Unsettled

Monday Morning Musings:

 

I am unsettled, unmoored

between light and shadow

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but the shadows grow

the winds blow

I ponder as the pressure drops

watch the sky’s darkling mood

watch it brood

upon the future,

and darken more

(blacker than before)

it weeps,

perhaps remembering light

the song of birds

the hum of bees

thundering its sorrow,

growling like an angry drunk,

sunk in sorrow and pain

throwing punches in the rain

lightning flashes

charged particles, clashes

of hot air

in sound and fury

power displayed

but going nowhere

 

Far away,

on another world

a storm of swirling crimson, unfurls

sending out a song

in crashing waves

volatile and unpredictable

dazzling

ancient

larger than our earth

a spot forever turning

churning

over a world of gas

without firm ground

with nothing to stand upon

unsettled

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

 

But here I stand

feet firmly planted

(head in the clouds)

as I look up at the sky

catching a melody in the wind

storms may rage

night may fall

on firm ground,

I wait for the light

The sun rises, my spirits do, too,

I hear the mockingbird sing in a sky of blue.

 

We go out to hear about wine

to learn from a man passionate about the science

and his craft

educated in universities in California and France

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

a master craftsman, a master craft

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In the barrel room with Larry Sharrott of Sharrott Winery.

 

We taste wine from barrels

(settling)

sitting there for ten months or a bit more

not ready yet to go to tanks,

raised above the floor

kept cool by solar power

(to keep the wine from going bad and sour)

I think of the skill and craft of making barrels,

here, some are made from American oak

some from French or Hungarian oak

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

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

my mind goes to the economy of colonial America

built with the help of barrels

though not of wine

barrel makers—coopers—found in every town

large barrels, hogsheads, terms of measurement

but we talk of wine here,

admire its color

swirl it to let in air,

smell it and taste it,

the barrel wine drier, more astringent,

the bottled wine, rounder and fuller,

I’m fascinated–

the knowledge, the skill, the passion

wonder how people first picked grapes

and learned to make wine

centuries ago

refining the process over time

though the science remains the same.

 

We drink Chambourcin

a glass at the winery, overlooking acres of grapes,

and birds in flight,

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then more at our daughter’s house

we missed the Bastille Day celebration this year

but we have French-named wine

French cheese, a baguette

and chocolate cake

(yes, let us eat cake).

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It is a beautiful evening

their dog plays

their cat watches

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the shadows grow

but the summer light lingers

as do we

the storms but a memory in the blue sky

and I’m feeling moored, settled

my family and love,

the port in stormy and fair weather,

I hear the songs of the universe surround me.

 

We visited Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ.

 

 

 

 

 

December Grays

December is gray and dreary. It creeps in trailing vestiges of crisp autumn days and lingering aromas of Thanksgiving turkeys. It is dark here before 5 PM, and the sun does not reappear—when it does–until 7 AM. Thank goodness for central heat and electric lights! I understand the desire in previous centuries to conquer December’s gloom with Yule logs and candles. I understand the impulse to brighten the grays and browns of December with fragrant greens of fir and pine and the bright red of holly berries. I understand the requests for cinnamon and nutmeg scented treats, savory stews, and belly-warming drinks. I understand the wish for miracles to light the darkness of body and soul.

December is also the anniversary of my birth—yesterday. Some people with December birthdays feel that they do not receive a full birthday celebration in the midst of holiday celebrating. I look upon it as having extra days of celebration, and my birthday is simply one part of it. On Saturday, my husband and I went on a wine trolley tour of four South Jersey wineries. (We did this last year, too, and you can read about it here.  This year, my younger daughter and her boyfriend joined us, and we visited some wineries we had not been to before. It was a fun day, and I’m glad my husband and I got to share it with our daughter and her boyfriend. We laughed at the totally obnoxious group of women who drank vodka on the trolley and other drinks at our late lunch/dinner. (They sat at the bar; we sat at a table with a view of the lake.) Thank goodness, though they stumbled, dropped things, and yelled, they did not spill anything on any of us or vomit on the trolley. I can appreciate even small holiday miracles.

