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

Creating and Recreating

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise and Clouds, Delaware River at West Deptford, NJ

Eagles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dream of eagles
soaring high, circling in the cerulean sky
over the rippling river, rushing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

away from life’s ferocious frosts and fevers,
the fripperies, the vain vagaries of the villain
the anxiety, angst, and annoyances of the now.

The forests moan,
the seas seethe,
we mourn mothers, grandmothers—

generations gone
and wisdom withered, lost forever,
but passed along

are rituals, even as new ones
are created in novel circumstances–
in strange new worlds

we recreate, renovate, and originate—
old and new combine, migrants
become established

citizens of settled worlds. No need
to fly south, or north, east, west—
until the predators come, once again.

Still, the sun rises, rousing us with repeated rhythms,
the familiar and the strange merge in each day,
a deer leaps over a fence in front of you,

You never know who you’ll see during a morning walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a flower blooms where there was nothing the day before,
the geese honk, rise in synchronized rhythm,
to settle, sailing further down the river, both seeming endless,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and over them, the eagles soar, sharp-clawed, fierce,
but mated for life, dancing in the air,
the way we can only dream of,

 

and yet, I’m rooted
like the giant oak, my branches spread wide, sheltering
my dreams and memories

that fall, scattered
like acorns, perhaps carried to new places,
to grow and live again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a strange week or so—or perhaps a strange few months. Last week began with the anniversary of my mom’s birth. Everything is so unsettled. We never gave her a real memorial, but I did bake a chocolate cake (her favorite), and we had a virtual dinner with our daughters with a meal I thought she would have liked, lasagna, garlic bread, and good bottle of wine I’d been saving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had days that went from sun to storms, sometimes within a few minutes. Then yesterday, the weather was absolutely beautiful, and my mood was much better, too. We went to Hillcreek Farm, where they opened a wine garden—reservations required to limit the number of people, and the servers were masked, as were we when we left the table.

I can’t get the spacing right, and I can’t spend any more time on this today. Sorry!

Auburn Roads Vineyards Wine Garden at Hillcreek Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Soaring

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

 

Between the misty amethyst

and the brilliant blue—there’s a pause

in the morning’s soft pink music, a rest

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ, shortly after sunrise. July 2020 ©️ Merril D. Smith 2020

 

before the restart of staccato cardinal chirps,

the flute of robin trills,

and the crescendo of crow caws

 

burst through the feathered clouds,

with the bright blue of belonging—

here and now

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

 

I walk

along the day’s determined path,

yet debating

 

both path and determined,

the ifs, whens, and whys

of going further, beyond

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I found an almost hidden path.

to find something else

hidden

like words within

 

waiting to be spoken.

 

“Eat chocolate,” my sisters say,

and share the thought of our mother’s laugh

echoing from the past,

 

flowing like a river through time,

all the versions of me and you,

the world

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in both the radiance of the sun

and the silvery shimmer of the moon,
pale blue and green,

 

and when I wish upon the ghost glow

of a thousand stars

I feel the dust of dreams

 

within and without,

as feathers fly from the sky

to land at my feet in trails of white light

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silent, at rest,

here, now

bits of something larger, still soaring.

A late edition of my Monday musings. I think Jane and I challenged each other to use the Love set of tiles from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. The Oracle and I once again collaborated, with more inspiration from my morning walks.

I’ve been baking with summer fruit, but I do indeed have a chocolate stash.

 

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Radioactive (Amazon Prime, 2020), a new movie about Marie Curie. I wanted this to be wonderful, but it wasn’t. It was OK, but she was such a brilliant woman, and this, sadly, is not a movie that shines. We also watched Straight Up(Netflix), a sort of rom com where a young man who may be gay, but isn’t sure, finds his soul mate is a woman. It was enjoyable, but not great.

So we went back to darker stuff: we started watching Bordertown, a Finnish series on Netflix. So far, it’s very good. I like “Scandi-noir,” and shows that explore family life as well as the crimes.

 

 

 

 

 

The Universe in Motion

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Comet Hale-Bopp Attribution: Philipp Salzgeber / CC BY-SA 2.0 AT (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/at/deed.en)

Born before our before,

traveling till after our after,

ice and dust of timeless time,

 

the molecules of cosmic gases,

atoms of our world, forever

and after

 

the comet revolves through space

around the sun–our shining star–

our light-filled center, we circle it

 

year after year, through revolutions,

revelations in art, technology, war

to peace and back to war, revolve, resolve

 

to see this ball of light,

the icy comma tail–

it comes and goes

 

and we continue, revolving

electrons within us spin,

looking to connect

 

to something,

We’re attracted, we’re repulsed–

between darkness and light,

 

revolving

revolving

revolving.

