What is Left Behind?

Monday Morning Musings:

What is Left Behind?

What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”
― V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

“To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility —”
–Emily Dickinson, “Bloom”

Secrets left beside rocks
in sharp-toothed winter and
between summer’s lazy cat blooms

death the void, a life erased
a vanished glow

cosmic dust in our veins,
our carbon footprints, traces of supernovas—
we carry the castoffs of stars—winged things

that whipped through winds, rushed through rivers
into sea and air—captured there—

reborn again.

We’re not remembered, we can’t recall
the distant ancestors that began us
connected all

like bees to flowers, a profound responsibility–

we hold the infinite within, the ghostly gleam
of ancient splendor, the radiance of beginning.

Today is Memorial Day, the day we commemorate American soldiers who have died (different from Veteran’s Day in November). I abhor war, and yet I’m thankful for all who fought during WWII to defeat fascists and authoritarian governments, and support those who fight against them today. It makes me furious that there are people who are fine with such horrible ideas, but who wave flags about and call themselves patriots. And don’t get me started on the people who wave US flags and Confederate or flags with Nazi symbols. We literally fought wars against both.

I read a novel recently that I really liked, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, about a woman who makes a bargain with a dark god of night, that allows her to live on for centuries, but no one remembers her. I had put the quotation above, and then I read Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American post today, where she wrote of a soldier who died in WWII:

“but I am haunted by the holes those deaths rip forever in the social fabric: the discoveries not made, the problems not solved, the marriages not celebrated, the babies not born.”

It made me think about how even when we’re forgotten, traces of us remain.

I also recently read a NY Times article about how scientists can collect DNA from the environment and what ethical questions have to now be resolved.

And speaking of ethical questions, we streamed a movie, The Artifice Girl, which is all about that. An AI “girl” is created to catch child predators, but the movie is really about if or when she should be considered a person. Should she be asked for her consent to do what she does? The movie is structured like a play, and I think it would be an excellent stage play. It is classified as sci-fi, but it is movie of talking, not action. (You know, a Merril movie. 😉)

We also watched the first season of Astrid, a French mystery series that we enjoyed quite a bit. (We’re watching it on PBS Passport.) We’ll start the second season later in the week. It’s called Astrid et Raphaëlle in France. Raphaëlle is a police office, and Astrid is a criminal archivist who is autistic. They begin to work together and eventually become friends.

Tonight, we plan to watch the final episode of Mrs. Maizel—Memorial Maizel.

Some random food pictures:

This is NOT a cat that I saw this morning.

Spring Is

Monday Morning Musings:

Spring Is

“A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year”
–Emily Dickinson, A Light Exists in Spring

Spring is light, pale and sweet, apple blossom honey
over tangy goat cheese–

it is pink wave-bursts and blue-winged brushes,
and a salad of greens—avocado, spinach, kale
topped with scallion-white—

It is sailboats in a charming picture postcard
of azure sky and cotton ball clouds–
“Wish you were here,” it says
with scenes of lazy cattle in verdant meadows.

It is fuzzy goslings imprinted to follow,
through upside-down worlds,
and swooping eagles that dive and grab,
hunters and hunted,
celebration and sorrow.

Spring is violent,
each shot a seismic rattle
a warning that slithers and slides,
over network of scars covering shifting tectonic plates—
the big one is coming.

Spring is a sneeze and a roar,
charm gamboling from beneath shadows—eyes watching

at the river,
a circle forms where a fish surfaces—or the river breathes.
One breath, then another–gathering the light, reflecting it back.

I used some of Kerfe’s random words from Oracle 2. Last week seemed very busy—just work and poetry events—but somehow exhausting. I took on some extra work, so this week will be busy, too. (So, that’s why I’m procrastinating with poetry!). One day, I did see a goose couple who may have had been yelling at an eagle who took their babies. I’m not certain. Saturday was so beautiful that we went out to a local winey for a little while just to sit outside and have a glass of wine before coming home for dinner. Sunday, we visited my mother-in-law for an early Mother’s Day. Meanwhile, every day brings another mass shooting. And the GOP seems determined to crash our economy, too.

We started watching Rough Diamonds on Netflix, “In this Belgian thriller about the diamond trade, an estranged son who left ultra-Orthodoxy returns home to save the family business (Netflix).” It’s an interesting mix of family drama and rebellion against religious traditions and thriller involving diamonds and drugs.

