Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

Monday Morning Musings:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,. . .”

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

 

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

 

“Perhaps this piece of evolution makes no sense—our hunger for everyday sorts of visual pleasure—but I don’t think so, I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.”

–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

 

The long holiday weekend is filled with family, food, love, and traditions

my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing

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it’s a calling, a mission, with certain conditions

some fluid, others unchanging

though life does some rearranging

through time and space

and so, I flashback in my mind  to my sister and me

watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves

while our mother is at the stove

producing the magic of holiday meals

(then not appreciated, but now, oh the feels)

Now daughter and I, we break the bread

and watch The Gilmore Girls instead

done the day before,

crossing off this chore,

from the to-do list

and while the old, might be missed

a new holiday tradition it seems is born

taking place while the bread is torn

because sometimes we require them

even when the holiday is filled with so many.

 

On the big day—what to do

when our designated squirrel un-molder is not here?*

Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers

Offering advice on this and sundry matters

as the cranberry sauce does not want to leave the mold:

more hot water

use a spatula

A compliment:

Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,

she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.

Critique:

She can’t bang it, it’s a hundred-year old thing.

There will be no banging!

Encouragement:

Come on little squirrel we love you.

do it do it do it

Oh my gosh I think it’s happening

The crowd goes wild:

Yaaaaayy!

Another year with the squirrel!

and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink

discuss scuba diving and money laundering

the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts

(she doesn’t, but the thought produces much laughter).

We discover how many people it takes to get

a ninety-five-year-old woman up the stairs to the bathroom

wonder if we’re doomed,

but at least three, it seems,

still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams

watched by the spirits of those no longer with us

it is ever thus,

the ghosts of holidays past,

“remember when,” the common refrain

joining in a train

the days from before

to what will come hence

past and future tense

blended together,

a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,

like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made

layers laid atop one another,

savory, tart, and just a little sweet

the art of distinct layers that together seep

to form when mixed through

something entirely new.

 

The next day, we take our older daughter and her wife

on a journey to see visual pleasures

in nature and art, such treasures

a visit with the boating party

scream at monsters

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or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight

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Later, we eat leftovers

and watch The Blair Witch Project–

because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–

with food

America singing its varied carols

 

We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room

Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter

as he describes the wine and other matters

it is a beautiful fall day

and so, we decide to stay

to sit outside

while we imbibe

watching the soaring hawks

and listening to others talk

looking at the daytime moon

enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.

We eat Pakistani food

and meet out daughter and son-in-law’s neighbors

who have become friends–the kind of whom you can ask favors,

we discuss how our daughters sound alike,

one tells how she used to sneak about at night,

and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories

(the glory of parental territory)

perhaps the start of a new tradition,

of perhaps it is sufficient

to see and relish the present and the everyday.

 

Now, it’s four o’clock Monday morning,

we’re awake for the sake

of our daughter and her wife

who have to catch their flight

though it seems the middle of the night,

yet I’m strangely alert

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear

of parents and children saying goodbye

of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,

when they could be constructing something good instead

of children going off to school

hoping they will learn some tools

to navigate this brave new world

that has such people in’t

both good and bad

some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,

for truth and beauty to negate the hate

I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,

and over us, the moon hums her tune

I watch for the sun to rise in autumn beauty–soon

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We visited Grounds for Sculpture again and did a Holiday Wine Trails tasting in the barrel room at Sharrott Winery.

 

*I explained the tradition of the cranberry squirrel in this post.

 

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Unsettled

Monday Morning Musings:

 

I am unsettled, unmoored

between light and shadow

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but the shadows grow

the winds blow

I ponder as the pressure drops

watch the sky’s darkling mood

watch it brood

upon the future,

and darken more

(blacker than before)

it weeps,

perhaps remembering light

the song of birds

the hum of bees

thundering its sorrow,

growling like an angry drunk,

sunk in sorrow and pain

throwing punches in the rain

lightning flashes

charged particles, clashes

of hot air

in sound and fury

power displayed

but going nowhere

 

Far away,

on another world

a storm of swirling crimson, unfurls

sending out a song

in crashing waves

volatile and unpredictable

dazzling

ancient

larger than our earth

a spot forever turning

churning

over a world of gas

without firm ground

with nothing to stand upon

unsettled

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NASA: This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

 

But here I stand

feet firmly planted

(head in the clouds)

as I look up at the sky

catching a melody in the wind

storms may rage

night may fall

on firm ground,

I wait for the light

The sun rises, my spirits do, too,

I hear the mockingbird sing in a sky of blue.