Enjoying My Wine at Heritage Vineyards

Enjoying My Wine at Heritage Vineyards

Yesterday, on my actual birthday, I spent the afternoon relaxing. In true crazy cat woman fashion, I sat in my bathrobe, ate the double chocolate cake my daughter had baked for me, and re-watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as cats alternated cuddling and prowling about the living room. Then my husband and I went to see the next Hunger Games movie, followed by the now-traditional birthday meal at our favorite Indian restaurant. It was low-key, but fun.

As I get older, I realize it’s not presents that I desire so much (although they’re nice, of course). It’s the love of husband, family, and good friends that I cherish the most. It’s the desire to continue to be strong in mind and body, and to have warmth and cheer in the dismal grays of December.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. My husband and I will light the candles, and I will think of miracles. One is that I am connected to everyone who reads this post. Time and space have been manipulated in ways our ancestors could never imagine. Peace on earth; goodwill to all.

And don’t forget to eat latkes. They’re a culinary miracle.

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For information about the Wine Tours see Vintage South Jersey.

Sisters

THE Cake

“You had the left side and I had the right
With a line down the middle so we wouldn’t fight
Two sisters sharing a room
With desk in the middle of two twin beds”

Terri Hendrix, “The Sister’s Song”

(Performed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAuLhGHgQoY)

Here is one of my earliest memories: I woke up early in the morning (yes, even as a toddler I was a “morning person”).  I was between two and three years old, and I wanted to wake my little sister. We’re not quite two years apart in age, and she was my first and best friend. At that time, we lived in a big house in Germantown, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. My room was next to my baby sister’s, and my parents’ bedroom was perpendicular to it on the second floor. (My two older siblings had their bedrooms on the third floor.) My mom saw me heading to my sister’s room, and held her fingers to her lips, gesturing to me to be quiet and to get back in my room. I think I went back to my room, but then snuck out a few minutes later to wake my sister so we could play.

After we moved to Dallas when I was three and she was one, my little sister and I shared a room. There was no line down the middle, at least no real line. I’m certain we fought, but we played more. We had some epic evening bed jumping sessions when we were supposed to be sleeping. As children before and after have done, we pretended the space in the middle between our beds was water or quicksand or held some sort of danger, and we had to jump from one bed to the other to escape the danger.  Then when my mom came to investigate the noise, we quieted down, only to burst out in giggles after she walked away. We thought we were fooling our parents, but I’m sure now we were not.

We made up games; we made up words, imaginary characters, and songs.  We ganged up on our parents and older sister. We shared clothes, friends, and confidences. We were sisters and friends.

When my then-boyfriend, now husband, proposed, my little sister was the first person I told. When she officially “came out,” I was one of the first to know.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I told everyone I didn’t care if I had a boy or a girl. And truly, I’m certain I would have loved and adored a son, but secretly, I did hope for a girl. And then, when I was pregnant for a second time, again I secretly hoped for another daughter because I hoped they would be friends the way my younger sister and I had been. They were, and they are.

My little sister’s birthday is in a few days—on Election Day here in the US. So here are early Happy Birthday wishes to you, my amazing and wonderful sister. I love you.  We don’t see each other enough because of our driving phobias, but I think of you often.  Good luck with your election—and if I lived in your district, I would vote for you, maybe more than once. (Joking!)

***

This is the birthday cake known as THE Cake in our family. It is easy to prepare and easy to transport to gatherings. It does not require icing, but a scoop of ice cream is nice. My perfect choice would be coffee. Over the years, I’ve adapted the recipe, so there is more chocolate than in the original recipe. Really, can you ever have too much chocolate?

The Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 cups brewed coffee, cooled

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup cocoa (Plus extra for dusting the pan)

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

Chocolate chips (I use Ghiardelli bittersweet—about 1 cup more or less)

Confectioner’s sugar for top, if desired

Grease and flour 13 x 9 pan. I use cocoa instead of flour.

Place all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a large mixing bowl. With mixer at low speed, beat until well blended. Add chocolate chips—approximately half a bag. They will sink to the bottom. Pour batter into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Leave the cake in the pan. When cooled, you can top it with confectioner’s sugar (add chopped or shaved chocolate to it for a special touch.)