Half-Revealed and Half-Concealed

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A whole world in a puddle.

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“For words, like Nature, half reveal

And half conceal the Soul within.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 5”

 

“Now it was only the rivers

that spoke of the rivers,

and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

 

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees

continued to move toward their fruit.”

–Jane Hirshfield, “On the Fifth Day” 

 

How will we remember these days

of grief and sorrow for our world–

the facts of buds on trees

and rivers that keep on flowing

concealing and revealing what lies beneath

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in the upside-down world

where we gaze at transitory beauty

and fall, topsy-turvy

into its depths

as spring dances, mercurial,

 

 

swiftly fleeting,

yet heralding—the facts—

yellow-green wisps turn darker

the world gets hotter,

and trees reach up

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to light,

and down to darkness

half-revealed,

half-concealed

thoughts glimmer

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like tears

until they drop

salty pearls

leaving an alluvial trail

fertile with memories

 

and I think of this–and time

as I listen to words,

singularity, time and space,

the black hole left

in an absence

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even as we remember

the time before we are born

when my mother meets my father

and holds my older brother on her lap.

And she is young, old, older, gone. . .

.

. . .and here.

 

On Friday night, we visited with our daughters via Zoom. This Friday Shabbat dinner has become a new ritual. We ate soup and rolls, the gift of friends, sustaining us from a distance. I baked the cookies we call Mommy Cookies because they are my favorite. My mom loved them, too, and I used to bring her some.

I watched most of “The Universe in Verse,” which was live-streamed on Saturday just before we had our own family Zoom memorial session for my mother. It was a somewhat surreal experience marked by technical problems, non-sequiturs, and some memories of my mom that we shared.

We weren’t the only ones with technical difficulties. I tried to watch the Sonheim’s 90th birthday celebration last night, but I gave up. Apparently, it did go on, over an hour later that the scheduled 8 PM start.

We finished watched Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) on Netflix, which I highly recommend if you want something unique. I really liked it.  It’s a Japanese-British production that is difficult to describe. A Japanese detective is looking for his criminal brother in England. The detective’s daughter joins them. It is a crime show and a family drama. There is romance, and action scenes, and there are other characters who become important and endearing. I wasn’t sure about it after the first episode, but I really did get caught up in this show.

 

 

 

 

 

Searching

Monday Morning Musings:

“The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately pursue it, the less likely are we to find it.”

–Irving D. Yalom quoted in Brainpickings here

 

My sister and I listen to the woman,

she is perfectly pleasant, if a bit harried–

it’s possible she’s double-booked her appointments.

We can only offer your mother six hours of care, she says

(that we may or may not pay for)

but we can’t let you know until you pick one of the providers.

(We stare blankly at the five-page list.)

No, I can’t recommend any of them–

can you imagine if it didn’t work out?

But you can call and ask them questions.

(That shouldn’t take much time, right?)

No, the caregivers are not permitted to give your mom medication

I guess you’ll have to work something else out.

Yes, we do offer some free meals, but only if you go with our program–

and your mother would have to pick up a week’s worth at the front desk

Well, yes, I can see she uses a walker and is nearly blind, but that’s how it’s done.

I hear these meals taste kind of nasty–

Now the dinners from that other program . . .

(the one your mother is ineligible for because her income from Social Security is slightly over the cutoff, though it’s not enough to pay her rent)

Yeah, those meals are delicious. . .Do you have any questions?

My sister and I look at each other—we have lots of questions,

but nothing she can help with.

She’s referred inexplicably a few times

to the process, program, situation

as “catch 52”—

perhaps it is all so ridiculous that “catch 22”

is no longer enough to describe it.

 

My sister goes home, my husband and I go home, too,

we feed the cats, and then visit a winery.

We drink wine, listen to music, and eat mac and cheese.

Decompress, not deconstruct.

Vino and Vibes,
William Heritage Winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I cook and bake,

the kitchen exorcism

being a well-known technique for

getting rid of any lingering demons.

Artisan Bread
Mandelbrot
Blueberry Peach Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our younger daughter is visiting a friend in Japan.

she sends us a photo

the two of them with a snake.

I think if anyone could charm a snake,

it would be her–

though she looks terrified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think of my younger self–

once I held a snake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and had a head full of dreams,

not as practical as either of my daughters,

and not as charming either,

but in those days

my mother could see and walk

and was raising another child.

I raise a glass to wish,

only suddenly I’m

uncertain what to wish for.

 

We watch a mystery series

there’s murder, conspiracy, and violence

yet we know that at the end

the questions will be answered,

the mystery solved.

And if it’s not completely tidy,

it’s enough to satisfy.

Maybe the answer is 42, after all

though I’m not sure

of the question anymore.

I pour another glass of wine,

toast, “L’chaim.”

Perhaps “to life” is enough.

