The Constancy of Autumn

Monday Morning Musings:

The Constancy of Autumn

“Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;”
–from John Keats, “To Autumn”

Sunrise
Sunrise, Delaware River, September

Now the dragons come, sending their fiery breath
Into the cerulean sky, last gasps,
a vibrant show before their long, winter sleep.

Now squirrels skip and scurry
to find and bury their treasure,
eagles soar from shore to shore,

white-feathered heads glowing above the river blue,
where herons and egrets in shallow water wade
still in shadow, then with broad wings wide, glide

to other shoals. While blue jays gather
in raucous meetings throughout the day—
yelling at hawks, asking summer to stay—but

Blue Jay with shade of green

Apples and Honey, both local and delicious

now the apples come—red or golden-green,
the colors of both fall and spring, tart and sweet
as life, well-balanced, though seldom neat.

Now t-shirts are covered by sweaters,
above, azure turns grey, but bright a spray of yellow
in bee-swallowed goldenrod, and violet aster.

Golden rod and aster at dawn.

Now we are in transition, in-between,
summer has ended, winter not yet come
but we remember what has been

the roses of summer and the fruit,
their essence captured in honey and wine–
with time,

the memories and promises,
like late spring’s bird-dawn chatter—
everything connected, everything matters,

the constant of love’s endurance
glowing brilliant as the light
of ancient long-dead stars, so bright,
still guiding us from afar.

Where the light comes through—early morning, Delaware River.

We celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah last night. It makes so much more sense to celebrate the new year in early autumn as summer fades into fall than tacked on to the end of winter holidays on the first of January. Of course, no one has asked me. It was wonderful to celebrate with family, and while we missed not having everyone there, the smaller group meant we could all sit at one table and converse together. We toasted the memory of my aunt Sima, whose recipe for challah cannot be surpassed. It’s the one I always use.

Some photos from last night

Still More to Say

Monday Morning Musings:

Still More

“How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”
–William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)

Sunrise over the Delaware River

I still have more to say about color,
the frequency and hues,
and how we parse the natural world
and what we choose to name–

Would they be the same–
the roses and the stars—
if we didn’t claim them so
What color was the sea? Did the moon

sing a different tune?
What was before blue
of sky and blue jay wing
and what of the unseen,

Blue Jay and Shades of Green

and the in-between.
What does the heron perceive
in the grey of his feathers
or the ultraviolet that they see, like bees,

an Umwelt unlike ours, but like trees
connected and a part—
now think about our hearts
and all the types of love, friendship, fear—

Deer and Turkeys

look at dogs, cats, turkey, deer—
animals that love, have their friends, and run
in play and fear.
So many words, so many shades,

but hate has only one. It never fades,
it’s a black hole,
trapping light within—
and yet and yet and yet

it’s not that simple or set–
light bends and echoes around it
seeking a way, as if to not forget
and we–

have ways to see and be–
we’re hardwired to parse and name
color and light, and to sense the unseen–
Monet’s violet waterlilies somewhere in our genes.

Aster

Again, the Marginalian got me thinking about color and light. I found this short video that I think does such a good job of explaining how we and animals see color. For more on Monet’s eyesight, I found this short article.

We watched another strange Merril movie, Censor. Here’s a review from the Guardian. We both liked it, but it is very strange. I’m still thinking about it though.

We did a lot this weekend and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Friday night out to dinner (outside) with daughter and son-in-law. That was after an amazing launch for Afterfeather also attended by Ricky. I have a poem in this anthology, which is published by Black Bough poetry from poems curated by Briony Collins from Top Tweet Tuesday.

A winery on Saturday late afternoon/evening. And a bridal shower luncheon on Sunday.

