Exploring Other Roads

Monday Morning Musings:

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics. Nor all logic. But is somewhat beauty & poetry.

–Astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889

“In the middle of the journey of our life

I found myself astray in a dark wood

where the straight road had been lost sight of.”

–Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto I

 

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“This image of Saturn’s rings was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back to Earth.”

 

This wild, verdant world

home, a pale blue dot

it travels,

we travel,

through time and space

never a straight road

explorers, we send you out

on a thirty-year mission

(here, bombs and missiles)

there, you meet your fiery death.

Did you have last thoughts, I wonder,

as you plunged

compelled by forces beyond your control

mission completed

no more floating tin can

our eyes and ears

seeing what we cannot see

 

what if you could speak your mind–

would you share our wonder, or

cry at the beauty of the rings of ice?

The eye of the beholder,

the hard problem and reality,

what do we actually perceive

(with our limited senses)

And yet

And yet

And yet–

we have music, art, poetry

the imagination to see beyond

to wonder if there are ghosts flitting around us

and what it is we cannot see

 

We, who are constantly seeking

asking who we are

and what is out there

(the truth?)

yet so limited by greed, ignorance, fear.

the artificial borders of nations

when the world dies,

will it matter that we are American, Russian, or Thai?

or that we believe in one god, many, or none?

that our skin is olive-tinged, milky-white, or the color of café au lait?

We follow straight roads to disaster

when perhaps we should try a different path—

a scenic route

create a new map

wonder

We eat pita and hummus

Vietnamese takeout

homemade pizza

multicultural dining

in a xenophobic world

admire the science and math—

dough that rises—a chemical reaction—

but the first time someone made bread—imagination!

Could a space alien creature appreciate the perfection–

melted cheese, tomatoes, basil, and crisp crust?

We drink wine,

admire the color, taste smell

created by another chemical reaction,

We watch science fiction

and imagine what could be,

perhaps better, perhaps not,

(oh, but we could use those Star Trek captains)

perhaps there are other timelines and dimensions,

worlds we cannot see,

Cassini has traveled—not a straight road—

to see rings and moons

a wonder of science and determination

But I see the beauty of those rings,

imagine how they might sing

 

I read and write

about the terrible things people do to one another

dominating bodies, looking for control

we watch a documentary about Vietnam

fights over territory

nations looking to control

the falling of dominos

in senseless violence

bombs, death, and destruction

time going backwards in film

filled in by imagination,

fast forward

and where does the road lead?

look at the science

look at the logic

look at the road

and check for a course correction–

But

look for the poetry and art

the beauty in the stars

listen for the humming of the moon

 

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Whistling with the Moon

I dream of the moon

and gossamer dancers

leaping high,

circling and swaying to the music of the stars,

sounds surrounding us in space,

(space whistlers)

music of electromagnetic waves

harmonizing like weird birds

(glowing birds)

each a phoenix

rising from ash

layered with a flood of thought,

human words,

floating upwards

growing, collecting more matter,

a massive accretion disk of drifting memories

surrounding a black hole.

Perhaps,

or not,

but haven’t you wondered where they go

when they vanish?

ideas,

joys, fears–

how easy it is to glide, slide, hover, hang

like the moon

a sliver of thought grows full

in time

humming and full of energy

released into space

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I’m fascinated by space sounds. You can read about and hear the electromagnetic waves here.

I was also influenced by the moon and accretion after reading Robert Okaji’s marvelous “Letter from Austin.”

I used Secret Keeper’s Words here, but substituted “massive” for huge.

The prompt words were : Easy/Flood/Thought/Fear/Huge

Windows and Views

Monday Morning Musings:

“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2

“Then, window, let day in, and let life out.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 5

“Unfix’d yet fix’d,
Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.”

–Walt Whitman, “Eidolons” from Leaves of Grass

“There’s this phenomenon called the overview effect. It’s this cognitive shift that many astronauts go through when they see Earth for the first time from space. They describe it as feeling this overwhelming sense of humanity. In space you see that we’re all in this together. Astronauts leave the Earth as technicians, but they come back as humanitarians.”

