Dreams, Again (Again)

Monday Morning Musings:

“We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

. . .Who is the dreamer?”

Twin Peaks, Season 3, Episode 14, From Gordon Cole’s dream

 

In my dream, I was me, but different

and you were someone else, but you,

together, we were other beings, ourselves, but not–

or were we?

If we lived in that dream world

would we long for a more stable world

where we were people,

bound by time,

not creatures of space,

carried on the slipstream of light waves

 

We drink wine

talk about the past

think about the future,

the musicians sing

Rocket Man and Major Tom floating in his tin can

his dreams, our dreams

blowing spindrift from space

landing, covering our minds

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We celebrate a friend’s retirement

(from teaching, not the world)

his mother says to me she’s happy he’s retiring now

he can still enjoy it

they can travel

live a dream.

we talk with friends we haven’t seen in a while

past, present, and future–

tenses merging together–

remember when I saw you last,

here, but then

(this was the future)

marriages, births, and death–

dreams born and died

or perhaps still floating

drifting from the stars

in tin cans

on waves

 

 

We go to a movie

two strangers meet–

a woman who feels she must care for her mother

a man who feels stuck waiting for his father to recover or die

they discuss architecture

and the film lingers on the jewels of Columbus, Indiana

framing the characters in doorways and through windows

it is a movie in which marginalia assumes importance,

just as those asides are often important in lives,

the chance encounters,

the remarks remembered,

the dreams dreamed,

and set aside

we discuss the movie over coffee,

walk through the streets

and down to the river,

where people walk, living dreams,

where people once arrived,

full of hope

or full of fear,

tired masses,

spices and slaves,

a new land.

 

We watch movies,

and when we become involved,

we are the dreamers

experiencing their world

true of books, too,

once I dreamt

(a vivid dream)

I was the character in the book I was reading

I rode a horse

in northern England, centuries ago,

I spoke like I lived there,

it was so real

I was sure I had been there,

perhaps I was.

 

I had a dream I was me, but different

and you were someone else, but you,

a woman and a man

walk over a bridge

it happens over and over again

different timelines

variations on the theme of life

until they meet,

destiny,

they share a bottle of wine

the bottle and label are green

like her eyes

(like my eyes)

other beings, ourselves, but not–

or were they?

perhaps, we are inside the dream

we are the dreamers

we are the dream

 

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© Merril D. Smith, 2017

We saw the movie, Columbus. Trailer here.  The more I think about it, the more I like it. Definitely not an action movie. It’s a quiet poem of a movie.

 

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The Glue of Love and Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

Albert Einstein, in a letter, after the death of his friend, Michele Besso

To time we’re young

a blush over morning

brilliance that fades

repeating through years

and generations

 

Words sail through space,

bubble like champagne,

like the thoughts shared by friends over wine

through time

What is the glue, she asks,

that binds us,

that holds us together

some friends, but not all

over distance and years?

 

I have no answers,

the universe is a mystery

the dazzling beauty

of the night sky in June

the rhythms of nature and time

sometimes it comes together

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Heritage Vineyards Mullica Hill, New Jersey

other times though,

there is confusion and contradiction

the day that changes from sun to rain

and back again

we walk through city streets

see a bride and groom

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smell the scent of rain-damp flowers

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get caught in the next downpour

nature is confused

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We watch a movie

of family and history,

and family history

a mystery

life, death, survival

hiding underground

and then burying the secrets

the sins of the father

haunt him and his children

like ghosts

spirits that rise from graves

there is jealousy, too,

and sister-love

and music

some also underground

circling

becoming the means to an end

to forgive

to heal

 

We walk through crowds of people celebrating Philly Pride Day

rainbow flags on display

(people, too)

have dinner at a bar

then on to see a play

a musical

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another tale of family secrets

the father has a hidden life

(some boys, some underage)

many in the audience chuckle knowingly

watching his daughter coming of age

coming to know herself

and, of course, I remember

(not a letter)

but the phone call,

the funny, memorable, filled-with-laughter phone call

from my daughter

not that it’s a surprise

not that it changes anything for me

though it changes her world

and it must have been a scary call for her

and she must have sighed with relief afterward,

but love is love is love

and all I want is for my daughters to be happy

the show has more secrets

and more tragedy

and three versions of Alison—

not separated–

past, farther past, and present–

existing at the same time,

as it does within our minds

 

