New Year’s Eve Day is foggy and warm. My husband and I eat Chinese food for dinner, our decades-old tradition. We drink champagne while we talk to our children and their spouses on Zoom. Our son-in-law’s parents join us, and it’s good to see them, too, after so long. We light the Shabbos candles and speak of what we’re grateful for—that we’re together, healthy, and that our pets are with us, too. This is what we celebrate—life going on, light in the darkness. Later, we say goodbye to 2021. Though 2022 seems scarcely better, who know what the future brings? The sun and moon still rise and set. And there is champagne.
fog-obscured river a mystery— beckoning
For dVerse. Earlier today, I couldn’t get WP to work, and now there’s no problem. Oh, there are definitely WP gremlins!
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
--Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Of spring weather with the sun low in the winter sky
It’s off-kilter, my friend remarks. Disconcerting, I say.
Like this upside-down world of lies embraced, why
I don’t know. Strength in ignorance persuades—
the authoritarian’s way.
Now first snow before daylight,
perfect white as dawn kisses night
the pristine blanket yet untouched--
unanswered questions, many and so much
hate and love. Fingers curled within a glove,
hands balled into fist. This is mine, some insist,
with mired minds and clouded brains—
perfect offerings, rotted remains
in nature cycles, vulture-fed, cycles birth, the dead
the bells we still can ring
sounding louder in the fog
we can’t know what the future brings,
it flows, a river carrying us and everything
and birds sing,
sensing the light
reflections of past, the infinite,
first snow, first light
for a moment, all is right,
ring in the new year
built on hope, wet with tears,
ring the cracked bell, toll with cheer,
the circling of our earth, and we are still here.
WordPress seems to be up to more tricks. It won’t let me copy and paste the way I usually do it. UGH!
We’ve had strangely warm weather here, along with fog and rain. This morning we’re getting snow. I’ve taken some poetic license, as it doesn’t seem to be snowing anymore, and it’s not really covering the ground. Meanwhile, COVID is still raging, and the deniers are still denying. This Thursday, January 6 will be the one-year anniversary of the attempted overthrow of the US government. Some people deny that, too, despite all the evidence, which I find truly terrifying. The celebration of ignorance, and the insistence on sharing and spreading lies is appalling.
Stepping down from my soapbox. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with Chinese food, as we’ve done for decades. Then, we had a family Zoom session, while we drank champagne. On New Year’s Day, we ate Cinnabons—another tradition.
I enjoyed a few days of not doing much, and I’m not looking forward to getting back to work today.
We watched four new movies:
Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
The Lost Daughter (Netflix)
The Last Duel (Amazon Prime, rental)
Who You Think I Am (Amazon Prime)
My husband and I liked all of them, and they all have great acting, but we both thought The Lost Daughter was our overall “best picture” of the group. I think Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley are always excellent, and Jodie Comer, in the last duel, is also wonderful.
Oh, it’s snowing again!
If I could, I’d share the river dawn, a gift, not of quiet, but peace to listen to the moon’s farewell song and the echo of stars in gull laughter, the dream dance of joy across the universe.
Then tell it, you word-woman, the Oracle says, trust this time, this time, see how time is a thousand universes, and believe you belong always a part, a voice within her heart-voice– remember the ever-language blue-shifting in nightglow, in sun-smile, in stellar rhapsody the promise of light.
On this dark, foggy New Year’s Day morning, I decided to ask the Oracle for a New Year’s message, and she’s reminded me that the universe goes on no matter what and that there’s light behind the clouds. She also pretty much ordered me to write (see below), so I’m hoping this is a sign that I will have a good year of writing. I’m thankful for all of you who read my work. This has been a very long year. Stay healthy! Happy New Year!
Overdue Book Review #2: Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl by Marian Longenecker Beaman
Readers of my blog will recognize the name Marian Beaman from the comments. She comments on nearly every post I write, and she was one of my first followers. Full disclosure—we have met in person back in the before time when people actually did meet in person.
She was working on her memoir at that time. I think I remember a discussion about the red shoes then. You can see the shoes in the delightful cover photo. Indeed, the book is beautiful, and it is filled with lovely family photos, as well as illustrations created by Marian’s husband, Cliff Beaman.