Amanda Nguyen, Rape Survivor, Founder of Rise, Astronaut in Training

Open that vast window

time lives in our embrace

kissing ghost and angel breath

from ocean, sky, and naked dirt

giving poetry to life

for eternity

 

Open that vast window

we experience the world

through our senses

trying to find rhyme and reason

the ghosts flit and echo

souls and poetry intermingle

past and future merge

 

Here we sit in a vineyard,

drinking wine named for a poet’s verse,

 

watching performers speak the words of a writer long gone

his words echo through the centuries

opening windows to worlds we wouldn’t know

as Juliet opened hers to Romeo

time floats

unfix’d yet fix’d

 

Here in this space

the sky is an open window,

vast with promise and possibility

Sunset, Auburn Road Vineyards

we hear night birds trilling and calling,

a bird

(or is it a bat?

I learn eidolon is also a genus of bats)

swoops to catch an insect

while below,

players thrust and parry with swords and wit

life and death around us

windows opening and closing

unfix’d, fix’d

eidolons

 

Later, I remember one of our daughters

spoke Juliet’s words,

it was an audition

for a college theater grant,

leaving home

(the overview effect occurs only then)

a window appears

she opened it,

and in a theater,

(eidolon-filled)

finds her sun,

and he burns brightly

for her,

eclipsing everything else

 

We see another play,

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before it begins

we listen to the people near us talk,

they’re all involved in theater,

the woman sitting to my left, we learn,

is in a play in another theater that night

she plays the grandmother—again!

they all laugh

the light dims

our play begins,

one actor on the stage here in Philadelphia,

the other in London

they communicate through SKYPE–

live theater

the wonders of high-speed connections–

we see his house in London

on screens

like windows

but he looks through windows, too

seeing the present, imagining the future

 

The play is set in the near future

the butterflies have died,

but new ones have been created

along with other animals and plants

like chaos theory

or dominos

each extinction creates another

each creation has unknown effects

people rebel and resist

ecological warfare, starvation,

the world owned by a corporation

a better world

through gene manipulation,

what could possible go wrong?

 

After the show,

we walk across the street

from a story of the future

to a building of the past

Christ Church, Philadelphia

on this hot, summer day

we wander

see flowers still growing

(sigh of relief)

the sixth extinction may have started

but it’s not visible here yet,

not to untrained eyes,

birds flit and sing

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we stop for ice cream

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see a wedding, and another, and another

(couples beginning new lives

closing doors, opening new windows)

I find openings everywhere

windows from the past

looking at the present,

I wonder if ghosts wander here

do they experience an overview effect?

seeing Earth, their lives now from a new perspective?

unfix’d, fix’d

eidolons

 

We head home

the sky darkening

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the sun not visible through the clouds,

and the thunder rumbling–

but in the morning

it rises in the east

shining through my window

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(the present)

poetry of the here and now

sweeping to the future

 

There was a dVerse prompt on windows last week that I missed, but I suppose I’ve been thinking about windows. The Oracle gave me the first stanza. She really is all-knowing.

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We visited Auburn Roads Vineyards.  We saw Tiny Dynamite’s production of Perfect Blue at the Christ Church Neighborhood House.

 

 

Unsettled

Monday Morning Musings:

 

I am unsettled, unmoored

between light and shadow

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but the shadows grow

the winds blow

I ponder as the pressure drops

watch the sky’s darkling mood

watch it brood

upon the future,

and darken more

(blacker than before)

it weeps,

perhaps remembering light

the song of birds

the hum of bees

thundering its sorrow,

growling like an angry drunk,

sunk in sorrow and pain

throwing punches in the rain

lightning flashes

charged particles, clashes

of hot air

in sound and fury

power displayed

but going nowhere

 

Far away,

on another world

a storm of swirling crimson, unfurls

sending out a song

in crashing waves

volatile and unpredictable

dazzling

ancient

larger than our earth

a spot forever turning

churning

over a world of gas

without firm ground

with nothing to stand upon

unsettled

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NASA: This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

 

But here I stand

feet firmly planted

(head in the clouds)

as I look up at the sky

catching a melody in the wind

storms may rage

night may fall

on firm ground,

I wait for the light

The sun rises, my spirits do, too,

I hear the mockingbird sing in a sky of blue.

