Art and Craft

Monday Morning Musings:

“It will be as if we never existed if our history cannot be read.”

― Minette Walters, The Last Hours

Ask about time–

or the night–

the woman of then

the woman of now

listen and remember

the voice of the universe calls.



In the book,

many people die.

They wonder why–

what they’ve done,

so many gone

from this new plague.

They question

their narrow existence,

wonder about resistance

and the distance

between people

and place.

And then the rats–

so many, except

where there are cats.


It’s a new world,

the crash of the feudal,

for rebuilding, crucial

to have the art and craft

survival skills and more–

and even serfs may leave

the manor, to soar


like the clouds that come

with thunder and rain

then blow away again

to reveal blue skies

and days that surprise

one with their beauty.

We visit the fountain,

the water spouting

in wind-blown sprays,

and children laughing

in all the ways

they can,

making sculptures

and eating free ice cream

(like a dream!).

A man tells me

about the turtle

he holds

over fifty years old,

he says,

points to her shell

and what it tells

of her age.

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Not as old as the fountain,

dedicated nearly one hundred years ago,

public art and public show,

the craft and skill creating

a place for people

for waiting, hesitating,

lingering, as the water gleams

over allegories of history and streams,

and water showers,

but we walk on

admire the colorful bowers

of flowers.


We visit my mother

sit outside, the air

is pleasant with a breeze

and birds sing in bushes

and trees.

We go inside to see some art

a show and reception–

she has some connection

to the club, if not the artists,

and she can’t see their art

but still she charts

a course around the room.

Later we talk about the paintings

she’s painted

the work she’s created,

and when she and my father dated,

the clothes she wore

in that time before.


Painting by Sylvia Schreiber

One of my mom’s paintings


We leave her before dinner

to walk some more

this glorious day

stop to say

hello to Rodin, and stay

for a drink in the statue garden,

the view a delight,

and we linger

but leave before night.

I see my daughters and their friend

almost like when they spent

all their time together

–birds of a feather—

all creative,

two artists, two who also write,

all who see the darkness and the light.

Soon all will be married

with husbands and wife.

These three—I wish them all

a happy life.

We binge on Netflix

eat nachos, and dream

of what the world might bring,

and I delight

to hear the birds sing

in morning chorus and in the night.

Sweet Potato Nachos with Mango Salsa

Sleepy cats lie

in peace, as I wish we could all–


the art and craft of living

and dying,

history told in statues and stories

past, present, future fold

the moon hums and sighs

while time flies by.

Morning Moon, June 2019, Merril D. Smith

Here is some history on the Swann Memorial Fountain.

I read  The Last Hours by Minette Walters. She is known for her crime fiction. This is her first historical novel. It’s set during the “Black Death” plague of the fourteenth-century. The lady of the manor seems somewhat too enlightened, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it.





















Alan Bean, Apollo Astronaut: Tanka

Space time rushes pass

in moments gone, but endless

choices of the heart

travel from Earth to the stars,

then answer the muse’s call


I’m catching up on challenges. This is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge, using synonyms for hurry and last. I honestly didn’t know anything about Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, who died today. He was one of the fourth man to walk on the moon, but he left NASA to become a painter.You can see examples of his work here.

“Every artist has the earth or their imaginations to inspire their paintings.. .I’ve got the earth and my imagination, and I’m the first to have the moon, too.” The New York Times

My Big Picture Is More Like an Etch-A-Sketch


In the musical Ordinary Days, four twenty-somethings explore, discuss, worry about, and celebrate their “life stories” and “big pictures.” Eventually, they all come to realize that life stories and big pictures can be changed irrevocably for better or worse in a few seconds by chance meetings and unforeseen events.

 A few weeks ago, one of my daughters, also a twenty-something, told me that a couple of her work colleagues had their lives all charted in tidy five-year plans. They were incredulous when she told them she has a job and apartment through June, but after that she has no idea of where she’ll be or what she’ll be doing.

