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!

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.

Beginnings, Endings, and All There is, In-Between

Monday Morning Musings:

“Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,
Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on
At twilight.”
–from Tracy K. Smith, “My God, It’s Full of Stars

December Morning Moon
Early Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Before the beginning, there was another,
and perhaps another before that, bangs and waves,
an infinite, endless sea of possibilities—
of if, not when,
light sparks life.

Yet here I am, and here you are,
each the sun of our own universe, surrounded by planets,
stardust in our blood, blinking pulsars for an infinitesimal moment
of time. Beacons, ships in the night, we gaze
at the ghost streams of long-dead stars,

an recreate the twinkling gleams in candles
and sparkling lights adorn trees as winter appears.

Birthday Wine at Blue Cork Winery

We celebrate the anniversary of my birth
leave footprints in the sand, as our ancestors once did,
as they emerged from watery depths–as we do,
each birth the same and different, each life unique,
distinct, and less than a speck.

Ocean City, NJ

It’s all in the perspective. The horizon beckons, but is never reached.
I watch the gulls hover and soar, catching wind and light.

Gull in flight, Ocean City, NJ

As we celebrate, holding fast to dying light, catching fire in
glass and cup, echoing the chirps of stars and gull laughter,
our friends sit a vigil,
and we look to the past, knowing we can’t return—
and if I could put on my younger self’s skin, like a selkie
dons her castoff seal pelt, I don’t think it would fit,
not in this world, and it’s the only one I know,

with shadows looming from the light, imperfectly perfect, gigantic, a pinprick—we dream–a lifetime passes in a second.

December Dune

My birthday was last week. We went to Ocean City, NJ, to take a walk on the beach, which was mostly deserted except for some people walking their dogs. We saw lots of egg casings and horseshoe crab remains on the beach. I had a free glass of wine for my birthday at Blue Cork Winery, and then we had Indian food and champagne (actually a crémant). To continue my birthday celebration a couple days later, we went to the art museum, and then walked to the Christmas Village in Philadelphia. I started laughing when my husband took a photo of me eating a cannoli, and then I couldn’t stop laughing, which made me think of my mom, and made me cry while I was laughing. A dear friend’s mother died on my birthday. We paid our respects on Saturday, and then took a drive to see the house where I lived when I was in high school.

Merril’s Movie Club: We streamed Belfast this week. In this beautifully filmed in black and white, Kenneth Branagh takes a nostalgic look at Belfast, a sort of love letter to a place and time that no longer exists. It’s bittersweet without being too sappy, though set during a time of violence, strife, and intolerance (and I think that’s understood). I liked it very much, and it was a perfect holiday/birthday movie.

Last night, Santa drove through town.

We Find the Light Again and Again

Monday Morning Musings:

“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Mary Oliver, “When I am Among the Trees”

Sunrise in December

And now—the winter darkness comes,
the sun a sleepy golden cat, who rises on arthritic limbs
to sight the birds on leafless boughs
and make the holly berries gleam,
before he settles back to nap
in grey blankets glimmered-glowed.

The sun already low in the sky at 3:30 in the afternoon. The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

And now—we see the nests above,
the treasures hidden by summer’s green,
and birds chitter-chat, and squirrels flitter past
gathering nuts for their cold repast,
while vultures soar, then bide their time
in silent committees in meetings of time

that flows like the river, light to darkness
to light again,
we touch match to candles, watch them burn–
the miracle is, we’ve endured,
we drink and eat and love, let out a sigh, a cry–
the shadows gather—

Early morning geese, Delaware River

December Sunrise

but so does the light. Bird-chased,
we follow after. There, the trees in cinnamon gowns,
and the glitter of snow on evergreen—there, a flame
brightens, while the sleepy cat says goodnight—
knowing he will wake to love,
while in the darkness we toast, “to life!”

Last night was the last night of Hanukkah. We bought another wine tasting kit, and we tasted a white (German Riesling) and a red (Australian Pinot Noir) while watching the candles burn.

The winter solstice approaches, and there is a lot of darkness in the world–and it’s growing. Don’t let it. Don’t let the anti-democratic forces or the anti-science crazies win. Shine the light wherever you can.

Reflecting Shadows and Light

Monday Morning Musings:

“Turn a page, walk the lines of sentences: the singer steps out, and conjures a world of color and noise in the space inside your head.”
― Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land

“Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laiden with happiness and tears”
Jerry Bock / Sheldon Harnick, “Sunrise, Sunset,” Fiddler on the Roof

“Let the music commence from inside
Not only one sense, but use all five
Come to your senses
Come to your senses
Come to your senses
Baby come back
Alive”
Jonathan Larson, “Come to Your Senses,” Tick Tick . . .Boom!

There’s an ache for those who’ve passed
into memory, held within our hearts,
carried on in blood, skin, genes within our jeans—

my older child and I once shared a gown, now we share the sky,
our tongues taste the wind, we watch vultures fly.

