The Constancy of Autumn

Monday Morning Musings:

The Constancy of Autumn

“Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;”
–from John Keats, “To Autumn”

Sunrise
Sunrise, Delaware River, September

Now the dragons come, sending their fiery breath
Into the cerulean sky, last gasps,
a vibrant show before their long, winter sleep.

Now squirrels skip and scurry
to find and bury their treasure,
eagles soar from shore to shore,

white-feathered heads glowing above the river blue,
where herons and egrets in shallow water wade
still in shadow, then with broad wings wide, glide

to other shoals. While blue jays gather
in raucous meetings throughout the day—
yelling at hawks, asking summer to stay—but

Blue Jay with shade of green

Apples and Honey, both local and delicious

now the apples come—red or golden-green,
the colors of both fall and spring, tart and sweet
as life, well-balanced, though seldom neat.

Now t-shirts are covered by sweaters,
above, azure turns grey, but bright a spray of yellow
in bee-swallowed goldenrod, and violet aster.

Golden rod and aster at dawn.

Now we are in transition, in-between,
summer has ended, winter not yet come
but we remember what has been

the roses of summer and the fruit,
their essence captured in honey and wine–
with time,

the memories and promises,
like late spring’s bird-dawn chatter—
everything connected, everything matters,

the constant of love’s endurance
glowing brilliant as the light
of ancient long-dead stars, so bright,
still guiding us from afar.

Where the light comes through—early morning, Delaware River.

We celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah last night. It makes so much more sense to celebrate the new year in early autumn as summer fades into fall than tacked on to the end of winter holidays on the first of January. Of course, no one has asked me. It was wonderful to celebrate with family, and while we missed not having everyone there, the smaller group meant we could all sit at one table and converse together. We toasted the memory of my aunt Sima, whose recipe for challah cannot be surpassed. It’s the one I always use.

Some photos from last night

Present in Beauty

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Present in Beauty

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.”
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 48

“In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again”
–from “Walking in Beauty”: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

Storm Clouds

After the storm

First, a billowy sea of clouds,
then thunder, crash crash crashing–
shock and awe from the heavens,
ending in a hush,
the cat yawns.

History moves on,
I sleep and my hair turns grey.

Now this place, a speck, a blink
in the eye of the universe, does it matter
to the stars or time? Yet
here I walk—beauty before me, and all around.

Heron, deer, and ospreys converge.
The sky is the blue of wishes, the sun an apricot
I can almost taste—like the most luscious wine
I drink-in the daybreak, my soul cool and composed,
I savor this moment, knowing it is evanescent,
a sparkling bubble, no less beautiful
as it passes into memory,
the past another universe, an umbrella
to open for protection, or to cast shade when needed.
Bird-dawn has given way to cricket sunrise,
summer light has slanted—autumn on its way,
I adjust my sight line.

This sunrise! Sunrise over the Delaware.

A late musings today. It’s been a busy week, and I’m finishing some work. I used Jane’s Random Words. We celebrated what would have been my dad’s 103 birthday with Chinese food on Tuesday, and our friends insisted we have a toast to him. (Wonderful friends!) We had more hot and humid weather, then one night with some thunderstorms, and then perfect weather over the weekend. We met our daughter and son-in-law at a new winery on Saturday. Stokelan Winery is a beautiful place. The Stokelan House dates from about 1853. We sat outside. I liked all of the wines, but I didn’t love any of them. Since it’s a new place, they’re still working out some issues. It’s a distance for us to travel, so we probably won’t go back there for a while, but it was still a lovely afternoon.

Toast to Dad and Stokelan Winery

We watched the TV show Dark Winds. It’s based on the series of novels by Tony Hillerman, which take place on Navajo land. It seemed like a good series to watch this week because my dad enjoyed Hillerman’s books. Once my father wrote him a letter, and Mr. Hillerman replied. Although Tony Hillerman was not Native American, much of the cast, the writers, and crew are. A character recites the lines above in the final episode.

For My Parents

Odilon Redon, Orpheus

For My Parents

Light,
red, hot pink, and cool blue
reflected, refracted
from then to beyond

where casting shadows
like parents on children, larger than life
neither existing without the other,

at least not as they were.

I think if
my father
if my mother—

all the questions I never asked.

If they are light–never gone,
the breath of stars, infinitesimal and infinite
a never-ending melody of dream colors, heard
and almost remembered.

Both of my parents were born in August. I’ve been thinking about them, and of course, the Oracle knows. And extra ifs for Derrick.

I’m sharing this with dVerse, Open Link Night.

