Together and Alone: The Essentials

Monday Morning Musings:

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

–Ann Patchett, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

“Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, flaky scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins. There was enough food there to keep a starving family for a week.”

–Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca


“Art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.”

– – Wajdi Mouawad


Art, the creative impulse,

my husband and I

witnessed it in many ways over the past few days

We see the movie Manchester By the Se,a

the acting is exceptional

making us feel like we know these people.

We’ve met people like them,

ordinary and unique,

as we all are,

the New England backdrop reflecting the characters,

gritty, hard, seemingly unyielding, but fluid,

and grief comes in waves like the sea.

Later, after our dinner at a Thai restaurant,

I say to my husband,

We didn’t discuss the sound track.*

It was beautiful, but I was so aware of it—perhaps it was even a bit intrusive?

What was in the soundtrack? I didn’t notice it.

He tends to listen to music when he is working.

I do not. It’s already in my head.

We carry the essentials with us.


The next day we go to tea.

More accurately, we go to lunch

in a tea room.

He gave me the gift card almost a year ago,

we finally use it.

The room is quaintly Victorian,

or perhaps Edwardian.

We chose our teas and have a full spread.

(More than the essentials.)

We talk of this and that,

cozy in dining room

with Christmas music playing in the background

a break from work,

a small retreat,

and I understand how this became a ritual,

it is difficult to discuss weighty issues over small, crustless sandwiches

and dainty iced cakes.

I think of tea parties and Tea Party,

attempts to return to a time that never was,

like this tea room,

an escape from reality.

He eats some of my sandwiches,

I take home some of my sweets.


Afterward, we go for wine,

we have a shipment to pick up at a local winery

We sit, sipping wine

discussing this and that again

timeless moments

watching the sky,

warmed by space heaters,

music comes from a frog speaker nearby

and I wonder if there’s a metaphor there

but I can’t find it,

it slips away,


and there is already too much that I carry

in my heart and mind.


Heritage Vineyards

The day after,

(Sunday by now)

we visit the museum

we get there just after opening,

Again, we go through the exhibition on Mexican artists

who painted the revolution,

who were revolutionary,

(And perhaps all artists are)

overturning the flotsam and jetsam in their brains,

discarding the unnecessary

salvaging the essentials from the debris.

We see Diana surrounded by Christmas lights


I share a moment with Renoir’s “Washerwoman,”


So many forms of art

created and collected.

We stop for free coffee (also essential)

It is members’ day. Yay!


Next we go to a play

I must say I’ve never seen anything like it



The artist asks:

Qui sommes-nous? Qui croyons-nous êtres? (Who are we? Who do we think we are?)

I should mention that the play is in French—a bit of Arabic—with the English translation projected on a screen.

It is a one-man show,

not autobiographical exactly

but based somewhat on Wajdi Mouawad’s life

As a child, forced by war in Lebanon,

his family left for Canada,

his and his character’s,

As a child, Harwan, the character,

counted the stars in the night sky,

he tried to paint them

he wanted to be a shooting star.

When they left Beirut, they brought only the essentials.

What happened to his paintings, he wonders?

and what if they had never left?

Harwan is struggling to finish his doctoral dissertation,

to find a conclusion.

His relationship with his father is fraught with words unsaid

in French or Arabic,

and broken memories–

it is the story of immigrants

and artists

Harwan, goes to St. Petersburg,

he has mistakenly packed paint instead of clothing.

Only the essentials?

His father is in a coma from an accident.

Or is he?

We travel with the character, with the artist

to a place inside his mind,


The story of the prodigal son is told,

a son’s journey

a father’s forgiving heart,

a story told and retold

we paint the story of our lives,

we bring the essentials,

bearing witness

we paint over truth and lies,

we create new truths

we are alone—together–

and on a stage, the artist is alone

but we are there with him.


After the play, I say

We will have much to talk about.

I need to think about what I’ve just seen,

My husband says.


We walk through City Hall to the courtyard.

Once the world’s tallest building,

completed in 1901.

Now there are taller buildings

but this one is unique,

beloved cultural icon topped by the statue of William Penn

we walk through the Christmas village,

we drink hot, mulled wine

I watch my husband watch the children posing for photos

with a man dressed as The Grinch

they shriek and laugh as he changes his pose

my husband laughs, too.

