The Between Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“A Light exists in spring

Not present on the year

At any other period

When March is scarcely here.”

—Emily Dickinson, “A Light exists in spring,”Full Text Here

 

In the between-time, dinosaurs dreamt,

their breathe swirled in the misty air

floating to mingle with ours

their feathers bright

with gaping jaws and thunder cries

amidst the fern-like leaves,

always summer

 

we dreamt their dreams

and they dreamt ours

warm blood flowing through our veins

(uniting heart and mind)

we sat on their backs as they flew

large wings outspread

feeling their power and grace

and they listened to our stories

of love

of kings and queens

raptors enraptured,

always summer in our dreams

 

But now

in this between-time of winter-spring

the flowers bloomed, they danced and sang

(we heard their songs)

then felt their pain

(tears fell from the sky)

as winter touched them with cold fingers

covering them in an icy blanket

yet the days grow lighter

brighter

and yet still whiter

 

 

In this between-time world,

this in-between season,

forces of good and evil fight

but most of us, dinosaurs and humans,

remain in-between,

compliant, complacent,

lost in dreams,

thinking of summer

 

This weekend, we ate Hamantaschen

(a lot of Hamantaschen),

 

we drank wine,

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I read about Queen Esther,

who may or may not have existed,

(an in-between world)

she married King Ahasuerus

who ordered his first wife, Queen Vashti,

to stand naked before his male guests at a banquet,

displaying what he owned

(what he could touch with his small hands)

she refused,

and he banished her–

magnanimously did not executed her–

but made a new law—

men would have complete authority over their wives.

Esther, plucked from his harem,

became his new wife,

a new trophy.

This king ruled a vast empire,

but he was petty,

thin skinned

(orange tinted)

easily influenced,

as for Esther,

fourteen years old

did she have a choice?

She was Jewish,

a secret descendent of exiles,

in palace full of secrets and intrigue,

she and her uncle Mordecai foiled a plan to kill the king,

winning his trust,

but the eunuchs involved were killed,

collateral damage,

And Esther skillfully manipulated the king,

outwitted his prime minister Haman

(the evil man behind the throne

disseminator of alternative facts)

and prevented the mass slaughter of the Jews

(though they still had to fight)

She is honored now,

Haman is reviled,

but still I wonder,

she remained with the king,

bore him a son,

a woman caught between men,

and I wonder about her

what did she give up

what did she give in to

1982-89-1-pma

Credit Line: Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, “Esther before Ahasuerus, (1738-1740)
Purchased with funds contributed by the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of their 100th anniversary, 1982

 

I wonder about being complicit,

collaborating with the enemy,

we watched a TV show about Earth after aliens have taken over

letting humans do the work of enforcing their decrees

those who work for the aliens get good homes and other perks

resisters are sent to work camps or to “the factory,”

from which they never return,

a spin on WWII and Nazi-occupied countries,

or any country under a dictator,

complicity

collaboration

(What would you do to save your family?)

though the air feels warm

sometimes, it’s always winter

 

But I know spring is coming

sense it from the light,

different from other times of the year,

brighter, losing the gloom of winter,

a signal,

a beacon of hope

I drink more wine,

eat some sweets,

ignore false honeyed words

take a break

deep breaths

relax

because

we value love

and art

and beauty

and joy

we tell stories

of dinosaurs and ghosts

of ancient worlds

and kings and queens

and believe in people

we hope, but resist

and do not become complacent

even as the days grow longer

and we are lulled by spring’s sweet siren song

and dream our dreams,

ours and the dinosaurs,

in the in-between time

 

My conceit about dreams mingling with that of dinosaurs was inspired by Kerfe and Jane’s discussion on this post. 

The recipe for Shakshuka Hamantaschen can be found here on What Jew Wanna Eat.  I used part whole wheat flour for the pita. The recipe for the Cannoli Hamantaschen can be found here.

We’re expecting a big snowstorm tomorrow. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

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“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

–L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.”

August Wilson, Fences

Snap!

Thumb and finger strike,

connection made.

Snap!

Synapses fire,

memories triggered.

Snap!

