Dazzled

Monday Morning Musings:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263)

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —“

–Emily Dickinson

 

 

A brilliant she is born

here, there, in the past, now

she lived, flowered—perhaps

a rose with thorns—

or a pale bud that only blooms unseen,

but the fever, the desire to create

to know

to explore

is not enough,

confined by men,

labeled

(only a woman)

put in a box

(too weak)

on a shelf

(an ornament)

in a cage

(shackled and punished)

Don’t think too hard, they say to her

your insides will be twisted,

you’ll go mad,

but she rises, resists

her voice rings out

and we wake

 

***

We see a new movie about Emily Dickinson

I learn afterward that

before she confined herself to life to Amherst,

to her home, garden, and poetry

she traveled a bit,

to Boston,

and to Philadelphia

walked the streets we’ve walked

I imagine her ghost lingering still

though the streets are paved and surrounded by new buildings,

 

she published only a few poems during her life

though she wrote thousands

she admired the Brontës,

women who had their work published

(though first under pseudonyms )

they loved their homes and families,

neither Emily married

(wives did not have time to write)

 

What was her truth

and what is truth

and does it slant,

or do we slant it?

Are facts facts

or alternate facts,

difficult, didactic, diffused

gradually, dazzlingly, deliciously

revealed?

 

We see a performance of Gypsy

I remember watching the movie on TV

with a bit of a crush on Natalie Wood–

the way girls admire older teenage girls–

we’re entertained

we let them entertain us

and make us smile.

the orchestra sweeps us along with Mama Rose,

the ultimate stage mother,

annoying, unyielding, and yet we feel sorry for her

as she seeks the American dream for her children

during the Great Depression

and watch, listen to the music and words of Laurents, Styne, and Sondheim,

the great American musical

 

 

I think the real Gypsy Rose Lee must have dazzled

but not all at once–

or rather showing only some, not all–

hinting–

so that men would not be blinded,

but rather left with wanting more

as she entertained them and made them smile.

 

After the performance

on this Memorial Day weekend

the sky suddenly clears

slowly,

dazzling gradually

delaying the delectable,

revealing the late spring night of beauty

 

and we sit, eat, drink

 

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and watch the people walk by

listen to their conversations

wonder about their plans

the young woman leaning on the car taking a selfie

the man with his children waiting for their table,

the trio at the table next to us, discussing diets,

a couple strolls by, the woman says,

“But he’s no longer addicted.”
my husband and I agree that’s good,

even if it seems unlikely.

 

I think about Memorial Day

the day to honor and remember the military fallen,

the long weekend celebrated with parades, barbecue grills,

and trips “down the shore”

Isn’t it strange?

though perhaps not,

to celebrate life, instead of death

and isn’t that what they fought for–

so that we could sit and eat with our families in peace

so that all can receive educations, and not just those who can afford private schools

so all will be able to sort fact from fiction

so that all men and women, all genders, all races, and religions

can live in freedom

isn’t that why they fought

so that I can write these words

and you can read them?

my truth,

slanted like the sunglow as evening falls

blinding, dazzling

truth

revealed gradually

coming full circle

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Today is Memorial Day here in the US. I am mindful and thankful for all the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives, even if I have not supported the wars and conflicts in which they fought.

We saw A Quiet Passion and Gypsy. We ate at Cuba Libre.

I dreamt poetry last night, but sadly I will not have much time to write it this week. As some of you know, I am reading, writing, and editing articles on rape, and my manuscript deadline is. . .um, gulp. . .this week. So. . .I may not be so active in Blogland for the next week or so. Then again, I do need to take a break occasionally. 😉

 

 

 

 

Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear.”

–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1

The Past and Future Merge

She soared high

amongst the stars,

weightless,

her mind everywhere,

she heard the universe sing

felt its rhythm in her soul,

it was part of her

and she of it,

had always been,

but unaware,

then,

before,

if there was a before and a then,

now she sang with the stars

and knew, she and they were one.

