November Clouds

Nearly every day I find something in the natural world that astounds me with its beauty– a single wildflower, a shy, graceful deer, or a stunning cloudscape over the Delaware River. When I walk, usually early in the morning, I’m often filled with wonder—a sensation of body and mind. This morning, I almost didn’t walk because of the rain and thunder, but it stopped, and I went out to see the most incredible sky.

golden leaves glow
against charcoal clouds they dance,
fall in nature’s rhythm

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. November Sky. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

This is for Kim’s prompt at dVerse, to write a haibun “about a time when you last watched stars, a storm, the sea, an animal, or something else in nature that left you with a sense of wonder or awe.”

Waves

Monday Morning Musings:

In the morning’s glow the water glimmers,
shimmers pink on blue,
as light slivers through silvered clouds
and geese and gulls skim the surface

Sunrise over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

I walk. Beauty, akin, but not identical,
the days similar, but different in ways
perhaps not profound, but meaningful
(to me) when I see a deer, or rippled sky

and wonder why—
the age-old questions, life, death,
and who am I? We drink some wine,
and watch the clouds–

we laugh aloud—enjoy the moment,
the storms come, and then they pass
and the waves surge, but they don’t last,
the sky is charcoal, then it’s blue.

The wind blows, the leaves fall
in golden puddles mound the ground,
the moon will hum, the sun will shine,
and winter fade in springtime’s bloom.

And you? You’ll be here, and so will I,
watching the tide flow in and outwards fly,
the shore uncovered again. And again.
Perhaps not a circle, but a chain

Geese and Cloud Reflections. Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

linking everything. The waves of light, water,
motion—sky, river, ocean—
dust from the stars, amoebas and trees,
generations of humans, you and me.

The Whitall House and Reflections on the Delaware River. Sunrise. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched the movie, Waves. We had seen previews in the theater, pre-pandemic. The cinematic style—lots of pulsing color and light—probably plays better on a big screen. It took me a little while to get into it, but it’s a movie in two parts. The second part explores the aftermath of a tragedy that occurs in the first part. We both liked it, but it’s one of those movies that I liked more after I thought about it for a while.
We’re also watching Roadkill. In the US, it’s on Masterpiece (PBS). It’s always fun watching Hugh Laurie as a bad guy, and it was fun to see the female Danish prime minister from Borgen in it, too. We’ve watched 3 of the 4 episodes.

Walking by the River, the Morning After

Joe Biden was declared the winner–

across the river, they danced in the streets
and horns honked. Here, it was quiet,
geese sailed serenely; their own squabbles settled
with brief in-your-face trumpeting and posturing—perhaps
not so different, as they fall into formation–and yet,
I watch them take turns leading, caring for each other,
soaring in a victory V, circling. Then
as dawn laughs, and the water blushes,
the horizon, foreshortened, expands,
Philadelphia emerges from the fog, the sky
much bluer than it was.

I missed Peter’s dVerse prompt on Tuesday to write poetry bearing witness to our local neighborhood, so I’m linking to the dVerse Open Link Night, where Linda is hosting.

The Light I see

Monday Morning Musings:

I dream poems
of misty November mornings
and blue rivers tinged with shimmery pink,

Dreamy. Foggy November morning. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

of wine-dark skies, I drink
from half-full glasses filled with hope
and watch opalescent glow breaking bright–

last night, I dreamt of glass-ceilings shattered–
not store-front windows–
of people raised, not battered

in coordinated terror, fleeing sharp shards
of cutting hate, and the coming conflagration to annihilate–
but I dream not of bonfire flash and ashes,

of books and people burned, but autumn peace,
watching the sun sink behind russet leaves,
knowing the flaming eaves are an illusion,

William Heritage Winery

without any confusion, simply beauty,
the way it should be.
And so, my poetry dreams

lucid, drifting through timeless place,
with pellucid water rippling through space and time-
expanding circles

Ripples, a stone tossed into the river on a misty morning. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

that never end, from sand to horizon,
rising whispers to stars and sea, see me–
the light burns through fog to capture shadows and gild the trees.

My shadow caught in a tree.

So, I guess this is really meta, since I really did dream poems last night of misty November mornings and blue rivers.
Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of crystal), November 9-10, 1938, also called the Night of Broken Glass when Nazis and supporters carried out pogroms on the Jewish population and businesses in Germany and annexed areas. You can read more here.

Probably everyone reading this knows that Joe Biden is now the official president-elect of the US, and Kamala Harris is the first woman, first Black woman, and first Asian woman in the US to become vice-president elect of the US. We listened to them speak on Saturday night, and I was particularly moved by Harris’s speech.

