The Unimaginable Magic

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is suffering too terrible to name

You hold your child as tight as you can

And push away the unimaginable. . .

 

There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is a grace too powerful to name. . .

 

It’s quiet uptown”

-Lin Manuel Miranda, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” Hamilton

 

“The atoms that huddled for a cosmic blink around the shadow of a self will return to the seas that made us.

What will survive of us are shoreless seeds and stardust.”

–from Maria Popova, Figuring.

 

 

 No human voices break the silence,

but robins and mockingbirds sing, a woodpecker pecks,

crows caw wise warnings, geese honk greetings

I hear a whoosh above and a shadow flits before me, gone

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my own shadow remains, long-legged, invincible goddess–

if only,

she could push away the unimaginable,

the suffering, the families who will never hear a familiar voice.

She can’t. I can only I look for beauty and share

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the way sunbeams sift through early morning clouds,

the astounding variety of flowers in a multiplicity of hues,

rainbows revealed in sprinkler sprays, the sight of a deer family

the charcoal splendor of thunderclouds, the intense blue of the cloudless sky,

color and light, physics and magic, charm and fury—

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life itself, cycling love and loss,

we never imagine, don’t expect

plagues, freak accidents, revolutions—

we push away these thoughts

because to do otherwise, we could not go on

 

and on, we go,

craving life, survival

seeds of hope sprouting in unlikely conditions

growing, reaching for light,

for grace

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The tenacity of plants. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, July 2020. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

perhaps unimagined,

silence can be comfortable;

it can be lonely, too–

equal and opposite reactions,

we’re pushed and pulled

 

from the womb to ashes and dust

we ebb and flow

like the tides of river and sea

and yet traces of us survive forever

in shoreless seeds and stardust—

 

this is the unimaginable magic of the universe—

that in the sparkle of light on water

the past and future exist together,

holding love, loss

and hope.

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Delaware River

 

Merril’s Movie/Theater Club: We watched the Taiwanese movie A Sun (2019, Netflix). I don’t know if it’s the same in Mandarin, but in English, the title plays on the words sun and son. The movie is about family dysfunction and tragedy; the favored golden son who is working towards entering medical school and the younger son who predictably ends up in juvenile detention. But each member of the family has secrets and depths. After a tragedy, the family dynamics change. Though this movie is perhaps a bit too long, the acting is excellent, and the cinematography is beautiful.

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Whitall House with a tree decorated for the Fourth of July. Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

We celebrated Independence Day, the Fourth of July by watching Hamilton (Disney+). I don’t know if this is available outside the U.S. I subscribed to Disney+  for a month just for this, which was a bit annoying, but I don’t plan to keep it, since there’s not much else I’m interested in on that platform. Still, at $7 and change, it’s worth it. We’d pay more for a movie ticket at a theater. This film is compiled from two performances of the original Broadway cast production, but it includes camera angles that you would never see from sitting in the theater. I’ve discussed Hamilton before. Believe all the hype, it really is a wonderful show, and most likely I’ll watch it again while I can.

The excerpted lyrics above are about after Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza’s son Philip is killed in a duel. Alexander and Eliza have been estranged, but in this aftermath of their personal tragedy, they grow close again. Life goes on in the midst of revolutions and tragedies—people fall in love, babies are born, children die. History is never simply about battles and elections.

We ate and drank a glass to freedom (that’s a glass of sangria, banana chocolate chip cake with cream cheese frosting) Ricky was not interested in the first act, but enjoyed the second half. 😏

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up and Down

© 2020 Frank J. Tassone

 

We stand on a precipice, nation and world. Fissured by plague and threats to democracy, we are faltering, close to tumbling into an abyss. Is this the beginning of the end? Or merely a ripple in the waves of time? I leave the angry and weary voices to walk, looking for beauty in the bright colors around me. A chipmunk scurries by. Deer shyly graze, turkeys strut through the long grass, and blackbirds give a trilling chink as they fly overhead.

I watch the sun rising over the river, making it sparkle. It know it’s physics, but I can also see the magic. We need both.