It is Father’s Day,

my father is gone for many years

I think of the secrets he must have had

the life before children

I see old photos of him

younger hims I never knew

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I can’t talk to him,

or I could,

but he can’t answer me

not in words that I can hear

perhaps in dreams

or illusions

or in a bending of time

still there are bonds, love,

glue that binds us

despite secrets

despite not knowing

he lives in my heart and mind–

is he gone–or not?

 

Welsh Cookies

I made Welsh Cookies–called Daddy Cookies at our house–for my husband for Father’s Day.

 

We saw the movie Past Life, an Israeli movie set in 1977 in Israel, Germany, and Poland.  Trailer here.  We saw the musical Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel. It won five Tony Awards in 2015. Here’s the Tony Awards performance.

Work and Play

Monday Morning Musings

“Not knowing when the dawn will come

I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

In life a secret blossoms

beneath cloud and air

between dusk and dawn–

follow it

about wild river song

here,

but almost there

 

I read facts and statistics

documenting the evils humans do to one another,

then I read about the kindness of strangers

fighting hate and bigotry

helping others with words and gestures–

I spend days reading and writing

of hate and of human resilience

of the darkness that falls

and the light that comes

 

I spend days writing and reading

editing,

documenting evil–

and then I take a break

I write a poem

drink some wine

(bottled poetry)

 

 

and then some more

 

 

hug my husband, daughter, and cats

eat Pakistani food outside on a beautiful June night

 

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I listen to the mockingbird

(sing )

I think about good and evil

and life’s secrets

blossoming like spring flowers

here

I wait for dawn to come

opening every door

till I am almost there

 

The Oracle gave me the opening.

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Almost 30% of women have faced violence from an intimate partner. World Health Organization,

“Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.” RAINN

We drank wine at Heritage Vineyards “Vino and Vibes” and at Sharrott Winery’s Wine and Music Festival. We got take-out from Meera Khana restaurant, and the food was delicious, as always.

 

 

 

 

February Hearts and Lions

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together,

You stopped and pointed and you said, ‘That’s a crocus,’

And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”

I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”

You said, “I still love you.”

–Dar Williams, “February”

 

“This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?”

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

February grayness brightens with a flower

teasing us before the snow.

The snow moon haunts and taunts

the wind blows,

wild wolves howling in the night,

winter darkness,

and yet dawn comes,

and so will spring.

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First Crocus, National Park, NJ

 

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Watching the February snow. National Park, NJ

 

My daughters and I,

in separate locations,

celebrate our snow day

(though the inch or two in New Jersey

does not compare to Boston’s blizzard)

we share our thoughts,

in text messages

(technology that did not exist when I young)

throughout the day,

as if we were wondering in and out of rooms—

separated by space,

but instantly connected in time,

what we are cooking and baking–

meatballs, lentil soup, artisan bread, sweet potato nachos–

deciding banana bread with added chocolate chips

makes it both bread and cake,

suitable for breakfast or dessert,

one daughter says she just watched, Finding Dory,

and cried,

but then we cry over everything,

TV shows, books, commercials,

other daughter says, “I cried when I burnt toast the other day,

but the point is that you should watch the movie.”

My husband chimes in with a message that he is saving this conversation,

“It is SO my family.”

 

A few days later my husband and I see the movie, Lion,

and my tears flow,

I think it is good I’m not watching it with my daughters,

all three of us sobbing in the theater,

though I notice my husband discreetly wiping his eyes.

I think again about technology,

the nineteenth-century invention, the train,

that separates the five-year-old boy from his family,

that little boy with the heart and spirit of a lion,

a twentieth-century plane separates them ever father

across bodies of water to Tasmania

how a twenty-first-century invention, Google Earth,

brings them back together

It turns out that we see the movie in February,

and it was in February that Saroo Briefley reunited with his family.

