And You, Too, Have Come to This Still Point

November at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

Monday Morning Musings:

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

–fromMary Oliver “When I Am Among the Trees”

“After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.”

T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”  Four Quartets

 

I walk among the trees

watch the light golden-streaming,

and feel the wind river-breezing

listen to the crows caw and go

then all is still, in the glow,

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ.–November

 

though now it’s blanket season

when the wind blows, teasing

the clouds that alternate grey and bright

while I seek some warmth, some light

and find delight in sunrise pink rising high

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I look to the sky

the flocking of birds in flight.

We gather with family

hope there’s no drama

[insert comma]

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or not too much.

Some come from lunch

to share our dinner

and so, we talk and laugh,

and most definitely eat (repeat)

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(not forgetting the sweets)

till it is time for them to go–

and you think you know

how life will be

but suddenly, you see

 

all the moments—

the traditional breaking of stuffing bread

under Capt. Janeway’s gaze, her cool head

once again guiding her crew

–and for them so much to do–

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and you, too, so much done,

all the times before—

and after–the squirrels, the sisters and daughters,

the laughter and traditions, the people come and gone—

babies grown, moving on

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we watch a movie of love and longing

of trying to find a better life, men migrating

women left behind, waiting

for escape, for weddings, for revenge—

gritty life and magic realism, avenging

 

ghosts among us

life not ending, but flowing like the sea—

what happens when we cease to be,

does love carry on through time and space?

Is there a still point, full of grace

 

and light, golden

like the emblazoned leaves

shining. . .

beauty to remember when it snows

to recall it will return

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even as the darkness grows

and the world turns, day to night

and all is still–

but beyond the clouds—

stars and moon still burn bright.

 

We celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of my sibling saw my mom that day, and we saw her the next day.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Atlantics on Netflix. This film from Senegal won the Grand Prix at Cannes. It moves from social realism of life in Dakar—forced marriages, laborers who don’t get paid, migration—to a sort of magic realism based on folk tales. I imagine it was a beautiful movie to see on a large screen.We both liked it very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories in Major and Minor

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Music When Soft Voices Die.” Full poem and analysis here

“When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too

And a new day will begin”

From Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn, “Memory,” Cats

 

 

We who were

are ghosts,

are almost not

lingering

 

here a slow smile,

there a kiss of fire—

this rhythmed dance

of remembering

 

ask her about the laugh,

wake him with the used-to-be

 

all now born away

by clouds and time.

***

A week that seems

both timeless and harried

behind us and carried—onwards

we go

 

from anniversary meal

the feel of fresh air

and laughter

people watching

and city-walking

talking of this and that

as texts fly

from sisters

all the sighs, the whys

of life

and strife

in the play

(on words)

mines underground

young lives destroyed

some never rebound

from unsound decisions

and derision

a corrupt system

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a week of memories

and old friends

who remember what

once was

comfortable pauses

and laughter

remembering

who we were

cherishing who we are—

 

there a wish

upon a star

as stormy skies clear

for sunset rays—

a stay

of hope

that beauty lasts.

We watch a movie

of ghosts

memories of things

unseen—and seen

pretty things that live

in the wall–

they call

from time

and books–

she looks on

staring

the women

sharing, imprisoned

by this house

 

We eat and drink

stop and think

laugh and talk

then take a walk

 

And then there are cats

onstage they prance

but at home, they entrance

with acrobatics

and sleepy glances

share our space

(caress that face)

 

we drift. . .

 

in dreams, memories come

and done

are things that never happened—

but seem so real

we feel

joy, terror, hope

beyond the scope

of everyday

 

wake to find the dawn

new day

the past a memory

the future looms

blooming like a flower

sweetly scented–

and thorned—

dropping seeds

and withering

to be reborn.

