The Color of Truth

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Low tide, blue mood. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning  Afternoon Musings:

The fiddler’s notes float

through the village as he stands,

one foot on the roof, balancing

life and death– all the celebrations between,

colored by love and loss–

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Marc Chagall, “The Fiddler,” 1912

 

blue moon, blood moon, silver moon

sighs and whispers

in a thousand tongues, but

a million ears do not listen–

her voice joins the fiddle notes

 

that hum in the background—

do you hear it?

Crow calls a warning,

heed the past,

beware the future

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Crow caws from the chimney of the Whithall House, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

 

the red sky of morning

hinting of the storm ahead

the indigo and grey-shadowed ripples

lighten to azure as the sun rises—

colored by time, tides, and perception,

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

our expectations of what is real,

changed not always by what is there,

but what we are told–

there is no plague, there is no famine,

the leader loves his people

 

(like a wolf loves a lamb), perhaps

 I make connections

between what is, what was, and

what might be

when there is no connection—

 

the sky is simply red,

like the summer flowers

an intensity of the dying season—

verdant woods, vibrant blooms

against the bluest sky,

 

black birds flock in murmurations

telling the truth

that life goes on

in cycles of pain, gain,

the black and blue that fades, the blood red

 

we drink, fruit of the vine

sun-ripened, bursting with intensity

we listen, laugh, love

the ones we’re with, love others from afar

in all the colors we see

 

beauty, life

buzzing

drifting

soaring high

with feathered hope, even if it falls,

 

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we may see the reflection–

upside-down the world still glows

we swim toward the light

float amid clouds,

watch azure turn violet, indigo, midnight blue,

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Cloud Reflections on the Delaware River at West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

 

 

and then, and still,

an apricot glow appears above the horizon,

a blush of pink spreads across the east,

our pale blue dot rolls on,

the colors of truth, immutable, forever for this world.

 

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Mr. Jones (2019). I don’t think this one made it to theaters near us before the pandemic; we watched it on Amazon Prime (slight fee). It’s probably available on other streaming platforms, as well. My husband and I both enjoyed this one very much. It stars James Norton as Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who tried to tell the world about Stalin in the 1930s, even as others were covering it up. Supposedly, he and his story were the inspiration for George Orwell’s Animal Farm, though that doesn’t really add much to the story.

This week has been packed with wild stories by you-know-who and his followers. Demon sex, aliens, and “thoughts” of rescheduling the election. . . If this took place in a movie, it would be considered too ridiculous.

The Oracle and the world seem full of color right now, but I find connections in odd places. Before watching the movie, I listened to an interview with Welsh actor Matthew Rhys. I don’t have HBO, where he is now starring in a new version of Perry Mason, but I loved The Americans. On that show, he played a Russian spy posing as an American. I was always struck by the extra layer of having a Welsh actor in the role, and he did mention that in the interview. So, for me, there were connections in this interview and movie about Welsh men, truth, lies, deception, Russia, and governments.

Our younger daughter—sommelier in training—did a virtual wine tasting with us on Friday night. Her husband was there for the beginning, but was taking care of pets during the screen shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Backstories

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending circle. Everything is connected.”— The Stranger, Dark (Netflix series)

 

I listen to the silent sounds,

a voice inside my head

remembered phrases—and the laugh—

forever gone

that echoes without reverberation

 

save within.

Yet without,

the birds call and sing the melodies

I cannot sing

with human voice, nor fly

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to treetops, or into clouds.

Where do they go?

What do they think

of the shadow’s encroachment?

Is it an annoyance

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to be interrupted

or more? Are we intruders remembered,

discussed?  I watch the crows gather and caw,

“One for sorrow, two for mirth,”

they follow me, it seems

exhorting

with strident calls—

beware or remember?

What am I to do?

And so, I listen, watch, write

 

of  yesterday—and tomorrow.

We walk through corridors,

where the past sits behind locked doors.

Clothing, furniture, paintings—so many paintings!