Well, Here We Are–it’s August Again

Monday Morning Musings:

Well, Here We Are, It’s August Again

Every day opens with possibility,
every story flows from what if,
each second is a mysterious connection
from what was to what is

Sunrise Clouds

next passes, too, in a stream like
the luscious light of the sun,
outside of time,
both ancient and new

Sunrise Reflections— worlds collide in light and color , Merril D. Smith, 2022

like memories,
the past remembered is reborn,

perhaps re-written, or embroidered upon,
added stitches to a tapestry, patches placed
over the tears in the fabric,

until we can’t tell what was the original
and what was added,

and so, we guess, living between shadows,

and walking down paths
we imagine, we ask, “what if?”
and “what happened next?”

This is fiction and science,
this is every story ever told,
our fates and faults, “not in our stars,”*
and we, not star-crossed—yet,
dependent on them for our existence,

each of us carrying traces of stardust,
holding an infinitesimal speck of before time–
and each of us an answer to what happened next.

Ceres Park
Ceres Park

This past week we had high heat and humidity and normal summer heat with less humidity. Elsewhere there have been huge wildfires and floods. We got a little bit of rain, but not enough.
While we wait to see if our nation is destroyed by authoritarian rule and our Earth dies, we go on living.
My daughter and I visited Kennedy Cellars in Hammonton, NJ for some mother-daughter bonding time. My husband kindly served as DD while we sampled wine flights and nibbled at the delicious cheese board. It was a very hot day, but bearable in the shade, as we really didn’t want to sit inside in the small space with rising Covid numbers.

Kennedy Cellars

On Saturday with the lower humidity my husband and I took a morning walk in Ceres Park in Mantua/Pitman, NJ. It was very quiet and peaceful, except one section of the trail goes under an overpass, but even there the light was beautiful. Then later in the afternoon, we visited Auburn Road Winery for wine and pizza.

Ceres Park

One night this week, we watched a play from our video backlog. It was The Merry Wives, performed last August when plays in Central Park in NYC were permitted again and televised this past spring. Perhaps Shakespeare purists would not approve, but I think it was just what we needed. It was a streamlined version of The Merry Wives of Windsor set in Harlem. Shakespeare’s plays were of the moment and appealed to common people as well as the educated and aristocracy, so I think of this as sort of the same thing. Here’s how it looked. If you have PBS Passport you may still be able to stream it.

We’re also watching For All Mankind (Apple TV), a series based around what if the Soviet Union landed on the Moon first? In this series, it changes history, and each change changes something else.

These two shows gave me the idea for my musings. Also, both of my parents, now gone, were born in August, which has me thinking of August, what was, what is, what might have been. . .

I’m hosting dVerse Haibun Monday today, so I will be back later.

*”The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
–William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Passover and Poetry

Passover and Poetry

Early Morning Reflections on the River

Monday Morning Musings:

“And when our children tell our story. . .
They’ll tell the story of tonight. . .

Raise a glass to freedom
Something they can never take away”
–Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Raise a Glass to Freedom,” Hamilton

This past week of cooking and cleaning
of family and friendship
of war and words,
of stories and rhyme–

the tides of the river
the flight of a crow
the raising of glasses
the flow of time

We celebrated the launch of River Ghosts at William Heritage Winery

as we walk and talk and sing
the love we bring
to the table

even as we miss absent faces
we find traces

amidst syllables we utter
through the clutter

of the everyday.

What we say in tears and laughter—
flies on heart-wings from here to here-after,

becoming another story—added light–
to all the stories of tonight.

I’m sorry if I’m overwhelming with photos in this post. Friday night was the start of Passover. Our older child is here, and we celebrated “our” book River Ghosts being out in the world. (They designed the stunning cover art.) We had some summer-like days this week and some beautiful spring days. We’ve also had thunderstorms, heavy rain—and this morning, I had to turn the heat back on.

On Passover, we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus as part of the seder. Let’s just say, we are not traditional. My talented children wrote this year’s Passover play—the best one ever—over glasses of wine Friday night and coffee on Saturday morning. Where do they get this last-minute writing under pressure thing?

My siblings could not be with us on Passover, but it was still wonderful to have my children here and my sister-niece and her family. This was our first Passover together since the pandemic. Today is the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death.

Christmas, 2021: Still Plagued

Monday Morning Musings:

Christmas, 2021

Winter Solstice

We celebrate in the long dark days—
in the after–recalling what was—
and almost remembering

how we embraced
without care.

