Dance

Monday Morning Musings:

“And may the spirit of this song

May it rise up pure and free

May it be a shield for you

A shield against the enemy”

–Leonard Cohen, “Lover, Lover, Lover”

 

“Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long

We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

My absent daughter

draws the golden peacock

but forgets the fallen feather

can also be a quill

to write the words that dance

upon the page of time,

and from love and grief

and longing

the phrases soar in endless flight–

to bear witness of love and loss

in song to spread the light

***

In this week

of lies and revelation

we go about our lives

without hesitation

because there are deadlines

and care

for those we love

and responsibility

to share—

but oh, the sky,

the clouds

the air

that shimmers

and glimmers

on dew drops

in the morning light

that sight–

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and the honk of geese

in victory flight

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and so,

we take a break

forget the cake

I still must bake

 

reflect

upon each passing sight

on this autumn day

the sun is bright

and summer-like

but inside cooler

as the lights dim

and the show begins

the dancers strong

and full of grace

without a trace

of doubt, fluid lines

muscle and bone

move together, alone

upon the stage

they dance

homage to poetic phrase

in each turn or raise

of arm and leg

and yes, I say

it was worth it to pay

though now

I’m even more

behind

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I see love–

coming and going

and isn’t that always the way?

spring to summer and fall

and before long

winter will come

and will we dance then at all?

Yes, I think

we will add layers

to layers

and though our hair

will turn greyer

still we’ll laugh

and dance, press

on

 

my sister-niece says

I love mom’s belly laugh,

and we all agree

a bright spot

in a gloomy sea

that seems endless–

a beacon, a buoy

we embrace,

when she and the world is screwy.

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And though there are fewer

at our holiday table

and we miss those unable

to be with us,

we laugh and talk

and drink our wine

dip apples in honey–

that boy is so funny

the way he loves my challah—

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we eat the meal

and here’s the deal—

time moves on

but our traditions remain

so, there’s brisket and kugel

for the year to be sweet, not dull–

bright gold of pumpkin soup

and before long, dessert—

 

in and endless loop

the seasons pass

and years dance on

from dusk to dawn

in saraband or waltz

sorrow, love–

with just a bit of schmaltz

 

we say our goodbyes

and sigh

(though the men roll their eyes)

we need that family compound

so we can all come around

whenever need be.

That could be

easier for all of us, you see

 

time will tell

somehow, dwell

on the here and now,

we have each other

and sleepy cats—

there is that.

 

We clean up,

put away each dish

I pause, wish

to dance to the end

of light

as it bends

refracts

and twirls

to begin again.

 

Dream–

the spirit of this song.

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Last night was the start of Rosh Hashanah. Wishing all of you a very sweet year!

One of my daughters posted her drawing of a golden peacock from Jewish tradition and a message about what it means to her. You can see her Instagram post here. 

We saw Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal perform Dance Me, “an exclusive creation inspired by the rich and profound work of Montreal-based poet, artist, and songwriter, Leonard Cohen” (from the program notes). You can see some excerpts here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light in the Darkness (The Rescue): Microfiction

 

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By Virginia Frances Sterret, Old French Fairy Tales, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Esmeena knelt on the cobalt blue tiles in her long, azure gown and gave the small deer a hug. He had just come from patrolling the castle’s grounds.

Then she stood, and said to the cat meowing plaintively at her feet, “Honestly, Reggie, I am working on it.”

He was her brother, and she had accidentally turned him into a cat while trying to cast a spell. “I’ve had a lot of responsibility since Mother’s been gone.”

Their mother was at a Council Meeting of Orwan chiefs. The Council was trying to decide if they should intervene here on Earth, now that humans seemed bent on destroying it. Wars, demagogues, fracking—the list of horrors and craziness seemed to grow daily. Thousands of years ago, the Orwan had come to Earth from the Planet of the Blue Ponies, (which was why they loved blue so much). They generally kept to their own realm, invisible to humans.

“I’m sure it’s not all that terrible,” Esmeena continued, “there is that female cat who seems to like you. And after all, you do still have all your. . .um. . .parts.”

At that, Reggie tried to spring at her, but he miscalculated the width of the table between them. With all four legs stretched out wide, he slid right over the table and crashed onto the floor on the other side.

“You are the least graceful cat I’ve ever seen,” said Esmeena.

Just then the massive castle door was flung open. Their mother entered, wearing a midnight blue cape and a frown.

She looked at Reggie, muttered some words, snapped her fingers, and he returned to his normal form. He rose from the floor, all gangly arms and legs.

“Esmeena, what has been going on here?”

“I was trying to reinforce the barrier,” Esmeena said.

“Didn’t you think I would check on it before I left? But why did you think a sparkling rainbow-colored barrier would make the castle invisible to humans?”

“Everything is so dark now. I just wanted to make something light and cheerful.”

“Child,” said her mother, “I can see I still have much to teach you. Don’t you know the light is within you? We carry it in our hearts.” She touched her chest, then picked up a candle that now glowed brightly in the darkness of winter night.

