A Garden Stroll

Longwood Gardens

Monday Morning Musings:

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” –Walt Whitman, quoted in Brainpickings

We used to go away, now we don’t go, we stay
where we are, in stasis, mourn
what was, embrace what is, forlorn–

but then comes a day, when we go
not to stay, but to glory in the glow
of autumn, amber light, and honeyed hues

well, wouldn’t you? If given a chance,
bears from hibernation spring, if only temporarily–
because I fear what winter will bring.

So, we drive over the bridge, as in days before,
then masked, and with some hesitation,
and trepidation, that gives way to elation—

Commodore Barry Bridge

because we’re seeing something new, a perfect day
to stroll through seasonal gardens where flowers still bloom
and bees buzz and butterflies flutter, birds chirp, squirrels stutter

in indignation, as we walk through Peirce’s Woods
and in the meadow golden-bright to the manmade lake
where we reflect in reflected light

Longwood Gardens

on all the beauty we’re fortunate to see
a special outing, a few hours to forget
hate and plague, and all the vague anxiety

that hovers in the air, for once unaware, we laugh
relax, eat, find a retreat–a poetic conceit
perhaps, but for a time, we’re OK, and all is fine.

We went to Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA–about an hour away from our house in south Jersey. (You have to buy tickets in advance for a particular day and time.) We haven’t really gone anywhere, except for a few local wineries, where we can sit outdoors and far apart from others. Before we went, we got our flu shots at our local CVS, and that was the first time I had been inside the store since March. I felt a bit of panic. And at Longwood Gardens, it was strange to be among so many people—though mostly at a safe distance and masked. It was so good to see something different, and we picked a perfect autumn day. Of course, the mood was spoiled a bit because of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. I turned off NPR for awhile.

I’m linking this to Robin of “Breezes at Dawn”’s Walktober.
For those who don’t follow my blog, my usual, almost daily walk, is at Red Bank Battlefield, usually early in the morning. Below see some of the beauty that I experience there. Before the Covid Crisis hit, we went into Philadelphia almost every week, often taking public transportation. I think we last did that in February.

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, Misty Morning Sunrise ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

And a PS–Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s on Netflix, and it’s enjoyable and timely. Fans of The West Wing, Sorkin even manages to get in a few walk and talks. 😏

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.

Ineffable

Monday Morning Musings:

Ineffable,
the word lingers from my dream
almost visible–

how to describe
the dream state,
a word floats in the air—

almost visible,
liminal,
the world of in-between.

Ineffable,
the world today,
inconceivable

that we let it happen—
the naked emperor rules,
the fools see what they want to see

despite fire, plague
the flaming hate
and the ceaseless lies

rekindling the blood libel,
as the full moon hums fiercely
in warning, in horror

we look on,
but also,
ineffable

the beauty
of lunar shimmer
and morning glow

of herons
and deer
and the serenity of the river flowing on

carrying ghosts and memories,
in its currents
time bends, reflecting and refracting

the past merges with the future,
till it, too, is ineffable.

I did wake up today with the work ineffable floating in my head. We didn’t go anywhere this week, but historian Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American email today reminded me of all the events that have happened within the past week—”It was only last Sunday– seven days ago– that the New York Times released information about Trump’s taxes. Since then, we’ve lived through Tuesday’s debate and the wildfire spread of coronavirus through the inner circle of the White House, along with other stories that would have crippled any other administration but that now pass by with hardly a ripple.” My morning walks and talking to loved ones is keeping me sane.

We ordered Chinese food this weekend and watched two Merril movies: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (on Netflix) and A White White Day, an Icelandic movie available to rent on Amazon Prime and other platforms. I liked both of them more than my husband did, but they are both movies I’m still thinking about. The actor who plays the main character in A White White Day is so compelling, and his granddaughter is very cute. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, is a Charlie Kaufman film, so if you’ve seen his other movies, you know this will not be straightforward. There’s also a connection to Fargo, the TV show, not the movie. Jessie Buckley who plays the young woman in the movie, is in the new season, and her co-star, Jesse Plemons, was in an earlier season, as was David Thewlis, who plays his father. We’ve watched the first two episodes of the new season of Fargo, which is set in 1960 Kansas City, and we both like it so far.

