Sweetness Restored

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“I know you feel it

The sweetness restored”

From Leonard Cohen, “Leaving the Table”

 

A ship sails across an ocean

crashes, in furious motion,

its treasures sink in the deep

as though asleep

while centuries creep

a chunk of bronze, fragment of the past

did it predict this future, forecast

another ship sailing through a sea of stars

carrying our past to the future

suturing time with invisible stitches?

Beings we will never know

blow forward and back

ghosts drift from stardust

near and far, they must

I think, walk beside us,

(that gust)

whispering in the wind

bringing horror or bringing joy,

bringing completeness

restoring the sweetness

of what has been lost

 

In the year of the dotard

when real is thought fake

(so much at stake)

when false is declared to be true

and people go about life

(without a clue)

when Mother Earth vents her fury on land and sea

and like a banshee

the winds wail and roar

and as the darkness gathers and soars

and millions sit without a light

in the dark, body and souls

between the poles

of north and south

they go without.

When all this takes place

here

in this space

we sit at the table

thankful we are able

with challah and wine

we dine

in honey dip our apple

watch the sun and shadows dapple

the walls,

as evening falls

here in this moment,

here in this place

the sweetness restored

 

We watch a movie about a dancer

a child who dances in the Russian snow

aglow with the joy of moving, doing, being

receiving the best training

(her parents work hard)

and she does, too

through pain of body and soul

is it worth it all?

and she struggles and questions—

technique or feeling?

finding it unappealing

tired of dancing others’ creations

sensations, ideation

she moves in a duet by the water

to find that child again,

form and feeling

to find the sweetness restored

 

My husband and I walk

we talk about the film we’ve seen

watch the street scenes

a pretty window and door

an urban street with more

we see nature’s destruction

turned to art

despite the ignorance and the hate

we humans love

we need to create

art, poetry, and stories

of the fantastic and the real–

we feel–

the family behind us

answering their son’s funny questions

wondering will they be troublemakers

and we are partakers in this bit

strangers meeting on the street

and then we go our separate ways,

stroll a while

but we smile

the family’s moment struck a chord

the sweetness restored.

 

Daughter and I go to a wine festival

the autumn day disguised as summer

We talk and taste wine

and we are feeling fine

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buy bracelets with literary themes

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of hopes and dreams

the sweetness of wine and books

of strangers looks

(okay, perhaps not all)

we people watch as we stand in line

behind the drunk couple

all entwined

the man with his roving hands

the woman who might fall as she stands

our eyes meet

standing there in the heat

no need to say out loud what we are thinking

mother-daughter interlinking thoughts

we talk of teaching

of The Color Purple and Langston Hughes

we talk of friends and we shmooze

if days could be like this

without dotards to lead

without a world full of greed

without hurricanes and earthquakes

without racism and hate—

is it too late?

if we could wrap up and hoard

all the love, the light, make the world bright

would we feel it,

the sweetness restored?

 

We saw the movie, Polina. Trailer here.

We went to the Heritage Vineyards Wine Festival.

I’m kind of fascinated by the antikythera mechanism.

Here is a beautiful video for Leonard Cohen’s “Leaving the Table.” This song is from his last album, made just before he died.

 

 

 

 

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Exploring Other Roads

Monday Morning Musings:

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics. Nor all logic. But is somewhat beauty & poetry.

–Astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889

“In the middle of the journey of our life

I found myself astray in a dark wood

where the straight road had been lost sight of.”

–Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto I

 

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“This image of Saturn’s rings was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back to Earth.”

 

This wild, verdant world

home, a pale blue dot

it travels,

we travel,

through time and space

never a straight road

explorers, we send you out

on a thirty-year mission

(here, bombs and missiles)

there, you meet your fiery death.

Did you have last thoughts, I wonder,

as you plunged

compelled by forces beyond your control

mission completed

no more floating tin can

our eyes and ears

seeing what we cannot see

 

what if you could speak your mind–

would you share our wonder, or

cry at the beauty of the rings of ice?

