Portrait of a Mystery

Monday Morning Musings:

Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

My dreams–a language-storm of do,
or not,
I try to recall

and wonder who are you—
and which is me—
all is enigma and mystery,

like a portrait-sitter lost in time
sublime or shaded, half-smile, three-quarter face
a hint of her wishes, or the artist’s embrace

of unconscious desire, inspiration
in symbols of her worth, still in last laugh–
she gazes into the future,

Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine

can she imagine
how she’ll be carted through wars, another spoil,
a wall-hung prize, monster-cherished–

the attraction of beauty to the beast—
opposites, and circles
of the sun and moon–

with light comes shadow,
honeyed joy and bitter sorrow
alternate—the universe’s tessellated patterns

Oak Tree Shadows

as time moves on. . .

Now, little bird
silent-sitter, waiting to strike–
living dinosaur, a portrait, too.

We finally have a beautiful day after days of oppressive heat, humid, and storms.

I just finished The Night Portrait, a novel by Laura Morelli. I enjoyed both the writing and the story. It takes place in the fifteenth century as Leonardo da Vinci is painting Cecilia Gallerani, then the young mistress of Ludovico Sforza, and during WWII as the Nazis and confiscated art, and the Monuments Men are trying to find the stolen art.

We watched an Icelandic series on Netflix called Katla. If you like dark brooding Scandi-noir mixed with a bit of the supernatural, you’ll like it. It reminded me a little bit of the German series Dark. It’s about a town, now nearly deserted because an underwater volcano has started erupting, and mysterious things begin happening. . .We were really intrigued by it and finished the series in a few nights.

We also watched the first episode of season 4 of Unforgotten (PBS). I’m excited that it’s back on.

All the Dreams Fly Like Birds

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sueñito, it means ‘little dream.’”
–In the Heights

Three Crows on an Uprooted tree, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Three crows sit on an uprooted tree,
gods, fate, or destiny?
Day to night, birth to death, changes come—
love and regrets,

of words unspoken, of dreams unachieved,

but in the balance of all things–

“Like a Bird on a Wire.” (Leonard Cohen)

seeds are planted, and eggs hatched,
in fertile soil, with care and light,
life blooms, the cycle resumes,

seasons spun in revolutions
of the earth, and thoughts that spark like stars,
the universe of the mind, our Milky Way inside

in glittering array. Sometimes enlightenment
comes our way,

dream-born, though dreams evolve
with the dancing of your heart and the echoes
of the stars,

the fire in your eyes
and reflections from the sky,
the whys and when return again
revolving into something new—

the evolution of dreams come true.

Between storms. Early Morning, the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

We are dust from the stars,
and rise from the sea,
we wing and dive–fate or fait accompli?
Ever-soaring dreams blowing
through earth, sky, and blue-water flowing.

It is definitely summer in southern NJ! Heat, humidity, storms—and then an occasional beautiful day. We went out once this week for a trivia night at a winery. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the rounds, so I only got this one photo.

Trivia Night at Sharrott Winery

Merril’s Movie Club—We watched two movies this week, and I would watch both of them again. One you’ve probably heard of, and one you probably have not heard about. Our friends invited us to a movie night at their house, so we could watch In the Heights. (We don’t have HBO, and they do. It’s also playing in theaters.) You may or may not know that I love musicals, and this one combines Lin Manual Miranda’s songs with old-fashioned movie musical choreography and vision. Dreams (and immigrants and DREAMers) is a recurring theme in the movie. All the actors are wonderful. My friend, Pat (the one in charge of rainbows) had a bounty of farm-fresh summer vegetables and made a grilled a vegetable lasagna. I made brownies because. . .well, chocolate.

My husband and I also saw Undine, the most recent movie by German director Christian Petzold. (Rental through Amazon.) It stars the two leads from his previous movie, Transit, which my husband and I both really enjoyed. We also both liked this one, though maybe not quite as much. The movie is a sort of modern re-telling of the ancient myth of the water nymph, Undine. My husband, who had never heard of the legend of Undine, saw the movie as a metaphor of Berlin. So, it’s clearly not a movie for people who like straight-forward stories. It’s dreamy and has a beautiful score (mainly the adagio from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974), but also “Stayin Alive), and we had a great discussion about it afterwards.

We had some wine and cheese to nibble on while we watched the movie.

Movie Watching Companion

We Measure Time

Monday Morning Musings:

We measure time in sunglow and moon-sighs,
in the numbers of hellos, goodbyes–
and we do it again.