Brilliant Things

Monday Morning Musings:

Brilliant Things

Path by Dock Creek and Carpenter’s Hall

“One day is there of the series
Termed “Thanksgiving Day”
Celebrated part at table
Part in memory –“
Emily Dickinson

A whimsical stream
reflecting autumn leaves
and wild turkeys clucking,
cooing, preening their feathers
in early morning light.

The sky is still adjusting,
it suggests peace, then trouble,
ever adaptable, vultures understand
its challenge, a caressing cover
that evaporates over time.

Autumn’s stained-glass light
and long shadows overtake
summer’s dawn choir and rabbits,
the graceful melancholy beauty, an expression
of loss and remembrance.

By the river’s edge
a coyote dashes
on powerful legs, she doesn’t
glance at the irate honking geese–
I’m encircled by tangible wonders.

A Thanksgiving table
our family gathered
with food and wine, telling stories, laughing,
and around us our ghosts smile,
yes, they are with us still.

I used some of Jane’s Random words for this almost Cadralor.
Last week was strange and stressful. It was good to see family at Thanksgiving. Who was able to come kept changing throughout the day.

We saw Every Brilliant Thing at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia on Saturday. It deals with the painful topics of depression and suicide, but it is not a depressing play. There is humor and joy, and ultimately it asks us to consider the brilliant things of every day. Audience members who agree are given cards with words to call out when during the play, the actor calls out the number. Other audience members were given roles in the play. This is the fourth time the Arden Theatre has presented this play with actor Scott Greer. It’s the first time we’ve seen it, but my husband and I both agreed we’d see it again.

Slanted Words in Slanted Light

Monday Morning Musings:

Autumn Light Through the Trees

Slanted Words in Slanted Light

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —”
Emily Dickinson

“There’s a certain Slant of light, . . .

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –“
Emily Dickinson,

Slanted words in slanted light,
this is what autumn brings–
ghosts and trees whisper,
elongated shadows seem alive.

This is what autumn brings–
red and yellow dazzle,
elongated shadows seem alive,
eagles with high-pitched whistles fly—

above red and yellow dazzle,
berry-warm against cool grey and blue
eagles with high-pitched whistles fly,
wine glows as canted rays shine through

berry-warm against cool grey and blue
circles woven of color and time
wine glows as canted rays shine through
stories told and understood–

circles woven of color and time
now amid the age-old lies,
stories told and understood
for those who wait, a battle cry

now amid the age-old lies
truth is bent and rearranged
for those who wait, a battle cry,
but nature marches to a different beat

The Wild Turkey Gang

truth is bent and rearranged
elongated shadows seem alive
but nature marches to a different beat–
slanted words in slanted light.

A pantoum for today. I used some of Jane’s random words, as well as playing off Emily Dickinson. October has been a mostly beautiful month this year—some grey days and rain, but beautiful color, even as the days are growing shorter. And that eagle!

We took care of some things this weekend, such as flu shots and new COVID booster and haircuts. No ill effects from the vaccines, except I was a little tired Friday night and Saturday. We also voted in NJ’s early voting. I’m dismayed and angered that so many still support the GOP, which has become the Tr—p Party of Christo-fascists, and people egging them on, and also some who somehow still believe their lives will improve–despite decades of proof that trickle-down economic policies only make the rich richer. The GOP wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare—how will that help most people, and what will happen to the people who depend on them? The attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, which was meant to be her assassination, and the rise in antisemitic rhetoric indicates what this party stands for–in case the dismissal of women’s rights and attacks on LGBTQ+ weren’t enough, and oh yes, the attempts to destroy democracy weren’t enough! We cannot agree to disagree on these things.

Horror viewing this week because nothing is as scary as the real world. The Midnight Club on Netflix this week, which we enjoyed. It’s based on a YA novel. There are a few “gotcha jumps,” but it’s not super-scary. But it’s both sad (set in a hospice for teens with cancer) and hopeful with some fun 1990’s references, too. The Innocents (1961), the beautifully photographed movie based on The Turn of the Screw with Deborah Kerr as the governess. A classic ghost story. No blood and gore, just spookiness. I had forgotten the ending though, which is creepy on another level, too.