The eye of the beholder,

the hard problem and reality,

what do we actually perceive

(with our limited senses)

And yet

And yet

And yet–

we have music, art, poetry

the imagination to see beyond

to wonder if there are ghosts flitting around us

and what it is we cannot see

 

We, who are constantly seeking

asking who we are

and what is out there

(the truth?)

yet so limited by greed, ignorance, fear.

the artificial borders of nations

when the world dies,

will it matter that we are American, Russian, or Thai?

or that we believe in one god, many, or none?

that our skin is olive-tinged, milky-white, or the color of café au lait?

We follow straight roads to disaster

when perhaps we should try a different path—

a scenic route

create a new map

wonder

We eat pita and hummus

Vietnamese takeout

homemade pizza

multicultural dining

in a xenophobic world

admire the science and math—

dough that rises—a chemical reaction—

but the first time someone made bread—imagination!

Could a space alien creature appreciate the perfection–

melted cheese, tomatoes, basil, and crisp crust?

We drink wine,

admire the color, taste smell

created by another chemical reaction,

We watch science fiction

and imagine what could be,

perhaps better, perhaps not,

(oh, but we could use those Star Trek captains)

perhaps there are other timelines and dimensions,

worlds we cannot see,

Cassini has traveled—not a straight road—

to see rings and moons

a wonder of science and determination

But I see the beauty of those rings,

imagine how they might sing

 

I read and write

about the terrible things people do to one another

dominating bodies, looking for control

we watch a documentary about Vietnam

fights over territory

nations looking to control

the falling of dominos

in senseless violence

bombs, death, and destruction

time going backwards in film

filled in by imagination,

fast forward

and where does the road lead?

look at the science

look at the logic

look at the road

and check for a course correction–

But

look for the poetry and art

the beauty in the stars

listen for the humming of the moon

 

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Souls Amongst Us, Drifting

Monday Morning Musings:

“None of it was real; nothing was real. Everything was real; inconceivably real, infinitely dear. These and all things started as nothing, latent within a vast energy-broth, but then we named them, and loved them, and, in this way, brought them forth. And now must lose them. I send this out to you, dear friends, before I go, in this instantaneous thought-burst, from a place where time slows and then stops and we may live forever in a single instant. Goodbye goodbye good—”

—George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

 

“I met you on a midway at a fair last year. . .”

Joni Mitchell, “That Song about the Midway” (1969)

 

Ancient cycle of souls

between rocks and rivers

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Laurel Hill Cemetery, view of the Schuylkill River

 

walk sweetly

(some say)

follow us in spirit form,

(perhaps)

happy

rising with the moon

blooming with the stars

living in harmony with the cosmos

watching flowers blossom

year after year

the willow weeps for them

amidst angels and urns

obelisks and hands pointing to the sky

 

and here we are, alive

walking amongst them

hearts and bones

flesh and blood

a family outing

the young women–and us

no longer young—

(except in our dreams)

a groundhog warms itself on a gravestone

then disappears

a moment come and gone

nothing is real

everything is real

there are ghosts all around us

We drink wine

enjoy a picnic dinner

the singer plays her guitar strings

sings about the midway

slowing down

birds take flight in a dramatic sky

(in a moment there, then gone)

wearing wings, they looked so grand

hanging upon the face of night

soon scented with petrichor

we move to shelter

as the rain pounds down

drink some more

discover that caramel corn flavored with Old Bay seasoning

may be the snack we didn’t know we craved,

my daughter and I talk of haircuts, then Shelley and Keats

Grecian urns and time

passing fast and slow—

stopping midway, going down

everything is real

the moments paused in my mind, infinitely dear

 

we watch a movie, sweet and tender

about a widowed Hasidic man

we feel sorry him,

he only wants to regain custody of his son,

though he seems to sabotage himself at times

we all know someone like him

yet still, we root for him

it doesn’t matter that they are Hasidic

speaking in Yiddish

nor that it is a patriarchal culture

where the main function of women

is to have children and take care of the home

they could be any father and son

the boy finds a video of his mother

he replays it

a moment from the past

but life goes on, the rabbi says

and we learn to go on, too

 