 

We go out to hear about wine

to learn from a man passionate about the science

and his craft

educated in universities in California and France

but there is art, skill, perhaps a bit of magic involved,

a master craftsman, a master craft

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In the barrel room with Larry Sharrott of Sharrott Winery.

 

We taste wine from barrels

(settling)

sitting there for ten months or a bit more

not ready yet to go to tanks,

raised above the floor

kept cool by solar power

(to keep the wine from going bad and sour)

I think of the skill and craft of making barrels,

here, some are made from American oak

some from French or Hungarian oak

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I learn the wine in American oak tastes different from that in the European

I like the symmetry of fruit of the vine kept in barrels from trees

my mind goes to the economy of colonial America

built with the help of barrels

though not of wine

barrel makers—coopers—found in every town

large barrels, hogsheads, terms of measurement

but we talk of wine here,

admire its color

swirl it to let in air,

smell it and taste it,

the barrel wine drier, more astringent,

the bottled wine, rounder and fuller,

I’m fascinated–

the knowledge, the skill, the passion

wonder how people first picked grapes

and learned to make wine

centuries ago

refining the process over time

though the science remains the same.

 

We drink Chambourcin

a glass at the winery, overlooking acres of grapes,

and birds in flight,

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then more at our daughter’s house

we missed the Bastille Day celebration this year

but we have French-named wine

French cheese, a baguette

and chocolate cake

(yes, let us eat cake).

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It is a beautiful evening

their dog plays

their cat watches

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the shadows grow

but the summer light lingers

as do we

the storms but a memory in the blue sky

and I’m feeling moored, settled

my family and love,

the port in stormy and fair weather,

I hear the songs of the universe surround me.

 

We visited Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ.

 

 

 

 

 

Work and Play

Monday Morning Musings

“Not knowing when the dawn will come

I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

In life a secret blossoms

beneath cloud and air

between dusk and dawn–

follow it

about wild river song

here,

but almost there

 

I read facts and statistics

documenting the evils humans do to one another,

then I read about the kindness of strangers

fighting hate and bigotry

helping others with words and gestures–

I spend days reading and writing

of hate and of human resilience

of the darkness that falls

and the light that comes

 

I spend days writing and reading

editing,

documenting evil–

and then I take a break

I write a poem

drink some wine

(bottled poetry)

 

 

and then some more

 

 

hug my husband, daughter, and cats

eat Pakistani food outside on a beautiful June night

 

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I listen to the mockingbird

(sing )

I think about good and evil

and life’s secrets

blossoming like spring flowers

here

I wait for dawn to come

opening every door

till I am almost there

 

The Oracle gave me the opening.

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Almost 30% of women have faced violence from an intimate partner. World Health Organization,

“Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.” RAINN

We drank wine at Heritage Vineyards “Vino and Vibes” and at Sharrott Winery’s Wine and Music Festival. We got take-out from Meera Khana restaurant, and the food was delicious, as always.

 

 

 

 

February Hearts and Lions

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together,

You stopped and pointed and you said, ‘That’s a crocus,’

And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”

I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”

You said, “I still love you.”

–Dar Williams, “February”

 

“This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?”

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

February grayness brightens with a flower

teasing us before the snow.

The snow moon haunts and taunts

the wind blows,

wild wolves howling in the night,

winter darkness,

and yet dawn comes,

and so will spring.

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First Crocus, National Park, NJ

 

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Watching the February snow. National Park, NJ

 

My daughters and I,

in separate locations,

celebrate our snow day

(though the inch or two in New Jersey

does not compare to Boston’s blizzard)

we share our thoughts,

in text messages

(technology that did not exist when I young)

throughout the day,

as if we were wondering in and out of rooms—

separated by space,

but instantly connected in time,

what we are cooking and baking–

meatballs, lentil soup, artisan bread, sweet potato nachos–

deciding banana bread with added chocolate chips

makes it both bread and cake,

suitable for breakfast or dessert,

one daughter says she just watched, Finding Dory,

and cried,

but then we cry over everything,

TV shows, books, commercials,

other daughter says, “I cried when I burnt toast the other day,

but the point is that you should watch the movie.”

