Traveling Under the Moon

Monday Morning Musings:

“Certain thoughts, it seemed had minds of their own; they wandered away from their thinkers and lived wild unchained lives.”

–Victor Lodato, Edgar & Lucy

“Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face.”

–Victor Hugo

 

the year travels, a winding road

marked with gates,

some for love, some for sorrow, some for hate

the road curves, wanders, and splits,

it doesn’t quit,

but rambles round from season to season–

now winter winds blow

over the quiet that is the snow,

and in the chill, we sit and wait–

await our fate–

the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

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Watching the snow fall

 

I wonder if truth lies buried under layers of ice—

there’s no true wisdom or advice

so, in the cold, we watch movies about love*,

perhaps impossible, or perhaps only kind of

a Cold War fairy tale–

Is she a princess?

Is he a god?

Without speaking, they talk

and dance, and together walk

or do they swim

in this magical world they live within?

And afterward we walk and talk

caught in the magic, forgetting

(it’s cold)

watch the pale sun setting,

sparkling the snow and making the buildings glow,

then at night. . .

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Philadelphia, Old City, 3rd and Chestnut

the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

my thoughts wander on their own

only sometimes making themselves known,

I dream and look lovingly at words

hear them sing like birds

flying high in the sky

and wonder why the bad news won’t stop

wishing and wanting the swamp creatures to go,

to be flushed away, to be buried in the snow,

but still it’s so–

there’s love and laughter, chasing away the blues

and yesterday’s, today’s, tomorrow’s news

while at night. . .

 

the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

We visit my mother and sit,

visit when the day is brightly lit–or grey–

either way, we stay,

repeating comments and stories,

(perhaps they really are allegories)

like the silent princess and the god,

that vanish or rise like sun and moon

too soon to tell

(too soon the doctors say)

one day, she’s fine at noon

then lost, she sings another tune

but still–

the sun rises and sets

and we wait

yet watch the road wandering, never straight

 

and the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

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*We actually saw The Shape of Water a couple of weeks ago. I loved it so much, I told my husband that I would have stayed and watched the whole movie again. You can see the trailer here.

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The Warmth in Winter Storms: Haibun

This is a Haibun for Frank’s Haikai challenge on winter storms. On the day of the snow “bomb cyclone,” we only had a few inches of snow, but it was very cold blustery day. In between phone calls about my mom, I made soup and baked.

 

I bolt the door against the raging winter winds. Outside, the snowflakes soar and drift–lost souls looking for a home. They howl and beat against the windows, but I do not let these winter ghosts in. I turn away, seeking warmth and substance, not frosty ephemera. My siblings and I talk on the phone, connected by invisible cords that close the space between us. Once my mom cared for us, now we care for her. I chop onions and sauté them till they turn golden sweet. I think time is frozen, but I realizes it bends, diverted by laughter and memories. My soul is warmed by love; my body warmed and sustained by soup and bread.

 

Ghosts flitter around

soup pots filled with scented thoughts–

memories linger

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In the Quietness of Everything

This is for dVerse. Björn asked us to be conscious of how we punctuate the silence in this poem. I normally do use commas and dashes and sometimes periods for full stops, but I did try to be extra aware of pauses here.

 

in the blue-white of a snowy morning

silence reigns. . .

 

winds brush all with feathered wings,

but hush the birds, who do not sing

as they huddle in their nests and wait. . .

 

and I, with cup in hand, sit still,

wonder if it ever will

get warm again. . .

 

by window side, there I bide,

I look outside on winter white,

the whipping flakes diffusing light,

I gaze, listening to the out and in,

and the quietness of everything

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Changes

Monday Morning Musings:

“No Notice gave She, but a Change—

No Message, but a Sigh—

For Whom, the Time did not suffice

That She should specify.”

–Emily Dickinson, from “No Notice gave She, but a Change”

 

“The things that never can come back are several—“

–Emily Dickinson*

 

“But now they only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone. . .”

–Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

 

We see movies about women who experience life changes

change that ranges

through ages, horrors, and time

one mother with a daughter murdered and raped

shaping the rest of her life

(ignoring her son)

she puts up billboards and rages,

feels guilt and regret in stages

for what was said and done, she can’t forget

and yet,

there are people who care

and I like that we’re made aware

that most people are not simply bad or good,

but a mixture, often misunderstood,

complex and confused

the movie is anger-charged, yet funny, too

showing how people might change–

or perhaps we see them differently—

that could be,

they might exchange their views

(or sometimes not)

though they may sigh

and may not specify,

what it is they desire or want

though the things that never can come back are several.

