Remembering

Monday Morning Musings:

“He supposed it was always that way with the dead; they slid away before we knew enough to ask them the right questions. All we could do was remember them, as much as we could remember of them, whether it was accurate or not. Walk the same streets that they’d walked; take our turn.”

Emma Donoghue, Akin

Sunrise on Delaware River

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, January.

 

January mornings are slow to wake–

the sun lifts his sleepy head

so slowly from his bed

extending his rays over river and sea

while gulls gather on the shore

 

and I watch sun and gulls

while walking into the day,

the clouds lifting, rolling tides

that flow into tomorrow

carrying echoes of yesterday

***

 

I remember yesterday and look to tomorrow

(the present never is, can never be)

no predictions, we don’t know what comes,

only what was and what might be

as the world circles

 

some remember yesterdays of horror

survivors, tattooed numbers on their arms,

scarred bodies and souls–

they ask us to never forget–

the tides ebb and flow, days turn to night

 

carrying secrets

within families

within neighborhoods and nations

the pretense– we didn’t know what was happening,

the fear and shame of discovery.

 

But I have been privileged—

my ghosts mostly benign,

though I hear the ghosts of six million call,

“Remember,”

and I wonder how we can ever forget

 

a world of hate

that hasn’t vanished

where people were—are–

trafficked, enslaved, murdered

simply because they exist.

 

Is there another timeline

where we are not destroying our planet,

where we don’t say a leader is crass,

but I like what he’s doing–

where facts still matter, where the secrets are exposed?

 

I watch the river

carrying ghosts and memories

out to sea, out of sight

and the birds hover and land

and fly away again

like thoughts

that flitter through my mind,

the trivial and mundane,

the weighty and bizarre,

mixing like water and dust

 

raining through my brain.

What will evaporate?

What will stay to form a river

that streams

words onto a page?

E21D335D-DDBF-4400-9646-D04A42DD6A5B

Reflections on Delaware River at sunrise. Red Bank Battlefield. 2020

 

My daughter and I watch the movie

(laughing and wiping tears from our eyes)

and I think of all the movies we’ve watched

sometimes over and over again–

it seems so long ago now

 

this past

where she played Little Women with her Barbies

giving Amy, the youngest, like her,

superpowers—and a car—

that she teaches Jo to drive

 

and in the past

both daughters saw the real Amy’s drawings

still on the walls over a hundred years and many wars later

this past, what I remember, my daughters

existing with the past of the old house—both moving on

 

as we do.

We drink wine

talk of books, travel, life

time slows for awhile,

we laugh enjoying ourselves and each other–

 

the crescent moon smiles

her secret smile

as we drive home

into our future

remembering the past.

 

IMG_6027

 

My musings are a bit late today because my editor had a few final queries about my book, and naturally I had to answer them right away. Last week, Adobe Acrobat ate the page proofs I had worked on, and I had to re-do everything.

Merril’s Movie Club: My younger daughter and I finally saw the latest movie version of Little Women. We both loved it, though we wished older daughter was there, too. The casting is perfect, and we both liked the way the story went back and forth in time.  We visited Orchard House when our girls were little.

My husband and I finished the Icelandic drama series, Trapped, which we enjoyed very much. There were many secrets and memories in this series, which also touches on political and social issues.

I finished reading Emma Donoghue’s novel, Akin over the weekend. It’s about a man about to turn eighty who suddenly finds himself caring for his grandnephew and taking him to Nice—where he uncovers family secrets from WWII.

We visited Almathea Cellars.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day—the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

 

 

Snowflakes and Time

img_1130

“Every snowflake has an infinite beauty which is enhanced by knowledge that the investigator will, in all probability, never find another exactly like it.”

Wilson Bentley

IMG_5939

Beneath a frantic cry

a need for love

is carried on the wind

over a thousand summers

through winter storms of snow and ice,

the moon hums

***

There is no present the man says,

only past and future,

no division between beach and sea,

only water and sand

both existing together.

 

“In physics there’s no arrow of time.”

In a place beyond our beyond

the past might be the future,

perhaps time existed

before our universe.

 

My toddler daughter once asked

“Do you remember when I was in your belly

and I hiccupped and that made you laugh?”

A conversation that she no longer remembers,

but that I still do—

 

that moment in time

frozen—no–

like a movie in my mind—

the improbable (could she have remembered?),

the reality

 

of mothers and daughters

over and over through time

we’ve moved my mother to a new facility–

she is exhausted,

she is exhausting.

It is an exhausting week.