 

We go out to hear about wine

to learn from a man passionate about the science

and his craft

educated in universities in California and France

but there is art, skill, perhaps a bit of magic involved,

a master craftsman, a master craft

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In the barrel room with Larry Sharrott of Sharrott Winery.

 

We taste wine from barrels

(settling)

sitting there for ten months or a bit more

not ready yet to go to tanks,

raised above the floor

kept cool by solar power

(to keep the wine from going bad and sour)

I think of the skill and craft of making barrels,

here, some are made from American oak

some from French or Hungarian oak

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I learn the wine in American oak tastes different from that in the European

I like the symmetry of fruit of the vine kept in barrels from trees

my mind goes to the economy of colonial America

built with the help of barrels

though not of wine

barrel makers—coopers—found in every town

large barrels, hogsheads, terms of measurement

but we talk of wine here,

admire its color

swirl it to let in air,

smell it and taste it,

the barrel wine drier, more astringent,

the bottled wine, rounder and fuller,

I’m fascinated–

the knowledge, the skill, the passion

wonder how people first picked grapes

and learned to make wine

centuries ago

refining the process over time

though the science remains the same.

 

We drink Chambourcin

a glass at the winery, overlooking acres of grapes,

and birds in flight,

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then more at our daughter’s house

we missed the Bastille Day celebration this year

but we have French-named wine

French cheese, a baguette

and chocolate cake

(yes, let us eat cake).

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It is a beautiful evening

their dog plays

their cat watches

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the shadows grow

but the summer light lingers

as do we

the storms but a memory in the blue sky

and I’m feeling moored, settled

my family and love,

the port in stormy and fair weather,

I hear the songs of the universe surround me.

 

We visited Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mocking of the Mockingbird

 “Just like that tune,

Simple and clear,

I’ve come to hear

New music—

Breaking my heart,

Op’ning a door,

Changing the world!

New music!

I’ll

Hear it forevermore!”

“New Music,” Ragtime

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens

 

Was the mockingbird mocking me

as he sang so urgently in the tree?

I awakened from a dream

he seemed haunted,

or was it me?

 

taunted by a world in change

everything upside down and rearranged

hearing new music in the air

wondering why it’s everywhere–

 

the sound of marching feet,

syncopated beats, ragged rhythm of the street,

the sound of hate and guns and bombs

oh, merely percussive runs, my darling ones

 

new music, forevermore

the constant hum of waves, their roar

as islands sink beneath the sea

perhaps the mockingbird sings a ragtime rhythm of nevermore

and the world weeps for what’s now in store–

 

yet, as I turn from song back to sleep

and wonder what the day will reap–

both dawn and dusk share radiant color and diffused light

but we must determine which we want, and what is right

if the sun will rise or set hereafter

on the sound of birds and bees and laughter

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

Another much-needed poetry break. I was awakened by a mockingbird last night and listened to it sing. Then I read the news and listened to a bit of Ragtime in the car this morning (gym break!). So, this is what happened.

 

 

 

Radium Girls: NaPoWriMo

Luminous

shining girls

painting watch dials

tongue-touched brush, delicate, deliberate,

deadly

 

ghosts,

radium apparitions

with bleeding gums,

ulcerated bodies impart knowledge,

afterlife

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Radium Girls work in a factory of the United States Radium Corporation, c.1922, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Day 23, NaPoWriMo. Today’s prompt was to write an elevenie poem.  My double elevenie was inspired by this article .

For Earth, For Earth Day: NaPoWriMo

 

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Sweet spring shines

come flower,

bird, and bee,

squirrel over tree,

a secret song,

pure poetry

must grow, thrive

at peace, but knowing

if my blue earth, a sanctuary

is soon through,

we blossom, berry, bough, follow, too

from sacred garden to prairie brown,

how eden leaves

 

 

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17

By NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Day 22, NaPoWriMo.  The Magnetic Poetry Oracle was true to the prompt. She gave me an Earth Day Georgic Verse.

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Driving the Poetry

Monday Morning Musings:

“A ‘strange coincidence,’ to use a phrase

By which such things are settled now-a-days.”

