Slumbering Sun Rises Again

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS:

“The wild swan’s death-hymn took the soul
Of that waste place with joy
Hidden in sorrow”
–Alfred Tennyson, “The Dying Swan” (1830)

The sun in slumber,
a bird, head tucked beneath wings,
waiting for the storm to pass
trees lashed by sharp-tongued wind
who screams with frozen breath, “I’m here.”

Now marmalade sky–
Seemingly gone, light returns
again and again, dazzling
us with beauty and hope
a better tomorrow comes.

Sunrise

Do we wait for if?
Do we sail the ship of fools,
or look for wiser pilots?
Each dawn a new page turned,
some dog-eared, marked for remembrance

in sorrow or joy,
we’re prisoners of finite
who hold the infinite, too—
memories of the past
and dreams of the future

we inhale stardust
as star-bird melodies call
the reminder of always
we are connected too–
sky, sea, earth, forever embraced.

Not much to say this week. It snowed, and it’s cold. Joy and sorrow.People are still spewing crazy theories and trying to destroy our democracy and the world, but the sun comes up. There’s poetry. There’s so much that I love.

If you’re a poet, and on Twitter, I’m hosting @TopTweetTuesday tomorrow for Black Bough Poetry. Post a short, imagist poem, if you’d like. See @TopTweetTuesday for more details.

Merril’s Movie Club:
We watched two movies this week. We both really liked Swan Song (2021). I don’t know if you can view it without Apple TV+, but if you can, I highly recommend it (unless you only like action movies). 😊 Starring Marhershala Ali (he was in Moonlight) as a man who is terminally ill, and who must make a decision about whether to replace himself with a clone or not. It is beautifully done.
We also watched Last Night in Soho (Amazon Prime rental). I also really enjoyed it—though I didn’t expect it to turn as dark as it did. It’s very clever and beautifully and creatively filmed. It’s been described as “trippy.” The story involves a young woman who goes to London to follow her dream to be a fashion designer. She’s obsessed by the 1960s, and (sort of) time-travels back there. Lots of ‘60s music and references. I think this may have been the last movie Diana Rigg was in.

We’re also watching The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window on Netflix. It’s a spoof of that genre, but there’s also a mystery. It’s a fun show with short, bingeable episodes and Kristen Bell. Sometimes that’s all you want, right?

Random Food and Cat Photos

Heroes and Lies

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning Moon through the trees

Without moving, we travel far
time and space collapse
as we traipse—everywhere—
from chair and couch

and as the virus rages,
we turn the pages,
hungering for new plots and changes,
a denouement, and all comes clear
order restored, till the world veers

again, and we can only go forward
into what remains to be seen.
other plagues brought serfdom down
and gathered nations in a league—

attempts made, bells rung,
but mostly heroes go unsung
and lies coming tripping off a tongue
gaining currency as far-flung they’re spread
bad news and dread

sell more stories, but check the optics
and we’ll see. Perhaps your story holds a key,
turn the lock, and make our ratings soar
till wiped away by war.

But the lies circle round, and some believe
the tales the sad sacks or the haters weave–
they choose to believe–
but we? We grieve
we grieve we grieve

(well, those of us who see it.)

Sunrise over the water. West Deptford, NJ
Wind whipped. Early morning on the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

Yet, every dawn is a new beginning
and hope wings to the clouds,
the moon will shine when I am gone,
and waves like a teasing lover
will still kiss the shore,
to dart away,
as far-flung ancient light
dances across the sky, always, and forevermore.

Morning Moon

We still haven’t gone anywhere because of Omicron. Though we bought a few theater series, and there’s a play soon. . .so perhaps, since everyone is required to show proof of vaccination and to remain masked.

And in other news, an authoritarian minority is taking over our government. 2+2=5

We did have a much-needed, lovely family Zoom on Friday night.

Waiting for the family Zoom session.

We streamed, A Hero, Asghar Farhadi’s new film. I’ve liked his previous movies, A Separation and A Salesman, so I was eager to see this one, which is available on Amazon Prime now. Like his other movies, situations are not black and white, and no one is totally good or bad. Rahim is in prison for debt, and while on a two-day leave, he tries to make arrangements with his creditor so he can make a payment and be released, but one lie leads to another, and nothing goes as expected. . . It did give us a lot to talk about, and it also gave us glimpses of Iranian life and culture (and prison system). Another excellent film.

We’re watching the final season of the wonderful show The Expanse, also on Amazon Prime. It’s a very complex show—sort of a grittier, less idealistic version of Star Trek, except it’s about human empires and colonization in space, not aliens. Imagine Rome or the British Empire with rebelling colonies, but in space it’s Earth, Mars, and “the Belters,” as well as various other factions and pirates. It’s not a cartoonish sci-fi show. Characters and situations are not black and white here either. As Capt. Holden says of his world-weary crew, we’ve all done things we regret. (Yet we still root for them and their ship, the Rocinante.)