Time seems to work differently,

dragging, then suddenly gone.

The world is wind and clouds

I am housebound–

by work

not trapped–

but constrained by deadlines

and circumstances

and January grey.

 

IMG_5960

The snowstorm-that-isn’t comes

and goes–

nevertheless, I cook and bake–

comfort food, candles, and wine

while we watch the trapped Icelandic town

caught by weather and geography,

old grievances and new politics.

The world is weary everywhere

trapped by hate,

mired in ignorance.

 

My daughter says there’s a good musician here,

if you’re not doing anything today?

We’re not

and we go

listen to music, drink some wine–

 

It’s an afternoon out

but inside—away from the wind—

a moment in time, different,

as each snowflake, and ephemeral

but carrying its unique beauty in our memories

 

through time

(whatever that may be).

 

IMG_5959

 

It’s been a strange week with moving mom and cleaning out her old apartment. While driving, we listened to an episode of the Ted Radio Hour, Episode “Shifting Time,” first broadcast in 2015.

We’re watching an Icelandic mystery series called Trapped. We’re almost finished with the first season, and we’re enjoying it.

Memento Mori

IMG_6771

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, September 2017

 

Monday Morning Musings (Late Afternoon Edition):


 

Ask the wind where time goes

(away from spring’s light)

 

cycling from beautiful bloom

to cold brown earth—the sight

 

of vultures in skeleton branches, it seems

cleaning up the dead things, and dreams

A1BA386A-3D8B-4FAB-A5AC-9BE00801C366

at night of when and after,

but yet I wake in laughter

 

and cat purrs, a sniff, a whiff

of coffee, and beautiful dawn breathing if,

IMG_5898

and always on the breeze

is life-music, birds in the trees

 

the sun behind the clouds,

the moon’s setting loud

Late afternoon January Sun

January sun glowing faintly through the clouds over ramp to Walt Whitman Bridge.

 

IMG_5897

with fierce humming,

another day coming

 

time circling again,

and again, and again

 

constant, traveling like light

far beyond our lives and sight.

 

***

We walk city streets in shadow and light

reflecting back the old and true

perhaps, or not—

maybe we see what we want to see,

or see not at all,

 

 

the ghosts and night creatures

walk beside us, and should we fear them,

or they us?

I learn that Mister Rogers loves graveyards

and blood is life—of course–

 

it ties families together

through generations, as we pack and unpack

stories and belongings

carting them across oceans,

over highways, in and out of rooms,

IMG_5934

discarding some, embellishing others

past golden suns and silver moons

to here and now—memento mori,

we all die, forgiven, or not,

still . . .

 

we all carry stardust

in our blood

through time and space,

and if we can, we find the time

to stop, drink some wine,

 

share some kindness

and remember those who came before

and those who will come after

we’re a speck in the wind

blowing into forever.

Late afternoon January Sun

January sun glowing faintly through the clouds over ramp to Walt Whitman Bridge.

 

After some very loooooong days of packing, today we moved my mom into her new facility. Today was the first day I had seen the place. It’s very nice—homey—rather than institutional, and everyone was quite friendly and pleasant. Tomorrow there will be more moving and cleaning. So, it may take me a while to catch-up with posts and comments–and actually get some work done, too!

My husband and I finally saw the movie, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is actually more about the journalist telling Mister Rogers’ story than it is Mister Rogers. The journalist is played by the Welsh actor, Matthew Rhys, who played Phillip in the wonderful show, The Americans.  Tom Hanks, of course, is Mister Rogers. Believe the hype. It really is a very good movie, and even my husband got a bit teary-eyed.  The movie is based on this Esquire article, Can you say. . .hero?

We also watched the new BBC version of Dracula on Netflix, which was also quite good. It puts a different spin on the story, which you may or may not appreciate, but I did really enjoy Sister Agatha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Things

Monday Morning Musings:

My mother washes her hands

I flashback to a memory–

my grandfather, her father

rubbing his hands over and over

to dry them

 

We’d been out walking in the woods–

was this the day we were startled by riders on horseback?

(A magical sight.)

My sister and I were little

my grandfather was wise,

 

in the way that grandparents are

to young grandchildren

who see beyond the surface

to the hearts beneath

beating with love.

 

And there’s an understanding

that time exists in the now–

the autumn of one life,

the spring of another

co-existing in this moment

 

I tell my mother about this memory

and we talk of this and that

I go through her old cards

reading portions to her

as I clean out a drawer

 

a past, relics, consigned to a trash bag.

Who was this person?

Where was this photo taken?

