Autumn Questions

Monday Morning Musings:

“Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.”

–Pico Iyler, Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells, quoted in Brainpickings

 

 

In the transitional spaces

of this liminal season,

sun and moon both hold their places

easing in

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Morning moon over the river.

the days of swoops and shifts

where sunshine fires gold and red

and nature bewitches with magic gifts–

deer and birds, the leaves unshed

to glow in sunshine, that perfect light

too soon hidden behind the grey

of clouds, and we trudge but fight

the winter’s-coming-wind. “Stay!”

we say to sunshine and golden glow

as we struggle through “the wind tunnel of death”

in rush hour city streets, go with the flow,

see, not so bad, we catch our breath

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and onward go, sunshine, then rain

and I work, cook, bake, turn on the heat

to be certain it works, for frigid air comes again

and soon winter winds will roar, and we’ll retreat

not wanting to venture out so long or often

but yet we’ll have to carry on, do what we must

and with blankets, soup, and candles, soften

the cold (and in the dimness hide the dust).

 

But for now, we walk and celebrate

the accomplishments, good weather, and walk

through parks, a restaurant, a concert—a date

I suppose, we listen to the other couples talk

Park in Collingswood, NJ, Merril D. Smith, 2019

at other tables and speculate

about their lives. Then we move on—

the concert late into the night, but great

and soon comes another dawn

and more rain. A grey afternoon

my mom nods off to the TV

I make her laugh as I dance to a tune–

Que sera, what will be, will be,

 

not what we hear, but inevitably

transition lead to something new

leaves fall, rivers flow to the sea,

winter grey and white follows from autumn blue,

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but now we watch a French demon on our screen

drink wine and gasp at horror in a world not real

enjoy the make-believe land of the unseen

even as we long for something ideal, feel

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unmoored in this world, waiting for disaster

but finding moments of joy to savor

wanting some to slow, some to move faster—

what is the flavor

 

the scent, of time passing and flowing?

Cinnamon, nutmeg, lilacs, and rain

petrichor rising, snow falling, and fires blowing

smoke into the air—all these over and over again–

as cats play hide and seek,

and children now grown send love in photos,

and each week brings something good or bleak—

and so it goes.

 

In the liminal spaces

of this liminal season,

the moon hums, traces

her course, she has a reason

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even if we don’t know why,

(what questions to ask, the answers unknown)

but hush,  hear that sigh?

Listen closely, the moon’s lullaby.

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It’s been a crazy week with emotions blowing like the crazy winds. One deadline met, another still to go. We went to a concert at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, David Bromberg and Los Lobos. My husband joked that you had to be over 50 to get in–but wow–those musicians can play! We walked from the theater to Indiya restaurant and then back. We’re watching a horror show on Netflix called Marianne. One episode to go. It definitely made me jump a few times. It’s in French. Sorry, movie club fans, that’s the best I can do right now. I hope to get to the movies soon.

 

A Bit of Healing

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I’ve been feeling stressed for months—deadlines, caring for my mom, trying to fit everything in, waiting for the next disaster. I take a morning walk in the riverside park before the predicted downpour arrives. There I find a bit of magic, a bit of healing. Life goes on.

 

russet-gold shower

leaves fall on a silent world—

time pauses, deer leaps

 

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I’m linking this Haibun to dVerse’s Open Link Night. Lillian asked for some treats. Seeing deer is a treat for me (as long as they’re not in the road).

 

Life’s Labor

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is summer-gone that I see, it is summer-gone.

The sweet flowers indrying and dying down,

The grasses forgetting their blaze and consenting to brown.”

From Gwendolyn Brooks, “A Sunset in the City” 

 

“Therefore—we do life’s labor—

Though life’s Reward—be done—

With scrupulous exactness—

To hold our Senses—on—”

Emily Dickinson 

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Dawn comes with a song colored in a blush of dusty pink

whispering secrets

I am light

glowing honey gold

through rose-tinged clouds.

I am sound,

the buzzing drone

of a cicada,

the eager chirping of a sparrow

looking for love.

Look–

Listen–

soon come the shadows

black in the moonlight–

soon comes the silence,

save the skittering of night creatures

over dry brown leaves.

***

It is a week of reflection

abjection and affection

 

glowering grey

and love that stays

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true in hue

though the world’s askew.

