Never Fixed, the Ever Changing Light

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Sun above and below, reflections and shadows on the Delaware River

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

–James Baldwin, “Nothing is Fixed,” quoted on Brainpickings, where you can also listen to his words set to music.

 

A constant, the sun rises and sets

to the left of my window in summer, to the right in winter

ever shifting, as we rotate and spin, never fixed

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the light changes, shining through clouds and trees

reflected on rivers and sea

and prismed in a sprinkler’s passage, never fixed

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Sprinkler rainbow and puddle reflection

 

the birds fly, the flowers bloom, fall, drop their sees, and grow again

the snapping turtle’s slow crawl, the gracile deer’s leap into the shadows

they pause, then move, live, then die, never fixed

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Maybe a snapping turtle? I saw him on the side of the road by the river during a morning walk.

 

as the moon moves through her phases,

do you hear her fiercely humming?

Reminding us in silvered streams, never fixed,

 

our stories. We choose to sit or fight

against the dying of the light

to witness gleaming through the cracks, never fixed,

 

forever light comes from stars extinguished

we see it, or we don’t.

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My shadow reflecting–light and shadows

 

This has been a difficult week for the world, though it is also been inspiring in some ways.

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A grown daughter’s childhood companion.

In whatever way you can, speak out, donate, and help others. Here is a short list of things to read, support, and follow

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Just Mercy, which is streaming free (in the U.S) during the month of June. I was afraid it would be a sort of feel good Hollywood movie, but both my husband and I thought it was a good movie with excellent acting. There are additional facts and statistics at the end. We also watched Uncut Gems, which was good in a different way. It’s available on Netflix now.

I’ve written about the musical Ragtime before. It’s one of my favorite musicals, and it seems particularly relevant during this presidency, and right now, the song, “Make Them Hear You” resonates. Here is Ricky the Cat listening to it. (And yes, I may have made him a little bed by my computer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Always, the Never, the Joy, the Light

IMG_4478Monday Morning Musings:

“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”

― James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”

 

After the dark cloud dances,

a pulsing star kisses the universe—

I open the window,

letting in magic

 

~and all the ifs~

 

awaken,

breathing time, remembering ghosts–

our lives, the brilliant poetry

of always and never

***

We walk through city streets,

a thought comes, retreats

 

a fragment, not yet complete

lost in a beat

 

as I look up to see

the world around me–

 

in the windows the clouds

reflected, ignored by crowds

who pass them by,

ignore the perfect azure of the sky

 

broken with streaks of white

wind-blown, in flight

 

across the blue.

And it’s true,

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I think, that beauty is found

in county and town

 

all around us if we look for it.

rove and gaze a bit.

 

And so, time passes—

half-empty or half-filled your glasses?

 

A frantic rush to meet

deadlines, yet greet

 

each day with some joy,

though fate is coy,

 

and accidents will happen

so, we go rushing in when

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it does, to wait and stand by

her eyelid damaged, not her eye,

 

though her story makes no sense,

the consequence

 

of confusion,

of what was, delusion

 

over what she can do–

most likely I’ll be like that, too.

 

We arrive home late at night

to hear an owl, out of sight

 

he whoo whoo whoos,

and if I could choose

 

some magic, that seems right,

perfect, transfused into the night,

 

a bridge of spirits, night to day

with sorrow held at bay

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Heading over the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia just before dawn.

we sway with friends

beginnings and ends

 

the power of love, beauty, light

joy and delight

Wedding at Philadelphia Horticultural Center

Wedding at Philadelphia Horticultural Center, Fairmount Park

to share such moments again

and again, to dance, feel romance

 

in the night around us,

and laugh as we discuss

 

how that speech went way too long–

isn’t it time for another song?

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So, we eat, drink, dance some more,

and yes, my feet are a little sore—

 

but look at that moon, that sky!

she hums so fiercely, why

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don’t we hear or see

enough of the beauty,

 

the light? Our tales are not new,

but they are yet so true

 

and so, told again and again,

every beginning to every end

 

circling round, like our moon

singing an ancient, eternal tune

 

poetry of stars, the always, the never

going on through time. . .forever.

