Hope Carried Forward

Monday Morning Musings:

“We can never go back to before.”

–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Back to Before,” Ragtime

“Go out and tell our story

Let it echo far and wide

Make them hear you

Make them hear you”

–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Make Them Hear You,” Ragtime

 

“It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it. “

“The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.”

—Rebecca Solnit , from Hope in the Dark, quoted in Brainpickings

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I wake from dreams

where before and after merge

the past that never was,

the future that will never be,

where old friends visit a house

that is mine

only in a dream–

and I smile when I wake

because dream-world cats

knock objects from tables, too.

Somehow that makes

everything seem right.

***

 

There are hopes so small

scarcely thoughts at all

 

wishes, feather light

almost out of sight

 

they drift

away so swift–

 

a desire for fair days,

and then we gaze,

 

see beauty in the mist,

buildings lightly kissed

 

by grey, yet they shimmer

even as they’re dimmer

a paradox, perhaps

like seeing in the gaps

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what could be.

And then behind a tree

 

a deer, or two, three,

more you see

than what is here—

hope for what could be.

 

And quiet sanctuaries

where history tarries

Garden at Christ Church, Philadelphia    Merril D. Smith, October 2019

Christ Church Garden, Philadelphia Credit: Merril D. Smith, October 2019

telling the story of before

in church steeples, and old doors

 

steps decorated for fall

historic houses call

but we can never go back to before

even if we try to restore

 

a status quo–

you know

 

there is no time machine

only dreams

where past and future blend,

but it doesn’t have to be the end—

 

we tell our stories

of past glories

 

and of little things

our hopes with wings

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for our children, to bring

the awakening of spring

 

and they will hear you

and we hear, too

 

through mist and dreams

hope beams

 

a light,

a torch in the endless night.

 

Bonus Photo: “my willow.” I think people often dream under it.

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“My” willow, October 2019 At Dock Creek, Old City Philadelphia

We saw Ragtime at the Arden Theatre. It was performed in the round with a minimal set (with the clever use of two pianos and benches), but I loved the intimate aspect, where even though I knew the story, the three groups seemed clearer, as was their desire for their children to have better lives. I think there are many people today who want to go back to an idealized past. Well, that is evident in the campaign slogan used by the current U.S. president. But though I tear up at the musical, it leaves me with a sense of hope.

And, if you’re keeping track, my manuscript for my book on sexual harassment is nearly completed. I’ll be sending in the first five chapters in just a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simmering the Stories

Monday Morning Musings:

“We order our lives with barely held stories.”

“I know how to fill in a story from a grain of sand or a fragment of discovered truth. In retrospect the grains of sand had always been there. . .”

–Michael Ondaatje, Warlight: A Novel

“A poet once said, ‘The whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. . .”

–Richard Feynman, Lectures on Physics, quoted in Brainpickings.

 

 

 

We hold memories, winter to summer

try to put them in sequence in order,

but there are no real boundaries, no border,

all and everything colored by the moment—

and by every second after.

They pile together, memories,

more than accessories, the clothes

tumbled in a heap on the floor,

stories that flow one from the other,

cooked together and through

into a stew–

What is desire? What is true?

Pick out the potato,

a childhood experience here,

the job carrots there,

find the herbs of love. . .

all of the above,

blended together,

each stew different,

though the same in name,

constantly changing

while it simmers over a flame,

new ingredients added,

not expanded so much, as made richer,

a broader picture.

But one day the flame goes out,

the stew gets tossed, buried, old news,

but the aroma lingers—to flavor other stews.

Summer Color
Ratatouille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now summertime, the days still long

though getting shorter, the sunshine bright,

when not clouded,

parks and beaches crowded

and summertime bounty is everywhere

on tables, and farm stands, and fairs

where people display their colorful wares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And peaches are fragrant and full of juice

that drips down by chin—oh sing a hymn

to summertime produce,

eat it raw or cooked, baked into crumble or pie.

Mixed-berry Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I talk to a friend at a festival to celebrate the butterfly.

There are bees and plants and flowers in bloom

through which insects flitter and above birds zoom,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a little girl dresses the part,

her heart dances as the butterflies dart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s wine, made from the fruit

now growing on vines, waiting for harvest

rooted, grapes well-suited

to the clime

to make a beverage sublime.

