Sunday, January 10, 2021

Talking to Myself Fifty-Seven

The village post office.


Talking to Myself Fifty-Seven January 10, 2021

I live in a democracy, which some

discount, including our president.

We want him gone. He still has

ten days, but how much damage

can he do? Too much, we fear. 

The one we want is waiting in the

wings, waiting his turn. He was

elected. Some cried that our votes

didn’t count. So many absentee

votes made a difference. It was

the lawless crowd we worried

about. No respect for other people,

no respect for our democratic

traditions. An old man in the

post office leered at me, came 

close. “How you doin’, honey.”

I kept going. I had packages 

to mail. This was not the Capitol

building in D.C. This was in the

village post office. When I’d

mailed my packages, he was

gone. The signs said to stand

six feet apart. He was not even

one foot from me. Gone when

I came out, yet, in reality,

how far away?


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Talking to Myself Fifty-Six

"First Snow" by Nikolai Smirnov. A Kostroma Region village farmhouse.

Talking to Myself Fifty-Six January 3, 2021

All around me: photos and paintings,

and a Finnish poster. My loved ones

take up wall space. I’ve been in this

room most of the time in most of last

year, staying safe from the virus that

kills. The poster over my desk is of

glacier-cut Finnish islands, a jigsaw

of forests in an impossibly blue sea

over my desk where reside printer,

fax, and scanner, and my Bach records.

To the right the wall holds Rumyantsev

forests, an abandoned village against

a golden fall. To the left, Nikolai Smirnov’s

roads, his mother’s village and her

small figure. Also Lyuba’s image of

her sister Vera emerging from the

forest like a modern Demeter. Then

that sister’s painting of the Krukov

Canal. Above the computer table, 

the face of Esenin--such sad eyes.. He

was forced to kill himself, his last

poem written in blood. Beside him

Vera’s flowers, and below Nikolai’s

rendering of the Kostroma city

center, and still lower, the Ipatievsky

Monastery from across the Kostroma

River. Behind the computer on a 

shelf, the Virgin’s Annunciation by

Lyuba, and my twin grandchildren,

and my friend Jaki and me. The back

wall has a long one of a village field

of dandelions, the coming of spring

with cranes flying. I thought it was

fall before I had my cataract surgery.

Aleksei’s forests and Nadya’s pink

landscapes, the ruins of Goncharov’s

home, and the enlarged flower by Doc

Ellen–all above the chest freezer where

I store my bread flours and keep all 

my published books on top, and 

a photo of me in my father’s arms

at age two. The back door holds old

Christmas cards, and the wall beside

it, two paintings by Roman Smirnov

of water and trees. Behind me, Smirnov’s 

village farmhouse, the Golden Autumn

giving way to the First Snow. Farther away

my son Tim’s memories of New Mexico,

and Julia’s colors, which I chose that go with

Tim’s. Also, from a magazine, Botticelli’s

 Arrival of Spring after Winter’s Deadlock.

May it arrive soon.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-Five


Photo of Wag by Doc Ellen DVM at Jordan Dam

Talking to Myself Fifty-Five December 27, 2020

Oh, Wag, where have you gone?

The house feels empty. You fought

so hard to keep living and then you

quit. Too much trouble to eat or

drink. Your moans got quieter. Your

front paws barely moved. Tim said,

“She’s dying,” and so you were. He

said, “I’ll bury her, out behind the

garden.” I said okay. Words escaped

me. I remembered the puppy I 

rescued when the weather turned

cold. I got her inside the backyard

fence. She cried all night. I called

the animal rescue people and got

her inside. She hid behind the

toilet, her little world in disarray.

Two dog-lovers came. The man

got down on his hands and knees, 

and acted like a dog. You were

reassured. You peed on the woman

who was holding you, and she

didn’t mind. They gave me a booklet

on dog care. We’d had a dog when

the kids were young, but she lived

outside mostly. When she died,

she’d gone into the woods, and we

didn’t see her die. You lived eighteen

years.  People told me, “She must

be loved to live so long.”  She couldn’t

walk, had trouble eating, often kept

Tim awake. He carried her in and

out, knew how to position her so

she wouldn’t cry and could get

to sleep. Now you sleep with the

night creatures, and Janet says

you watch us from your new

heavenly home.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-Four

Photo by Janet Wyatt

 Talking to Myself Fifty-Four December 20, 2020

Christmas in a pandemic requires thought

and deliberation. My grandson, off at college,

has the deadly virus, though he’s not very

sick. In a family that doesn’t go to church,

he does, and he looks to me, who grew up

in the church, for comfort. I’ve given him

my Bibles and told him about his great

grandfather who was a minister, and about

his great, great grandparents who were

missionaries in China over a hundred\

years ago. Bobby wants to read their story, 

which I have published in a book called

Grace: A China Diary, 1910-16.  I’ve

wrapped it for his Christmas present.