We discuss the movie over coffee

agree the boy is incredibly cute

(like a Maurice Sendak illustration, I say)

we walk and talk

through old city streets

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past graves

our shadows—

real, not real

fly over graves of Revolutionary War soldiers–

everything starting as nothing

then named and loved,

all the fathers and sons,

the mothers and daughters,

lingering in hearts and minds

remembered

till they are forgotten

midway in time

the cycle begins again

ancient souls float between rocks and rivers

pause

they linger in your mind

you may almost see them

feel them

drifting in the breeze

 

We walked through Laurel Hill Cemetery, founded in 1836, and intended from the beginning to be a recreation site, as well as a burial place. We saw the movie, Menashe. Trailer here.

We walked through the yard of St. Peter’s in Old City Philadelphia. A brief history here.

 

Songs of Us

Monday Morning Musings:

“Now I will do nothing but listen,

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute
toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,

I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,

I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,”

–From Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

Beneath every cloud

watch this song bloom–

it is bright sun, wild wind,

moon murmuring peace–

ancient cycles breathe color and bloom

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We gather in a flurry of hugs and kisses,

wings outspread,

bright with color,

like tropical birds

cooing and chattering

instead of trills or caws,

I hear the sound I love,

the sound of human voices

the sound of people I love

it is a moment to remember,

my mother’s 95th birthday brunch.

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We celebrate with food and drinks

in a courtyard room,

doors open to a day of August beauty

we talk and laugh

(the sound of voices)

take photos

(the sound of groans and laughter)

we sing happy birthday

(the sound of music)

and eat the cake my daughter has baked and decorated

 

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Afterward, we take my mother home

she comments on the length of my daughters’ dresses

and I laugh that she who is nearly blind can see this

and the “designs” on one daughter’s arms

We talk about art–

her famous artist cousin, Abe Hankins,

she points out his work on her walls,

he lived with her family for a time

and taught my teenage mother dances,

he had lived in Paris and brought French style and flair,

he wasn’t a starving artist because his wife supported him

(or so my mother says)

one daughter is enchanted by a photo of my mom with her cousins

when they were all young

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my mother tries to remember a hospital she was in

when she a little girl with diphtheria

“well, it was ninety years ago,” she says

no sound of planes in the sky when she was young

no telephone in her house

parents who traveled by ship across a sea to live here

never to see their homeland again

war and peace

sounds of life and sounds of silence

fuse, follow, ancient cycle

breathe in

breathe out

 

we open presents,

more art,

this time from one daughter

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a poem and cookies from me

all sounds running together

stemming, streaming from hearts full of love

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We go home, change into PJs

eat again and watch TV

my sisters text me and my daughters–

“Can you believe I’m eating again?”

commenting on how my mom has–

well, her own sense of reality, sometimes

voices in our heads, voices on the screen

fusing together

time for dreams

 

The next morning, I wake to birdsong

it seems effortless and amazing

but what do I know?

bravura display, to my human ears

I go for a walk

listening to Hamilton

and almost dancing to the riverside

Sunday morning sunshine,

a little breeze

the end of summer,

autumn is on the way,

another cycle of the seasons,

the cicadas hum

the geese march, swim, fly, and honk

the flowers are blooming

(And I’m not throwing away my shot.)

all the sounds running together, combined—

birds and Broadway

 

In the afternoon, we go to a wine festival

taste wines

sample foods

eat the cheese and enjoy the day

enjoy each other

ancient cycles

time-bound and timeless

the sounds I love running together,

combined, fused or following,

the sound of nature

the song of myself

the song of all of us

echoing in my heart

blossoming

 

 

The Oracle seemed in tune with my weekend. We celebrated my mom’s brunch at Jerry’s Bar in Philadelphia, and we went to the Riverwinds Wine Festival in West Deptford, NJ.