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We celebrated our wedding anniversary this week. We saw a play Minors, watched a Netflix movie, I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. It’s the kind of horror movie I like, a ghost tale where you are not sure of what’s real (like Hill House)—not a full-of-blood slasher movie. Also, it has Ruth Wilson and Paula Prentiss.  We also saw Cats, which we only saw because it was part of a theater package—but I did enjoy it. All of the actors/dancers/singers were excellent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Past, Future, and When

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,”

You can hear him read the poem here. 

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

–Justice Hugo Black, New York Times Company v. United States (1971)

 

“Wouldn’t it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true and we could live in them?”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The present passes, becomes the past

the future now, and now is then.

We ask how did this happen and when?

Too fast for us to learn,

to slow for us to train

the grasping hands

the lizard brains?

 

In May 1933, they burned the books–

but that was there and then

now here, and again,

a leader tried to censor the news

suppress the press

(What are the choices? Choose.)

“I am not a crook,” he said

before he fled

his seat of power

(looking ever more dour)

But that was then

and it is now,

though there are echoes of before

(his followers ignore)

hate and fear

always in the air

like war’s harsh glare—

sow discord, let others bleed,

while those in the lead, feed their greed.

 

Bright days turn to stormy nights

we gather inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and hold our fears at bay

waiting for a stay

from thunder and lightning flashes–

the zigs and zags across the sky–

but in the morning,

the birds still sing and fly

this is the present,

the past, the future whys

converge,

the past, present, future merge

as it’s beginning to do within my mother’s head

confusing the threads of history and time

sometimes—no reason, no rhyme—

but just the way it is

a bridge to what is, or could be

if only we can see—

somehow—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate Mother’s Day

a made-up holiday

from what was a protest against war

to one of flowers and treats—

for some, for us, it can also be sweet—

Flourless Chocolate Cake and Cannoli Dip

and we’ve done all this before,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but still—

my mother has a great laugh—

and it would not be so bad

if that became her epitaph–

gathering with love around a table

as long as we are able

is wonderful and something we need.

No, that is not greed

to desire love and peace.

Perhaps I sometimes long for castles in the air

wish that was here or something there,

want the best for my own little women

as my mother wished for hers

and her mother for her children

in the past, which is now, which was then—

I wonder when?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cruelest Month: Tanka, NaPoWriMo, Day 4

To Persephone

daffodils pay bright homage,

echoing the sun,

the golden rays breed passion,

love and hate rise up

 

white buds burst open,

spring no longer a maiden

swells with fruitfulness

till her petals wilt and fall

covering the blood-soaked ground.

 

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napo2018button2.pngThis double tanka is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, using synonyms for grow and honor. This is also for NaNoWriMo. This may or may not fit the prompt.

 

 

 

Time Bends and Echoes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. . .

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory,

down the passage we did not take,

towards the door we never opened,

into the rose garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.”

T.S. Eliot, from “Burnt Echo”, No. 1 of “Four Quartets”

 

“So much of history is mystery. We don’t know what is lost forever, what will surface again. All objects exist in a moment of time. And that fragment of time is preserved or lost or found in mysterious ways. Mystery is a wonderful part of life.”

–Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

 

This week–

a photo,

hidden within a mislabeled envelope, appears

challenging history

what is known and what may be,

tangible, frangible,

certainly mysterious

does it show what we think it shows?

Can it?

Will we ever know more of lives that soared and crashed?

The photo,

a door opened into the past,

within it the people still live

a passage, a channel

leading this way or that

perhaps many such secret passages exist

burrow along well-traveled pathways

winding passages that bend and shape the straight roads of time

time past, time present, time future

 

We go to a play,

three men enter a room, one at a time,

Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Count Leo Tolstoy

(Barefooted and dressed as a peasant, he says

don’t call me Count, throughout the play.)

The room is furnished with a drawered table and three chairs,

in the drawer, the men will discover notebooks and pens.

(Jefferson is amazed at a pen with ink–amazed he did not think of it himself.)

Though they lived in different times,

each man has just died and entered this room,

At this discovery, Jefferson remarks,

“Evidently time bends.”

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Bulletin board in the lobby of the Lantern Theater.