Although no one wants to be homeless or suddenly unemployed, a detailed five-year life plan of exactly how you expect your life to be seems both unrealistic and simplistic to me.  I’m not saying don’t dream or have goals, but your life plan to have two kids, a dream house, and successful career by age 30 just might not happen, or not in the way you anticipate. Life happens, and sometimes it’s messy, startling, and unpredictable. Besides who wants to know everything that will happen in their future? Sometimes life also brings sudden, astonishing good things, too. Surprises, including unexpected career paths, can be wonderful.

As Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

So put money in savings, buy insurance, and send out your résumé, but get messy, too. Color outside the lines of your big picture.

I think about my daughters—and myself—all of us planners. We make daily and weekly to-do lists and charts. We plan our days. We like to know in advance where we’re going with friends, what movie we’re seeing, who will be at this or that holiday dinner, and what food we’ll eat. Although we all have dreams, goals, and desires, I don’t know if they have envisioned a “big picture” in their own lives. I know I have never had one. In fact, I haven’t quite decided what I want to do or who I want to be when I grow up.  So girls, it just might be hereditary.


I was an elementary/early childhood major as an undergraduate, mainly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was interested in a lot of things—literature, writing, history, art, music—but I didn’t know what to do with those interests. After graduating, my boyfriend and I got married, and he became a high school math teacher—a very good one—and he has had a teaching career he’s enjoyed (for the most part). I taught preschool, but it was not really wanted I wanted to do.

So I probably did have some kind of very vague big picture as a young twenty-something: we would get married, and perhaps some day way in the future we’d have children and perhaps own a house. We do have two daughters (I could not have predicted that they would turn out to be as wonderful as they are—smart, passionate, creative, talented. And how would I have planned for that anyway?), but I did not have our first until we’d been married for nine years and I was nearly finished with graduate school, where I earned a doctorate in American history. I wrote, I taught at local colleges and universities, and the same year my first book was published, I took a one-year position at a nearby university with delusions of grandeur, the university, not me. I had no such illusions. In fact, I discovered one day that I taught an entire class period with my nursing bra unhooked under my (fortunately baggy) sweater.  Nope, no delusions of grandeur in my life story. This college also had the most dysfunctional history department ever. I am probably not exaggerating here. The professors had been pretty much been ordered to start playing nicely together. They didn’t. My year there and a friend’s horrible tenure experience at another college cured me of wanting to pursue a life in academia.

So then there was more soul searching. A friend and I attempted to create children’s history programs and write a children’s book. Those endeavors didn’t work out, but we had certainly had fun trying–and had some great lunches, too. Finally, the same friend introduced me to test writing. I had never before considered that people were actually employed to create test questions and tests. I seem to be good at it. So now I work as a freelance test writer, and I write and edit academic books. I blog for fun.

But both my grandfathers lived to be over 90 years old, and my mom is going on 92, so I figure, I still have plenty of time to start a new career–if I want one.

We can’t anticipate illness or unexpected heartbreaks. We can plan our days, we can save for a rainy day or a polar vortex, and we can outline a blog post or essay. However, even what one plans to write turns—often mid-sentence–into something else entirely. OK. Maybe that’s just me. My sentences sometimes have lives of their own. Perhaps they see the big picture that I’m missing. I can deal with that.

My life story and big picture are like the unfinished sentence that morphs into a new train of thought—random strands that create something new. But I think I much prefer the active and ever-changing Etch-A-Sketch life to that of framed and finished oil canvas, hung in a gallery and forgotten. Perhaps I want the nuances of a chiaroscuro drawing in my big picture, with contrasts between light and dark, shadow and light. That is how I see my life. I don’t know what my big picture will finally look like, or how I will appear in it. Today is just another day—ordinary and special. Just the say, I’ll keep my to-do list close by. After all, there are always errands to do and calls to make, and one of those might lead to something unexpected and wonderful, a new draft for my big picture.