A special shout out to Ken of Rivrvlogr  of writes poetry, especially haiku and tanka, of nature and current events, and Robin of Witlessdatingafterfifty  who takes photographs of her family and area of Ohio and write book reviews in verse. I truly appreciated that they both spent time going through my past blog posts yesterday. Check out their blogs!

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams, Again (Again)

Monday Morning Musings:

“We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

. . .Who is the dreamer?”

Twin Peaks, Season 3, Episode 14, From Gordon Cole’s dream

 

In my dream, I was me, but different

and you were someone else, but you,

together, we were other beings, ourselves, but not–

or were we?

If we lived in that dream world

would we long for a more stable world

where we were people,

bound by time,

not creatures of space,

carried on the slipstream of light waves

 

We drink wine

talk about the past

think about the future,

the musicians sing

Rocket Man and Major Tom floating in his tin can

his dreams, our dreams

blowing spindrift from space

landing, covering our minds

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We celebrate a friend’s retirement

(from teaching, not the world)

his mother says to me she’s happy he’s retiring now

he can still enjoy it

they can travel

live a dream.

we talk with friends we haven’t seen in a while

past, present, and future–

tenses merging together–

remember when I saw you last,

here, but then

(this was the future)

marriages, births, and death–

dreams born and died

or perhaps still floating

drifting from the stars

in tin cans

on waves

 

 

We go to a movie

two strangers meet–

a woman who feels she must care for her mother

a man who feels stuck waiting for his father to recover or die

they discuss architecture

and the film lingers on the jewels of Columbus, Indiana

framing the characters in doorways and through windows

it is a movie in which marginalia assumes importance,

just as those asides are often important in lives,

the chance encounters,

the remarks remembered,

the dreams dreamed,

and set aside

we discuss the movie over coffee,

walk through the streets

and down to the river,

where people walk, living dreams,

where people once arrived,

full of hope

or full of fear,

tired masses,

spices and slaves,

a new land.

 

We watch movies,

and when we become involved,

we are the dreamers

experiencing their world

true of books, too,

once I dreamt

(a vivid dream)

I was the character in the book I was reading

I rode a horse

in northern England, centuries ago,

I spoke like I lived there,

it was so real

I was sure I had been there,

perhaps I was.

 

I had a dream I was me, but different

and you were someone else, but you,

a woman and a man

walk over a bridge

it happens over and over again

different timelines

variations on the theme of life

until they meet,

destiny,

they share a bottle of wine

the bottle and label are green

like her eyes

(like my eyes)

other beings, ourselves, but not–

or were they?

perhaps, we are inside the dream

we are the dreamers

we are the dream

 

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© Merril D. Smith, 2017

We saw the movie, Columbus. Trailer here.  The more I think about it, the more I like it. Definitely not an action movie. It’s a quiet poem of a movie.

 

Honey and Wine: Tanka

 

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Honey-dipped apples,

sweetness carried through the year

shift light and shadow

dreams of peace and harmony

linger like the velvet wine

 

This Tanka is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge

The prompt words, honey and wine, make me think of Rosh Hashanah, which we will celebrate in about a month. We dip apples in honey for a sweet year, eat round challahs, and drink wine. It’s a holiday full of sweetness. Here, it takes place in early autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Shadows

Monday Morning Musings:

“’I am half sick of shadows,’ said

The Lady of Shalott”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott”

 

“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good

We’ll do the best we know,

We’ll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow. . .

And our garden grow.”

From Leonard Bernstein, “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide

 

 

All week the sun plays hide and seek

perhaps preparing for the eclipse

my soul also wanders

in and out of shadows

I think about life

blooming in the late summer plants about me

at a make-your-own-terrarium night,

 

 

we each make one,

the open kind—succulents–

though the closed kind would be more interesting to me–

and less so to the cats–

I think,

as we drink wine

and visit with our friends’ daughter who had also showed up

(Surprise!)

