right now.
      You are fortunate to be able to see spring and summer flowers in the same month. 🙂

    • Thank you, Rachel. It’s good to hear from you. I hope you’re feeling a bit better. The weekend wasn’t particularly well-planned, but I’m glad it came off that way. 😉

  4. This was a particularly endearing musings post, Merril.
    I will try to see if “Sunset Song” is at the library. I like eating Chinese food, tasty and if fried rice~ no need for popcorn! 🙂
    I wrote down “Their Finest” on my sticky pad in my car in March. I heard an advertisement on the radio for this and absolutely love Bill Nighy in nearly all his roles. My youngest daughter, Felicia, and I adore his rock n roll persona in the film, “Love Actually.”
    Turning the page to a new morning, displayed so beautifully in your pretty, colorful sunrise photo, makes it a terrific day. I like this way to denote the daily event! 🙂

    • Thank you, Robin.
      Sunset Song was probably really beautiful on a big screen.
      Bill Nighy was great in “Love Actually.” The two main actors–Gemma Arterton and Sam Clafin–were really good in this.
      My husband had fried rice. 🙂

  5. I adore Bill Nighy in “Love Actually.” — such talent and humor. I enjoyed your tales within your poem — ephemeral beauty, like life, is fleeting, yet when you hold it close and treasure it; even for just a moment, it changes you completely.

    Ah, charming photos of you and your husband; such sweet and relaxed smiles!

  6. I am not sure if it were possible not to like a movie you were named after!
    There’s a grand door on Carpenter’s Hall in this post, Merril! I am heading to find the one you mentioned on my blog today!

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