We stroll some more,

I wonder what creatures from other worlds would make of

our need for light

to brighten the darkness,

our joy in tea and wine,

and Christmas baubles,

We carry joy and sadness

in our souls,

we create and recreate light in the darkness,

we generate new worlds within our minds

construct, paint, and

imagine the impossible

to discover the essential

bearing witness to our existence.




*Lesley Barber, “Manchester By the Sea Chorale”

We went to Amelia’s Teas & Holly

Heritage Vineyards

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Seuls, Written, Directed, and Performed by Wajdi Mouawad

At the Wilma Theater

Christmas Village in Philadelphia  












In Vino Veritas

“Wine is Sunlight held together by water.”

This past Sunday was my birthday. To celebrate, my husband and I went on a trolley tour of 5 local wineries. Wineries in S. Jersey? Yes, indeed. There are close to 50 wineries in the state of New Jersey–and more appear each year.

Two Bridges Wine Trolley Tour

Two Bridges Wine Trolley Tour

The trolley tour was a fun way to visit several wineries in one day—and to sample their wines!  The tour lasted about six hours, and it included a lunch stop. We began and ended at the Cedarvale Winery, where we were each given a tote bag with dividers in it to hold 6 wine bottles, a wine tasting glass, and admonitions to drink plenty of water, eat, and pace ourselves throughout the day. Although each winery produces a variety of wines—white, red, sweet–each winery/vineyard has its own unique character and wines. Some of the places, such as Heritage Vineyards, the oldest winery in the group we visited, are wineries that found a new way to sustain family farmlands.

The wineries we visited were:

Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery, Pilesgrove, NJ
Cedarvale Winery, Logan Township, NJ
Heritage Vineyards, Mullica Hill, NJ
Monroeville Vineyard and Winery, Monroeville, NJ
Wagonhouse Winery, Swedesboro, NJ

It was a particularly fun time to visit the wineries because each was decorated for the holiday season. Some of the tasting rooms had fireplaces and included warmed spiced apple wine in their samples of wine to taste. But I imagine the tours would be fun at any time of year.


At Auburn Road Winery

We learned that sweet, fruity wines are very popular in S. Jersey. Although they do not particularly appeal to me, I’m pleased they are made from the locally grown fruit—apples, blueberries, peaches, and even tomatoes. Wine is indeed sunlight held together by water.

In the musical, The Sound of Music, the oldest Von Trapp daughter, Liesl, who is “sixteen going on seventeen,” sings, “I’d like to stay and taste my first champagne.” I don’t remember at what age I first tasted wine. I imagine I was a teenager, and it was Manischewitz at a Passover Seder–which probably kept me from drinking wine for a long time. During college we had some wine and cheese nights. We ate some good cheese from the local farmer’s market, and some mostly not-so-good cheap wine from the local state store. We were young, foolish, and knew nothing about wine.

My parents were not really wine drinkers. We didn’t have wine in the house regularly. Perhaps they drank some in restaurants, or had some on special occasions. It was the era of cocktails—not that my parents drank cocktails at home either. (If you read my blog regularly, then you probably know food has always been my family’s drug of choice. We love to eat.  When we’re not eating, we’re talking about food and eating, or we’re planning what we’re going to eat next. Well. . .maybe that’s just me.) But when my parents went out, I assume they drank cocktails. They used to go to one nightclub in Dallas, and when their vocalist friend, Enrico, was in town, they would take my little sister and me to see him. My dad ordered “Shirley Temples” for us, and we felt grown up.

So wine. Yeah, I enjoy it, but I’m not an expert. I don’t have a wine cellar, like some dear friends have. I don’t order cases of my favorite wines. But I suppose I’ve developed a more sophisticated palate over the years. I’ve also learned that red wine and dark chocolate are pretty amazing together. (See? It all comes back to food.)

In vino veritas? I don’t know that wine has brought me truth, but perhaps the truth is out there. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  In any case, you might want to have a glass of wine while you ponder truth, or the meaning of life.  Or you might simply want to say, L’chaim, to life, as you raise your glass—and then eat, of course.  Thanks for reading!