I’m hosting Quadrille Monday at dVerse, so I’ll be back later today! Cold weather comfort food below. Enjoy!

And so, November Begins

Monday Morning Musings:

Vulture flying by the morning moon.

Ineffable the moon and light,
the rainbow sky, the morning delight,
the shadows where the deer skitter,
and ghostly shapes drift and flitter,
the world around me an emitter

for hope and fear, desire and cheer
emotions swirl in collected glow, and we’re
receivers—if only we know

A sunrise rainbow before the rain.

when and how to feel the dead around us,
in the susurrus , and the prickling air—are they there?
We celebrate their lives
by remembering a laugh, a phrase, the favorite food on holidays—

Two skeletons hanging out in the neighborhood

her hands and eyes, his hair and songs,
things we hold inside, that belong
a part of us, carried in traditions and blood,
generations on

might never know, but somehow recognize—
like those grey or green eyes
or ability to paint, or sing, or write–
to gaze up as stars ignite

Geese Flying from the Morning Moon

and feel the colors twirl and spin. To see without and within
the cycle of all beginnings and all ends—to think of ifs
and remember when.

A fiery morning sky.

This has been a strange week. Nothing terrible, just things that didn’t work out as expected, and some mornings in the twilight I felt like this really was a time when the veil between worlds was thinning . . . In between storms and wind, the sky has been so beautiful, and the morning light has a special quality.

We got our Covid boosters on Saturday night. We voted that day, too. Who says we don’t know how to have fun on a weekend? My arm was a little sore, and so was my husband’s, but no other reactions. I had long phone calls yesterday (Halloween) with my sister, sister-in-law, and older child. It was great to catch up! As I walked around the house while on the phone, I got over 25,000 steps in yesterday!


Merril’s Movies, Shows, and Books:
We watched a cool show on Netflix called Tabula Rasa. It’s Belgian. It’s a mystery with some supernatural overtones. It’s about a woman with amnesia, and a missing man. It’s best not to know too much–we were very surprised by the twists and things we didn’t see coming. We’re watching a Japanese show called Midnight Diner, also on Netflix. We watch an episode every once in a while, because I feel like I want to savor them. They’re only half hour episodes about a restaurant in Japan that is open midnight to 7 AM, and the people who come there. My husband was saying he doesn’t know why he loves the show so much. It’s a simple idea, but somehow, it’s just very gentle and satisfying. (Don’t watch it while you’re hungry.) We watched two horror movies over the weekend: The Omen (1976) and The Hole in the Ground (2019). We saw The Omen way back when in a theater with friends, and it was terrifying. Now watching it on TV, it seems a bit dated, not to mention the questions I have now about a husband who would just decide to substitute a baby and not tell his wife? Wifey is too fragile to know the truth. UGH! But it still has some very scary scenes. The Hole in the Ground is an Irish-Finnish production about a woman whose son seems to have been replaced by something else. It had some great and scary moments, and overall was very well done.

I read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. It’s a novel about three very different women who meet and bond during the time they all work at Bletchey Park during WWII. It seems to be very well-researched. I really had a hard time putting this one down. I highly recommend it, if you like historical novels.

Things That Are Lost

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise Reflections, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Things that are lost—

buttons, keys, a pearl earring
summer leaves, the morning light
that fades as the sun rises to its height.

Sunrise over the Delaware River at West Deptford, NJ

Shadows that follow
then disappear,
like warm-weather fruits—till next year.

A battle, a war,
a way of life from before
when then was now, the shore

of future lay ahead,
the dead were living,
at least in your head.

Autumn puddle and reflections

Memories, a laugh, a song ,
the things you wished once to do
with loved ones you once knew–

husband, father, child, wife,
a beloved pet, a favorite toy—
all the sorrow and the joy,

things that are lost –and sometimes found,

air, love, happiness, roots, connected deep underground.

Sunrise with tree silhouette

October seems a month of both beauty and melancholy. The sun rises later and set earlier, but in-between there’s a beautiful glow. We’ve had fog, rain, amazing sunrises, warm days, cold days, and more and more falling colored leaves.

This week we took a brief trip to Hammonton, NJ to pick up some olive oil and balsamic vinegar I like. I also bought cannoli for myself and our daughter (my husband didn’t want one).


We attended a memorial service for my husband’s uncle in Mt. Holly. We went to the service, talked a bit to family members, but then left without eating, as we were not comfortable sitting in the basement room with a bunch of strangers who may or may not be vaccinated. One of the hymns sung was “Amazing Grace.”

