I have more to say about shadows and light

Monday Morning Musings:

Reflections on the river. Red Bank Battlefield

I have more to say about shadows and light and . . .

age-old questions. The chicken or the egg?
The egg, of course. But before that?

Look! A little rainbow in the clouds.

How about light?
It was there before stars, scientists say,
as they inquire and test,
while I’m left—simply pondering

the quantum strings and shades of black-and-white.
How to describe such ancient light
in that time before? Then move on–

have you considered our volcanic existence,
how we erupted from the sea
from stellar grit to ammonite then pinniped? In a blink,
or a flutter

of butterfly’s wing—the randomness, the chaos,
dust to mud,
a hurricane—

where does summer hide when winter’s cold winds blow?

My thoughts are far from towering, I confess,
reflections on riddles, the stuff of dreams—foretell and forget–

a leap into the unknown, but sweep away the cobwebs,
what is left?
Nothing dashing, impressive—more like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.

But really, where do the fawn’s spots go? How long can a heron stand
so quiet and still?

Sit awhile in on the hill. Do you see?
The way it glows. The way the shadows caress its curves? Do you feel how
the breeze kisses your cheek so tenderly like a mother?

Listen as the river sings the song of what is and what might be.

Now the geese float atop cotton ball clouds in the mirrored blue, sailing
on light, through shadows, into tomorrow—

the place of questions, dreams, and shadows.
But for shadows to exist, there must also be light,
and so again, we begin.

Sunrise over the Delaware River, August

I’m posting early today with something a bit different. I actually wrote most of this yesterday, and I used Jane’s Random Words

We had beautiful weather for the past week. Today it’s very humid with some rain and possible thunderstorms. It feels icky (a precise scientific term) outside right now.

We went to Vino and Vibes at William Heritage Winery with friends on Thursday night. It was a beautiful evening—perfect weather and company (and wine). We’re watching the second season of For all Mankind.

Present in Beauty

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Present in Beauty

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.”
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 48

“In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again”
–from “Walking in Beauty”: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

Storm Clouds

After the storm

First, a billowy sea of clouds,
then thunder, crash crash crashing–
shock and awe from the heavens,
ending in a hush,
the cat yawns.

History moves on,
I sleep and my hair turns grey.

Now this place, a speck, a blink
in the eye of the universe, does it matter
to the stars or time? Yet
here I walk—beauty before me, and all around.

Heron, deer, and ospreys converge.
The sky is the blue of wishes, the sun an apricot
I can almost taste—like the most luscious wine
I drink-in the daybreak, my soul cool and composed,
I savor this moment, knowing it is evanescent,
a sparkling bubble, no less beautiful
as it passes into memory,
the past another universe, an umbrella
to open for protection, or to cast shade when needed.
Bird-dawn has given way to cricket sunrise,
summer light has slanted—autumn on its way,
I adjust my sight line.

This sunrise! Sunrise over the Delaware.

A late musings today. It’s been a busy week, and I’m finishing some work. I used Jane’s Random Words. We celebrated what would have been my dad’s 103 birthday with Chinese food on Tuesday, and our friends insisted we have a toast to him. (Wonderful friends!) We had more hot and humid weather, then one night with some thunderstorms, and then perfect weather over the weekend. We met our daughter and son-in-law at a new winery on Saturday. Stokelan Winery is a beautiful place. The Stokelan House dates from about 1853. We sat outside. I liked all of the wines, but I didn’t love any of them. Since it’s a new place, they’re still working out some issues. It’s a distance for us to travel, so we probably won’t go back there for a while, but it was still a lovely afternoon.

Toast to Dad and Stokelan Winery

We watched the TV show Dark Winds. It’s based on the series of novels by Tony Hillerman, which take place on Navajo land. It seemed like a good series to watch this week because my dad enjoyed Hillerman’s books. Once my father wrote him a letter, and Mr. Hillerman replied. Although Tony Hillerman was not Native American, much of the cast, the writers, and crew are. A character recites the lines above in the final episode.

Bangs and Whispers

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning, Delaware River

Bangs and Whispers

The attempt was not furtive,
not noiseless, it was abusive, shameless
a deafening crash—
we’re crashing. . .crashed

over the precipice,
past nervous titters,
and anxious alarms
into the volcano,

we wait for a line,
a beaming up and out.
There—a bird
an owl, her cry resonates—look–

each cloud indents the sky,
like a paragraph on a page,
now watch the blue
more words float into view:

less mothering from a tiny red rose
there is life and death and magic in the woods

Morning Rain

for if in rain, pale petals fall
and time cries with tapping beats
against the glass, stop, listen,
hear the drumming, hear the violin sighs

of life aches–
the raw is still there
but pink-petaled spring
whispers under a sweetened lemon sun,

failure, collapse, frightening–
and boundless—once upon a time,
the stars sang a secret. . .
I wish.

