After the Storm, the Moon Rises

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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

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Wind, or Ebenezer’s Dream

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North wind blows

gusting. Bustling

 

come the spirits

past and future here

 

carrying scents of cinnamon,

and good cheer, meeting, greeting

 

dreams, desires—

they swirl, cross-sweeping

 

without hurry, but you scurry

because the world seems blurry

 

till you wake–settled–somehow—

allow the now.

 

A bit of fun for dVerse, where De has asked us to write a quadrille using the word spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Stars of Christmas: Haibun

Monday Morning Musings:

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

On Christmas, I see the past, present, and future appear. Perhaps not as actual ghosts, but as memories, experiences, and wishes. As we decorate Christmas cookies, I think of all the times I did this with our daughters. My husband declares this is the first time he has ever frosted the cookies. Perhaps it’s true. My sugar cookies have stars with five points and stars with six points. They’re all equally sweet and delicious. The Hanukkah candles and the Christmas lights both glow in the winter darkness, symbolizing miracles and bringing hope. This year, I give one daughter Hanukkah presents with a Hello Kitty! Christmas card on Christmas Eve day, when we gather with my niece and her family. In the background, Christmas songs written by Jewish men softly play. We sit around a table in a room decorated for Christmas and discuss ancestors in Belarus and Ukraine, people who never celebrated this holiday.

How did they get here, my niece asks? How did they have the means to leave? When she was a girl, my father’s mother hid in a barn during a pogrom. Somehow, they—some of them–found the means to leave, and to come to a country where they were not persecuted for their religious beliefs and culture. Their ghosts appear briefly and stand around us. Perhaps they would not approve of these goyische celebrations, but I hope they’d sense the love. Here and now we eat and laugh together, even as we miss those no longer with us. We will miss our daughters on Christmas, and I will miss being awakened by hearing them sing “Christmas Time is Here” early in morning. But now on Christmas Eve, my husband and I drink mulled wine and watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and I think yes, it is.

 

ancient stars shimmer,

ghost light of winter’s hope

this scintillation

I’m linking this Monday Morning Musings to Frank Tassone’s Christmas Haiku challenge.

Wishing all of you a joyous holiday season filled with peace, hope, love, and laughter!

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Fa La La: A Birthday Carol

Monday Morning Musings:

“Looking back, seeing far, landing right where we are

And oh, you’re aging, oh and I am aging,

Oh, aren’t we aging well?”

–Dar Williams, “You’re Aging Well”

 

“I am the ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me.”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

On my sixtieth birthday, I wake,

and I feel fine,

the same as did when I was fifty-nine.

I’m Merril the same as I have always been

with the calm certainty that I am me,

and this is forever who I will be.

 

Celebrations take place over several days,

(like a Jewish holiday, you know)

each one with food and wine,

and I feel fine.

 

First my husband and I go to Monk’s Café

we’re bundled against the cold night

but still I appreciate the Christmas lights

as we scurry from our car to there

breathing bursts of frosty air

till we’re seated at a window table where we watch people

rushing and bustling, walking dogs of every size

we’re in a bit of a hurry,

as we have tickets to a show,

so we forego their famous mussels, but not the fries,

I have a glass of wine, and I feel fine.

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Pommes frite at Monk’s Cafe

 

The show is called The Carols,

set in a VFW Hall in New Jersey,

it’s 1944, the men are gone because of the war,

heartfelt, if not brilliant,

but their voices beautiful

much more than suitable,

there are Yiddish phrases and 1940’s slang.

We laugh though the jokes are old,

it’s kind of sweet, and we are sold,

the retelling of A Christmas Carol

with a Christmas brisket is very funny,

(and well worth the money),

and the Christmas tale, the Yiddish shtick,

the sister love, the examples of

reminds me of my family, too,

and all the silly things we do,

the ghosts of Christmases, past, present, and future

combine in memory,

aged in my mind, and I feel fine.