 

The other movie is about a daughter who is coming of age

she and her mother who love each other

but argue persistently and consistently

as the daughter experiences first love and heartbreak

(Remember that age when so much seems at stake?)

in family life and strategies

we see life’s comedies and tragedies

as the young woman tries to break free

while realizing there is so much she didn’t see

or comprehend–

the value of a friend–

and a home that she will see anew, perhaps long for

someday, again.

 

(Bonus here, the high school theater scenes

where so much goes on in-between–

from auditions to production

and a director’s hilarious instruction.)

 

Changes come, with a feeling of sadness imbued

such as when the old garage was torn down,

and replaced now with the new

carried by truck through town

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Through the window, I see the shed delivered.

set up quickly by the men,

and here it stands

still to be painted

for now, we’ll just get acquainted

as the weather alters to winter cold

the clouds move in to block the sun

and snow falls then on everyone

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and gone for now is land and sky

as winter-white flutters and flies

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Watching the snow

I catch a flake upon my hand

and wake to a winter wonderland

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But now I prep for a colonoscopy

(SO many places I’d rather be

than here doing this)

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though right now, I’m so literally not full of shit

unlike our leaders, who sleep, leap, and wallow in it

every day, trapping us deeper in the mud and crap

our nerves so frayed and ready to snap

changes from when people felt hope and optimism

now the monsters who before were hidden

roam openly, and they will not be forgiven

by history or time–

if we survive–

still as long as the dawn still rises

and cracks get filled with light

and there is poetry, movies, books to bring delight,

we won’t give up the fight

or take flight

or be numbed to evil that lurks

but find what works

to make the darkness go.

As Christmas lights shine brightly on the snow

and we light candles and decorate

hope the season of peace and love will penetrate

overtake the hate and fear

that seems to have swallowed the year

if only the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg–winter spices–

could bring forth niceness.

For now, winter snow blankets my world in white

and I, warm inside, can savor the sight–

noticing how it absorbs and reflects the light,

I stare,

wonder if it changes the air,

if hope can rise above despair.

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We saw Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, trailer here.

And Lady Bird, trailer here.

Both were excellent movies, though I think my husband and I preferred Lady Bird. Frances McDormand (the part was written for her), Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf were all wonderful, as were the rest of both casts. Fun fact: Lucas Hedges, the young man in last year’s Manchester By the Sea, is in both movies.

 

*Emily Dickinson wrote this poem on the back of a recipe for coconut cake. This short article is about her and baking, and I plan to try some of her recipes soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

First December Snow

[So for some reason, the WordPress gremlins ate my previous version and then it vanished. Perhaps they got hungry reading about Mandelbrat.]

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
-A.A. Milne

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Yesterday here in the Philadelphia area we had our first real snowfall of the season.  The weather forecast was for a bit of snow in the afternoon—I expected maybe an inch over several hours–followed by sleet and freezing rain in the evening. Instead, it began to snow in the late morning and there were several inches on the ground by early afternoon. Total in my town, 8.6 inches.

 
That is not a record snowfall, nor was it any type of epic blizzard, but it was unexpected. Snow is beautiful—if you don’t have to travel in it. The party that my husband and I had planned to attend was cancelled, and we were at home. But our younger daughter was away for the weekend and on her way back to New Jersey as the snow fell and fell. The trip that normally takes her about one and a half to two hours—in heavy traffic—took seven hours. Her first call to my husband came from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Traffic was backed-up for miles, and she had seen many accidents. She considered getting off at the next exit, but then decided to continue home. My husband and I were listening to traffic reports and looking up her route on our computers and iPhones. Although it was an awful ride for her, it was also horrible waiting and worrying about her.

 

 
I had intended to work—I have several projects with deadlines looming like. . .hmmm. . .well, like a storm. You know how you hear the weather reports for an upcoming storm? There’s the anticipation, but then suddenly it hits you, and even though you knew it was coming, you’re unprepared. Yup. That’s a deadline. They sneak up on you, and then you’re digging your way out.

The morning after

The morning after

So anyway, I had all of this work to do, but I couldn’t focus because I was so worried about my daughter. Of course, I did what you’d expect—I baked!

 
I had already made kale chips and a fabulous salad (mixed greens, dried cranberries, honey goat cheese, and almonds) to take to the party. And I baked some banana bread because we had some bananas that needed to be used. I added some homemade applesauce to the recipe. Why? Because it was there in the refrigerator.  Of course. I had already baked some Mandlebrat cookies (aka Mommy Cookies) on Friday so I could bring some to my mom.(See my musings on Mandelbrat https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/the-power-of-mandelbrot/)

 
Early in the afternoon, I decided to prepare my favorite artisan bread dough. http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/no-knead-pizza-dough-recipe/ . I thought I could either bake bread later or make pizza for dinner. As the hours passed, and our daughter was still on the road, I decided to bake the bread.  I had some red lentil soup in the freezer, so I took it out to defrost.