We gather—together, we form and fashion light,
our senses alive, we’re wicks in scented wax,
held fast

flickering and flaming, creating a glow that burns
in darkness, a miracle reclaiming bright,

the red and gold against the dim
and cold November nights, when

we break bread together, we eat, and we drink
our senses tuned to color, we catch
the rising and setting sun, the clouds, the river

Sunrise Reflections, Delaware River

that flows through shadows, reflecting the gleam–
what was, what might be—unseen–
the ghosts that surrounding,

whisper “remember us,” as we share dreams
of now and tomorrow—
tears come, so does laughter–

our senses alive to shade and hue, the soul-filled tunes,
all the stories of the past—and now,
one season following another through traditions and change,
we turn the page again–and wait—

hear the fiddler, hear his song,
feel the whispers—tree sighs, squirrel chatter, birdwings of light–

all the things there all along, all the joy and grief,
and the magic yet to come.

Our older child and their wife were here last week. We had not seen them since before the pandemic, and it was wonderful to have them here. Our daughter, our younger child, came over and we made candles one day, then broke up loaves of bread for stuffing. On Thanksgiving, some other family members came for dinner, and the famous cranberry squirrel was present again. While our older child was here, we re-watched Fiddler on the Roof. It’s been a while since I’ve watched the entire movie. It was great to see it again. I listened to the soundtrack while I fried latkes last night for the first night of Hanukkah.

Last dinner after dinner, my husband and I watched Tick, tick. . .Boom! (Netflix). It’s truly a love letter to musical theater—a movie based on Jonathan Larson’s 3-person musical about writing his first unsuccessful musical, but the movie is directed by Lin Manuel Miranda, who was inspired by seeing Larson’s Rent–and Larson was inspired and mentored by Stephen Sondheim, who died on Friday. There’s a musical number in the show that becomes a tribute to Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. The real Sondheim leaves a voicemail message in the movie. Our older child’s college essay was on what Rent meant to them, so I guess we’re connected, too.

I’m nearly finished with Cloud Cuckoo Land, a novel by Anthony Doerr. Of course, I love it. It’s such a Merril book (multiple timelines and connections, light, color, history. . .and books, libraries, and librarians.).

Infused

Monday Morning Musings:

Infuse

a subtle taste, in this golden glow
find a centering, a time and place to recall
moments of friendship, laughter that falls
with ease, a seizing of the day–

but, oh the moon! She hums, not sweet,
but fiercely, in tune with the season
of upside down and in-between, dispersing
in her way

Moon setting in sunrise glow over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

reflected light. The light!
through gold and green, the illumination of things
not always seen—the molecules that ignite in color
and flame

to arc across the sky. Hello and goodbye.
The magic vanishes too soon—sunrise to starry night—
I follow science, but understand delight
in looking up and all around

I’ve found the sound
of moon-sighs and dawn’s reprise,
the whispers of the river and trees,
the canopy above suffused with hues so bright—

My willow at Dock Creek, Old City Philadelphia

and if the shadows drop, lengthen, and call,
they can’t appear without a gleam–
a radiance diffused or luminosity suffused
from ancient boom and blast and whirls of gas–

our starry nights, our souls delight
we see, seek, carry this light.

Today–a hint of pink, curves and lines.

The sky has been fascinating and gorgeous this week. We got together with some friends this week, and my friend Pat was so excited about her new infusing pitcher.
We also attended our daughter’s talk about Bordeaux wines and Blue Cork Winery’s Bordeaux-style wines and cheese pairing.
We streamed the Lantern Theater’s production of The Plague, a play based on Albert Camus’ novel. It was a well-done and timely production.

We saw an immersive Van Gogh exhibition. I wasn’t certain what to expect because I’ve heard both good and not-so-good reviews. There seem to be several different companies that are touring around the globe with these exhibitions. This one, though originally advertised as being in a secret Philadelphia location, turned out to be in suburb outside the city, less convenient for us. We went on Sunday morning at 9 AM, assuming correctly that there would not be too much traffic on the street or people at the venue. (Proof of vaccination was required and masks had to be worn.) We both liked the show, but we didn’t think it was the most amazing thing ever. We learned some information in the gallery section, but I really was not a fan of the Van Gogh prints that were like backlit canvases. We can see real Van Gogh paintings in Philadelphia. And we’ve stepped inside his bedroom at Grounds for Sculpture. However, I really did like the immersive experience. I particularly loved the crows that seemed to fly through the room, the rain that looked like it was forming puddles at our feet, and the starry night with the boats sailing on the river.

After the exhibition, we drove to Philadelphia and walked for about three hours from Old City to Rittenhouse Square and back, and then over to Washington Square to Tria—where the sun came out, we sat outside, enjoying food, wine, beer, and each other’s company.