 

 

The next night, my husband and I see La La Land

like an old-fashioned musical

the stars sing and dance amidst the stars,

there is jazz and heartbreak,

snappy rhythms, and we hear the beat,

not of Forty-Second Street,

but of Los Angeles,

City of Angels, City of Stars

shining just for them.

We discuss the movie over Indian food,

I am in complete movie musical mood,

So when my husband says, “It was a Merril movie,”

he is right, and I feel fine.

(And the onion bhajia are divine.)

 

Another celebration, another day,

with one daughter and sisters,

more food and wine,

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more talk and laughter,

and it could go on forever after.

One sister brings some funny headwear,

and we take photos in the restaurant,

when I try on a hat

another says,

“You look so cute. Like a pirate. A pirate baker.”

We laugh because it’s all so silly,

but in these uncertain times, we run willy-nilly

and seek shelter in our love and family jokes,

these are the people I love, my folks,

and they give me the gift of their time–

and cheese, and chocolate, and some wine,

and yes, indeed, I do feel fine.

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At Tria Cafe Rittenhouse for my 60th birthday celebration.

 

Afterwards, my daughter and I walk to the Christmas Village,

she’s not seen it, and she snaps a selfie

with us in our silly hats–

and I think we’re wealthy,

my daughter and I to share this love and bond

that goes so far, and much beyond,

and later I read the poem she has written me,

cry a bit, at the beauty

of feelings that she has, and lets me see.

 

 

My other daughter sends me a text

that the end of the Sound of Music seems too real,

and it makes me sad to hear such fear,

and though we must fight, and though we ache,

still, there’s much to celebrate,

to climb every mountain and ford every spring

to find our dreams,

yet I think we are right where we are

and we are aging well,

though only time will tell.

And so, with family and friends,

I’ll hold on to love,

I’ll fit it closely like a glove,

and stare defiantly at fate,

raise a glass of blood-red wine

and tell the world, that I feel fine.

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Birthday card

 

It is rumored that more celebrating is on the way, so stay tuned!

Here is Dar Williams singing  “You’re Aging Well.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spirits and Spirits: Love and Joy Come to You

Monday Morning Musings:

“A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Christmas time

And the spirits of the past arise

Last week

I listened to Radio Times,

“The Pervasiveness of Tchaikovsky’s

The Nutcracker.”

The conductor described

The transformation to the snow scene,

A quiet moment in the action that she loves.

And when the music played

I remembered how much I loved

That section, too,

When the music swells

And the bed moves across the stage.

And it’s possible my eyes were a just a little teary

As I sat there in my car

And found my Christmas spirit.

The year we took our young daughters

To see The Nutcracker

I had won a prize,

The only time I’ve ever won a contest,

But what a spectacular one—

Box seats

At the magnificent Academy of Music

To see the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Production,

George Balanchine’s version,

A Philadelphia tradition,

Plus a tour of the stage afterward—

And, of course, a nutcracker

For our very own.

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We had watched The Nutcracker ballet

On television

With Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.

Our younger daughter was scared of the Mouse King.

But we told her to wait

And he would turn into a prince.

She did.

And he did.

The fear was gone

And she exclaimed,

“Princey Prince, I love you!”

A phrase we later quoted

Back at her.

Innumerable times.

It never bothered her,

And why should it?

She has her own prince now

Though he was never a Mouse King

He has also been transformed

But aren’t we all?

Fortunately.

There was no such outburst

During the Academy performance.

Our young daughters had been sick,

But they rallied enough to see the performance.

Somewhere there’s a photo

Taken on the stage

Of one daughter with the Sugar Plum Fairy.

I searched for it—

It was a Polaroid

Remember those?

In the days before cell phone cameras?

It’s in my memory,

The whole experience

A Christmas Past,

But I wonder if my daughters remember it

At all.

 

Our daughters often got sick at Christmas.

There was the year they had chicken pox,

First the older,

Then the younger.