My mother can’t see and can’t remember—

all the little things that make up a life.

 

All the little things that make up a city, a world–

the reindeer on a roof display

the stone carvings on a building

the snowflake on a lamppost

the candle burning in a window

IMG_5501IMG_5500IMG_5530

We celebrate the first night of Hanukkah,

fry the latkes,

light the candles

toast “L’Chaim!”

I dance to “Ocho Kandelikas.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My husband and I watch the candles burn.

We talk of this and that–

old memories and to-do lists,

the little things that make up a life,

the everyday ordinary and the magical exceptional.

 

 

Every year, Santa comes through town on a fire engine. I have no idea how this started, but his helpers give candy canes to the children (and adults) who come out to see him.

There are a bunch of movies I want to see, but I haven’t had a chance, and I don’t know if I will have any time in the next week. It’s a crazy time of year, isn’t it? I had an anxiety dream the other night, which I haven’t had in a long time. But–we finished watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and we’re on to the finally season of The Expanse. And there are latkes and candles and cuddly cats. . .so life may be stressful, but not awful.

IMG_5562

Thank you to all of you who take the time to read my writing. I truly appreciate you. I feel like I’m Mr. Rogers saying “It’s you I like,” but it’s true. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Here’s Pink Martini performing “Ocho Kanelikas.” Feel free to dance along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Storm, the Moon Rises

IMG_5490

Monday Morning Musings:

“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time.”

–Lisa Petersen and Denis O’Hare, An Iliad

 

After the storm, the moon rises

humming fiercely in the winter sky.

Do you hear her music—

urging, warning, comforting?

Cold, but bright, shimmering

ever-present

reflecting all our ifs

back to us,

and in shadows and dreams,

we sometimes understand.

 

***

It is the season of joy and sorrow

of unexpected gifts

and the kindness of strangers

of carols and bells

and hypocritical politicians

 

It is the season of rain and snow

of a full moon setting as the sun rises

of comfort food and warm clothing—and cats–

of a flock of turkeys that suddenly appear

and disappear

DDFC3618-3904-45B8-9F00-F02AB51AF3C0.JPG

like my mother’s thoughts and memories

delusions and dreams

shadows of things that were

or might have been

things that never were or will be.

 

It is the season of my birth

perhaps a miracle of a sort,

considering the gap of years

between my older sister and myself?

A rapprochement between my parents

 

carrying on to the birth of my younger sister

two years later?

I guess I’ll never know,

and does it matter?

I am here.

 

And so, we celebrate

a weekend with food and wine—

we watch Mrs. Maisel.

We walk in the city

decorated with Christmas lights

IMG_5480

We are reminded of things that were

of things that might be

We are reminded, too, that there is more

in the world

than what we can see

 

96A4F2E0-240C-4B58-81F9-13C819B48C85

Though The Poet is doomed perhaps

to sing her song of war

over and over and over again–

“Do you see?” she asks us.

We do.

 

We see the rage, the endless killing

over what?

A woman?  A piece of land?

We hear the lies.

We see the man rallying his base–

 

evil, madness, pestilence–

Marley’s chains rattle and clank.

The spirits appear

over and over again . . .

 

and yet . . .magic exists all around us

in birdsong, the moon, the stars,

a baby’s laugh,

a deer appearing in the woods,

sunrise, sunset–

 

Do you see?

Look.

Listen.

Sing the songs of joy and peace–

dream.

IMG_5508

I had a wonderful birthday weekend. We watched several episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, ate Thai Curry Mussels at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, saw a wonderful one-man performance of A Christmas Carol (Lantern Theater Company), saw a performance of An Iliad, (Arden Theater Company), a mostly one-woman show (along with a musician), a glass of wine at Pinot Boutique in Old City. Followed by Chinese food, more Mrs. Maisel, and my own flourless chocolate cake (The Oracle told me to eat cake!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Drive the Dark Away

IMG_5362

Monday Morning Musings:

“Stars, in your multitudes

Scarce to be counted

Filling the darkness with order and light. . .”

–“Stars” from Les Misérables

“So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.”

Susan Cooper, “The Shortest Day”

“Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive.”

–Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

 

The shortest day approaches,

we celebrate with tales and light

in centuries-old traditions,

we gather, talk, and drink

to drive the dark away

to drive the dark away

we count the stars

on the shortest day,

they fill the sky

with order and light.

