Haibun: Flower Moon Dance

I observe the morning moon perform a high-wire act. After billions of years, she knows how to balance—movement in stillness, invisible and visible, silent in song. In her silvery glow, owls hunt, tides roll, and lovers kiss. Yet, time has no meaning for her. Past and future converge and separate in rippling waves. She smiles, watching us, then blinks and we’re gone. Or not. Our ghosts, like moonflower orbs, dance on in her light.

Pink petals bloom now
where once russet leaves drifted—
the moon hums, unfazed

A Haibun for Frank’s Flower Moon prompt on dVerse. I wasn’t going to do it because I’m so behind on reading—and everything—but, the moon. . .

Walking Into the Future, Haibun

We walk through an exhibition, “Modern Times”—art and music of an age now past. In a museum, moments are captured, set, and time seems to stop. Real is what the artist sees; it has its own truth. We walk outside. The sun sparkles on the Schuylkill River, as it did in Thomas Eakins’s time. The rowers could almost be those he painted—except that now there are women rowing, too. Cars zoom by on the street where horses and carriages once cantered. Bicyclists and runners pass us on the path. Spring is moving on, too, and summer’s lush greenery is appearing. My husband and I walk west, then circle back, and into our future.

 

Spring buds and blooms fall

drifting like fragrant snowfall–

time moves in circles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, at dVerse Björn asked for poems on walks/walking for Haibun Monday. I’m posting this for dVerse’s Open Link Night, where Björn is hosting again.

 

 

Visions of May

“Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long”

–Jackson Browne

 

“And a bird overhead sang Follow,
And a bird to the right sang Here;
And the arch of the leaves was hollow,
And the meaning of May was clear.”

–Algernon Charles Swinburne

 Yesterday morning I sat in the waiting room of the surgical center, and I waited—of course. It was May first, May Day, the day of flowers and revolution, parades and Maypoles. In our region, torrential April showers the night before left flooded streets and hopes that now giant May blooms will spring forth. In any case, I waited. I edited three entries for my next book, checked Facebook, read part of a novel, and waited some more. My husband was having cataract surgery done. This was his second surgery; he’d had the first eye done a few weeks ago. He is fine (except for some extra pressure in his eye right now), and so thrilled to be able to see well. “I can read that!” he exclaims about words that appear on the screen when we watch TV.

         I marvel that surgery such as this—removing the lens from an eye and replacing it with a new lens is now “routine surgery.” Yes, I know every surgery carries risks, and I know that some people have had problems with cataract surgery—and probably every type of surgery—but still, I marvel.

         For the past week or so, I’ve been immersed in eighteenth-century medicine. I’ve read about Washington’s teeth—there was a man with some dental problems! I’ve thought about what women and doctors said about menstruation–and tried to imagine coping with that before disposable pads, tampons, or running water. I’ve examined documents about eighteenth-century epidemics and medical techniques. And so, though I long for the non-invasive medical techniques practiced by Dr. McCoy and Dr. Crusher on Star Trek in their respective Enterprise sick bays, I still marvel at how medicine has advanced from the eighteenth-century.

         All types of revolutions took place in the eighteenth-century. There was the revolution that gave my country, the United States of America, its independence. There was a revolution in France a few years later that toppled its monarchy, at least for a time. The revolution in Haiti ended slavery there and sent French masters to the new United States. But, there were also revolutions in science and scientific thinking, as men—and women—sought, as they have throughout time, to explain the world around them.

The changes to “scientific practices” were not always beneficial. For example, in the late eighteenth-century, Martha Ballard, a midwife in Maine, delivered nearly 1,000 babies without any mother dying during delivery, and only five mothers died during the “lying-in” period. These rates were much lower than that of her contemporary physicians. Ballard, was a particularly skilled and conscientious mid-wife; some of the physicians who delivered babies did not have her skill or experience. In addition, physicians sometimes attended laboring mothers after they had examined seriously ill patients. Since this was before doctors and the lay public understood how diseases were spread or about the need for sanitary practices and sterilization (some people still don’t understand—like those people who don’t wash their hands in public restrooms. Ewwwww!), “advancement” in obstetrical techniques practiced by physicians sometimes led to more deaths of mothers than the traditional birthing procedures practiced by midwives.*

Still, I marvel. While working on my forthcoming Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast, I read several gruesome accounts of women undergoing mastectomies without anesthesia. The over diagnoses and treatment of breast cancer is a debate to have at another time, but I think all would agree that surgery without anesthesia, X-rays, and other modern surgical tools is not something we would want to experience.