For a moment, she remembered—

a body unmoving on a bed in a white room,

beeping machines now silent,

a man with grief-streamed eyes–

now she saw,

as if looking in a mirror,

hundreds of her, stretching back and forth in time

they were her, and not her

different paths and different planes

all part of the universe,

she sang the songs of the stars and floated through space, time, dreams

 

Now

we wandered through bleak city streets

more like December than March

(but without the holiday cheer),

wet sidewalks with snow piled at the curb,

tinged grey from city dirt,

 

 

we walked into the theater,

found our seats

looked down on a stage,

bare, except for players with instruments,

sitting there,

we’re transported,

through time, space, dreams,

sixteenth-century English,

but timeless ideas,

love gone wrong and right,

couples bemused and bedazzled,

parted and reunited,

magic and fairies,

Oberon and Puck smoking a hookah,

watched what they’ve set in place,

musicians played

and displayed

impressive voices and skills,

(in double roles),

we laughed in delight

puckish Puck, the comical Bottom,

and the mixed-up lovers.

We got a treat at intermission

(for being subscribers)

then hurried back to see the conclusion,

watched the moon rise and set over the stage,

the fairy spells recast,

the lovers paired and married,

and the play within the play,

we applauded and rose,

happy to have been transported for a few hours–

the magic of theater

 

 

 

We discussed the play over coffee,

IMG_5637

me sniffling a bit with a cold and the cold,

and both of us waiting for spring to return,

I said that in Shakespeare’s time

the play would probably be ruder,

I thought of the playwright’s wit and wisdom,

then and now the words hold true,

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

words transported through time and space,

a play about love and dreams and magic

 

 

The next morning, I slept late

(late for me that is),

still befuddled by the time change and the cold

in the night I had a dream,

a musical, like Mel Brooks mixed with a touch of David Lynch

sprinkled with bits of Carole King and Toni Morison,

literary and ludicrous,

I woke briefly,

then had another dream,

my cold had kept me from a regular Saturday class at the gym,

I dreamt the same instructor had a special Thursday class,

consisting

(so it seemed)

of alternating ab work and running,

instead of mats,

we had our winter coats spread in lines,

our spots on the gym floor,

I was there with some of my gym buddies,

die-hards

(a strange and slightly ominous word),

we ran,

panting and perspiring,

but there were others,

who stood about,

I noticed one man,

he wore a sweater vest,

After I woke, I laughed,

my subconscious mind makes bad puns.

 

and I thought about dreams and dreaming

and what a fool I might be

perhaps lacking reason,

but still able to dream,

and laugh,

thinking of mid-summer

in the winter weather,

turning shapes to fancy,

imagining creatures in the night,

giving them names

thinking of love, magical and irrational

yet somehow real,

throughout time and space

and in and out of dreams

 

I thought of how Chuck Berry died the other day,

but his music is traveling through the galaxy,

“Johnny B. Goode,”

the stars add rock and roll to their repertoire,

and the poet’s words have traveled through time,

read and performed in schools, jungles, prisons,

and perhaps in space,

today my words may travel across the globe

and be read in different spaces, various places,

my thoughts of dreams

traveling through space and time

 

The_Sounds_of_Earth_Record_Cover_-_GPN-2000-001978 (1)

By NASA/JPL (The Sounds of Earth Record Cover) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The first section of this was inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.    I didn’t have a chance to get the story in for the challenge. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Past, the Future, Ghosts, and Drag in the City of Brotherly Love

Monday Morning Musings:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

–L.P. Hartley

“This play is so American. . .[it] shows us that transformation can only happen when we break apart our fears, our suspicions and our judgments. Because the America I know is not the one that is portrayed by only a few, isn’t the one that discriminates against its citizens for their differences. NO. The America I know and cherish and honor is one that all these characters are creating.”

— Emmanuelle Delpech, From her Director’s Notes, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia

 

When was the last time the four of us had spent a day together at a museum?

