Waiting for Next to Normal

Monday Morning Musings:

“But something next to normal would be okay
Yeah, something next to normal
That’s the thing I’d like to try
Close enough to normal to get by”
–“Maybe (Next to Normal)” from Next to Normal (2008)
book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt.

After the storm–a world in a puddle–the world upside down

The world is upside down,
but still the morning sky sings,
brings comfort to my soul, wings

Early morning. The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

away the swirling thoughts from me,
a body in motion is not stopped, so free
of notions,

and anger, emotions
may fly away,
but beauty, makes me stop and stay

a body at rest, (breathe)
for a while, recharged,
hopes expanded, vision enlarged

to see this is but one piece
as time flows on, history is past,
and will we learn, we’re often asked—

Past, Present, Future. The 18th Century Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

perhaps, or not,
the world goes on, the sun still shines
the geese still fly in V-shaped lines

and deer graze and gambol
whether I’m there to amble
by the riverside, the river bides (with me, I see)

though its course may change,
it carries still, cargo and dreams,
while over it the heron soars—

Heron flying into the light. Sunrise on the Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

not mine or yours, it endures
sensing how the wind blows,
but what does it think, who knows?

Not to oversimply,
I wonder what it’s like to fly,
but their survival is also fraught

but uncaught, I understand.
Yet as the woman sang,
something next to normal, would be grand,

as I listen to insanity,
the bizarre upheld,
I long for those in power to be felled

Uprooted and adrift. A visual metaphor for our times. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

and for the robot followers to waken
to be shaken
by the horror they uphold.

It won’t happen, they’ll deny,
believe the lies
again and again,

but someday, I don’t know when
I have to believe, things will change again–
and meanwhile,

I’ll walk by the river in hope
that nature’s cure will ease my soul
to bring me peace, one thing I can control

Coming in for a landing. Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

a tiny piece in this crazy world,
where lunacy is the new normal, unfurled
like a banner—well, I see those flags waved,

and crowds like those with arms in straight salute
the past reborn, without jackboots,
at least not yet, but you can’t refute

the similarities. Despots are all the same,
and fanatics, too. What’s in a name?
They’ve lived through the ages on history’s pages
.
I hope this time, they are soon confined,
I won’t give up hope, nor bind
myself to evil,

but listen for a laugh that echoes still
in my heart, it always will,
speaking of survival–and until

and if we meet again,
perhaps the world will be next to normal then.

We didn’t go anywhere this week, but we had an at home theater night. We ate nachos and watched the Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal on Saturday night– which appropriately for the theme of the show was World Mental Health Day. It was a production done a few years ago by the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, and because we’re subscribers, we were given a free link to stream a video of the production. It’s a moving story, as a woman grapples with her mental illness and her family also tries to cope, but there are also some laugh out loud moments. Here are the nachos and dinner from the night before, homemade naan and channa masala.

We watched the Netflix show Away. We renamed it, “This is Us in Space.” I was sobbing at episode five. It was enjoyable, in the way of a beach book. 😏
We also started the Netflix series, Haunting of Bly Manor. I liked the first two episodes, though the lead-in seemed a bit contrived. It’s the kind of horror I like, not splatter gore, but subtle. It’s based on the Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw. But if you ever get to see the 1961 film, The Innocents, also based on that story, it’s excellent. It doesn’t seem to be available to stream in the U.S. right now.

Blood and Fate

Monday Morning Musings:

“They were deceiving themselves, but the blood couldn’t be denied.”

–Federico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding

 “The duende is a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all this is truly alive. . .it manifests itself principally among musicians and poets of the spoken word. . .for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence.”

Federico Garcia Lorca, “Play and Theory of Duende,” quoted by Blood Wedding dramaturg, Walter Bilderback

 

On this weekend before Halloween

we watch Stranger Things

cocooned in our living room

food on the table

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cats besides us

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we become immersed–

the Upside Down and the Shadow Monster–

we tremble in the moment,

the deliciousness of a scary story,

this is the new normal in their town

but it echoes the world around us

where monsters climb from the shadows.

Perhaps we need to listen the children

before we face a long, perhaps forever, silence

 

The skies have turned dark and dreary

and we walk through damp streets to see a play.

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Transported to a society that is bound by strict rules,

and though all try to abide by them,

they cannot escape fate

and the blood that can’t be denied,

flowing through generations,

blood and fate,

knives, like Macbeth’s dagger

foreshadowing what’s to come

inevitable, despite all they do

the actors tell the story with percussive rhythms

of feet, hands, and voices

Hungarian folk dances and flamenco.