I get so peeved when I hear people talk about the good old days that never really existed. There have always been wars, murders, rapes, stealing, and child molestation. Since ancient times, art, music, and storytelling have also existed. Humans have invented better and more efficient ways to kill, but we’ve always invented better ways to heal. We are complex, creative creatures, and sometimes also amazingly simple and stupid.

Some revolutions have brought death, but they have also brought freedom. Some revolutions have brought new ideas. Who know what this month of May will bring? I’m hoping for bright new visions—and flowers, of course.

 

 

Image

Longwood Gardens

* Further reading on eighteenth-century midwives and childbirth:

Leavitt, Judith Walzer. 1986. Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750 to 1950. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scholten, Catherine M. 1985. Childbearing in American Society: 1650-1850. New York: New York University Press.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. 1990. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. New York: Knopf.

 

May

20110309131133“the month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in like wise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds.  For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May, in something to constrain him to some manner of thing more in that month than in any other month, for divers causes. For then all herbs and trees renew a man and woman, and likewise lovers call again to their mind old gentleness and old service, and many kind deeds that were forgotten by negligence.”

-Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur

In southern New Jersey, where I live, spring is in full force. Gone are the early harbingers, the crocuses, snowbells, and daffodils—we’ve moved on! Now tulips, azaleas, and other late spring flowers dot the landscape, along with the last of the flowering trees, still adorned with petals of pink or white. They sway lightly in the breeze like a ballerina’s tulle skirt, strong and fragile. The leaves on the trees are still mostly small and that yellow-green that exists only in the spring; the trees have not yet donned their larger and darker summer-green raiment.

The days are sunny and bright. The nights are cool and still require a blanket. There is hope in the gentle spring breezes. It floats in the air and sings a duet with the birds.

It is all so beautiful. My heart rejoices in the loveliness and makes me feel reborn.  This is the season of rebirth. A few nights ago my husband saw scores of bats swarm into the evening sky. According to what I’ve read, they are now emerging from hibernation and looking for suitable areas to set up their “maternity wings.” I hope they stick around and eat the mosquitoes that will soon be taking over our backyard.

Death and rebirth. These themes appear in religions and cultures throughout the world. The Corn Mother dies so that corn can appear to feed her children.  “The circle of life.”  “To every thing there is a season.” “And the seasons they go round and round.” These ideas are almost—but not quite—clichés. We all know that the seasons go round and round, but every one of us experiences it differently. Every birth or death of a loved one is unique. It doesn’t matter how many times it has happened before. The first steps or first words of your own children are minor miracles—to parents and grandparents, but not to anyone else.

Death and rebirth. There is a personal connection for me in May. My father died in May years ago when our daughters were young. He did not live to see them grow up to become amazing and wonderful young women.  Our daughters were conceived in May. Yes, “the lusty month of May.” Ahem. Death and rebirth.

In the United States, May is the month of college graduations–death and rebirth of another sort. The ceremony during which academic degrees are dispersed is called “commencement.” It is the end of a course of study, and the beginning of a new life.  Three years ago, our older daughter graduated from college, and in a couple of weeks, our younger daughter will do so. Millions have gone through this ritual, but to us, the proud parents, these two graduations are unique and wondrous, as they should be. One daughter has embarked upon her “grown up” life, and the other will soon do so. I am incredibly proud of them. 

In May, we see life reborn, both literally and metaphorically. In May we are restored, “for then all herbs and trees renew a man and woman.” And although we cannot go back, we can continue to hope and dream. As Joni Mitchell wrote:

“There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.”

 

“When joy like these salute the sense,

And bloom and perfume fill the day,

Then waiting long hath recompense,

And all the world is glad with May.”

–John Burroughs, “In May”