 

I’m hosting dVerse Poetics today. The prompt is revolution.Come join us!

Never Fixed, the Ever Changing Light

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Sun above and below, reflections and shadows on the Delaware River

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

–James Baldwin, “Nothing is Fixed,” quoted on Brainpickings, where you can also listen to his words set to music.

 

A constant, the sun rises and sets

to the left of my window in summer, to the right in winter

ever shifting, as we rotate and spin, never fixed

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the light changes, shining through clouds and trees

reflected on rivers and sea

and prismed in a sprinkler’s passage, never fixed

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Sprinkler rainbow and puddle reflection

 

the birds fly, the flowers bloom, fall, drop their sees, and grow again

the snapping turtle’s slow crawl, the gracile deer’s leap into the shadows

they pause, then move, live, then die, never fixed

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Maybe a snapping turtle? I saw him on the side of the road by the river during a morning walk.

 

as the moon moves through her phases,

do you hear her fiercely humming?

Reminding us in silvered streams, never fixed,

 

our stories. We choose to sit or fight

against the dying of the light

to witness gleaming through the cracks, never fixed,

 

forever light comes from stars extinguished

we see it, or we don’t.

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My shadow reflecting–light and shadows

 

This has been a difficult week for the world, though it is also been inspiring in some ways.

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A grown daughter’s childhood companion.

In whatever way you can, speak out, donate, and help others. Here is a short list of things to read, support, and follow

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Just Mercy, which is streaming free (in the U.S) during the month of June. I was afraid it would be a sort of feel good Hollywood movie, but both my husband and I thought it was a good movie with excellent acting. There are additional facts and statistics at the end. We also watched Uncut Gems, which was good in a different way. It’s available on Netflix now.

I’ve written about the musical Ragtime before. It’s one of my favorite musicals, and it seems particularly relevant during this presidency, and right now, the song, “Make Them Hear You” resonates. Here is Ricky the Cat listening to it. (And yes, I may have made him a little bed by my computer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Rains and Summer Storms

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Birds sing from leafy trees

and verdant banks beside the streams–

from gentle rain in spring a droplet gleams

 

on iris and rose, and petrichor rises in the air

washed clean, carried on a crisp, fresh breeze

(with pollen that makes us cough and wheeze)

 

but beautiful the shades of green

in days that lengthen, until the sun’s heat

bakes ground and street.

 

Summery steam rises in air that’s sticky and thick,

and the sky darkens, the clouds turn black,

as the stormy wind enters, blows pages from their stack,

 

I close the window when the rain comes—plothering, not pitter-pat,

there’s thunder and lightning, and gusts that sway the trees about–

then the power goes out—

 

the temperature falls and rises again, the rain clouds part,

and through them, the sun casts a glow

across the sky–look, a double rainbow.

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Rainbow at Pitman Golf Club, Pitman, NJ June 2020

 

For Sarah’s rain prompt on dVerse. Earlier this morning, my husband saw this rainbow at the golf course where he’s working. Later, we got a severe thunderstorm, and our power went out, but it’s been restored. So, I reversed the order for the poem.

 

 

 

 

But At Last We Ask: Covid Poetry

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But at last we ask

in dreams,

as days fast-wane–

 

we ask

what we must recall

of sun on rocks,

 

and sprays of petals pink

against an impossible blue–

we ache–asking

 

does the moon hum

of if

or never?

 

We ask without language

for more words;

we ask to start over.

 

The Oracle knows what is going on around us. I decided to also incorporate the “More Words” “Start Over” message at the bottom of the magnetic poetry screen. The photo was taken last April.

Impermanent and Fine

 

Sunset over the Delaware River, Feb.2020

Sun and clouds reflected on the surface of the Delaware River, Feb. 24, 2020     Merril D. Smith

 

I watch the apricot sun settle

in feathered-grey clouds

reflected in the water

 

the rocks on the shore–

with time,

they’ll crumble

 

washed by the river,

polished by the rain,

burnished in the golden glow

 

I walk with long shadow legs

into the twilight,

as the geese honk farewell.

 

Scientists say

Betelgeuse may soon explode–

but I look up at the moon, waxing,

 

it will be here long after I’m gone,

but now, it lights my way

home to you.

 

This poem is for my dVerse prompt, Impermanence. So, I didn’t come up with anything particularly unique because I was inspired by this photo I took yesterday while walking by the river. Come join us with your thoughts.