Ephemeral Beauty in the Book of My Memory

Monday Morning Musings:

In the book of my memory—the part of it before which not much is legible—there is the heading Incipit vita nova [here begins a new life].

–Dante Alihieri, Vita Nuova

“There are lovely things in the world, lovely that don’t endure, and the lovelier for that.”

–Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song

“People like films because stories are a structure, and when things turn bad it’s still part of a plan. There’s a point to it.”

–Tom Buckley in Their Finest

 

Dawn opens the book

write or draw upon the page

ephemeral life

transitory beauty, grasped,

chronicled by poet’s hand

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Every morning, I wake and turn another page,

what will be written there that day?

Not a book, a story, a movie, a play,

our lives

we plan, we think there is a structure, a plot

reasons for our rhyme

we study the past

but put our trust in hope and beauty

 

My husband and I eat Chinese food

sitting in our living room we watch a movie,

about a woman who lived a hundred years ago in Scotland,

using technology that did not exist in that era,

and that will become outdated all too soon,

it’s a rural life of hardship and beauty,

of fighting and song,

an abusive father, a depressed mother, a brother who leaves,

she puts away her books,

but there is the land to sustain her

she falls in love and marries

but the land is still there,

glowing through the director’s vision,

though the work is hard,

her husband goes to war

(the war that was to end all wars)

it changes him

it changes the nation

and all the nations that lose so many of their young men

the poets write, the tyrants sing

dulce et decomum est pro patri mori

the old lie,

that vicious lie,

life is ephemeral,

but love,

that is true and lasting

 

In the morning, I wake and turn another page,

we see another movie

this one about the next big war

about keeping the spirits up and boosting morale,

the movie is funny and charming and sad,

I enjoy it very much,

my husband does, too,

though he says, “It’s a Merril movie.”

And I guess it is,

though I’m not sure what that means,

the movie is mainly about a woman

who gets a job writing “slops,”

the women’s dialog for war movies,

this one is about unlikely women heroes at Dunkirk

the war ministry wants it to have everything though—

even an American and a dog–

and we see the writing (the clicking of typewriters)

and the construction of the movie

location and studio

while the world around them shatters,

and we know that the world will get worse,

and women will take “men’s work,”

then be forced back into their boxes,

but there is romance and Bill Nighy

and really what else do you need in a movie?

 

After the movie,

the spring day turned fine,

we walk around the old city,

where traces of the past remain,

though much has vanished,

structures, people,

and before that

giant creatures who once walked the earth

 

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American Philosophical Society

 

we drink coffee,

enjoy the view,

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laugh at the booming voice of a tour guide

helpfully informing a group that

“Carpenter’s Hall was built for carpenters.”

(though the term carpenters is misleading)

 

Nearby stood the house of a bodice-maker

now house and man, long gone—along with the fashion

all fleeting moments in time

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Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia

 

In a garden, we see tulips

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but many of the early spring flowers are already gone,

the petals of the flowering trees float to the ground

joining piles of catkins

(leaving pollen to blow everywhere)

the fleeting life of a butterfly,

helping to create beauty in the world,

ephemeral beauty

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the beauty of spring, fading into summer

lovely things that don’t endure

and are they lovelier for that,

and is that the point?

What will I remember,

what will be retained in the book of my memory?

These moments of beauty, I hope.

We go home

feed our cats and ourselves,

the mundane tasks of life

that have their own beauty and joy,

we sleep,

and in the morning

I wake and turn another page,

hoping for beauty, though it may not endure,

wondering if there’s a plan

wondering and hoping

holding love close

 

We watched the movie, Sunset Song, on Netflix. Here’s a review. I haven’t read the book, which I know is a classic in Scotland. We saw Their Finest in a theater. Here’s a trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

Drinking to Peace

Monday Morning Musings:

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Heritage Vineyards by Sheryl Began ©2016

 

We sit not far from the vines,

in wrought iron chairs round a table,

the summer sun still lights the sky,

engilding the end of the day

so that it glows, golden with promise

of sweet nights and gentle dreams,

a gracious breeze blows.

 

I face west, watching the sun slowly fall,

but we drink to sunrises and love,

Coeur d’Est, Heart of the East,

wine with flavors and aromas of blackberry, coffee, and pepper,

fruit and spice,

rich, but not too heavy for this June evening

rolled on the tongue and savored

like life.

 

My daughter takes photos of us

documenting the moment

as we sit there, relaxed

enjoying the wine,

enjoying the company,

enjoying the musician,

singing of angels that fly from Montgomery,

our thoughts fly, too,

flitting here and there,

then hovering,

like bees when they find the right flower,

her husband mentions his sessions in New York.

Is it okay to ask?

Yes, I’ve wanted to tell you, he says.

And so he does.

He talks of the incidents,

the particular one that caused him the most trauma

and others,

foreign words to me,

convoys, gunners, and Vehicle-Borne Explosive Devices

the language of war,

foreign words and foreign lands

known to me only through books, movies, news reports.

 

I learn more later,

when I read some papers he gave us,

I learn of a mission to deliver clothing and supplies

to Iraqi school children,

a humanitarian mission, but still dangerous–

he volunteered.

I am proud of this man,

who is my son “in law,”

but who is becoming the son of my heart, as well

my daughter loves him,

and that’s what matters,

but I discover, he’s officially a hero,

as well as one to her,

but he has paid the price.

Coeur d’Est, Coeur de lion

 

Becoming a combat soldier involves many skills—

I already know, he’s an excellent driver—

But conflict zones require more,

turning off emotions

learning to kill

learning to hate

fearing that hate

fearing killing and expecting to kill

fearing death and expecting death

becoming used to—craving–

the rush of adrenalin that comes from danger,

then having to turn it all off,

stimulation, the drug of war,

duty and bravery, comrades at arms,

but there’s a cost,

the trauma born of war

for soldiers and civilians

who must go on, and live after.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Pro patria mori.*

 

Are we coded to wage war

to defend our homes, our honor, our families

to endure

death, destruction, injuries to body and soul?

To battle through conflicts and then feel conflicted?

Shell-shocked soldiers in WWI

the horrors of WWII,

back through the past

and up to the present,

we humans are intent on finding new,

and better ways to kill.

I don’t have an answer,

but

there must be a better way.

instead of building walls and spouting hate,

hate that nourishes more hate

and makes it grow,

a noxious weed,

requiring little care to flourish

but some skill to eradicate.

Why do we listen?

Perhaps it’s easier to blame others,

the demagogue’s favorite trick.

The candidate’s quockerwodgers

dance when he pulls the strings,

the expert puppeteer,

gorgonizing in soundbites,

but we have to remember to think on our own,

be the voice, instead of the puppet,

perhaps then we can create a better way,

set our phasers to stun, not kill

respect

let peace guide the planets

let the sunshine in

imagine–

imagine all the people

living in peace,

dreaming,

the lion’s heart swelling with love.

 

But now, on this beautiful summer night,

our dreams are of life and the future,

of houses and homes,

we drink and talk,

smile and laugh,

birds fly overhead, singing lullabies,

slowly dusk falls and settles lightly,

a soft blanket to cover us,

and we travel home.

 

*It is sweet and right to die for your country. “Dulce et Decorum Est” is the title of the well-known poem by WWI poet, Wilfred Own. You can read it with notes here. 

Today is the anniversary of D Day, June 6, 1944, and though I wish for a peaceful world, I do not want to slight the heroes of that day—or indeed, any day.

This article discusses some of the forgotten African American heroes of D Day.