Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Nine

Photo last winter of Judy and Wag coming out of the fog at Jordan Dam by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Twenty-Nine May 19, 2019

Gifts. Why is it that I receive
so many gifs? When I fell, trying
to avoid a speeding car, my son
determined to move here from New
Mexico to help me, and he did,
though it took him eight months. 
When I began to worry about money,
a long-time friend asked me to help
publicize her new book, and sent
me $100. When my new book on
my Russian friends was slow to
take off, a Russian immigrant in
Canada wrote me how much she
loved the book and began to
share her enthusiasm in the world
wide web. She sent me her review,
and it will be published here, too.
Sometimes I want to complain,
but I hardly begin when something
unbelievable and unexpected changes
my tune. Instead, I am forced

to be grateful.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Eight

Sunrise at Jordan Lake, Ellen Tinsley, DVM, mid-April 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Eight  May 11, 2019

Sometimes I think of books unsold
and wonder if I’ll ever find my readers.
I know they’re out there, but the books
aren’t moving very fast out of their
shipping boxes. Then a good, independent
bookstore orders copies. The Sisters
in Crime people send a book group
offer that fits one mystery to a T.
My daughter, her kids, Tim and  
his Virginia gather for a birthday feast
of pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream
and presents. Cards tell me I’m
amazing, a marvel, loved. I have
gifts to wear, for the garden, for the
kitchen, notebooks and a pen for
writing. Even candles to blow
out. We laugh. We are a family.
Some walls still stand, but many
came down. No point worrying.
There will be readers. I dare to
consider that age eighty-two may
be even more rewarding than
eighty and eighty-one were.
I remember my own words: * “It
is enough to take a portion of the
feast. One cup of tea offered in
kindness; a few Welsh cakes 
made on a day with wind and
rain, will give us what we need
for life. It does not stop the tears
the heart must shed, or quiet hungers
we will know till we are dead. But
we can then walk on a little farther,
our hearts made light by kindness,
by old rituals preserved inside
old stones, and when we cross old
streams, we do not weep.”

* from Light Food (1985, written in Wales. XV, p. 36

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Seven

Sunrise at Jordan Lake, by Ellen Tinsley DVM, May 1, 2019.

The Late Years Twenty-Seven  May 5, 2019

I think of my hopes in ninety-six,
when I tried to give you up, and 
wanted to attain mastery. It helped
me let go, only that never worked,
and I know it didn’t work for you 
either. Now I wonder: did I attain
mastery? I thought it possible
twenty-three years ago. I’ve certainly
done enough writing. Poems, diary,
diary books, mystery novels have
all poured out. You also wrote and
published books. Then you died.
A slow, painful death, cared for 
by Katya and your son Alyosha,
hiding from your closest friends.
One letter I received, in English,
translated by your granddaughter
after I sent you This River: An Epic
Love Poem, about my love for you.
That one, I think, was a master
work, and now that I’ve reread 
them, the Baba Summer books, 
and Frost and Sun, Parts One and 
Two, I rest my case with those 
and our love story–the ecstatic 
moments and the agony of 
misunderstanding are all there. 
Nothing destroyed that connection. 
Even now it still holds. What does
it mean to be a master? I’d known
I could heal others, if they let me.
I was confident I could be a 
Shakespeare’s sister in a more open
age for women.That wasn’t hard, and
loving you, being your Penelope,
and also my own Odysseus, was so
natural when it happened. Time
stopped, in one way. It still stays
that way. Words flow from my
pen so easily, so confidently, so
without effort, if that is mastery,
and maybe it is: finding the words
I need when I need them, albeit
some forgetfulness. You said that
last visit was the best. Only at the
end did you call me heroic, but I
knew you were happy when I
visited schools, taught the teachers
what was happening outside Russia, 
but, more importantly, even though
times were hard and they feared
for the future, that I’d found
Paradise in the ancient city of
Kostroma–in people’s hearts,

in the love that wouldn’t let go.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Six

Judy opening first shipment of her Russian book Baba Summer


The Late Years Twenty-Six April 28, 2019

What no one said about aging 
was that it takes courage.
Your mind says, “At any moment
you may die.” You know it’s
unlikely when you sleep well, have
good blood pressure, and can still
wash dishes, sweep the kitchen
floor, get in and out of the tub,
feed the lively hens and not fall
down, but some reminder stays
in your mind, saying, “You never
know.” That’s where the courage 
comes in. “Do it anyway,” says
your inner voice. Don’t be a coward
now. You never were. You always
ran toward what frightened you.
If you want to live another decade 
or longer, keep moving, keep doing
all you can do. You’ll be glad in
the long run. Keep getting out
of bed; keep walking. Keep writing
down your gifts from the Deep
Self. It’s not only still there, it’s
more ready than ever to speak
your truth. As before, and for
so many years, all you have to do
is listen.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Five

Judy congratulating Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina's poet laureate whom she first published in 1977. Photo, August, 2018.