 

On a February night I gave birth to one daughter,

and on a February night three years later, I gave birth to her sister,

and so, we celebrate birthdays

with wine and chocolate

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around the holiday of love

hearts and love

chocolate and wine

 

I think of the brilliant February moon,

its light shining through the kitchen window

making me stop and stare,

and gaze at the sky–

technology leads us out to the stars,

to our moon’s craters

and to Saturn’s rings,

Valentine’s love from Cassini

 

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“Splendid Saturn,”NASA Image, PIA06594/ NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

 

I wake during the night to hear

February’s winds,

wild horse gods,

stallions that gallop in

and seed the ground,

for spring

will come again–

until then, there is chocolate, wine,

and memories.

 

A number of New  Jersey wineries have special wine and chocolate events close the weekend before Valentine’s Day. This year we went to one at Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Trailer for Lion.

Together and Alone: The Essentials

Monday Morning Musings:

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

–Ann Patchett, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship
 

“Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, flaky scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins. There was enough food there to keep a starving family for a week.”

–Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

 

“Art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.”

– – Wajdi Mouawad

 

Art, the creative impulse,

my husband and I

witnessed it in many ways over the past few days

We see the movie Manchester By the Se,a

the acting is exceptional

making us feel like we know these people.

We’ve met people like them,

ordinary and unique,

as we all are,

the New England backdrop reflecting the characters,

gritty, hard, seemingly unyielding, but fluid,

and grief comes in waves like the sea.

Later, after our dinner at a Thai restaurant,

I say to my husband,

We didn’t discuss the sound track.*

It was beautiful, but I was so aware of it—perhaps it was even a bit intrusive?

What was in the soundtrack? I didn’t notice it.

He tends to listen to music when he is working.

I do not. It’s already in my head.

We carry the essentials with us.

 

The next day we go to tea.

More accurately, we go to lunch

in a tea room.

He gave me the gift card almost a year ago,

we finally use it.

The room is quaintly Victorian,

or perhaps Edwardian.

We chose our teas and have a full spread.

(More than the essentials.)

We talk of this and that,

cozy in dining room

with Christmas music playing in the background

a break from work,

a small retreat,

and I understand how this became a ritual,

it is difficult to discuss weighty issues over small, crustless sandwiches

and dainty iced cakes.

I think of tea parties and Tea Party,

attempts to return to a time that never was,

like this tea room,

an escape from reality.

He eats some of my sandwiches,

I take home some of my sweets.

 

Afterward, we go for wine,

we have a shipment to pick up at a local winery

We sit, sipping wine

discussing this and that again

timeless moments

watching the sky,

warmed by space heaters,

music comes from a frog speaker nearby

and I wonder if there’s a metaphor there

but I can’t find it,

it slips away,

unessential

and there is already too much that I carry

in my heart and mind.

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Heritage Vineyards

The day after,

(Sunday by now)

we visit the museum

we get there just after opening,

Again, we go through the exhibition on Mexican artists

who painted the revolution,

who were revolutionary,

(And perhaps all artists are)

overturning the flotsam and jetsam in their brains,

discarding the unnecessary

salvaging the essentials from the debris.

We see Diana surrounded by Christmas lights

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I share a moment with Renoir’s “Washerwoman,”

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So many forms of art

created and collected.

We stop for free coffee (also essential)

It is members’ day. Yay!

 

Next we go to a play

I must say I’ve never seen anything like it

Seuls—alone

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The artist asks:

Qui sommes-nous? Qui croyons-nous êtres? (Who are we? Who do we think we are?)

I should mention that the play is in French—a bit of Arabic—with the English translation projected on a screen.

It is a one-man show,

not autobiographical exactly

but based somewhat on Wajdi Mouawad’s life

As a child, forced by war in Lebanon,

his family left for Canada,

his and his character’s,

As a child, Harwan, the character,

counted the stars in the night sky,

he tried to paint them

he wanted to be a shooting star.

