I apologize for posting across social media, but some people follow me only on this blog. I an honored to have three poems in David L. O’Nan’s massive (over 300 pages) anthology, Poets of 2020. There are so many wonderful poets in this volume–many well-known names! The book is available in several formats. Here’s the US link.
Monday Morning Musings
“If we're lucky ghosts and prayers
Are company, not enemies
I time travel straight back there
You were singing back to me”
--Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Between Dirt and Stars”
Without a dawn, this day doesn’t break
but drifts from darkness, to violet, then grey–
now beating on the windowpanes,
the rain silver-streaks in drumming beats
and we wait for November storms to rinse the month away.
Perhaps December will come in bright with holiday,
and corona will again define only the gaseous light
of incandescent sun and shimmery moon—come soon
this ending of our sorrow,
this longing for tomorrow–
still, I seize what happiness I can find
in river walks and talks with loved ones, unwind
the spools of memory in conversations of before–
do you remember, I say? And we discuss and laugh,
cry over photographs. We dine apart, with heavy hearts–
cranberry sauce red-berry bright, though unshaped, no art
to recreate what is not there. We’re plague-parted
and squirrels must wait, even as they congregate
on lawns and trees and parks. They scurry now
in autumnal flurry, readying for winter’s cold—
and we get older, I’ll not say old—not yet—
there’s more to say and do, to live without regret
for what once was. To hear the ghosts, to mourn,
to cry a storm—I toss a stone, torn
between yesterday and now
but grateful for what I have.
I listen to the singer sing of love and loss
of memories and dreams—
tears may fall like rain in streams,
but love remains beyond timelines,
never ending, there within, we remember
November ends, on to December,
with candles and cheer, we’ll lighten the gloom,
Zoom our love soon with latkes and wine,
dine and eat doughnuts, cookies, and cake—
celebrate solstice, watch the stars align
in happier fortunes, we’ll look for hopeful signs
in the fury and scurrying of squirrels and storms,
the resting of ghosts in time’s circling arms,
heed and harken how the waves flow and recede,
and carry the seeds
that bloom on a future shore. Just like before—
there’s no more and more.
We have steady rain right now, though it’s warm for November. We may get thunderstorms though as a cold front comes in. Here in the US, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past Thursday, when it rained in the morning, and then was warm enough for many families to gather safely outside. We had a pre-Thanksgiving snack outside with one daughter. It was strange to not be together with everyone. My niece’s daughter and husband made our traditional cranberry squirrel, and the rest of us saw it only in photos. On the left is one from a previous Thanksgiving at my house, and the right is this year. It’s nice they have a similar gold-rimmed platter.
Merril’s Movie/Concert/TV Club: Last night, we streamed Mary Chapin Carpenter’s concert, “One Night Lonely,” performed live at Wolf Trap on November 27. She was alone on the stage, and there was no audience. I thought we were going to watch it for brunch, but it didn’t work out. I did make bagels though.
We finished The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix), which I highly recommend. I was almost ready to watch three episodes the first night. I’ve heard chess sets are in great demand now because of the show.
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.”
“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.”
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,
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
I look to the sky
the flocking of birds in flight.
We gather with family
hope there’s no drama
or not too much.
Some come from lunch
to share our dinner
and so, we talk and laugh,
and most definitely eat (repeat)
(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–
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
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
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.
Monday Morning Musings:
“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”
“The sky is already purple; the first few stars have appeared, suddenly, as if someone had thrown a handful of silver across the edge of the world.”
Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth
The leaves strive to stay,
pops of color dot the landscape
brightening the grey
but falling, flying, drifting so
as autumn grows colder,
they must go
as does the day
soon the shadows lengthen
silently sliding their way
along pavement and ground
above bare branches wave
without a sound.
Violet turns midnight blue
and a glimmering filigree of light
dots the sky, like morning dew.