 

Some of you know, I’m finishing a book on sexual harassment. It has to be completed this week, and I’m scrambling. So I apologize for being behind on reading everyone’s posts. Added to this, my mom had an accident Friday evening, and my husband and I were in the ER with her till very late at night. When we got home, there was an owl hooting from some tree in our yard. I’d never heard this before, so I’m convinced it’s one of Jane Dougherty’s owls. Or perhaps the Oracle sent it as a sign of. . .something.  (Great horned owl song here.) We went back to the ER early the next morning, where an eye surgeon glued my mom’s damaged lower eyelid back into place. We’re hoping it will hold, and that she will not need surgery. Saturday night we went to a wedding, the groom is the son of friends, and we got to be with a bunch of our very dear friends for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing is Fixed

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

–James Baldwin, Nothing Personal

 

“they remember that autumn worked

until the barrels were filled with wine

and let the obscure man learn,

in the ceremony of his business,

to remember the earth and his duties,

to propagate the canticle of the fruit.”

–from Pablo Neruda, “Ode to Wine” (Full poem here. )

 

The moon shines brightly–

full-faced, gleaming,

whispering. . . spring is coming–

she beams, she’s humming

a tune for us to drink by.

Spinach-Mashed Potato and Cheese Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen!

 

For time passes, the seasons fly,

with wine, on this holiday of topsy-turvy fun

the uncertainty of life, a king could kill his wife

another could save her people

the sometimes-thin line between good and evil,

the need to look for joy when we can

(age-old questions of when things began)

generations come and go,

a brilliant moon becomes clouded with snow

nothing is fixed or forever,

the light comes and goes,

and time flows

 

Between glowing moon and the nor’easter

we visit my mom, bring food and wine, hear stories from her

of grandparents and cousins, people from the past,

and though none of us lasts

we live on through records and tales

some though are lost, absent, adrift

but still we try to make sense, sifting

through the flotsam of time and dreams

(sometimes nothing is as it seems)

and my mother laughs as we sit and talk

not able to see much of what’s about her

but seeing in her mind, the things that were

as the light comes and goes

and time flows

(like the wine)

nothing is fixed or forever

 

The beaming moon is shaded by clouds

covering the stars like shrouds–

on this day, the sun stays away

as frosted gusts wail and blow

and back to winter we’re forced to go

the birds retreat, sheltering in bending trees,

and the world around us sighs in deep freeze

the house creaks and branches fall

(my husband will later haul them all)

then the clouds will part, the sun will rise

and spring winds blow over melted snow

good and bad are always mixed

because nothing is forever or fixed

 

We hear about wine-making–

the canticle of the fruit

the cultivation of vine, and at the root

the importance of the grapes,

how the workers traipse

tasting and picking,

Mother Nature can’t be rushed,

work to be done before grapes are crushed

though time is ticking, through the sorting and picking

we hear the story over time, sipping and tasting wine

about the couple who moves from city to farm

(he speaks well, with warmth and charm)

Scott, Co-owner of Auburn Road Vineyards

 

praising the winemaker, his wife,

who is instrumental in the success of this life,

science and intuition, mixed with a bit of luck,

requiring the cleaning from vats of the muck

we also learn, the importance of the bottling truck.

and so, we taste, and drink, and savor

enjoying wine and pizza (a new flavor!)

Ravello Wood-Fired Pizza, operates within the winery

 

knowing that nothing is fixed to remain forever the same

the moon glows and sets, the sun rises and flames

in the morning we see clouds like waves on the sea

I hear the robin sing, waiting to see what is—

and what will be.

 

We did a “wine tour” at Auburn Road Vineyards in Salem County, NJ. Reservations are required.

Also–I absolutely loved The Shape of Water, which one best picture last night at the Academy Awards, and last week I wrote about A Fantastic Woman, which won Best Foreign Film. I also liked that one very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ceridwen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Guernica at the Whitechapel It is no idle whim to include an image of this tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s great anti-war painting but because it is so significant for the political and cultural stance of the Whitechapel Gallery, the only British venue to exhibit the painting in 1939. The original work is now too fragile to leave Madrid; this tapestry was loaned to the gallery, for its re-opening, by its owner Margaretta Rockefeller. Normally it hangs in the United Nations in New York where in 2003 it was controversially veiled prior to a speech by Colin Powell on the eve of the Iraq war.”