When they left Beirut, they brought only the essentials.

What happened to his paintings, he wonders?

and what if they had never left?

Harwan is struggling to finish his doctoral dissertation,

to find a conclusion.

His relationship with his father is fraught with words unsaid

in French or Arabic,

and broken memories–

it is the story of immigrants

and artists

Harwan, goes to St. Petersburg,

he has mistakenly packed paint instead of clothing.

Only the essentials?

His father is in a coma from an accident.

Or is he?

We travel with the character, with the artist

to a place inside his mind,

perhaps.

The story of the prodigal son is told,

a son’s journey

a father’s forgiving heart,

a story told and retold

we paint the story of our lives,

we bring the essentials,

bearing witness

we paint over truth and lies,

we create new truths

we are alone—together–

and on a stage, the artist is alone

but we are there with him.

 

After the play, I say

We will have much to talk about.

I need to think about what I’ve just seen,

My husband says.

 

We walk through City Hall to the courtyard.

Once the world’s tallest building,

completed in 1901.

Now there are taller buildings

but this one is unique,

beloved cultural icon topped by the statue of William Penn

we walk through the Christmas village,

we drink hot, mulled wine

I watch my husband watch the children posing for photos

with a man dressed as The Grinch

they shriek and laugh as he changes his pose

my husband laughs, too.

We stroll some more,

I wonder what creatures from other worlds would make of

our need for light

to brighten the darkness,

our joy in tea and wine,

and Christmas baubles,

We carry joy and sadness

in our souls,

we create and recreate light in the darkness,

we generate new worlds within our minds

construct, paint, and

imagine the impossible

to discover the essential

bearing witness to our existence.

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*Lesley Barber, “Manchester By the Sea Chorale”

We went to Amelia’s Teas & Holly

Heritage Vineyards

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Seuls, Written, Directed, and Performed by Wajdi Mouawad

At the Wilma Theater

Christmas Village in Philadelphia  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds, Wine, and Life

Monday Morning Musings:

 “In all the universe nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit.”

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage If no one is thinking of firing it.”

Anton Chekhov, Letter to A. S. Lazarev-Gruzinsky, November 1, 1889.

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” John Keats, Letter to his sister, Fanny Keats, 28 August 1819

 

On a beautiful day in early fall

we go to see a play,

a play about love and loss.

of life and death and sorrow and hope,

a play that discusses not only whether

life is worth living,

but how,

and can one enjoy life

without actually being happy,

or happy, but not very happy,

a play that breaks the fourth wall

and invites the audience to participate

(Perhaps with a little prompting–

because that seagull does need to make an appearance)

with characters who know they are fictional,

but are nevertheless real.

For all its existential angst

the play is funny

though of course, a gun on the stage must be used,

or must it?

And balloons that appear

will be popped,

it’s a question of when,

I suppose that is like life, too.

(Though being me,

I wonder how many people hear “Chekhov”

and think of the Star Trek character

and how sad is it that Anton Yelchin who played

Chekhov in the movies died in such a freak accident?

It seems more Twilight Zone than Star Trek, doesn’t it?

In a Star Trek world, there would be a way to bring him

back. And so this has me pondering a whole different set of philosophical questions about life and death. But not during the play, you understand,

only after.)

(But really that whole killing a seagull thing. Isn’t that seriously psycho behavior?)

My husband and I have a lot to talk about after this play—

which we enjoyed, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell,

great acting, some funny songs, and a well-designed set.

It is a beautiful day,

and we sit outside drinking coffee,

a little cobble-stoned Philadelphia street.

People walk their dogs.

there is the man with three—

like Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear

They have smiling doggy faces amidst tufts of hair

that attract a gaggle of women.

We look at the buildings around us

and the birds hunting for crumbs,

we walk back to our car

observing the people,

the coffee crowd morphing into the Saturday

night drinking crowd

(two women talk about where to get moonshine

is that a thing now?)

and the police officers on their horses,

watch the people,

one horse, unconcerned, gives herself a bath

 

 

A character in the play asks what is the point of creating

and producing more stories and art

when so much exists already?

