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

Still More to Say

Monday Morning Musings:

Still More

“How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”
–William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)

Sunrise over the Delaware River

I still have more to say about color,
the frequency and hues,
and how we parse the natural world
and what we choose to name–

Would they be the same–
the roses and the stars—
if we didn’t claim them so
What color was the sea? Did the moon

sing a different tune?
What was before blue
of sky and blue jay wing
and what of the unseen,

Blue Jay and Shades of Green

and the in-between.
What does the heron perceive
in the grey of his feathers
or the ultraviolet that they see, like bees,

an Umwelt unlike ours, but like trees
connected and a part—
now think about our hearts
and all the types of love, friendship, fear—

Deer and Turkeys

look at dogs, cats, turkey, deer—
animals that love, have their friends, and run
in play and fear.
So many words, so many shades,

but hate has only one. It never fades,
it’s a black hole,
trapping light within—
and yet and yet and yet

it’s not that simple or set–
light bends and echoes around it
seeking a way, as if to not forget
and we–

have ways to see and be–
we’re hardwired to parse and name
color and light, and to sense the unseen–
Monet’s violet waterlilies somewhere in our genes.

Aster

Again, the Marginalian got me thinking about color and light. I found this short video that I think does such a good job of explaining how we and animals see color. For more on Monet’s eyesight, I found this short article.

We watched another strange Merril movie, Censor. Here’s a review from the Guardian. We both liked it, but it is very strange. I’m still thinking about it though.

We did a lot this weekend and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Friday night out to dinner (outside) with daughter and son-in-law. That was after an amazing launch for Afterfeather also attended by Ricky. I have a poem in this anthology, which is published by Black Bough poetry from poems curated by Briony Collins from Top Tweet Tuesday.

A winery on Saturday late afternoon/evening. And a bridal shower luncheon on Sunday.

William Heritage Winery

Bridal Shower, Special Time With friends

The Important Things

Monday Morning Musings:

The Important Things

“But the important thing about the sky is that it is always there.”
Margaret Wise Brown, The Important Book

Sun rising over the Delaware River

Under a Van Gogh dawn–

in quiet pockets, that many never see,
deer and turkeys frolic,
have picnics on the beach

Turkeys on the Delaware River Beach, West Deptford, NJ

they are there–
as egret clouds spread their wings
across a river of blue jay blue,
even if unseen

Egret

the sunflowers grow and
the honey flows
as light that begins to fade,
but is captured in a golden stream

and apples into it dipped.
Red and gold replace the green
and hawk-chased squirrels taunt and scream
and gather nuts for future dreams,

these are all important things.

Now, we walk–
a moment fixed in time
the past captured in hearts and minds
not knowing what will be, but lives intertwined

despite shadows before us and behind.

Tall Pines State Preserve

All can be lost in a flash of heron’s wing–
but feathers are strong,
even when tossed
and the phoenix rises again from ash,

these are things swept but kept—
the traces of stars, dinosaurs to birds’ song.

Heron

Last year on Labor Day we celebrated Rosh Hashanah. With the Covid numbers high, we didn’t gather with family, but we had visited a sunflower festival and had the traditional foods. We also went to a winery last Labor Day weekend, as we did this year—except proceeds last year went to help the people and businesses affected by the tornado that had roared through a few days before. This week we live-streamed a Loudon Wainwright III concert from the City Winery in NYC. (We actually watched the replay the next night.) We saw my sister-niece and her husband live at our house, which was so wonderful that I forgot to take photos, and we went to William Heritage Winery on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we walked at Tall Pines State Preserve, which was full of late summer wildflowers.

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

Aubade, Serenade

Monday Morning Musings:

Aubade, Serenade

Just past sunrise.

1.

A brush with green,
Earth-spirits, forest soul beckons
absorb the magic, it vanishes quickly
as orange sherbet sky melts
into the blue expanse

Early Morning Magic–she appeared and then disappeared

2.
Lies bait the hook
they swallow eagerly
as they swim to shore,
emerging with myopic eyes
fins turned to fists, grasping at shadows.

3.
Statement of the day,
or afterthought?
Dust off your father’s memory,
what if you saw your parents as children?
Love rekindled. Turn the page, again.

4.
Dreams of motors and motion–
helicopters, airplanes, buses, trains.
Something insidious you fear, but wait
there’s a twist–a cat purrs in your ear,
a snore from the pillow beside you.

5.
Light transported, prismed colors soar
and sing, celestial harmonies,
secrets we’re born knowing, but forget
even stars die,
I breathe their sparkle, hear their song.

As the crow flies

I generated another set of words, different from Jane’s set yesterday, and used them to write a cadralor.


After heat, storms, and humidity, this weekend we got some cool, dry, sunny weather. The January 6 Committee Hearings continue, and their revelations are even more awful than I thought they would be. However, nature has brought magic in the form of deer, eagles, and some beautiful days. We went to Auburn Road Winery for a pre-Father’s Day celebration. I baked my husband his favorite cookies for Father’s Day and gave him a pillow to replace one I ruined.