Scenes frozen in time

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upon a canvas,

the artist looked, remembering,

translating memories into color and form

each brushstroke, a touch from the past,

the whole, a memorial

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Work in Progress. An artist working on a mural. We got lost, and I took this photo through the windshield while my husband was trying to figure out where to go.

 

to what was—

this life now reduced to her things.

We travel over bridges, rising

over a river of ghosts

traveling–

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Low tide, the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, July 2020. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

 

through time and tides, 

we go about our lives,

carrying on our daily routines

cooking, cleaning, working, loving

when we can

we erase some backstories,

cherish others–

some will never be known.

Like birds, they’ve flown into the clouds,

drifted away, gone

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never to be seen again,

but we may find a trace, a feather

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Feather–could it be a turkey feather?

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This turkey was walking back and forth around the front of this car–pecking at it.

of what was

like pentimento, the traces of a laugh

left in the paintings’ vivid hues.

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One of my mom’s paintings, title and date unknown.

 

My siblings and I have been paying for a storage unit for my mom’s things. Because she died in April—of Covid 19-related complications during the worst of the pandemic in this area, we could not be with her or pack up her belongings. For some reason, movers were allowed in, and all of her things were packed up and put in the storage unit my sister rented. So, masked and keeping physical distance, we’ve emptied the storage space, an emotional experience. We have not yet held a real memorial for her.

 

Merril’s Movie Club: No movies this week. We finished Dark, a three-season German series on Netflix, which my husband and I both really liked, even though we were totally confused. If you keep with it, the very last episode does explain and tie things up. We started watching The Twelve, a new Belgian series on Netflix, which explores the backstories of the jurors and the people involved in a murder case—actually two different murder cases because a woman is accused of killing her best friend many years before and her child more recently. We’re about halfway through it, and we both like it, and it has a wondering who committed the crime(s).

Also, I read The Women of the Copper Country, a historical novel by Mary Doria Russell. Her books are all well-researched, but she is also an excellent writer with a great ear for dialog and character development. I’ve enjoyed all of her books. This one focused on the copper mines in upper Michigan and the strike in 1913, led largely by the women there. I knew nothing about these mines or the strike, and yet it also seems very relevant. I’m able to get books from the library now in a contactless system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Before and the After

Monday Morning Musings:

“For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?”

SINGULARITY by Marie Howe (after Stephen Hawking) 

 

Before the before,

or perhaps, after the after

of each birth, of each death

we are not,

and then we are

 

the dust of centuries,

circling round

what we know,

and what we’ve forgotten

of love and time and belonging

 

to stars and earth and sea—

remember this, I say to myself,

I say to you, remember when?

And we laugh, remembering

what it was like

 

to be with people,

to sit outside on a summer night–

the things we thought we’d always have,

forgetting time circles

back to the before and the after

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she died and he died–

mothers and fathers and children–

and who is to say the momma duck

does not love her offspring as much as we,

or what they remember of before

 

they swam in a river.

Crow voices his concerns, proclaims and prompts

us to action that we ignore,

like the goose looking for the tastiest grass,

we go about our lives, walking past

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the river, watching reflections,

reflecting on a world upside down,

tide and time-rippled,

sparkling, then clouded over

like an aged brain

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Tree reflection on Delaware River

filled with hidden recesses

and paths that lead to unexpected spaces—

the road not taken

to the wolf in the woods, to sleeping beauty,

to a forgotten love

 

before the before–

or, perhaps, after the after,

when the sun does not rise again,

imploding instead, and we are atoms,

dust returning light to the stars, remembering.