William Heritage Winery

Bridal Shower, Special Time With friends

Saudade

Monday Morning Musings:

Saudade

“For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”
–C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory

“If there is any point in using language at all it is that a word is taken to stand for a particular fact or idea and not for other facts or ideas.”
Tom Stoppard, Travesties, Act I (p. 22), Grove Press, Inc. 1975

Light and Shadows, Red Bank Battlefield

What language, what words
can express the golden glow
diffused through trees, the way it swells
between valleys, over hills

Egret, Early Morning, Red Bank Battlefield
Egret and Geese

the pensive blue, the egret white
a reversed silhouette in sapphire light,
the shimmering silver rills on river beach,
colors almost named; flavors almost tasted.

Early morning misty river
Geese in flight, Red Bank Battlefield

Now the crystal sky is smudged with grey,
red flowers bloom and grass grows greener,
drinking deep, as rain seeps to nourish roots below—
last call, last dance, before they sleep—

She’s sad and feeling ignored

the squirrels scurry in the shortening days,
and majesty with wide wings spread
soar in azure above our heads, like thoughts
here, gone, left unexpressed, but

spinning–as our Earth–
water-tilted, wobbles, remaining true to blue–
but what are the words for this time
of seeking beauty in strife and destruction

there’s no deconstruction of this theme,
no truth that dadaism could bring–
but in the apricot dawn and violet dusk
shadows sing

with words we almost know
and sounds we strive to hear.

Sunrise over the Delaware River

Happy Monday! I feel like everything is unsettled right now. It was a strange week, and I’m behind on everything. We had some beautiful, almost fall-like days, and now we’re getting much needed rain—though it’s so sticky and icky feeling that we turned the a/c back on last night.

There was a recent dVerse post that I missed on unusual words, but then I went down a Marginalian rabbit hole and discovered the word “saudade: the vague, constant longing for something or someone beyond the horizon of reality.”

Pine Street , Philadelphia, on a rainy Sunday afternoon


Yesterday, we took a rainy walk in Philadelphia and then saw the Lantern Theater Company’s production of the Tom Stoppard play, Travesties. As with all his plays, it’s a brilliant whirlwind of words, ideas, and styles, including a defense of art. All the actors were excellent—there’s so much fast dialogue, and it’s a long play. I also liked the set and lighting (something I don’t usually notice).

Here’s the synopsis from the theater’s Website:

Zürich, 1917. In Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award-winning comic masterpiece, obscure British diplomat Henry Carr and Dadaist Tristan Tzara are in love with Cecily and Gwendolen, who are both in love with someone named Jack. Carr stages a production of The Importance of Being Earnest with James Joyce, and the action gets heated when Vladimir Lenin bursts onto the scene. Soon everyone in neutral Switzerland is at war over the question, “What does it mean to be an artist and a revolutionary?”

Also, dealing with language, but of a different type, I’m reading the novel True Biz. It’s a coming-of-age novel set mainly in a fictional school for the deaf in Ohio. It’s truly illuminating. It’s making me see things about a culture I didn’t even really know existed. (More so, than I felt in the movie, CODA.)

We finished season 3 of For All Mankind on Apple TV+. Highly recommend it.

The Important Things

Monday Morning Musings:

The Important Things

“But the important thing about the sky is that it is always there.”
Margaret Wise Brown, The Important Book

Sun rising over the Delaware River

Under a Van Gogh dawn–

in quiet pockets, that many never see,
deer and turkeys frolic,
have picnics on the beach

Turkeys on the Delaware River Beach, West Deptford, NJ

they are there–
as egret clouds spread their wings
across a river of blue jay blue,
even if unseen

Egret

the sunflowers grow and
the honey flows
as light that begins to fade,
but is captured in a golden stream

and apples into it dipped.
Red and gold replace the green
and hawk-chased squirrels taunt and scream
and gather nuts for future dreams,

these are all important things.

Now, we walk–
a moment fixed in time
the past captured in hearts and minds
not knowing what will be, but lives intertwined

despite shadows before us and behind.

Tall Pines State Preserve

All can be lost in a flash of heron’s wing–
but feathers are strong,
even when tossed
and the phoenix rises again from ash,

these are things swept but kept—
the traces of stars, dinosaurs to birds’ song.