June, Red Bank Battlefield

This is a poem created from the Random Words I generated yesterday and some of the Oracle’s words from Saturday. I’m getting this up early so I can do some work before the next round of January 6 Committee Hearings begin this morning at 10:00 AM Eastern Time.

We listened to the first televised hearing on Thursday night on the radio as we were driving home from a beautiful night with dear friends at William Heritage Winery, and then watched it on TV after we got home. It was horrifying and stunning to watch. It’s beyond doubt that the former president instigated an attempted insurrection. Unfortunately, it’s gone beyond him now and growing.

Merri’s Movie, TV, Theater Club:
We finished the new season of the Danish political drama, Borgen, which was a lesson on how power corrupts. This season returned after nine years. It is an excellent series, which I highly recommend. We stated watching the new season of Stranger Things. It’s a lot of fun so far. Both shows are on Netflix. I didn’t watch either trailer because I don’t want to know anything in advance.

I get emails from Focus Features, and so I was able to see a free virtual screening of the new Downton Abbey movie, Downton Abbey: A New Era. It was a bit predictable, but it was Downton Abbey—well-acted, beautiful filmed—and if you like the show, you’ll enjoy the movie. I did.

On Saturday afternoon, we saw Into the Woods at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia. We walked around in a light rain first. It was a very enjoyable production, the audience around three sides of a bare bones stage with an excellent orchestra raised behind them. It was a show of imagination and storytelling—no special costumes, just a few props like crowns, red cape, golden shoes, Rapunzel’s braid, etc. Several cast members played multiple roles, including playing Snowy White the Cow, the hen that laid golden eggs, and the Giants’ harp. The Baker’s vocals were the standout for me, but all the actors sang beautifully. We both enjoyed this production very much.

Washington Square Park, A rainy afternoon in June
Roof Garden

Lucidity

Monday Morning Musings:

Lucidity

“The idea,” she said, “is that in a dream a person might be able control events. And I thought how much better I’d like it if there were such a thing as lucid living. Much better to control what happens in life than what happens in your dreams.”
–Nina De Gramont, The Christie Affair, p. 53.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
–Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night”

Early morning light on the river

Sun and Shadow, Early morning

We’re settled in the confluence
of sorrow and remembrance,

another shooting
barely makes the news,
the politicians spin, backpedal,
attempt wheelies to distract–

because there’s no logic,
no reason for children to be killed.

Today we remember the soldiers
who gave their lives—but how much
better if these were ancient
memorials, war a foreign concept.

But none are safe,
no one is immortal.
Plagues, guns, chance, and choice
everything gone in a second.

A small graveyard in Salem County, NJ

I hold my loved ones close,
say I love you,
bake bread and cakes
drink wine, cherish the day, family, and friends,
I cuddle my cat,
smile at puppies, kittens, baby birds–

knowing I can’t control, except in a dream,
but wishing—

in the cycles of sunshine and storms,
the predawn choir and the bats at dusk,
that I could translate and circulate this—
the light, tree memories, crow wisdom,

we’re settled, resigned,
but I will see the beauty

and rage against the dying of the light.

An overgrown yard transformed by morning light.

Today is Memorial Day. Yesterday we went to Auburn Road Vineyard with our daughter, son-in-law, and one of their dogs. It was a gorgeous day to sit outside and enjoy wine and pizza. I’m having leftover pizza for lunch. I’m about three quarters of the way through The Christie Affair, a novel that takes place during Agatha Christie’s famous disappearance, as told by her husband’s mistress. I’m enjoying it very much.

Traces Left Behind

Traces of wine on clay shards,
residue of the past, a history
of migration, cultivation–civilizations
that rise and fall. Transition and transformation–
chemical processes and time, the call

of ancient frescoes, where long ago dreams still live
enshrined, the stories of people and place–
the grapes, the gods, the snakes, and banquet plates,
a bird perched just so,
and for a moment—there—it sings.

I heard it.

Through the grapevine trellis,
in an enoteca now, the sun’s heavy golden face peeks
then goes, as it did that day in Pompeii
before the darkness fell in clouds of ash, rock,
and a river of lava flowed,
burying wine and dreams.

And yet—the artist’s vision lasted–
a woman gazes down at me, the scent of garum
in the air, birdsong in the background—and I
taste centuries in a glass.