The answer, of course, is that we have a need to create.

Since prehistory, humans have created

cave paintings

multi-breasted earth mothers–

to go with the stories we create

to explain our existence.

Music, art, poetry,

to express and honor beauty.

We imitate and create

old and new

invented and inventive

plastic

ever changing

and static.

We are complex creatures,

but also simple

 

We go to a wine festival the next day,

wine also a human creation,

though perhaps its existence came about by accident,

grapes left to ferment,

and we eat cheese

perhaps also an accidental creation–

because we learn by experiment—

Eat it, drink it, and see what happens.

And I think of ancient humans discovering that food

can be cooked, spices added,

the appreciation of complex flavors and aromas

and that food and wine

become even more pleasurable when shared with loved ones.

And so we do just that at this wine festival.

 

I think of the stupid fucking bird,

the seagull

that stole my daughter’s sandwich right from her hand

at the beach this summer.

It is funny now, a story

I can share with you, Reader,

in verse here that I feel the need to create.

My spirit flies high like birds

though sometimes I may be stupid,

well, human.

I may stumble a bit

(well, there was that wine)

But still,

life is worth living,

life is good.

 

Thanks to Elusive Trope for the Camus quote. (And for the philosophical explanations.)

We saw Stupid F**king Bird by Aaron Posner at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.

We went to Old City Coffee

And the Heritage Wine Festival in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Happy Families Whine and Wine

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

–Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“Happy or unhappy, families are all mysterious. We have only to imagine how differently we would be described–and will be, after our deaths–by each of the family members who believe they know us.”
–Gloria Steinem,  Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

“And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.”

–Lin-Manuel Miranda

 

It’s a beautiful August evening,

not too hot,

puffy clouds drift across the sky,

pushed and choreographed by the summer breeze,

a lazy August sky dance.

We decide to take my mom to enjoy music

and wine at a local winery,

“Vino and Vibes” they call these Thursday night events.

So my husband drives back and forth through rush hour traffic–

west and over the bridge to Philadelphia to pick her up,

then east, back over the bridge

to the winery.

My mom says the big grey cloud is like the one

that seemed to follow her to the beach the previous weekend.

I assure her that it’s not supposed to rain,

She says it didn’t rain at the beach,

but it did, I say, then let it go

because she says she had a very pleasant day there.

My niece thought that day was a disaster.

This is why witnesses are unreliable–

except perhaps, Sherlock Holmes—

But I have no memory palace, do you?

Perhaps I—

perhaps most people-

have more of a memory vault,

or a deposit box

where deposits and withdrawals don’t always match.

We remember things as we wish,

see them lighter or darker than they were,

brightened by sunshine or darkened by storm clouds

of nature or nurture

or winds of war

or family wars.

 

I think of the variety of families,

nuclear and extended,

single parent, gay parents, straight parents

I think of the movie Captain Fantastic

that my husband and I just saw–

the couple’s desire to create

“philosopher kings” of their six children

living in their own paradise.

But the oldest son cries out to his father,

“Unless it comes out of a book, I don’t know anything.”

But what knowledge they do have!

And bonds of love and affection,

family bonds.

And though I love streaming Netflix and

sitting in my air-conditioned house,

years ago I tried to educate our children—books

over cable TV,

and I’ll never forget the neighbor who asked me

“Is Canada the one above or below us?”

 

Families are born, and families are made.

I learn a loved one’s foster family will be formally adopting him,

he, a grown man, over thirty,

a symbolic gesture,

but sweet and kind and loving.

They were the one who have stood by him,

who witnessed his marriage

when parents by blood chose not to do either

 

And though Tolstoy said all happy families are the same,

it isn’t true–

because all happiness is not the same, is it?

Or is it?

Surely there are differences and degrees

as with unhappiness.

My head aches trying to parse this thought

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love,

and we do many things for love.