Merril’s Movie, Theater, TV Club:
We watched Petite Maman, a new movie by French director Céline Sciamma. (Her highly acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire has been in my queue for ages, so I will need to watch it soon.) There’s not much of a story, but it’s a sweet, tender film—just what I needed to see. The title is a clue. I really liked it.

We saw another strange version of The Cherry Orchard, this one called The Orchard. We saw the virtual version. I really loved Mikhail Baryshnikov as Chekhov and Firs. Madame Ranevskaya was also excellent. I liked the virtual opening and closing, and the acting was good, but if I didn’t know the story, I probably would have been lost. Was the robotic arm/camera symbolic? Were there allusions to the current invasion of Ukraine? Perhaps. Here’s one review.

We finished the current episodes of Stranger Things (two more episodes drop on July 1). We both have enjoyed this new season. We started the latest Star Trek, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It’s a prequel to the original Star Trek, and it follows Capt. Pike and his crew, including intern Uhura.

The Blue Between

Monday Morning Musings:

The Blue Between

Morning fog, afternoon sunshine. The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

The Oracle whispers watch
for the blue that comes

a taste, a tease
of cerulean between storms

Pine Street on a Rainy afternoon in Old City Philadelphia

Rainy Day Walk in Old City Philadelphia:

that arrive with thunder of boots,
the hard rain of lies, and
lightning bolts of hate.

And I am tired–
so tired–of the would-be despots
who dupe the gullible,
and the culture that declares
black and brown bodies are not
as beautiful as white, and who proclaim all women
must be controlled.

I cannot believe in their petty, jealous gods—
narrow-minded, power-hungry deities created in our image,
not the other way around. I am still waiting for the Star Trek world,
where people fight for goodness, timelines can be rewritten, and Q
is a super-being, not a spreader of wacko conspiracy theories.

Sparkling River

But—
again, the Oracle reminds me to breathe
to listen to the pre-dawn birdsong, the excited chatter of crows,
the sparkle on the river, the scent of petrichor, of honeysuckle, of bread baking
in the oven–
to notice the humming moon and the singing stars,
and that patch of blue
that comes like love—a surprise, a mystery.

Mysteries

We had some blue skies last week, but lots of cloudy days, and we walked around Philadelphia in the rain on Saturday before seeing a play. This afternoon, we may get violent thunderstorms with hail and the possibility of tornados.

We saw School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh at the Arden Theatre. It’s a play about—well, mean girls in a boarding school in Ghana in the 1980s. It covers issues of body image and colorism, in a timely, but also funny play. We streamed a very strange movie that we both liked Black Bear with Aubrey Plaza.
And we watched the first two episodes of the British series Ridley Road. It’s on Masterpiece now. It’s about a Jewish woman from Manchester who infiltrates a neo-Nazi group in the 1960s. It explores history that is not very well-known, but it is also timely (and scary to me) that people are so easily duped that they believe the anti-Semitic and racist lies and think the fascism will actually improve their lives. It sounds too much like what it is happening right now. Oh yeah, there was another mass shooting. A young white man with a hate manifesto shot people of color in and around a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.

We had a virtual Shabbat with our children and their spouses (and pets) on Friday night.

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.

This Wondrous Truth

Monday Morning Musings:

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars”
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 31

“Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines”
–Maya Angelou, A Brave and Startling Truth

Venus, just before Sunrise

Not yet dawn, the robins sing
in twinkling tones that answer stars–
light becoming sound,
the call for love all around,

a song that runs through nature
carried in secret whispers of the wind
heard even in fog-obscured morning
a sun-bright melody pinned

to the coming of spring.

Forsythia in the Fog

Am I the river that murmurs,
the breeze the rustles leaves and grass,
the perfect blue of sky, and the white peony clouds
floating past–

My willow, Dock Creek, Old City Philadelphia, US Custom House in the background

I hear their sigh–
I am everything
the bloom of life, the garden’s laughter, the love the flies
on dragonfly wings, gossamer, then gone–

Reflections, Doubletree Hotel, Broad Street, Philadelphia

the flash of mirrored light
the echoed song

the transformation of grape to wine,
that ephemerality that lingers through
the shape of time
the triangles and circles,
the nebulae of cells
the marvel of blooms
that call birds and bees
in colors beyond what we can see—
the echo of an empty room,

the startling truth of us and stars
in mingled dust, brave as a leaf–
the contradiction of belief,
a tangle of shades and sounds–
a wondrous mess, this existence is ours.

We actually went out this past week! We sat outside at a winery on Wednesday.Purim started that night, and I made Hamantaschen, the triangular filled pastries. We went to a Judy Collins concert on Friday night. That day began with dense fog, then turned to bright sunshine, then got cloudy again. We saw a play on Saturday afternoon. It was a play we were supposed to see the previous Saturday—when it was snowing. What a change in a week! It was almost summery as we walked around Old City Philadelphia before the show. March is living up to its reputation.