We all wondered, but couldn’t remember,

somewhere amidst childhood’s ghosts

left behind with dolls and story books,

ghosts of Halloweens past

when little girls dressed in costumes

that they slept in,

a princess and a clown

(not a creepy one at all).

1397861_675371619142771_1334230339_o

And so we went,

a family outing,

our girls married women now,

but still crazy sisters, having fun,

interpreting the works of art

 

 

And since the big new exhibit is on Mexican revolutionary art

and it’s close to Halloween

there are Day of the Dead displays

 

We eat Wawa hoagies*

(My daughter misses them in Boston.)

14572868_855767113784_5920789957837710514_n

 

I score Super Momma points

by making hot fudge sauce,

totally spur of the moment

(in record time)

so we can have it with our coffee ice cream

as we watch Grey’s Anatomy

It’s another ghost from the past.

 

It is Halloween weekend,

my husband and I go to the theater

(which, I guess fits, when you think about it)

In the play,

a man discovers his inner femininity—

becoming a drag queen,

with the help of a real drag queen.

After a slow start,

the play picks up

struts its stuff,

so to speak,

along with the actors,

a feel good show

about finding your passion

and not giving up,

accepting those who are different from you.

A good lesson, don’t you think?

img_4666

After the show, we drink coffee

sitting on a bench outside of Christ Church in Philadelphia.

 

a beautiful October day,

we watch the people in the present

learning about the people of the past,

as they walk in and about the beautiful eighteenth-century church

where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others attended services.

We walk the streets, some still cobbled,

where founding fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers

once walked,

where free and bound lived and worked.

 

None of them was perfect,

neither are we.

But the past is a foreign country.

people then did not know all we know now

(perhaps we have lost some of their knowledge, too)

Progress and human rights come slowly

as babies crawl tentatively before they walk and then run eagerly

to explore the world.

So are there stages

of nations

that rise and fall.

And of discoveries that humans uncover and embrace with hesitation

or delight.

Thirteen colonies came together,

representatives walked the streets we now walk,

worked together to fight for independence,

and later, to form a more perfect union,

evolving over centuries

with greatness from the start,

along with evils,

slavery, racism, sexism, xenophobia.

We should not move backwards

to the foreign country of the past,

not regress, but rather progress,

build upon the great to make greater.

 

We travel to another part of Philadelphia,

Fairmount Park,

one of the largest urban parks in the world.

We are there for a Lupus Run/Walk

my younger daughter and her husband run,

my husband and I walk,

some people drag their heels,

some are in drag,

well, costumes.

There is a team of Star Wars characters,

others in purple tutus,

a sea of purple t-shirts.

img_4652

We begin at Memorial Hall

(now the Please Touch Children’s Museum)

with its figure of Columbia at the top,

it was an art museum,

constructed for the Centennial Exhibition in 1876,

a huge exhibition with many buildings

and many visitors.

A Women’s Pavilion gave women a chance to display and demonstrate

the new opportunities available to them in professions and business

there were displays of dress reforms, too.

But women were segregated in their own pavilion,

and still denied the vote.

And so we run/walk through

beautiful Fairmount Park

passing statues of Civil War generals

and the Japanese Tea house

I imagine women in suffragist white,

ghosts flitting among the statues

I think they would echo

“When they go low, we go high,”

standing calm amidst storms of hate.

Women have always had to fend off and fight

the gropers and grabbers,

and some of them loved other women

though not out in the open.

I amuse myself by imaging Susan B. Anthony

reading grievances while drag queens in the audience cheer.

(This did not happen.)

 

But the past is a foreign country

we can’t impose our views on it.

Our own pasts, well, perhaps they change

with, in, our memories

which are imperfect.

merging and shifting,

taking on new tones and meanings.

On this Halloween

my memories of Halloween past

merge with the present.

I think about the future,

We are at the crossroads,

there are ghosts all around.

We must push back the hate and fear.

We dream.

A wise man once had a dream

of freedom for all

freedom for those of every color, of any religion.

He was killed by hate.

But still we dream.

