November’s golden leaves evoke memories of families gathered around tables overflowing with traditional foods, stories long forgotten, and laughter echoing across the years. Here’s a poem I wrote, one of remembering a moment long ago that has never faded from my mind.

Madonna and Child: Oil on Wood Panel by Mary Lynn Bracht

I forgot until she did it

My mother reached up and stroked the Virgin’s face

Is this real, she asked, turning to look at me over her shoulder

My eyes couldn’t meet hers, instead

I stared at her fingertips, still pressed against the painting

And wondered what it felt like to touch history

Four hundred years ago in the jungles of Central America

Madonna and child gazed down at the pagan natives

With their Catholic eyes gilded in gold

I wanted to ask her if the holy family felt warm or cold

Greasy or dry, what did touching them make my mother feel?

But then I wondered what she meant by Is this real?

Did she mean the painting

Or the Virgin’s story?

And then I remembered

I had the same urge when I was young, to touch

What was forbidden, at sixteen

My own fingertips grazed the toes

Of Zeus, standing in silence in the Louvre

The cold marble was smooth

An electric spark shocked through my skin

When a boy caught me, and grinned

So when I finally met my mother’s eyes, I did the same

She had crossed centuries with one forbidden touch

©Mary Lynn Bracht

Researching often means I get to indulge in reading books I consequently fall in love with that lead me to other books in a never ending roadmap of discovery. This morning, while researching woodlands, I came across a quote by Wordsworth “… with gentle hand | Touch — for there is a spirit in the woods” from his poem Nutting, so of course I had to read the rest of the poem. I found my book of his major works, searched the glossary for the page number, and then the book flipped open straight to the poem. I paused, thinking that was cool, but just as I started to read aloud (as I often do with poetry), my iPhone stopped playing music, as though this poem demanded quiet. It was sudden and mysterious — I had to share. And yes, the poem is wonderful! 🙌

*Woods: A Celebration by Robert Penn

Woman’s correct street costume
(The Passing of Korea, Homer B. Hulbert, 1906)

Restricting the visibility of women in public is a patriarchal practice historically found in many countries, even Korea. Unfortunately, the burden to repel inappropriate male interest fell on women and what they covered or revealed, rather than focusing on the offending male behavior. Much of what women endured and were blamed for in history was due to the inability of men to restrain their behaviour. The world suffers when men don’t check themselves, not when women are seen.

After a year of uncertainty

London is awash with flowers

assuaging us with a bounty of blooms

spring’s arrival post-lockdown, post-heartache, post-tragedy

Rebirth! of mood, of mind, of heart

a renewal of, a continuation of

life.

These pink beauties, brightening: parks, streets, gardens, window ledges

a welcome sight,

these gems of nature coloring our world

like tiny miracles.

The tree shadows on Hampstead Heath are timeless. This photograph could have been taken decades ago. As I pass these trees on my daily walk during lockdown, I often wonder what stories they hold locked in their rings of memory. So many books have come out in the last few years on the mysteries of trees. My favorite has to be The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wholleben (originally published in Germany in 2015). A fascinating read, I filled the pages with post it notes to mark my favorite bits of new tree knowledge. Highly recommended non-fiction read for nature lovers.