In Summer Joy

Recall the roses of summers past,
and the shining water, the glint
of something far beneath–
imagined creatures that swim
while seagulls swoop and laugh

~in summer joy~

we spent those seashore days,
within a golden haze, we walked, ate, read.
Between worlds, unbound by time—it seemed—
we thought—perhaps–it would never end—
the sandcastles, ice cream, and evening carousel rides.

A Puente for my dVerse prompt today. Come join us!
For many years, my husband, our two little girls, and I stayed at the same inn every summer in Ocean City, NJ for a few days in June. We always rented the attic suite, and when we weren’t at the beach or on the boardwalk, we took over their large shaded porch, as we were usually the only guests there.

And so, We Walk

Monday Morning Musings:

In the last spring-like days of November
we handover without hand-touching, transferring
from our home shelf, bubble-wrapped and packed
this simple ceramic container—the squirrel

washed clear of contaminants, yet still filled
with memories. The moment is bittersweet—
we will not be together to celebrate, not like before when we ate,
and talked and laughed together, but here now, we walk

within autumn’s luscious light, as it slow-crawls to fall
and flame-tip leaves, we stroll through a golden glow
where horses trot, then canter, as we banter enchanted by the day–
stay these moments, sway the shadows from lengthening

Horseback Rider on Forbidden Drive, along Wissahickon Creek ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

as they have and will—
yet still, we reflect on this and that, the trill of birds,
the falling leaves, and plants that land upside down
in water, sparkling and shimmering

Clouds Reflected in the River. Delaware River at Red
Bank Battlefield, ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

and through the glimmering, the geese soar
with a honk of greeting or farewell—and the smell
of autumn crisp with muddy undertones—
buried unknowns will bloom again come spring,

when perhaps once again we’ll go wandering,
and the weather will warm, the insects will swarm,
and butterflies will fly away
in the bright sunlight of longer days.

Those who follow my blog know all about our family’s Thanksgiving cranberry squirrel. My niece took over making it several years ago, a project she did with my mom every year. Our family will not be getting together for Thanksgiving this year, so I will only see the cranberry squirrel in photos and/or videos. The squirrel mold lives at my house, so we met sort of halfway to walk with masks on along Forbidden Drive along Wissahickon Creek. My mom loved to eat there at the Valley Green Inn.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched the movie The Life Ahead (Netflix 2020), a new movie with Sophia Loren, directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti. It’s the story of woman, a Holocaust survivor, who cares for the children of prostitutes, and who takes in a Senegalese orphan. It could have been overly sentimental, but it wasn’t, largely due to the wonderful performances by Loren, the boy, and the rest of the cast. It’s a story of how families are formed from neighborhood people who care.

The Little Things

Monday Morning Musings:

My mother washes her hands

I flashback to a memory–

my grandfather, her father

rubbing his hands over and over

to dry them

 

We’d been out walking in the woods–

was this the day we were startled by riders on horseback?

(A magical sight.)

My sister and I were little

my grandfather was wise,

 

in the way that grandparents are

to young grandchildren

who see beyond the surface

to the hearts beneath

beating with love.

 

And there’s an understanding

that time exists in the now–

the autumn of one life,

the spring of another

co-existing in this moment

 

I tell my mother about this memory

and we talk of this and that

I go through her old cards

reading portions to her

as I clean out a drawer

 

a past, relics, consigned to a trash bag.

Who was this person?

Where was this photo taken?

My mother can’t see and can’t remember—

all the little things that make up a life.

 

All the little things that make up a city, a world–

the reindeer on a roof display

the stone carvings on a building

the snowflake on a lamppost

the candle burning in a window

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We celebrate the first night of Hanukkah,

fry the latkes,

light the candles

toast “L’Chaim!”

I dance to “Ocho Kandelikas.”

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My husband and I watch the candles burn.

We talk of this and that–

old memories and to-do lists,

the little things that make up a life,

the everyday ordinary and the magical exceptional.

 

 

Every year, Santa comes through town on a fire engine. I have no idea how this started, but his helpers give candy canes to the children (and adults) who come out to see him.

There are a bunch of movies I want to see, but I haven’t had a chance, and I don’t know if I will have any time in the next week. It’s a crazy time of year, isn’t it? I had an anxiety dream the other night, which I haven’t had in a long time. But–we finished watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and we’re on to the finally season of The Expanse. And there are latkes and candles and cuddly cats. . .so life may be stressful, but not awful.

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Thank you to all of you who take the time to read my writing. I truly appreciate you. I feel like I’m Mr. Rogers saying “It’s you I like,” but it’s true. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Here’s Pink Martini performing “Ocho Kanelikas.” Feel free to dance along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering the Days, NaPoWriMo

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Remember you are all people and all people

are you.