But in the lingering kiss of night,
the air whispers secrets,

and dreams float from fiddle strings
taking form–nutcrackers, marzipan castles–
shapeshifters of hope and fear in cold winter days

Nutcracker from the Pennsylvania Ballet

I baked a few cookies.

as the moon hums,
the house fills with the scent of vanilla, cinnamon,
mulled wine, and chocolate,
laughter echoes from beyond to within
and hereafter,

if you wonder–
we’ve always been in-between

shadow and light, spinning as


the colors of time bend
like giant wings, hovering, circling,
and moving on,

reflecting what is, what was, and what might be.

Puddle Reflection, December ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I never posted my Christmas poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. So, I’ve embellished it a bit here. I hope all of you had a joyous holiday season. It’s so very complicated trying to figure out how to get together right now, even when everyone is vaccinated and some of us are boosted. We saw some of my family on Christmas Eve—testing first, staying masked much of the time. Again, doing the same thing, we saw my husband’s family yesterday, but somehow did not take any photos.


My husband and I had our now traditional cheese fondue and mulled wine for our Christmas dinner. For our Christmas brunch, I made us a Dutch baby, and we watched a show I had recorded from PBS of Alan Cumming with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra telling the full tale of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The story tells the origins of the Nutcracker and explains what happens to the girl and the nutcracker afterward. You can read more here.

I looked up from writing this morning to find my dining room glowing pink.

Dreams in Blue

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Frosted River Blues ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I dreamt my dad
was visiting Boston, as was I.
I knew it was a dream, but I was glad
to see him, to know he didn’t die

completely. Death takes,
but the mind recalls—
at least in dreams. We wake
to cry or sigh or laugh, but all

is part of life, like spring and fall—
the cycle of the seasons, the folds
of time–dream-me is not one age, clocks toll
differently there, controlled

by mind, the shadows and the light.

Now, beneath a canopy of crimson, gold,
and yellow-green
I gaze up at the blue-gowned sky, foretold
by orbit’s path and revolution, the unseen and the seen–

November Sunrise over a Frosted Field ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

the beauty of frosted November mornings,
despite the baring of the trees, the death of things,
the ignoring of all warnings—
see the gulls fly with scintillating wings

reflecting the glow, and letting it go?

Autumn Scene, ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

This the balance, life and death–
the cloth bag I took to my mother’s hangs on a chair waiting,
I take a breath,
hesitating

to make her death final and real.
Crow caws beauty, evil, life and death—all are true,
parts of a whole, a cycle, the real we feel,
a sigh within, a heart-soar reaching for the endless blue.

I have been amazed this week by the beauty of nature. The glorious light of this time of year, even the frost is beautiful. Soon, everything will look barren and grey, so I’m enjoying this while I can. I’ve also been dismayed by how willing people are to embrace the haters and those who spread misinformation. People I know who “don’t believe in” masks voted for the baby Trumpty-Dumpties, who have already been called out for racist slurs. UGHHHHH!
But on the bright side, I got to see friends this week—who definitely do NOT believe this nonsense.

And today, I went walking and talking with a friend. Then we had my homemade challah cinnamon toast and coffee and talked some more. Thus, the late post today. I will be back in a little while because I’m hosting Prosery on dVerse today.

Merril’s Movie/TV Club:

We watched and finished Maid (Netflix), inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir. My husband and I both enjoyed it, although after the first episode, he looked at me and said something like, “well, that was uplifting.” But if you haven’t watched it, there are funny incidents, times of joy, and surreal moments—it’s not all bleak. I listened to an NPR interview with Stephanie Land that was done before the Netflix series. Here

We streamed a new movie, I Am Your Man (rental, Amazon Prime). It’s a German movie about an archeologist who agrees to evaluate an android who has been designed to be her perfect partner. It’s sort of a rom-com with a tiny touch of sci-fi, but also poignant– as it asks what we really want in a mate. Do we want perfection? And also, apparently Dan Stevens can do anything, even speak German. We both liked this movie a lot. Trailer here.

To Every Season

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.”
–Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Heron at dawn. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

I remember that spring, the winter of despair,
the flow of river into spring again

and again, the earth blooms,
and birds come and go, soaring into clouds

that move across the sky–
the constancy of sun and moon, the ephemerality of life,

insistent green sprigs emerging from driftwood,
bleached and beached.

Driftwood with new growth.

Each day the same and different,
each sunrise a threshold to the unknown.

Driftwood, Sunrise on the Delaware River

In dreams, my mother asks for chocolate–
she says there’s more for them that wants.