 

 
Our daughter finally arrived home safely at about 7 PM. She had left Reading, Pennsylvania at noon. She was tired and stressed, but she was safe—and hungry. We sat down to a feast of bread, soup, salad, and cheese. Later we opened some wine. (Red wine and a delicious chocolate truffle from the box a friend brought us. Oh yes, please!) On the plus side, my daughter now knows she can drive a long distance in the snow, and we have delicious food in the house. On the minus side, I still have those deadlines. I better get to work. Well, maybe one cookie first.

 

My post on Mandelbrat does not have a recipe. Here it is. You will notice several approximates. Just deal with it. Go with the flow. Make those cookies your own. I will think of more

clichés later.
Mandelbrat
3 ¾ cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 cup cooking oil
2 tsp. baking powder
3 Eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract
pinch of salt
Ground almonds and walnut—approximately ¾ cup
1 package chocolate chips—I use a full package of Ghiradelli Bittersweet
Mixture of cinnamon and sugar –approximately ¾ to 1 cup of sugar mixed with about 1-1 ½ tsp. cinnamon (to taste)
Beat eggs with whisk, add sugar, oil, vanilla and almond extract and pinch of salt. Stir in dry ingredients. Then stir  in chocolate chips and nuts.
With oily hands, make 4 “loaves.” I make two each on two cookie sheets. Sprinkle thoroughly with cinnamon and sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for ½ hour. Remove from the oven and slice each loaf. Place slices on the sheet and brown each side in the oven—5-10 minutes for each side.

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The Magic of Snow

These 40+ year old sleds are completely origin...

These 40+ year old sleds are completely original and still work great! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Snow-Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden’s end.
The steed and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last night it snowed, just a little bit, just enough to cover the grass in a cloak of white. The velvet surface was broken here and there by the prints left by the wild creatures–raccoons, opossum, and maybe even deer that wandered through our yard in the darkness. The air was still. It was magical—until the reality of scraping ice off of cars and clearing steps set in.

Children experience the magic of snow for a far longer period. They feel anticipation and delight in the falling flakes, the crunch of boots through the frosted surface, the glee of making angels and snow creatures, and the joy of having an unexpected vacation from school to stay in pajamas and drink hot chocolate.

In Dallas, snow appears occasionally, but not often, and usually only in trace amounts. As children, my younger sister and I were so excited when it did appear. We took turns trying to pull each other around our yard on the sleds stored in our garage. They were real sleds made of wood with sharp steel runners, relics from our life in Philadelphia. My older brother, away at college, had probably used one of them to slide down hills in Germantown with his friends. Of course, they were not of much use in the minute amount of snow that dusted our Dallas backyard.

During our Christmas breaks from school, my family usually traveled back north to Philadelphia to visit with family and friends.  We often stayed at a downtown Sheraton Hotel. From the wide windows of our hotel room, my sister and I gazed down at the tiny ice skaters gliding across the ice at the Penn Center Ice Skating Rink. We watched them twirl and sometimes fall. There was a wide ledge under the window that sat over the room’s heater and air conditioning unit. On one visit, perhaps bored with watching ice skaters, my younger sister and I marched back and forth across that ledge singing an advertising jingle, “Franco-American where sauce is king.” Seeing how annoying it was to our older sister, we continued to do it over and over and over again, until we finally collapsed in laughter.

One day while staying at that Sheraton, my family boarded the subway to visit my dad’s best friend, a doctor, and his family. It was just beginning to snow as we walked to the subway’s entrance. It was still snowing when we arrived, and it continued to snow through the night. We were snowed-in!  My mother was probably not pleased, and she was concerned that we didn’t have snow boots and other snow gear. None of that mattered to me. Here was real snow that could be played in and formed into snowmen. We were having a real adventure. At some point—I can’t remember if it was that night or the next day—my father and his friend trudged through the snow to a Jewish delicatessen. They returned with enough food to feed us–and several other families, should any happen to wander in through the snow—if need be, for days. The large, dining room table was piled high with bagels, lox, rye bread, corned beef, and other delicatessen staples. (Yes, my love of food is inherited.) I don’t know where my parents slept that night, but my younger sister and I bedded down on the carpeted floor of the bedroom of one the teenage daughters of the household. Warm and cozy under a layer of blankets, we dozed off to the chatter of the older girls and were content.

I don’t particularly love the snow. I don’t go sledding, skiing, or ice skating. If ever forced to do so, I would be the person sitting inside the lodge with a warm cup of coffee in my hand and a good book on my lap.  I’ve been through other snowstorms since that long ago time in Philadelphia, and I’ve experienced “the magic of snow” with my own daughters. Still, I guess it’s true what they say: you never forget your first. . .snowstorm.