The Late Years Twenty-Five April 21, Easter Sunday, 2019

When you grow old, even though you still do
most things, the important things: write and
publish your books, make bread and pizza,
spaghetti sauce and fresh egg omelets,
and walk without a cane, don’t be dismayed
when people have forgotten about all you
once did and got away with–opening so many
gates to let more people in–at the councils, 
in the literary community, publishing poets
no one ever heard of, and now they’re famous–
more famous than you are. But it wasn’t fame
you were after but opening doors by challenging
the authority of the state, even of the nation.
Don’t let it get you down when they close you
out, can’t see how you could draw an audience
to a book reading. They don’t see the tree you 
are, how wide under the earth is your root
system, how high are your branches, shading
the earth, succoring birds, keeping the air
clean and sweet where your love gives shade.
Remember that you’re a tree, a huge, two-hundred-
year old white oak, standing through generations 
beside the road where so many cars and long-
haul trucks pass daily and scarcely notice you.
It’s part of life, to be loved and treasured by a
few but ignored and then forgotten by the ones
deciding things now. Go where they want you
and have felt and loved your ability to make a
new community out of a handful of strangers.
Do what you do best. Tell the whole story
of what you life has been like, of those who
treasured you, of those who do remember.

In time, they all will.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Four

Judy by Emma Tobin late 2018.

The Late Years Twenty-Four April 14, 2019

I lost and then I found part
of my life story–those winter
months in Kostroma near
my beloved and yet far. I made
my own life there, visited my
friends and entertained them,
wrote poems and shopped at
the big daily market for fresh
cheese and butter, rode the
trolley bus, fell on icy sidewalks,
heard the symphony orchestra, 
celebrated now painter exhibits. 
I could speak Russian which
few Americans could. I hunted
through my boxes and filing
cabinets for the second half
of Frost and Sun. No sign. I
 couldn’t lose it. Those pages 
were so completely missing. 
I remembered how in 2017 I went
several times to the Hospital
Emergency Room. I found the
title but no book on the computer.
Then I looked at all the files
stacked on the floor: coal ash 
records, recently held classes,
new published books. Could the
missing chapters be there? I’d look.
I sat near the stacks and began
to check them. I set aside ones
I’d give to Duke as archives,
others I’d need to keep, and then
I reached for the file on another
stack. Two fell loose as if looking
for me. I saw the words Frost and
Sun. Could it be? It was. All ten
chapters of my winter in Kostroma.
For my friends it was a hard time. 
They couldn’t predict their future.
They didn’t even try. “We don’t
know,” they said. Their children 
were sick. Some of the food they’d
saved for the winter had spoiled.
Their salaries would barely feed
them, yet they lavished feasts on me.
They gave me clothes for the bitter
winter. I was cherished. I knew I’d
been right to go. I’ve never regretted
that love or the risks I took. It was
the way I lived my life when I began
my full adulthood, my own claim
on this earth, my own choices, and
the consequences that followed.
I’m glad I was the way I was and
did the things I did and took the 
risks I took. Mine was and is a life
with one overriding purpose, to be
the human being only I could be,
to find that simple courage: 
to be myself.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Three

This was a CCACAD victory party back in 2017, when Judge Fox ruled for us in our court case to stop the coal ash dumping. Johnsie to the left in front, John Cross, third back on the right, and other coal ash fighters. We lost John in late 2018, and Johnsie now suffers from cancer and many chemo treatments, but these, folks, are heroic people.

The Late Years Twenty-Three April 7, 2019

Most of what we’ve tried to do has 
proved futile, if not impossible.
We took on a giant public utility
and lost to the tune of seven million
tons of coal ash. It could have been
more. They promised us twelve
million. Oh, how they lied. How
falsely they attempted to reassure.
“There’s arsenic in apple juice,”
they said. But we didn’t want it in
our air, in our water, in the air we
breathed, the water we drank. Now
they want to burn the coal ash again.
“To make it clean,” they said. It still
poisons us. We sicken and die.
Already we lose our justice fighters.
Two lost: Terica and John Cross.
One more still fighting, still alive
after the twenty-third chemo 
treatment: Johnsie. What does it
take for you to see the people, the 
little children, the unborn babies?
Why don’t you wish us to live and
flourish? Your hatred is palpable.
In the name of Terica and John, 
and Johnsie, we fight on. Stop
your poison now. Change your 
tune. You, too, are only human.

You, too, can sicken and die.