Remember you are this universe and this

universe is you.”

From Joy Harjo, “Remember”

 

I remember the week,

the was, the hoped for

the what that came before

 

the sun and storms

the way a cloud forms

and blows across the sky

 

while I wonder how and why

it happens again and again

sun rising, moon sets,

 

dreams floating, drifting,

joy, regrets

shifting, sifting

 

through existence

we’re existing,

sometimes resisting. . .

****

Another shooting on the day

we celebrate Passover,

the end

 

(Hate fills a space

what should be sacred,

this place.)

but we toast to new beginnings,

jobs and a new house,

we douse

 

the hate with love

and wine,

and we dine.

It would have been enough

“Dayenu,”

life is rough and tough

 

but we find the light

in candles on the table.

On this special night

 

we sing and laugh

act out our play

imprint photographs

 

and memories of then

and now,

beginnings and when

 

did that happen?

The sister stories

strains, pains

 

(Laughter)

vomiting in cars,

on planes

 

and on my doll

(she says)

we remember it all–

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ancestors, crash, fall

hide from Cossacks

when very small,

 

and there is more,

Dessert!

Not quite gone, no snores

 

though it’s late,

I remember,

bed awaits.

 

The next day

sky sunny, then grey

we walk through

city and cemetery

sun peeks out

we see a play,

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Oedipus, well,

the shepherds

who raise him, yell

 

and drink

they don’t so much

think,

 

or they do,

too late,

the cow moos

 

and there is

inappropriate sex

a family this

 

dysfunctional,

a tragedy with laughs,

desperate, they fall

 

drink too much

evil and nice

the device

 

of plotting might

not quite work,

but it’s interesting,

 

the play,

and we discuss it

before we flit

 

to other topics

as we sit here

eat mussels, drink beer,

and journey home

watch Voyager, where

Capt. Janeway, onscreen, there

 

wants to save her family

a group united not by blood

but fate, and we await

 

ours,

not family, but fate

sometimes wondering, too late–

 

yet always there are cats

and moon,

a daughter’s visit,

gone, too soon,

but I remember–

we are the stars

 

and all our ancestors

through time and space,

traced

 

filled with sorrow

and grace

I remember today

 

and yesterday,

dream of tomorrow.

 

Today is Day 29, the penultimate day of NaPoWriMo. The challenge is “to blend these concepts into your own work, by producing a poem that meditates, from a position of tranquility, on an emotion you have felt powerfully.” I don’t know if I’ve done that here, but I like this prompt, and I’ll probably return to it.

We celebrated Passover at the end because that’s when most of us could get together. Daughter and Daughter-in-law went with us to see Dionysus Was Such a Nice Man,” a world-premiere play at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. And then we ate mussels at Monk’s Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wish

Monday Morning Musings:

“None of us can change the things we’ve done. But we can all change what we do next.”

— Col. Frederick Lucius Johnson (Chad L. Coleman), The Expanse, Season 1: Critical Mass

 

A celebration not for leaders alive or dead

(and certainly not for one who hasn’t led)

a birthday lunch on Presidents’ Day

where it was light inside, though outside grey,

a changeable week of sun, rain, clouds, and snow

February going fast and slow

confusing my mind and making me too tired

to do what’s required—but in bursts, I am inspired

to work, to create, to navigate

through life—though nothing is straight

as we contemplate past, future, and our fate,

we watch sci-fi and hope there’s more

 

that people heed, not ignore, the ocean,

with its glorious waves and motion.

Here and now, the constant wars, the hate–

I wonder if it’s all too late–

 

but still, we live and love–and cook,

even as we ponder roads we took,

and where they’ve led us, where we are

still above, there, the moon, the morning star

 

So, I bake–homage to heritage, his and mine,

birthday treats–food and life intertwine

memories from childhood, I think his cookies bring,

but mine have chocolate, cinnamon, scents that sing

to me in sensory bliss of crunch, scent, taste

that also trace a path from past—and thicker waist—

but celebrations make us feel good, or so they should,

a time to laugh, love, and remember the good.

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Here’s our family in the car again

remembering journeys of long ago, the rain

tapping on windows and misting about us

as we bring up song snippets to discuss–

 

“Remember that one?” someone queries.

and we’re off discussing songs, or TV series

the things they watched when they were young,

the things they said, the words that were sung

 

by all of us in house and car

as we traveled to places both near and far

the games we played, before tablets or phone–

a different world, and a different tone.

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Over the Cool Bridge (in the rain), to grandmother’s house we go.

 

And now we gather on a February day

when we can be together, if only a short stay

to catch up with one another, share some time

over pizza and cake—this time, no wine.