 

Hurricanes and guns,

the loss daughters and sons

 

to senseless violence

and no defenses

 

do we have for either wind

or fury underpinned

 

by those in power—

but here in a bower

 

a garden of flowers

we sit for hours.

My mother naps

as the sparrow flaps

 

his wings to no avail–

though he chirps and flails

 

the lady sparrow ignores him

as he follows from limb to limb

 

and along the concrete wall

calling, calling to all

 

“I am here,

my beauty, appear!”

 

On this Labor Day weekend

we labor and bend

 

to the inevitable end

of summer and life, we send

 

thoughts outward with the breeze

we tease

 

joy for moments when we can

flowers, family, pets, wine—and

I remember how my mother worked

and didn’t shirk

 

her duty to home or even nation

bucking rivets, no vacation

 

I’m sure, she tells me of a woman there

who stands up for her—the righteous everywhere—

 

when the haters hate

six million dead does not set them straight.

 

Still, she worked all her life

in stores, as mother and wife

 

and after. An aunt worked sewing

and I wonder, not knowing

 

what the factory was like,

and if they ever went on strike,

 

but my mother got to borrow her clothes

and so, it goes

 

she met my father who lives in her dreams–

he lives on in seams

 

stitched with invisible thread

in memories real and false, but we tread

 

lightly because what else can we do–

as we sit under a sky of September blue

 

knowing that autumn is coming,

but the moon will keep humming,

 

and we will labor, love, and play

life beyond us will go on, each day

 

green or barren, this earth

laboring, revolving, giving birth

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to new possibilities, hopes, and fears

in endless cycles over thousands of years.

 

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Today is Labor Day here in the U.S.  The Mormon Temple near where my mom lives has a lovely little garden square that is open to the public.  We enjoyed wine and cheese at Tria, where on Sunday’s they offer specials that they call “Sunday School.”  My mom recently told me that a woman defended her when a man or men uttered anti-Semitic slurs at her–while she was working as a “bucker” for riveters during WWII.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Us All

Monday Morning Musings:

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”

―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

“Of what is past, or passing, or to come.”

–W.B. Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

 

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A breeze drifts from blushing sky,

Robin sings reveille, a new day wakes

carrying time’s perfume,

a scent of days blended over and over

in a soft voice

the woman asks the day

and wonders where time has gone,

but it is still here—

she gazes through a window,

a young woman looks back

***

In these last days of August

as summer goes a-rambling,

and we go scrambling–

 

in this odd uneven time

of thunderstorms and brilliant sun

we see summer almost done

 

when temperatures fall,

as do a few leaves,

but it deceives

 

we’ll have heat rise again,

even as vultures soar

high above the shore

and insects skitter

and crawl–

but that’s not all

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Cicada-eating wasp

Great Horned Caterpillar

Great Horned Caterpillar at Red Bank Battlefield, NJ

 

we see as we walk

in parks and city streets,

hearing the beats

 

of different drums

people, creatures, machines strum

and hum, but come

 

see fountains glittering

with diamond droplets flying

and spirits sighing

Swann Memorial Fountain Glittering in the Sun, Philadelphia

as they dance to the sky

where sun-stippled,

and wind-rippled

 

they form clouds

that cross the far expanse

of blue, and dance

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into the night

and daughters come with smiles

across the miles

 

to visit. We drink wine

on a beautiful day

wishing days like this would stay

Wine Down Summer Wine Festival, Riverwinds, NJ 2019

 

 

and winter never come.

When flowers and bugs will die

and Persephone in darkness sigh

 

for light and mother-love.

But in the now we celebrate–

never too late, to grab a plate

 

to dine and drink

to talk

to walk

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to give heart-felt wishes

to laughs and kisses

to be happy for all of this

 

And so,

on her 97th birthday I write:

“On this day,

this is what I wish for you–

 

the love in memories,

the love in now.”

 

And for us all

the moon hums a lullaby,

a wish for love and gentle goodbyes.

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I went a bit overboard with photos, but my mom turned 97 this weekend. Since a few weeks ago, we thought she wouldn’t reach this event, it was extra-special. Older daughter came from Massachusetts, and we went to a wine festival, then visited her sister at her new part-time job at Blue Cork Winery. Then yesterday was my mom’s party. For once, the weather cooperated, too–what a beautiful weekend!