Merril’s Movie Club: We streamed three movies this week, all very different, but perhaps sharing a common theme of loss: life, dreams, love, memory. Fever Dream (Netflix) is difficult to describe, as is the novel it’s based on that I read last year. But the title is an indication. I think I liked it more than my husband did. It has a dreamy and slightly unsettling air, with much of it a voice-over between a woman and a boy who is not her son. To give a lot of detail would spoil the movie. There’s a mystery and supernatural elements, and a magical realism feel. We watched The One I Love, a 2014 movie about a couple played by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss go for a weekend getaway at the suggestion of their therapist (Ted Danson). What looks like a rom com movie slips into the surreal. Again, I won’t give any spoilers, but it was fun, unusual, and gives you something to talk about. Finally, we watched The Black Box, a scifi/horror movie from last year on Amazon. It’s about a father who has lost his memory after an accident. When he undergoes a new treatment, strange things happen. It’s a solid B movie—entertaining and enjoyable.

Poems in Sledgehammer and Dead Skunk

I’ve had a couple of good poetry days, which I really needed. I am so pleased to have another poem in Sledgehammer. My thanks to EIC J. Archer Avary, who accepted this poem when I was feeling down. You can read my poem, “Theme and Variations” here.

I also have a poem in the very first issue of Dead Skunk. It definitely does not stink! My thanks to editors Suzanne Samples & E. Samples. You can read my poem “This is Not–and Is” here.

I made “non-sausage” rolls for dinner on Friday. The name came about because a friend used to make sausage rolls with Italian sausage. I adapted her recipe over the years, and now make a meatless and utterly delicious version.

Non- sausage Roll

These Days

Monday Morning Musings:

“Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”
–Walt Whitman. “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass

Early Morning, Light through the Clouds. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

These are liminal days,
when twilight lingers
as death drifts, in a falling russet leaf,
and bee-buzzed blooms, purple and gold,
wave farewell to cloud-nestled moon
then reach for waking sun–
who timidly, then finds her voice
to sing away the grey.

These days of soft cat-paw-tread
transform, eagle-sharp talons tear away
the foggy gray, leaving crystal blue—

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

and there, white flowers grow, clinging to life
on dead wood–

Early morning Reflections. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and we? Here, in this in-between–
embracing ghosts and color–
looking toward the stars,
remembering they are part of us,
and we of them, all–

Geese at Sunrise ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

see where the light shines through,
then know, this is where the song begins and ends–
re-formed, reprised, again and again.

October is such a transitional time of year here. One day grey, the next so bright. One day cool, then next summer-sticky. The leaves are turning, but we still have flowers. There are still too people getting sick and dying of COVID, and people who still refuse to get vaccinations or wear masks. I know WAY too many people who have pets who have died recently or are dying. My husband’s uncle died on Friday. It was not COVID, and he’s been sick for a long time and also suffering from dementia, so in the case, though still very sad, there’s a sense of relief that he and his family are no longer suffering.

Today began with a before dawn rejection e-mail. I hope that’s not the way the week’s going to go. It put me in a bad mood, but my morning walk raised my spirits, as it usually does.
This week we watched Midnight Mass (Netflix). It’s horror, but not the super-gory type. There’s more talk than action, which doesn’t bother me, and it actually ends on a very Merril-like note. I liked it. We also watched a Danish mystery called The Chestnut Man (Netflix), another “Scandi-noir” show. We both liked it and got caught up in it. I guess kids making chestnut men is a thing in Denmark? It made me look up American chestnut trees. There are streets named Chestnut in almost every town around here, but it seems the millions of American chestnut trees were killed by a blight. One interesting fact I learned is that the blight does not kill the roots, so they still exist below ground, and there are chestnut trees that continue to sprout up and then die.

It was a good week for cooking comfort food.

To Every Season

Monday Morning Musings:

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

Heron at dawn. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

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

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

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

insistent green sprigs emerging from driftwood,
bleached and beached.

Driftwood with new growth.

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

Driftwood, Sunrise on the Delaware River

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

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

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

we are here. Now
I watch the bees,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literal deer in the headlights.

Another Year

Spring comes again, another year,
the ghosts stand here,
but still the flowers bloom and rise.

The world is ever broken
and lies are widespread and spoken–
but there is light in the skies,

Sun peeping through the clouds. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

where geese honk and crows call,
they find their mates, and above all,
the songs of robin and mockingbird fly

ever as March winds wail and gust—
ashes to ashes, dust to dust—
the moon hums, so wise

is she, she sees beyond
what has been spawned,
duplicity and disease, the whys

of our existence. Yet hope
comes on those wings, that trope
clichéd, but all the same it cries

the truth—light in flight—
longer days, golden bright
flowers–each day a surprise

in bloom. And now, we vaccinate,
for some, it’s come too late,
and there’s no way to minimize

the loss and despair. Another year,
the ghosts stand here,
but still the flowers bloom and rise.