The door lock after each enters the room,

they cannot exit until—what?

Each man is a writer,

and it turns out each wrote his own version of the gospels,

each man was a visionary of sorts

who wrote about reforming society,

each failed within his own life to uphold the standards he envisioned

and in this amusing and entertaining play,

the men write and argue,

debate their ideas,

and write some more,

facing the mirror—us–

we, the audience, the fourth wall

hear their words,

hear them confess their deeds and weaknesses.

And what if they did meet,

and what if they did debate and discuss,

and what if we could hear them,

bending time

 

On a beautiful summer day,

after the play

we walk the streets that bear traces of Jefferson everywhere

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a medical school and university named for him.

Centuries ago, he walked these streets

sat in a room, penned (with quill) his elegant words*

of sacred rights, of equality and independence,

even while he continued to enslave others,

words that led to a revolution,

words that still resonate today,

I imagine him,

his long-legged stroll across the cobble-stoned streets,

conversing with his unlikely friend John Adams,

perhaps opening a door into a rose garden

there

the scent lingers in the air

the words echo

time bends

Charles Dickens visited Philadelphia, too.

in March 1842, he stayed at the United States Hotel

on Chestnut Street near Fourth,

the part of the city

now called Old City

where Jefferson and other delegates declared our independence

I imagine their ghosts meeting on these city streets

that Dickens found much too regular

longing for a crooked street–

perhaps seeking a place where time bent

and echoes lingered in the air

 

Dickens met with Edgar Allen Poe,

they discussed poetry.

Dickens had a pet raven, Grip,

his stuffed body rests in a glass case

at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Dickens wrote about Grip in his book

Barnaby Rudge,

which was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

and Poe reviewed the book for a Philadelphia publication in 1842,

mentioning the raven,

and Poe later writes a poem about a raven

whose word “nevermore” echoes in the air

and through time

 

And on this beautiful summer day

we sit outside at a café,

drink wine

(and beer)

 

eat cheese

(luscious)

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I wonder to my husband

how it would have been—

what if a woman had been in that room?

He says, was there one who wrote gospels?

I don’t know,

though I think there must have been

perhaps, lost to history,

or yet to be found,

a mystery,

perhaps to be revealed

in a mislabeled envelope,

or amidst remnants unearthed from a secret passage

in the locus of past, present, and future.

We sit at the table

(a window becomes a mirror

old buildings blend with new)

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watch the people,

listening to words echo

lingering in the breeze

 

We saw The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & County Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.

We went to Tria Café Washington West

A photo said to be of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was in the news this week.

*Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence 

Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

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“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

–L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.”

August Wilson, Fences

Snap!

Thumb and finger strike,

connection made.

Snap!

Synapses fire,

memories triggered.

Snap!

Fingers, feet

feel the beat

New York streets

When you’re a Jet

You’re a Jet all the way

My sister and I listen to the album,

vinyl disk spins,

we watch the movie,

only later do I learn it is

Romeo and Juliet, updated,

and that famous play,

with its star-crossed lovers,

is based on older stories,

tales as old as time,

that connect us with the past.

 

So many movies, so little time before the old year ends,

we see Fences,

(powerful performances),

the sins of the father visited on the son

generation after generation,

connections through pain and history.

I dislike Troy more and more as the movie goes on,

while recognizing the source of his suffering,

and feeling sorry for him

and Rose and the children.

 

I ask my husband afterward

if he thinks he would have been a different father

if we had had sons instead of daughters.

He says yes, he thinks so,

that he would have been harder and stricter

like his father

who was a good man, but stern,

I was scared of him when I first knew him,

and amazed the first time I saw him laughing with his brother.

My father-in-law was so different with his grandchildren,

softer, gentler, singing Sesame Street songs.

I think of how he connected differently with his children

and his grandchildren,

the special bond he and my young nephew had.

 

On New Year’s Eve,

I think of people all over the world,

celebrating the new year.