Twilight—this magic time
when fairy tales sprout
in the mind—and so I rhyme
Once– if tale be told–
my arm up a turkey,
the day frigid cold
I shoo away a sniffing cat
look at the bird’s freakishly long neck–
wonder what kind of dinosaur was that?*
Survival and extinction
I continue the job
I won’t eat it but some
will, it’s the family holiday deal
a mixture of traditions and love
along with the holiday meal.
And so, we gather together
unmold the cranberry squirrel—to cheers–
bask in weirdness, warmth in the cold weather.
On this night of full beaver moon
we eat, drink, laugh, and talk
though ever present the tune
of what will be and what was past,
we try to stay in the moment, mindful
that we cannot know what is cast
by the auger’s stones
our fate with the stars
unknown, until felt in our bones.
We eat leftovers for days–
and drink more wine
walk and sleep in holiday haze,
then we sleep and dream
of a million things
forgotten at dawn, the theme
who knows? I hear the birds sing
amidst November gloom–
a little winged thing
can achieve wonders, I think,
cat on a lap, a book, a cup of tea—
yes, back to food and drink.
In sunny weather, we go to see
a Swedish film, not comedy,
a fairy tale, of sorts, it seems to me
border can be taken in many ways
as can gender and eye of the beholder
much in the world and nature may amaze
a fable may hold truth—
no matter about who or what is told
shy or bold, cultured, or uncouth
Magic all around us
in glowing leaves and laughing speech
known and unknown worlds, ever thus–
And so, we talk
drink our coffee and catch our train,
then our shadows take a walk—
and soon we’re home again
to sleep under the silvered sky,
to dream of wondrous, magic things,
to ask without answers all the whys,
to hear the stars sing and to them fly.
*I read this article on Thanksgiving.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with family (missing older daughter and her wife) and friends. For those who are new, our cranberry squirrel is a beloved family tradition. The unmolding of it is part of the tradition, and this year my sister made a very funny recording of the event. We saw the Swedish movie, Border. Trailer here. As the trailer says, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It is definitely unusual, but my husband and I liked it. Coincidentally, I’m reading a book that is also a sort of fairy tale but that is set in the area of the world where my ancestors came from. Perhaps more about that in a future post.
Count the place settings,
fifteen gather for dinner
on Thanksgiving night,
ghosts sit amongst us—hear them?
They are welcome, too.
This is an untraditional tanka for Frank’s Haikai challenge, using the prompt Thanksgiving, and Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge using synonyms for celebrate and number. I’ve been busy with work and Thanksgiving prep, and I’m behind on reading posts. I’ll catch-up over the weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the holiday, and happy Thursday to everyone else.
Monday Morning Musings:
“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,. . .”
Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”
“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”
–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
“Perhaps this piece of evolution makes no sense—our hunger for everyday sorts of visual pleasure—but I don’t think so, I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.”
–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God
The long holiday weekend is filled with family, food, love, and traditions
my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing
it’s a calling, a mission, with certain conditions
some fluid, others unchanging
though life does some rearranging
through time and space
and so, I flashback in my mind to my sister and me
watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves
while our mother is at the stove
producing the magic of holiday meals
(then not appreciated, but now, oh the feels)
Now daughter and I, we break the bread
and watch The Gilmore Girls instead
done the day before,
crossing off this chore,
from the to-do list
and while the old, might be missed
a new holiday tradition it seems is born
taking place while the bread is torn
because sometimes we require them
even when the holiday is filled with so many.
On the big day—what to do
when our designated squirrel un-molder is not here?*
Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers
Offering advice on this and sundry matters
as the cranberry sauce does not want to leave the mold:
more hot water
use a spatula
Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,
she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.
She can’t bang it, it’s a hundred-year old thing.
There will be no banging!
Come on little squirrel we love you.
do it do it do it
Oh my gosh I think it’s happening
The crowd goes wild:
Another year with the squirrel!
and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink
discuss scuba diving and money laundering
the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts
(she doesn’t, but the thought produces much laughter).