 

bare branches turn green,

brown leaves fall into river–

past floats to future

 

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©️Merril D. Smith 2020

A Haibun for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Haibun prompt, using Frank Tassone’s photo at the top for inspiration, and my photo at the end.

 

 

 

Looking at Yesterday, Seeing Tomorrow

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laiden with happiness and tears.”

–from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, “Sunrise, Sunset,” Fiddler on the Roof (1964)

After thousands of sunrises and sunsets

the years fly quickly,

faster now, summer turns to autumn,

spring tears fall and shoots appear–

winter snow glitters on our heads.

 

Once I was a turtle,

slowly walking across a road

I hid my head from others

though I showed off my lovely carapace,

then you took me from my shell

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and brought me into the world of people.

I showed you the world of books and art,

introduced you to exotic turtle food

and we played and burrowed deep,

into our blanket nest.

 

Our children were fawns

long-legged, shy, and fey,

until their camouflaging spots faded,

and then they sang the songs of birds

and gathered the wisdom of owls

 

tossing words, pitching music, and beaming light

into the world–

sometimes it was reflected back

in all the colors of the universe,

bringing love.

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And now?

The water calls to me in rivers, streams, and oceans,

I sometimes carry the heavy weight of my shell,

but you share the burden,

and when I look at my reflection,

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I see worlds beyond worlds–

the absurdity of the upside-down,

the glowing rays of a double sun

the promise of all the ifs,

and the hope in infinite possibilities stretching to forever.

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I do not look to yesterday but walk into the future.

 

We celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary a few days ago, but we’ve known each other since ninth grade. To celebrate, we went to Ocean City, NJ and walked on the beach for a couple of hours in the morning, avoiding people as best we could. Then later we went on our first real outing since March. We went to a winery for our anniversary dinner, where we sat outside physically distanced from the other patrons, and after a brief thunderstorm, we enjoyed wine, pizza, and gelato. I think we were both a bit giddy to be out. I put my mask back on whenever our masked server came to the table.

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Merril’s Movie Club: Back to more obscure Merril films. Both are on Netflix. We watched See You Yesterday, which we both really liked. All of the acting is excellent, especially the two engaging leads who portray brilliant Black teens hoping to get scholarships to good universities—a future. But this is very much a Black Lives Matter film, and they attempt to change the past. Playing on the theme, Michael J. Fox has a cameo appearance.

We also watched Bulbul, an Indian horror film—though it’s not a jump out of your seat horror. It’s more of a dark fable with beautiful cinematography.  It deals with a child bride and her life as an adult in her husband’s household, where her best friend is her brother-in-law. There is a tale of a demon/goddess who lives in the trees and swoops down to attack men at night. The story is retold throughout the movie. We both liked it, though I think I liked it more than my husband did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen, Hear Them

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings: 

“Hills, the trees, sunrise and sunset — the lake the moon and the stars / summer clouds — the poets have been right in these centuries… even in its astounding imperfection this earth of ours is magnificent.”—Lorraine Hansberry, quoted in Imani Perry, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

 

Listen

to mockingbirds,

and robins, crows, and jays

cacophony or harmony,

hear them

 

rustle

in verdant fields

rain-jeweled, and glistening,

a turtle in painted armor

stands still

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Turtle that I rescued from the middle of the street.

aware

that danger comes

rolling like thunder clouds,

flowing like an ancient river,

blue-hued,

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield Park

constant

the earth revolves,

frost gives way to sunshine

patriots and the times that try–

but breathe

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deeply

sigh, but feel

sun-warmth, as shadows grow

light and darkness work together

always

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Lily shadows on our shed.

listen

in verdant fields

frost gives way to sunshine

flowing like an ancient river,

always

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I was having a difficult time musing about the week of that began with beautiful sunny days and went to hot, humid, thunderstorms, a week that saw our corrupt and ineffectual leader-in-title-only continue to lie, spew venom, and become ever more authoritarian. On the plus side, I was happy to see all the coverage of Juneteenth, and nature does soothe.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. One daughter sent a book of brain-teasing puzzles to my husband, and the other delivered us dinner and beer (for my husband), which we ate while visiting with them via Zoom. I baked my husband’s favorite cookies, Welsh cookies, which are actually cooked like pancakes, not baked in the oven.