Reflections

Merril D. Smith, 2019, Philadelphia, William Penn and City Hall Reflected

Monday Morning Musings:

“Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.”

–From Sylvia Plath, “Mirror”

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?”

–Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

 

In the window

the world is reflected

prismed into colors bright

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the blue of sky

and clouds of white

refracted sites

 

ripple and sway

changing as you walk

then fading away

 

unlike skyscrapers

that here still stand

monuments to technology

 

in reflections,

magic,

a slight of hand.

 

Now in the puddle

the world is upside down

in shades of beige and grey

Building in a puddle, Philadelphia

diffused light

scattered over slate

and rippling away

 

carried to the river

then onwards

to the sea

 

but here

are windows closed

as eyes asleep

 

and minds imprisoned

in worlds of fancy

and dreams

 

of children

go unheeded

unheard, unseen

 

in cages

they perish

swept away

 

by the latest news

of violence

and thoughts and prayers

 

go out

to remove the games

and images

 

but not the guns

they remain–

see, they’re not to blame

 

and cash

wills out

with slaps on the back

 

for the boys

are boys

who grow to be men

 

and abuse

again

and again.

 

And what do they see

in their reflections?

Do they stop to reflect

 

on the people

they harm?

I read of survivors

 

who try to forgive

when they

can never forget–

 

we must never forget

 

the sights refracted

in sunshine and rain,

and here we sit

 

holding time still

for a moment,

if we could with will

 

in vino veritas,

and truth there is

that there is beauty

 

and light

and days when things

are just right,

moments granted

even when

the world is slanted

 

cock-eyed, the mother

becomes the child,

but when she laughs

 

you wonder what’s real

and see your reflection

there she and you

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and she will never go

to the river again

but here a bird calls–

 

Hear it?

Listen and wonder

what does it see?

 

There its reflection

in the water

it looks at me.

 

Delaware River, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

On the Fringe

Monday Morning Musings:

“The fringed curtains of thine eye advance, And say what thou seest yond.”

–William Shakespeare, The Tempest

“We all move on the fringes of eternity and are sometimes granted vistas through fabric of illusion.”

–Ansel Adams, Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Once a star devoured a universe

long haunted by dark clouds

then breathed to wake a new one

 

~with laughing kisses~

 

we awoke

though we hadn’t known we slept

or how close we’d been to the edge

 

~of time, an illusion~

 

that we cherished then

but now the blue horses prance

and caramel breezes drift from the sea

 

~carrying past and future~

 

through the window of time

and beyond. Remembering

what we forget, carrying our dreams.

***

Twenty-nine dead in thirteen hours

the headlines say, we

offer thoughts and prayers, and flowers

 

of blood bloom on streets and malls.

How tragic, we say

and go about our day

 

and the death bell tolls

again, and again

and we wonder when

 

it all will end.

When will we wake

and find a way to send

 

away the men who profit from hate–

who stoke the fear—

and say what people want to hear,

 

the lies that trip from poisoned tongues

and damage life, and old and young–

the fringe chorus becomes the loudest sung.

A macrocosm of death surrounds me,

but sheltered in my smaller world

I want to see, to flee, to be

 

What? I’m not sure,

though there is some allure

to buried heads when all around

 

is death and dying.

And we laughing, sighing, and crying

as my mother weakens

 

speaking clearly, or not–

each day different, caught

adrift, she smiles, sleeps

 

but keeps

on going. Through shallowing deeps

of ocean-mind

 

that flows in and out,

sweeping the beach to turn about

and leave treasures on the sand.

 

But fleeing this land

we visit friends,

who offer helping hands

 

and open hearts

to listen, as we talk

and we eat, then walk

 

on a summer night,

there’s music and friendship–

sometimes things are right,

sometimes there is light

in the darkness–

the stars twinkle diamond-bright

 

against the sapphire sea,

and the sun rises, and I see

promise in a day.

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We go on our way

to the fringe

and back, we see a play–

OK, perhaps we see six–

(One even had magic tricks)

in this blueberry town,

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we walk up and down

the streets, find food to eat,

and clap from our seats

 

for actors and singers

and our smiles linger

from some.

 

We avoid the tempest

from our seats inside,

on stories sail and ride.

But it’s fringe,

some need a tinge

more polish, perhaps.