I wonder how long our plants will live,

we, who are good at bringing up children and cats,

are not so adept at raising plants,

though the weeds seem to thrive,

still we put them in the sun

(but where there is sun, there are shadows)

and try to make our garden grow

 

As the sun plays in the August sky,

we go to the movies

(shadows turn to light and life upon a screen)

the film is about life and death

and making choices

telling the truth

confronting traditions

rejecting what does not work for you

embracing differences

seeing people as people,

not as members of different groups,

it’s kind of a comedy

and a romance

the comedy of life

the tragedies

funny family dinners

love

and a coma,

existence in a shadow world,

while life goes on about you

 

Afterwards, we sit upstairs

in an open-air part of a restaurant

flowers planted, blooming in boxes outside the railing

and street performers serenade us from below

it’s noisy,

but, hey, summer in the city

a beautiful evening

we watch buses and tourists below us

and pedicycle drinking groups,

laughing and singing

we eat tater tots and pizza

because it’s that kind of night

summertime

and we’re not at war yet,

we walk around

Do these creatures protect the house?

 

just a bit

because there’s work to be done

and an early day tomorrow

the shadows deepen

 

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The sun dances through clouds

casting shadows large and small

on the eighth, Barbara Cook and Glen Campbell both die

glorious soprano and beautiful tenor

perhaps they sing duets in some other world

(do gardens grow there?)

the next day is the anniversary of my father’s birth

he would have been ninety-eight this week

and I think of my mother,

who will soon turn ninety-five

the seasons turning, sun and shadows

Auburn Road Vineyard

The sun comes and goes

hiding

seeking

gone for a woman in Charlottesville

gone for her family

gone for people killed in mosques and churches

gone for women taken as spoils of war

call evil by its name

the darkness of the soul

never brightened by the sun

hidden beneath shadows

 

I watch the sun rise and set

watch the shadows lengthen

as summer turns to fall

I hold on

seeking light

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giving it to the terrarium plants

because they are still holding on, too

despite all odds

we’ve made our gardens grow

 

I wrote about my father here.

We went to Plant Nite at Auburn Road Vineyards.

We saw The Big Sick, official trailer here. We ate at Revolution House.

You can hear Barbara Cook in “Make Our Garden Grow” the original Broadway cast recording of Candide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts From Whistling Space

Monday Morning Musings:

From whistling space

dust swirls and burns

glowing

singing

lighting the universe

reaching shores,

then, like tides

sweeping back to the sea

tumbling again and again

in a wave

a new formation

a new song

a new life born

an old life lived

connected

eternal

 

We go to the movies

a ghost in a white sheet

views his life

rooted to a place, a home,

a place always there and not

time moves differently for him

and for us, in watching him watching

beautiful, sad, but perhaps hopeful, too

(open to interpretation)

there is much for us to discuss

over coffee, of course,

 

and as we walk through a city

filled with old and new

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A Path to the Past in Summer Bloom

 

observing how the seasons alters its look

summer flowers making everything bright and beautiful

 

the city changes over time

here was once a creek

that grew filthy with waste

a sewer

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covered now by grass and trees

bucolic space in urban expanse

expansive thoughts arose here, too

made a nation

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Maybe someone should write a musical about him. 

bodies buried now

yet ghosts still walk among us

paths that bend in time

 

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we hear their voices whistling in the wind

in the space around us

feel their ideas

(legacies)

ebb and flow

the things they left behind

 

We take my mom on an outing

away from city ghosts

though they linger in memory,

she talks of her parents

her mother sewed piecework for a time

during the Great Depression

her father was upset that his wife went to work

But she worked in their store, didn’t she?

Yes, but that was different, she says and laughs

her brother, my baby brother, I miss him, she says

he was an active child

always falling out of things—the carriage, his crib–

he fell out of my mom’s bed once

she was supposed to be watching him

he bumped his head on the radiator,

she never told her mom

but, I guess it didn’t hurt him

he lived a good life,

though it ended before my mom’s

and now we share the memory of him,

a ghost living in our hearts

 

We sit drinking wine, overlooking the vineyard

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it’s a beautiful day

we watch families

children playing with a beach ball on the grass

hawks flying overhead

we sit discussing the past and the future

our conversation ebbs and flows

thoughts linger, pause—

and float up into space

 

We eat Pakistani food at my daughter and son-in-law’s house

their dog chases creatures, real and imaginary

birds whistle and sing,

echoing us,

or do we echo them?