I think about the future

with dread

with longing

with hope

with dreams.

 

*Hoagie is the Philadelphia name for a sandwich served on a long, tapered roll. Wawa is a convenience store chain that is much beloved in parts of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

We saw The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez at the Arden Theatre.

Christ Church, Philadelphia

The Please Touch Museum/Memorial Hall

On suffragists on Independence Day 1876, see this.

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream speech.

 

Magic All Around Us

Monday Morning Musings:

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made of out magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden—in all the places.”

–Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 

“A church is place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see. A place where the invisible is—at least for a moment—made visible.

The theater can be that too.”

The Christians: An Essay by Lucas Hnath,” Playwrights Horizon Bulletin

 

It is the season of life,

spring, when flowers bloom

and birds sing and chatter from dawn till dusk,

and then some,

squirrels chase each other up and down

the tree’s umbrageous limbs,

rabbits hop, stop, and sprint across the grass

dotted with yellow flowers,

probably weeds,

but eye of the beholder and all that,

now, today

it’s rainy and gloomy, and

we commemorate the fallen.

Lights out,

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Nothing dies that hasn’t first lived

and there are ghosts all around us.

 

At the start of this holiday weekend,

we go to see The Secret Garden,

pathos and harmonies,

glorious score, creative set,

stunningly beautiful voices.

(“Yummy,” said the woman next to me.)

There was a secret garden

once loved, but left to languish,

rediscovered, it is brought back to life

a bit of earth blooms

sorrow, not forgotten,

but eased,

a garden and a family recreated.

In the magic of theater, I’m bewitched, entranced,

enthralled.

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden.

 

The next day, we see another play

about faith and changing beliefs,

about questioning and communication,

the pastor has a powerful urge to communicate

I wonder if his message resonates more powerfully

with believers?

Still, the play sparks conversation

as we sit outside at a wine café on a beautiful afternoon,

although I have to lead with

(vent about)

the person sitting next to me,

man-spreading into my personal space

(fortunately, I’m small)

fidgeting and reaching for his water

on the floor between his spread legs,

non-stop for the first ten minutes of the play,

before he abruptly gets up and leaves.

Perhaps there is a god.

But still

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden

 

Before the first play,

(the yummy-voiced musical)

we walk in the garden of

Christ Church

People had crises of faith then, too–

and wars–

life blooms all around

in the garden

on this beautiful summer-like day,

as do reminders of death

life and death

an endless cycle.

But still

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden.

 

That night

(after the yummy-voiced musical)

we sit outside,

enjoying, the beautiful evening

family, old and young

different generations

shared loved

love that blooms

and blooms again

like the flowers in a garden,

the magic of life, the sorrow of death

circle of life recreated and recast every second

as cells are sloughed off and created,

people and animals born and die.

Every spring, the earth awakens

Magic!

in a garden

on earth

And I dream–

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden.

 

We saw The Secret Garden at the Arden Theatre

Christ Church, Philadelphia 

We saw The Christians at the Wilma Theater 

Some history of “Taps”  

 

 

 

 

 

Colors

Monday Morning Musings:

“The pianokeys are black and white
but they sound like a million colors in your mind”

–Maria Cristina Mena, The Collected Stories of Maria Cristina Mena
“Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it’s privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it’s humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”

–Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

 

 The dogwood blossomed white across the city street,

green pots filled with brighter green plants adorned

the tables of an outside café

the earth is throwing off its winter grey,

awakening in shades of

pink, white, yellow, and green.

In the theater row in front of me,

sat a woman with chestnut brown curls

highlighted with a few strands of silver

flowing past her shoulders,

to her right was a woman with tight, black corkscrew curls

patches of nut brown skin visible between them,

to her left, a woman with straight, wheat blond hair

conversed with her auburn-hair friend

on stage were actors with various shades of brown skin

The play?

August Wilson’s Two Trains Running,

recreating life in a luncheonette, Pittsburgh 1969–

but it is an eerie echo of today

“Blacks Lives Matter,”

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,”

black men in prison

guns

and women objectified—

well, some things never change, do they?