Fingers, feet

feel the beat

New York streets

When you’re a Jet

You’re a Jet all the way

My sister and I listen to the album,

vinyl disk spins,

we watch the movie,

only later do I learn it is

Romeo and Juliet, updated,

and that famous play,

with its star-crossed lovers,

is based on older stories,

tales as old as time,

that connect us with the past.

 

So many movies, so little time before the old year ends,

we see Fences,

(powerful performances),

the sins of the father visited on the son

generation after generation,

connections through pain and history.

I dislike Troy more and more as the movie goes on,

while recognizing the source of his suffering,

and feeling sorry for him

and Rose and the children.

 

I ask my husband afterward

if he thinks he would have been a different father

if we had had sons instead of daughters.

He says yes, he thinks so,

that he would have been harder and stricter

like his father

who was a good man, but stern,

I was scared of him when I first knew him,

and amazed the first time I saw him laughing with his brother.

My father-in-law was so different with his grandchildren,

softer, gentler, singing Sesame Street songs.

I think of how he connected differently with his children

and his grandchildren,

the special bond he and my young nephew had.

 

On New Year’s Eve,

I think of people all over the world,

celebrating the new year.

I see photographs of fireworks,

Sydney and Hong Kong,

long before nightfall here.

We celebrate more quietly with a group of friends,

Chinese food dinner,

a tradition going back decades,

before and after children,

the where and how changing over time,

food and friendship

amidst the Christmas decorations and lights,

we discuss our families,

see photos of grandchildren,

and worry about what the election will bring.

Our friends talk of selling their houses and moving,

not because of the election,

but because we’re getting older

(but better, of course

with years of wisdom now)

we’re still us, though greyer and heavier

about our middles,

and we still connect

in the way of old friends,

with jokes, hugs, and glances that can reveal more than words.

 

One friend gives each of us—her sister-friends—

a bracelet,

matching bracelets,

I think of how bracelets

have been worn since ancient times,

good luck charms,

amulets for long life and happiness,

tokens of friendship.

charms linked to one another

connecting them

as we are connected through our bonds of friendship,

as words connect thoughts in a sentence,

expressing ideas and actions,

taking us into the new year and new worlds

describing our past, describing our future,

connecting them in clauses,

independent and dependent

as we are,

free to make choices,

to keep people out or keep them in,

but also, dependent on those around us

not to destroy our lives, our souls, our planet.

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New Year’s Eve, 2016. We are linked, heading into 2017.

 

We can build fences,

or walls,

but are we protecting or defending?

It’s a myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space,

but the lights of cities do glow like beacons,

lights connecting us in the dark,

connected like the water flowing from river to the sea,

the message in a bottle circling the globe,

Help! Find me. I’m lost.

The connection is made.

But, snap!

Who sent the message?

Is it too late to help?

 

The holidays are over, the clock strikes, we turn the page.

It’s a new dawn, with new words,

but still linked to the past like a bracelet.

Open the door,

peek over the fence,

Snap!

feel the beat,

move your feet,

dream of tales as old as time

and of now.

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I wish everyone a happy and peaceful new year. We may be in for quite a bit of turbulence on this journey through 2017. So buckle up! Have that wine and chocolate handy.  I appreciate all of you who read my posts, and I love the friendships and connections I’ve made here. Welcome to my new readers, too! I hope you’ll stick around to see what the new year brings here on Yesterday and Today.

 

 

 

 

 

For World Peace Day: A New Trend

knaus_ludwig_-_peace

Ludwig Knaus, “Peace,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 “I many times thought Peace had come

When Peace was far away—“

–Emily Dickinson (Full Text here with original.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

With seeming wit, some may cackle

and let Rome burn,

But (with wits intact), I wonder

(Can we be honest here?)

How many notes must be taken

to perfect the art of war?

What tests must be performed?

Would it not be better to note,

to test how

not to kill

not to hate

not to hurt the innocent

not to believe the lies?

It’s a simple question.

What do you think?

A new test. Peace.

Let’s try it, shall we?

An era of love,

instead of hate,

If nothing else,

it would be something new.

Be a trendsetter.

 

I used  Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge to create this poem for World Peace Day, September 21, 2016.

The prompt words were:  Wit/hurt/note/honest/test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowns and Independence

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We got crowned! (Our youngest child was married.)

