Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All That Remains...

I recently watched one of my favorite movies, The Remains of the Day, for the third time. I remember seeing it for the first time with my mother in 1993 in the theatre. As the final music played on and the credits rolled, we each sat silently in our seats in the dark for the longest time unable to emit anything vocal except a sigh, virtually paralyzed from the emotional impact. The feeling was not watered down, seeing this movie for the third time.

The story is about a man who lives his life quite perfunctorily, sadly devoid of anything but his day-to-day routine. "Stevens" is head butler at the estate of the politically engaged Lord Darlington during pre-WWII England. So rigid is he (Stevens) that he is not moved by a request for friendship, the tragic death of his father, his master's misguided Nazi sympathies or the pleadings of his own heart. Unfortunately, in his attempt to avoid pain, he has also avoided life. The movie ends, many years later, with Stevens regretting his life as a "spectator", and his attempt to amend, perhaps counteract what his actions--or lack thereof--had wrought. Through Stevens (and his determination to bring justice to the world by simply serving his master and humanity) we are nudged into thoughts of our own moral responsibility. Is it enough to just do our duty, to follow rules, to do what is expected of us? Is this what life is about?

This is the story of us all, in that we can sometimes go through life without any enjoyment, any involvement or connection with what truly matters, leaving us to ask "Is that all there is?". Are we afraid to even say "hello" to another person, to make eye contact, to let people into our lives? Do we take the time to actually engage another person, to listen and respond, or do we say "Hi, how are you" as if it was part of a script and simply walk away without expecting or wanting an answer? Sometimes all it takes is one word, one smile, one gesture to change someone's life--and maybe your own.

Too often we let our preconceived notions about people dictate whether we will acknowledge them. And we certainly don't like to become involved in anything if there is the slightest chance we will be inconvenienced, or might get hurt. It's sad, really, because we can miss out on so much because of our fears and misguided judgments.

Some years ago, one of my sons had attended a concert and was outside mingling with people afterward. A woman came up to him and began rattling on about nothing really discernible. She smelled odd and looked dirty and went on and on about nothing in particular. But he listened, nodded, smiled and talked with her. This went on for a few minutes and then she left. But before walking away, she turned to him and said "Thank you for saving my life.".

If, indeed "all the world's a stage" as Shakespeare said, (As You Like It) I, for one, certainly always walk on stage heart in hand. This does not always bring about applause immediately--maybe not at all. And sometimes my role causes more pain than anything else. Suffice it to say that I may never win the award for best actress, but I can honestly say that being a player is much more gratifying than just watching the show.

So Cold the Winter

so cold the winter
so cold
the hearts of some
the ice will melt

so cold are some
so frightened
to offer love
of giving too much

so protected are they
so sad
the hearts of some
and empty without love

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thoughts on the First Day of Lent

I Am Here

And who comforts you?
Who reaches to grasp your hand,
I wonder, when your tears appear

Rife as rain, falling
From the tortured sky
Into which we blindly gaze
With prayerful pleas.

What more can you offer,
What signs strategically placed
Along the paths we travel
Can make us even begin

To understand the wind
Is your gasp of pain,
Your heart-rending cry,
The thunder its distant echo.

When the rocks we aim
At each other strike your heart,
When the pain becomes unbearable,
Who comforts you, my Lord,
Who comforts you?

(c) Monica Ellen Smith
(Inspired by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ")

Review of Kindred: A Family Portrait

Kindred: A Family Portrait (available from:; and
by Laurel Johnson
(artist, writer and book reviewer for Midwest Book Review

Poetry by Monica E. Smith
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
9781440104299 $11.95

"…home is that sacred place we feel we belong." For Monica E. Smith, and in fact for most of us, that place is nature. Forests, lakes, oceans, mountains, flora and fauna are our family, our kindred. Ms. Smith's poetry and Sam Rusztyn's illustrations accent that belief beautifully throughout this comforting book.