The set looks like a real luncheonette,

a pot of coffee, a glass diner carafe,

constantly on behind the counter,

a broken, homeless man

who can utter only one phrase,

the characters dream of a better life,

don’t we all?

 

The next day,

in another theater

in the same city,

the day cloudy and grey,

An Octoroon

by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins,

a black playwright

or a playwright?

It’s a head-spinning tour-de-force,

a play within a play

the nineteenth-century play,

The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault

blackface

whiteface

redface

black actors,

white actors–

just actors–

male and female,

and musicians,

there were chickens, too,

real chickens in a pen,

and Br’er Rabbit

(who, if it matters, had a white head and ears).

Colors and race,

we race to catch a bus,

we win a race,

we are members of the human race,

race, a silly word to describe–

What? What does it describe?

An octoroon was one eighth black,

(whatever that means)

unable to marry a white person

(whatever that means)

in Louisiana in 1859.

We get caught up in the 19th century

melodrama–

Will Zoe be sold?

Will George marry Dora?

An actor literally fights himself.

Two playwrights, different centuries

discuss the power of theater,

Boucicault was known for his

“sensation scenes,”

we are meant to feel

to be overwhelmed,

and we are.

But race?

If we go back far enough

we are all descended from the same pair,

some relative of Lucy’s in East Africa,

and some of us have Neanderthal genes, too.

Farther back still,

we are all made from star dust.

So what does that make us?

I am not naïve–OK. Perhaps I am, but

if your laws or religion tell you

to limit the rights of others

who have skin of a different color,

whose eyes are brown, when yours are blue,

whose genitalia differs from your own

who loves a person who has similar genitalia

who worships with his or head covered–

or does not believe in any god at all—

well, then, your laws and your religion

are simply wrong.

No debate.

Colors should describe flowers, the sea

the eyes of your beloved

not exclude and divide human beings.

The playwright says the point of theater is to

overload our senses

to make us feel–

and think–

And so we did

And so we do.

 

We saw Two Trains Running at the Arden Theatre.

We saw An Octoroon at the Wilma Theater. 

 

Still Life

Monday Morning Musings:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

–Leonard Bernstein

(For information on this quote. Go here. )

I had meant to write a different post,

One discussing food and family

Something new,

I know,

But then there was Paris

And Beirut,

And death everywhere.

It’s all I could think about.

But life goes on.

And there was art.

A still life by my mom.

A still life by my mom.

My husband and I went to the museum

To see an exhibition on American still life,

And when I said “still life”

To myself

There was the epiphany.

(From the Greek,

Meaning reveal.)

Art does reveal,

Of course.

But it was the words–

Still AND life

That’s what hit me.

Despite the attempts

By terrorists

To massacre

Not only people,

But to destroy

Art, music, culture,

The history, beauty, and wisdom

Of the ages

They have not won.

There is

Still

Life.

Still life the art form

Displays what people value

Or want to present to the world

It can be a reflection of the ordinary

Or the sublime.

Often both.

Raphaelle Peale’s blackberries

Looked so luscious

I wanted to pluck them from the canvas.

A little girl ran to a Calder mobile,

A water lily,

In delight.

The guard and I smiled at each other.

“It is wonderful to see so many children here,”

I said.

And she agreed.

The next generation

Seeing beauty and creativity,

And all sorts of people were there.

A French-speaking family stood

Behind me.

A woman with gray hair

And a ready smile

In a wheelchair

Moved around the exhibition room

As though her chair was a chariot.

A tall man in a blue sweater stooped

To read a label

Supported by his cane.

From American still life,

Audubon’s birds

“Are they dead?”

The girl asked her mother

To Warhol’s Brillo Pads

We traveled to another gallery.

Rubens’ “Prometheus Bound,”

Bound again

And again

For bringing the fire of creativity to humankind.

He suffered perpetual torture

Until freed by Hercules.

His position mirroring

Michelangelo’s risen Christ.