 

We’ll see what happens

next year–

if, when, we’re here–

 

as time laps,

racing to the edge

of eternity, with no pledge

 

of what will be,

there on the fringe

of eternity.

 

On Saturday and Sunday we went to the New Jersey Fringe Festival in Hammonton, NJ, “The Blueberry Capital of the World.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

“Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack

of the past and future?

The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond

its capacities will find no rest?

–Rumi from “That Lives in Us” 

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The moon sails through time

over and over

through the purple sky.

We sit in the dark

and watch it

together

in a universe of only

and always

dazzled

to wake from dreams . . .

feeling the ghosts

in the breezes,

lingering.

***

On the day of the storm

the sun blazed,

and animals were dazed

 

by the glare as his chariot rose

higher and higher.

But the gods conspired

 

and sent the wind

and rain to shower

the flowers, but taking our power

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The storm rolling in

away for a day.

So, we sat in the twilight,

then read by flashlight

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Making the best of the situation when the power went out.

 

and fortunately,

the air had cooled—

but we weren’t fooled,

 

we knew

it was only a temporary stay

from heat and humidity, but hey,

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Carpenter’s Hall all a-flower

we’ll enjoy it while we can

walk in the city, eat ice cream–

talk and dream.

In the movie we see

the family lies

Is it wise?

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Who knows?

Done to be kind

though they’re in a bind

 

about how

to carry out the hoax.

There are tears and jokes–

 

a crowd-pleasing film

of cultural clashes

and flashes

 

of tenderness

in family gatherings and meals–

and the deals

 

we make

as we scatter

world-weary, what matters

 

still are our connections,

the invisible ties,

the love and lies,

 

that bind

generating power and loss,

crisscrossing

 

synaptic bursts

through wires and minds

creating dreams and incredible finds.

 

But the loss

when there’s a faulty connection

the hesitation and misdirection.

 

In my mom’s mind

dream and reality blur—

sometimes–and I’m not sure

 

how it works at all.

Past, present, future circle round

intertwine–wiring unsound?

 

Perhaps. Or do ghosts come to visit?

That shadow almost seen?

What is it? Where has it been?

 

I don’t know tomorrow

I can’t shape the past

or make fine weather last.

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A beautiful summer night at William Heritage Winery, New Jersey

 

but I enjoy the moment

of summer fruits, the flavors

bursting, bits of sunshine savored

before the next storm. . .

and sometimes magic just appears.

 

We got free tickets to a preview of The Farewell. Trailer here. We enjoyed it very much, and it seems like the rest of the audience did, too. Lulu Wang also told the story of the movie—her real life story on an episode of This American Life

We’re watching a series on Netflix now called Typewriter. It’s marketed as a sort of Indian Stranger Things, mainly because it involves four kids. They’re middle school age. It’s not very scary (yet), but I’m enjoying it. Trailer here.

I also heard a recent episode of This American Life about a young woman held as a prisoner by her biological parents in Pakistan. She only had one book to read—that she kept hidden—and read over and over again hundreds of times.  It was Little Women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon and Snow: Haibun

 

Valerius_De_Saedeleer_-_Winter_landscape

It snowed, and the earth was devoid of color. The wind howled and shook the house, knocking to get in. Robins, sparrows, tufted titmice, and cardinals huddled in their nests. Wise squirrels had gathered acorns from the old oak tree, but now they, too, sought shelter. The roads were unplowed, and the schools were closed for days. I baked an endless supply of cookies, bread, cakes, and donuts. My comfort for the storm. The house was scented with cinnamon and love.

 

frosted white-veiled world

sighs drifting from cloud-draped moon–

from home warmth beckons

 

It’s midsummer, so to be contrary I thought I’d write about a blizzard. When my children were young—perhaps in kindergarten and third grade—there was a blizzard that left two feet of snow, and more in the drifts. I know that some of you live in areas that have more snow, but I think it wasn’t only the amount, but the intensity of the storm and the drifting afterwards. It might have been this one. 

 

 

 

 

The Color of Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.”

–Edgar Allan Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” (No. 1, of “Four Quartets”)

 

 

What is the color of eternity?

All the fires of star bursts

and rainbows

in shades of never-seen, a sheen

scented with petriochor

caramel, and wisps of ozone—more–

perhaps a dream.