I see photographs of fireworks,

Sydney and Hong Kong,

long before nightfall here.

We celebrate more quietly with a group of friends,

Chinese food dinner,

a tradition going back decades,

before and after children,

the where and how changing over time,

food and friendship

amidst the Christmas decorations and lights,

we discuss our families,

see photos of grandchildren,

and worry about what the election will bring.

Our friends talk of selling their houses and moving,

not because of the election,

but because we’re getting older

(but better, of course

with years of wisdom now)

we’re still us, though greyer and heavier

about our middles,

and we still connect

in the way of old friends,

with jokes, hugs, and glances that can reveal more than words.

 

One friend gives each of us—her sister-friends—

a bracelet,

matching bracelets,

I think of how bracelets

have been worn since ancient times,

good luck charms,

amulets for long life and happiness,

tokens of friendship.

charms linked to one another

connecting them

as we are connected through our bonds of friendship,

as words connect thoughts in a sentence,

expressing ideas and actions,

taking us into the new year and new worlds

describing our past, describing our future,

connecting them in clauses,

independent and dependent

as we are,

free to make choices,

to keep people out or keep them in,

but also, dependent on those around us

not to destroy our lives, our souls, our planet.

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New Year’s Eve, 2016. We are linked, heading into 2017.

 

We can build fences,

or walls,

but are we protecting or defending?

It’s a myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space,

but the lights of cities do glow like beacons,

lights connecting us in the dark,

connected like the water flowing from river to the sea,

the message in a bottle circling the globe,

Help! Find me. I’m lost.

The connection is made.

But, snap!

Who sent the message?

Is it too late to help?

 

The holidays are over, the clock strikes, we turn the page.

It’s a new dawn, with new words,

but still linked to the past like a bracelet.

Open the door,

peek over the fence,

Snap!

feel the beat,

move your feet,

dream of tales as old as time

and of now.

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I wish everyone a happy and peaceful new year. We may be in for quite a bit of turbulence on this journey through 2017. So buckle up! Have that wine and chocolate handy.  I appreciate all of you who read my posts, and I love the friendships and connections I’ve made here. Welcome to my new readers, too! I hope you’ll stick around to see what the new year brings here on Yesterday and Today.

 

 

 

 

 

Shaping the Words

jose_clemente_orozco_-_the_demagogue_-_google_art_project

By José Clemente Orozco (1883 – 1949), The Demagogue” 1946 – painter (Mexican) Born in Jalisco. Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper”

–T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

 

Commencing countdown–

how shall we shape the words

to describe this moment,

did it really happen?

hollow men speak lies—

so many lies—

too many lies—

lies upon lies–

repeated over and over,

they land, seeding fertile brains,

sprouting, growing hate,

a bumper crop this year.

 

Ten, nine, eight–

continue countdown,

centuries of science, exploration,

the processes of experimentation and learning

(inquiring minds want to know)

But the words,

shaped and twisted

turning thought inside out.

“Ignorance is strength,”

cry the demagogues,

as they insist,

two plus two equals five,

and the people cheer.

 

Blast off!

to unseen worlds you go,

but what is your mission?

Do your cylinders and circuits let you dream

and hope there are other beings out there

with other, better words?

I think of how our world might end

with little protest,

a sigh,

a whisper,

but your brief life ended not with a whimper

but with a bang and a crash,

and we are left here to wonder,

what you might have seen

and what truths you might have told us,

and if we would have believed you,

and how we would have shaped the words.

 

This poem is for Secret Keepers Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Brief/End/Shape/Land/Blast

This poem was inspired by the recent crash of the Schiaparelli spacecraft ion Mars, the movie, Denial, and the alternate reality viewpoint of DT and his supporters (among them crazy conspiracy theorists and Neo-Nazis). Also, of course, T.S. Eliot and the book, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

I will be seeing some of Orozco’s work later this week at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, although I’m not sure if the painting above is in the exhibit, “Painting the Revolution.”