Wrath of the gods

And resurrection.

The triumph of human spirit

And imagination

Rendered over and over.

Humans suffer for art

And for that creative spark.

And art suffers from human destructiveness.

We saw paintings

Retrieved by

The Monuments Men.

Paintings stolen

In another war.

Evil and good,

History and art,

Gods and men.

In another room

A Buddhist monk in saffron robe and black sandals

Admired Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,”

Another still life

By a tortured soul.

But still,

Life.

We had seen a play the day before.

Equivocation.

That was the title,

Not what we did,

At least not then,

Because after all,

Haven’t we all

Equivocated?

The play was about Shakespeare,

And history,

And truth

And lies

And theater.

In other words,

Life.

The creation of truth

Or legends.

And don’t forget the witches.

Richard III and his hump,

A creation of the playwright,

And Agincourt,

The legend immortalized,

But after all,

The St. Crispin’s Day speech

Is grand and glorious,

We happy few

Going into battle.

Still life

A tableau

A freeze frame

Of a particular moment

In time

On stage,

But in our minds, too,

As we recall

“Where were you when it happened?”

Everyone remembers.

I was in second grade when JFK

Was assassinated.

I was on my way to the gym

When the first plane struck the twin towers.

Moments observed

And never forgotten.

We went to the movies,

My husband and I,

Spotlight

The name of the movie,

A noun and a verb.

A moment revealed

And highlighted.

The power of the press

Uncovering a cover-up

Exposing what had been buried

With the help of many

In the church and government.

What is the opposite

Of wrath of the gods?

The triumph of the human spirit?

Truth

Not equivocation.

Buildings

And photos

Colored in red, blue, and white

In solidarity

Revealing

The human impulse

To do something

In the face of evil

And who says it does no good?

As we are reminded

Time and time again

One person can bring about

Change.

Gandhi said,

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

And

So

In the horror

Of Paris,

Beirut,

The abuse of children,

The censorship of ideas,

The destruction of art,

We mourn,

And

We go about life

Without equivocation

Without hesitation

Revealing truth

Life

Still

But

Not stilled.

Life

Creating

Loving

Being.

More intensely,

More beautifully,

More devotedly

Than ever

Before.

My mom with one of her still life paintings at an exhibit.

My mom with one of her still life paintings at an exhibit.

Further Information:

Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life

The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian

Equivocation at the Arden Theatre. You can read more about the play here.

Spotlight the film

Reflections in Time and Space

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is just inevitable. The soul wanders in the dark, until it finds love. And so, wherever our love goes, there we find our soul.”

–Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses

And so, once again we’re in the ancient world.

This time, it’s Metamorphoses.

Another theater in Philadelphia,

A rippling pool

Aphrodite

Zeus

Orpheus

And Eurydice

The power of myths,

Stories,

Transformation,

And love.

The power of words

And art

Legends told and retold

For thousands of years

Gods

Who appear powerless

Are not

As long as they’re known.

They still influence us

Through the retelling

Of their tales.

For ninety minutes or so

We’re lost

In the magic of theater.

Carried along on a journey

By the actors

Whose words and movements

In and around that pool

Remind us of the strength of

Long ago myths

And their connection

To us now.

A special treat for subscribers.

A special treat for subscribers.

The next day,

Across the river

And closer to home

We’re watching theater

Of another sort,

Revolutionary War Era soldiers.

It’s a reenactment,

Of course.

The day is brisk,

The leaves starting to turn

Red and gold.

A cannon booms,

A squirrel scurries up a tree

The child in front of me says

“The sound makes my chest hurt.”

But old bones

Shards of vessels

Long shattered

And old cannonballs

Lay in the ground beneath

Our feet

To remind us of lives

Gone.

The bits and pieces tell a tale.

The past buried

And unearthed.

Perhaps ghosts

Still wander here.

****

An hour later

We’re on to a wine festival.

My husband, daughter, and I.

Nectar of the gods.

We taste

And enjoy.