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Summer Color at Whitall House, National Park, NJ

I am bemused, delighted

by the brilliant colors of the sky sighted

between storms,

the verdant green of almost-summer

and trees that call,

“Look at me now!”

and I’m enthralled,

with leafy boughs

that wave and wow,

Dock Creek, Philadelphia

Dock Creek, Old City, Philadelphia

but time is flowing in syncopated rhythms

with unexpected accents,

changing in split seconds

ascent, descend–dissent–

confused

from waltz to unsquare dance,

and I’m bemused,

how do grey storm clouds change to blue sky,

how does asleep move to wide awake,

so quickly

and we cannot stay still–

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Ominous sky over Ben Franklin Bridge

over the hill

we go–

my mother goes from weak and incoherent

to mobile and lucid overnight

and back again, delight and fright,

I scarcely think of my dead father

on Father’s Day

 

when I see baby fawns,

twins napping in the sun,

their mother gone

somewhere,

Seeing them is nature’s gift to me.

I accept it gratefully.

 

I dream my mother’s apartment

has been turned into a hospital

I wake up annoyed

(Okay, Dr. Freud)

that I was not informed

of how it was transformed.

My mother tells me she has

another apartment upstairs—

it’s much nicer she says.

Perhaps it is, I think. I can’t compare.

I wonder about time,

and is it ever lost or gone?

The past exists in our memories—

like a rhyme

heard long ago–

the child me, my alive father,

my young mother

I think all still exist somewhere

like love

never gone,

but stretching back

like an endless series of mirror reflections

colors into black.

Reflections

 

I watch the baby geese grow,

a new generation shows

walking by the river–

no music like its symphony

whispering of birth and earth,

singing of life, joy and strife,

keening at death in the currents

that flow to the sea

to be

again and again.

I watch past and future

flow and merge

like that river to the sea

dreaming of time,

dreams within dreams.  . .and then

still the sun sets and rises again.

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We haven’t gone to any movies, shows, or events recently—life and work have been a bit crazy–but we did watch Everybody Knows on Netflix (good but not as good as his previous films), and we’ve been enjoying Good Omens on Amazon Prime.  It’s a lot of fun. And here’s Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance. I have no idea why I thought of this today, but you’re welcome. We’ve had some beautiful days, but also a tornado warning on Thursday night, with tornados that touched down in nearby towns, and now stormy weather forecast for the next several days. I hope that’s not a life-metaphor.

 

 

 

 

The Show Goes On

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a theatre set in which there are but few practicable entrances.”

― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

“We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

 “Some birds sing when the sun is bright/my praise is not for them/but the one who sings in the dead of night/I raise my cup to him.” (“I Raise My Cup”).

–Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown

Linger here,

in the never-always

remembering

one thing,

two,

three–

remembering

only this,

who, if not when,

the sunshine dazzling,

as laughter

the bluest sky,

and dreams rising

to dance in the clouds.

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***

Long days

in the approach of summer solstice

long weeks of dread

and anticipation,

of entrances and exits,

of missed cues

and dropped lines.

 

We cherish intermissions

to drink wine in the golden glow

sunsets all the backdrop needed

a show in itself

A Girl and Her Puppy, William Heritage Winery

as the show goes on

as daughters comfort me,

and I try to comfort my mother,

life circles around and around

and around and around–

We talk of pets

and medicine and Pride,

and love is love is love is love is love–

walls come up,

walls are torn down,

sometimes Mother is wrong,

sometimes Mother is right. . .

 

The mockingbird sings

in the dead of night,

a solo turn

in nature’s theater,

I raise my glass to him,

the show goes on.

 

 

It has been a long week. My mom is out of rehab and back in her apartment, but she needs a lot of care. There have been visits, and endless phone calls, texts, and emails. We had glorious weather this past weekend–cool nights, sunshine-filled days. It’s raining today.

We haven’t been to the movies lately, but I take my Merril’s movie club seriously, so I can recommend  I Am Mother on Netflix.  My husband and I both liked it, and it kept me interested after a long, exhausting day with my mom. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where Mother, a robot, is raising her human Daughter. I watched the Tony awards last night. (To be honest, I watched most of it, but I couldn’t stay awake to the end.) Hadestown—which looks like such a Merril play—won best musical and seven other awards. Here’s the Broadway trailer.