The characters sing

with and without instruments,

an actor portrays the horse,

that he is always racing,

the players climb on each other

pull up the floor mats to form barriers–

and shrouds–

The Bride and Groom are dressed in red

the color of passion, desire, and blood,

she wears the crown of orange blossoms

he gives her

the flowers of purity, chastity, and fertility

but they are made of wax, not real

and their marriage will not result in children,

no blood of deflowering or childbirth

but a blood wedding all the same,

we tremble in the moment

as the figures on the stage end in silence

 

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We walk again through wet city streetsIMG_7263

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese

 

I think of the idea of blood throughout history

“bad blood” running through families and generations

the ideas slave owners and white supremacists

one drop of black blood, one drop of Jewish blood

dooms you in their minds

when we know—that blood is blood

and all who are pricked will bleed

despite the beliefs of the shadow monsters

we all tremble before the long silence

 

I am called for jury duty.

I wonder if it is my fate to serve

and whether the fate of someone accused is already predetermined

I don’t believe this,

not really

. . .and yet. . .

the sky is dark

I wait for the dawn

the branches tremble in the wind

that breaks the silence with a moan.

 

 

 

The Snowstorm That Wasn’t and Was, or Making Your Garden Grow

 Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes, and to add to other peoples store of it.”

Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

The expected blizzard of 2015 did not take place in South Jersey this week. Weather forecasters kept changing the numbers. The amount of snow expected kept changing—we’re going to get a foot of snow; we’re going to get 6 to 12 inches; we’re going to get somewhere between 2 inches and 13 inches. The timing for this anticipated snowstorm kept changing, as well. First we were going to get a storm with 1 to 3 inches of snow on Monday morning, then later in the day and into the next day we’d get the “real” storm.

Based on the forecast, my husband’s school, as well as all of the schools in the area, made plans the night before to close. The governor of New Jersey declared a state of emergency, and people were not supposed to drive. When I woke up early Tuesday morning, I discovered we had received less than an inch of snow. So much for the snowstorm. But everything was quiet and still, and we had a snow day.

Not exactly a blizzard

Not exactly a blizzard

I thought about real snowstorms we had had. There was one huge blizzard when our daughters were small, and we had about two feet of snow, and more where the snow drifted. Our daughters’ school was closed for the week, and so was my husband’s. We were cocooned inside our house, and I baked lots of treats—something different every day. It was somehow relaxing knowing that we could not go anywhere.

My daughters playing in the snow many years ago.

My daughters playing in the snow many years ago.

On Tuesday, though the roads were fine later in the day, my husband and I treated the day as a “snow day.” He did some schoolwork, and I did a bit of work, too. But we also relaxed. We watched four episodes of  “Fringe” on Netflix throughout the day. I read; he napped (have I mentioned that my husband is a champion napper?). Of course, on snow days, one must cook and bake. Well, one must if you’re me. I had already made a pot of red lentil soup and homemade black bread, so I baked an apple cake.

I know for some the unnecessary snow day was a burden or a day of missed income, and I know others north of us really did have a snowstorm, but for me, the day was an excuse to slow down and relax, to not go anywhere, or follow a schedule—well, except for feeding the cats at their usual time.

We will probably get more snow at some point before the winter turns to spring, but I’m eagerly waiting for sprouts of green to appear on lawns and trees and to feel the warm sunshine upon my face and shoulders. In the meantime, I’ll delight in happiness when it comes, and appreciate unexpected pleasures. Sometimes life’s storms never materialize. Sometimes they’re followed by periods of calm. And sometimes it’s fine to just take the time to watch Netflix and bake goodies.

The word “garden” popped randomly into my head this morning, followed by this song, “Make Our Garden Grow,” the finale from Leonard Bernstein’s operetta, Candide, based on Voltaire’s novella. I love this song, and it’s possible I listened to it several times today. Here’s “Make Our Garden Grow” from the PBS version that was a favorite in our house.

“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow…
And make our garden grow.”

From Leonard Bernstein, “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide

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Sometimes there’s a snowstorm, and sometimes you get an unexpected gift of a day. Sometimes you see snow, dream of gardens, and find happiness where you can. And sometimes you bake a loaf of bread.

Wheatberry Bread

Wheatberry Bread