In truth,

We’re a bit buzzed

By the end.

But in vino veritas.

And though the stories

Of women,

The poor,

The servants,

And slaves

Are often forgotten

And left untold

I’m sworn to tell them.

But perhaps not just yet

After all

The wine.

Celebrating with Dionysus,

Clio will have to wait.

****

Across space and time

My mind wanders

Seeking a connecting thread.

From ancient Greeks

To the Quaker woman,

Centuries later who

Nursed the soldiers

Wounded in battle

At her farm.

She was a pacifist.

I imagine her criticizing voice

Grumbling at the soldiers

On both sides of the conflict.

“Is this the way to serve God?

The farmland destroyed

And young men killed,

Maimed,

And scarred.

And yet she tries to heal

Their bodies

Though their souls may

Be lost.

The cruel irony

Of war.

I stand in her garden.

Her house still there

Overlooking the river.

Her secrets long buried

Like the detritus of war

And household scraps.

All who truly

Knew her

Gone, too.

My words now

Scattered into the world

By way of devices

She could not imagine.

Perhaps in hundreds of years

Someone will read them

With some newer device.

Perhaps that person will wonder

About me,

A woman long dead,

Who thought about myths

And the power of love

Who enjoyed wine

And wrote about

Ordinary people

Who though no longer alive

Lived on

In her mind

Like reflections in a mirror

That stretch on

In a never ending line

Through time

And space.

Rippling figures

Words

And myths

Connecting past

And future.

Transformed.

Smoke and illusions-- British soldiers at Red Bank Battlefield

Smoke and illusions–
British soldiers
at Red Bank Battlefield

Here are the places we visited this weekend.

And not to worry, son-in-law was our designated driver to and from the wine festival.

Arden Theatre

Red Bank Battlefield

Autumn Wine Festival at Riverwinds

A Stab at Pie, or Life’s Constants

Monday Morning Musings

Saturday was Pi Day, Sunday was the Ides of March, and tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. What do these things have in common? Through food and art, my husband and I paid homage—of a sort–to all of them this weekend.

Confession: math was almost my least favorite subject in school. I can’t remember numbers, and I tend to skip over the graphs, charts, and number parts of any article I read. But I do know that Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. (Gosh, I hope that’s right.) It’s a constant—that is, it’s fixed and doesn’t change, the opposite of variable. (In case anyone is interested, my favorite episode of the TV series Lost was the episode called “The Constant,” in which we learn that Penny is Desmond’s constant throughout time—and a constant is apparently necessary when time traveling.) Pi is also an infinite number 3.1415. . . .

Here in the US, March 14 is sometimes written as 3/14 (month, day). With the year added, it becomes 3/14/15, so this year Pi Day was extra special.

Pi Day was not a thing when I was growing up. I don’t remember anyone mentioning it or celebrating it, so I decided to look into when Pi Day started.

It turns out that although pi has been know for thousands of years, Pi Day was not invented until 1988 when physicist Larry Shaw of San Francisco’s Exploratorium created it. I found several great articles about Pi Day. This one by astronomer Phil Plait for Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog is a wonderful post of Pi facts, including some myth-busting information. OK, it’s possible I skipped some of the real math in it, but it was still interesting.

Danica McKellar’s Youtube video on pi and Pi Day is also great fun.

So I was going to bake pies on Friday for Pi Eve for my husband, the high school math teacher—because math and pie. If we can have Pi Day, then why not Pi Day Eve? However, it turned out my husband had a school event that night, so I didn’t bake a pie then. We also had plans on Saturday. One of these plans was to see a performance of Macbeth at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia. (If you’re in the area, it was an exciting and well-staged production, a display of sight and sound. Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth was particularly good.) Modern western theater had its inception in the dramatic works of the ancient Greeks, who as I mentioned above, also most likely first calculated pi. And pies were eaten in the time William Shakespeare. So pi is linked to Shakespeare through pie. Or pi is linked to theater. Either way. Are you following me? Anyway, the pies of Shakespeare’s time were often meat pies. Sometimes the pie crusts, called coffins, were merely shells to hold the meat fillings.* William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, set in eleventh-century Scotland, and he also wrote the play, Julius Caesar, which includes the soothsayer’s line “Beware the ides of March.” Both plays involve tyrants, nation building, and stabbings. Lots of stabbing, lots of blood, and death. Well, they’re tragedies, after all. (See ancient Greek drama.) Pies appear in Hamlet and gruesomely in Titus Andronicus, and Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost at a banquet, which may or may not have featured pies.