 

So, I consulted the Oracle for some inspiration and came up with this garland cinquain, except that for the last stanza I reversed the order of lines 3 and 4.

Merril’s Movie/Theater Club: We watched the movie Miss Juneteenth on Juneteenth. (available for a slight rental fee on several streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime). A debut film that has excellent performances. The story involves a Juneteenth pageant, but the theme of a parent wanting a better life for her child is universal. We also watched Ann, a one-woman play about the late former governor of Texas, Ann Richards, written and performed by Holland Taylor. It was excellent! In the U.S., you may be able to still see it on Great Performances online or possibly On Demand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering in and out of Light

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Light streams above and below. Rainbows and reflections. Ceres Park, June 2020, Merril D. Smith

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places. She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in.”

― Kate Chopin, The Awakening

“Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.”

–from “ON THE FIFTH DAY” by Jane Hirshfield

 

 

I wander, silent–

unvoiced, rather,

a clumsy human, my footsteps

warn frogs, birds, deer—

gone in a flash

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the facts—they are dangerous—we are

shadows, looming, long-legged,

over fields and ponds.

But if fearful to raise my voice,

the wind and water are not

afraid. They whisper delicately,

or rage in thunderous tones

proclaiming the facts–

we are, they are, here.

We look for constants

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Life in the green of Earth, reflected Ceres Park, June 2020 Merril D. Smith

the rising of the sun

the humming of the moon,

the wildflowers that magically appear,

amidst the mud and weeds–

truths

not always heard, yet echoing,

waiting for cracks in foundations.

A fact, buried, as we move through time,

there is always light, somewhere,

and so, I wander, seeking it, and dream

 

of it, of you, of awakening

the songs we carry from the stars

connecting all living things,

a truth reflected a thousand times,

even as it emerges from a black hole, shining.

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Water Lilies and Reflections, West Deptford Public Library, June 2020, Merril D. Smith

 

 

A very late Musings today. I’m trying to finish projects, while feeling that I can’t focus. On Saturday night, we watched the streamed production of the Wilma Theater’s Kill Move Paradise,a play we had seen in the theater. Of course it’s not quite the experience as seeing it live, but it is a good play that gave us much to discuss. I wrote about it here.  It is available for another week for an any amount donation to BLM Philadelphia.

I’m hosting #TopTweetTuesday this week on Twitter. Get your poems ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Fixed, the Ever Changing Light

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Sun above and below, reflections and shadows on the Delaware River

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

–James Baldwin, “Nothing is Fixed,” quoted on Brainpickings, where you can also listen to his words set to music.

 

A constant, the sun rises and sets

to the left of my window in summer, to the right in winter

ever shifting, as we rotate and spin, never fixed

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the light changes, shining through clouds and trees

reflected on rivers and sea

and prismed in a sprinkler’s passage, never fixed

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Sprinkler rainbow and puddle reflection

 

the birds fly, the flowers bloom, fall, drop their sees, and grow again

the snapping turtle’s slow crawl, the gracile deer’s leap into the shadows

they pause, then move, live, then die, never fixed

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Maybe a snapping turtle? I saw him on the side of the road by the river during a morning walk.

 

as the moon moves through her phases,

do you hear her fiercely humming?

Reminding us in silvered streams, never fixed,

 

our stories. We choose to sit or fight

against the dying of the light

to witness gleaming through the cracks, never fixed,

 

forever light comes from stars extinguished

we see it, or we don’t.

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My shadow reflecting–light and shadows

 

This has been a difficult week for the world, though it is also been inspiring in some ways.

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A grown daughter’s childhood companion.

In whatever way you can, speak out, donate, and help others. Here is a short list of things to read, support, and follow

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Just Mercy, which is streaming free (in the U.S) during the month of June. I was afraid it would be a sort of feel good Hollywood movie, but both my husband and I thought it was a good movie with excellent acting. There are additional facts and statistics at the end. We also watched Uncut Gems, which was good in a different way. It’s available on Netflix now.