We measure time in heartbeats,
the food we eat,
the hours spent with friends,

our hair greying,
our shadows growing
as wine in summer glows, easygoing

like a lazy river flowing
the memories growing—
love, family, companions—

Kayaker seen from Martine’s. Delaware River at New Hope, Bucks County, PA

Do you remember? I say,
that time, this day?
We celebrate the decades gone

and hope that more remain,
though nothing stays the same.
Still, the sun glows, the moon sighs,

hello, goodbye. Love moves through phases,
so do I. Waxing, waning, silver, gold, while the sun blazes
I might seem cold,

but I’ll still shine while you grow old.
So, measure time in love you hold
folded gently, held within–every story told.

Schuylkill River near the Water Works.
By the Schuylkill River, June 2021

We celebrated our wedding anniversary by walking through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County, PA, and then having a delightful lunch at Martine’s Riverhouse in New Hope. We walked through the town a bit, and then walked along the canal path. We couldn’t have ordered a more beautiful day. Earlier in the week, we enjoyed wine with dear friends at William Heritage Winery. On Saturday, we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the first time since the pandemic, and then walked along the Schuylkill River. It rained, and then got steamy. For dinner that night, we opened some champagne and ate Indian food from Spice Affair Indian Cuisine in Swedesboro. Then ate leftovers the next night.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
Canal Path, New Hope
Schuylkill River in the Rain, June 26, 2021

Schuylkill Timeline by Jonathan Laidacker— Mural Arts


Merril’s Movie Club: We re-watched the movie About Time (2013). It’s on Netflix. I’m not especially into romantic comedies, but this one is delightful. There’s time travel, family, and searching for love. I will watch almost anything with Bill Nighy, and the father-son scenes are especially touching and funny.

Green and Growing

Monday Morning Musings:

In June, my world is greening, growing
high, the sky in shades of blue and grey,
but showing a spark, a glow, some bit of light,
even on a cloudy day

before daybreak, the robin sings, brings
the pink of dawn, so bright, the sight
awakens geese and bees to hover on
some golden flowers, and in delight

the little ones scamper, goslings, rabbits, deer
hiding in the shade, wade through bushes for the blooms
of orange, yellow, red, violet, and green
growing, knowing all too soon

the colors fade,
but grandmothers with grey-haired wisdom weigh
and know how plants, pictures, stories grow
when nourished with love sway past grey, to stay

beyond June, in memory greening, growing,
like the mockingbird’s song all night and day
holding heartache into laughter flowing–and showing
a path to make everything okay.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Minari this week. We both liked this lovely, tender movie very much. It’s the story of a Korean American family trying to make their own American dream on a farm in Arkansas. The dream is really the husband’s, which causes some conflict in the marriage. Yuh-Jung Youn, who plays the grandmother, won an Oscar for her role. She plants minari, a leafy green plant often used in Korean dishes, and also creates a bond with her grandson, after a rocky start.

Thinking about the movie and seeing all the color in this growing season made me think of my mom. She didn’t know anything about planting, but she did teach my children how to see plants and how to paint them, and she loved flowers and color.

Some paintings by mom, Sylvia Schreiber.

We went to Vino and Vibes at William Heritage Winery with daughter and son-in-law, and we returned there on a Sunday for a members’ only event.

The Color of Language, the Language of Color

Monday Morning Musings:

“When a name for a color is absent from a language, it is usually blue. When a name for a color is indefinite, it is usually green. Ancient Hebrew, Welsh, Vietnamese, and, until recently, Japanese, lack a word for blue… The Icelandic word for blue and black is the same, one word that fits sea, lava, and raven.

It has been shown that the words for colors enter evolving languages in this order, nearly universally: black, white, and red, then yellow and green (in either order), with green covering blue until blue comes into itself. . .

Within every color lies a story, and stories are the binding agent of culture.”
–Ellen Meloy, quoted on Brainpickings

Sunrise over the Delaware River. West Deptford, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I celebrate color, all the hues
of dawning light to grey or blue,
the color of the sky, the gulls that flew
before the morning moon to sparkle bright–
I celebrate delight

in things we name from time and before—
the universe of letters, we’re each a book—and more–
composed of fiery stars and stellar song. And all along
from there to here and back again, there is light—
I celebrate its flight

from stars, bird-winged it soars, beating hearts
twinkling, illuminating the night, and each day
through shadows, there is a glow, a gate, a portal
through which time circles, not black or white—
I celebrate the spotlight

the lens through which I see. My faulty illusions—
still part of me. And everywhere I go, I see Crow—
who sees much more. So, while we count, label, and navigate,
some things remain unseen. But I dream and write—
I celebrate me, color, language, light.

My older child has been a fellow at the Atiq Maker Kollel for the past fifteen weeks. Yesterday they did a Zoom celebration of their art projects. You can find out more about their project here. In a discussion by one of the other participants, there was a mention of the world being created from letters and language, and even our bodies composed of language. I had read the Brainpickings article earlier in the week, which made me think of color and language, and the naming of things.


Memorial Day seems much more than a week ago, but we went to a Lobster and Chardonnay event at a local winery that afternoon. This past weekend, we tasted some of the wine (only got through the whites) from a blind tasting box—a Mother’s Day gift from our children.