The wind is gusting this morning! Last year, Passover was at the beginning of April. We did a Zoom Passover with our daughters, and then near the end of Passover on a Monday, our Mickey cat died. The following Saturday, my mom died of Covid. This year, no one really was up for doing a Zoom Passover. I cooked some of the usual foods though, and my husband and I did our own Seder on the second night, as I was recovering from getting my second vaccine on the first night. Our daughters made the matzah covers when they were very little, and I cherish them. There is definitely hope in the air with spring and vaccines. And we are looking forward to getting together with other vaccinated family members soon.

No movies this week, but we’re on the second season of Shtisel (Netflix), and I really am so caught up with this family! I also listened to a radio play—a play we had seen in production at the Arden Theater that was reworked as a radio play, 74 Seconds to Judgement. It was very well done, and I enjoyed hearing it. I also read Klara and the Sun I highly recommend it. The book has been reviewed all over the place.

Too much holiday excitement.

Book of Days

Monday Morning Musings:

The first sunrise of the year. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

The last moon of 2020 reflected in the river. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

The days blend together—
mere words on a page, turned,
the end of one chapter, becomes the start of the next
without pause, the action, or lack thereof continues

one walk becomes another,
but still full of wonder, and sometimes surprise—
the truth in beauty, and I the Sylvan historian–

if I ask why on a dreary morning,
a voice within says look, listen—
the sky wakes with a slow, secret smile. . .

and it does.

This first Monday in January is grey and dreary. I haven’t gone anywhere or done much of anything in the past week. I keep forgetting what day it is. New Year’s Day felt like a Sunday. On New Year’s Eve, we did a Zoom meeting/dinner with dear friends. We ate Chinese food, as we’ve done for decades on New Year’s Eve, and we opened a bottle of champagne, too. I got a somewhat ominous fortune. I made a spicy black-eyed pea stew on a round loaf of bread for New Year’s Day, thinking the year needs all the help possible.

We’ve been catching up on shows. The Good Lord Bird, based on James McBride’s novel, is excellent—funny, sad, and timely. Ethan Hawke as abolitionist John Brown is wonderful, and equally good is Joshua Caleb Johnson as Henry “Onion” Shackelford, a young man who Brown thinks is a girl. Both my husband and I thought the show was good—acting, music, and the Fargo-like sly humor—but we weren’t really caught up in it until about half-way through, when suddenly we were. We also watched a French mystery, Frozen Dead (Netflix) (hoping there’s a second season), and started Occupied (Netflix), a Norwegian thriller set in the near future. The first few episodes are quite exciting.

I’ve read a few novels in the last couple of weeks: Kris Waldherr, The Lost History of Dreams; Cat Winters, The Uninvited; David Gillham, Annelies: A Novel, and I’m currently reading Susan Ella MacNeal’s The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent (Maggie Hope, Book 4–I think I’ve read one and three). I’ve been able to get all of these through our county library’s contactless pickup system. I also have a bunch of books on my Kindle for just in case. 😏

Beyond this Holiday

Gulls catching the cold wind currents, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.©️Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

On Christmas Eve, sugar-rushed
to cookie-coma amidst twinkling lights,
we settled, sofa-snug, with snoring cat,
as the wind locomotive kept rushing past
tumbling the tracks, but traveling on,
and I finally slept–

waking to coffee scent and gifts,
traces of dreams, trailing, falling,
like the rain, silver-streaking the windows,
before evaporating,

and now beyond grey curtains, the pale Christmas sun,
waits to make her entrance,

rising with hopes–
not if, but when—
we see each other again,
as the days grow longer
and the light grows and flows
through clouds to dance on branches

and brush the river with shimmering glow—
then, I hold this beauty close—the unexpected gifts–
that warm my soul within,

and I watch as a spirit flies from tree
on white heron feathers
winging toward dawn . . .

My shadow is a tree spirit. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

and a new day begins.

Late December Sunrise at Red Bank Battlefield

I know this is a very sad time for many people, and I know I am fortunate for what I have. Although I missed being with family and friends, I did have a good holiday. On Christmas Eve afternoon, we saw our younger daughter and her husband and puppy in the afternoon (when it started to rain, son-in-law came up with a creative idea), then we had fondue for dinner and watched Love Actually. In case anyone is wondering, you can use leftover flat champagne in fondue. I used the leftover bread to make baked French toast that we had for brunch on our post-storm Christmas Day, as we streamed a Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas special. It was very relaxed—the upside of no visitors and not having to be anywhere is that we had no schedule and didn’t have to worry about the house being clean.🤣 We Zoomed with family later in the afternoon and evening.