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Portrait in Blue Goose on the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, July 2020 ©️Merril D. Smith

 

 

We actually went out to a winery last week–Vino and Vibes at William Heritage Winery. With cases in the U.S. going up (though not so much in New Jersey), we may not do it again, but it the tables were well spread out—much more than six feet apart. Everyone wore masks when they were not at their own reserved tables, so it seemed as safe as anything is these days. My siblings and I are in the process of clearing out the storage unit where all of my mom’s stuff went after she died. Everything has been complicated by the Covid 19 situation and the need to keep socially/physically distant.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched a new Australian horror movie, Relic, which I thought was very scary—perhaps because it deals with dementia, which is terrifying to me anyway. We also watched the French movie, The Midwife, which is about family and relationships and has wonderful performances by Catherine Frot, as the midwife, Catherine Deneuve as a woman from her past, and Olivier Gourmet, as a gardening, truck driver neighbor. I liked both movies more than my husband did. We’re also about two thirds done with the third and final season of the German show, Dark (on Netflix). We are totally lost and confused, but loving it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

On Its Banks

“The hardest part is when the river
is too swift and goes underground for days on end”  

~Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

 

Here,

heedless of morning light

or evening flight

of geese across

the river runs,

through history

of people who

in transitory transit

camped along its banks

when silver shad streamed,

fished for oysters and pearls

of wisdom

flowing from,

with,

to

the sea.

Rolling river

pushes and pulls

life through seasons

and time

changes

everything.

Turn, turn

around

and underground

the hidden bones

turn, turn

to dust–

ghosts walk

beside the water

dreaming of what was,

waiting for what will be.

 

Delaware River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for Day 14 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason–poetry inspired by the poetry of Jim Harrison.

Rocks, Rivers, and Stars: NaPoWriMo

 

 

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Delaware River, National Park, NJ 

I stand at the river and watch the small waves break against the rocks, feel the ancient tidal rhythm. Hear its’ call. You dwelled here once, it says. I pick up a stone from the beach, rolling it about in my hand. Its’ hard surface is worn smooth by the water that has kissed it softly, repeatedly over time. Created thousands of years ago by heat, water, and air, this stone has journeyed along the river, till I, born of heat, too, and composed of water and minerals, worn by time, softened by kisses, pick it up.

 

World born in fire,

stellar dust swirls, drifts, and falls,

carried in our genes

speckles of cosmic magic

in my eyes gazing at you

 

This is Day 14 of NaPoWriMo. I’m off prompt today. I’ve written a haibun for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge instead. The prompt words were hard and soft.

 

 

 

 

The River’s Song

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Go forth, and the whores cackle!

Where women are, are many words;

Let them go hopping with their hackle [finery]!

Where geese sit, are many turds.

The Castle of Perseverance, 15th Century morality play

 

“The river sings and sings on.

 

There is a true yearning to respond to

The singing river and the wise rock.”

–Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning”

Full text  here.

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What is the song of the river?

though I listen,

noisy are the thoughts unbidden

that flow within my brain,

meandering tributaries, bearing gifts

some chaff, some worthy

But hush, listen.

 

What is the song of the river

as it gently laps against the rocks?

A song of history

from its birth in Ice Age glaciers

to its passage to the sea?

A song of fish, of shad,

of Lenni Lenape

then European settlers,

migration of fish, migration of people

cycles repeated through time.

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What is the song of the river?

A song of birds in flight?

of cargo ships and Huck Finn rafts

Commerce and recreation,

the bustling colonial port,

capital of the early nation

still thrives,

though not as before

when cargo came by ship—

tea, rum, wine, tobacco, and people–

and passage to and from New Jersey was by ferry.

Now there are highways, bridges, and planes.

What is the song of the river?

A song of history

of battles fought

of soldiers dead

of memorials, reenactments, remembering

of fossils and relics.

Generations and regeneration,

children squealing with joy at butterflies

of gardens resurrected

of couples talking

of men and women jogging steps

of people seeking Pokemon,

yes, that here, too.

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And what of the geese?

And what of their turds?

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Yes, they’re underfoot,

chased by children and men in carts

And what of my words?

Do they cackle and crackle

like old whores?

Or do they stream like the river,

my song of musings?

I’m reminded of the history of women

who wrote,

long ago,

poetry, history, and letters,

Milcah Martha Moore, Hannah Griffits, Susanna Wright,

and others

who shared their work with other women

and some men, too.