***

 

We watch the storm—

rain urges moon,

and she sings,

bares away language

to let live the cool whispers

of blue shadow light

on aching skin.

Life is wanted here—

trudge, run.

(If not, when?)

Together, we soar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oracle gave me this coda of hope and action. I’m sure she knows that the expression is “bear away,” but she is clever, and no doubt she enjoyed the double meaning here.

 

 

 

 

Truth in a Cookie

These cookies, your favorite,

are my favorite, too,

my daughters named them,

“Mommy Cookies,”

I baked these cookies for them

and for me

I baked them for events, for friends,

for moments of heartbreak

and moments of joy–

for memories.

I baked them for you.

 

I think of all the recipes handed down,

mother to daughter over generations,

measured by sight and feel

cooked or baked to taste,

I think of these cookies,

back in Eastern Europe–

the original version–

hard and dry,

kept in a tin,

taken out to have with tea,

but evolving over time

with new additions,

(like families)

becoming sweeter

and more nuanced,

cookies that are made

(now)

with ingredients of old world and new

bridging history in a bite,

tasting of past, present, and future–

what I see in your eyes,

the girl who was

the daughter, the mother, the grandmother,

what I see in my daughters’ eyes,

years gone, years yet to unfold,

bitter, spicy, crunchy, and sweet,

the definition of a cookie,

the measure of a life

 

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This was a poem I wrote for my mom’s 95th birthday.  I made her some of these mandelbrot cookies as a gift.

 

The Influence of One

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”
–George Eliot

“We don’t make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.”

– Ansel Adams

Influence. Who influences us and who do we influence, perhaps unknowingly? A recent blog post by Laurie Buchanan on her Tuesdays with Laurie blog made me ponder these questions.

We’re all influenced by the times in which we live. Perhaps a Neolithic storyteller imagined worlds beyond ours, a place filled with fantastic creatures that swooped down from the sky. It’s possible. But it’s unlikely that he or she imagined televisions or the Internet. Perhaps though that storyteller inspired others to create new tales or paint, or think of worlds beyond. Entirely possible, and a scene I like to imagine. Still, although a rare genius such as Leonardo da Vinci can imagine or predict objects far beyond the imaginations of his or her contemporaries (see for example, his moveable cart, “the world first self-propelled vehicle” ), most of us are constrained by our times and knowledge.

As a historian, I study the past and past influences. In turn, I’m influenced by the words and actions of those who lived long ago. As a writer, I’m influenced by everything around me. But who knows for sure where that creative spark comes from? I have some way of seeing things that others perhaps do not, some odd synaptic firing that allows me to put images into words on a page. But I am still influenced by what I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, music I’ve heard, art I’ve admired. I’m influenced by the sound of the crows outside my window engaged in their “Marco Polo” calls to one other, the sunlight reflected and glimmering on the butterfly bush gently swaying in the faint summer breeze, and the cat sleeping next to me, lost in his feline dreams.

As a writer, I hope that my words influence my readers, and make them think, laugh, or cry. As a human being, a parent, wife, and friend, I also hope that I’ve influenced others, as they’ve influenced me.

Last week all of these various worlds—history, creativity, family, and influence came together in one wonderful example.

Those who read my last post, know that in my house the Mandelbrot cookies I bake are known as “Mommy Cookies,” and that I baked them for my daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Two days after the wedding, while visiting a historic site, my newly married daughter and her wife encountered a historical interpreter portraying an early twentieth-century Jewish immigrant making Mandelbrot in her New England kitchen. My daughter’s reaction was to get a bit teary-eyed (as I did when she told me the story), as she thought of how I make those cookies, our Mommy Cookies. A traditional recipe that I’ve updated became a family tradition that has influenced and affected my daughter and me. The reenactor, however, will never know how her portrayal in that historic site resonated and influenced my daughter.

And now that I’ve told you, the influence of that portrayal has expanded.

 

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

 

 

 

 

Deadlines Whooshing By

procrastination

procrastination (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Douglas Adams

Because of both work and some social events the past couple of weeks, I’ve neglected my blog and the reading of other blogs I enjoy.

Like most independent scholars, I work on a number of projects at the same time.  Most probably manage their time better than I do. I have three projects due tomorrow, and they are all in various states of completeness.  By that, I mean, none of them is finished, and one is not even started yet. But hey, the day is just beginning. I also have another project that should be finished by now, but it is not actually due tomorrow.

So last Monday when I realized that I had all this work, I baked two loaves of bread, made a pot of red lentil soup, and baked an apple pie. My family eats well when I procrastinate.

Did I mention I work at my kitchen table? It makes cooking and stress-eating much easier.

So that is why I started working early on this Sunday morning, and I will spend this absolutely beautiful last Sunday in September at my computer.  . .and why you might find me taking a break to bake some mandelbrot and cook a pot of spaghetti sauce.

But for now, back to work!