We sit and sip our wine

dine on paella,

enjoying the weather

sitting together

in summertime.

William Heritage Vineyards
“Vino and Vibes”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We learn about wine in barrels

so much more than shells,

containers to hold the wine,

aging and flavoring it–

we learn to swirl and sniff and taste—admit

we enjoy it. We’ve done this tour before.

Still we learn more, then step out the door

to sit with glass and food—

the mood?

Call it relaxed and at ease

in a summertime breeze.

Sharrott Winery
Barrel Tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so—

I hold moments, tiny, grains of sand

let them trickle from my hand

watch them expand

till there’s a beach

where I can walk and leave a mark,

in the darkness, stark upon the sand

as the sun rises, and the tide

slides over them again and again,

and then

they become part of the sea–

the memories, the fruit, the wine, and the bee–

all connected,

all what was and what will be,

as summer turns to fall and then winter,

time may splinter

into paths that wander back

elusive, barely there–

the traces of a footfall

or a scent still in the air.

Red Bank Battlefield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs of Us

Monday Morning Musings:

“Now I will do nothing but listen,

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute
toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,

I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,

I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,”

–From Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

Beneath every cloud

watch this song bloom–

it is bright sun, wild wind,

moon murmuring peace–

ancient cycles breathe color and bloom

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We gather in a flurry of hugs and kisses,

wings outspread,

bright with color,

like tropical birds

cooing and chattering

instead of trills or caws,

I hear the sound I love,

the sound of human voices

the sound of people I love

it is a moment to remember,

my mother’s 95th birthday brunch.

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We celebrate with food and drinks

in a courtyard room,

doors open to a day of August beauty

we talk and laugh

(the sound of voices)

take photos

(the sound of groans and laughter)

we sing happy birthday

(the sound of music)

and eat the cake my daughter has baked and decorated

 

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Afterward, we take my mother home

she comments on the length of my daughters’ dresses

and I laugh that she who is nearly blind can see this

and the “designs” on one daughter’s arms

We talk about art–

her famous artist cousin, Abe Hankins,

she points out his work on her walls,

he lived with her family for a time

and taught my teenage mother dances,

he had lived in Paris and brought French style and flair,

he wasn’t a starving artist because his wife supported him

(or so my mother says)

one daughter is enchanted by a photo of my mom with her cousins

when they were all young

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my mother tries to remember a hospital she was in

when she a little girl with diphtheria

“well, it was ninety years ago,” she says

no sound of planes in the sky when she was young

no telephone in her house

parents who traveled by ship across a sea to live here

never to see their homeland again

war and peace

sounds of life and sounds of silence

fuse, follow, ancient cycle

breathe in

breathe out

 

we open presents,

more art,

this time from one daughter

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a poem and cookies from me

all sounds running together

stemming, streaming from hearts full of love

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We go home, change into PJs

eat again and watch TV

my sisters text me and my daughters–

“Can you believe I’m eating again?”

commenting on how my mom has–

well, her own sense of reality, sometimes

voices in our heads, voices on the screen

fusing together

time for dreams

 

The next morning, I wake to birdsong

it seems effortless and amazing

but what do I know?

bravura display, to my human ears

I go for a walk

listening to Hamilton

and almost dancing to the riverside

Sunday morning sunshine,

a little breeze

the end of summer,

autumn is on the way,

another cycle of the seasons,

the cicadas hum

the geese march, swim, fly, and honk

the flowers are blooming

(And I’m not throwing away my shot.)

all the sounds running together, combined—

birds and Broadway

 

In the afternoon, we go to a wine festival

taste wines

sample foods

eat the cheese and enjoy the day

enjoy each other

ancient cycles

time-bound and timeless

the sounds I love running together,

combined, fused or following,

the sound of nature

the song of myself

the song of all of us

echoing in my heart

blossoming

 

 

The Oracle seemed in tune with my weekend. We celebrated my mom’s brunch at Jerry’s Bar in Philadelphia, and we went to the Riverwinds Wine Festival in West Deptford, NJ.

A special shout out to Ken of Rivrvlogr  of writes poetry, especially haiku and tanka, of nature and current events, and Robin of Witlessdatingafterfifty  who takes photographs of her family and area of Ohio and write book reviews in verse. I truly appreciated that they both spent time going through my past blog posts yesterday. Check out their blogs!

 

 

 

 

 

The River’s Song

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Go forth, and the whores cackle!

Where women are, are many words;

Let them go hopping with their hackle [finery]!

Where geese sit, are many turds.

The Castle of Perseverance, 15th Century morality play

 

“The river sings and sings on.

 

There is a true yearning to respond to

The singing river and the wise rock.”

–Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning”

Full text  here.

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What is the song of the river?

though I listen,

noisy are the thoughts unbidden

that flow within my brain,

meandering tributaries, bearing gifts

some chaff, some worthy

But hush, listen.

 

What is the song of the river

as it gently laps against the rocks?

A song of history

from its birth in Ice Age glaciers

to its passage to the sea?

A song of fish, of shad,

of Lenni Lenape

then European settlers,

migration of fish, migration of people

cycles repeated through time.

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What is the song of the river?

A song of birds in flight?

of cargo ships and Huck Finn rafts

Commerce and recreation,

the bustling colonial port,

capital of the early nation

still thrives,

though not as before

when cargo came by ship—

tea, rum, wine, tobacco, and people–

and passage to and from New Jersey was by ferry.

Now there are highways, bridges, and planes.

What is the song of the river?

A song of history

of battles fought

of soldiers dead

of memorials, reenactments, remembering

of fossils and relics.

Generations and regeneration,

children squealing with joy at butterflies

of gardens resurrected

of couples talking

of men and women jogging steps

of people seeking Pokemon,

yes, that here, too.

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And what of the geese?

And what of their turds?

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Yes, they’re underfoot,

chased by children and men in carts

And what of my words?

Do they cackle and crackle

like old whores?

Or do they stream like the river,

my song of musings?

I’m reminded of the history of women

who wrote,

long ago,

poetry, history, and letters,

Milcah Martha Moore, Hannah Griffits, Susanna Wright,

and others

who shared their work with other women

and some men, too.

It’s a song that carries to this day,

along both sides of this river, the Delaware.

 

What is the song of the river?

The sound of people celebrating

though we cannot see the water

from the festival site whose name pays tribute to it.

But we sit with friends

and we talk and we sample wine

Our words flow like the river

singing a song of friendship

and joy to be alive on a summer day.

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Further Information:

Red Bank Battlefield

Merril D. Smith, The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia 

New Jersey Wine Events

Reflections in Time and Space

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is just inevitable. The soul wanders in the dark, until it finds love. And so, wherever our love goes, there we find our soul.”

–Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses

And so, once again we’re in the ancient world.

This time, it’s Metamorphoses.

Another theater in Philadelphia,

A rippling pool

Aphrodite

Zeus

Orpheus

And Eurydice

The power of myths,

Stories,

Transformation,

And love.

The power of words

And art

Legends told and retold

For thousands of years

Gods

Who appear powerless

Are not

As long as they’re known.

They still influence us

Through the retelling

Of their tales.

For ninety minutes or so

We’re lost

In the magic of theater.

Carried along on a journey

By the actors

Whose words and movements

In and around that pool

Remind us of the strength of

Long ago myths

And their connection

To us now.

A special treat for subscribers.

A special treat for subscribers.

The next day,

Across the river

And closer to home

We’re watching theater

Of another sort,

Revolutionary War Era soldiers.

It’s a reenactment,

Of course.

The day is brisk,

The leaves starting to turn

Red and gold.

A cannon booms,

A squirrel scurries up a tree

The child in front of me says

“The sound makes my chest hurt.”

But old bones

Shards of vessels

Long shattered

And old cannonballs

Lay in the ground beneath

Our feet

To remind us of lives

Gone.

The bits and pieces tell a tale.

The past buried

And unearthed.

Perhaps ghosts

Still wander here.

****

An hour later

We’re on to a wine festival.

My husband, daughter, and I.

Nectar of the gods.

We taste

And enjoy.

In truth,

We’re a bit buzzed

By the end.

But in vino veritas.

And though the stories

Of women,

The poor,

The servants,

And slaves

Are often forgotten

And left untold

I’m sworn to tell them.

But perhaps not just yet

After all

The wine.

Celebrating with Dionysus,

Clio will have to wait.

