Storms and Squirrels

Monday Morning Musings

Early morning drama clouds over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020
“If we're lucky ghosts and prayers
Are company, not enemies
I time travel straight back there
You were singing back to me”
--Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Between Dirt and Stars”

Without a dawn, this day doesn’t break
but drifts from darkness, to violet, then grey–
now beating on the windowpanes,
the rain silver-streaks in drumming beats

and we wait for November storms to rinse the month away.
Perhaps December will come in bright with holiday,
and corona will again define only the gaseous light
of incandescent sun and shimmery moon—come soon

this ending of our sorrow,
this longing for tomorrow–
still, I seize what happiness I can find
in river walks and talks with loved ones, unwind

the spools of memory in conversations of before–
do you remember, I say? And we discuss and laugh,
cry over photographs. We dine apart, with heavy hearts–
cranberry sauce red-berry bright, though unshaped, no art

to recreate what is not there. We’re plague-parted
and squirrels must wait, even as they congregate
on lawns and trees and parks. They scurry now
in autumnal flurry, readying for winter’s cold—

Autumn Squirrel ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

and we get older, I’ll not say old—not yet—
there’s more to say and do, to live without regret
for what once was. To hear the ghosts, to mourn,
to cry a storm—I toss a stone, torn

My stone-toss mourning ritual. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, November. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

between yesterday and now
but grateful for what I have.
I listen to the singer sing of love and loss
of memories and dreams—

tears may fall like rain in streams,
but love remains beyond timelines,
never ending, there within, we remember
November ends, on to December,

with candles and cheer, we’ll lighten the gloom,
Zoom our love soon with latkes and wine,
dine and eat doughnuts, cookies, and cake—
celebrate solstice, watch the stars align

in happier fortunes, we’ll look for hopeful signs
in the fury and scurrying of squirrels and storms,
the resting of ghosts in time’s circling arms,
heed and harken how the waves flow and recede,

and carry the seeds

that bloom on a future shore. Just like before—
there’s no more and more.

We have steady rain right now, though it’s warm for November. We may get thunderstorms though as a cold front comes in. Here in the US, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past Thursday, when it rained in the morning, and then was warm enough for many families to gather safely outside. We had a pre-Thanksgiving snack outside with one daughter. It was strange to not be together with everyone. My niece’s daughter and husband made our traditional cranberry squirrel, and the rest of us saw it only in photos. On the left is one from a previous Thanksgiving at my house, and the right is this year. It’s nice they have a similar gold-rimmed platter.

Merril’s Movie/Concert/TV Club: Last night, we streamed Mary Chapin Carpenter’s concert, “One Night Lonely,” performed live at Wolf Trap on November 27. She was alone on the stage, and there was no audience. I thought we were going to watch it for brunch, but it didn’t work out. I did make bagels though.

Homemade bagels.

We finished The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix), which I highly recommend. I was almost ready to watch three episodes the first night. I’ve heard chess sets are in great demand now because of the show.

Voices and Memories

Monday Morning Musings

 

“I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could”

Dar Williams, “Iowa”

“We are not lost in the mortal city.”

–Dar Williams, “Mortal City”

“We both know what memories can bring

They bring diamonds and rust.”

–Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust”

“This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton

Shining like the memories

Inside those silver buttons.”

–Mary Chapin Carpenter, “This Shirt”

 

I don’t go to concerts very often,

but this weekend, there were two.

strong women, with beautiful voices

their voices shined and stirred memories,

diamonds and rust.

 

My daughter and I went to see Dar Williams,

her husband drove us through the puddled night,

the city lights glowed through the mist,

reflected on the streets of the mortal city,

but we were not lost.

img_9715

And we ordered food and wine

sharing platters and talking

of friends, family

(her sister would have loved to have been with us)

of TV shows, of her house-to-be

a special momma-daughter night

 

 

I remember when I first heard Dar Williams,

I was driving home from teaching a night class,

listening to Philadelphia station, WXPN,

hearing “When I Was a Boy,”

and I thought,

Who is this woman?

I have to find this album

And I did

sharing with daughters

(young voices of strong girls)

who sang along, even not quite understanding the words

until they grew older,

And now here we are, one of them with me at a concert

in this mortal city

It is a wonderful concert

And she is generous to others

Sharing the time with local author, Liz Moore

Who reads from her latest novel, The Unseen World

And joins Dar on the chorus of “Iowa”

And for several hours we

forget about the candidate who never had a way with women

(Voices of women will be heard.)

img_9717

In between concerts

my husband and I get a visit from our daughters’ friend,

our older daughter’s friend since kindergarten,

younger daughter was the little sister she never had.

I watched them all grow up together.

(Diamond memories, comfortable like an old shirt)

 

She had messaged me,

she was coming home and had been dreaming of my cookies,

the cookies we call “Mommy Cookies” in my house,

she wondered if there might be some this weekend,

And I said I could make it happen.

How could I not?

So she stopped by and picked up the cookies,

enough for her boyfriend to try one.

She says she likes where they live,

a people’s republic in Maryland

the town will take in refugees

(voice of the people).

She’s a strong woman,

like my daughters

all working to make this world a better place.

img_4459

So then that night

(Sunday, if you’re keeping track)

my husband and I drive back into the mortal city

we see the rainbow flags and signs

of the Outfest celebration in the Gayborhood

(Voices of love, is love, is love, is love is love is love

is love is love)

And though the rain has finally stopped

it is cool and windy,

We eat at a bar–

my husband laughs when I say,

“It is a good night to eat in a dark bar.”

He picks a beer to drink

I order wine

We both have the Belgian frites

img_4470

And we sit and talk before walking to the Academy of Music

(I’ve never sung in such a beautiful hall before,” Mary Chapin Carpenter says.)

and it is beautiful

and she sings,

and her voice is beautiful and strong.

(I remember, diamond memories, of my daughters

singing along to “Passionate Kisses”)

She reveals a bit of hero worship for both Lucinda Williams

and Joan Baez

who then comes out on the stage,

elegant and strong at 75,

with that voice

that distinctive soprano vibrato

(Who doesn’t worship her?)

She begins with a folk song

“Pretty Peggy-O,”

alone on the stage

the way she probably sang at the start of her career,

and she sings her way through the years

(memories of diamonds and rust)

and she sings alone

and she sing with others

all strong, beautiful voices,

and despite claiming she is tired and her feet hurt,

she sings several encore songs

including “Imagine”

because we need this song,

and “The Boxer,”

another song of another mortal city

still timely,

as we hear what we want to hear

and disregard the rest.

She ends with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

wanting it to carry us all home,

she sings with a laugh and says “Good night.”

 

In the car

(traveling home from the mortal city)

I read the texts from my daughter

(a strong woman with the voice of an angel)

She has filled me in on the debate.

I turn on NPR,

I hear a strong woman

and I hear the other voice

that I hope will fade like rust

leaving only a slight orange stain

We know what memories can bring,

diamonds and rust.