It’s a song that carries to this day,

along both sides of this river, the Delaware.

 

What is the song of the river?

The sound of people celebrating

though we cannot see the water

from the festival site whose name pays tribute to it.

But we sit with friends

and we talk and we sample wine

Our words flow like the river

singing a song of friendship

and joy to be alive on a summer day.

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Further Information:

Red Bank Battlefield

Merril D. Smith, The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia 

New Jersey Wine Events

Maps of Life

Cropped section of original image of three anc...

Cropped section of original image of three ancient maps, public domain Scanned by WMF intern Mike Hoffman, uploaded by Bastique, and cropped by Editor at Large (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”

Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland

Recently the son of some friends did very well in his school’s Geography Bee. It made me think about the whole subject of geography—not really something I’ve thought much about. I’ve only had one formal geography course in my life, and it wasn’t even a full year’s course. This world geography class was part of the 7th grade curriculum at Haverford Junior High School, but I didn’t enter that classroom until March, after we had moved from Dallas to Pennsylvania. As I recall, the teacher was a no-nonsense man with a crew cut and glasses. On one of my first days there he announced that the homework assignment was to read a new chapter in the textbook. I went home and read the chapter—because I always did my homework. But, as we all know there’s reading, and then there’s careful, in-depth reading. I was surprised by the “pop quiz” the next day, but my classmates had already learned to expect one with each new reading assignment. “Oh yeah,” they told me, “He always gives a pop quiz after he gives a reading assignment.”  From then on, I was prepared, but I don’t think any of the facts and figures I learned during that course remains in my brain. I wonder how much of what I learned then even applies to world now?

I seem to remember lectures about the Danube and Elbe Rivers in one of those first lectures. I assume the course of the rivers has not changed significantly—although I don’t really know. But when I was in that 7th grade classroom, East and West Germany were separate countries, and Berlin was still divided by a wall. Much of Eastern Europe was controlled by the Soviet Union, which was still the Soviet Union. The Cold War was in progress, and US troops were fighting in Viet Nam. The names of African nations I learned as a child have changed. The world has changed—as it always has.

Over millennia, the Earth has been transformed many times.  Both physical and cultural geography have undergone changes as civilizations have appeared and disappeared. When Europeans first came to my section of New Jersey, there were vast forests on both sides of the Delaware River. There were islands in the river that no longer exist. English settlers lived in caves built into the banks of the river, and over time built roads and buildings that covered swamps. Since my husband and I have lived in our current house, new houses have been built on our block and trees have vanished.

Learning facts about geography is important and valuable, but it strikes me that it is like taking a snapshot of a particular time and place. The borders and names of countries and cities can change overnight during wars or political upheavals.  Physical changes can take place, too, as a result of natural disasters such earthquakes, tsunamis, or volcanoes, or human acts, such as bombings.

Even with satellites, photographs, and computers, maps identify terrains that are in reality fleeting and mutable. “Those maps of our private world,” as Alexander McCall Smith refers to them, are also fleeting and mutable, at least in the physical sense. The first house you lived in might no longer exist, but in the memory of your childhood, it remains constant and unchanged by time.

When I think of myself as that 7th grade girl, I realize I had to learn and create many new maps. My own personal geography had changed. My family had moved to a new town, a new house, and I was in a new school.  Despite my terrible sense of direction (I’ve been known to get lost getting out of an elevator), I don’t remember having any problems navigating the physical geography. I felt a sense of excitement, along with the apprehension. I didn’t know what path my life would take, but I fashioned some new maps as I walked it.

As we go through life, we create many new maps and learn to live in different settings, both physical and emotional. We graduate, we marry, we find a new job, we become parents—all of these life moments change our own personal geography. Sometimes it’s scary; sometimes it’s exciting. According to legend, ancient mapmakers labeled unknown areas with the inscription, “Here Be Dragons.”  In truth, we all face dragons and uncharted territory as we go through life. Our futures are Terra Incognita to be explored and mapped. But really, would we want it any other way?