Driving distances

and going places we really do not want to go

We say

This is great. I love the view, the food, the people.

Little white lies.

But sitting here,

at this winery,

soft breeze blowing,

I watch my mom

sipping her wine

listening to the musician sing,

tapping her foot to “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”

and “Brown-Eyed Girl,”

And I feel love

and contentment

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Enjoying the Chardonnay

Yes, I’m drinking wine,

and the cannoli help, too,

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Cannoli World–this piece, too, was soon gone!

no doubt about it,

But there is happiness here–

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whether it’s all the same,

I’ll leave that to you.

 

 

 

 

Drinking to Peace

Monday Morning Musings:

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Heritage Vineyards by Sheryl Began ©2016

 

We sit not far from the vines,

in wrought iron chairs round a table,

the summer sun still lights the sky,

engilding the end of the day

so that it glows, golden with promise

of sweet nights and gentle dreams,

a gracious breeze blows.

 

I face west, watching the sun slowly fall,

but we drink to sunrises and love,

Coeur d’Est, Heart of the East,

wine with flavors and aromas of blackberry, coffee, and pepper,

fruit and spice,

rich, but not too heavy for this June evening

rolled on the tongue and savored

like life.

 

My daughter takes photos of us

documenting the moment

as we sit there, relaxed

enjoying the wine,

enjoying the company,

enjoying the musician,

singing of angels that fly from Montgomery,

our thoughts fly, too,

flitting here and there,

then hovering,

like bees when they find the right flower,

her husband mentions his sessions in New York.

Is it okay to ask?

Yes, I’ve wanted to tell you, he says.

And so he does.

He talks of the incidents,

the particular one that caused him the most trauma

and others,

foreign words to me,

convoys, gunners, and Vehicle-Borne Explosive Devices

the language of war,

foreign words and foreign lands

known to me only through books, movies, news reports.

 

I learn more later,

when I read some papers he gave us,

I learn of a mission to deliver clothing and supplies

to Iraqi school children,

a humanitarian mission, but still dangerous–

he volunteered.

I am proud of this man,

who is my son “in law,”

but who is becoming the son of my heart, as well

my daughter loves him,

and that’s what matters,

but I discover, he’s officially a hero,

as well as one to her,

but he has paid the price.

Coeur d’Est, Coeur de lion

 

Becoming a combat soldier involves many skills—

I already know, he’s an excellent driver—

But conflict zones require more,

turning off emotions

learning to kill

learning to hate

fearing that hate

fearing killing and expecting to kill

fearing death and expecting death

becoming used to—craving–

the rush of adrenalin that comes from danger,

then having to turn it all off,

stimulation, the drug of war,

duty and bravery, comrades at arms,

but there’s a cost,

the trauma born of war

for soldiers and civilians

who must go on, and live after.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Pro patria mori.*

 

Are we coded to wage war

to defend our homes, our honor, our families

to endure

death, destruction, injuries to body and soul?

To battle through conflicts and then feel conflicted?

Shell-shocked soldiers in WWI

the horrors of WWII,

back through the past

and up to the present,

we humans are intent on finding new,

and better ways to kill.

I don’t have an answer,

but

there must be a better way.

instead of building walls and spouting hate,

hate that nourishes more hate

and makes it grow,

a noxious weed,

requiring little care to flourish

but some skill to eradicate.

Why do we listen?

Perhaps it’s easier to blame others,

the demagogue’s favorite trick.

The candidate’s quockerwodgers

dance when he pulls the strings,

the expert puppeteer,

gorgonizing in soundbites,

but we have to remember to think on our own,

be the voice, instead of the puppet,

perhaps then we can create a better way,

set our phasers to stun, not kill

respect

let peace guide the planets

let the sunshine in

imagine–

imagine all the people

living in peace,

dreaming,

the lion’s heart swelling with love.

 

But now, on this beautiful summer night,

our dreams are of life and the future,

of houses and homes,

we drink and talk,

smile and laugh,

birds fly overhead, singing lullabies,

slowly dusk falls and settles lightly,

a soft blanket to cover us,

and we travel home.

