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.

Her Story

 

In a show of power,

he struck her down,

hoping she’d cower

from his bully shout–

you’ve been warned,

and must be punished,

this is what it’s all about,

you’ve violated the rule,

no, I’m not cruel,

you’ve been warned,

now take your seat,

(before I knock you down).

 

History’s age-old tale–

oh, she may flail–

but the shrew must be tamed,

and men are not to blame

if women do not listen–

(do not talk back,

you’ve been warned,

now I’ll teach you a lesson).

With words and whips,

with zippers unzipped,

with laws to subjugate

(it’s a mandate),

victors write the history,

how the story will be told,

but might is not always right,

so, sit tight–

though warned,

nevertheless, she persisted.

 

This is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

This week’s prompt words were:

Power/Show/Thought/Love/Write

 

My Uncle

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Studio portrait of my uncle, undated, taken in Philadelphia

Monday Morning Musings:

My uncle was a kind man,

with a twinkle in his eye.

Perhaps he would not seem remarkable

unless you knew him, knew that

he was curious, with a love of gadgets–

my mom always talked about that–

his latest gadget, she would say,

after he purchased a camera or computer,

an e-reader, or kitchen appliance.

We sat in her apartment, after hearing the news.

We drank to his memory,

blood red wine,

in bright blue plastic cups

like college students at a party.

We ate brownies, remembering

his love of chocolate—

that love, a family trait, it seems

a dominant gene.

“Didn’t he used to pour chocolate syrup

on his cereal?” I asked my mom.

And she laughed, happy memories mixed with sad.

Then she remembered how excited he was

when their father, my grandfather,

sent chocolate Tastykakes to him in Florida.

Isn’t it funny what we remember?

I think of how I never knew my uncle as a young man,

but I’ve heard the tale of how, when they were first married,

my aunt asked my mother how she prepared a particular dish.

My mom replied that she used “the shit method,”

shocking her new sister-in-law.

My mom then explained that she meant shitarein,

a Yiddish phrase,

a little of this and that

thrown together.

It makes a good story.

It’s strange to think of them all so young and carefree,

children of the Great Depression who learned to navigate

the technology of the twenty-first century.

I learned that my aunt and one, perhaps two, of my cousins

lived in our house in Philadelphia for a brief time

when I was a toddler.

Of course, not something I recall,

Though I vaguely remember the big, old house

in Germantown.

My uncle must have been in Miami,

I suppose to get settled there

before his family arrived.

A big move to a new city.

I remember their house, perhaps not their first,

but both of the Miami houses I remember had sunken living rooms—

a feature that I, as a young child, then associated with Miami,

thinking that all Miami houses must be constructed that way.

Random memories of visiting my uncle, aunt, and cousins—

their little dachshund,

(Was her name Penny?),

my aunt playing the piano late at night,

the music forming a soothing backdrop to my dreams,

swimming in their pool,

playing board games,

and when my husband and I visited

shortly after becoming engaged,

I remember my cousin baking cookies in a microwave oven,

the first one I’d even seen (See: gadgets, above).

I was a young mother when I read

my uncle’s hilarious account of pooping

while sitting out Hurricane Andrew–

sitting, you understand, taking on more than one meaning here.

He and my aunt huddled in that inside corridor–

except for that brief, and necessary foray into the bathroom,

umbrella held strategically—no shitarein story this time, the literal thing.

I wish I still had that letter,

but relieved a bit there were no selfies then.

Only my uncle could have made such a terrifying experience

laugh out loud funny—

in retrospect.

Real-time texts might have revealed a different story.

 

After the storm,

they emerged to find destruction all around them,

and then the rebuilding began.

Yet their foundation was strong.

Years later,

I remember my aunt and uncle coming to Philadelphia

for my mom’s 85th birthday.

My daughters said, “Uncle Irv smells so good.”

I have no idea what the scent was,

but I think it was his own—

as if kindness and genuine interest

in people and places enveloped him.

We all loved him.

He died as he lived,

gently, without a fuss

with his true love by his side.

A star has gone from our family universe

leaving a black hole

dense with memories

but without the twinkling of life and light.

Perhaps with time,

just as starlight travels

across the vastness of space,

so in our hearts

we will find that light again.

 

 

 

Sound and The Hard Problem

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Monday Morning Musings:

 “Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth, (Act V, Scene v)

“Someone tells you you can run the film backward billions of years to an enormous bang and nothing but particles joining up into big clumps like this one one, except not like this one—because on this one the chemistry came alive and kicked into an algorithm that kept unspooling till there was you collecting spit from a poker game, and you don’t bat an eyelid.”

–Tom Stoppard, The Hard Problem

 

Scientists tell us that the universe was created with a bang,

Not with a whimper. Although who knows, for sure

What existed before our world?

Was there a before?

Or did time begin then, too?

 

Who heard the dawn of the universe?

Was there another universe

With other creatures who lived then?

Did they have wings to fly about their planets?

Were they shaped in the image of the gods

That humans fashioned?

 

Now scientists have re-created the sound

Of our universe’s birth.

Did sound exist before then?

Was there anyone, anything

Who felt that shock

The birth

The first cry of the newborn universe?

 

I ponder the glory of sound

And what we do for music,

Tapping out rhythms with a pencil

On a desk

Singing nonsense songs

To babies.

Humans throughout time

Talking, whistling, singing

Infants reacting to our voices

Even in the womb.

 

Animals, too.

Cats meowing to humans,

Whales singing to other whales

Wolves howling

Birds chirping,

Learning new songs

To communicate.

They have dialects, you know.

 

When I was young

We had one telephone with a long cord

And an extension in my parents’ bedroom.

When my mother was a child

They did not have a phone

Until her parents got one for their store.

But people want to connect

To hear voices

And sounds.

In the old Soviet Union,

People recorded rock and roll on X rays

Black market trade in sound

On bones made visible by light.

 

I wonder at the beauty of our Earth.

As we drive over the bridge

Heading west, the clouds so low

I feel that I can almost touch them.

A trick of mind and perspective

Light bending

Mind bending

Well, I have no spatial sense

That’s why I almost failed geometry.

But I’m great a memorizing

And I understand logic

And beauty

And the sounds of nature too,

As we know it here

In our tiny part of the universe,

The tumbling of waves,

The patter of rain

The buzzing of a bee on

A sunny summer day.

 

We see a play,

The Hard Problem,*

Leave it to Tom Stoppard

To tackle the subject of

What is consciousness?

How does the brain

Differ from the mind?

We listen intently

A man plays a saxophone

Mournful,

Or are they hopeful, riffs

Echoed and echoing

During the scene changes

We discuss the play afterward.

While drinking coffee—

(Hear the perking

Smell that divine scent

Taste its flavor)

I think of the movie,

Ex Machina

Can an android truly think?

Yes, machines can play chess.

Certainly, they can hear,

But what does that mean?

It senses vibrations.

Can a machine truly feel?

The tree falls in the forest

The big bang occurs

Would other beings cry

If they heard Barber’s Adagio for Strings?