We discover how many people it takes to get
a ninety-five-year-old woman up the stairs to the bathroom
wonder if we’re doomed,
but at least three, it seems,
still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams
watched by the spirits of those no longer with us
it is ever thus,
the ghosts of holidays past,
“remember when,” the common refrain
joining in a train
the days from before
to what will come hence
past and future tense
a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,
like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made
layers laid atop one another,
savory, tart, and just a little sweet
the art of distinct layers that together seep
to form when mixed through
something entirely new.
The next day, we take our older daughter and her wife
on a journey to see visual pleasures
in nature and art, such treasures
a visit with the boating party
scream at monsters
or just scream
dine by the water
and dance in the woods
we hear America sing
its varied songs
and glory in Impressionistic delight
Later, we eat leftovers
and watch The Blair Witch Project–
because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–
America singing its varied carols
We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room
Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter
as he describes the wine and other matters
it is a beautiful fall day
and so, we decide to stay
to sit outside
while we imbibe
watching the soaring hawks
and listening to others talk
looking at the daytime moon
enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.
We eat Pakistani food
and meet out daughter and son-in-law’s neighbors
who have become friends–the kind of whom you can ask favors,
we discuss how our daughters sound alike,
one tells how she used to sneak about at night,
and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories
(the glory of parental territory)
perhaps the start of a new tradition,
of perhaps it is sufficient
to see and relish the present and the everyday.
Now, it’s four o’clock Monday morning,
we’re awake for the sake
of our daughter and her wife
who have to catch their flight
though it seems the middle of the night,
yet I’m strangely alert
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear
of parents and children saying goodbye
of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,
when they could be constructing something good instead
of children going off to school
hoping they will learn some tools
to navigate this brave new world
that has such people in’t
both good and bad
some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,
for truth and beauty to negate the hate
I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,
and over us, the moon hums her tune
I watch for the sun to rise in autumn beauty–soon
*I explained the tradition of the cranberry squirrel in this post.
for life, love, and food,
around the table to eat
where ghosts watch, smiling
as we make toasts to
spirits in our memories
sit with us in peace
This is a Shadorma for Eliot’s November Challenge.
Monday Morning Musings:
“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.”
–Paul Simon, “An American Tune”
“In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest;
Happiness, knowledge, not in another place, but this place—not for another hour, but this hour.”
–Walt Whitman, “Carol of Occupations,” Leaves of GrassPreparation, Anticipation
- Preparation, Anticipation:
I don’t feel as organized this year,
distracted by the election, by the news, by work
and this and that,
still, I cook applesauce, bake challah and pumpkin bread,
placing them in the freezer to wait for the holiday,
I make mushroom gravy,
(which, by the way, is delicious)
while listening to “Hamilton,”
dancing around the kitchen,
grandchild of immigrants,
I sing an American tune,
preparing for this holiday of food and gratefulness.
Two days before Thanksgiving
younger daughter comes over to break bread for stuffing,
packages of sliced white bread
(stuff I would never buy to eat),
it’s what we have always used for stuffing
a family tradition for this family holiday.
My sister and I used to break bread while watching
then–long ago–my mother made the stuffing,
but time passes the tradition baton to the next generation,
or, perhaps a different metaphor,
a page turned in a book,
the story continues, characters die, new ones appear,
the plot changes, and who knows how it will end?
But we are here in this hour, in this story, happy and grateful.
We watch an old episode of Gilmore Girls,
It is Thanksgiving in Stars Hollow,
mother and daughter—them, not us—
eat four Thanksgiving dinners in one day.
We laugh, as we break the bread into small pieces,
letting them fall, filling my huge stock pot
(did I mention we like stuffing?)
and try to imagine eating four Thanksgiving meals.
H. calls later that night,
Did the cranberry sauce jell last year? I’m trying to figure out how long it needs to cook?
Cooking is not an exact science with us,
it’s done by taste and feel,
with sometimes a ghost or two hovering nearby
they whisper in our heads,
You do it like that.
Remember that time?
At H’s house, on Thanksgiving Eve, there is a family cranberry sauce making activity.