 

Monday Morning Musings:

 

 “Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.”

–Petrarch

“We need to help people to discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. Those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacity for independence.”

–Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

–Nelson Mandela

 

It has been a mostly beautiful weekend to celebrate the birth of our nation,

colonies declaring independence from the crown

I think of how crown rhymes with clown,

and it amuses me–

I think of all the clowns who’ve worn crowns

and how often the jester or fool has been the wise man.

 

Last year on this day, the Fourth of July,

Independence Day,

My husband and I wore paper crowns,

parents of the bride

a nod to custom,

and an affectionate tribute to a family tradition

of the birthday crowns we construct.

Our daughter carried a fan she designed

with a quotation from Jane Eyre,

“Reader I married him.”*

 

She and our now son-in-law vowed to love and cherish

each other, to join together

forming “a more perfect union”

like colonies becoming states, and then a union,

it is a process that goes beyond the simple declaration of intent

of independence and dependence

a balancing act,

not dependence,

rather, respecting one another,

and enhancing the best in each.

Perhaps our nation could benefit

from a bit of marriage counseling.

 

We had planned to see a baseball game with them,

baseball, the great American pastime,

what could be more perfect?

But because it was raining with violent storms in the forecast

we went to dinner with them instead–

food, that like our nation, was a mixture of all types,

vegan entries, steak for my husband, salads,

Buffalo sauce and Sriracha

many flavors and textures

sharing space on the table.

 

The weather had improved by the next day,

glorious weather for celebrating,

though we stayed at home

listening to fireworks in the distance.

We watched a movie, Belgian, but in French

(Remember how France joined us in fighting

their English enemy though France was still

a monarchy with a King who wore a crown?)

Two Days, One Night,

Marion Cotillard, a wife and mother,

works in a solar-panel factory,

with the help of her husband and support from friends,

she spends the weekend asking her co-workers to vote for her to keep her job,

even though if they do so, they will lose their bonuses.

We make all sorts of negotiations in life,

When is it right give up something that will benefit ourselves

in order to help someone else?

It is a decision each must decide.

Dependence and independence.

 

The sun rises, a crown of pink and orange

beaming golden rays into the azure sky,

spokes like those of Lady Liberty’s crown

promising liberty, standing on a broken chain,

given to the United States by the people of France,

inscribed with the date, July 4, 1776,

a symbol,

not a reality for all

but something to strive for

Liberté, égalité, fraternité,

Emily Dickinson said,

“Hope is the thing with feathers,”

but hope is also the sun rising and setting

each day

and hope is the joining of two in marriage

and love is our shining crown.

 

*This essay by Claire Fallon discusses the line “Reader, I married him,”

Why I Love Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. To me, it has never been a holiday about shopping. It’s a holiday that’s all about food. And being thankful for food. And being thankful for having family and friends—with whom you can share food. Do you sense a theme?  It’s about sitting at the table, talking and relaxing over food and wine.

I love the scents that envelop the house as the turkey roasts and the gravy simmers. These scents evoke long ago memories of past Thanksgivings, or perhaps better stated, they evoke long ago feelings from past Thanksgivings, feelings of warmth, comfort, and joy. I don’t know why, but it makes me happy.

I love my crazy, dysfunctional family. I don’t care if there is stupid, family drama. I still love them and love having them here. I will try to remain calm if tempers flare. (And if not, there’s always more wine. . .and food. . .and chocolate.)

I love our family Thanksgiving traditions—our cranberry squirrel (you can read about it here), our breaking bread to make stuffing, and our having to eat the same food every year.

I will miss not having our older daughter here, but I am happy for her that she gets to spend Thanksgiving with her new wife, and I’m grateful that her in-laws are so welcoming. I am happy that our younger daughter will be with us again this year. I am thankful that my 92-year-old mother is still able to celebrate the holiday at our Thanksgiving table.

We are expecting a winter storm today. The rain is starting to pick up now, and it’s expected to turn to snow. I am thankful that my family is not traveling today.  For those of you who are traveling today, I wish you a safe and uneventful journey.

