Hon, I’m currently in Spain and will have lots to post when I return. Hubby, one of our daughters and our son are visiting another daughter who is studying abroad this semester. We spent two and a half days in Madrid, then took a high-speed train to Barcelona. I’m so grateful to be on this trip!
Wifi isn’t the most reliable so I’m re-posting these pretty pics along with “Hope” by Emily Dickinson. The rhythm of the words gives this poem a “melody,” and the first two lines illustrate how I feel when my literary agent sends me a list of editors to whom she’s submitting my manuscripts.
We can’t avoid the saddest part of our humanity and though we know we’ll have to deal with it, as my husband’s Aunt Pauline said, “It never gets easier.”
I haven’t posted in awhile because Cecile Gruer, my 86 year-old mother-in-law and matriarch of our family, passed away last week. There’s so much to say about her decline, measures that were taken to try to restore her health, and the month she spent under hospice care. The last time she celebrated a happy occasion with the family was her granddaughter’s wedding in September 2021. Even then, she wasn’t truly herself.
There’s much more to say about Cecile, who as a young girl in Poland, ran with her parents and siblings from the Nazi’s during WWII. She spent years in Siberia, freezing and starving. After the war ended, she was a teenager in an Austrian displaced persons camp. Her immediate family eventually moved to America, first to St. Louis and then to New York. She met Morris, another Holocaust survivor, in Brooklyn, NY and they married and built a home and family. So much to say…
The outpouring of sympathy from family and friends illustrates the importance of community. It may sound cliche, but it’s crucial to support each other when a life starts and when it ends.
Hubby and I are exhausted from the many months of Cecile’s decline, reeling from witnessing her personality change, saddened by her loss of communication, and grieving her passing. A tribute post will have to wait. Though Cecile didn’t die young, Jon Pineda’s poem on grief strikes a chord.
My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task was published in The New York Times Magazine January 16, 2022 with commentary by Victoria Chang. She said, “I first read this poem on Twitter, and even though it’s a simple poem about grief, it stayed with me. I’m fascinated by the way that it discloses so much in its title, showing how a title can get important information out of the way so that the poem can breathe on its own. Yet the reader doesn’t know what the ‘task’ is until the third stanza. The poem is an example of how abundant emotions can be conveyed by stripping language down to the bone.”
Once in a wood at winter’s end,
The withered sun, becoming young,
Turned the white silence into sound:
Bird after bird rose up in song.
The skeletons of snow-blocked trees
Linked thinning shadows here and there,
And those made mummy by the freeze
Spangled their mirrors on cold air.
Whether they moved — perhaps they spun,
Caught in a new but known delight —
Was hard to tell, since shade and sun
Mingled to hear the birds recite.
No body of this sound I saw,
So glassed and shining was the world
That swung on a sun-and-ice seesaw
And fought to have its leaves unfurled.
Hanging its harvest in between
Two worlds, one lost, one yet to come,
The wood’s remoteness, like a drum,
Beat the oncoming season in.
Then every snow bird on white wings
Became its tropic counterpart,
And, in a renaissance of rings,
I saw the heart of summer start.
It’s been two weeks since Lucy died and it feels like I’m walking through sludge. One of my daughters said we have no ways to mark the death of our sweet, four-legged guardian angels and she’s right. There’s no funeral, shiva, or memorial service. Maybe that’s too much to ask since we enfold our furry companions into our families knowing we will outlive them, but still…
Lucy was also beloved by friends, neighbors and community, and the outpouring of sympathy is a tribute to her big, brown, expressive, soulful eyes and loving spirit. Those eyes. They talked to you. We went on so many adventures together. She brought us closer.
Though we need to weep your loss, You dwell in that safe place in our hearts, Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn Brightening over our lives Awakening beneath the dark A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice Found for us A new music That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze Quickened in the joy of its being; You placed smiles like flowers On the altar of the heart. Your mind always sparkled With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief, Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer From the old distance of our names; Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath, As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes, We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face, Smiling back at us from within everything To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory, Where we would grow lonely without you. You would want us to find you in presence, Beside us when beauty brightens, When kindness glows And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth, Darkest winter has turned to spring; May this dark grief flower with hope In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart. To serve the call of courage and love Until we see your beautiful face again In that land where there is no more separation, Where all tears will be wiped from our mind, And where we will never lose you again.