We sit with greenery all around us

then eat cupcakes that look like flowers

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My daughter’s beautiful and delicious creation.

(summertime)

I wonder about the people who used to live in this house

and what was it before them–

Field? Farm?

And before that?

Did native Americans walk here

in migrations that followed the seasons

circling round, year after year

ghosts walking among us

watching us

rooted to this spot

waiting for something or someone

waiting for a sign,

a message,

a whistle perhaps

a thought that has floated up

swept up in time

and brought back down again

lighting the universe

 

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We saw the movie A Ghost Story.  Trailer here.   I think it’s a movie that people will either love or hate. It’s a definite Merril movie, but my husband loved it, too.

 

We drank coffee at Customs Coffee House at 2nd and Chestnut, Philadelphia,

went to Sharrott Winery  

And ate Pakistani food from Mera Khana Restaurant   I could eat those vegetable samosas every day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unsettled

Monday Morning Musings:

 

I am unsettled, unmoored

between light and shadow

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but the shadows grow

the winds blow

I ponder as the pressure drops

watch the sky’s darkling mood

watch it brood

upon the future,

and darken more

(blacker than before)

it weeps,

perhaps remembering light

the song of birds

the hum of bees

thundering its sorrow,

growling like an angry drunk,

sunk in sorrow and pain

throwing punches in the rain

lightning flashes

charged particles, clashes

of hot air

in sound and fury

power displayed

but going nowhere

 

Far away,

on another world

a storm of swirling crimson, unfurls

sending out a song

in crashing waves

volatile and unpredictable

dazzling

ancient

larger than our earth

a spot forever turning

churning

over a world of gas

without firm ground

with nothing to stand upon

unsettled

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NASA: This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

 

But here I stand

feet firmly planted

(head in the clouds)

as I look up at the sky

catching a melody in the wind

storms may rage

night may fall

on firm ground,

I wait for the light

The sun rises, my spirits do, too,

I hear the mockingbird sing in a sky of blue.

 

We go out to hear about wine

to learn from a man passionate about the science

and his craft

educated in universities in California and France

but there is art, skill, perhaps a bit of magic involved,

a master craftsman, a master craft

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In the barrel room with Larry Sharrott of Sharrott Winery.

 

We taste wine from barrels

(settling)

sitting there for ten months or a bit more

not ready yet to go to tanks,

raised above the floor

kept cool by solar power

(to keep the wine from going bad and sour)

I think of the skill and craft of making barrels,

here, some are made from American oak

some from French or Hungarian oak

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I learn the wine in American oak tastes different from that in the European

I like the symmetry of fruit of the vine kept in barrels from trees

my mind goes to the economy of colonial America

built with the help of barrels

though not of wine

barrel makers—coopers—found in every town

large barrels, hogsheads, terms of measurement

but we talk of wine here,

admire its color

swirl it to let in air,

smell it and taste it,

the barrel wine drier, more astringent,

the bottled wine, rounder and fuller,

I’m fascinated–

the knowledge, the skill, the passion

wonder how people first picked grapes

and learned to make wine

centuries ago

refining the process over time

though the science remains the same.

 

We drink Chambourcin

a glass at the winery, overlooking acres of grapes,

and birds in flight,

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then more at our daughter’s house

we missed the Bastille Day celebration this year

but we have French-named wine

French cheese, a baguette

and chocolate cake

(yes, let us eat cake).

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It is a beautiful evening

their dog plays

their cat watches

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the shadows grow

but the summer light lingers

as do we

the storms but a memory in the blue sky

and I’m feeling moored, settled

my family and love,

the port in stormy and fair weather,

I hear the songs of the universe surround me.

 

We visited Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ.