****

Across space and time

My mind wanders

Seeking a connecting thread.

From ancient Greeks

To the Quaker woman,

Centuries later who

Nursed the soldiers

Wounded in battle

At her farm.

She was a pacifist.

I imagine her criticizing voice

Grumbling at the soldiers

On both sides of the conflict.

“Is this the way to serve God?

The farmland destroyed

And young men killed,

Maimed,

And scarred.

And yet she tries to heal

Their bodies

Though their souls may

Be lost.

The cruel irony

Of war.

I stand in her garden.

Her house still there

Overlooking the river.

Her secrets long buried

Like the detritus of war

And household scraps.

All who truly

Knew her

Gone, too.

My words now

Scattered into the world

By way of devices

She could not imagine.

Perhaps in hundreds of years

Someone will read them

With some newer device.

Perhaps that person will wonder

About me,

A woman long dead,

Who thought about myths

And the power of love

Who enjoyed wine

And wrote about

Ordinary people

Who though no longer alive

Lived on

In her mind

Like reflections in a mirror

That stretch on

In a never ending line

Through time

And space.

Rippling figures

Words

And myths

Connecting past

And future.

Transformed.

Smoke and illusions-- British soldiers at Red Bank Battlefield

Smoke and illusions–
British soldiers
at Red Bank Battlefield

Here are the places we visited this weekend.

And not to worry, son-in-law was our designated driver to and from the wine festival.

Arden Theatre

Red Bank Battlefield

Autumn Wine Festival at Riverwinds

Love and Marriage, Part 4: Sisters

As some of you know, I’m in crazy writing mode. I have a deadline coming up, and my life right now is writing and more writing with breaks for the gym and food. By sunset, which comes early now, I can barely form comprehensible sentences, and it’s time for dinner, a TV show, and bed.

BUT—this past weekend, I took a break for my little sister’s wedding. Our newly married daughter and her wife flew in for the weekend, and we went to a wine festival on Saturday,

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the annual Red Bank Battlefield (Fort Mercer) reenactment Sunday morning,

Red Bank Battlefield

Red Bank Battlefield American forces firing the cannon

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The charge by the British troops!

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A casualty of war

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and then my sister’s wedding on Sunday night. On Monday, my husband and I went out to lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant with my daughter and her wife before they flew back home.

My sister was my maid of honor when my husband and I married 36 years ago. I never thought I’d be at her wedding, standing at her side to witness her say her vow of love and commitment to her long-time partner in love and life. For over twenty years, she and her now wife have been together. They’ve built a life for themselves in their beautiful house with their two cats and a dog. My dad did not get to see this day, but he would have been thrilled and excited. My ninety-two-year-old mother was there, smiling—and dancing, too. I know this was an event she never thought she’d witness.

Some people would say I’ve been to two “gay weddings” in the last two months, but to me, they were simply weddings of two couples in love. One is a young couple just beginning their lives together, and one an established couple of many years, but they, too, are now newlyweds. My sister’s wedding was a joyous affair. As they gazed into each other’s eyes, my sister and my new sister-in-law said their vows. Family and friends surrounded them in a love cocoon from which they emerged transformed, married. We cried tears of joy, and laughed and cheered as they broke the glass.

Sunday morning had dawned blustery and cold. My daughter, her wife, and I walked to the battlefield. I’m writing an encyclopedia of daily life during the American Revolution—it was a weird and wonderful seeing people dressed in the clothing of the period I’ve been writing about. We took a tour of the Whitall House. I wondered what the strong Quaker woman who had lived there over two hundred years ago would have said about two women marrying. She was a woman who spoke her mind—I’ve no doubt that she would have had an opinion. Despite being morally opposed to war, she cared for wounded soldiers in her home. Perhaps she would have disapproved of a same sex marriage (a concept that she would not even have considered), but I like to think she’d recognize the love in the hearts of those committing to a life together. My daughter and her wife glow, and everyone around them feels their love. The beating of the drums that day on the battlefield marked the rhythm of soldiers and battles. The hearts that bled out that day—and stopped–had been hearts that loved and had been loved.

Sunday evening was filled with warmth. Hearts beat excitedly with anticipation and were filled with love. I got to see my sister married, something remarkable, simple, and profound.

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We’re excited and waiting for the wedding to begin!