Heron

Last year on Labor Day we celebrated Rosh Hashanah. With the Covid numbers high, we didn’t gather with family, but we had visited a sunflower festival and had the traditional foods. We also went to a winery last Labor Day weekend, as we did this year—except proceeds last year went to help the people and businesses affected by the tornado that had roared through a few days before. This week we live-streamed a Loudon Wainwright III concert from the City Winery in NYC. (We actually watched the replay the next night.) We saw my sister-niece and her husband live at our house, which was so wonderful that I forgot to take photos, and we went to William Heritage Winery on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we walked at Tall Pines State Preserve, which was full of late summer wildflowers.

What is this without that?

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise over the Delaware River

What is this without that?

“Color itself is a degree of darkness.”
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colors

“For this we go out dark nights, searching
For the dimmest stars,
For signs of unseen things:”
–from Rebecca Elson, Let There Always Be Light (Searching for Dark Matter)

The paradox of worlds and sky
every breath an unconscious
mechanical, chemical feat
we don’t consider, just do

as bees do, too
and the butterflies that flutter by
and the fish that surface from the blue
as if to say

look at the beauty of this day,
then gulp and swim away
from heron, eagle, and osprey
the descendants of dinosaurs

Sunrise Heron

their genes in feathered splendor soar
from prehistoric to modern—this,
the paradox of seeing the unseen
the shadows in the morning light

the glittering trace of dead stars at night,
and when there were no words for blue,
somehow, we found them through
green when we needed to

not perception, but expression, the view
of what we see. How do we know
the bee does not perceive beauty, as well
as utility in the flower, or the doe
appreciate the hours when the sun sets or rises–

we think only we are wise,
but the paradox of larger brains–
I can write about blue and time,
and force a rhyme,

appreciate the sublime,
but I cannot run without a sound
or find true north on a midnight flight
or love unconditionally like dog—or cat—
we have all this, but we have lost so much of that.

Whitall House and Colonial Garden, Red Bank Battlefield

It’s been a busy week. We had a special lunch with poet friends last Monday, which I’ll write about in a separate post. We had various appointments and outings, work, and then I finally made it to a book club meeting, run by my daughter at Blue Cork Winery. I had read The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner several months ago–a book that I thought looked interesting when I saw it at the library, so I was happy to re-read it for this meeting. Here’s a review from NPR.

Book Club at Blue Cork

Merril’s Movie Club: I’ve been slacking on the movie recommendations. 😏 We still have not been in a movie theater, but perhaps someday soon. . . Here are two strange Merril movies. Neptune Frost (2021) is a movie that our older child and their wife saw in the theater recently. I think I can safely say that if you watch it, it will be the strangest movie you’ve ever seen. My husband and I both liked it, and we’d like to see it again. Here is the description from Rotten Tomatoes: “In an otherworldly e-waste camp made of recycled computer parts, a subversive hacking collective attempts a takeover of the authoritarian regime exploiting the region’s natural resources–and its people. When an intersex runaway (Neptune, played by both Elvis Ngabo and Cheryl Isheja) and an escaped coltan miner (Matalusa, played by Kaya Free) find each other through cosmic forces, their connection sparks glitches within the greater divine circuitry. With hypnotic visuals and original songs composed by musician and co-director Saul Williams, this celestial cyber-musical offers a radically bold vision of power, exploitation, and love.” I rented it from Amazon, but it’s available on other platforms.

We also watched Thelma, “a 2017 Norwegian supernatural thriller drama film directed by Joachim Trier,” whose more recent “Worst Person in the World” film we enjoyed earlier this year. We also both liked Thelma. It has some unexpected moments, and it makes you think.

I have more to say about shadows and light

Monday Morning Musings:

Reflections on the river. Red Bank Battlefield

I have more to say about shadows and light and . . .

age-old questions. The chicken or the egg?
The egg, of course. But before that?

Look! A little rainbow in the clouds.