We send emails. I may not see him at

Christmas, but there are many ways to

send and receive messages when your

society has fallen victim to a new plague.

I send cookies and books to my grandchildren

for whom I cared when they were babies.

For Lilly, who lives nearby, I’m giving the

activist anthology Impact, where I appear

fighting the dumping of coal ash in my

community. For me emails arrive, some 

cards and gifts. I make cookies and so does 

my helper Janet, from recipes I take out

every Christmas. Familiar tastes and smells

in our cold, dark days to throw a little

light, a little love, a solemn thankfulness 

that we are still alive.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-Two

 Talking to Myself Fifty-Two December 13, 2020

                                Photo by Janet Wyatt

A strange year. They give us rules

and more rules, but too many people

are getting sick. A vaccine is coming,

but will there be enough? Health 

workers first and then the elderly.

Meantime the postal service isn’t

working well. Letters disappear. 

Ordered books don’t arrive. Bills

can’t reach their destination, and

people buy on line and wait for

their packages. Rene brings her

church’s basket of fruit. Neighbors

bring wood. A few cards arrive.

More gifts go into the mail. Will

they get there at all, much less in

time for Christmas? We rejoice that

we’re alive, that our woodstove 

heats our small house, that our

old dogs sleep. I take gingerbread

to the postal workers and my friends

at the Mini-Mart. Janet helps me

make cookies to take to loved

people. I can’t do all I used to, but

I do some. I send words by email

and mail. I wrap a few books for

the grandchildren. Christmas is

for peaceful nights, celebrations,

feasts and smiles. We are healthy

We have each other, we are warm

and well-fed. This year, too, will

slowly pass and bring us joy again.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-One

 Talking to Myself Fifty-One December 6, 2020

I’ve lived as though in an underground

burrow, rarely outside the front or back

door. My son wants to be there at the 

front in case I fall. Janet sees me go

down the back steps and waves me on.

I count my steps. I don’t fall. I had a

tiny filling on Wednesday, and my dentist

went another mile and cleaned off some

tartar. On Friday, after a year of talking

by phone, I saw my doctor. I gave a

good report: no nose bleeds, no afib,

no lost words, and a new attachment

by email. She laughed, delighted. I

said I was slowly getting stronger,

walking better. “Come back in three

months.” Only it’s four. She’s popular,

has a heavy patient load, but she exults

with me over my successes. Meantime,

my son continues the heavier chores:

sees to the hens, hanging up the clothes,

and my helper Janet put in a zinnia

garden, which gave me flaming blooms

of color well into November. She even

tamed the rooster to eat out of her hand.

I’m alone most of the time. Then,

suddenly a hug from my check-out

friend at the Mini-Mart. She misses

me, sent a Christmas card. The virus

has kept me away since March, but

we hear there’s a vaccine on the way,

and we old ones have priority after

the health workers. I can’t wait. I’ll

slowly get back to my hens, to planting

tomatoes, sugar snap peas, maybe

onions and beans. Spring will arrive, 

and I can work outside again.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty

Talking to Myself Fifty November 29, 2020

I used to be quite good at solving problems.

I learned not to waste time worrying, but

to begin the search for answers. When

I wake up at two in the morning and can’t

sleep, I make my breakfast and then sleep

again. It works. With people, I trust my

instincts. I had to learn to listen. I do

now. Those connections with others

demand I pay attention, imagine what

life is like for them. If I am mistreated

or manipulated, I let them go. The rewards

are great for trusting those other eyes

and what they see. It’s work, but I

garner rich rewards. My years have

brought more praise than I conceived

possible. I welcome those who choose

to listen and trust me. They people my

inside life and keep me learning from

everything that happens to me, body

or soul or both. I don’t know why people

love me, but it’s their love which holds 

me up, opens doors, comforts my quiet

days alone, helps me forgive their 

impatience and distractions. I can imagine

way beyond the outward persona

and recall the hungry soul.