Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

Monday Morning Musings:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,. . .”

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

 

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

 

“Perhaps this piece of evolution makes no sense—our hunger for everyday sorts of visual pleasure—but I don’t think so, I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.”

–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

 

The long holiday weekend is filled with family, food, love, and traditions

my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing

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it’s a calling, a mission, with certain conditions

some fluid, others unchanging

though life does some rearranging

through time and space

and so, I flashback in my mind  to my sister and me

watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves

while our mother is at the stove

producing the magic of holiday meals

(then not appreciated, but now, oh the feels)

Now daughter and I, we break the bread

and watch The Gilmore Girls instead

done the day before,

crossing off this chore,

from the to-do list

and while the old, might be missed

a new holiday tradition it seems is born

taking place while the bread is torn

because sometimes we require them

even when the holiday is filled with so many.

 

On the big day—what to do

when our designated squirrel un-molder is not here?*

Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers

Offering advice on this and sundry matters

as the cranberry sauce does not want to leave the mold:

more hot water

use a spatula

A compliment:

Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,

she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.

Critique:

She can’t bang it, it’s a hundred-year old thing.

There will be no banging!

Encouragement:

Come on little squirrel we love you.

do it do it do it

Oh my gosh I think it’s happening

The crowd goes wild:

Yaaaaayy!

Another year with the squirrel!

and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink

discuss scuba diving and money laundering

the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts

(she doesn’t, but the thought produces much laughter).

We discover how many people it takes to get

a ninety-five-year-old woman up the stairs to the bathroom

wonder if we’re doomed,

but at least three, it seems,

still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams

watched by the spirits of those no longer with us

it is ever thus,

the ghosts of holidays past,

“remember when,” the common refrain

joining in a train

the days from before

to what will come hence

past and future tense

blended together,

a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,

like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made

layers laid atop one another,

savory, tart, and just a little sweet

the art of distinct layers that together seep

to form when mixed through

something entirely new.

 

The next day, we take our older daughter and her wife

on a journey to see visual pleasures

in nature and art, such treasures

a visit with the boating party

scream at monsters

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or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight

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Later, we eat leftovers

and watch The Blair Witch Project–

because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–

with food

America singing its varied carols

 

We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room

Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter

as he describes the wine and other matters

it is a beautiful fall day

and so, we decide to stay

to sit outside

while we imbibe

watching the soaring hawks

and listening to others talk

looking at the daytime moon

enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.

We eat Pakistani food

and meet out daughter and son-in-law’s neighbors

who have become friends–the kind of whom you can ask favors,

we discuss how our daughters sound alike,

one tells how she used to sneak about at night,

and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories

(the glory of parental territory)

perhaps the start of a new tradition,

of perhaps it is sufficient

to see and relish the present and the everyday.

 

Now, it’s four o’clock Monday morning,

we’re awake for the sake

of our daughter and her wife

who have to catch their flight

though it seems the middle of the night,

yet I’m strangely alert

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear

of parents and children saying goodbye

of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,

when they could be constructing something good instead

of children going off to school

hoping they will learn some tools

to navigate this brave new world

that has such people in’t

both good and bad

some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,

for truth and beauty to negate the hate

I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,

and over us, the moon hums her tune

I watch for the sun to rise in autumn beauty–soon

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We visited Grounds for Sculpture again and did a Holiday Wine Trails tasting in the barrel room at Sharrott Winery.

 

*I explained the tradition of the cranberry squirrel in this post.

 

19 thoughts on “Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

  1. The squirrel tradition is exactly the kind of little thing that sets families into paroxysms if it’s left out, like soap frogs in the crib or paper cut out pine trees in the bowl of clementines… Such good memories you are accumulating—or is it squirreling away?

  2. So much warmth as usual. And those traditions…my older daughter got so upset we weren’t planning on mashed potatoes this year we had to run down the street to the supermarket and get some spuds–“We always have mashed potatoes!!”
    But this brought tears to my eyes–
    “of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,
    when they could be constructing something good instead”
    –seriously, what is wrong with our leaders? Something to ponder.
    But our (extended) families are getting it right just fine. (K)

  3. Though bread is torn, the family fabric remains intact. Though the cranberry dish doesn’t unmold gracefully, it still taste good. Though you dined al fresco, you looked cold. Your mother’s chance of having off-shore accounts is about as probable as my mother’s – nada. Just a few observations . . .

    No comment on problematic politicians.

    Lovely post as usual – and just the right temperature.

    • Thank you, Derrick. We weren’t sure if she would make it up the stairs. It was quite a process.
      I had never seen Blair Witch before. I wasn’t too impressed either. We watched “Colossal” on Sunday night. It was much more interesting. 🙂

  4. So glad to see the squirrel and that the tradition made it another year. 🙂 It looks and sounds like a wonder-filled holiday weekend. (And I, too, hope that people come to see there is plenty of “truth and beauty to negate the hate.”)
    We have a bread-tearing tradition, too. Or we did back in the day when we still got together with our children. Now we give Thanksgiving time to the older folks (fathers and siblings), often going to them where they have their own traditions, and spend the next holiday (Christmas) with our children and their children. I thought of moving the bread-tearing tradition to Christmas, but we have a new tradition now which is led by my youngest son’s lovely wife (who has been hosting the family Christmas every year since we moved). We follow her lead (and it’s been a good one!).

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