 

We watch a movie about forgery

a desperate woman, unhappy, too, we see

the movie is also about creation

and discrimination

 

the AIDS crisis and writers’ lives–

as it takes money and time to visit archives—

something I’ve done first hand,

and the rush of finding something grand.

 

But it’s fine, and we’re okay,

here and now on this windy day,

as moon sets and sun rises,

I’m ready for the day’s surprises

 

wondering what fortune brings–

and hoping that without strings

good things come to us all

without deceit, without a wall

 

or barriers to conquer or climb–

a gift of peace within our time.

And so, a birthday wish for those I love,

the song of the moon, the shimmer of stars above.

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Our older daughter is visiting us, so we got together for an extended family February birthday celebration–something we haven’t done in a few years. My husband and I are caught up in the sci-fi series The Expanse. It’s on Amazon Prime now. We had seen the first two seasons before, but it’s complicated, so we’re re-watching them. It’s an excellent series. Catching up on movies–we watched Can you Ever Forgive Me? last night. Wonderful performance by Melissa McCarthy and the rest of the cast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl in the Rain–Quadrille

Such rainy rain

fell–

dropped

for days it plopped,

then finally stopped,

so she could play

in shiny coat and

rubber boots,

skipping and prancing

and stomping and splashing

into those puddles

dashing–

Asked why, she replied

to step into the rainbows,

hiding inside.

 

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

This is a quadrille for dVerse, where Kim has asked us to write a poem about rain.

I’m getting sick of rain and writing about rain, but then I remembered a recent conversation I had with one of my now-grown daughters.

Secrets and Shadows: Musings and Shadorma

Monday Morning Musings:

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

“It’s a triumph of art and friendship over time. And it’s also very important, I think, to hang on to the things that mean something to you. And they transcend time.”

–Judy Collins, “Love, Friendship and Music: Stephen Stills and Judy Collins Collaborate on New Album,” All Things Considered with Michele Martin, November 11, 2017

“There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Time Long Past”

 

Secret lives

buried deep in walls

or within

chambered hearts,

echoing the beats, flowing,

waiting for release

 

The garage

old, unstable, and so

down it comes

over the years

it’s housed tools and junk,

a chipmunk or two, amidst the rakes

perhaps a snake.

We were told the wall at the back

was bumped out a bit to fit

a Model T–

But honestly, I don’t know,

and it’s all so long ago.

The roof was shingled many times

and covered with leaves, pollen, and snow

beside it children have played,

and a wandering doe has grazed.

The yard is littered

adorned with its pieces–

fragments of a secret life

forlorn in autumn’s fading light,

a building built to last,

but now

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

The weather now has turned much colder

as the year journeys to its end,

no more harkening back, it seems to say

though time winds round again

through falling leaves and winter snow

to springtime bud and summer flowers,

and in the buildings here on city streets

there’s blending of the old and new

where cobblestones meet asphalt streets

and on concrete pavements,

shadows cast, from time long past

We see a musical about phone sex and love

set in the 1990s,

just before

(it opens a door)

the Internet really became a thing

and here a young man and woman

don golden chastity rings,

and vow to remain chaste till wed.

But now with their upcoming marriage,

they realize they do not really know each other.

They learn in song

(Well, it’s a musical, so we go along.)

we all have secrets lives and secret selves–

shadows cast, from time long past

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It’s a funny, enjoyable show

a quirky romantic comedy

if not profound

it covers some familiar ground,

but still we talk of how it’s set

in a changing time.

a time now past

when our children were young.

And as day becomes night,

in autumn’s fading light

We see a bride and groom

and should we assume

they have lives kept private and

shadows cast, from time long past?

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In the car, we listen to NPR

hear an interview with Judy Collins and Stephen Stills,

old lovers, now still friends,

hanging on to important things

and illustrated with their songs

throughout time

things that last,

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

I think of my mom and dad

meeting in time long before technology

of cell phones and Internet

and they connected,

once they were young and in love

then they weren’t either

keeping secrets from each other

yet still, I think the love was always there

and she to him said a final goodbye

the night before he died

shadows cast over time, long past

 

We take my mom to a winery–

“Cross a wine tasting off your bucket list,”

I say.

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Here we can sit at a table

order our selections

of white and red

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served with cheese and bread

and the atmosphere is convivial,

the conversation, mostly trivial,

but as we move to pizza and more wine,

we’re feeling pretty fine,

we talk of Thanksgiving

and of ancestry

I tell her about my poetry,

she tells me things she remembers–

sitting in her grandfather’s lap

though she doesn’t remember much about him,

and after that he died,

from an injury to his skull,

difficult times from them all

immigrants from another land

speaking a language I don’t understand,

I learned there was a baby brother born

after her mother and her aunts

he died young, seldom spoken of.