I’ve written about the musical Ragtime before. It’s one of my favorite musicals, and it seems particularly relevant during this presidency, and right now, the song, “Make Them Hear You” resonates. Here is Ricky the Cat listening to it. (And yes, I may have made him a little bed by my computer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soar, Crash, Burn, Rise

Monday Morning Musings:

Once my sister and I were chicks,

we sucked honeysuckle from vines,

and danced with bees on hot summer days.

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Wild honeysuckle

Then I became many birds. . .

 

a robin, who sings in morning

a mother goose, swimming with her mate

telling stories to her children

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and teaching them to swim and fly.

 

I became a heron,

standing at the water’s edge

as the frogs jump and ripples

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Frog ripples in the upside down world.

flow in expanding circles

 

like raptors in the sky,

on a quest,

for sustenance–

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we all fly this path,

 

ignoring the owl’s night warning–

danger is coming, danger is here!

We burn

 

and hope like the phoenix, we’ll rise again.

 

So, I become the golden peacock, a light-seeker,

even as my many eyes cry for the lost,

I fly to worlds only imagined. . .

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imagine them now–

 

and listen

for my star songs

I give them to you–

 

reach high,

 

hold them near your heart,

feel them flutter

with life.

 

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Reaching

Like most people I’m heartsore and weary. Since November 2016, the majority of Americans have been in shock, but the situation in our country, and in the world, continues to deteriorate. I know I’m fortunate to have a home, a loving husband, daughters, sisters, and friends, and food to eat. I have places where I can walk without fear. But, I’m worn from taking care of my mom, worn from her dying, worn my cat dying, of so many people dying. . .while the lies and the lack of leadership here have led to more deaths. I don’t know how to express all this. There are others who can say it better, but I write in poetry. So this was today, my musing. (Some of the photos come from this week, and some are older photos.)

 

On an entirely different note because we all need escapes, Merril’s Movie Club:  The Vast of Night, a new movie on Amazon is a lot of fun. We ordered takeout Saturday night and had a movie night. It’s sort of a retro sci-fi movie that pays homage to The Twilight Zone and old sci-fi movies. One review I read said something about how you’ve seen the story lots of times before, but it’s the way it’s told. We both enjoyed it a lot.

We also watched the show Undone on Amazon, and even though I’m not normally a fan of animated shows, this is such a Merril show. I learned that this type of animation is called rotoscoping. The show is funny, profound, weird, moving, and deals with moving through time and space, mental illness, deaf culture, indigenous cultures, family. . .each episode is less than half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.”

–Rene Magritte

“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant—”

Emily Dickinson

Rain Garden, West Deptford Public Library

A portal beneath the water’s surface?

What lies beneath the surface–

the secrets and mysteries we carry within

our hearts and minds,

many layered labyrinths

we follow the breadcrumbs

 

(when we’re able)

 

or, wander aimlessly–

well, it can be a pleasant journey–

but what will happen?

Every story has a mystery—

truth and fiction both.

 

Between the beats of morning’s song

a small red bird is illuminated

against charcoal clouds it journeys on

then it disappears into the green canopy

gone to me,

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but I am just a bit player,

in his story,

and he is the same in mine,

a chance encounter with flyby beauty,

remembered for a time

 

as I ponder the mystery

of beating hearts

and those at rest,

listen for the harmony

that is no longer there—or is it

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all of a part?– life and love–

and the stardust drifting from space

to course through our veins.

The universe is full of secrets

that may devour you–

 

or surround you with magic—

either way, it remains a mystery

we don’t know what will happen

until it does—

and then we move on–

 

or we don’t,

perhaps wondering,

what happens next?

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New masks

 

Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. This holiday honors the memory of those who died in our various wars. Yesterday, the New York Times posted a frontpage memorial to those who have died in the current pandemic here in the U.S.—nearly 100,000 lost and counting. Among them, my mother, as well as the loved ones of some of you reading this. Here’s the interactive link.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched four movies this week, and it struck me that idea that every story has a mystery (not a unique or profound thought, I know, but you work with you have, right?).  Frantz and The Half of It were the best of the four.