One of my favorite sounds is the nighttime chirping of grasshoppers and crickets. Summer chirping lulls me to sleep the same way as ocean waves. Right about now, in mid-October, I pay close attention to insect mate-calling. There will be a night when the air is filled with nature’s stereo, and the next night the record’s put back in its sleeve. Though I love autumn, it makes me melancholy to bid an official farewell to perfect-temperature-nights, warm-sand-days, and a summer’s promise of possibilities.
As I continue to work towards my writing goals, I’ve added something to my thought process–manifestation. I concentrate on my goals; what they are and what it would feel like to achieve them. If you see me gazing at the sky, know that I am sending my independent-minded characters, lyrical writing, and layered stories out into the universe, hoping they find champions who will bring them to life.
Did I know that when I read the poignant poem Postlude, I was also manifesting a grasshopper? I did not, but there he was, away from his lawn forest, a striped-leg, little guy who let me scoop him up. When I opened up my palm, he hung out and studied me with his five eyes. Then, he hopped out of my hand.
Do you think it’s a sign? A coincidence? A message from the universe that my-work-my-heart-my-passion to share the wonder in the world by writing Kidlit is traveling on both puffy white clouds and waving green grass? I pray so.
Stay by the hearth, little cricket. Cendrillon
You prefer me invisible, no more than a crisp salute far away from your silks and firewood and woolens.
Out of sight, I’m merely an annoyance, one slim, obstinate wrinkle in night’s deepening trance. When sleep fails,
you wish me shushed and back in my hole. As usual, you’re not listening: Time stops only if you stop long enough to hear it
passing. This is my business: I’ve got ten weeks left to croon through. What you hear is a lifetime of song.
It may be 2021 in the secular world, but according to the Jewish calendar it’s 5782. Every year, as the High Holidays approach and summer comes to an end, I look inward, assessing the previous year’s relationships, family, health and work.
Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year” or New Year) is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, is the Day of Atonement. Together, they are sometimes referred to as the Jewish High Holidays. They mark a period known both as the “Days of Awe” and the “Ten Days of Repentance,” during which Jewish people are supposed to reflect on the sins they have committed during the past year. Rosh Hashanah combines the joy of a New Year celebration and its theme of renewal with the seriousness associated with confronting one’s failings and seeking forgiveness both from God and from those one has wronged. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the Jewish sacred calendar.
This year there’s much to be grateful for and look forward to and also so many things to worry about. My husband’s mom’s health is the biggest worry for our family. And days before the holidays started, Hurricane Ida devastated many of my town’s businesses and homes. Sometimes, hon, I can barely take a deep breath.
But vivid colors call to me and I contemplate how a blue sky and white clouds frame bright yellow petals, and I search for words to write and read.
Morning walks are my meditation; sweet scents my solace.
A year ago, we were frozen in place. When the pandemic shut our world down, my family asked, “How long will this last?” “Surely, a few weeks.” “Surely, not past July 4th.” As the months dragged on, and everyday was the same as the last, several walks a day was our way to break the monotony. And guess what, hon? Senses heightened. Flowers were more vivid than ever. Garden scents filled the air. Songbirds were distinguishable. And the antics of our sweet furry angels, Lucy and Midnight, entertained us. I’m still walking, discovering wonders everyday. And everyday, those wonders bring me bits of peace.
Poems enter my mind in words and phrases, begging me to concentrate on how to make language sing. April is National Poetry Month. Hon, hope you enjoy the history behind it and a “Spring song.”
National Poetry Month
Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and, of course, poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives. In 2021, the Academy of American Poets looks forward to celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of this annual celebration!
I had no thought of violets of late, The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet In wistful April days, when lovers mate And wander through the fields in raptures sweet. The thought of violets meant florists’ shops, And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine; And garish lights, and mincing little fops And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine. So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed, I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams; The perfect loveliness that God has made,— Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams. And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.