In the conversation here

ghosts of ancestors now appear–

shadow cast, of time long past

 

Then to home

the weekend ended,

secrets shared

journeys taken,

sunshine and shadows, blended,

cast in a circle

 

through time and

space our souls wander

sharing love

fearing death

casting shadows of time past

long ago and now

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We saw TouchTones at the Arden Theatre. We went to Auburn Road Vineyard.

I’ve begun and ended my musing with Shadorma for my somewhat sporadic participation in Eliot of Along the Interstice’s November Shadorma Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts From Whistling Space

Monday Morning Musings:

From whistling space

dust swirls and burns

glowing

singing

lighting the universe

reaching shores,

then, like tides

sweeping back to the sea

tumbling again and again

in a wave

a new formation

a new song

a new life born

an old life lived

connected

eternal

 

We go to the movies

a ghost in a white sheet

views his life

rooted to a place, a home,

a place always there and not

time moves differently for him

and for us, in watching him watching

beautiful, sad, but perhaps hopeful, too

(open to interpretation)

there is much for us to discuss

over coffee, of course,

 

and as we walk through a city

filled with old and new

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A Path to the Past in Summer Bloom

 

observing how the seasons alters its look

summer flowers making everything bright and beautiful

 

the city changes over time

here was once a creek

that grew filthy with waste

a sewer

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covered now by grass and trees

bucolic space in urban expanse

expansive thoughts arose here, too

made a nation

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Maybe someone should write a musical about him. 

bodies buried now

yet ghosts still walk among us

paths that bend in time

 

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we hear their voices whistling in the wind

in the space around us

feel their ideas

(legacies)

ebb and flow

the things they left behind

 

We take my mom on an outing

away from city ghosts

though they linger in memory,

she talks of her parents

her mother sewed piecework for a time

during the Great Depression

her father was upset that his wife went to work

But she worked in their store, didn’t she?

Yes, but that was different, she says and laughs

her brother, my baby brother, I miss him, she says

he was an active child

always falling out of things—the carriage, his crib–

he fell out of my mom’s bed once

she was supposed to be watching him

he bumped his head on the radiator,

she never told her mom

but, I guess it didn’t hurt him

he lived a good life,

though it ended before my mom’s

and now we share the memory of him,

a ghost living in our hearts

 

We sit drinking wine, overlooking the vineyard

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it’s a beautiful day

we watch families

children playing with a beach ball on the grass

hawks flying overhead

we sit discussing the past and the future

our conversation ebbs and flows

thoughts linger, pause—

and float up into space

 

We eat Pakistani food at my daughter and son-in-law’s house

their dog chases creatures, real and imaginary

birds whistle and sing,

echoing us,

or do we echo them?

We sit with greenery all around us

then eat cupcakes that look like flowers

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My daughter’s beautiful and delicious creation.

(summertime)

I wonder about the people who used to live in this house

and what was it before them–

Field? Farm?

And before that?

Did native Americans walk here

in migrations that followed the seasons

circling round, year after year

ghosts walking among us

watching us

rooted to this spot

waiting for something or someone

waiting for a sign,

a message,

a whistle perhaps

a thought that has floated up

swept up in time

and brought back down again

lighting the universe

 

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We saw the movie A Ghost Story.  Trailer here.   I think it’s a movie that people will either love or hate. It’s a definite Merril movie, but my husband loved it, too.

 

We drank coffee at Customs Coffee House at 2nd and Chestnut, Philadelphia,

went to Sharrott Winery  

And ate Pakistani food from Mera Khana Restaurant   I could eat those vegetable samosas every day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Barricade, a Bear, and an Egg

We’re headed to my in-laws’ house, or perhaps the Jersey shore. A family road trip. My husband is at the wheel; our daughters in the back seat. They hold their beloved stuffed animals on their laps. There are no headphones or cell phones. In our future, when they’re older, there will be both. I’ll tune the radio to NPR. We’ll hear the election news or listen to an interview with actor Dev Patel. But here, now, I put a CD into the dashboard slot. The prologue begins, “Look down, look down, don’t look ‘em in the eye.” My husband would be happy never to hear Les Misérables again, but I don’t mind hearing it for the 200th time. Our daughters sing along. Correction. Humpty and Ahh Bear sing along. Aah Bear sings Éponine’s part and sobs with loud bear sobs when she dies. There is no barricade here in the car, but I see it nonetheless. Imagination is powerful, powerful enough to let me hear stuffed animals sing and make the tears of a teddy bear real.

 

Just one performance

life, replayed in memory,

paused and played again

 

 

 

I seem to be stuck on musicals, though that’s nothing new!  This is a haibun for dVerse. We were asked to write about singing along with music on a drive. You can listen to “A Little Fall of Rain” here. (Unfortunately, not the Humpty and Ahh Bear version.)