Monday Morning Musings:

 “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”

–James Baldwin

 

After the tragedy,

in the calmness after the storm,

then we hear about the heroes.

On that sunny September day,

fifteen years ago,

as a gentle breeze blew,

and the world’s course shifted,

there were soldiers and fire fighters,

there were flight attendants and passengers,

there were ordinary people

who were decent and kind

who helped others before themselves,

and who became heroes.

 

From the hell of the Warsaw ghetto,

Irena Sendler saved hundreds of children,

burying their real names in jars,

and though she was captured,

interrogated, tortured,

she did not give up the information,

then, forced to hide herself,

like the children and their names,

she waited, till

after the wind blew

and the course shifted,

so she could dig up the jars

and return the children to their families–

if any relatives remained.

 

Decades later,

school children in Kansas

(a place known for violent winds)

began researching her life

inspired by the classroom motto

“He who changes one person, changes the world entire.”

They researched, developing a performance piece,

that captured the attention of the people in their area–

and then a larger area.

They discovered that Irena Sendler was then still alive,

and wrote to her, sharing the correspondence with universities

and other groups,

raising funds, and finally meeting her and some children she had rescued,

One called them, “rescuer’s, rescuers of Irena’s story.”

They were children, now adults,

who wrote about a woman, who worked bravely to change the world,

and in their work about her,

they, too, hoped to change the world,

one person at a time.

 

I think about the censoring of artists,

the silencing of poets and painters,

of novelists, musicians, and dancers

who proclaim truth and dare to create

silenced by dictators,

the strong men admired by someone here

who can spout his hate-filled rhetoric

only because our Constitution

allows for freedom of speech and expression.

Yet he would like to censor the press.

Is this the definition of irony?

 

I remember sitting, mesmerized before “Guernica”

decades ago in New York

I can still feel the power of that Picasso work

and remember those moments

though the other details of that college trip remain hazy.

The painting itself was in exile,

returning only after the death of the dictator, Franco,

but by then Picasso was also gone.

 

On a beautiful September evening

we sit in the city of Philadelphia,

we drink wine as a gentle breeze blows,

we see a performance piece,

a sort of homage to James Baldwin,

“Notes of a Native Song,”

created by Stew and Heidi Rodewald,

a memorable evening of music and social commentary

that is a reaction or celebration of Baldwin

rather than an adaptation of his work.

On this September night

as a gentle wind blows

I think about artists

and about heroes

I think about the winds of war

and the changing course of political winds

I think about artists

I think about heroes

And I think

sometimes they are one and the same.

 

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.

I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”

–James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

 

Information:

James Baldwin

Guernica

“Life in a Jar: The Irene Sendler Project

Wilma Theater 

Tria Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweetness

Monday Morning Musings:

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

–James Baldwin

 

Today is Rosh Hashanah,

the start of the High Holy Days.

We say “Shanah Tova,”

and wish people a sweet year.

The weekend began with

the anniversary of 9/11.

Never forget.

As if we could.

Then caring for our grandpets.

Doggy kisses

and kitty purrs.

A party.

People with different jobs,

beliefs

interests,

drinking and

playing volleyball.

No, not me.

I’ll just watch.

Having fun.

Enjoying

the beautiful evening.

Meanwhile—

The man with the hair

whips up hate.

Throughout history

demagogues have appeared.

He is merely the latest.

A little man

for all his wealth.

Seeking to rise by

finding a scapegoat–

as all demagogues do.

It is nothing new.

It’s their fault,

they declare.

You don’t have money,

goods,

or

power–

It’s because of them.

Migrants, Jews,

Women.

People with black skin,

or yellow skin.

Educated people.

Illiterate people.

Gay.

Trans.

It doesn’t matter.

They are Others,

not one of us.

Nativists, Know Nothings, and Exclusion Acts—

We don’t want your kind.

“Give me your tired, your poor.”

Lady Liberty cries,

But not too tired, not too poor.

the followers yell.

We don’t want people who

look different.

And

none of that foreign talk here.

Speak English.

Wave a flag,

like a true patriot.