This is how it is—
this is who we who are, full of ifs and when

there is both laughter and the aches
of time and memory–

we are here. Now
I watch the bees,

and I remember too late,
to tell them my secrets and wishes–

but perhaps they already know,
telling their own dreams in buzz waltz,

remembering a day of endless sweet nectar,
and brilliant colors that we cannot see,

yet can imagine, reflected
in a sunrise yet to come.

Sunrise with Cloud Reflections. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. August 2021

This week has been a strange and strangely beautiful week of clouds, rain, and sunshine. I suppose that’s how August is. We’re supposed to get a return of the high heat and humidity. Yesterday, some family members got together at my sister’s house for the first time since the pandemic. It wasn’t everyone, and even though it was right before my mom’s birthday, it wasn’t really a memorial, though we did have a Sunday brunch fish tray, with fruit, and my Mandelbrot and brownies for dessert. For those who don’t know, we used to have lox and other smoked fish with cream cheese and bagels–plus a whole lot more–fairly often when I was growing up. Every so often, my grandfather, my father’s father, would bring the delicatessen food, which also included herring, rye bread, and coffee cake, to my mom’s (even though my parents were divorced). My mom would supply the juice, coffee, boiled red potatoes, and sometimes I’d bake something. Then, it became a special family brunch occasion because it has become very expensive, plus more difficult to get together. Mindful of the Delta strain–even though we’re all vaccinated–we stayed masked indoors, except for when eating—and we tried to stay far apart then. Fortunately, the weather cleared up enough for us to go outside for dessert. My parents were there in spirit and ash.

When we got home, we took a brief walk, and pulling into the driveway were surprised by this.

Literal deer in the headlights.

We Sing Their Songs in Flight

Monday Morning Musings:

Egret

Open a window to another universe–
there is always an after
and before

the bang and birth of stars,
the flutter-shift of vibrating strings
across dimensions, the light on stellar wings—

he sings, she laughs
the fever-dreams of future-past-
perfect brings

remembrance, she, and we see-saw
imperfectly and fractured–all
colored by mood and life-swings

in revolutions, the Earth spins,
love, laughter, tears, and fears—it begins
and ends

the stars sing, and we catch their light,
swallow to hold it within, and in our dreams,
or in some after, we sing their songs in flight.

Ospreys Flying over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Today my father would be 102. We’re going to have Chinese food and ice cream for dinner tonight–both of which he loved. My mom’s birthday is later this month, and she would have turned 99. My parents divorced (twice), but in my mom’s final years she believed my dad lived in the same building, and in her final months, she talked about him a lot, always with smiles and giggles. I think she was in love again. Of course, they were my stars.

The first set of photos were taken long before I was born. My brother is about twelve years my senior.

My mom’s first cousin, who was like her sister, turned 95 yesterday. There was a small party for her. My sister, husband, and I stayed masked in the house, but took our masks off outside. We got her a blanket that had a word cloud of English and Yiddish words we chose.

We ate homemade pizza and streamed a play this week: The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington by James Ijames performed as part of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which looks like a beautiful place to see a play. In the play, Martha Washington is dying, and the enslaved people around her are waiting, as they will be freed when she dies. In her fever dreams she imagines them in various guises, as lawyers, Founding Fathers and Mothers, and King George and Queen Charlotte. The play is funny, sad, witty, and unique. Here’s the NY Times review.

In Feathered Light

Monday Morning Musings:

The moon hums and the sun sings,
and feathered things with outstretched wings
soar into the light

dazzling white, the egrets’ flight,
the eagles’ glide, a majestic sight
above my head

and down below, the scent of dead
attract the vulture’s blooded head—
but even they fly

with graceful beauty in the sky
circling round—hello, goodbye—
life comes and goes

This cormorant spent several days in this spot.
Oh, Hello!

the questions everybody knows,
and none can answer, I suppose
there’s beauty in that, too–

science can tell us why the sky is blue,
yet perceiving it, is that new?
Do we name things so that we see–

or does sight come, and we feel free–
And still, we disagree
about the color of the sea,

fields of grain, and climbing vines
lost to asphalt, modern signs
of progress made,

decisions that now cascade,
a waterfall, decisions weighed
spinning in retrograde, still we shine

in setting sun, sipping wine,
fruits of field and vine,
talking as time slow-walks–

a paradox—the universe’s sleight–
time, truth, the beauty of the feathered light.

Morning— Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

We went to Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, NJ this past week, where our daughter gave a talk—a brief history of sangria–and then guided us through making our own using a white and red base they supplied, along with fruit and juices. It was a fun event, and of course we bought a bottle of wine to take home, too.
I’m still finishing that chapter, so I apologize for my slow response time here. Also, I’m hosting dVerse Poetics tomorrow.