 

 

For Beauty to Happen

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Warren:

For beautiful to happen, the beautiful has got to be seen

Deb:

Okay. I like that shade of red right there

The spot where the apple is peeling

It’s deep as an ocean but lighter than air

Warren:

It’s simple, familiar, and full of feeling

Deb:

The color of Saturdays here at the Met

Warren:

The color of shouting from rooftops

Deb:

You bet!

Warren:

The color of feeling that life is okay

Deb:

The color of an ordinary day

Adam Gwon, “Beautiful” from the musical Ordinary Days

 

“What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Giddings”

 

We planned for seventeen

but expected sixteen

I bake challahs,

a freezer full,

enough to give some away.

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I buy brisket,

take the plastic-wrapped tray from the butcher’s hands,

I look at the package–

no, she has never seen my family eat brisket,

I pick up another package.

 

I cook,

we clean,

I buy myself flowers to decorate the table–

we never have flowers inside

because of the cats,

just this once I think.

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A series of texts and calls

and there are now fourteen coming to dinner

then thirteen

then eleven.

Final answer.

As guests start to arrive

(The soup is bubbling on the stove.)

one cat is vomiting.

I’m worried he’s eaten flowers that are toxic,

I confer with daughter on the phone.

It doesn’t look like any of the flowers were nibbled.

I decide he’s probably okay.

(I hope he’s okay.)

 

The sun did not come out,

but there is a beauty to the fall breeze,

an ordinary day, beautiful.

The birds and squirrels chatter to one another,

“Fall is coming.”

 

In this year of bullets and bombs,

of hate-filled speech and lurid lies,

I welcome thoughts of a sweet new year,

old traditions that bring comfort,

even without belief

I don’t need god to believe

in man and woman,

and love.

 

We pour the wine,

my niece makes a toast

she reminds us of the importance of family

of love

of gathering together

of being there when others are in need.

 

We dip our apples in honey,

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We’re eating challah and drinking wine

talking with loved ones

and loving the talk.

(We love to talk.)

 

Dinner is full of symbols for the new year–

cycles, sweetness, prosperity–

in the round shape of the challah

full circles of life,

the ordinary made beautiful on reflection,

the golden pumpkin-yellow split pea soup

the burst of red pomegranate in the salad

the apples

tart and sweet—like life.

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My mom starts to mention traveling to Boston

I catch my niece’s eye–

pour more wine—

oh, family!

 

We talk about TV shows,

we talk about school,

there’s a discussion on teachers and parenting,

middle school kids,

Axe body spray and middle school boys

“It smells like BO,” says my niece

“I’d rather smell a room full of Axe than the smell of boys after gym class,”

says my daughter, who teaches 8th grade.

“I keep air freshener to spray in the room at the end of the day.”

(Perhaps sometimes the ordinary does not smell beautiful. But those kids–bursting with life!)

 

We’ve eaten our fill–

plenty of food–

because what if there isn’t enough!

Food for meat eaters and vegetarians

Brisket

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Turkey

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Noodle Kugel

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and enough for all to take some home

 

And then dessert. We want a very sweet year.

Apple Cake

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Baklava

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And brownies with sea salt, too.

(because chocolate)

 

We missed those who could not join us.

I send the flowers home with my mom.

The beginning and end come full circle.

We clean the house.

My cat is fine.

See the beauty.

It is all around,

in the red of an apple

in the golden flow of honey,

in the eye of your child

in the touch of love,

and in the purr of a cat, too.

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L’Shana Tova

A sweet year!

L’Chaim

To life!

Peace to all

Shalom

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Do Not Stay Silent, Though April Can Be Cruel

Monday Morning Musings

 “April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain. “

–T.S. Eliot. “The Waste Land”

Today is April 13. The sun is rising on what promises to be a lovely spring day in New Jersey with bright sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures rising into the 70s. Yet as T.S. Eliot noted, April can be cruel month. In the warmth and light, as the once white snow melts into the thawing soil, tender buds appear on trees, wisps of green appear in yards and woods, flowers suddenly burst through the ground almost overnight, and birds smartly chirp, “I’m back!”—as new life creeps out from the gray and decay of winter and the natural world is reborn, so are people who have huddled and hidden from the cold. April, a month of life and beauty, is also a time of protest, conflict, and death.