We went to William Heritage Winery to enjoy the beautiful afternoon yesterday.

More Connections Invite More Questions

Franz Marc, Birds

More Connections Invite More Questions

“To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility —”
–Emily Dickinson

If birds never lived
to imitate the stars
in sparkle, color, and song,

would we dream of soaring,
or hear the music of wind and sea?

Would the fiddler play
as shadows gathered, and would we ache
not knowing why?

Would spring come,
a bride adorned in pink and white,
or would the world be without bloom,
the sky left some other hue—perhaps delightful,
but not blue?

And what would be the point
of fairy tales
without swans, owls, and feathered light?

Like flowers—
birds’ responsibility is profound.

Well, the Oracle always, always knows!

I consulted her early this morning and wrote a rough draft. I had to convince myself to go for a walk, but I did. AND—the vultures put on a show, and there were so many birds singing—almost like spring, despite the chill in the air.


Monday Morning Musings:


“Forever – is composed of Nows –“
Emily Dickinson

“If forever doesn’t exist,” she said, “we’ll invent it ourselves.”
― Nikki Erlick, The Measure

Early morning, the Delaware River at West Deptford

At the tipping point, gold tips green
and russet leaves waltz to wind’s acoustic strings,
they touch the ground, then let it go
and drift into tomorrow.

We follow—or we don’t—
almost living like those leaves,
though deaf to the language of trees,
the whispers far underground–

as geese honk and hawks circle,
we dare to look up
find infinity in a sky of dazzling blue,
and in each memory, confound time.

My mom’s dear cousin, Sali, died yesterday. They were like sisters, so this hits hard, not only because I loved Sali, but also because of her connection to my mom.

And because, it’s what I do, I always seem to find connections and synchronicity in my life. Autumn seems a particularly apt time for reflection, and it has truly come.

After a few beautiful days, when I had some amazing bird watching moments–a pair of hawks and a pair of eagles together one day, and group of vultures the next– October arrived with wind and rain. It’s been raining off and on since Friday night, with heavy rain yesterday. It looks like it may continue until Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m thankful, however, that we only have these remnants of the hurricane that devastated Cuba and parts of Florida.


On Saturday night, we did a virtual wine tasting hosted by Tria in Philadelphia. We picked up our boxes of wine and cheese in the afternoon. The event was a fundraiser for reproductive rights.

Merril’s Movie, Book, TV Club:

A Trip to Infinity: Am I recommending a math documentary? Yes, I am. It’s because, to me, it’s a film of philosophy, possibility, and ideas. It is so well-done, and the experts—mathematicians, philosophers, and physicists–are so engaging as they discuss infinity. I would watch this one again. On Netflix.

I read The Measure, a novel by Nikki Erlich. One day every adult in the world, no matter where they are, receives a box. Inside each box is a string. Some have short strings, and some have long strings—this is the measure of how long they will live. Despite its premise and the prospect of how it could bring out the worst in humans, the novel is ultimately a novel about love and connection.

We are watching the Korean series, Extraordinary Attorney Woo. It had been on my Netflix list for a while. (You will not be surprised that I have a huge list.) Blogger friend Dale convinced me to start watching it, and I’m glad I took her advice. You can’t really tell how delightful this show is from the trailer, but it makes me happy to watch it and to root for Woo.

**I don’t mean to bombard anyone with posts, but I am writing poems for an October Folklore challenge, and today I’ll be back because I’m hosting Quadrille Monday on dVerse. (I guess I better get that poem written!)**

Blink, and Look Again

Monday Morning Musings:

Blink, and Look Again

“There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes. . .”
Emily Dickinson,

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —”
Emily Dickinson

I have more to say about images,
the ones within the ones in frames,
the shadows and reflections,
the dreamworlds
and the in-between

what you see and don’t,
the half-glimpsed, and
the quickly vanished.

Consider the photos
of galaxies beyond, the ghost light we see,
a miracle, amazing, full of color, brighter
than what we’ve ever seen before—

and yet,
it’s a blink from the past,
there’s no way to capture the present,
and hold it tight,

Eagles and Crows at the River

each second flies,
but why do some move so swiftly
on eagle wings,
while others linger,
as bees on flowers–
some burst bright-blossomed,
others fade like the moon
smiling into sunrise clouds,
but most tick past, tiny ants
in the dirt of time.