I’m hosting dVerse today, so I’ll be back later. 😏

Here’s a another blue river shot for Liz.

Boat Slip, Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

Moon Mornings

I day-dance with the clouds
in lazy rhythm and soft light
of peach-misted mornings,
the moon singing goodbye,
the sun smiling
to wake with fire-sky homes, hearts,

and if

the wild things come
to haunt you in the night
look at the stars, singing from then
as time circles
and remembers
what was

and what will be

the boy asks?
Do you hear
the laugh carried on a breeze?
It’s the trees, I say, tickled by the wind,
sharing their joy.

A late message from the Oracle today. She loves the puente form so much, that she gives me doubles. 😏 I kept getting interrupted today, and then Ricky the Cat was helping me. . . I love morning moons, and I was happy to see this one setting over the Delaware River this morning. It’s very small in the photo, but it’s there.

Ask Why

Foggy Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

The goddess urges—
dream of luscious ifs,

in storms and shadow-seas
see the mist rise to honeyed sun
singing of time—
recall summer petals as floating light.

A thousand sleeps were–
in bitter after-aches,
cry at the blood moon,
ask why

it shines
while the wind whispers
heart breaths–
love, there, here, always.

It’s Open Link Night at dVerse, where Mish is hosting. I never got to Tuesday’s prompt on the vatic voice, but I consulted the Oracle today, and this is where she led me.

Shelter for Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

Heron at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

Dawn blush lightens the grey
over the rippling river
heron poses in sunrise salutation

in silvered blues
beauty comes
through shadows to light

waves roll out and slide back in
the moon waxes and wanes,
and time flows,

through tide pools
reflecting clouds and light,
giving shelter to dreams.

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

Today is Yom Kippur, so I’m not going to do a usual MMM post. I don’t want to discuss politics, or even my past week. With so much awfulness in the world–and more likely to come–I felt an especial need for beauty this morning. I was fortunate. As soon as I walked into the park, I saw these two young deer. Then I saw the heron, and the beauty of the sky took my breath away. Magic moments. Wishing some beauty, love, kindness–and magic, too, to all of you in the coming year.

This is Enough

Cloud Reflections on the Delaware River at West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

Trees and birds kiss the sky
in blue-on-blue reflection

and today, I’ll sky the world with you
without pause or hesitation.

In mirrored lands we’ll float
on dreams, the clouds our boat

watching the heron squawk, soar–
this is enough, I need nothing more.

Heron flying over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

A quadrille for dVerse, where De has asked us to use the word, sky. I think the rhythm of this one is more soothing than my previous post this morning. I don’t know why I’m stuck on couplets and rhyme though today.

Love, Loss, and Dancing Through It

Monday Morning Musings:

Beat away the aching time
in river blues, see serene, sublime

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

in those rippling rhythms. The tide rolls in, and thus begins
another round of what and when and who wins

the life and death struggles, the eagle soars, swoops, a pounce
there goes the fish, squirrel, another ounce, but we can’t denounce

an avian predator who wants to eat,
but human ones, we must unseat.

I see the lawn-stuck signs of misguided fools who think
freedom comes with soundbite slogans–but we’re on the brink

standing on a precipice, tottering, about to fall
while they embrace the treacherous, Russians and all–

the lies they think are fine, wish them away, spin, deny
in sheep-like flocks they gather, unmasked, I sigh

as I walk, watch the geese honk and fly
greeting each other, hello, goodbye

I say, wonder what it’s like to twirl and soar
and then, I go home to bake some more,

to dip bread and apples in honey’s sweetness
to wish for good to flourish, feeling a completeness

of life with loved ones, though from afar
with a world increasingly troubled and bizarre.

Every day more and more, surpassing–
we’re saddened by news of a hero’s passing.

More wine, more honey
talk of this and that, find something funny—

hold on to love (is love is love is love is love is love)
dance when you can, look for beauty above

and all around, fight for justice and truth—
remember our heroes, remember Ruth.

We celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah with a Zoom dinner with our daughters and their spouses. I don’t know how to make a small holiday meal, even though there are just two of us here. We heard about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when the news flashed on a daughter’s phone.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw And Then We Danced, which now is free on Amazon Prime. We had seen previews for it before the pandemic hit, and though I enjoyed the movie, it would have been wonderful to see it on a big screen. The film is about Merab, a member of Georgia’s National Dance Ensemble. It’s an art form that is beautiful, but rigid, and steeped in tradition. Merab and a new dancer, Iralki are first rivals, but then attracted to each other. It is dangerous to be gay in Georgia (the country, not the state). The government would not finance the movie, and there were bodyguards on the set. The choreographer remains anonymous. I fear this is what it could be like here.
My husband and I both liked the movie very much. The drumming music is great. The subtitles could be better, and they even though I watch subtitled movies all the time, I had to full with the settings.

Inconceivable, Unbelievable, and True

Geese in flight over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Monday Morning Musings:

“It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable — I think everyone will be wearing them in the future,”
–Westley in The Princess Bride

Inconceivable and unbelievable
the world has become

plague-filled and fire-flashed
now, ashes fill the sky,

and sudden storms come surging,
while people plead, urging

the powers-that-be to see
what is and to agree

on what is needed. More than hope
and prayers, some care

must be taken if we’re to survive,
herd immunity and hive minds–

we seek solutions from concepts of animals and nature—but
I watch them, charmed,

admiring even the funny walks of birds,
a turkey, like a little dinosaur, and somewhat absurd,

yet most protect their young—and some
mate for life. Perhaps we should look to wildlife

for a portrait of true love. Difficult to see now
in this time of masks and isolation,

the frustration of privation and desolation,
the death of loved ones, the vexation over celebrations

that shouldn’t be, until we’re vaccinated or virus-free–
When will that be?

I sigh and bake, take long walks,
rake my fingers through my greying hair–

there, in front of me, a family of deer,
all clear, I think, as they dart across the street—

leaving me to admire their spirit and grace,
a trace of wonder stays within

to ease the stress of every single day.
I stand by the riverside watch a heron, stay

longer than I planned—but these moments of water and sky
and watching the birds spread wings and fly

it’s something I do, observe the colors of river and sand–
this I understand,

time flows at different speeds and rates,
fast in a dream, slow when we wait,

but either way, we’re specks
in a vast array. Time may be infinite, or

perhaps it loops, swooping future into past
or giving us another chance

Geese and Clouds, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

to seek true love, or defy death with sweetened pill,
better than nevermore, is maybe it will.

A very late MMM because I’m trying to finish some work. And, I’ll be back in just a bit because I’m hosting dVerse today.

Sunrise over the Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ.

This past week was strange, the weather shifting from humid summer to clear autumn. Friday, as you all know, was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. It was a gloomy day, but the next day was bright, beautiful, gorgeous, which I will hope is an omen. I’ve been seeing a heron almost every morning at the river at the battlefield park. We watched The Princess Bride on Saturday night in preparation for the livestream reading with much of the original cast that took place last night. It was a fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats in support of Joe Biden. The livestream drew of 100,000 viewers, and though there were a few technical problems, it was great fun. More importantly, it might help in November. It’s inconceivable how we will survive four more years with the current resident of the White House.

Watching The Princess Bride

I’m linking this to dVerse Open Link night, where Björn was hosting our live stream open mike even.t

If I Dream

If I beat away the shadows,
will the moon’s music drift
in a shining spray of silver
to dazzle-dance in haunting rhythms
till the sun wakes—then

if I rise,
languid as a summer day,
will the murky mist shift
to reveal an azure sky, where geese wing
above in raucous celebration of life?

If I ask moon, sun, geese,
will they tell me the secrets
of why and when and nevermore—
of how time is a dream, and how dreamtime flutters
and flits, like leaves in the wind?

If I dream of you,
of laughter flowering,
dropping seeds in my heart
do you grow and bloom–
to live forever?

It took me all day today to visit and get my message from the poetry Oracle. I took the photo this morning. It’s a beautiful day here.