I have given her the cherished squirrel mold,
and with my 94-year-old mother in attendance,
they cook, strain, and pour the mixture in the mold.
- The Holiday Meal
On Thanksgiving, here at my house,
my sister-in-law unmolds the sauce.
“You do it once, and it becomes your job,” she says,
It takes three of us to wrangle the cooked turkey onto the board to carve it.
Wine opening, similarly becomes a joint effort
after the corkscrew breaks and the cork is shredded on two bottles.
But we need wine at Thanksgiving,
and where there’s a will, there’s a way–
with a new corkscrew and bit of muscle.
To my mom:”Are you okay, do you need anything?”
Reply, “Life is good, I just finished my wine.”
Food and conversation flow around the table
(like the wine)
tidbits of both, chewed, swallowed, or scattered like crumbs,
we all say we miss our older daughter and her wife,
but they will be with us next year,
we tease my great-niece about her boyfriend
We’re only in seventh grade!
We laugh when my great nephew exclaims,
“That’s why we’re sisters!”
(and then realizes what he said).
We have discussions about other Thanksgiving meals,
younger daughter has made mashed rutabaga
for her daddy because his grandmother used to make it,
there is mention of carb-free Thanksgivings–
a group shudder, unthinkable.
We discuss my mother’s mother’s cooking.
she koshered the meat, salting it till it was too dry to eat,
my older sister says,
but she was a good baker, my sister says,
“She excelled at carbs!”
We eat, we drink, we are more stuffed than the Thanksgiving turkey,
and there is still dessert–
But it’s all right, it’s all right,
it’s part of the American tune,
songs of many cultures,
songs of immigrants,
songs of many types of love,
because love is love–
I am so grateful for this family.
Then it’s over, everyone leaves,
the hiding cat reappears
My husband, designated driver and dishwasher, texts me that he’s stuck in traffic
I put “Hamilton” on again
dance around the kitchen while I take care of dishes
And then it’s time to get some rest.
- The Day After
Younger daughter comes over to watch the NEW Gilmore Girls series.
We are so excited,
we eat Thanksgiving leftovers–and watch the entire series,
Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Gilmore Girls practically demands binge watching and binge eating,
we do our part.
Happiness in this hour,
and the next
and the next
(stopping to make coffee and get some pie)
Ghosts from the past on the TV screen,
ghosts from our past, too,
before daughters were grown and married.
Time has marched on for both our families—the Gilmore’s and my own,
people lost, and people added to the family,
life comes full circle,
there is happiness in this time,
in this place,
it’s an American tune
and after the holiday is over
it’s time to get some rest.
I love Thanksgiving. To me, it has never been a holiday about shopping. It’s a holiday that’s all about food. And being thankful for food. And being thankful for having family and friends—with whom you can share food. Do you sense a theme? It’s about sitting at the table, talking and relaxing over food and wine.
I love the scents that envelop the house as the turkey roasts and the gravy simmers. These scents evoke long ago memories of past Thanksgivings, or perhaps better stated, they evoke long ago feelings from past Thanksgivings, feelings of warmth, comfort, and joy. I don’t know why, but it makes me happy.
I love my crazy, dysfunctional family. I don’t care if there is stupid, family drama. I still love them and love having them here. I will try to remain calm if tempers flare. (And if not, there’s always more wine. . .and food. . .and chocolate.)
I love our family Thanksgiving traditions—our cranberry squirrel (you can read about it here), our breaking bread to make stuffing, and our having to eat the same food every year.
I will miss not having our older daughter here, but I am happy for her that she gets to spend Thanksgiving with her new wife, and I’m grateful that her in-laws are so welcoming. I am happy that our younger daughter will be with us again this year. I am thankful that my 92-year-old mother is still able to celebrate the holiday at our Thanksgiving table.
We are expecting a winter storm today. The rain is starting to pick up now, and it’s expected to turn to snow. I am thankful that my family is not traveling today. For those of you who are traveling today, I wish you a safe and uneventful journey.
