Yet, See, Things I know

Monday Morning Musings:

“I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”
--Sylvia Plath, Mad Girl’s Love Song

Ice Puddle at Red Bank Battlefield, ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

We prepare for winter
with blankets, tea, and books,
candles to light the nooks
of home, as heart, brain
given free rein, see in the shadows,
ghosts, cold, pain,

the fear of what frozen months bring,
the fear of known and unknown things—

we prepare to be together,
we prepare to be apart

our hearts sing, sigh
say goodbye in forlorn wandering
the air waves, weaves strands of grey with light
though it also shoots frozen silver darts–

yet, see

there’s magic still simmering, glimmering
at the surface where sea serpents shed their scaly skin
to dance with water sprites

Waves of water, sand, and air. A sea serpent leave her skin. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and eagles soar from bare-branched trees,
again into light,
over the river, the sky is grey

but the gulls rise, and there are patches of blue–
spring is coming

Clouds

despite the mud-stomped snow,
the geese know time flows

“we’re coming, we’re coming,” they honk and cry,

it’s coming, Spring,
the cardinal couples call,
and the nuthatches laugh,
and the crows gather (not murderous at all)
but aware

that love is in the air.

Valentine’s Welsh Cookies

And if I made you up,
then a wondrous dream it’s been,

there will be more snow, but in birdwing flight
and woodpecker’s drumming

I know spring is coming.

Merril’s Movie Club: So, you know, pandemic. . .we didn’t go anywhere. AND, the GOP senators, except for seven, couldn’t find their spines, or even worse, don’t care to. So. . .I really wanted to see a Merril movie, the kind we would have seen in a Philadelphia theater. I rented one from an NYC arthouse theater instead (filmforum.org). It’s less expensive than going to the movies, but of course, there are more distractions at home, so the experience is not the same. We rented, Preparation to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, Hungary’s entry for the Academy Awards. It’s a noirish story of a neurosurgeon who after meeting a man at a conference in New Jersey, plans to meet him in a month in the Liberty Bridge at the Pest side in Budapest. He doesn’t show up, and when she tracks him down, he says he doesn’t know her. Thus, begins a story of did she imagine this whole romance? My husband and I both liked the movie a lot—he was still talking about it the next day. It’s not up there with Cold War (sigh), but it’s still a good movie, beautifully filmed. The quote from Sylvia Plath was at the beginning of the movie.

He slept through the movie.

Enduring Dreams

Reflections. The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

How does the Earth begin its spin each day?
With constancy it turns to seek the light
of sun, then sister stars dance in their way
sparkling the darkling, glimmering the night.
And with these sights, so constant and so true,
the physics of space, the motions that trace
the course of years, our course, being with you
through sorrow, more joy, a smile on your face,
even as lines delve deeper, gray grows hair,
the trees once green are dusted with the snow,
fledglings feather-wing themselves in the air
catching the currents, soaring through wind-blow—
and I watch the river glow as it flows
reflecting dreams, life, us, endures and goes.

My attempt at a Shakespearean sonnet for Ingrid’s EIF Sonnet Sunday for Valentine’s Day. I don’t quite have the meter right, but it’s a first draft and written at 6 AM. Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.

February Surprise: I Carry Your Heart

Monday Morning Musings:

My daughters and I threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my husband this past weekend, just before Valentine’s Day. He thought he was going to a party for one of our daughters. Today is the official celebration of Washington’s birthday (now always on a Monday). It is sometimes called “Presidents’ Day” and combined with Lincoln’s birthday. The line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” comes from E.E. Cummings.

 

On February 22nd,

When I was young,

We colored and cut,

We painted and pasted

Images of George Washington

Our first president.

A true commander-in-chief

Tested in battle.

The American Cincinnatus,

The first US President,

A slaveholder,

Fighting for freedom.

He carried the hopes of a nation

In his heart.