Merril’s Movie Club: Prior to the listening to the speeches, we watched the movie, Sometimes Always Never, a sweet, quirky little movie starring Bill Nighy as a father searching for his lost son who vanished during a Scrabble game years before. There is a lot about Scrabble and words in the film. We both enjoyed it, but definitely not for the action, blockbuster crowd. It’s on Amazon.

We have had unseasonably warm days, and we managed to get reservations for outdoor wineries twice this week, William Heritage Winery, and the Auburn Road Winery Wine Garden at Hill Creek Farms. I’m afraid we may go into lockdowns soon, and even if we don’t, I won’t be sitting indoors, so I thought we’d enjoy it while we can.

Watching, Waiting

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, November. ©️ Merril D. Smith, 2020

Ask am I crushed?
Ugly tongues and the elaborate-haired fiddler screech,
while the dead cry in a thousand aching hearts

~but dream shadows sing in blue, waking~

I watching the light whispering if
to pink-shimmered water,
recalling how time flows, after moon to sun

The Oracle always knows. Just as I was about to post this, news came that Joe Biden will be our next president! YES!

Serenity

In shadowed mood, I river-walk
see heron in the gloaming-light,
and deer that shyly peer, then sprint
in white-flashed flight to rock-strewn beach.

Is this happiness, or calm release
of anger stored, of finding peace
in the susurrous wind sighs–
a promise, hope’s rise.

Lillian has asked us to use the word happy–or some form of it–in a quadrille for dVerse. It usually makes me feel better when I take a walk, and especially if I see “my” heron or some deer.

Blue Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

A luscious dream shines blue
sun-diamonds of if

Blue is the sea, river, and sky
that flows beyond what we can see
but never ending, flowing, going
round again,

Finally a sunny day! Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

the light bends, refracting and reflecting
shapes, colors, moods—blue hues—
clear and bright, or misty-infused
with pink and grey, a foggy day

Light across the Delaware River on a foggy morning at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

or mind, we say. Sometimes reality blurs,
dims with age, or fever-dreamed perceptions
and neurons misdirecting proprioception,
the mind filled with misconception,

flies. And yet, when we dream,
fantasy and reality blur, the dead come alive,
the alive are dead–
I see blue, but dream red

A photo from last year, Day of the Dead display in Philadelphia. ©️Merril D. Smith 2019

when my grandfather visits me
from some other realm, sitting at a table
well, he was a man who loved to eat—
but now, we’re waiting for a play

My grandfather, my father’s father

but I say, I can’t stay
and race off in a panic, and up, across the stage
almost colliding with a male actor, to whom I apologize,
waking soon after, without words, wise, or otherwise

from my grandfather. I wonder still after weeks,
why was he in my dream? His family had to flee, asylum seekers
from a repressive regime. He knew about hate, but also love,
eloping when he was young, seeing ninety plus winters and sun,

announcing his presence with the scent of a cigar—
I haven’t thought of him in a long time, why did he come
to me that night? Against the vivid red of anxiety curtains,
he was calm, unperturbed, in a grey suit,

slipping a message into my dream chute
that this is just a moment, not final–
the vivid reds and gold, turn brown,
but the moon hums a song of cycling hues

with beauty all around. Blue moon tonight,
then her circle grows smaller—
but still there, just beyond our view
directing tides through monthly cycles.

Black waters of night
turn grey, then blue in morning light
and though we know they’re there,
the ghosts shimmer in the air—just out of view.

Heron in flight. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

Over the past few days, every time I visit the Oracle, she gives me dreams and blue. The message above was from today. So, I went with it. We’ve had days and days of clouds and rain. The sun finally came out on Saturday, but then we had pouring rain yesterday. It’s sunny today, but it’s cold with gusty winds.
We managed to find a time to get together with daughter and son-in-law—sitting well apart outside on their deck. We ate Thai food–and got some puppy time (and then it rained again).

Merril’s Movie Club: On Halloween night, we ate pizza with my homemade pumpkin pie for dessert and watched His House (Netflix), a thoughtful horror movie about South Sudanese refugees in London, who are (literally) haunted by ghosts of their past as they try to adjust to living in a new place and culture. There were several scenes that made me jump, but it’s the kind of horror movie that I like because it makes you think–and of course, it’s timely.

It’s DeepTimeDay!

For those who don’t follow me on other social media sites, here’s my attempt at filming and reading my poem, “Surfacing” from Deep Time Vol. 2.

This is a poetry project by Black Bough Poetry inspired by Robert MacFarlane’s book, Underland. I have one poem in vol. 1 and two poems in vol.2.

Today poets involved with this will be sharing their poems on social media with the hashtag #DeepTimeDay.

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.