“Come,” she said to her children, “the moon is humming. It’s time. Let’s go celebrate the solstice.”

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt was the painting above.

 

 

 

 

 

The Deliciousness of Life

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sitting down to dinner, at any age, should be an invitation to the fabulous banquet that is life. The most important lesson we learn at the table is that great awards await those who take chances. Do we really want to be telling our children ‘Just eat your nice chicken nuggets?’ It make so much more sense to say, ‘Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.’”

–Ruth Reichl, “Teach Your Children Well,” Gourmet Magazine, March 2007

The sunrise was spectacular this morning. I looked up from my seat at the kitchen table, coffee and newspaper in front of me, cat purring on my lap, and took in its beauty. Even if I had the photographic skills to capture it, it would have been difficult to do so—in seconds the sky went from shades of violet to deep flamingo pink to orange and then to apricot. If I could taste this sunrise, it would have been a rainbow sorbet, a swirl of sweetness melting on my tongue and then gone.

“When I come in here, it’s like I’m surrounded in sweetness. Sweetness and love,” my niece said to me on Saturday night. It was the night of our family holiday dinner (the weekend in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, close enough). Her words filled me with sweetness, too.

My summer was busy—much of it wonderfully so—after all, our younger daughter was married and we gained a fantastic son-in-law—but still, it was busy. I had a very large test-writing assignment to complete, which I finally did this past Wednesday. My husband and I went to the movies to celebrate and saw Learning to Drive, a sweet and sometimes funny movie that gently reminds its viewers of some important life lessons, such as always wearing seat belts, checking your road rage, and being aware of what’s going on around you, both on the road and in your life. Now it seems the summer is over. As summer turns to fall, and the summer sky grows lighter a bit later each day, I have some time to reflect. And cook, of course.

Those who say “food is just fuel” are missing something. Food is not simply fuel, and sitting around a table with family and friends is one of the great joys in life. On Friday, a dear friend, who I have not seen all summer, came by, bearing sushi—actually complete lunches for both of us of miso soup, salad, and sushi (shrimp tempura and sweet potato rolls). I was preparing for the next night’s dinner, but took a nice, long lunch break. We sat at my kitchen table and caught up. How lovely to have friends like that!

Our Saturday night dinner was relaxed. I had done most of the cooking before that day—so much so that I said to my husband early Saturday afternoon that I felt like I had forgotten to do something. After slicing the meat in the morning, I went to the gym, and then after lunch I even had time for a brief rest. He told me that it was just that I had done it so many times, that I had it all under control. He had done much of the cleaning, however, which always helps.

So after our guests arrived, we toasted the new year, 5776, and dipped apples in honey and ate challah. (I baked 8 over the course of the week because, oh my God, what if there isn’t enough? Do you remember that time we bought a new freezer simply because I needed it to freeze Rosh Hashanah challahs?) It is traditional to eat lots of sweet foods for Rosh Hashanah. We had yellow split pea-pumpkin soup; it is slightly sweet and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Life needs a bit of spice, too, right? The gold color symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

Yellow Split Pea-Pumpkin Soup

Yellow Split Pea-Pumpkin Soup

Our younger daughter brought this delicious salad with a maple balsamic dressing.

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We had noodle kugel. That’s kugel, not Kegel.

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For the meat-eaters, there was brisket

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And turkey. Because (see above) we might not have enough.

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My husband is eating lots of leftovers this week.

We drank wine. We talked, and then it was time for coffee and dessert.

Apple Cake (It is much better than it looks in photo!)

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Baklava

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And brownies. . .because. . .well, you know, chocolate, and with a hint of sea salt because. . .well, you know, chocolate and salt.

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The next day, my husband and I, along with our younger daughter and son-in-law went to the Heritage Wine Festival, a two-day event in Mullica Hill, NJ. My son-in-law has earned huge points for offering to be our designated driver. We were pleased to see some wineries there that we never visited before. My husband and I ended up buying a bottle of Rossa della Valle from Hopewell Valley Vineyards, a Chambourcin-Cabarnet blend. Our daughter bought the same, plus a bottle of their chocolate port. We also bought a port, Vat 19 Port from Unionville Vineyards. We’re thinking we’ll open that at Thanksgiving, when our older daughter and her wife will also be here.

We brought food—challah, anyone? I have a couple in my freezer. We tasted, we sat, ate, walked around and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was a beautiful September day. We shed the sweatshirts we wore earlier and basked in the sun. Daughter and I were thrilled to find a farm stand amidst the vendor booths. We split a basket of peppers and each of us bought lovely, ripe Jersey peaches. It was a perfect sweet ending for a weekend of sweetness and love, a weekend of celebrating family and friends, and the joy of conversation around food and wine. Wishing all of you joy, peace, and many opportunities to taste the deliciousness of life.

Heritage Wine Festival, Sunday, September 20, 2015

Heritage Wine Festival,
Sunday, September 20, 2015

“So sweet it seems with thee to walk,

And once again to woo thee mine—

It seems in after-dinner talk

Across the walnuts and the wine.”

–Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

“The Miller’ Daughter”

Aging, Dreams, and the Stories We Tell

Monday Morning Musings

“It is not true that people stop pursing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

–Gabriel García Màrquez

This past week, my siblings and I spent a lot of time discussing issues concerning my mom, who will soon be 93 and lives in an independent living apartment. She is beginning to need more care, but as she has reminded us, she is still capable of making her own decisions about how she wants to live. We’ve all discovered there is a fine line between concern and overstepping boundaries. At the same time, it might become necessary to—if not step over—then to somehow straddle that line. It is an uncharted course without a captain and only primitive navigational devices. Our simple map is marked, “Here Be Dragons!” We are warned, but necessity forces us on. We proceed with caution. We are at sea, adrift and facing icebergs whose hidden dangers lie far below. We can be slammed by a tsunami of guilt or a tidal wave of recrimination. The sirens sing, but we sail on.

During this same week, my husband and I had a phone conference with a financial advisor to discuss our financial situation in light of my husband’s recent retirement. This planning for getting old, it’s a game of speculation and “what ifs,” but for now, we’re fine.

         Two characters on the Netflix show, Sense8:

Riley: “But what if something terrible happens because of me going back?”

Capheus: “What if something wonderful happens? Eh?”

And that’s life, isn’t it? We don’t know. There could be dragons. But perhaps those dragons take you on a wonderful adventure. There could be ghosts—well, we all look back. We can try to plan for the future, but we don’t know what will happen. The best we can do is to plan for the worst–while actually hoping that something wonderful will happen—because, well, thinking the worst will happen is not much of a life. I go to the gym regularly, but I also enjoy a dessert or glass of wine. It is not “bad” or “good.” It is just my way–to keep my body in shape and to hope my mind keeps pace. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

On Saturday night, my husband and I saw the movie, Mr. Holmes. We seldom go to blockbuster movies, and we were kind of surprised that so many people were there at the 4:10 show. (My husband pointed out that they all appeared to be older than us.) The movie is definitely not a summer blockbuster. It is not an action movie–there are no car chases, no superheroes or women in skimpy outfits. No sex. It is not really even a Sherlock Holmes “who done it?”–although there is a mystery that the elderly Mr. Holmes is trying to solve. Ian McKellen embodies Holmes, a man whose memory is faltering more every day. Laura Linney as his housekeeper and Milo Parker as her son are also outstanding. It is leisurely, graceful movie that reflects upon growing old and on the regret of things done and not done in life. It touches on solitude, family, and friends—who are the people who care for us and who do we care about it? What happens when a person who has no one gets old? When both mind and body get frail who will take care him? Holmes learns the value of connection.

Holmes, who has spent a lifetime pursing facts, also learns to value the art of storytelling. In this movie, Holmes is real, but for those who have enjoyed Arthur Conan Doyle’s books or who have watched Sherlock Holmes movies or TV shows, he has always been real—as fictional characters are to those who love them. Fiction can impart valuable lessons—it is a different way of imparting and telling truths–and of sharing dreams. Telling stories is part of who we are. Stories help us define our world and slay our demons, or at least put them to rest.

So dragon, come close, let me tell you tale. Have you heard this one?

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By the Sea

Monday Morning Musings

We made it.

Down the Shore.

Circling for blocks

And blocks

For a parking spot.

We are a bit farther

than we planned

But it doesn’t matter.

Because we’re here.

And we sit and gaze

At the waves.

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And at the sky.

Plane pulls an advertisement for the Impression Exhibition we saw at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Plane pulls an advertisement for the Impression Exhibition we saw at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

And at the people.

The girl striking ballet poses

For her mother’s photo shoot

She’s all arms and legs,

Coltish

Her arabesque held

Only for a second.

Fleeting,

like this day

In a long line of days

that make up life.

But proud

In her youth.

“Look what I can do!”

In her life

It’s been an eternity

Since she was that toddler

Carefully placing each foot,

Her diapered bottom just inches

From the sand.

But to the sea

It’s only a second.

Then there’s

the couple playing catch.

And the family digging

A huge crater in the wet sand.

What are their stories?

I wonder.

We read our books,

And we gaze some more.

My husband's pensive pose.

My husband’s pensive pose.

There are no shark sightings.

But there is this little guy.

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The day is cloudy at first,

But still it’s lovely

Sitting there.

Then the sun comes out,

And it is glorious.

A perfect beach day.

The very definition.

Blue sky

A few puffy white clouds

Not too hot

And

A light breeze from the water.

We hate to leave,

But we’ll be back

Some other time.

After all,

The ocean is always here.

We simply need to pause

sometimes to see it.

A stop for water ice

Mango Water Ice

Mango Water Ice

Before we walk back to the car

And home to reality—

Showers and feeding the cats–

And feeding ourselves.

Of course.

But we were

By the sea,

By the beautiful sea.

You and me.

Finally.

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