A clerk in Kentucky claims religious freedom by

denying others their rights.

Doesn’t she know that liberty

is inclusive,

not exclusive?

Hate does not win.

Hate brings more hate.

Hate combusts and burns

like the brushfires out west,

consuming everything it touches.

Love,

Compassion,

Empathy,

Education

tame the flames,

to a warm glow,

enough to sit around,

enough to bake bread.

I baked challahs yesterday.

The kitchen smells

Of bread and memories.

And love, too.

“Bread and roses.”

Fuel for body

and soul.

Dip the apple in the honey.

Taste its sweetness.

It is everywhere.

Look.

It is all around you.

Can you see the sweetness

of life?

Stop.

Just look.

Do you see it?

Can you look past the hate?

Can you see how beautiful

Our Earth is?

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Wishing all of you peace and a sweet new year!

©Merril D. Smith

Looking Forward and Looking Back

“Actually I prefer to see myself as the Janus, the two-faced god who is half Pollyanna and half Cassandra, warning of the future and perhaps living too much in the past—a combination of both.”

–Ray Bradbury

Many people make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t.

However, this is a good time of year to reflect upon the past and think about the future.

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I celebrated with friends we’ve known and celebrated with for decades. Decades! Did I really write that? We met one couple when we were all in college—over forty years ago. Yikes! How can that be true? We met the other couple shortly after we were married. A third couple could not join us this year because of a death in the family.

Old friends. We’ve been with each other for births, deaths, weddings, and funerals. We’ve seen parents die, and we’ve seen our children grow up. We’ve seen career changes and retirement. We’ve laughed and cried together. And we’ve celebrated.

Oh, those celebrations! They no longer involve copious amounts of alcohol (well, perhaps at the weddings), but there is always plenty of food, and usually chocolate, and often wine and beer. We may have given a name to the beverage dispenser that a friend uses to hold sangria. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

So on New Year’s Eve 2014, my husband and I celebrated with the two other couples. We missed our absent friends and mourned their loss. We ate takeout Chinese food (also our tradition for New Year’s Eve)—on China plates. We discovered that the locally produced spiced pear wine goes really well with it. We caught up on news. We talked of recent events and discussed our futures. We decided we should take notes of our conversation for our missing friends, but we didn’t actually do it. Sorry Pat and Tom. We also decided that if we did, there would have to be several asterisks and footnotes to explain some of the more . . .hmmm. . . . outrageous?  questionable? bizarre? statements. We checked the weather in Yaak, Montana. It’s cold there, in case you’re wondering. We shared our fortunes; we ate dessert (flourless chocolate cake and Christmas cookies). We drank more wine. One cat stayed close while we talked, laughed, and ate, but the other one hid. He is wise.

We suddenly realized that we had had so much fun talking around the table that the hours had passed without us realizing how late it was. It was nearly midnight. We turned on the TV to watch the ball drop in New York City and hugged and kissed when it reached it midnight. We heard fireworks exploding from nearby streets and from Philadelphia, across the river. Our friends left. Both cats reappeared, and then followed my husband and me to bed.

The next morning, New Year’s Day, I was up at the usual time, and then went to the gym. When I returned, I had a protein drink and called my mom to wish her happy New Year. Then I ate a Cinnabon while watching the Call the Midwife holiday special. . .because, after all, it was a holiday. It all balances out, don’t you think?

Some days you need to eat a big, gooey Cinnabon and curl up under a blanket with a cat on your lap. Especially after you’ve had only a few hours of sleep and a workout at the gym.

Life is made up of days at the gym and hard work. It is also made up of time spent reading a book or watching TV. Life includes salads and chocolate. It has love and heartbreak. All of these things go together to make us who we are.

Some days you need to reflect. Some days you need to celebrate. Some days you need to think about how lucky you are to have such great friends. Some days you just need to sit back and relax.

James Baldwin wrote:

Some days worry
some days glad
some days
more than make you mad.
Some days,
some days, more than shine:
when you see what’s coming
on down the line!
–from “Some Days” by James Baldwin

Wishing all of you few days of worry and a year filled with days that more than shine.

Here’s a beautiful version of Baldwin’s poem sung by the fabulous Audra McDonald