How about light?
It was there before stars, scientists say,
as they inquire and test,
while I’m left—simply pondering

the quantum strings and shades of black-and-white.
How to describe such ancient light
in that time before? Then move on–

have you considered our volcanic existence,
how we erupted from the sea
from stellar grit to ammonite then pinniped? In a blink,
or a flutter

of butterfly’s wing—the randomness, the chaos,
dust to mud,
a hurricane—

where does summer hide when winter’s cold winds blow?

My thoughts are far from towering, I confess,
reflections on riddles, the stuff of dreams—foretell and forget–

a leap into the unknown, but sweep away the cobwebs,
what is left?
Nothing dashing, impressive—more like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.

But really, where do the fawn’s spots go? How long can a heron stand
so quiet and still?

Sit awhile in on the hill. Do you see?
The way it glows. The way the shadows caress its curves? Do you feel how
the breeze kisses your cheek so tenderly like a mother?

Listen as the river sings the song of what is and what might be.

Now the geese float atop cotton ball clouds in the mirrored blue, sailing
on light, through shadows, into tomorrow—

the place of questions, dreams, and shadows.
But for shadows to exist, there must also be light,
and so again, we begin.

Sunrise over the Delaware River, August

I’m posting early today with something a bit different. I actually wrote most of this yesterday, and I used Jane’s Random Words

We had beautiful weather for the past week. Today it’s very humid with some rain and possible thunderstorms. It feels icky (a precise scientific term) outside right now.

We went to Vino and Vibes at William Heritage Winery with friends on Thursday night. It was a beautiful evening—perfect weather and company (and wine). We’re watching the second season of For all Mankind.

Present in Beauty

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Present in Beauty

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.”
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 48

“In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again”
–from “Walking in Beauty”: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

Storm Clouds

After the storm

First, a billowy sea of clouds,
then thunder, crash crash crashing–
shock and awe from the heavens,
ending in a hush,
the cat yawns.

History moves on,
I sleep and my hair turns grey.

Now this place, a speck, a blink
in the eye of the universe, does it matter
to the stars or time? Yet
here I walk—beauty before me, and all around.

Heron, deer, and ospreys converge.
The sky is the blue of wishes, the sun an apricot
I can almost taste—like the most luscious wine
I drink-in the daybreak, my soul cool and composed,
I savor this moment, knowing it is evanescent,
a sparkling bubble, no less beautiful
as it passes into memory,
the past another universe, an umbrella
to open for protection, or to cast shade when needed.
Bird-dawn has given way to cricket sunrise,
summer light has slanted—autumn on its way,
I adjust my sight line.

This sunrise! Sunrise over the Delaware.

A late musings today. It’s been a busy week, and I’m finishing some work. I used Jane’s Random Words. We celebrated what would have been my dad’s 103 birthday with Chinese food on Tuesday, and our friends insisted we have a toast to him. (Wonderful friends!) We had more hot and humid weather, then one night with some thunderstorms, and then perfect weather over the weekend. We met our daughter and son-in-law at a new winery on Saturday. Stokelan Winery is a beautiful place. The Stokelan House dates from about 1853. We sat outside. I liked all of the wines, but I didn’t love any of them. Since it’s a new place, they’re still working out some issues. It’s a distance for us to travel, so we probably won’t go back there for a while, but it was still a lovely afternoon.

Toast to Dad and Stokelan Winery

We watched the TV show Dark Winds. It’s based on the series of novels by Tony Hillerman, which take place on Navajo land. It seemed like a good series to watch this week because my dad enjoyed Hillerman’s books. Once my father wrote him a letter, and Mr. Hillerman replied. Although Tony Hillerman was not Native American, much of the cast, the writers, and crew are. A character recites the lines above in the final episode.

River Poet, Behold Dawn

Sunrise Clouds over the Delaware River

River Poet, Behold Dawn

after the storms,
moon-shadows danced to fiddle tunes
and dreams swirled in the air,
dressing the forests in purple light,
the gowns made of love, lust, hope, and fear.