I know that many of my friends have lost loved ones, and I know Thanksgiving is a reminder of their loss. I am sorry, and my heart aches for you. Please know that you can call me, and that I will be thinking of you.  I know I will be in that situation some day. That makes me more all the more thankful for what I have now.

I know that many believe the world is broken. I have no answers. . .

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

–Emily Dickinson

And what is a world without hope? I am thankful for hope and grateful for all those who strive to make the world a better place.

I am thankful to have submitted my latest book manuscript and that all my test writing assignments are completed, so now I can relax and cook and enjoy my family. I’ve done much of the Thanksgiving cooking already—breads are baked and in the freezer, soon to be thawed. Applesauce and vegetarian gravy are thawing now. My younger daughter and I will be baking and cooking today and tomorrow. My house will be filled with the scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, onions, and turkey. I will break bread for stuffing with my daughter as we catch up on Scandal or binge watch The Gilmore Girls on Netflix. We will shoo cats away from the food, and we will not dare to set the table until the last minute. The house will not be spotless, but I won’t care. I will feel grateful for it all.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Thank you for reading!

Thanksgiving Cranberry Squirrel

Thanksgiving Cranberry Squirrel

Under Construction

 

“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”

Charles Dickens

 

 I’ve been thinking about construction, construction in its many guises. For the past few weeks, we’ve been in the process of having our bathroom remodeled. It’s the only bathroom in our house, so we’ve put it off and put it off for many years, but it was finally time—the tub was leaking, and the massive amounts of caulking that my husband and a contract applied was merely a Band-Aid, a temporary bandage covering a serious wound. We’ve lived in this house for about 26 years, and the bathroom was old then. Over the years, we (“we” meaning my husband) replaced bits and pieces—the toilet, the window—and painted, papered, and trimmed, but it was time to finally get rid of that avocado green tub–and the tile that had also seen better days.

Since I work from home, usually in the kitchen, which is located below our second floor bathroom, I’ve been writing to the rhythm of hammers and drills, the insistent clatter of tools and equipment, and the sounds of classic rock drifting down from the bathroom  (“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man. . .”). I got used to it, as did the cats, who ran to hide in the basement and under dressers, as soon as the men appeared each day, and padded out cautiously to find me when the men left the house.

ImageYes this had to go.

Image

The men who did the work were considerate, and they did a great job. I am not complaining about them. Construction is messy and dirty, and it takes time. And I think that is true of all types of construction. Writing, for example.

As the men worked, I was finishing the manuscript for a new book, a Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast (AltaMira Press). With books and papers piled precariously around me, I read and revised entries, finished writing others, sent out consent forms to contributors, and worked on all the extra bits: the acknowledgements, the introduction, the bibliography. I was creating and constructing, although the product remains within my computer and everything connected with it is now sent electronically.

Although books remain books, and the creative process—or in my case, the creative chaos—remains the same, the actual writing process, and the printing and physical construction of books has changed significantly since I wrote my first book, Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730-1830. I remember the hours my husband and I spent printing out the pages, reprinting pages after finding a mistake, going out to buy more ink cartridges, and then having to mail the whole manuscript. Page proofs also arrived by mail, and then they had to be mail back to the press. I was always afraid they would not arrive.

Now, I send all of my work electronically, and page proofs are also sent to me in that format. It is so much easier!

It is simple to romanticize the writer, pen—quill pen!—in hand, scrawling lines across the page, crossing out words, and re-writing. It is fascinating to be able to look back the words of writers of the past and see how their thoughts and words changed in revisions. I was reminded of this recently by the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. President Abraham Lincoln wrote several version of the address, and experts say he also improvised as he delivered it. (Here is an interactive exhibit: http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/entity/%2Fm%2F037yx?v.filter=exhibits .)

Scholars have analyzed scraps of paper left by Emily Dickinson and manuscripts in William Shakespeare’s hand, as well as the work of other writers of the past in order to better understand their creative processes—and how they constructed their works of art.