Quickly, how our babies grow.
Suddenly, how summer skin turns cold.
The green world is dying,
the world is burning and frying,
the grass is crunchy,
the ponds and streams are dry.
We close our windows, turn on the a/c,
say goodbye,
then eat our salads, as so many die.

Life wasn’t simpler before,
we simply didn’t want to know
all the worlds are connected,
the future holds the past.

Who is the woman in the mirror?
What happened to the dark-haired girl?
See my long-legged shadow? A super-hero
in another realm
who bends the light, to see the slant,
in that,
a prism of colors, truth abloom—
perhaps, more than one timeline in this room.

My shadow in the light at Red Bank Battlefield

My readers know I love time, shadows, reflections, and all the in-between things. I’m still thinking about the exhibit we saw Pictures in Pictures,

Self-Portrait in a Dresser Mirror: Cream Hill, 1930, Wanda Gág–Philadelphia Museum of Art

as well as recent movies mentioned in previous posts (Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes and Everything Everywhere All at Once) and then Emily Dickinson popped into my head (as she does) 😏. And the recent Webb Telescope Photos. Now we’re watching Shining Girls (Apple TV), starring Elisabeth Moss, which combines searching for a serial killer who attacked her and time travel—shifting realities. We’re about half-way through the series. Here’s the trailer. I hadn’t watched it before. You probably know already if you’d like this type of show.

It’s been too hot to go anywhere. We may get storms tonight. I’m hoping we get steady rain, not a sudden burst. We had a lot of rain in the spring and early summer, but now everything is very dry from the extreme heat.

There’s been a lot of bird action at the river recently. I’ve seen the young eagle a few times, and once watched crows chasing it.

We’ve been eating this tomato salad a lot for dinner. I never was that fond of tomatoes, but these fresh Jersey farm stand tomatoes with salt, good olive oil, fresh basil, and some fresh mozzarella, along with bread to mop up the juice, are the perfect hot weather dinner.

Summer farm stand tomatoes, olive oil, basil from out garden–delicious!

The Responsibility of Flowers

The Responsibility of Flowers

“To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility —”
–Emily Dickinson,

Bulbs like hidden secrets wake
in yellow, purple, and pink, they celebrate
and wink, just so

the prideful robin sings
a-wing with red-breasted élan
to make Ceres smile
and nod from her abiding place–she knows
mutability is a constant, time fast or slow

circles around, blood-moon nourished,
mothers and daughters
with planted wombs or fallow,
carry on carrying on
waiting for a sprout, a sprig,
a blink of life to flow—they sow–

death reaps.

Now a brave woman curses soldiers with seeds—
never shirking their responsibility,
on your graves sunflowers will thrive and grow!

Dalton Farm sunflowers (Summer 2021)

Tomorrow is the start of poetry month. I’ve signed up for NaPoWriMo, but I will probably not post the poems I write to those prompts because I’m also participating in Paul Brookes’ April Ekphrastic Challenge again, and I will be posting those poems each day.

Today there is an early-bird prompt for NaPoWriMo to use inspiration from Emily Dickinson. I had already used one of the suggested lines recently for a Monday Morning Musings post, so I’ve taken a bit of that post and revised it to share, though still rough, for NaPoWriMo and dVerse Open Link Night.

Flowers and Secrets

Monday Morning Musings:

“To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility —”
–Emily Dickinson, Bloom


Northwest wind whisks away
the heron-grey, spins thread from cast-off eggshells
the blue of hope, the color of tranquility
blankets the sky, reflected in rivers and sea,

Feathery Clouds Swept Away by the Wind

while frosted leaves formed in midnight chill
by feathered flap of snow goose flight
melt in the rising glow of honeyed light
pouring from above–


now mothers seek their daughters,
mourn their fathers and their sons
as bulbs like hidden secrets wake
to bloom in yellow, purple, and white, a robin sings


to make Ceres smile from a transitory space–
mutability is a constant, death follows life–
a brave woman curses soldiers with seeds,*
sunflowers will grow on your graves,

and blood-moon nourished,
mothers and daughters with wombs both planted and fallow
carry on, waiting for a sprout of yellow green
to waken in the sun.