My husband chimes in with a message that he is saving this conversation,

“It is SO my family.”

 

A few days later my husband and I see the movie, Lion,

and my tears flow,

I think it is good I’m not watching it with my daughters,

all three of us sobbing in the theater,

though I notice my husband discreetly wiping his eyes.

I think again about technology,

the nineteenth-century invention, the train,

that separates the five-year-old boy from his family,

that little boy with the heart and spirit of a lion,

a twentieth-century plane separates them ever father

across bodies of water to Tasmania

how a twenty-first-century invention, Google Earth,

brings them back together

It turns out that we see the movie in February,

and it was in February that Saroo Briefley reunited with his family.

 

On a February night I gave birth to one daughter,

and on a February night three years later, I gave birth to her sister,

and so, we celebrate birthdays

with wine and chocolate

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around the holiday of love

hearts and love

chocolate and wine

 

I think of the brilliant February moon,

its light shining through the kitchen window

making me stop and stare,

and gaze at the sky–

technology leads us out to the stars,

to our moon’s craters

and to Saturn’s rings,

Valentine’s love from Cassini

 

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“Splendid Saturn,”NASA Image, PIA06594/ NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

 

I wake during the night to hear

February’s winds,

wild horse gods,

stallions that gallop in

and seed the ground,

for spring

will come again–

until then, there is chocolate, wine,

and memories.

 

A number of New  Jersey wineries have special wine and chocolate events close the weekend before Valentine’s Day. This year we went to one at Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Trailer for Lion.

March: Worlds Forgotten and Remembered

Monday Morning Musings:

“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”

–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice

(I liked this quotation so much, I took it from Robin at Breezes at Dawn. Check out her blog, which is full of insight, warmth, and stunning photos. )

“In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever made and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”

–Nick Payne, Constellations

 

March,

the word spreads in the mouth, then ends with decision,

like a boot hitting the soft, wet ground,

like us on Saturday,

thousands of women,

strolling more than marching—so many bodies, you know—

but determined,

love on display,

love emblazoned on signs, and in hearts,

no rigid parade lines

marking and separating us,

freeform designs

murmurations of emotion

dancing up into the sky,

singing like birds,

trying to heal the world,

(hoping it’s not too late)

realizing that some do not understand that love is love

and that hate is not the answer.

 

And so, we responded after

the day of doom,

a day of gloom,

a day we thought would never come,

a day in which we’re all a bit numb,

he gives a speech not of hope,

(the edge of the slippery slope?)

no appeals to the better angels of our natures,

no asking what you can do for your country,

no yes we can,

no.

He speaks in dog whistles

of American carnage,

and many feel discarded

no longer a part of the land of the free,

as the few,

(a very few)

cheer in glee.

And so, only fearing fear itself, we march,

we march for our children, our future, our world

woman power, unfurled

spurred to action,

my daughter and my new-found friend,

(my daughter’s second grade teacher),

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we leave New Jersey for Philadelphia,

the train is packed,

filled with solidarity,

filled with love,

cheers as marchers get on at each stop–

there are stories to be swapped–

 

an eighty-four-year-old woman

who began her career at age nineteen,

she taught in a one-room schoolhouse in southern Illinois.

We’ve come a long way, baby,

with miles to go.

 

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Exiting the Patco station at 16th and Locust

 

We walk to the rally.

Laugh overhearing the group in front of us,

“You know how I like to moon my mom?” a young woman says to her friends.

 

Marchers, as far as we can see,

(Marchers all over the world!)

But we find my sister, sister-niece, and my sister’s friend

who have come from other parts of Pennsylvania

(The wonders of modern technology.)

 

We laugh at clever, funny, uplifting signs.

 

“It’s amazing. You’re all amazing!” a woman says.

And we’re walking and talking,

Talking and walking

A speaker chants,

“Peace, Hope, and Joy!”

And there is hope in that multitude.

 

Back in New Jersey,

We head to a winery—

It’s been a long day,

though inspiring

but well, wine.

(And we may need it.)

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T-Shirt at Sharrott Winery

 

On Sunday, my husband and I see a play,

Constellations,

quantum mechanics, patterns, time, and bees,

(Is time tangled strings or floating seas?)

a couple may or may not meet,

may or may not greet

love and sorrow

or waltz to a beat.