As wonderful and sometimes awe-inspiring as this is, it is still romanticizing a process. Would Shakespeare or Dickinson have preferred to write on a computer? We’ll never know, although I can picture Will sitting in the local tavern iPad before him.  Colonial Americans made ink out of all sorts of ingredients, including wine. Ink, pens, and paper were difficult for many people to get, and it is difficult to write by candle light. The effort of Solomon Northup, an African-American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the nineteenth-century American South, to write a letter by making his own ink and pen is dramatized in the movie, Twelve Years a Slave. In his memoir, Northup describes using a duck feather and ink made by boiling white maple bark.

             Handwritten records with scratched-out lines and re-written phrases are mostly now relics of the past, as writers work on computers and constantly edit their words. Yet, I know I am a better writer because I can write and rewrite with ease. Although I received good grades as an undergraduate, I think back on my writing at that time, and I cringe. It was too difficult for me to retype papers on my typewriter. One mistake meant a whole page had to be re-typed, and then mostly likely, the next page as well. “White-out” only worked if you caught a mistake as you were typing, or if you only had to replace a letter or two. Of course, I corrected obvious errors and typos, but other than that, I rarely rewrote.

            There is good construction and bad construction, and both might begin with the same tools and processes. 

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The bathroom construction is finished. (YAY!) My book manuscript has been sent to my editor. The talk I constructed based on my History of American Cooking went well; however, I suppose I am still working on the construction of my public persona. That will be an on-going process with blueprints that must be updated daily. I’m not certain I loved any of these creations, but Dickens is correct that I could not love the constructions until they were completed. I will be excited to see a Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast in print—and I hope I love it.

Coming soon—my construction of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah dinners. The creative process is in full swing–and I do love it.

            Happy constructing, everyone, and thanks for reading.

 

 

Hope in a List

List Making

List Making (Photo credit: Bunches and Bits {Karina})

“The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis.”
–Umberto Eco

Hi. I’m Merril, and I’m a list-maker. My day usually begins with me making a list while I drink my coffee and read the newspaper. The list invariably includes a combination of daily routine tasks, such as emptying the litter box, which always get crossed-off—YAY!–and work-related items, phone calls I need to make or emails I need to send, appointments, and food I plan to prepare that sometimes get crossed-off.  Today’s list includes, “make sauce and lasagna” and “boil wheat berries.” Both of those items are done and crossed-off. Unfortunately, the work assignments are not. Sigh.

I often make several lists for the day. One list is my general list, as described above. The others specify what I need to do for projects I’m working on.  Sometimes I even write, “Make a list” on my to-do list.  Since I am currently working on encyclopedia projects, I’ve been adding more make list items to my lists. Recently, I’ve had bullet points such as “Finish List of Headwords” (crossed-off) and “Organize Lists of Contributors” on my lists (not crossed-off).

When we host holiday dinners, my list making goes into overdrive. I make menu lists, shopping lists, order of preparation and cooking lists, and house cleaning lists. Passover is coming up in a month, and I’m already thinking about my lists. Remind me to put “Make Passover lists” on my list.

I wonder if list making runs in families? (Hmmm. . .I will have to add Googling that to my list.) My daughters make lists regularly, and at least one of my sisters does, too. (My younger daughter also cuts up index cards into small squares and writes study notes on them. My dad did the same thing when he was in grad school—something she never saw or knew about.)

People are fascinated by lists.  You can find compilations of lists on almost any topics. There are even books devoted to lists.

Paul Simon’s song, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” was a hit in 1975. It did not actually list fifty ways, but it did include some:

“You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan,”

Diary entries often list what a person accomplished that day—more of a “done” list than a “to-do” list.  For example, in May 17, 1809, Maine midwife Martha Ballard noted that she had “Planted long squash by the hogg pen, sowd pepper grass, sett sage and other roots,” along with her other chores.  She was kind of a super woman. If she made lists, I bet everything got crossed-off every day.

Some people view to-do lists with dread, but I don’t. Emily Dickinson wrote,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—.”

Perhaps it is my optimistic nature, but I think of my lists as bits of hope. When I prepare a list at the start of the day, I am anticipating all that I might do, or hope to do, as well as what I have to do.  Each task that I complete gets crossed-off. If I don’t finish them all, I just add them to the next day’s list. Some of the items I put on my list are so general—“Work on book” that I know they will not really be completed. But you know what? That’s OK, too. I know it will get done eventually. I have hope, and it perches in my soul, always.