Monday Morning Musings:
“We can never go back to before.”
–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Back to Before,” Ragtime
“Go out and tell our story
Let it echo far and wide
Make them hear you
Make them hear you”
–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Make Them Hear You,” Ragtime
“It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it. “
“The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.”
—Rebecca Solnit , from Hope in the Dark, quoted in Brainpickings
I wake from dreams
where before and after merge
the past that never was,
the future that will never be,
where old friends visit a house
that is mine
only in a dream–
and I smile when I wake
because dream-world cats
knock objects from tables, too.
Somehow that makes
everything seem right.
There are hopes so small
scarcely thoughts at all
wishes, feather light
almost out of sight
away so swift–
a desire for fair days,
and then we gaze,
see beauty in the mist,
buildings lightly kissed
by grey, yet they shimmer
even as they’re dimmer
a paradox, perhaps
like seeing in the gaps
what could be.
And then behind a tree
a deer, or two, three,
more you see
than what is here—
hope for what could be.
And quiet sanctuaries
where history tarries
telling the story of before
in church steeples, and old doors
steps decorated for fall
historic houses call
but we can never go back to before
even if we try to restore
a status quo–
there is no time machine
where past and future blend,
but it doesn’t have to be the end—
we tell our stories
of past glories
and of little things
our hopes with wings
for our children, to bring
the awakening of spring
and they will hear you
and we hear, too
through mist and dreams
a torch in the endless night.
Bonus Photo: “my willow.” I think people often dream under it.
We saw Ragtime at the Arden Theatre. It was performed in the round with a minimal set (with the clever use of two pianos and benches), but I loved the intimate aspect, where even though I knew the story, the three groups seemed clearer, as was their desire for their children to have better lives. I think there are many people today who want to go back to an idealized past. Well, that is evident in the campaign slogan used by the current U.S. president. But though I tear up at the musical, it leaves me with a sense of hope.
And, if you’re keeping track, my manuscript for my book on sexual harassment is nearly completed. I’ll be sending in the first five chapters in just a bit.
Lovely musings, Merril. Since I was a little girl, I always thought there was something magical about a Weeping Willow. That’s a gorgeous specimen. Congrats on the manuscript!
Thank you very much. The willow is in Old City, Philadelphia. Carpenter’s Hall is behind it, and there once was a large creek there, but it was already filled in by the 1790s.
No time machine, only dreams–nostalgia is a trap we can ill afford. Rebecca Solnit is correct (as she so often is)–we need to plant hope, but also make sure the seeds have all they need to grow.
Thank you –yes, that is a good point about planting the seeds so they can grow.
Answer also, congrats on the book progress! (K)
Thank you very much!
Excellent, philosophical, post with particularly good photographs
Thank you so much. I was quite pleased with Christ Church garden shot (taken through a fence just before a group of tourists went through). 🙂
That was the one I liked best
Great minds! 🙂
And, not answer…auto correct is infuriating at times, not to mention nonsensical.
Always a pleasure to open up my computer on Monday mornings and find out where Merril has meandered 😉
I never saw Ragtime.
I love your willow 🙂
Way to go on your book!
Aww–thank you my friend! I used to listen to the soundtrack of Ragtime a lot when my girls were in high school, but I never saw it until last summer. (Broadway cast had Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Marin Mazzie.) It might be one of my favorite musicals. This production was much different than the other one, but I really liked it. OK. Back to the book now. Just a bit more to finish!
Oh how cool! I love Audra McDonald!
Yes. Back to work!
Merril, I’m back, finally! Oddly, I haven’t remembered my dreams lately maybe because I go to bed exhausted. (You know the feeling.)
I like your quote: “It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.” And the action must be continuing. Thanks for architectural slants and the snapshots of willows, birds, and deer today.
Thank you for reading, Marian. I’m sure your book tour was exhausting–but exhilarating, too! Now get some rest. 🙂
Love this: “dream-world cats / knock objects from tables, too. / Somehow that makes /
everything seem right.” Indeed, this generates in me a new hope – that perhaps those dream phenomena deemed too-sweet-to-be-possible could be simply not-yet-materialized. THANK YOU.
What a lovely comment! Thank you!
Found it 🙂 There is something very sad about this poem. The passing of time maybe and the impossibility of recalling it, even in memory. No one remembers the same event the same way. Some memories are total fiction. Dream and memory are perhaps not very different.
Hmmm. . .I don’t think I meant the poem to be particularly sad, but I was feeling overwhelmed with trying to finish everything, so perhaps that comes through.
I intended it to be. . .well, hopeful. 🙂 Because I think that’s how the musical end. At the same time, I wondered what the musical soundtrack of our current time would be. Something horrid and discordant, I think.
Sometimes dreams and memories are not very different–I think my mom’s get mixed up a lot now.
I’m maybe putting too much of my own feelings into it. Time passing always makes me feel sad. There seems to much left to do.
Yes, and there’s a certain melancholy to this time of year, too.
It is the end of a cycle and I know it starts again at the solstice, but it also gets a lot colder before it gets warmer!
Yes, it does. January and February here are usually colder and snowier than December.
Hard to think in terms of a new year beginning by getting gradually colder!
Yes. It makes more sense for the cultures that celebrate new year in the spring. Even harvest time, like Rosh Hashanah makes more sense than Jan. 1. 🙂
It can only be the choice of an emperor or a pope to line up with some other bean feast.
Even in our last days, hope should never be forsaken, if only for our children.
Thank you, yes.
Merril, musings, mists and musicals, can there be a better use of 4 M’s? No! Gardens to dream and mists to cover what we want to forget and give a glow to that which we must not. We have changed to much on the turn to go back, simple was simpler only back then. We need to find the simple for our own days. Or something like that, I feel carried away with your musings. Thank you. Is it possible to ever watch or listen to Ragtime and not weep tears for the stories and the ships passing and the papas who played pianos and the time turning and that dream we are still holding on to?
Thank you so much, my dear. Yes, all of that. I feel all that, too–and yet, the story ends hopefully, even though we know that the future will bring more tragedy. I suppose the cycles of history continue to bring both hope and despair.
Well I have been listening to Hadestown recently and I love that its point is that we keep telling the story till one day it changes. We sing the song of love and hope hope again and again and… hope 🤞🤗😘
Oh–I remember how much I loved what I heard of Hadestown on the Tony Awards. Thank you for reminding me!
On musicals– I think I remember you saw Come from Away? We’re going to be seeing it soon.
Ah, Come from Away! Bring tissues like you did for Ragtime! Glorious, stories of local heroes is what we need right now, not celebrity gossip and poisonous politics. 🤗🤗
Now I’m really looking forward to seeing it! 🙂
Love the pic of your cat.
I have two…tiny pawprints on my heart. 😺
Thank you very much!