 

Our February schooldays,

Included holiday units,

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,

Whose birthday we celebrated on the twelfth of February.

And so we carried home to our parents

Our construction paper masterpieces,

Revolutionary era silhouettes,

And tales of truthful George and Honest Abe,

Two leaders in war time–

One war to create a new nation

The other to keep it from dissolving.

Revolution and Civil War,

Battle lines crossed, battlefields bloodied.

And as for politics. Do you think it uncivil now?

Look again at the past.

Early campaigns filled with slander, lies, and duels.

Representative Preston Brooks

Beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane

In a senate chamber in 1856.

Remember that?

I can imagine it today–

Perhaps battery by selfie stick

After a series of vitriolic tweets.

Any subject is possible.

But then it was a bill, new territories,

Popular Sovereignty, Bleeding Kansas,

And Civil War.

Slavery,

Owning other humans.

Indefensible, irredeemable

And yet, we forget

Events long gone, now

Backlit, perhaps a bit of uplighting,

To infuse a rosy glow

And make the past seem romantic?

O Captain! my Captain!

O heart!

Crimes of the past we carry, along with our celebrations.

 

We also celebrated Valentine’s Day in school,

A holiday that combines ancient Roman fertility rites

And Christian saints.

There’s a combination.

Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote one of the first Valentines

In 1415 to his wife.

He had been captured at the Battle of Agincourt

And wrote poetry while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

He was held captive for twenty-four years,

Plenty of time to reflect and write, though I think it

Just a teeny bit drastic for a writer’s retreat, don’t you?

But no such poetry for our school day parties.

We had pre-printed Valentines–

Roses are red, and violets are blue–

To place in the paper bags decorated with hearts,

A Valentine for each classmate.

We had cupcakes and juice,

Sweet crumbs clinging to our fingers

Like dreams in our hearts

We carried both throughout the day.

 

Our first date, was a school Christmas dance.

Just before my birthday,

A cold December night,

But we were warm with teenage hopes and expectation,

The giddiness of youth.

My mom told my aunt, you “seemed like a nice boy.”

I don’t know what your parents said.

We’ve celebrated many birthdays, and Valentine’s, too,

Since that long ago night.

I’ve carried your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).

 

This year you were surprised

Both by the passage of years–

Are we both nearly 60?–

And by the party.

I worried about the last minute snow

That people would not show,

That things would not go as planned.

But all went went.

And you,

Yes, surprised,

And touched, I think,

By the love that people carry for you

In their hearts.

 

Our daughters, also with February births,

Like you and our Presidents. Our

Family celebrations carried through the month.

We had Valentine’s birthday parties for them

When they were young.

Little girls making heart-shaped cards,

Pink and red, glitter and glue,

Gifts for us and for each other.

Chocolate cakes, sundaes with mountains of toppings,

And sleepovers in the living room.

Later they had their own Valentines,

High school dances, and college romances.

And now our babies are grown

They’ve found love

Beyond parents, friends, and pets

Though those remain, of course,

Because love grows when it is nurtured

It is infinite and endless.

It cannot be contained, though it is carried.

There can never be too much love

To fit,

To hold,

To carry in my heart

With your heart.

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Valentine’s Day Wine and Chocolate at Monroeville Winery

Valentine’s Day Wine and Chocolate: Heritage Vineyards

My husband and I usually don’t do anything special on Valentine’s Day because of all the February birthdays in our family. This year, however, since Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday, we decided to attend a wine and chocolate event at Heritage Vineyards. (This was a New Jersey Wine Trail event, and wineries throughout the state had wine and chocolate events.)

The obligatory Selfie

The obligatory Selfie

We’ve been to Heritage Vineyards before, and we like many of the wines they produce. The vineyard is located in Mullica Hill, NJ. There were three ticketed time slots for the event (also held on the 15th), and we went to the last one, which began at 4 PM. I really know very little about wine, so these are simply my impressions and not a review. After checking-in, we received our glasses, and a woman, who poured us a Moscato Spritz, greeted us with a “Happy Valentine’s Day”. The drink was light and refreshing. We then moved to the Wine and Chocolate Pairing, held in the heated tent.

