Waiting for Next to Normal

Monday Morning Musings:

“But something next to normal would be okay
Yeah, something next to normal
That’s the thing I’d like to try
Close enough to normal to get by”
–“Maybe (Next to Normal)” from Next to Normal (2008)
book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt.

After the storm–a world in a puddle–the world upside down

The world is upside down,
but still the morning sky sings,
brings comfort to my soul, wings

Early morning. The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

away the swirling thoughts from me,
a body in motion is not stopped, so free
of notions,

and anger, emotions
may fly away,
but beauty, makes me stop and stay

a body at rest, (breathe)
for a while, recharged,
hopes expanded, vision enlarged

to see this is but one piece
as time flows on, history is past,
and will we learn, we’re often asked—

Past, Present, Future. The 18th Century Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

perhaps, or not,
the world goes on, the sun still shines
the geese still fly in V-shaped lines

and deer graze and gambol
whether I’m there to amble
by the riverside, the river bides (with me, I see)

though its course may change,
it carries still, cargo and dreams,
while over it the heron soars—

Heron flying into the light. Sunrise on the Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

not mine or yours, it endures
sensing how the wind blows,
but what does it think, who knows?

Not to oversimply,
I wonder what it’s like to fly,
but their survival is also fraught

but uncaught, I understand.
Yet as the woman sang,
something next to normal, would be grand,

as I listen to insanity,
the bizarre upheld,
I long for those in power to be felled

Uprooted and adrift. A visual metaphor for our times. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

and for the robot followers to waken
to be shaken
by the horror they uphold.

It won’t happen, they’ll deny,
believe the lies
again and again,

but someday, I don’t know when
I have to believe, things will change again–
and meanwhile,

I’ll walk by the river in hope
that nature’s cure will ease my soul
to bring me peace, one thing I can control

Coming in for a landing. Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

a tiny piece in this crazy world,
where lunacy is the new normal, unfurled
like a banner—well, I see those flags waved,

and crowds like those with arms in straight salute
the past reborn, without jackboots,
at least not yet, but you can’t refute

the similarities. Despots are all the same,
and fanatics, too. What’s in a name?
They’ve lived through the ages on history’s pages
.
I hope this time, they are soon confined,
I won’t give up hope, nor bind
myself to evil,

but listen for a laugh that echoes still
in my heart, it always will,
speaking of survival–and until

and if we meet again,
perhaps the world will be next to normal then.

We didn’t go anywhere this week, but we had an at home theater night. We ate nachos and watched the Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal on Saturday night– which appropriately for the theme of the show was World Mental Health Day. It was a production done a few years ago by the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, and because we’re subscribers, we were given a free link to stream a video of the production. It’s a moving story, as a woman grapples with her mental illness and her family also tries to cope, but there are also some laugh out loud moments. Here are the nachos and dinner from the night before, homemade naan and channa masala.

We watched the Netflix show Away. We renamed it, “This is Us in Space.” I was sobbing at episode five. It was enjoyable, in the way of a beach book. 😏
We also started the Netflix series, Haunting of Bly Manor. I liked the first two episodes, though the lead-in seemed a bit contrived. It’s the kind of horror I like, not splatter gore, but subtle. It’s based on the Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw. But if you ever get to see the 1961 film, The Innocents, also based on that story, it’s excellent. It doesn’t seem to be available to stream in the U.S. right now.

42 thoughts on “Waiting for Next to Normal

  1. Beautiful musings and photos this morning, Merril. It’s a drizzly and dreary morning here. I’m wondering if you’re getting rain too, as I went in search of your daily walking photos on Instagram, but was denied. That home is spectacular!

  2. Wonderful photos! Love your poetry…music that soars above the not so happy place in which we find our current situation. Nature tells her stories…change is always ongoing. Sometimes, in the deepest upheavals, we find that our ‘wings’ steady in the wind. It may feel like gale force winds…we keep going.

  3. This post and the photos are like food for the soul! This here — “I have to believe, things will change again–“ — yeah, that’s me, too. I have to believe and I have to take walks and distract myself with all the wonders of nature to keep my sanity in the meantime. And, like Marian, I love how you take the photos which you’ve posted elsewhere and add them to this poem, creating a visual, poetic narrative.

  4. I focused on your mention of Bly Manor. I’ve been wondering if I would like it. You have persuaded me to try it. As far as The Innocents, I totally endorse your mention of it; I think it is the scariest movie I ever saw. I went to a small college, and they had several movies series, each one on a different night. This was on the Thursday night series that focused on old movies. I loved movies and attended most screenings of all themes, but The Innocents is the top one I remember: sitting with about 50 other people in the science lecture room, all of us silent, scared stiff (there was even no talking during the short break to change the reel on the projector…) When it was over we were too scared to walk back across campus to the dorm, a 15 minute walk, so we ran, sort of semi-screaming at shadows as we went across the open areas and among trees. I can’t say why this made such an impression on me, maybe it was because the group experience magnified it, but…I also loved it! So I’m going to take the plunge. Happy Monday! Wow, what a weird world we live in!

    • Thank you for your comment, Claudia. And yay for another lover of The Innocents.(There’s also a totally unrelated Polish movie with the same title that concerns the Holocaust–also excellent.) I think I’ve seen other versions of The Turn of the Screw that are also scary, but The Innocents is the best. Did you see last year’s Netflix version of The Haunting of Hill House? Not really the story, but a story about it. The 1960s version The Haunting is my scariest movie. I saw it when I was a child, and it terrified me so much, that I won’t watch it. Again, it’s because it leaves everything to your imagination. I wasn’t sure about watching the Netflix version, but I did, and I enjoyed it.

      • I didn’t watch the Netfilx version but I loved the 1963 version The Haunting. Yes, super scary, I’ve seen it several times and it still gets me. I love Shirley Jackson’s work and I also read the book that the movie was based on. If you like creepy books I would recomend her book We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I read there is a recent movie of this but have not seen it.

      • I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, it’s worth buying. I had a copy that I reread several times until I dropped it in a puddle. Now I’m thinking…I too need a copy…

  5. We have to step away from the crazy at least once per day. You are lucky that you can escape to the water (I have to drive… or take a long walk 😉 ) and have all this beautiful wildlife right there for you to enjoy along with the sunrise. I know this is a way for you to keep some sense of balance in the crazy leading up to next month.

    Beautifully written and photographed, as always.

    • Thank you very much, Dale!
      I am fortunate that the park and river are so close by–lately though I’ve been driving there because it makes me angry if I see political signs for you know who–and that kind of defeats the purpose of the calming walk. Sigh.

  6. Your photos are so beautiful. But the unease is something we all are feeling now, there’s no escaping it. I fear there is no good end, at least not for those of us in America. (K)

  7. Thank you, Merril. You beautifully expressed what I think a lot of us are feeling now. I don’t know if I ever want to go back to normal (so much needs to be changed), but a next to normal would be good. 🙂

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