Oatmeal baths

And calamine lotion.

In the midst of Christmas presents

And treats.

 

Then there was the year

We had to leave my mother’s

Suddenly and before

The festivities began.

The girls dozed on her bed–

With no interest in presents

Or treats.

We knew then they must be sick.

So back home we went to

Put them to bed.

We had planned to eat dinner

At my mom’s that night—

Perhaps the traditional Christmas dinner,

Bagels and lox?

And then travel to my in-laws’ house

The next day.

So we had nothing ready

For a quick meal.

Even the Chinese restaurants

In our neighborhood

Were closed.

I think my husband and I ate

Cold cereal that night.

Or perhaps peanut butter and jam.

But from then on

I always had a backup meal idea.

Lesson learned.

 

All those Christmases

With our daughters growing up.

Breakfasts with Santa

And the light show at Wanamaker’s,

The old department store

Now a Macy’s.

The high school Christmas concerts,

I loved the Madrigal performances best,

The girls in their beautiful Renaissance gowns.

My older daughter with her older friends

My younger daughter’s powerful soprano

Ringing out

“Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail, too.”

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Madrigal Gown serving double duty in a high school musical performance.

 

Now both girls are grown

And building their own traditions

With their spouses

One memory at a time.

As I unwrap my own.

Last year on Christmas Eve

Our son-in-law proposed to

Our younger daughter.

Dreams of future Christmases

In their heads.

I was also engaged

At Christmas time,

Many years ago

And many Christmases past.

That young woman still lives

Somewhere inside me

Dreams and experiences

A kaleidoscope of spirits

Past, present, and future.

Dizzying to try to sort them all

But somehow comforting, too.

Cozy memories

Providing Christmas cheer

As Christmas spirits should.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As for other Christmas spirits–

Mulled wine was our drink of choice this Christmas season.

It is simple enough to make by gently heating red wine with cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, orange slices, and a bit of sugar.

You can add some port to make Smoking Bishop. See Tori Avey’s recipe here

And more history from NPR here.

But we went the easy route this year by buying some already spiced red wine.

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And added to the cookie rotation

These Pecan Pie Truffles with a bit of bourbon. Delicious!

A bit of spirit for the spirit.

So to speak.

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Holidays in the Key of F

Monday Morning Musings:

I’m combining this week’s MMM with Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. Each line of the poem must start with the same letter. I chose “F.” 

Festive holidays glimmering

Filigree of silver shimmering on

Fir trees and pine.

Faux fur beards on red-dressed gents,

Frolicking reindeer and fragrant scents

Flashes of holly and figures fine. Yet,

Flamboyant-haired man is

Far from bliss,

Firing-up hate and raising fears. As

Forlorn refugees still exist

Fleeing

Failed dreams and tears.

Fleeting time does not wait

For us then there is a date,

Free-time from the bitter jeers

Free-time freed thus from arrears.

Food and wine, lovely yes,

Fruit of the vine. More or less.

Followed next by the tale relayed,

Familiar story of a life remade.

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Forsaking greed, Scrooge stands

Forgiven and dismal thoughts are forbidden.

Frail Tiny Tim lives to dine on

Fresh turkey, and without it hidden

Friends and family rejoice, another dawn bid-in.

Festive holidays, glimmering tree–

Fanciful me.

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Former soldiers celebrated Christmas in trenches

Flash now on refugees and wretches—

Foresee

Forgetting hate and grief-filled years

Forgotten depths of war-torn spheres

Focus on Christmases of past, future, and present

From words of ghosts both dire and pleasant

From the star shining, bright and clear

Flickering lights of holiday cheer

Furloughed dreams regained, brought near

For joy and peace

For love and laughter

For war to cease

Forever and after.

Fons vitae caritas.*

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Detail from the birthday card my younger daughter made for me.

*Love is the fountain of life

We visited Auburn Road Vineyard for a special Friday night dinner with a show as part of my multi-day birthday celebration.