 

With order and light

soon we’ll celebrate

eight nights of Hanukkah

to drive the dark away,

remembering

 

remembering, my mother says

girls were not sent to school,

but her mom knew where everything was

in their store, she could find the peas

the cans had pictures

 

the cans had pictures

and she knew the prices

she could add the figures quickly–

order in this world

like stars in the sky

 

like stars in the sky

we make patterns in our brains

memories form

and we fill in the gaps

stories of might and if

 

stories of might and if–

is the movie a cautionary tale?

What happens when we mess with nature?

Or is it tale of mothers and children,

variations on madness and guilt?

 

Variation on madness and guilt,

describe a host of myth and legends

along with greed, anger, and lust,

in animating stars, clouds, and trees

we try to make order of our world.

AFD22DA3-F942-432C-A3D3-A86D41B903C2

We try to make order of our world

in patterns and statues and stories.

In art and poetry and song, we transform

and celebrate the light within

and without

and without this ability

what would we be?

Worlds unseen, other dimensions

beyond the stars, but here now,

we drive the darkness way

 

we drive the darkness away

with love and light and food

with sisters and sister-friends

with children and mothers and kin

we let the light in.

It’s been a busy, crazy week, and I apologize for being so behind in visiting and reading other blogs. I’m finishing reviewing my copyedited book manuscript. There have been many calls and text with my sisters about my mom’s care. We had to suddenly go to my mom’s when an aide called out sick. While there, we discovered that PBS was showing the 25th anniversary concert version of Les Misérables, which my mom and I both enjoyed. We did a “Nightmare Before Christmas” tour for my early birthday celebration with younger daughter—it turned out to be a fun evening of talking and drinking. We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Christmas Village.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw Little Joe. It’s a quirky film about a woman who develops a new plant that she names for her son Joe. But perhaps there are unintended consequences. It’s filmed in bright colors and with a percussive soundtrack. Emily Beecham won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival. We liked it, but I may not sniff a flower for a while.

We’re on the penultimate episode of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s so good—and kind of frightening to think of what could be, what might have been, and where we’re headed with the present administration.

IMG_5389

From “Designs for Different Futures” Philadelphia Museum of Art

And a more peaceful image to leave you with

EC58B075-AEF1-41FA-9A9C-33E7A2558BCF

Winter trees form a bower outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art–Merril D. Smith, December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And You, Too, Have Come to This Still Point

November at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

Monday Morning Musings:

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

–fromMary Oliver “When I Am Among the Trees”

“After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.”

T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”  Four Quartets

 

I walk among the trees

watch the light golden-streaming,

and feel the wind river-breezing

listen to the crows caw and go

then all is still, in the glow,

7B1FB586-4E9B-4FCA-9296-AB6485C538DC

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ.–November

 

though now it’s blanket season

when the wind blows, teasing

the clouds that alternate grey and bright

while I seek some warmth, some light

and find delight in sunrise pink rising high

IMG_5292

 

IMG_5303

I look to the sky

the flocking of birds in flight.

We gather with family

hope there’s no drama

[insert comma]

IMG_5219

or not too much.

Some come from lunch

to share our dinner

and so, we talk and laugh,

and most definitely eat (repeat)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(not forgetting the sweets)

till it is time for them to go–

and you think you know

how life will be

but suddenly, you see

 

all the moments—

the traditional breaking of stuffing bread

under Capt. Janeway’s gaze, her cool head

once again guiding her crew

–and for them so much to do–

IMG_5215

and you, too, so much done,

all the times before—

and after–the squirrels, the sisters and daughters,

the laughter and traditions, the people come and gone—

babies grown, moving on

IMG_5306

we watch a movie of love and longing

of trying to find a better life, men migrating

women left behind, waiting

for escape, for weddings, for revenge—

gritty life and magic realism, avenging

 

ghosts among us

life not ending, but flowing like the sea—

what happens when we cease to be,

does love carry on through time and space?

Is there a still point, full of grace

 

and light, golden

like the emblazoned leaves

shining. . .

beauty to remember when it snows

to recall it will return

86525E61-03D5-4AB4-A961-BC1C516DA4AA

even as the darkness grows

and the world turns, day to night

and all is still–

but beyond the clouds—

stars and moon still burn bright.

 

We celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of my sibling saw my mom that day, and we saw her the next day.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Atlantics on Netflix. This film from Senegal won the Grand Prix at Cannes. It moves from social realism of life in Dakar—forced marriages, laborers who don’t get paid, migration—to a sort of magic realism based on folk tales. I imagine it was a beautiful movie to see on a large screen.We both liked it very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound, the Sight, the Magic, the Light

7ADB9414-F34D-4091-8ED5-535D39BBA888

Monday Morning Musings:

“Can you fly

I heard you can! Can you fly

Like an eagle doin’ your hunting from the sky”

–Joni Mitchell, “That Song about the Midway” Listen Here.