I’m sharing this for dVerse’s Open Link Night, where Lisa is hosting. I missed Lillian’s “birthday prompt” on Tuesday. She asked us to
“go to the website https://mybirthdayhits.com and plug in your birthday. There’s a spot in the upper right-hand corner of the site for you to enter your birthdate. Have fun scrolling down the years, seeing what the #1 tune was on each of your birthdays. Pick at least one of the song titles that hit the charts at #1 on your birthday – one that resonates with you – and use it in its exact wording within your poem.”

“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was one of the top songs on my birthdate. I’m not sure that the line really works in the poem, but that’s what revision is for. I actually do love the direction the title sent me in—which actually fits what Lisa had to say about hidden things and art, and also fits a larger project I’ve been working on. There are more frescoes here.

In Feathered Light

Monday Morning Musings:

The moon hums and the sun sings,
and feathered things with outstretched wings
soar into the light

dazzling white, the egrets’ flight,
the eagles’ glide, a majestic sight
above my head

and down below, the scent of dead
attract the vulture’s blooded head—
but even they fly

with graceful beauty in the sky
circling round—hello, goodbye—
life comes and goes

This cormorant spent several days in this spot.
Oh, Hello!

the questions everybody knows,
and none can answer, I suppose
there’s beauty in that, too–

science can tell us why the sky is blue,
yet perceiving it, is that new?
Do we name things so that we see–

or does sight come, and we feel free–
And still, we disagree
about the color of the sea,

fields of grain, and climbing vines
lost to asphalt, modern signs
of progress made,

decisions that now cascade,
a waterfall, decisions weighed
spinning in retrograde, still we shine

in setting sun, sipping wine,
fruits of field and vine,
talking as time slow-walks–

a paradox—the universe’s sleight–
time, truth, the beauty of the feathered light.

Morning— Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

We went to Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, NJ this past week, where our daughter gave a talk—a brief history of sangria–and then guided us through making our own using a white and red base they supplied, along with fruit and juices. It was a fun event, and of course we bought a bottle of wine to take home, too.
I’m still finishing that chapter, so I apologize for my slow response time here. Also, I’m hosting dVerse Poetics tomorrow.

We Wait for Magic

Monday Morning Musings:

Almost always,
magic appears in an unexpected blink
a deer-tail flash, a momentary glimmer, a pop of color
against the grey—

Spring Reflections ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

feathered with goose down, streaked with heron blue and crow black
and there– the gosling gold tumbles amidst spring green.

The sun’s red and golden steeds gallop high, over
the cold, north wind, rippling waves, scattering seeds—

and new life grows. Bud to flowers, acorn to oak—
eggs hatch and children grow. A new harvest, a new vintage–
we toast the departed, throw a stone in river, a rock in a fire—
remember what was, cherish what is now— reflect and

3D Goose Reflection. ©️Merril D. Smith

watch for color in the grey, listen to the wind sigh, and mockingbird sing,
find beauty in each day, and wonder why, some cannot bring
hope or joy, but only want to destroy—still you cling

to thoughts of young who fling away old terms of hate
as seasons pass, we love, lose, die, create, accelerate—
and for nature or fate, we wait.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. We went to Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, where our daughter works part-time. We enjoyed a Mother’s Day brunch. Unfortunately, it was cold, and then it rained. I wore several layers of clothing. Not the most flattering photos. 😀

Merril’s Movie/Theater Club: We streamed No Child (Arden Theater, Philadelphia). It was a wonderful performance by Taysha Marie Canales, who became all the characters in this play about a teaching drama artist at a school in the Bronx. We also streamed Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand. The movie received several awards this year, including one for McDormand and also director Chloé Zhao. We both enjoyed it very much—it’s a beautifully filmed movie that makes you think about what you have and what others live without, as well as what it’s like to be a “nomad,” the life McDormand’s character adopts, living out of her van as she travels and works. Trailer here.

Dew and Time, the Readiness is All

Monday Morning Musings:

“O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!”
(Hamlet, act 1 scene 2)

“If it be now, ’tis not to come: if it be not to come, it will be now: if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.”
(Hamlet, act 5 scene 2)

Pink Moon and Green Man
come and go, the morning dew light-catches,

snatches, holds within
each drop a world soon gone,

a momentary sparkle, passes on
snuffed, like a candle’s glow by a breath—

Sunrise over the Delaware River ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

less or more? We decide, and if we notice
what is around us, or ignore

what is. What is not, what is to be—there, the rub,
prepare in readiness–yet, stop, see,

sniff the air, and what will be
lilacs, iris, rose—grapes to wine—eggs to chick–

flick, and in a blink, the ebb and flow of tides,
reveals what lies below the surface-

uncovered, adrift,
the bones, the rocks, the detritus of stars–

still sparkling.