These, the pictures that dangle beyond reach
in an endless gallery–
though I will recall some, if I can,
before they vanish in the apricot sky,
in the susurration of the river,
and the cries of ospreys carrying them far into the clouds.

This seems like something I’d share in my Monday Morning Musings, but one doesn’t argue with the Oracle.

After the horrible heat and humidity, we finally got some rain—not enough—but we had a beautiful day yesterday and beautiful weather that will last through the weekend. And there was a full moon. Last night, I had some interesting dreams. The Oracle knows everything.

What about Dreams?

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise Clouds–a new day

What About Dreams?

I’ve written of the river ghosts,
but what about the dreams

that drift, twinkling like stars
beyond reach—as far as

the eagle that soars so high,
blink, and she’s gone–yet seen–

Bald Eagle flying over the river

or the shy deer with quivering ears
who disappears—

but some dreams are like herons
still and waiting to pounce,

A heron at Red Bank Battlefield, and two heron photos by Doug at Pittman Golf Club.

remembered with a sigh, a shudder,
or a smile,

some–you want them to stay awhile.

History slogs, then leaps,
slings arrows of love and hate.

Light and Shadow at Red Bank Battlefield

We are cool—then hot,
here, then not. But

in a world where bees may think and feel,
and trees whisper deep underground,

why is it strange to believe that stars sing,
or that dreams might come true?

It’s been very hot and humid. We didn’t go anywhere this week, but we did celebrate Shabbos virtually with our children and their spouses.

Shabbat Shalom!

I had access from Focus Features for a free streaming of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. It’s what I think of as a “comfy” film. You know that there will be some upsets, but somehow it will all work out in the end. It’s sort of a fairy tale. The acting is excellent and the film looks beautiful. The Dior gowns, of course, are gorgeous. I thought later that though the dream to go to Paris to buy a Dior gown is not something I can relate to, most people have dreamt of doing something, so in that way, her seeking the gown is a sort of symbol and the movie a quest. It’s not deep, but it’s charming. A definite feel-good movie.

We also went to our video backlog and watched another play. This one was Pipeline on Live from Lincoln Center. It was excellent—both the play itself and the performance. The poem “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks is referenced several times in the play. I found this wonderful video about Brooks and the poem by Manual Cinema on the Poetry Foundation site. We’ve seen Manual Cinema performances live twice, and their shows are wonderful.

And if you missed it, there was an amazing discovery at Red Bank Battlefield, the park where I walk nearly every day, that I wrote about here.

In Memoriam: for the Unknown Soldier at Red Bank Battlefield

As the crow flies— over the Delaware River©️Merril D. Smith 2021

In Memoriam: for the Unknown Soldiers at Red Bank Battlefield

August,
is a broad river expanse
where time ripples and bends
under a laden, leaded sky

the morning moon, her song a sigh
floats on heron’s wings to flutter
by the gulls and geese,
who wonder what and why.

Now coal-black crows with peacock flair
and gangster elan strut across the grass,
summer is almost past they call–
but not quite yet whispers the butterfly,

the rabbits hop and turkeys trot
and deer with smooth grace retrace
past seasons. The river flows on,
an unanswered question, a memory, a lullaby

for unsettled spirits amidst brittle relics
where they once cried and died,

under an autumn sky,
they drift above ground settling bone-full and dry.

Early Morning, Red Bank Battlefield

I took a poem I had written last August and started revising it. It then demanded that I turn it into a poem to honor the remains of the Hessian soldiers found this summer at Red Bank Battlefield where I walk almost every day. The official announcement was made this past Tuesday.

I like that in the various reports I’ve read that historian Jennifer Janofsky and archeologist Wade Catts have emphasized not only that this is an exciting and unexpected discovery, but that it also emphasizes the brutality of war. They hope to be able to identify some of the soldiers from their remains, and they will be reburied. So, I have more River Ghosts.

Here’s the link to the website about the project.

I’m sharing this with dVerse Open Link Night.