I’ll Make Borscht Today: A Quadrille

I’ll make borscht today,

let it simmer in the pot

comforting and hot,

red like blood,

or flowers that might bloom

if ever spring returns,

ice now covers branches, leaves, and souls

twisted with cold,

memories of warmth faded

till ladled in a bowl

 

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This is a quadrille for dVerse. The prompt word was spring.

We got some snow yesterday, but then we got rain and sleet. Everything is coated in ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Autumn Tanka

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By Mathews, F. Schuyler, Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music. . .,” 1922 [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

1.

Red-caped cardinal

calls, tolls, each passing hour,

leaves and lives transformed.

Spring-green ages to red-gold,

golden curls turn to silver.

 

2.

gentle breeze blows,

brushes a leaf tenderly,

a story revealed

in its frangible surface

life, beauty ephemeral

 

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Cycles and Seasons

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A cry, she’s born, and then she’s grown,

flown from the nest, and yet, my child

beguiled, I remain, her loving parent,

transparent, apparent to all.

Walls cannot separate, or part,

heart to heart we stand united,

delighted. Yet I’m daughter, too,

whose mother ages. Round and round

bound in time, the seasons go, and

grand is life, though quick it passes.

Grasses turn green, then brown. A sigh,

a cry, she’s born, and then she’s grown.

 

This is a circular poem in response to Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. The theme was cycles and circles. The prompt was the photo at the top, but perhaps my photos express it better.

 

 

 

 

Rhythms of Summer, Rhythms of Life

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings

(One of those days, Folks!)

The sound of life is measured by its own rhythms. At its most elemental, there is the rhythm of the heartbeat. Parents are reassured and then overwhelmed upon hearing that first fetal heartbeat. A lover, quiet after the escalating drumming of two hearts, is comforted to hear the steady beat of his or her beloved’s heart as they lie together, one resting a head upon the other’s chest. Animals find heartbeats soothing, too–my cat cuddles against me in the night. My heartbeat calms him, and the rhythm of his purrs comforts me.

When the heart stops beating, the body dies. The pushing and pulsing of blood through our bodies is necessary for us to live. [As an aside–because this is the way my mind works– have you noticed that in popular culture, people kill vampires by putting a stake through their hearts, but zombies have to have their brains stabbed or heads cut off? Is it because vampires feed on blood, but zombies eat bodies? Add to list of things to ponder.]

The earth also has a rhythm. Watching the ocean from the beach, I’m often mesmerized by simply watching the waves as they crash upon the shore. There is something hypnotic about that rhythm and the rolling of the waves, as well as the beauty of the water catching the light and creating a tumble of white, silver, blue, and green and spraying rainbows into the air.

Summer seems to have its own special rhythm. This summer has been a busy one for us, marked by rhythms of life and life’s passages—one daughter’s graduation from graduate school, our other daughter’s wedding, and my husband’s retirement.

The song, “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof, has become a sort of cliché at weddings. (For the record, it wasn’t played at either of our daughters’ weddings.) But like all clichés, it was once fresh and new, and the words ring true. At each wedding, I did wonder to myself as I gazed at the beautiful bride, “Is this the little girl I carried?”

The chorus of the song, reminds us of the passage of time, and the rhythm of day to night, season to season, months to years:

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly fly the years.

One season following another.

Laden with happiness and tears.

As well as life changes, I’ve been caught up in work–finishing one book project, beginning two more, and writing test items. Testing is big business. Still, no matter the activities, summer marches to a slow, lazy beat that is different from the brisk upbeat of autumn and the solemn dirge of winter. Even though we’ve yet to make it to the beach this summer to watch those mesmerizing waves, we’ve spent time outside—

Watching a Bastille Day event at Eastern State Penitentiary, a silly hour of song, dance, and jokes hosted by “Edith Piaf” of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret. (“Marie Antoinette yells, “Let them eat TastyKakes,” before hundreds of them are tossed to the crowd below.)

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Drinking wine, eating pizza, and watching a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest at a local New Jersey winery,

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And enjoying the bounty of local farms.

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This is why New Jersey is known as the Garden State. Yes, it’s more than highways and the Jersey Shore.

In the summer I long to sit on the beach or on a shaded porch and spend hours reading a novel, simply relaxing. I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, but I still have some weeks left before summer marches on. Soon, its hazy, lazy-feeling days will merge into the crisp, clear, get-back-to-work fall. Then winter will come–and instead of longing to be outside, I will want to huddle under a blanket and read a novel. I’ll want to turn on lights to find my way out of the darkness, to eat hearty soups with homemade bread, and to wish again for languid summer days. I have work to do now, but perhaps a nap is in order. It’s all part of life’s rhythms, and after all, it is summer time.

Daffodils and the Rebirth of Spring

“But as we went along there were more and yet more [daffodils] and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing.”

–Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere Journal, April 15, 1802

Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth: The Alfoxden Journal 1798, The Grasmere Journals 1800-1803, ed. Mary Moorman (New York: Oxford UP, 1971), 109-110.

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I think winter has finally been banished from South Jersey. The snow and the sleet and the grey skies are gone. Just before dawn each day, I now hear a choir of birds. I don’t know what type of birds they are, but I know I did not hear them during the winter months, which seemed this year to last forever. But now daffodils are blooming everywhere. I love daffodils. At the start of spring, just after the shy crocuses and snowbells peek out from the still frost-tipped ground, the daffodils appear, beautiful and confident. They do seem to exude joy and laughter, or perhaps seeing them simply makes me happy. Dorothy Wordsworth’s wonderfully evocative passage above describes the “host” of “golden daffodils” that her more famous brother William later wrote of in his famous poem, “Daffodils.” She describes the daffodils as dancing; he expresses the pleasure of thinking about them later, a thought that makes his heart “dance”:

“And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

But Dorothy and William both express the way I feel: the daffodils dance, and they make my heart dance.

Tulips will begin to bloom soon. They were exotic flowers to the Europeans who encountered them in the sixteenth century. The Turks cultivated tulips as early as 1000 CE, but tulips spread throughout the Ottoman Empire over the centuries. As Europeans traveled and explored more widely in the sixteenth-century in the search for gold, knowledge, and adventure, they came across the exotic blooms. This period of European exploration also coincided with an interest in botany (and other sciences). Botanical drawings of tulips spread throughout Europe and sparked great interest. In Holland, Carolus Clusius, the head of the first botanical garden there, obtained some tulip bulbs from a connection to the Ottoman Empire. By 1594, he had tulips blooming in the Netherlands. Tulips began to be cultivated elsewhere in Holland, but they were still rare and exotic. Before long, they were being traded, and a financial tulip-trading market appeared. Traders and speculators went crazy. In 1624, one type of rare tulip bulb was selling for what would now be over $1000; some went for even more. The financial bubble became known as “Tulipomania,” and eventually the bubble burst in 1637.

            Tulips, though undeniably beautiful, seem a bit haughty to me. If tulips and daffodils were Downton Abbey characters, tulips would have the personality of Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Daffodils are more like the free-spirited Lady Sybil, who is also beautiful, kind, and loved by all.

Spring is the season of rebirth. Both Passover and Easter celebrate this theme. Birth and death; the cycles of nature, the cycles of life. The spring flowers that appear in bright shades of yellow, pink, blue, and red, chase the gray of winter cold and gloom away, and we can rejoice. And dance– especially after all that Passover Seder wine. By the time, my family gathers for our Passover Seder, the daffodils at our house probably will have faded and their blooms vanished. But that’s OK. Because I know that next year, along with the birds of spring, the daffodils will return to brighten my thoughts and my days after the long, cold winter.

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