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

April continued its craziness into May. We enjoyed summer-like weather, visited a local winery (most are now doing flights instead of tastings), then we had cooler weather and wind gusts up to 50-60 mph. We may have thunderstorms today. Meanwhile, there are flowers shooting up and goslings born.

Merril’s Theater Club: We streamed Fat Hamlet, a new play by James Ijames performed by the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. It was filmed on location in Virginia, where cast and crew rehearsed in isolation. One positive thing about streamed productions is that they can be viewed all over the world. It’s a reimagining of Hamlet, black and queered, set somewhere in the southern US with a nuptial barbecue, karaoke, and a dance party—and more comedy than tragedy (well, there is one death). You can read all about it here, including the New York Times review, and get ticket information. We both really enjoyed it.

We Named the Sky: NaPoWriMo, Day 12

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“The dead don’t go anywhere. They’re all here. Each man is a cemetery. An actual cemetery, in which lie all our grandmothers and grandfathers, the father and mother, the wife, the child. Everyone is here all the time.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer (quoted in Shtisel), Season3)

Sunrise Cloud Reflections over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith

In ancient times, we named the sky—
saw Apollo in his flaming chariot fly
as his sister Diana of the woods and moon
bounded with deer and hound, and soon
the stars were storied, and tunes gloried
creation, emotion, and the cessation of
wind and tides, the slide

of seasons from one to next,
as the gods are first jolly, then are vexed.
But Persephone comes and goes–
snow falls, then flower flows,
and we cry and sigh as people die–
but the seeds remain, though not the same,
each generation evolves, and solves

Spring, Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

new problems, and old ones we revive.
But if we could fly in hyperdrive
to other worlds, or visit holodecks
to greet and meet dear loved ones in an annex
to another world, an alternate timeline,
future, past, present combined—we’d drink wine
with family and heroes, toast the divine

in fantasy. And yet—we recall,
in memories of sight, scent, sound—however small–
within us all the time, sharing space
with those who came before—the interface
of body and mind. Stardust to genes, renamed things
in seasons reborn on hopeful wings
Cycles, seasons, the stories again–real or imaginings?

Clouds and cool weather
Beautiful blue skies, April Morning. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I’ve combined my Monday Morning Musings with the NaPoWriMo Day 12 prompt: “This prompt challenges you to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.”


Merril’s Movie/TV Club: We finished Season 3 (most likely the final season) of Shtisel (Netflix). I highly recommend it. My husband and I both got so caught up in this show.
We had Chinese food over the weekend, and so watch two Chinese movies.
Us and Them (Netflix)—a romance of a young man and woman meeting on a train and trying to become successful in Beijing. I liked it, but I’m not sure if I loved it. I think I would have enjoyed it more in the theater. We had some phone calls and other distractions.
Better Days (Amazon Prime rental)—is Hong Kong’s entry for the Academy Awards. It’s about school bullying, and also the high stakes competition/pressure of getting into a good college in China. My husband and I both enjoyed this one more—despite the subject matter of school bullying. There is also a romance. The actress Dongyu Zhou is the female lead in both movies. Watch the end credits for both movies.

Wine and Stories

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Passover a few years ago. Lots of wine–and sparkling wine?

With stories,
we entertain, ascertain, explain the past,
another glass of wine drained, slow or fast–

is it enough? We remember
to forget

how seasons turn, grey to green,
but loved ones gone, remain unseen

like ghosts
white blossoms drift
leaving trails . . .we follow.

It’s poetry month, and I’m having a hard time getting anything else done between all the poetry writing and reading. So, I’m making my usual Monday Morning Musings very short and combining it with the dVerse quadrille prompt, where Linda asks us to write about wine.

Passover ended yesterday. I celebrated with pasta, garlic bread, and wine. During a traditional Passover Seder (Seder means order), we tell the story of the Exodus and during the course of the night drink four glasses of wine. My family, when we’re together, does a very untraditional Seder, and we drink maybe one, two. . . maybe more. I’m looking forward to seeing them someday soon.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Quo Vadis, Aida? It’s Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Oscar entry, and it’s a harrowing and heartbreaking, but also an excellent and nuanced movie. It chronicles the failure of the UN peacekeeping forces and the mass genocide by Serbian army in Srebrenica, as seen through the eyes of UN interpreter. The director said she had been waiting for someone to tell this difficult story, but she finally did so herself, and she does so without relying on showing tons of blood and gore. It’s available to rent on Amazon. We also watched Mank (Netflix). We both enjoyed it. It tells a fictional story of 1930s-1940s Hollywood, and the making of Citizen Kane, centered on Herman J. Mankiewicz, the writer, played by Gary Oldman. I thought Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies was particularly good.