 

“No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

–Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” 

 

In these days of gloom

dimmed dreary days

of November blues

while in the news, the hints of doom

constant, unrelenting–

 

but then comes the sound

and sight

hundreds of birds, in flight

this murmuration, a delight,

their orienting

 

so breathtaking

shaking me, awaking

all the wonder,

this magic, a gift

drifting from the sky

E6BBB316-D98C-432E-B82B-2153CA985D91

flying low and high,

they call in their ancient tongue

(we the earthbound

can’t understand)

and then they go–

but birds seem everywhere,

even in the show we watch–

where the crows are what?

Harbingers of fortune or fate?

Or perhaps they come too late

 

for our planet,

pale dot of blue,

so, I delight

in nature’s gifts

and sights

 

the morning sun,

the moon of silver-white

smiling in benediction

even when we forget

it’s there.

IMG_5169

I cook and bake,

as the days in constant gloaming

take their toll, I want to snuggle

not go roaming

through rain-filled streets

 

1ACEE0F1-469F-4AF5-93FE-AB55D8626533

Puddle Reflections on a Rainy November Day , Philadelphia Parkway

IMG_5186

Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, from Patco Train

74B35496-2DBF-472E-8E3F-EB678E29E484

Rainy Day Reflections, Philadelphia

yet, we do what we must

and so, I write poems with my mother

who only thinks of summer coming

her thoughts drifting through time—

like birds in murmuration flight–

IMG_5191

Writing poems with my mother

and her eyesight

diminished, like the day’s light

her memories uncertain

confused, a twilight zone

of fact and fiction

 

but still we make her laugh

and try to remember what was—

hold mental photographs

of before, then walk through the door

to our other life,

 

husband and wife

we drink some wine

and I remember what I can

hold everything that’s fine

within my mind

 

and see the magic of moon and birds

and the old oak tree

glowing in the autumn gloom

remember how

it holds hundreds of memories

 

listen–

hear it murmur, murmur, murmur

as the acorns fall

in the rustling leaves of brown

covering cold ground

 

where secrets lie

waiting, waiting

for the warming sky–

and I dream

(I heard you can)

we fly.

IMG_5144

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Things, Tiny and Huge

IMG_5098

Monday Morning Musings:

“And the dreamt-of is someone who did

Something we can’t quite put

Our finger on,

But which involved a life

We are always, we feel,

About to discover.”

–from Mark Strand, “Dreams”

“One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

 

November comes

with days dimmed and dreary,

the time between bright azure skies

and crisp-apple air

and the frosted evergreens of December.

 

I search now for the golden glow–

and color where I can find it–

the tiny beautiful things

in the world around us,

and the tiny beautiful things

F3BB605B-072D-455B-AF67-2205689F99C2

 

I hold within my heart,

memories,

the touch of lover,

the soothing weight of sleeping infant soothed,

milk-breathed, dreaming–

 

my own dreams

range, joyous,

or disturbing,

a discovery, if only I don’t. . .

wake

 

to find it gone.

What was that thought,

that brilliant verse I dreamed?

That something,

that tiny beautiful thing?

 

Gone,

popped, a balloon-thought

a bubble floating off into space,

yet, a place within me

that I may find it again,

someday,

 

some nights

in November,

we eat comfort food,

cocooned in blankets

and we watch Netflix–and cats–

 

find the tiny beautiful things

that make our lives less tiny

more beautiful,

we hug our loved ones tightly

trying to protect them

 

(another shooting,

another one, we say

and shrug, tsk, another day

of more hate and evil rising–

into space–)

 

so, I long for a Star Trek world

where brave captains with moral compasses

that never flicker from True North

guide us with bravery and compassion,

never forgetting

 

who they are

and what must be done

to find the light

to sail us through the stars–

those tiny, huge, beautiful things–

 

to bring us home.

 

IMG_5090

Our shadows travel the ages–Dock Creek, Old City, Philadelphia

IMG_5085

I saw this rainbow sky over Philadelphia when we were returning home from my mom’s.

 

We saw Tiny Beautiful Things, a play based on Cheryl Strayed’s book, and adapted for stage by Nia Vardalos.  Our older daughter and her wife were in Philadelphia for a wedding, and they spent yesterday and last night with us. We watched an episode of Star Trek Voyager, and I said that I wished Captain Janeway was Earth’s leader right now.