 

 

 

 

 

Time Bends and Echoes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. . .

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory,

down the passage we did not take,

towards the door we never opened,

into the rose garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.”

T.S. Eliot, from “Burnt Echo”, No. 1 of “Four Quartets”

 

“So much of history is mystery. We don’t know what is lost forever, what will surface again. All objects exist in a moment of time. And that fragment of time is preserved or lost or found in mysterious ways. Mystery is a wonderful part of life.”

–Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

 

This week–

a photo,

hidden within a mislabeled envelope, appears

challenging history

what is known and what may be,

tangible, frangible,

certainly mysterious

does it show what we think it shows?

Can it?

Will we ever know more of lives that soared and crashed?

The photo,

a door opened into the past,

within it the people still live

a passage, a channel

leading this way or that

perhaps many such secret passages exist

burrow along well-traveled pathways

winding passages that bend and shape the straight roads of time

time past, time present, time future

 

We go to a play,

three men enter a room, one at a time,

Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Count Leo Tolstoy

(Barefooted and dressed as a peasant, he says

don’t call me Count, throughout the play.)

The room is furnished with a drawered table and three chairs,

in the drawer, the men will discover notebooks and pens.

(Jefferson is amazed at a pen with ink–amazed he did not think of it himself.)

Though they lived in different times,

each man has just died and entered this room,

At this discovery, Jefferson remarks,

“Evidently time bends.”

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Bulletin board in the lobby of the Lantern Theater.

The door lock after each enters the room,

they cannot exit until—what?

Each man is a writer,

and it turns out each wrote his own version of the gospels,

each man was a visionary of sorts

who wrote about reforming society,

each failed within his own life to uphold the standards he envisioned

and in this amusing and entertaining play,

the men write and argue,

debate their ideas,

and write some more,

facing the mirror—us–

we, the audience, the fourth wall

hear their words,

hear them confess their deeds and weaknesses.

And what if they did meet,

and what if they did debate and discuss,

and what if we could hear them,

bending time

 

On a beautiful summer day,

after the play

we walk the streets that bear traces of Jefferson everywhere

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a medical school and university named for him.

Centuries ago, he walked these streets

sat in a room, penned (with quill) his elegant words*

of sacred rights, of equality and independence,

even while he continued to enslave others,

words that led to a revolution,

words that still resonate today,

I imagine him,

his long-legged stroll across the cobble-stoned streets,

conversing with his unlikely friend John Adams,

perhaps opening a door into a rose garden

there

the scent lingers in the air

the words echo

time bends

Charles Dickens visited Philadelphia, too.

in March 1842, he stayed at the United States Hotel

on Chestnut Street near Fourth,

the part of the city

now called Old City

where Jefferson and other delegates declared our independence

I imagine their ghosts meeting on these city streets

that Dickens found much too regular

longing for a crooked street–

perhaps seeking a place where time bent

and echoes lingered in the air

 

Dickens met with Edgar Allen Poe,

they discussed poetry.

Dickens had a pet raven, Grip,

his stuffed body rests in a glass case

at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Dickens wrote about Grip in his book

Barnaby Rudge,

which was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

and Poe reviewed the book for a Philadelphia publication in 1842,

mentioning the raven,

and Poe later writes a poem about a raven

whose word “nevermore” echoes in the air

and through time

 

And on this beautiful summer day

we sit outside at a café,

drink wine

(and beer)

 

eat cheese

(luscious)

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I wonder to my husband

how it would have been—

what if a woman had been in that room?

He says, was there one who wrote gospels?

I don’t know,

though I think there must have been

perhaps, lost to history,

or yet to be found,

a mystery,

perhaps to be revealed

in a mislabeled envelope,

or amidst remnants unearthed from a secret passage

in the locus of past, present, and future.

We sit at the table

(a window becomes a mirror

old buildings blend with new)

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watch the people,

listening to words echo

lingering in the breeze

 

We saw The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & County Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.

We went to Tria Café Washington West

A photo said to be of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was in the news this week.

*Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence