December Comes with Cold and Light

Monday Morning Musings:

“Thus having prepared their buds

against a sure winter

the wise trees

stand sleeping in the cold.”

–From William Carlos Williams, “Winter Trees”

The first of December is mostly grey,

but not so cold—winter held at bay

 

for a while, but we smile to see the glow–

the sun on remaining leaves of trees slow

Philadelphia Parkway, December 2018

to sleep in winter’s arms,

and we walk to see the city’s charms

 

even in the bleakness of late fall—

almost winter—some magic calls

 

there, Diana shines atop the stairs

gilded anew, she seems aware

Diana, Philadelphia Museum of Art

of her strength, though she charms–

with arrow frozen in her arms

 

goddess of the hunt,

a moment, centered, upfront

 

there, I greet her like a friend

each time I visit, happy to see her send

 

(not the arrow), no never,

but she seems much too clever

 

to harm–such determination in her face–

perhaps she could send us hope and grace

 

we see dolls reflecting the passion

for both play and fashion

 

the bisque baby catches my eye

or the phrase captures my ear, why?

it sounds funny to me,

and so, we wander and see

 

a sibyl and monuments and Eve

through museum and streets, we weave

our way, and see the sights,

some Christmas lights,

 

drink mulled wine

feeling fine—then laugh to see that sign

we walk back and down the hill

where no joggers jog, all is still

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except the duck, who with quack and flap

jumps into the river—a slight slap—

 

against the surface, he swims

the sound, a chorus, a winter hymn

 

before the start of winter rain

with sun gone, shadows come again

 

bringing a misty afternoon twilight,

yes, this is December’s light.

 

Then Hanukkah comes with candle light

to bring us wonder and delight

 

I fry latkes in a pan

listening to a man

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discuss his life

some of the strife

 

escaping the Holocaust

in Kindertransport, crossed

 

to Sweden, his stuffed monkey with him*

the object now brings some joy, an era dimmed

 

by tragedy and time—family reunited

evil not forgotten or righted

 

exactly, but comforting to know

that helpers were there, not so long ago

 

and still, that there are people who did good

and do it still, do what they can, should and could

 

and so, we light the candles on this first night

eat latkes and smile at the sight

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Latkes!

of them burning till the flames die,

watch them belie

 

the darkness of night and soul

as believing in miracles makes us whole

 

more perhaps than what we seem–

the sum of what we hope and dream.

 

First Night of Hanukkah, December 2018

 

Hanukkah seems both more poignant and more important to celebrate this year.

I think I shared this story before from a previous All Things Considered segment, but Michel Martin interviewed Uri and Gert Beliner again last night.

We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the members’ weekend and the Christmas Village.

Open the Door to Light

Monday Morning Musings:

 “But no man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves.”

“It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done.”

–Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

“Concrete and barbed wire, concrete and barbed wire
It’s only made of concrete and barbed wire”

–Lucinda Williams, “Concrete and Barbed Wire”

“The instant passed so fast, and when that happens, it goes for good and all you have is a slow lifetime to speculate on revisions. Except time flows one way and drags us with it no matter how hard we paddle upstream.”

–Charles Frazier, Varina

 

We go to a concert on a rainy night

but the lovely old theater is bright

 

with anticipation, as well as light–

the music after twenty years, still right

 

though some songs take on a different meaning

now, when certain leaders are not so much leaning

 

but rather trampling rights to the ground—

but here, we’re more interested in the sound

 

of the music and the stories that she told

of how her life and memories unfold.

The next day we see a play

a sequel of sorts, though not in the way Ibsen would say

 

(if he did) after the door famously slammed.

So, Nora returns—and

 

she’s done well, but it’s complicated

(of course), and if we’re a bit frustrated

 

by the end result, that may be the intent

to think about what the characters underwent

 

as well as life for women then and marriage vows—

it’s hard to escape the political now.

 

I think of all the women of the past

stuck in marriages, hoping to outlast

 

perhaps the drudgery—or pain—

not much choice, forced to remain.

 

We walk and talk about the play

as the sun lowers on the day

Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia

we see weddings amidst the falling, fallen leaves

where trees and sky form photo eaves

and I hope these couples face no final slamming door

except the one we all must face, till then, I hope they adore

 

one another, forever—and more.

 

But time flows on. . .or perhaps it circles from before. . .

 

I dreamt last night of flying through space

and time flowed, at an unmeasured pace

 

past glowing planets, circling round

bubbling with the sound

 

of joy and laughter—

a dream, real then, if not after.

 

The river flows

and no one knows

The Delaware River, seen from West Deptford, NJ. Merril D. Smith

what the future will bring

even as to the past we cling,

 

or sling, snap, swing, sway

what we can, hope for a day

 

when light shines brightly

kissing the air lightly

 

illuminating gold leaves and blue sky

banishing fear, hate, and all the whys

 

of evil—though this day will never arrive

we can still try to make kindness thrive.

 

In the U.S., we have mid-term elections. I’m hoping the party of hate, fear, and lies, gets sent a clear message that the majority do not want that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Through Time and Colored Space

Monday Morning Musings:

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment.

A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.”

–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

I.

Valley Green Inn

Valley Green Inn

A lunch date at a favored place

where time both moves and pauses, still—

 

(our hearts, across, but not apart.

He says, “Look at that horse and cart.”)

Valley Green Inn

We eat and talk, at a leisurely pace

we walk through sun and autumn chill

past greens and blues and shadowed grey

where rival geese gangs gather like Jets and Sharks

 

(honks and echoes through the park)

 

and pops of red and golden leaves gently sway

in the breeze that sparks

 

more conversation–

punctuated by loud fowl annotations.

 

All the colors of the day, all the light that bends

as life begins and as it ends

 

what do we see—

no, really look, stare

 

focus on a tree,

at all the colors there

October, National Park, NJ

the hues of yesterday tread

on tomorrow–but see today.

 

And so, we do,

and watch it slowly fade away

 

to the bright humming moon in the indigo blue

who sends our dreams out on their way.

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II.

Another walk, I see AMOR, bright red

and nearby, a yellow flower

then a memorial to survivors and six million dead

murdered by those came to power

while others stood by.

(Not humanity’s finest hour.)

 

I see fountains and birds

and buildings and sky–

but what are the words

to offer, when I wonder why

 

the hate—then comes another shooter

thoughts and prayers do not suffice

 

against the looters and wannabe storm troopers–

how many more must be sacrificed?

 

What of memorials then, and statues of love

when the haters make no amends

 

and the peace dove

seems to fly a route that bends

 

and sways precariously

while the refugees flee–

 

So, we gather together, family and friends

find joy in cats and pizza, hold close hope—

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look for the helpers, the lights in the crack

look for love, and those who have your back

 

because who knows when something wicked this way comes

and if only we could be warned by pricking of the thumbs

 

and if evil only came in theatrical play

wouldn’t earth be a wonderful place to stay?

 

III.

We walk again, view art on the walls

pops of color on fall’s gloomy streets

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discuss stories and recall

this and that, before we take our seats

 

to see a play about after the apocalypse

a ragtag group that performs The Simpsons.

they recount episodes, buy lines for scripts

try to come to grips, that they’re the ones

 

who are left. The play continues, years pass

and a mythology forms, but has love won?

 

Certainly, the need to tell stories is ageless, ancient

words, rhythm, art, song—is eternal

 

and so is the need to make a statement

about our own times–so it comes full circle.

 

We discuss the play over cheese and wine

then walk to the train to return to our home

Tria

Orange wine at Tria

feeling fortunate that we are fine–

though my thoughts roam

 

to those who have lost people they cherish

killed by hate and those who support it

 

how do we make it perish,

make the world emit

 

love, kindness, joy,

and hate outwit–

 

so, a ploy–

I sleep and dream–

 

see time rippling in a wave

flowing in an endless eternal sea

 

colored by infinite hues, and thoughts we save

ride through all space, simply waiting to be

 

born again with a bang.

Dreams of a thousand colors. Think if. Maybe. Stay.

 

Sunrise, National Park, NJ

 

Even though this is more than one walk, I’m also linking this to Robin’s Walktober. I hope that’s OK, Robin.

I. We had lunch at the Valley Green Inn, then walked along Forbidden Drive.  II. I walked through the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza (also written about here) and along the Parkway in Philadelphia. III. We walked around before and after seeing Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play at the Wilma Theater.

 

Truth and Lies and In Between

Monday Morning Musings: Truth and Lies and In Between

“a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. . .

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark”

–Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

“. . .

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon. . .

. . .When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.”

From Maya Angelou, “A Brave and Startling Truth”

You can read and listen to the entire poem here on Brainpickings

 

Here within the pale blue dot

in this place within the speck

 

in this space, wrought

by nature and time, unchecked,

 

the days grow colder

 

the days grow colder,

and the vultures circle

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the lies grow bolder

as the sky turns purple

 

and choppy is the sea

 

to which the choppy river flows–

do you see?

Delaware River from Red Bank Battlefield, NJ

There it goes,

while elsewhere people flee

 

retreat from tyranny

 

retreat, flee, from tyranny

on flimsy ships, in caravans

 

not criminals, but wanting to be free

yet stopped by wall-builders’ bans

 

the bans that echo through history

 

the bans built on lies

about the other we hate

 

their skin color or nose size

perhaps their rising birth rate—

 

rouse the crowd, don’t make them wait

 

no, don’t make them wait,

their blood is pumping now,

 

so never speak the truth out straight,

and if lies are revealed somehow,

 

well, kill it—you know how.

 

You know how journalists die

through censorship—and worse–

 

rehearse your stories, fly your lies

praise the dictators and yes, truthtellers curse—

 

while we hope times will get better, and not worse

 

we watch movies about lies and hate

but also, truth and kindness, the human spirit rising

 

to help others, to banish and negate

the hate, to uncover the lies, without compromising

 

and we come to it

 

remembering history and seeing friends

remembering that someday the cold

 

will grow colder, but that it will end,

and the lies will grow bolder than bold

but we will love and each other hold

 

with care, eat comfort food, drink more wine

cuddle under blankets, dream, it’s fine

 

to remember time was born

in a brilliant cloud

 

from a void, torn

with a bang, how loud

 

if no one heard the birthing horn

or saw the light that’s now allowed

 

to flow and dance throughout all space

within the cracks and every place

 

where darkness lurks and surrounds

with beauty, hope, and grace

 

And so, we come to it,

in this time and place

 

on this pale blue mote, recommit

to seek the light—or at least find a trace.

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Sunset over the bay, Cape May, NJ

 

We streamed two movies this weekend. 22 July about the terrorist attack in Norway. Though certainly a grim subject, we both thought it was done well, without a lot of gratuitous violence. It focuses more on the aftermath, particularly on one survivor and the trial.  We also watched Three Identical Strangers, a documentary about triplets that delves into the moral issues that I won’t go into to, in case you want to be surprised.