Dalton Farm sunflowers (Summer 2021)

*”A Ukrainian woman offers seeds to Russian soldiers so ‘sunflowers grow when they die.'” Sunflowers are the symbol of Ukraine.

The weather has been so changeable—freezing cold winds, then warmer days. The crocuses are sprouting. It’s been difficult though to think of anything except the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I’ve been having lots of dreams about mothers and daughters, some anxious, some funny, some filled with love and tenderness.

We watched the new movie Parallel Mothers (rental from Amazon—it may be coming to Netflix at some point). It is director Pedro Almodóvar’s most recent film, starring Penelope Cruz, who frequently stars in his films. It’s about two single mothers, one near 40, the other much younger, who meet in a hospital while they’re both in labor. They bond and later meet again. Cruz’s character is seeking help from a forensic anthropologist to uncover the mass grave where her great-grandfather and other men in her town were killed by fascist soldiers early in Franco’s rule. As well as mothers (a frequent Almodóvar theme), It seems to me that one theme of the movie is secrets, and how too many are willing to ignore and sweep the ugliness and tragedies away. It seems very pertinent right now.

We also watched a horror show on Netflix, Archive 81, that we both liked very much. It’s about a film restorer who is hired to take care of some old films that a grad student made about residents in a NYC apartment building. He uncovers—hmmm—more secrets! It’s very well done, and it definitely kept our interest! Tonight, we’re going to catch up on Mrs. Maizel—a Monday Maizel. I made knishes!



Monday Morning Musings:

“Best Things dwell out of Sight
The Pearl—the Just—Our Thought.”
--Emily Dickinson

The snow comes, goes
flows in feathered drifts
and shifts to icy pellets, then gifts
us with cold beauty. Shadows

fall long, as the sun lifts his sleepy head
and cloud-haze shuffles, to turn sky blue
and light sparkles on water, colors and hue
of winter wonder—but tread

Sparkling Water Spirit on the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

lightly on the surface ice
atop the snow–and yet the river rolls
with junk and dreams, holding souls
with visions—look twice–

is it ghost or bird?
What lies beneath?
Is it a boat? Does it have teeth?
What are your dreams? What is the word

Melting snow puddle reflection. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

that describes what you see?
What is the world that you feel deep
within? Begin to tell, or keep
it in. What is free? What do you want to be?

There are people with visions,
and people with sight—
not the same thing—they may fight
for light, but make wrong decisions

And yet, even hidden, a pearl will glow.
And who is to say, sight is better than feel?
Maybe we don’t need to heal
what is not broken, but let it be, to go,

to find beauty, falling in the snow.

We’re making up for having no snow at all last year, it seems. We had a lingering snowstorm last early last week, and then another one yesterday–though here just south of Philadelphia, we tend to get rain and sleet, which lowers the snow totals. But, since it’s pandemic, we’re not going anywhere, so it doesn’t matter. I saw the hawk from my kitchen window while washing dishes, and ran outside to try to see it closer. The crows were super-noisy and busy at the river the other day. I baked a cake for younger daughter’s birthday, and we dropped a present, and other things at her house, and we stood outside, masked and in the cold and talked for a little while. Yesterday while it was snowing, I decided to bake a second cake for us.

Lemon Cornmeal Cake

Merril’s Movie/Theater Club: Along with most everyone, it seems, we watched The Dig (Netflix) this week. We both enjoyed it. It’s about the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo. It’s a lovely movie, with fine performances and beautiful cinematography. The dig becomes quite exciting, even though this is definitely not an action movie. The movie is based on a novel, and both are based on actual events. We also streamed the Lantern Theater Company’s production of Molly Sweeney, a play by Brian Friel. It’s available to stream until Feb. 14. It’s based on an essay by Oliver Sachs, but it’s transposed to Ireland. It’s a moving story of a woman who has been blind since she was a baby, but is content with her world of touch, smell, and sound. She leads a full life, but her husband wants her to have an operation to give her sight. The play is set up as monologues—Molly, her husband Frank, and the doctor who performs the surgery. We both enjoyed the play and the excellent acting done by actors who never move from their positions on the stage. Oh, and we finished Season 5 of The Expanse, and now I want Season 6!

I’m hosting Quadrille Monday on dVerse, so I’ll be back later this afternoon! Hmm. . .I guess I need to write a poem for that soon. 😏