With Shards and Shatters, Magic Comes

Monday Morning Musings:

Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”

–Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden 

“When you look at a piece of delicately spun glass you think of two things: how beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.”

–Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

I dream about time

and death

and mothers mad with a thousand aches

whose cries shatter the skies

like glass

yet never disturb the shadow figures

or the thunder clouds of war and destruction.

The manufacturers of death never go out of business

and the rain only washes the surface blood away

 

We go searching for magic

in the break between storms

when the sky is blue

May in Old City Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the world around us is green

on what were abandoned lots

filled with trash,

we find magic, human made

from glass and stone,

Philadelphia Magic Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sparkling, glittering, honed

with skill, passion, artistic vision–

whimsy combined with social justice

and a creative spirit

 

We walk down South Street

(“Where do all the hippies meet?”)

“You must know where all the bodies are buried,”

says one man to another at a café table.

He agrees he does,

and while I want to know more,

we keep walking, till

a police officer stops us,

on the sidewalk,

not to ask us about bodies,

but instead, to talk up a restaurant,

“They make the best gyros, full of meat.

I eat there all the time.”

Do we look hungry, I wonder?

We thank him,

keep walking,

observing magic all around,

sometimes you just have to look up.

South Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wander through shady green–

Hoping these souls are at rest—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and seeing magic all around us,

in the sparrows flitting and chirping in the bushes

and in the flowers glowing in the sunlight.

Christ Church Garden, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In between storms,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

when lightning flashes

and rain, first pounds

then tinkles delicately—

like glass chimes–

we look for Earth’s magic

reborn

in plants and vegetables,

strawberries,

tasting of sunlight and summer heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so, we recall,

that life is luscious still

look through glass darkly

see what is half empty,

half full,

mend the broken shatters

into a thing of beauty.

And on this cloudy day

while people mourn and celebrate

the fragility of life

I will think of magic,

baking a pie that tastes

of sunlight and summer heat

and life, tart and sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.

We visited Philadelphia Magic Gardens a few days ago and then walked around Old City.

We went to Joan’s Farm Stand, in Mickleton, NJ.

 

 

Time is the Longest Distance Between Two Places

Jak001

“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
~ Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

I mentioned my grandfather—my mother’s father—to a friend in a cycle class at the gym last week. I told her that he had been in great physical shape even when he was in his nineties because he walked everywhere. He walked several miles every day. (And yes, thank you, I do get the irony that I drive a car to the gym to ride a bike.)

Later I was thinking about my grandfather, and it suddenly struck me that he was born in the last decade of the nineteenth-century. Of course, I knew that, but now that we’re on our way to the second decade of the twenty-first century, the realization that I had known someone who was born in the nineteenth century—not simply the previous century, but the one before that—slammed into my brain like a thought-wave missile. Actually both of my grandfathers, as well as some other relatives were born in the nineteenth-century, so I’ve conversed and interacted with people who might even have known people who were born in the eighteenth-century. How wild is that?

 
Last weekend, my husband and I attended an honors and awards ceremony and dinner for our younger daughter, who will graduate from college in a couple weeks. I looked at her and her classmates, bright and glowing with that youthful radiance that does not last, but is oh-so-beautiful while it does. They are all so eager and fearful to face the world. Excited, trembling, and ready to vomit all at the same time. I imagine it is something like the feeling my daughter has when she is ready to make an entrance onto a theatre stage, only this time the stage is the real world.
I tell her it will all work out. Just decide what you want to do now; you don’t have to decide what you will do for the rest of your life. I want her to find success, but even more, I want her to be happy.

 
When my grandfather was about the age of these soon-to-be college graduates, he literally stepped onto a new stage, an unknown world. He crossed an ocean to do so, and never returned to his homeland. He was a Russian Jew, escaping persecution and hoping for a better life in America. He was one of about 1.75 million Jews who came from Eastern Europe to the US between 1900 and 1924, when tighter immigration restrictions were put into place. By 1920, Russian Jews made up the largest immigrant population in Philadelphia. Shortly after my grandfather arrived in Philadelphia, he was drafted into the US Navy, in what was not to be “the War to End All Wars.”

 
My grandfather was born before commercial air flights were commonplace; for that matter, before cars were common. (The first gasoline-powered cars were invented toward the end of the nineteenth-century. See .) However, he traveled in both. He did not have a telephone as a child. He died before computers were an essential feature of everyday life in the US. I suspect he would have enjoyed Facebook though and seeing photos of grandchildren and great-children.

 
My grandparents were practical people. College was for their son, not their daughter, who would surely get married, although secretarial school was an acceptable compromise. After he retired though, this practical man learned to paint and discovered the joys of ballroom dancing with other retirees in Miami Beach. When my husband and I got married, my grandfather attempted to dance with every woman, young and old, at the reception. I think he succeeded.

 
My younger sister and I saw my grandfather only once or twice a year. My cousins in Miami saw him regularly. The relationship between parents and children and grandparents and children is different. My mother was sometimes impatient and annoyed with her father—he was her dad, and he could be stubborn. My sister and I loved that he was the grandfather who had countless hours to play hide and seek with us, to take us on long walks, and to show us surprises like the duck pond that we did not know existed near our house. When I was in college he wrote letters to me—that to my regret, I did not keep. Each letter was one long run-on sentence. The words were spelled phonetically as he pronounced them in his accented English. I loved receiving these letters. He did not live to see the books I’ve written or to know my children.

 
When I was at college, I called my mom once a week. Collect. From the payphone in dormitory hallway. In contrast, I communicate with my college daughter through text, Facebook, email, and phone calls almost every day.

 

I only knew my grandfather as an old man. I look at a photograph of him as a young man, and I know he must have had the hopes, dreams, fears that we all have when we are young. He was born an ocean away and in a time that now seems like ancient history. Yet, he was young once. He sailed across a sea. He fell in love. He raised a family, and he lived to see his grandchildren grow up. Time and space separate and connect us.

“There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.”
EUGENE O’NEILL, A Moon for the Misbegotten