Wine and Chocolate Pairing

Wine and Chocolate Pairing

The woman who poured for us (I believe her name tag said Kim) was great. She was knowledgeable and friendly, despite having been there since 9 AM. The pairings all worked very well, even though some of the wines were not wines we’d choose to buy. I really enjoyed the Late Harvest Chambourcin, a port-like dessert wine. I’m not a fan of sweet wines, but this was a great dessert wine that worked with the dark chocolate drizzled Oreo. (I’m also not really a fan of Oreos, but it was delicious with the wine.)

I like wine.

I like wine.

We then did the Dry Wine Flight. I don’t know the young man’s name who poured our wine, but he was also very helpful and knowledgeable. I don’t always like Chardonnay. Sometimes I think it has a weird grapefruit taste, but maybe that’s just me. I do like this 2013 Estate Reserve. My husband and I both enjoyed the 2011 Merlot, which to me has sort of a silky feel. The 2011 Malbec was interesting. I thought it had a bit of pepper in the finish. Each wine sample was more than a usual “tasting,” so I have to admit I was a bit buzzed by the time we finished. Fortunately, my husband is not such a lightweight!

Here are the wines in the Dry Wine Flight:

Dry Wine Flight

Dry Wine Flight

After the Dry Wine Flight, we wandered around the Tasting Room/Gift Shop. Although there was a musician, Dave Kelly, who provided live acoustic music, there was no seating available to make the event into a linger-around sort of thing. We purchased a bottle of Merlot to take home with us, and then wandered over to The Truffle Tree chocolate store next door.

When we got home, I made some sweet potato nachos (note to self, slicing potatoes after visiting a winery might not be the best idea). I’m not certain that the sweet potato nachos and the Merlot made the best pairing, but it was great with the Italian Espresso Truffle I ate afterwards.

Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos

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Italian Espresso Truffle From The Truffle Tree

I hope all of you experienced something sweet on Valentine’s, too!

Valentine’s Day at Our House

Valentine’s Day has never been a big holiday in our family.  Since both our daughters and my husband have February birthdays, we’ve always concentrated on celebrating their special days. (In the past that meant, three totally different cakes, along with a “party cake,” and some type of Valentine’s Day dessert, too.)

 

Even though our daughters are grown and no longer living with us, my husband and I will not be doing much to mark Valentine’s Day. We have a date with Netflix and House of Cards—along with homemade pizza and a bottle of wine.  Cozy, if not romantic, right?

 

To make the day even more exciting, we might have the heater looked at. . .again. Sigh.

 

Romance is great (and I’m a fan!), but it’s the day-to-day things that truly matter. This morning, my husband went out in the ice and snow (that’s a whole other story) to check the tires on my car for me. Then, after a problem with one of the tires, he took it to be repaired.

 

So, perhaps this is not what you think of when you hear “romance,” but to me, it says, “love.” Thank you, Sweetheart.

 

However, since it IS Valentine’s Day, I think we should have chocolate, don’t you?

So I made Chocolate Covered Strawberries. I can pretend it’s healthy, too. It’s a win-win situation! Yay.

 

It’s too simple for a recipe, but they look great, if I do say so myself.  So you know, if you want to impress someone today—just sayin’.

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 I used half a package of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, mixed with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Melt in the microwave. You can use semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate (but seriously, why?).  This made enough for about a dozen strawberries plus some blueberries. I rolled some of them in ground almonds (extra healthy!), but you could use other nuts, sprinkles, etc.

 

Of course, then I had to eat some of the extra melted chocolate. . . Enjoy!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

***Yeah, I got a little exclamation point crazy in this post. I’m giddy from chocolate. I mean chocolate!