 

*It is sweet and right to die for your country. “Dulce et Decorum Est” is the title of the well-known poem by WWI poet, Wilfred Own. You can read it with notes here. 

Today is the anniversary of D Day, June 6, 1944, and though I wish for a peaceful world, I do not want to slight the heroes of that day—or indeed, any day.

This article discusses some of the forgotten African American heroes of D Day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Comedy of Life

Monday Morning Musings:

“It really seems to me that in the midst of great tragedy, there is always the horrible possibility that something terribly funny will happen. Then there is also the opposite, that in the middle of great humor, that something terrible will happen.”

― Philip K. Dick “So I Don’t Write About Heroes: An Interview with Philip K. Dick,” 1996.

“Life doesn’t make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy’s job is to point out that it doesn’t make sense, and that it doesn’t make much difference anyway.”

–Eric Idle

“The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays the part.”

–Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

The play was Funnyman,

A world premiere by Bruce Graham.

An elegantly simple set and lighting

Transformed the bare stage into different rooms,

And the actors transported us to 1959,

New York City.

 

It was about a comic, Chic Sherman,

Based loosely on Bert Lahr—

Remember him as the Cowardly Lion?

He later played Estragon in Waiting for Godot,

Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play,

Which is frequently funny,

Although nothing happens.

A critic called Lahr’s performance “noble” and said

He “transfigured” the play.

 

Funnyman was not a comedy,

Except perhaps in the sense that it is about life,

Which like an absurdist play is frequently funny,

And the leads were all alive at the end,

So it can’t be a tragedy, can it?

But comedy is serious stuff.

For Chic Sherman, laughter is a matter of life or death,

Quite literally–

Because when he was a child, his comic ability

Meant his family had food to eat,

But no laughs brought beatings from his parents.

When his adult life turned tragic,

He immersed himself in more work

In more of making people laugh,

Yet, he is a sad man with a secret,

And a grown daughter he doesn’t talk to.

 

The play is filled with funny moments and sad ones.

In life, too, comedy and tragedy sometimes occur at the same time

Like laughter after a funeral

When all are grieving

Then someone tells a joke

Or slips on the banana peel

And you can’t help but laugh

Because it’s funny

And life goes on.

Just like the show must

Even if an actor is sick

Or the power goes out

Or a theater is being bombed.

The Windmill Theatre in London

Boasted that it never closed during WWII,

Although “closed” was sometimes

Changed to “clothed.”

Wink, wink.

And so it goes.

The show and life go on,

The players clad in splendid costumes, threadbare rags,

Or nothing at all,

(Flashback to teenage me seeing “Hair” with my family—

and boyfriend—comedy of life.)

They move, speak, perform

Until the show ends

Until the actors take a final bow,

And the curtain closes.

An actor has to work with the lines he or she

Is given,

But good performers can make the mundane sublime.

Despite the quality of the play,

Most of us hope for a long run with a full house–

And great reviews, of course.

Even if it is absurd

And no one knows what it’s about.

***

After the play, we bought chocolate at Shane Confectionery

Because life is improved with chocolate.

And perhaps a glass of wine.

 

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Enjoying My Wine at Heritage Vineyards in December.

 

 

 

 

Escape

 Monday Morning Musings

I’ve been immersed in my World of the American Revolution. The wonderful members of the editorial staff at ABC-CLIO have selected over one hundred images for the book. It’s been my job to go through them, and if I approve them, then to write captions for the images. This has taken longer than I expected it would because I’ve had to research most of the images selected, as well as go back to the entries to determine if the images work or not.

And then. . . well, there’s the copyedited manuscript itself, which is sitting in files on my computer desktop making me feel guilty because I need to finish going through it. Ahem. Yes, getting to it. Now. Soon.