Last night we watched the Kennedy Center Honors, which we both enjoyed. The honorees were Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Dick van Dyke, Midori, and Garth Brooks. I couldn’t name a Garth Brooks song, but I even enjoyed his segment because he was so moved by the performers. Because of Covid restrictions, the TV program combined clips of filmed indoor and outdoor performances instead of the usual formal theater production. Some of the dance numbers worked very well that way.

I’m linking this to dVerse, Open Link Night.

Measuring

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Measure by measure—

in hope and despair
from winter bare to sun-charged air

we smile through tears
with spirits brightened, but still the fears

of what comes next?
Another crisis, another text

of sorrow or disaster.
Can we master

moving from the passing of this year?
Too many lost, but we’re still here–

and so, we live as we’re able,
finally meet across a table

to eat and laugh, while those who’ve passed
remain within our memories, clasped

in synapsed snapshots, held fast,
until all is faded, at last,

everything balanced, a measure
of sadness, a finding of treasure

in the remembrance of what she said,
those words, like a thread

linking us, a connection
a form of resurrection

in “do you remember?” Phrases bright—
like the promise, with shadows, there’s light.

Ripples. One Year. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

April is a strange month all over, it seems—one day cold, one day warm, full of storms, and also flowers. A bunch of tulips that we didn’t plant have popped up in our garden.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Now that we’ve all been vaccinated, we went to our younger daughter and son-in-law’s house—and for the first time in over a year, hugged and ate inside. She made us a tapas feast, and I baked a chocolate cake in my mom’s memory.

My husband and I both got haircuts for the first time in over a year, too. Woo hoo! We celebrated with a date night at home and streamed the excellent production of the Lantern Theater’s production of Measure for Measure. It was a filmed production from a few years ago. The play is very timely. We watched the movie, Promising Young Woman, (rental from Amazon), which my husband and I both enjoyed and thought was very good—great acting, direction, and soundtrack. Both play and movie will inspire discussion.

Spring Cycle

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise–almost Spring

On the first day of spring,
I take my shadow for a walk
she doesn’t talk—but the crows do
remembered views, the death and blight–

a year has passed
upside-down and inside-out,
and birdsong comes again, devours the dark
as dawn glows bright from each spring night

Spring Reflection

after winds of winter go,
and summer storms not yet here, she knows,
to go softly on tippy-toes, then stop, perch
till too soon off like a bird in flight

she soars—another year–
but while she’s here—oh!
She flicks colors with her feathered wings
yellow, pink, purple, white—the sight

of all these tiny, bright beautiful things brings
more song and whispered longings—
all things yearn, and we turn, yearn,
learn spring returns, despite

would-be tyrants and corona drops
spread from the unmasked walking brain-dead, threads
of lives unraveled and songs unsung—yet, listen, see–
birds, bees, tender buds in bloom—and the light!

Sunrise, Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Now spring is back. The crows are once again very busy, the songbirds have started singing before dawn, and the light lasts longer each day. Even the cold mornings now don’t stay cold. There are still ignorant people spreading lies, and new strains of the virus also spreading, but hopefully, more people will be vaccinated before too long. I get my second vaccine later this week.
We started watching Shtisel (Netflix). It’s a family drama about a religious Jewish family in Jerusalem. We’re enjoying it. We’re still on Season 1. The third season is dropping this week.

I made chana masala and garlic naan on Friday night.

Love, Loss, and Dancing Through It

Monday Morning Musings:

Beat away the aching time
in river blues, see serene, sublime

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

in those rippling rhythms. The tide rolls in, and thus begins
another round of what and when and who wins

the life and death struggles, the eagle soars, swoops, a pounce
there goes the fish, squirrel, another ounce, but we can’t denounce

an avian predator who wants to eat,
but human ones, we must unseat.

I see the lawn-stuck signs of misguided fools who think
freedom comes with soundbite slogans–but we’re on the brink

standing on a precipice, tottering, about to fall
while they embrace the treacherous, Russians and all–

the lies they think are fine, wish them away, spin, deny
in sheep-like flocks they gather, unmasked, I sigh

as I walk, watch the geese honk and fly
greeting each other, hello, goodbye

I say, wonder what it’s like to twirl and soar
and then, I go home to bake some more,

to dip bread and apples in honey’s sweetness
to wish for good to flourish, feeling a completeness

of life with loved ones, though from afar
with a world increasingly troubled and bizarre.

Every day more and more, surpassing–
we’re saddened by news of a hero’s passing.

More wine, more honey
talk of this and that, find something funny—

hold on to love (is love is love is love is love is love)
dance when you can, look for beauty above

and all around, fight for justice and truth—
remember our heroes, remember Ruth.

We celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah with a Zoom dinner with our daughters and their spouses. I don’t know how to make a small holiday meal, even though there are just two of us here. We heard about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when the news flashed on a daughter’s phone.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw And Then We Danced, which now is free on Amazon Prime. We had seen previews for it before the pandemic hit, and though I enjoyed the movie, it would have been wonderful to see it on a big screen. The film is about Merab, a member of Georgia’s National Dance Ensemble. It’s an art form that is beautiful, but rigid, and steeped in tradition. Merab and a new dancer, Iralki are first rivals, but then attracted to each other. It is dangerous to be gay in Georgia (the country, not the state). The government would not finance the movie, and there were bodyguards on the set. The choreographer remains anonymous. I fear this is what it could be like here.
My husband and I both liked the movie very much. The drumming music is great. The subtitles could be better, and they even though I watch subtitled movies all the time, I had to full with the settings.

Hate, Love, Hate, Love

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Blue Mood with Pegasus clouds racing across the sky. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ ©️ Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete.” –Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

“There’s a saying in Hebrew, ‘No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.”—Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace

 

Glowing ships on the aquamarine sea,

Moon and Venus shine their beacons–

 

Farewell night!

The moon smiles a crooked grin,

 

and Venus titters

such fools, these mortals be.

 

***

 

I hate everyone, she says to me.

Well, not you—not my family—

 

and I know what she means, because I feel it, too,

the constant barrage of evil and ignorance,

 

people who refuse to wear masks,

who spread misinformation,

 

and insist they’re not racist while sharing racist posts—

the people, who like black holes, swallow the light,

 

but not all of it.

 

Sigh. Breathe. Walk. Begin again—

 

as each day does–

the sun rises, even if we don’t see it

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shining over the horizon

waking the world

 

again and again,

though some never awaken

 

to see the world around them,

its beauty

 

flowing on a river of hope

reflected over and over

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

a dream

of what was and what could be.

 

Some of the things I’ve seen on my morning walks this week:

These mushrooms that look like umbrellas set up for fairies.

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Deer and red-tailed hawks this morning.

 

On Friday nights, we get together virtually with our children and their spouses. We light the Sabbath candles and share the things that we’re grateful for.

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Saturday night homemade pizza and movie night

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Lots of baking

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Hate U Give. (Amazon Prime with an additional slight fee, but I believe it’s on other streaming platforms.) We both thought it was a very good movie, and I highly recommend it. It’s based on a YA novel of the same name. It gets very intense, but in a thoughtful, nuanced way. Here’s a review in The New Yorker. We finished Season 3 of Bordertown, which I mentioned last week. I’m happy that apparently Season 4 is in the works.

I’m rereading Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace, a historical novel set in WWII Italy. She’s an author who does her research, but also tells a good story with captivating characters. Another story that seems timely when read now.

And this–unconditional love.

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The Light Rekindled

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The Upside-Down World: An overflow drainage pond is beautiful reflected. Merril D. Smith, March 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“I borrowed his brightness and used it to see my way, and then gradually, from the habit of looking at the world as he illuminated it, the light in my own mind rekindled.”

–Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders

 

I walk, alone

no human voices, only birdsong.

Vultures soar above me,

social, silent creatures

gracefully catching the currents

 

 

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sniffing the air

for death on the ground,

unnoticed by us–

like those who scavenge and clean

under-appreciated, like those who serve.

 

Life blooms all around me

yellow, pink, white

petals bright against the sky

where a mockingbird perches

to sing for hours in looping trills

 

a song of love, longing, and hope

of attracting his mate,

or fending off others.

Whatever the intent,

his message makes me smile.

 

We celebrate Shabbat,

a virtual dinner with our daughters.

We light the candles, sip our wine,

cut the challah

share our lives and love through a screen,

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Virtual Shabbat Dinner

 

agreeing that we should do this again

agreeing that we are all connecting

in new ways—

I tell them I called a friend,

I remind myself to call others.

 

The sun shines

through the raindrops

a brief reminder

it is there, like a memory

it is always there

 

in a puddle

reflected

or in the sky

hidden by clouds

or by a turn of the axis–

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Sun shower–Upside-down World in a puddle Merril D. Smith, March 2020

 

even in the upside-down world

light is a constant,

if unseen

like light within a black hole

trapped

 

like a thought in a confused mind–

my mom says she’s honeymooning

with my dead father,

remembering not the anger, but love rekindled—

a bit of light in the darkness.

 

The week began with sunshine

ends with clouds and rain–

spring is a tease of

warm days and cool breeze,

but the light lingers longer

 

even while the shadows play.

 

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No movies this week, but we finished Season 3 of Babylon Berlin. It’s so good. Now we have to wait for Season 4.  I’m seeing new things in my neighborhood as I walk through it.

And we celebrated #openlocalwine night on Saturday. Doing our small part. 😀