And we all wonder about choices made in life, don’t we?

I wonder about history–

is there a timeline for a failed American Revolution?

Another for Hitler’s not being defeated?

A timeline where what we know now is deleted,

or was never completed?

Is there another world where I did not move from Dallas?

Perhaps one where I lived in a palace?

One in which I did not meet my husband?

A world where I did not have my darling daughters, my joy?

(No, too sad to contemplate.)

What is fated?

What answers lie in the stars?

Are we ruled by Jupiter or Mars?

Is there a timeline where I could ever have supported a misogynistic demagogue?

Perhaps in another timeline we have our first female president,

a world where we did not need to rant and vent.

Perhaps in another, parallel universe we have not elected a petulant, dangerous man-child,

wild

with power.

Perhaps there, the people understand what should be celebrated.

where we could,

where we have not forgotten,

where songs and hope blossom,

Perhaps there, humans are human,

and love is love.

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I highly recommend Constellations at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

We did a special wine tasting at Sharrott Winery that included red wine hot cocoa. We plan to go back when it is warmer to sit outside and enjoy their wine.

We marched at the Women’s March on Philadelphia, January 21, 2017.

And I will continue to be vigilant and to resist.

 

 

The Week That Was, The Week We Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”
–Langston Hughes, “Dreams”

 

“I dreamed of 747s

Over geometric farms

Dreams Amelia—dreams and false alarms”

–Joni Mitchell, “Amelia (1976)

 

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

–Jonas Salk

 

Once my older daughter and I dreamed the same dream

in morning light, over breakfast plates

we discussed the dream, the hopes that wait

inside of you

to come at night, and go in day,

but I no longer remember what was said

the images now gone, the message, too,

there might have been a flute, or a dancer, perhaps

and I don’t know how it happened,

how our thoughts entwined or over lapsed,

but we share a common dream with many

a dream of justice for all, and ordinary,

for broken-wings that cannot fly

to soar on golden wings high into the sky.

 

I think of this in the fluster and bluster of the holiday season,

with thoughts that come without reason,

come now in moments of calm and comfort,

hot onion soup and warm spiced wine,

 

breaks for dreams and flights of fancy, transport

from tedium of work, of this and that, and revisions,

and I look down at my lap, try to imagine

the dreams of my cat, of his visions

wonder if there’s hope

or images of what has been.

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I wonder what he dreams?

 

In the fluster and bluster of the holiday season,

I see a glorious sunset,

visible above the suburban mall,

crowning it, a coronet

of orange and red, streaked with clouds of ash-grey

pausing before I look away

to start my car

but making note of it in my mind,

nature’s art, unsigned

left behind

because it’s cold, and I’m tired

and I so I don’t linger or stay.

 

On my car radio, I hear John Glenn has died,

a true hero, a man with dreams,

who worked to make them come true,

but still seemed humble,

even as he soared, appreciating the sun rising and setting

but never forgetting,

truth and facts matter, too.

I think of watching space missions

on school TVs perched up high on wheeled carts

we never questioned the conditions, the positions,

life took place in black and white then

over and over, again and again,

Us and Them

Cold War and the Iron Curtain,

the phrase, the image

both terrified and perplexed me,

rather than strong and powerful,

existence seemed strained and uncertain.

 

But that was then,

now–who knows?

now the images are colored,

but fear and ignorance is unfurled,

black and white, some still view our world,

see iron curtains, want iron walls.

False prophets and false alarms.

 

I refuse to accept this new normal,

where two plus two equals whatever is

Tweeted and Re-Tweeted

till many believe what never was, is.

I read of heroes,

and I know resistance is not futile

and I will not go gently,

will listen intently,

I will rage against the dying of light

will fight for what’s right,

because there is always the crack where the light gets in.

 

And so—

we eat comfort food

we drink wine

 

watch TV

and wrap presents

we look for magic in the ordinary and the extraordinary.

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Holiday Magic

 

And so—

I write, spread facts, not rumors

urge others to be consumers

of love and what is real

and what is already great,

but not hate.

I dare to dream,

to make dreams a reality,

to heal the broken-wings of hope

and send it flying

like 747s over geometric farms

I watch the sun rise and set

and think it is not over,

no, not yet.

 

We tasted some delicious wine at Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ. Then drank a bottle with some brie.  And we talked of hopes and dreams.

 

 

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