So I apologize for not reading or responding to many other blogs for the past week or so. I’ve tried to respond to comments, but I’m behind on that, too.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the word “escape.” The word is derived from the Latin and then French meaning to literally get out of or from one’s cape or mantel. Of course, the word came to have a broader meaning, one escapes from slavery, from an unhappy home, or even from day-to-day drudgery.

On Passover, we tell the story of how the Jews escaped slavery in Egypt. Even today, people are enslaved and try to escape.

Before the abolition of slavery in the United States, which occurred only after a Civil War and then the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, enslaved men and women desperately sought their freedom. Aided by other African-Americans, both free and slave, as well as white citizens who were opposed to slavery, they struggled to find a means of escape. Slaves escaped in a variety of ways. One of the most creative methods was that used by Henry Box Brown (c.1815-1889), who escaped, you guessed it, in a box. Brown was a skilled worker who worked in a tobacco factory in Richmond, VA. He managed to save enough money to rent a house for his wife and family. Nonetheless, he and his family were still slaves, and in 1848, his wife’s master decided to sell her and their children. With no reason to remain in Richmond, Brown decided to escape with the help of a free black dentist and a white shoemaker and other abolitionists. The men sealed him in a box and shipped the box to Philadelphia, where after twenty-six hours, he arrived at the Philadelphia Antislavery Society. Although some abolitionists felt Brown should keep his story a secret, he did not. Brown lectured and reenacted his escape in a box before audiences. When the new Fugitive Slave Act made it too dangerous for him to remain in the United States, he fled to England where he performed as a “mesmerist” with his new wife Jane. He returned to the US in 1875 with Jane and their daughter Annie, with a magic shows, as well as his original box performances.

Fortunately, my loved ones and I have never had to escape the horrors of captivity in any form. My escapes have been mundane, merely brief respites from work and day-to-day life. We all want to take breaks when—and if—we can.

This past weekend, I took a brief work break, and my husband and I escaped for a few hours to a local winery. It was a glorious, spring day. The air was warm, the sun was shining, and the grass was green with that unique young green of springtime. And so we sat with the sun gently bathing us in a warm glow, and we drank wine, ate cheese, and talked. Sometimes, fortunately, escape is that simple.

“ Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Anne Lamott

Wine and sunshine!

Wine and sunshine!

Several weeks ago, as the snow fell once again, and it seemed spring would never come, I made a delicious fruit crisp with rhubarb, strawberries, and blackberries. It was my attempt to escape winter by conjuring sunshine and warmth through the ripe fruits of spring and summer. I love the tartness of the rhubarb combined with the berries. You could use any fruit though, or mix different berries. When I make it with apples, I add a little bit of cider to the apples, so that the crisp doesn’t get too dry. You can reduce the butter some, although honestly, when I’ve tried it that way, it’s simply not as good. I do like the mix of whole wheat and white flour though, which gives it a sort of nutty taste. Of course, you could add nuts, as well. The goal is to end up with a dessert that is full of sweet bubbly fruit and crunchy “crisp,” but it is not the type of baking that has to be precise. I forgot to take a photo of the crisp until after I had started eating it. (Reason #52, Why I don’t actually write a food blog.)

Pretending It’s Spring Strawberry-Rhubarb-Blackberry Crisp

Approximately 4 cups of Fruit, sliced or chopped

Sugar, to taste

I added about ½ tsp. of nutmeg, along with some orange zest and juice.

Allow the fruit to sit, sugared for about ½ hour or so until juice is released.

Crisp:

Combine 1 cup oats, ¾ cup brown sugar, ¾ cup flour (I used half whole wheat and half white), 7-8 tablespoons of butter, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Melt butter and combine it with the other ingredients until crumbly.

Sprinkle half the crumbs in a greased 8-inch pan. Pour fruit on top. Top with the rest of the crumbs. Bake for about 35 minutes at 350° until bubbly and brown, depending on the type of fruit, it may take a bit longer. Serve as is, or top with ice cream. (Butter pecan is good, just sayin’.) Bite into it and enjoy the taste of spring and summer.

IMG_2232

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Blackberry Crisp

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Blackberry Crisp