Last week many in the United States celebrated the unofficial ending of the US Civil War 150 years ago, as Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The surrender did not, however, end the fighting entirely, and pockets of insurgency continued for months, followed by years of military occupation of the south and the process of Reconstruction. Five days after the surrender, on April 14, 1865, the well-known actor John Wilkes Booth, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, as he and first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, watched the play, Our American Cousin. In Booth’s eyes and those of his co-conspirators, the war and the southern cause were not finished.

This week in April marks the Week of Remembrance, to remember the Holocaust.

“The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. Each year state and local governments, military bases, workplaces, schools, religious organizations, and civic centers host observances and remembrance activities for their communities. These events can occur during the Week of Remembrance, which runs from the Sunday before Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) through the following Sunday.”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1943. On that date—deliberately chosen because it was the eve of Passover that year–German forces were about to begin an operation to totally liquidate the ghetto. Earlier attempts in the previous fall and winter had been met with resistance, and although thousands of Jewish residents of the ghetto were deported and others were killed in fighting, the Nazis temporarily suspended transports. The renewal of the Nazi attempts to completely liquidate the ghetto was a signal for the Jews there to begin the uprising. Ultimately, the German forces razed the ghetto, and though they expected the fighting to continue for three days, it lasted for over a month. It was an important symbolic fight for Jews throughout occupied Europe. You can read more about it here.

Not all Jews were instantly transported to ghettos and concentration camps. Some hid, helped by others who brought them food and necessities, and who sometimes betrayed them, too. Anne Frank was one of many Jews who hid in secret place during the Holocaust. Most know about her life because of her famous diary, which was published after her death and has been read by millions throughout the world. In recent months, new information has been uncovered, including that she and her sister Margot most likely died in February, not March 1945. Information about her and her life can be found in many places, including the house itself, now a museum and educational center. Here is a link to the Anne Frank House .

Annefrank.org.uk is commemorating Anne Frank’s brief life by celebrating it with her words instead of a with a moment of silence.

“Instead of a one minute’s silence to commemorate the end of Anne Frank’s short life, we invite you to read out loud a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing at any time on or after Tuesday 14th April.” You can find out more here. They ask participants to use the hashtag #notsilent.

This is one of my favorite passages:

“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.
It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

Anne Frank, July 15, 1944

We will never know if Anne would still have written these words after the horrors she witnessed and experienced at Bergen-Belsen before her death there in 1945. But as the passage makes clear, she knew of the horrors; she knew that all around her people were dying, along with the world she had known. While hiding in the Secret Annex, however, she also experienced on a daily basis, the kindness, goodness, and bravery of people who risked their lives and those of their families to help Anne and hers.

Choosing not to be silent can be dangerous, but when possible, it can bring enormous good. Humans have an almost infinite capacity for evil, but I like to think we have the same capacity to be kind. When cruelty and evil can be documented and exposed in cell phone videos, Internet campaigns, and newspaper articles and editorials, it is a good thing, and it’s very different from spreading gossip about people or events. Sharing Anne Frank’s words might not do any tangible good, but hearing and reading her words may inspire others to believe in goodness, and they may demonstrate that though this intelligent, vibrant young woman was destroyed, her spirit lives on. April is also National Poetry Month, and it is a time to celebrate the wonders of human creativity and emotion. We know that even in the concentration camps, some people–against all odds, it seems to me–continued to write, to create art, sing, and play music.

April can be cruel; so can the other months of the year. I choose to see its beauty, the buds on the tree, the sweetly blooming flowers, and the poetry and music of life.

Buds appearing on our old oak tree, April 2015.

Buds appearing on our old oak tree, April 2015.

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