–George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto Vi, Stanza 78

 

We see the movie, Paterson,

a quiet, lovely film about poetry and the beauty of everyday life,

of things like matchboxes and waking up beside the person you love,

coincidences abound,

the bus driver/poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson,

his love’s whispered dream about twins,

and the multiple sightings of twins–

things like this always seem to happen to me,

is it coincidence, synchronicity, or a poet’s awareness?

I eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations,

put them in a poem,

then wonder if the universe does the same,

or perhaps there are other worlds,

parallel,

but with an occasional intersection

the hole in a Swiss cheese cosmos that breaks,

the slice of bread “in a giant cosmic loaf”*

perhaps still connected to another slice,

or are we sandwiched between two slices,

which are nibbled by time?

 

So, I watch this movie with its coincidences,

its references to dimensions and time,

then laugh,

when after seeing the many pairs of twins onscreen,

I discover that same day Beyoncé announced she’s having twins,

and smile at the universe’s joke

when after I had been thinking I should buy a small notebook

to carry with me

to jot down my thoughts

like the poet/bus driver does,

I clean out a shelf,

discover little notebooks,

notebooks given to me years ago,

before I wrote poetry,

as if it wasn’t the right time for them then,

but it is now,

and they’ve been waiting.

 

Am I a historian/poet,

or a writer who writes in many forms?

William Carlos Williams,

the doctor/poet

is a presence in the film–

I didn’t know he was born in Paterson,–

But I know that poem,

you know the one—about the plums?

I remember looking it up once in summer,

I think of plums, warm and fragrant, not cold,

imagine the juice running down my chin,

my skin, summer-brown,

it’s another me I imagine

from a time in the past,

perhaps it still exists in a parallel universe,

when my body was thin and lithe,

unwrinkled,

and firm as a plum.

 

a few days later,

we’ve been pet-sitting,

and now we’re driving home

just the two of us in the car,

sitting in silence,

my mind wrapped in thoughts,

a package that I will unwrap

arranging the contents carefully,

hoping I remember on which shelf I’ve left each one.

 

I say to my husband,

“You know how the character in Paterson drove his bus

listening to passengers and looking around him

while he was writing poetry in his head?

That’s what I was doing–

thinking about coincidences and writing poems,

but while you drove.”

“That’s OK,” he says.

“I thought that’s what you were doing. “

I smile

And we’re home.

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Notebooks

 

“’Stranger Things’: How Realistic are Parallel Worlds?”

 

The poem about the plum, William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say.”

Paterson, official trailer.

March: Worlds Forgotten and Remembered

Monday Morning Musings:

“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”

–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice

(I liked this quotation so much, I took it from Robin at Breezes at Dawn. Check out her blog, which is full of insight, warmth, and stunning photos. )

“In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever made and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”

–Nick Payne, Constellations

 

March,

the word spreads in the mouth, then ends with decision,

like a boot hitting the soft, wet ground,

like us on Saturday,

thousands of women,

strolling more than marching—so many bodies, you know—

but determined,

love on display,

love emblazoned on signs, and in hearts,

no rigid parade lines

marking and separating us,

freeform designs

murmurations of emotion

dancing up into the sky,

singing like birds,

trying to heal the world,

(hoping it’s not too late)

realizing that some do not understand that love is love

and that hate is not the answer.

 

And so, we responded after

the day of doom,

a day of gloom,

a day we thought would never come,

a day in which we’re all a bit numb,

he gives a speech not of hope,

(the edge of the slippery slope?)

no appeals to the better angels of our natures,

no asking what you can do for your country,

no yes we can,

no.

He speaks in dog whistles

of American carnage,

and many feel discarded

no longer a part of the land of the free,

as the few,

(a very few)

cheer in glee.

And so, only fearing fear itself, we march,

we march for our children, our future, our world

woman power, unfurled

spurred to action,

my daughter and my new-found friend,

(my daughter’s second grade teacher),

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we leave New Jersey for Philadelphia,

the train is packed,

filled with solidarity,

filled with love,

cheers as marchers get on at each stop–

there are stories to be swapped–

 

an eighty-four-year-old woman

who began her career at age nineteen,

she taught in a one-room schoolhouse in southern Illinois.