Mennonite Daughter is a memoir that covers the early years of Marian’s life up to her marriage to Cliff. It covers the conflict she had with living within the restrictions of her Mennonite life, while also loving many aspects of it.
“Even after the strict dress code fell away, the strong pillars of faith and family have defined my core values. . .In my heart, I will always be a Mennonite.”
The book explores her troubled relationship with her father–who never told her he loved her–as well as the connections she had to her “two mothers,” both named Ruth. One was her biological mother, a farm wife and mother; the other was her Aunt Ruth, who remained single. Aunt Ruth was a Marian’s mentor and her literal teacher at the two-room schoolhouse that Marian attended.
Mennonite Daughter is set mainly in Lancaster County, PA, from about 1940 to the 1960s. Readers learn about farming, as well as what it meant to be a young Mennonite woman during that time. This included the proper plain clothing, as well as living according to the tenets of faith. To wear jewelry, make-up, and certainly red shoes, was part of the “fancy” world. We meet Marian’s beloved grandmother, her sisters and brother, and her relatives. We see Marian chafing under restrictions, and we feel for her as she waits in hope for her parents to acknowledge her hard work in high school after she graduated with honors. The book also includes maps, notes, and recipes.
This memoir is heartfelt. It is a book based on love—of family, of community, of learning, and of faith.
We celebrate in the long dark days— in the after–recalling what was— and almost remembering
how we embraced without care.
But in the lingering kiss of night, the air whispers secrets,
and dreams float from fiddle strings taking form–nutcrackers, marzipan castles– shapeshifters of hope and fear in cold winter days
as the moon hums, the house fills with the scent of vanilla, cinnamon, mulled wine, and chocolate, laughter echoes from beyond to within and hereafter,
if you wonder– we’ve always been in-between
shadow and light, spinning as
the colors of time bend like giant wings, hovering, circling, and moving on,
reflecting what is, what was, and what might be.
I never posted my Christmas poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. So, I’ve embellished it a bit here. I hope all of you had a joyous holiday season. It’s so very complicated trying to figure out how to get together right now, even when everyone is vaccinated and some of us are boosted. We saw some of my family on Christmas Eve—testing first, staying masked much of the time. Again, doing the same thing, we saw my husband’s family yesterday, but somehow did not take any photos.
My husband and I had our now traditional cheese fondue and mulled wine for our Christmas dinner. For our Christmas brunch, I made us a Dutch baby, and we watched a show I had recorded from PBS of Alan Cumming with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra telling the full tale of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The story tells the origins of the Nutcracker and explains what happens to the girl and the nutcracker afterward. You can read more here.
I looked up from writing this morning to find my dining room glowing pink.
Elizabeth Gauffeau’s Grief Songs is a short book that leaves a long, lingering presence. The book is a collection of personal photographs paired with mostly tanka poems. (A tanka is a 5-line poem typically written as syllabic lines of 5-7-5-7-7). This means that each poem is a sharp distillation of a moment, an event, or even the history of a relationship between parents, between her and her parents, or between her and her brother.
Because the poems are brief, the book can be read very quickly. However, a reader who lingers over words and photos will be rewarded. The poems and the feelings behind them grow with repeated readings. I must say that sometimes I was left wondering what happened. This is not a criticism of the poems, but rather, my own curiosity about people. “Youth Group Picnic,” for example, gives us a glimpse of the day—two children waiting in the car, giggling and honking the horn. Liz fills in the rest of the story here on her blog.
“For a Crooked Smile,” however, needs no additional context.
“He was my little brother.”
That poem brought me to tears (as did several others):
Grief Song III
I held her hand as she lay dying death rattle in my throat.
This is a book of poetry that is highly accessible, but with poems that resonate. It is a memoir in bite-size pieces. Each poem is a snapshot, a memory experienced in the way we are all hit by a sudden remembrance of a time, a place, or a person.
In “Sixty Years of Katherine,” Liz writes:
“minutes tucked into envelopes decades left in dresser drawers”
These lines feel both personal and universal. Those of us who have helped a parent move or who have cleared a home after they’ve passed, understand the complex emotions behind these beautiful, succinct phrases.
Elizabeth Gauffreau is wonderfully supportive friend of other writers. I follow her blog and follow her on social media, and you may want to, as well. But– this review is unsolicited. I did not tell her I was writing or posting it. She may respond to comments here though.