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Our movie-watching buddy.

Frantz (2016) is such a Merril movie, that I wonder how we missed it. I’ve seen both the leads in other movies since, and they are excellent, especially Paula Beer, who plays a young German woman whose fiancé was killed in battle during WWI. A French veteran appears in her town, where she lives with her fiancé’s parents. She sees him laying flowers on the grave. Eventually, they meet, and he explains he was her fiancé’s friend from when he studied in Paris. The movie is a low-key anti-war film. It’s mostly in black and white, but with some color scenes, and it’s in French and German. It’s on Amazon.

The Half of It (2020) is a new Netflix film. It’s a spin of Cyrano, with an Asian-American female self-described high school nerd in the Cyrano role. So, it’s also a coming of age story with a lesbian subtext. It’s sweet and funny, with some philosophical musings by the main character. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

Sweetheart (2019) is also on Netflix. It also is a take on a familiar trope—the person shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island. In this case, the shipwrecked person is a woman, and the island is not exactly deserted—because there’s a monster. Kiersey Clemons is excellent, and the movie was enjoyable, though I wouldn’t say it was great.

Photograph (2019). On Amazon. We watched while we ate my homemade naan and chana masala. I had high hopes for this one because we enjoyed the director’s previous film, The Lunchbox, but this one was only OK. It’s like they had an idea for a movie, but then didn’t know what to do with it. A street photographer in Mumbai is being pressured by his grandmother back in their village to get married. He sends her a photograph he took, and then convinces the woman in the photo to pretend to be his girlfriend.

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Homemade Naan

 

 

 

 

The Reflected World

 

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Tall Pines State Preserve, May 2020

sky and water meld

in evanescent embrace,

and birds swim with the fish

through green branches,

gilded by light above and below

 

A gogyohka Frank’s 5-Line Japanese Poetic Forms dVerse Prompt.

My poem was inspired by the photo above that I took this morning during a walk my husband and I took at a state nature preserve that was formerly a gold course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB: 5-Line Japanese Poetic Forms

And after, Dance

 Monday Morning Musings:

Winter passed away; and spring, led by the months, awakened life in all nature. The forest was dressed in green; the young calves frisked on the new-sprung grass; the wind-winged shadows of light clouds sped over the green cornfields; the hermit cuckoo repeated his monotonous all-hail to the season; the nightingale, bird of love and minion of the evening star, filled the woods with song; while Venus lingered in the warm sunset, and the young green of the trees lay in gentle relief along the clear horizon.”

–Mary Shelley, quoted in this essay on Brainpickings, 

 

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Be blue—and after, dance–

live for magic

 

though your heart is haunted

by voices sailing through time,

 

ghosts come and go

like a kiss,

 

like the scent of coffee

lingering in the kitchen–

 

those mornings, colored with joy

you remember?

 

An ocean breeze

leaving a taste of salt,

 

tears of joy and sorrow,

the sea knows

 

and so does the earth,

dazzling now with spring blooms

 

lush green canopies

filled with bird song.

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A duck couple takes a walk

to see the wonder of it all.

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There is death and despair all around,

but you see the sun rising over the horizon

 

reflected in the river, water,

the source of life,

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Delaware River

and the air is perfumed now

with flowers and hope.

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Rain Garden at West Deptford Public Library–A water lily in bloom

 

Nothing much happening here, so I visited the Oracle and she gave me a clear message right away. Get over yourself, I can hear her saying, though in my circle of blogger/poet friends, I’ve now heard of the death of five elderly mothers, including my own, in the past month. The young child of a family’s member’s colleague also died from Covid 19. I would say hold your loved ones tight, but for the most part, we can’t.

I caught up with friends and family by phone and Zoom. I had work and projects to finish this week, but I should have some movie recommendations next week. We finished Star Trek: Discovery’s two seasons–perfect pandemic escape viewing.