We’ve come a long way, baby,

with miles to go.

 

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Exiting the Patco station at 16th and Locust

 

We walk to the rally.

Laugh overhearing the group in front of us,

“You know how I like to moon my mom?” a young woman says to her friends.

 

Marchers, as far as we can see,

(Marchers all over the world!)

But we find my sister, sister-niece, and my sister’s friend

who have come from other parts of Pennsylvania

(The wonders of modern technology.)

 

We laugh at clever, funny, uplifting signs.

 

“It’s amazing. You’re all amazing!” a woman says.

And we’re walking and talking,

Talking and walking

A speaker chants,

“Peace, Hope, and Joy!”

And there is hope in that multitude.

 

Back in New Jersey,

We head to a winery—

It’s been a long day,

though inspiring

but well, wine.

(And we may need it.)

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T-Shirt at Sharrott Winery

 

On Sunday, my husband and I see a play,

Constellations,

quantum mechanics, patterns, time, and bees,

(Is time tangled strings or floating seas?)

a couple may or may not meet,

may or may not greet

love and sorrow

or waltz to a beat.

And we all wonder about choices made in life, don’t we?

I wonder about history–

is there a timeline for a failed American Revolution?

Another for Hitler’s not being defeated?

A timeline where what we know now is deleted,

or was never completed?

Is there another world where I did not move from Dallas?

Perhaps one where I lived in a palace?

One in which I did not meet my husband?

A world where I did not have my darling daughters, my joy?

(No, too sad to contemplate.)

What is fated?

What answers lie in the stars?

Are we ruled by Jupiter or Mars?

Is there a timeline where I could ever have supported a misogynistic demagogue?

Perhaps in another timeline we have our first female president,

a world where we did not need to rant and vent.

Perhaps in another, parallel universe we have not elected a petulant, dangerous man-child,

wild

with power.

Perhaps there, the people understand what should be celebrated.

where we could,

where we have not forgotten,

where songs and hope blossom,

Perhaps there, humans are human,

and love is love.

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I highly recommend Constellations at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

We did a special wine tasting at Sharrott Winery that included red wine hot cocoa. We plan to go back when it is warmer to sit outside and enjoy their wine.

We marched at the Women’s March on Philadelphia, January 21, 2017.

And I will continue to be vigilant and to resist.

 

 

Thoughts in the Moonlight: Microfiction

 

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Ilya Repin, “Moonlight Night,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

The river shimmered in the moonlight, but for the moment, Jo was immune to its charms. She was pondering the telegram she had received:

“J.  Mission on. Pack your bags.  Love, T.”

Her brother Tommy was an excellent surgeon, but not such a great communicator. As she bent down to rub her setter Dottie’s spotted back, Jo thought about this “mission” and wondered how long she would be gone.

Tommy had told Jo that Mr. Roentgen’s discovery could change medicine and medical care. The new apparatus that the commission planned to ship abroad used these invisible rays–X rays– to photograph bones right through the skin. The X ray devices could also be used to see bullets or shrapnel within a body.

We keep improving ways to kill one another, Jo thought, I suppose it’s only natural that we find new ways to treat those that survive.

She pictured all the politicians she had seen shouting slogans, ignoring facts. She admired scientists who checked and re-checked and shared their knowledge. A German scientist discovered X rays, and now English doctors were using the discovery to help Greek soldiers.

Perhaps, she thought, with these new-fangled X ray machines, the young men, pawns in squabbles between nations, might have a better chance of surviving the carnage of the battlefield. Tommy and the other surgeons, and she and the other nurses would do their best, however inadequate it might be.

Calling to Dottie, Jo turned to take one last look at the river. Then she squared her shoulders and strode back to the house to pack her bags for Greece.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. The prompt is the painting above, “Moonlight Night” by Ilya Repin. Even though the painter was Russian, I thought the woman was English, and she seemed to be pondering something. I found out that X rays were discovered the same year the painting was completed, 1896. Soon after, X rays were used in field hospitals, and a group in England financed the transportation of a X ray machines with surgeons and nurses and sent them to Greece during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897.

You can read more about the early use of X rays here.