Concert, play, wedding stalking, and murals and street art for Resa.


Meanwhile, the craziness of the world continues. The concert venue, the Scottish Rite auditorium in Collingswood said that vaccination/proof of negative Covid tests were required, but they didn’t check. The ushers were masked, as were we, but most people were not. On the Patco train, masks were required, but we were in the minority wearing ours. At the Philadelphia Arden Theater, however, we had to show our vaccination cards and ID, and remain masked.
The war in Ukraine goes on, and the GOP extremists are still peddling Russian disinformation. Sigh. But spring is beautiful.

Judy Collins was wonderful. She can still sing and write, and she’s gracious and funny. The play Tracking Back, was funny and heartwarming—just what we needed.

Hearts and Moons

Monday Morning Musings:

Morning Moon, Snow Moon

We wrap our hearts in fleecy blankets,
Valentine red, while the cold Snow Moon
sings her song, in silver notes falling,
falling, falling—

we don’t feel the movement
only the argent pull—magnetic attraction,
the flow of tides and blood
creating life, rising, and falling, falling

in revolutions around the sun,
in tilted rotations, come
the ebb and flow of existence
from star explosion, falling, falling, falling

and gravity caught and kept,
swept aside, buried to thrive,
the fruits of our earth consumed and reborn,
as falling, falling, falling

species die, yet birds survive.
Now the crows are calling
from trees deep-rooted,
but falling, falling, falling

leaves and seeds fly
as squirrels scamper and scold,
waving their tails, yet never
falling, falling, falling

only climbing higher to see
the deep ancient course
of water as it finds its way
the sea, rising, and falling, falling,

now rain and snow on
withered gardens that grow sun-bright–
and bee breath threaded gold
with pollen, falling, falling, falling

on flowers as they dance–
but even our simple eyes
can see the ghosts around us
falling, falling, falling

all around–
their memories
held in mind and heart, released
to join the stars, rising, falling, rising.

Sunrise

February was birthday month for us—children earlier in the month, and my husband and his mother’s this past week. We splurged and did a virtual Valentine wine and cheese tasting with wine and cheese we picked up at Tria in Philadelphia. It was so much fun—all French wine and cheese, except for one Vermont cheese. We saved the crémant to have with Indian food on my husband’s birthday.

This week we finished watching Inventing Anna (Netflix)—which I mentioned last week, and which definitely held our interest—and watched the first two episodes of the new season of Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime).

We wait to see if there will be war abroad and if our democracy will be toppled by right-wing authoritarians. But still, the moon shines, the days are getting longer, birds are beginning to sing, and spring is coming.

Crocus

First Snow

Monday Morning Musings:

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
--Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Of spring weather with the sun low in the winter sky
It’s off-kilter, my friend remarks. Disconcerting, I say.
Like this upside-down world of lies embraced, why
I don’t know. Strength in ignorance persuades—
the authoritarian’s way.

****
Now first snow before daylight,
perfect white as dawn kisses night
the pristine blanket yet untouched--
unanswered questions, many and so much

hate and love. Fingers curled within a glove,
hands balled into fist. This is mine, some insist,
with mired minds and clouded brains—
perfect offerings, rotted remains

in nature cycles, vulture-fed, cycles birth, the dead
live within 
our hearts 
the bells we still can ring

sounding louder in the fog
we can’t know what the future brings,
it flows, a river carrying us and everything
and birds sing,


Bright glow in the fog
Afternoon light over the Delaware River
Bagpiper at Red Bank Battlefield
sensing the light
reflections of past, the infinite,
the now—
first snow, first light
for a moment, all is right,

ring in the new year
built on hope, wet with tears,
ring the cracked bell, toll with cheer,
the circling of our earth, and we are still here.


WordPress seems to be up to more tricks. It won’t let me copy and paste the way I usually do it. UGH!

We’ve had strangely warm weather here, along with fog and rain. This morning we’re getting snow. I’ve taken some poetic license, as it doesn’t seem to be snowing anymore, and it’s not really covering the ground. Meanwhile, COVID is still raging, and the deniers are still denying. This Thursday, January 6 will be the one-year anniversary of the attempted overthrow of the US government. Some people deny that, too, despite all the evidence, which I find truly terrifying. The celebration of ignorance, and the insistence on sharing and spreading lies is appalling.

Stepping down from my soapbox. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with Chinese food, as we’ve done for decades. Then, we had a family Zoom session, while we drank champagne. On New Year’s Day, we ate Cinnabons—another tradition.

I enjoyed a few days of not doing much, and I’m not looking forward to getting back to work today. 

We watched four new movies:
Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
The Lost Daughter (Netflix)
The Last Duel (Amazon Prime, rental)
Who You Think I Am (Amazon Prime)

My husband and I liked all of them, and they all have great acting, but we both thought The Lost Daughter was our overall “best picture” of the group. I think Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley are always excellent, and Jodie Comer, in the last duel, is also wonderful. 

Oh, it’s snowing again!