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.

Where There’s a Will

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise

Will you walk with me
through clouded pink–
the light diffused, brushing wings
to make them glow—this sight, the morning rites
of nature bound by the seasons,
the revolutions round the sun, the wax and waning of the moon.

Heron in the dawn clouds
Coy Morning Moon

Where there’s a will, is there a way
to hold these moments close and tight
to heart and brain? Mindfulness or determination
to see and feel and listen—
do you hear
the sound of secret things?

I wonder—do even vultures dream?
They mate for life, finding the perfect husband or wife.
Do they hope for the future—croon
to their young? This I leave you,
this is yours—the sky, the trees–
the scent of death you smell on the breeze. Circle and fly.

Where there’s a will, is there a way
to make the sweetness stay—
away the aches and nightmare shadows! Come tomorrow.
Will you? Won’t you? Seek joy with friends and family,
share food and wine, linger in a moment–
the season of the in-between

Cloud reflections on the Delaware
Sun giving birth

the twilight dawning, the morning of a new day,
a mockingbird is singing, the leaves are falling.
And there’s the moon, she’s calling,
bewitching you, it’s true. But she’s asks, will you,
is there a way? Will you both love
and do what’s right? Will you walk with me? Look! That light.

Morning Mist over the Delaware River

We had brunch with friends over the weekend and signed their wills as witnesses. We enjoyed wine and pizza again at Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, NJ, where our daughter, who has left teaching, at least for the time being, is now the Wine Development Manager.


If you like epic historical novels, The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray tells the story of three women in three different time periods. Two are real women, the third is a fictional character—but all with the will to fight for what was right. I knew nothing of Adrienne Lafayette or the Chateau, so I found that very interesting—and also to learn that the Chateau continued to be a place of rights and freedom even during WWII, when it served as hiding place to protect Jewish children.

At the Crossroads

Monday Morning Musings:

“Standin at the crossroad babe
eee eee eee, risin sun goin down
I believe to my soul now,
Poor Bob is sinkin down”
–from Robert Johnson, “Cross Road Blues”

Clouds over the river ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Hawk flight in dim light, the trees still green–
summer clings, but autumn slings
a cool grey arm, and shadows fall across it all.

Now, the sun’s a sleepy golden ball

when I hear—something—sing
winged hope soars from that throat—to bring

Waiting for the Sun. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

comfort as the days go by, and dawn rises–
what will come—the future surprises.
The sky is cantaloupe and peach—

the eagles fly, high out of reach

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

of those below
where time moves fast, then slow
in the beat of heron wings

a fish is gone. Do his fish brethren grieve?
Or do they notice? Do they believe
in monsters from above?

Do they love?

Or feel sorrow? What bargains would you make,
come tomorrow? For the sake
of family or self—for fame or fortune, or for glory?

Bargains with the devil–an age-old story.

But for some, the price they must pay,
to live a night, and into the next day

you stand at the crossroads to survive,
to see that cantaloupe sun arrive

then watch the harvest moon–revived
now humming, full and ripe–and you’re alive
in a world both glorious and banal–

rainfall and rainbows, fireballs

In the neighbor–sunlight, rainbows, and flowers. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

in the night. The moon has heard the call
of dinosaurs and seen the flight of pterodactyls–
and all of nature’s fractals,

patterns repeating, parallels, and lines that intersect
and here, we meet again and again—connect
the dots. We’re at the crossroads,

we rise and fall,
but the moon has seen it all.

We had warm sticky days last week, then the humidity dropped, and it’s starting to look and feel like autumn. Climate change means we will most likely continue to experience extreme weather. Right-wing fanatics are trying to overthrow our democracy, and anti-mask and anti-vax crazies are prolonging the pandemic. We know now that the “dark ages” were not as dark as they used to be portrayed, but it certainly seems like we’re heading into them.

And yet. . .there is still beauty, love, friendship, and people who speak the truth. And cats, food, and wine. Tonight is the September full moon, the Harvest Moon.

The Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia is beginning this season with two digital plays. We streamed the first one, Me and the Devil, this past weekend. Tickets and information here.
There’s a legend that blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his extraordinary talent. It made me think about how throughout time, people have had to make bargains with evil in order to survive. In Johnson’s case there’s a mystery, and that he died young, adds to his mystique—he may have been poisoned by a jealous husband, as he was known as quite a ladies’ man.

At the Start of the Moment

Monday Morning Musings

“You are here, at the start of a moment,
On the edge of the world.
Where the river meets the sea.”
—“Welcome to the Rock,” from Come From Away

I am here, by the river
the sky is blue—or grey—
cloudy or clear, I am here
at the start of the day

Early Morning on the Delaware River, September.

watching the birds,
remembering the shadows
need the light, and thoughts
need words, to tell how time goes

Geese on the Delaware

Orange sun through the trees–Light and Shadows.

slow, then faster, people gone
before you know to say good-bye.
All the stories left untold,
and new ones born, the river sighs.

There a hawk cries,
There the sun rises, anew—
There a cat finds the light
There you find again the blue

that comes after storms and grey.
We celebrate the holidays—
you are there, and we are here
but we find some ways

to connect and remember.
We toast L’chaim, to life, with wine
and food we commemorate,
and for now, we’re fine

at the start of this moment—
and we soar into the next and the next

without a clue–what’s beyond the blue.

Goose photobombs egret’s big photo shoot.

This week started with Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah—it already seems so far away. We celebrated with our daughter and son-in-law. The next night, we had a Zoom dinner with both children and their spouses. Saturday was September 11. The sky that day was so blue, just as it was twenty years ago. In the afternoon, we went to Blue Cork Winery (where daughter now works) in Williamstown, NJ. It was a gorgeous day to sit outside. We’re going back to summer heat and humidity today.

Last night we watched Come From Away (Apple TV+). I have a couple months of Apple TV free, but Apple does not make it easy to watch on a not-smart TV. This is a filmed version of a live stage production of the musical—filmed recently in a newly opened theater before a masked audience. Although I did not feel it quite so much as when we saw it live in a theater, it is still a wonderful play based on the true events of 9/11—when 38 planes were diverted to the Newfoundland town of Gander. It is heartwarming without being treacly, and it shows people at their best. The play was also performed live on Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

If you’ve seen the show, I just found this article, and it made me happy.