Congratulations, Liz, on this lovely, poignant book!
From her website: Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Woven Tale Press, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in North of Oxford, The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge. Her debut novel Telling Sonny was published by Adelaide Books, New York in 2018.
“Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last, Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on At twilight.” –from Tracy K. Smith, “My God, It’s Full of Stars”
Before the beginning, there was another, and perhaps another before that, bangs and waves, an infinite, endless sea of possibilities— of if, not when, light sparks life.
Yet here I am, and here you are, each the sun of our own universe, surrounded by planets, stardust in our blood, blinking pulsars for an infinitesimal moment of time. Beacons, ships in the night, we gaze at the ghost streams of long-dead stars,
an recreate the twinkling gleams in candles and sparkling lights adorn trees as winter appears.
We celebrate the anniversary of my birth leave footprints in the sand, as our ancestors once did, as they emerged from watery depths–as we do, each birth the same and different, each life unique, distinct, and less than a speck.
It’s all in the perspective. The horizon beckons, but is never reached. I watch the gulls hover and soar, catching wind and light.
As we celebrate, holding fast to dying light, catching fire in glass and cup, echoing the chirps of stars and gull laughter, our friends sit a vigil, and we look to the past, knowing we can’t return— and if I could put on my younger self’s skin, like a selkie dons her castoff seal pelt, I don’t think it would fit, not in this world, and it’s the only one I know,
with shadows looming from the light, imperfectly perfect, gigantic, a pinprick—we dream–a lifetime passes in a second.
My birthday was last week. We went to Ocean City, NJ, to take a walk on the beach, which was mostly deserted except for some people walking their dogs. We saw lots of egg casings and horseshoe crab remains on the beach. I had a free glass of wine for my birthday at Blue Cork Winery, and then we had Indian food and champagne (actually a crémant). To continue my birthday celebration a couple days later, we went to the art museum, and then walked to the Christmas Village in Philadelphia. I started laughing when my husband took a photo of me eating a cannoli, and then I couldn’t stop laughing, which made me think of my mom, and made me cry while I was laughing. A dear friend’s mother died on my birthday. We paid our respects on Saturday, and then took a drive to see the house where I lived when I was in high school.
Merril’s Movie Club: We streamed Belfast this week. In this beautifully filmed in black and white, Kenneth Branagh takes a nostalgic look at Belfast, a sort of love letter to a place and time that no longer exists. It’s bittersweet without being too sappy, though set during a time of violence, strife, and intolerance (and I think that’s understood). I liked it very much, and it was a perfect holiday/birthday movie.
Every morning in December, I look for the poem in Sarah Connor’s advent series. Today, it’s mine. Thank you Sarah for putting together this series–and for asking me to participate in this beautiful tradition again. Happy Holidays to all!
After the storm– ask if the sea recalls how death-winds whipped the waves– or if now, in moonwake, there is only light
watch as the luscious peach-pink glow of tomorrow shines, yet hear the heartbeats of time’s whispers, aching music, the cries of love and loss
over and again
the stars sing, and wing their colored gleaming streams, simple truths, obscured in dreams, what was is here, heart-held and blood-carried, ever-lasting, within.
My poem in collaboration with the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. Jane Dougherty used a Turner image the other day, and he also appeared in a novel I was reading. I wrote the poem first, but I’m pretty sure the Oracle was nudging me to include a Turner painting with it.
Podcast available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Anchor, Breaker, Player FM, Radio Public, OverCast, PocketCast, CastBox, ITunes, Podbean, Podcast Addicts and many more platforms.
This Live Show aires on Zoom, with tickets via Eventbrite on Saturday 14th December 2021 at 7.30pm GMT. Produced and hosted by Damien B. Donnelly and below are details and links to all the guest stars…
Ness Owen is a poet and FE lecturer from Ynys Mon. She has been widely published in anthologies and journals including in Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, Mslexia, Red Poets, Poetry Wales, The Atlanta Review, Culture Matters, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Black Bough Journal and Mother’s Milks Books. Her first collection ‘Mamiaith’ (Mother Tongue) was published by Arachne Press in 2019 and her second collection will be published by Parthian in October 2022. She is currently co-editing an anthology themed on the A470 road through…