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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hate, Love, Hate, Love

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Blue Mood with Pegasus clouds racing across the sky. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ ©️ Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete.” –Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

“There’s a saying in Hebrew, ‘No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.”—Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace

 

Glowing ships on the aquamarine sea,

Moon and Venus shine their beacons–

 

Farewell night!

The moon smiles a crooked grin,

 

and Venus titters

such fools, these mortals be.

 

***

 

I hate everyone, she says to me.

Well, not you—not my family—

 

and I know what she means, because I feel it, too,

the constant barrage of evil and ignorance,

 

people who refuse to wear masks,

who spread misinformation,

 

and insist they’re not racist while sharing racist posts—

the people, who like black holes, swallow the light,

 

but not all of it.

 

Sigh. Breathe. Walk. Begin again—

 

as each day does–

the sun rises, even if we don’t see it

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shining over the horizon

waking the world

 

again and again,

though some never awaken

 

to see the world around them,

its beauty

 

flowing on a river of hope

reflected over and over

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

a dream

of what was and what could be.

 

Some of the things I’ve seen on my morning walks this week:

These mushrooms that look like umbrellas set up for fairies.

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Deer and red-tailed hawks this morning.

 

On Friday nights, we get together virtually with our children and their spouses. We light the Sabbath candles and share the things that we’re grateful for.

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Saturday night homemade pizza and movie night

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Lots of baking

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Hate U Give. (Amazon Prime with an additional slight fee, but I believe it’s on other streaming platforms.) We both thought it was a very good movie, and I highly recommend it. It’s based on a YA novel of the same name. It gets very intense, but in a thoughtful, nuanced way. Here’s a review in The New Yorker. We finished Season 3 of Bordertown, which I mentioned last week. I’m happy that apparently Season 4 is in the works.

I’m rereading Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace, a historical novel set in WWII Italy. She’s an author who does her research, but also tells a good story with captivating characters. Another story that seems timely when read now.

And this–unconditional love.

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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.