Simmering the Stories

Monday Morning Musings:

“We order our lives with barely held stories.”

“I know how to fill in a story from a grain of sand or a fragment of discovered truth. In retrospect the grains of sand had always been there. . .”

–Michael Ondaatje, Warlight: A Novel

“A poet once said, ‘The whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. . .”

–Richard Feynman, Lectures on Physics, quoted in Brainpickings.




We hold memories, winter to summer

try to put them in sequence in order,

but there are no real boundaries, no border,

all and everything colored by the moment—

and by every second after.

They pile together, memories,

more than accessories, the clothes

tumbled in a heap on the floor,

stories that flow one from the other,

cooked together and through

into a stew–

What is desire? What is true?

Pick out the potato,

a childhood experience here,

the job carrots there,

find the herbs of love. . .

all of the above,

blended together,

each stew different,

though the same in name,

constantly changing

while it simmers over a flame,

new ingredients added,

not expanded so much, as made richer,

a broader picture.

But one day the flame goes out,

the stew gets tossed, buried, old news,

but the aroma lingers—to flavor other stews.

Summer Color











Now summertime, the days still long

though getting shorter, the sunshine bright,

when not clouded,

parks and beaches crowded

and summertime bounty is everywhere

on tables, and farm stands, and fairs

where people display their colorful wares








And peaches are fragrant and full of juice

that drips down by chin—oh sing a hymn

to summertime produce,

eat it raw or cooked, baked into crumble or pie.

Mixed-berry Crumble











I talk to a friend at a festival to celebrate the butterfly.

There are bees and plants and flowers in bloom

through which insects flitter and above birds zoom,

















a little girl dresses the part,

her heart dances as the butterflies dart.










And then there’s wine, made from the fruit

now growing on vines, waiting for harvest

rooted, grapes well-suited

to the clime

to make a beverage sublime.

We sit and sip our wine

dine on paella,

enjoying the weather

sitting together

in summertime.

William Heritage Vineyards
“Vino and Vibes”



















We learn about wine in barrels

so much more than shells,

containers to hold the wine,

aging and flavoring it–

we learn to swirl and sniff and taste—admit

we enjoy it. We’ve done this tour before.

Still we learn more, then step out the door

to sit with glass and food—

the mood?

Call it relaxed and at ease

in a summertime breeze.

Sharrott Winery
Barrel Tasting



























And so—

I hold moments, tiny, grains of sand

let them trickle from my hand

watch them expand

till there’s a beach

where I can walk and leave a mark,

in the darkness, stark upon the sand

as the sun rises, and the tide

slides over them again and again,

and then

they become part of the sea–

the memories, the fruit, the wine, and the bee–

all connected,

all what was and what will be,

as summer turns to fall and then winter,

time may splinter

into paths that wander back

elusive, barely there–

the traces of a footfall

or a scent still in the air.

Red Bank Battlefield











Ripples on an Ordinary Day


The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield          Merril D. Smith, 2016


Monday Morning Musings:

 “To any one who, for the first time, sees a great stretch of sandy shore covered with innumerable ridges and furrows, as if combed with a giant comb, a dozen questions must immediately present themselves. How do these ripples form? Are they made and wiped out with every tide, or do they take a long time to grow, and last for many tides? What is the relation between the ripple and the waves to which they owe their existence? And a host of others too numerous to mention.

The questions to which I particularly directed my attention at first were the following:—(1) How do the ripples first start? (2) What is the relation between the water waves and the ripples? “

–Hertha Ayrton, from “The Origin and Growth of Ripple-mark” (1904)

“Errors are notoriously hard to kill. But an error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat.”

–From Hertha Ayrton’s letter to an editor after journalists attributed the discovery of radium to Pierre Curie, rather than Marie Curie


She stood looking at the ripples on the shore

gazing and wondering, she continued to observe

and experiment

writing a paper that she read before the Royal Society of London,

the first woman to do so.

In 1906, they awarded her the Hughes Medal for her work on sand ripples and electric arcs—though they would not admit her, a married woman,

or any woman

into their ranks.


She applies her observations to air currents,

inventing a fan to rid WWI trenches of poisonous gases,

one of her twenty-six patented inventions


She was befriended and mentored by women

who helped pay for her education and took her to women’s suffrage meetings.

In turn, she was a friend to other women, working to establish

their right to vote, to receive an education.

Her step-daughter later a wrote a novel about suffragettes,

a woman scientist was its heroine.

Her daughter became a Labour MP.


I watch them on an ordinary day,

a day of working out at the gym

and paying bills,

a day of thinking and writing

I think about the ripples we create,

the smile given to a stranger that might make her day,

the poem written and read by someone, bringing joy,

the Butterfly Effect,

random actions,

Who knows where they will lead?

I think such things form a different type

of dark figure,


an unknown statistic,

random ripples from every action we take.

I think that though there is something to be said

for making every moment count,

it is also important to just be,

to take time to watch the waves

to watch the ripples that they leave in the sand,

to observe the moments in our lives,

to think about the ripples they make,

to dream–

to wonder about a woman who once looked at ripples in the sand

over a century ago

And I, looking at a Google Doodle

wonder about her

and realize that sometimes the ordinary can be inspirational

and the observations of an extraordinary woman can ripple

through time.

Hertha Marks Aryton (1854-1923) was the subject of a Google Doodle a few days ago. You can read about her here and here.

Abstract for “The Origin and Growth of Ripple-Mark,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 74 (1904), 565-566

And the entire paper is here. 


© Merril D. Smith 2016