I know that many of my friends have lost loved ones, and I know Thanksgiving is a reminder of their loss. I am sorry, and my heart aches for you. Please know that you can call me, and that I will be thinking of you. I know I will be in that situation some day. That makes me more all the more thankful for what I have now.
I know that many believe the world is broken. I have no answers. . .
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And what is a world without hope? I am thankful for hope and grateful for all those who strive to make the world a better place.
I am thankful to have submitted my latest book manuscript and that all my test writing assignments are completed, so now I can relax and cook and enjoy my family. I’ve done much of the Thanksgiving cooking already—breads are baked and in the freezer, soon to be thawed. Applesauce and vegetarian gravy are thawing now. My younger daughter and I will be baking and cooking today and tomorrow. My house will be filled with the scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, onions, and turkey. I will break bread for stuffing with my daughter as we catch up on Scandal or binge watch The Gilmore Girls on Netflix. We will shoo cats away from the food, and we will not dare to set the table until the last minute. The house will not be spotless, but I won’t care. I will feel grateful for it all.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Thank you for reading!
Here in the United States, Hanukkah, which begins tonight, and Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow, overlap. Even though I will be cooking two big dinners back-to-back, I am so excited! I love to get together with family and friends—and I love to eat. I am looking forward to the mixing and blending of foods, traditions, and people over the next few days.
My family has strong holiday food traditions—there are particular foods we MUST have at each holiday. Some of these developed or evolved in my childhood, or even before—others I have established with my husband and children. The cranberry squirrel is absolutely essential on Thanksgiving. I told my mother yesterday—and I was only half-joking—that to not have it on Thanksgiving would be a tragedy of epic proportions. She and my niece will be making it today.
I discussed the cranberry squirrel in previous post.
Because our family cooks mainly by the shit arein method (Yiddish for throwing in a bit of this and that), we don’t have real recipes for most of the dishes we prepare, but somehow everything is always delicious. Just as a little of this and a little of that goes into a mixing bowl to produce something scrumptious–something different and better than its individual ingredients–so, too, does our family evolve from individuals who become a part of it. Each person that joins our group brings something to the table that builds upon our traditions, or they help to create new ones.
One of our Thanksgiving side dishes is creamed onions, a dish that I recently learned was something my father’s mother made. When my parents married, my mom learned to make them because my father expected to have them on the table. As one of my daughters and I do not eat meat, our meal now always includes vegetarian gravy, along with turkey gravy. Because another daughter does not like cranberry sauce, I always make applesauce, too. At the same time, there will also be plenty of turkey for those who mostly do eat meat.
We will use china that belonged to my mother, and dishes purchased more recently. My daughters and their partners will be here, along with my sisters, brother, my mother, my husband’s mother, and my niece, her husband, and their children. On Friday night, we’ll have a Hanukkah dinner that will include some family members and some friends. Most of them do not celebrate Hanukkah, but they enjoy taking part in our celebration—and eating latkes, of course.
This will be my mother-in-law’s first Hanukkah celebration with us. When I was thinking about Hanukkah and the tradition of eating fried food during it, I decided to make Welsh Cookies—because along with the pies and other Thanksgiving goodies, and the donuts that we’ll have for Hanukkah, we should have cookies in the house, right? These cookies are popular in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area, where my in-laws were born. The cookies are similar to tea cakes, but they are cooked on a griddle, like a pancake. I had never heard of these cookies until I met my future husband when we were in 9th grade (I’ll pause while you say, “awwww”). This recipe is an adaptation of the recipe I got years ago from my husband’s grandmother.
Enjoy these with a cup of coffee or tea. To all who celebrate Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah, I wish you happy holidays. I hope you have traditions you cherish.
Thanks for reading!
5 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
3 tsp. Baking Powder
1 ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp. Salt
Cut into the above—by hand or by using a food processor
¾ lb. Butter
1 Cup Currants
3 Eggs beaten with a fork, plus enough milk to make 1 cup liquid.
Mix well, and roll out—not too thin. Cut into rounds and cook on an ungreased griddle. They cook quickly!