After the Storm, the Moon Rises

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time.”

–Lisa Petersen and Denis O’Hare, An Iliad

 

After the storm, the moon rises

humming fiercely in the winter sky.

Do you hear her music—

urging, warning, comforting?

Cold, but bright, shimmering

ever-present

reflecting all our ifs

back to us,

and in shadows and dreams,

we sometimes understand.

 

***

It is the season of joy and sorrow

of unexpected gifts

and the kindness of strangers

of carols and bells

and hypocritical politicians

 

It is the season of rain and snow

of a full moon setting as the sun rises

of comfort food and warm clothing—and cats–

of a flock of turkeys that suddenly appear

and disappear

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like my mother’s thoughts and memories

delusions and dreams

shadows of things that were

or might have been

things that never were or will be.

 

It is the season of my birth

perhaps a miracle of a sort,

considering the gap of years

between my older sister and myself?

A rapprochement between my parents

 

carrying on to the birth of my younger sister

two years later?

I guess I’ll never know,

and does it matter?

I am here.

 

And so, we celebrate

a weekend with food and wine—

we watch Mrs. Maisel.

We walk in the city

decorated with Christmas lights

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We are reminded of things that were

of things that might be

We are reminded, too, that there is more

in the world

than what we can see

 

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Though The Poet is doomed perhaps

to sing her song of war

over and over and over again–

“Do you see?” she asks us.

We do.

 

We see the rage, the endless killing

over what?

A woman?  A piece of land?

We hear the lies.

We see the man rallying his base–

 

evil, madness, pestilence–

Marley’s chains rattle and clank.

The spirits appear

over and over again . . .

 

and yet . . .magic exists all around us

in birdsong, the moon, the stars,

a baby’s laugh,

a deer appearing in the woods,

sunrise, sunset–

 

Do you see?

Look.

Listen.

Sing the songs of joy and peace–

dream.

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I had a wonderful birthday weekend. We watched several episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, ate Thai Curry Mussels at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, saw a wonderful one-man performance of A Christmas Carol (Lantern Theater Company), saw a performance of An Iliad, (Arden Theater Company), a mostly one-woman show (along with a musician), a glass of wine at Pinot Boutique in Old City. Followed by Chinese food, more Mrs. Maisel, and my own flourless chocolate cake (The Oracle told me to eat cake!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Drive the Dark Away

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Stars, in your multitudes

Scarce to be counted

Filling the darkness with order and light. . .”

–“Stars” from Les Misérables

“So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.”

Susan Cooper, “The Shortest Day”

“Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive.”

–Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

 

The shortest day approaches,

we celebrate with tales and light

in centuries-old traditions,

we gather, talk, and drink

to drive the dark away

to drive the dark away

we count the stars

on the shortest day,

they fill the sky

with order and light.

 

With order and light

soon we’ll celebrate

eight nights of Hanukkah

to drive the dark away,

remembering

 

remembering, my mother says

girls were not sent to school,

but her mom knew where everything was

in their store, she could find the peas

the cans had pictures

 

the cans had pictures

and she knew the prices

she could add the figures quickly–

order in this world

like stars in the sky

 

like stars in the sky

we make patterns in our brains

memories form

and we fill in the gaps

stories of might and if

 

stories of might and if–

is the movie a cautionary tale?

What happens when we mess with nature?

Or is it tale of mothers and children,

variations on madness and guilt?

 

Variation on madness and guilt,

describe a host of myth and legends

along with greed, anger, and lust,

in animating stars, clouds, and trees

we try to make order of our world.

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We try to make order of our world

in patterns and statues and stories.

In art and poetry and song, we transform

and celebrate the light within

and without

and without this ability

what would we be?

Worlds unseen, other dimensions

beyond the stars, but here now,

we drive the darkness way

 

we drive the darkness away

with love and light and food

with sisters and sister-friends

with children and mothers and kin

we let the light in.

It’s been a busy, crazy week, and I apologize for being so behind in visiting and reading other blogs. I’m finishing reviewing my copyedited book manuscript. There have been many calls and text with my sisters about my mom’s care. We had to suddenly go to my mom’s when an aide called out sick. While there, we discovered that PBS was showing the 25th anniversary concert version of Les Misérables, which my mom and I both enjoyed. We did a “Nightmare Before Christmas” tour for my early birthday celebration with younger daughter—it turned out to be a fun evening of talking and drinking. We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Christmas Village.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw Little Joe. It’s a quirky film about a woman who develops a new plant that she names for her son Joe. But perhaps there are unintended consequences. It’s filmed in bright colors and with a percussive soundtrack. Emily Beecham won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival. We liked it, but I may not sniff a flower for a while.

We’re on the penultimate episode of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s so good—and kind of frightening to think of what could be, what might have been, and where we’re headed with the present administration.

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From “Designs for Different Futures” Philadelphia Museum of Art

And a more peaceful image to leave you with

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Winter trees form a bower outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art–Merril D. Smith, December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And You, Too, Have Come to This Still Point

November at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

Monday Morning Musings:

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

–fromMary Oliver “When I Am Among the Trees”

“After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.”

T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”  Four Quartets

 

I walk among the trees

watch the light golden-streaming,

and feel the wind river-breezing

listen to the crows caw and go

then all is still, in the glow,

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ.–November

 

though now it’s blanket season

when the wind blows, teasing

the clouds that alternate grey and bright

while I seek some warmth, some light

and find delight in sunrise pink rising high

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I look to the sky

the flocking of birds in flight.

We gather with family

hope there’s no drama

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or not too much.

Some come from lunch

to share our dinner

and so, we talk and laugh,

and most definitely eat (repeat)

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(not forgetting the sweets)

till it is time for them to go–

and you think you know

how life will be

but suddenly, you see

 

all the moments—

the traditional breaking of stuffing bread

under Capt. Janeway’s gaze, her cool head

once again guiding her crew

–and for them so much to do–

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and you, too, so much done,

all the times before—

and after–the squirrels, the sisters and daughters,

the laughter and traditions, the people come and gone—

babies grown, moving on

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we watch a movie of love and longing

of trying to find a better life, men migrating

women left behind, waiting

for escape, for weddings, for revenge—

gritty life and magic realism, avenging

 

ghosts among us

life not ending, but flowing like the sea—

what happens when we cease to be,

does love carry on through time and space?

Is there a still point, full of grace

 

and light, golden

like the emblazoned leaves

shining. . .

beauty to remember when it snows

to recall it will return

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even as the darkness grows

and the world turns, day to night

and all is still–

but beyond the clouds—

stars and moon still burn bright.

 

We celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of my sibling saw my mom that day, and we saw her the next day.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Atlantics on Netflix. This film from Senegal won the Grand Prix at Cannes. It moves from social realism of life in Dakar—forced marriages, laborers who don’t get paid, migration—to a sort of magic realism based on folk tales. I imagine it was a beautiful movie to see on a large screen.We both liked it very much.