Nature provides order, harmony, purity, and grace to humans forced frequently to live in chaos and uncertainty. This excerpt from "(Un)like the Bird" is a perfect example:

But, unlike the bird
Which takes wing
On flights of fancy
In a moment's notice,
I am grounded
By my own uncertainty

"Passage" is an exceptional commentary on the past, present, and future of trees, and a touching metaphor for life itself:

Among the fallen
Lay the ancient ones,
Beautiful in death
As they were in life
Petrified, they remain still
Where once they stood tall
Nodding their delight
In the evening breeze
And yet, as in testimony
To resurrection
They shine in splendor,
Vivid and brilliant, gilded
In morning sunlight

Nature teaches us patience, fortitude, and how to stand through trying times. Humans flounder through minutes and hours where Nature counts time in eons. This excerpt from "Telegraphy" is a haunting reminder of the lessons to be learned from observing the effect of changing times and seasons:

…if you could see beyond
The physical, see beyond
Human perception, perhaps
You could envision the connection
Between life and death, understand
That they are two halves
Of the same whole, perhaps

Monica E. Smith takes readers to "those shallow shoals of Heaven's amaranthine shores…" and beyond in this poetic paean to Nature. Kindred is an encouraging, uplifting joy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Life with a Jack-a-Bee

Excerpt from Dog-matized: The Comical Truth of Life with a Jack-a-Bee
(available from blurb)

Bernie does not like baths. On one particular occasion I attempted this apparently insulting activity and she was nowhere to be found...I finally found her under our bed, flat as a pancakeas if that would make her invisible—holding on to the floor with her claws like she was going to fall off.

There would be no bath that day. I did not want to traumatize her further, softy that I am. I may be soft, but I am getting smarter. She seems to be able to differentiate whether I'm taking a shower or it's time for her bath, so I do not turn on the water until I have her safely in hand and in the bathroom...I then close the door so she cannot escape and proceed with the bath. Hey, it works. Although, I almost feel guilty when I see her standing there shivering in the tub, ears drooping, big eyes looking at me like I have just tortured her. Almost.

The Dead of Winter

January 23, 5:49 pm

The dead of winter has passed, the days beginning to last longer again, with spring surely just around the corner. But the weather doesn’t seem to realize that. There is some relief today, with the frigid temperatures which kept us company most of this month on the wane. However, it is not to last long. Below zero temperatures and more snow is on the way in the next few days.

I have always loved these days of wood fires, blankets and hot cocoa. It seems that, as I age, they are more oppressive­­­­­­­—the cold is painful, the darkness darker, the nights longer and empty.

I received an unexpected uplifting of spirit today. A co-worker, who had bought both of my poetry books recently, told me she had read them both feverishly one night. She wanted to tell me how “good” I am, what wonderful books they are, how amazing it is that “I know” what people feel. She just wanted me to know that. She is not someone I work with often, but we know each other fairly well because of the number of years we have worked together. So it was quite a generous and heady compliment, to know that my writing “touched” her, as she repeatedly told me. I am still reeling from the high. This is what I have always said was important in the writing of (my) poetry, to touch someone, that poetry creates a bond with another in this knowing, touching, feeling. And yet, as I always feel the need to do, I felt myself wanting to apologize that the writing wasn’t better, tell her that I know it isn’t selling, that it won’t sell, feeling the need to justify my work in some way. But we were both in a hurry to get to our respective assignments and so, the compliment was left shining in my head, as some precious gem glinting in sunlight, from which I have to shield my eyes.

It is always so hard for me to accept praise, though this is what, admittedly, I need, to hear that someone feels my writing is good, that it moved him or her, that it had merit. I wish I could believe that it does. Though, even in this state of unworthiness, I continue to write, to want to create, to do more.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I was thinking today about how I sometimes feel so lonely--so lonely to the point of tears. But all loneliness is not equal. There can be happiness, or maybe contentment, in some loneliness, in that a person might miss someone terribly; but when there is a connection there, and reciprocal love and caring, the loneliness is more tolerable. You will see the person again at some point, and in the meantime, there are the wonderful memories of times together, and the looking forward to the next time together. And that makes all the difference. I am so blessed. My children, all grown to adulthood now, live here and there. And I miss them terribly, not only their childhood, but the adults they have now become. The wonderful thing is that they continue to want to spend time with us, entertaining and doing things together; and that fills my heart so full. They have become, somewhat, peers; and so my children have gone, but I have gained, through them, friends.