On Sunday, the Ides of March, we went out again. This time, to see the movie, ’71, about an English soldier who gets left behind during a skirmish in Belfast in 1971. It was an intense movie, heart-pounding intense, but very good. As my husband and I agreed, the action took place in Belfast at a particular time and place, and that situation was unique. Nonetheless, many of the themes were universal and could apply to wartime settings during any period in history. As it is set in Northern Ireland, I told my husband it was our St. Patrick movie, albeit a grim one. There was a stabbing in the movie, too.

In ancient Greece, ancient Rome, eleventh-century Scotland, and 1970s Belfast, people celebrated and ate, as do we. It is a constant. As living beings, we must eat to live. Sometimes we eat pie. As humans we are also compelled to create works of art to express our emotions in music, dance, poetry, drama, and visual art. We also have the physical brains and the imagination to make abstract leaps, to think about math and science.

I baked my Pi Day pie (Apple-Cranberry Crumb Pie) on Sunday the 15th of March, the Ides of March. At dinner we had zucchini, which I had “spiralized”. The ancient Romans would not have zucchini or tomatoes, but they did have olive oil and garlic. (Top it with slivered Parmesan.) And zucchini is green, so there you go. Pi Day, Ides of March, and St. Patrick’s Day—connected through history, food, and art.

Spiralized Zucchini sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes

Spiralized Zucchini sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes

Perhaps my reasoning is circular, but it ends in pie. Sometimes we all need a bit of sweetness in our lives. That’s a constant. Enjoy!

Apple-Cranberry Crumb Pie

Apple-Cranberry Crumb Pie

Apple-Cranberry Crumb Pie

Crust:

I used Mark Bittman’s “Sweet Piecrust” (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). Here’s a simplified version:

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (about 5 oz.)

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

8 Tbsp. butter, cut into about 8 pieces

3 Tbsp ice water, plus more if necessary (I always need a bit more).

Combine dry ingredients in food processor, pulse once or twice to mix. Add butter and process just until the butter is mixed into the dry ingredients. It should look like cornmeal. Bittman says about 10 seconds. I usually pulse it off and on. I keep the mixture in the food processor and add the water. Process only until the mixture begins to come together. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. It can be made several days in advance or frozen.

Roll and press into pie pan. I just now noticed he says to refrigerate the piecrust for about an hour before filling. Ooops. Well, I’ve never done that, and it seems to be fine.

Filling:

Apples: I used 4 large apples and 1 smaller one, peeled and sliced thinly. My food processor blade worked well for this.

¾ cup, more less to taste, dried cranberries

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. ginger

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Butter to dot top (I’m not sure if this is necessary or not. The recipe I looked at used 4 Tbsp. I used about 11/2. I think you can eliminate it, if you want to reduce the fat a bit.)

Crumb Topping:

¾ cup flour

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

5 Tbsp. butter

½ cup ground nuts (I planned to use walnuts, but I already had almonds ground. Yup, that’s how I do things.)

Combine filling ingredients together in a large bowl. My apples were very bland, adjust spices and sugar to your own tastes and needs. You should have enough to mound into a pie plate.

Combine crumb topping ingredients. I used my fingers to blend the butter in. Cover top of pie with the topping.

Bake at 350° for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top gets too brown, cover it loosely with foil. The pie should be bubbling when it’s ready.

*For a history of pie, see Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History(London: Reakton Books, 2009).

I also discuss pie in my History of American Cooking (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2013).