Sunday, September 16, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Three

Shadows Twenty-Three September 9, 2018

It is not easy to distinguish reality from illusion, especially when one lives in a period of the great upheaval that began a couple of centuries ago on a small western peninsula of the Euro-Asiatic continent, only to encompass the whole planet during one man’s lifetime with the uniform worship of science and technology. And it was particularly difficult to oppose multiple intellectual temptations in those areas of Europe where degenerate ideas of dominion over men, akin to the ideas of dominion over Nature, led to paroxysms of revolution and war at the expense of millions of human beings destroyed physically or spiritually. And yet perhaps our most precious acquisition is not an understanding of those ideas, which we touched in their most tangible shape, but respect and gratitude for certain things which protect people from internal disintegration and from yielding to tyranny. Precisely for that reason some ways of life, some institutions became a target for the fury of evil forces, above all the bonds between people that exist organically, as if by themselves, sustained by family, religion, neighborhood, common heritage. In other words, all that disorderly, illogical humanity, so often branded as ridiculous because of its parochial attachments and loyalties. In many countries traditional bonds of civitas have been subject to a gradual erosion and their inhabitants become disinherited without realizing it. It is not the same, however, in those areas where suddenly, in a situation of utter peril, a protective, life-giving value of such bonds reveals itself.–Czeslaw Milosz Nobel Lecture, 1980.

This is what we suffer. This wears us down.
Those small towns I lived in as a child: Zenith,
Kansas, Cameron, West Virginia, Norman,
Oklahoma. I walked to the post office. I
Visited the women quilting in the church
basement, my parents took me seriously
and believed I could do anything I wanted
to do, even if, later, I scared them to death
by loving mavericks, challenging the racial
line, risking my life, my health, my safety.
Wherever I went, I built community,
fostered connections between those going
it alone. Milosz helped me see, at age
eighty-one, that our worship of science
and technology, our allowing a dictator
to be elected president, is killing us off.
The big electricity corporation has brought
us a present we couldn’t refuse of seven
million tons of poison. They say they’ll stop 
now.  They’ve done enough damage. Instead,
they’ll burn the coal ash again and kill us 
faster. No one stops them. People are
getting sick. They don’t want to fight
any more. They forget: when we fight, we
love each other. We can live with our
differences. Black, white, and Hispanic;
church-goers and non-church-goers.
Andrew says, “You’ve won a victory. 
Have a victory party.” Rhonda says, 
“You’re defying the doctors. I predict
you’ll have a stroke.” She’s angry at her
body’s weakness, and at me, for trusting
myself and challenging doctors, our techno-
masters in a sickening world. The human
body knows how to heal itself. Instead, they
give us pills and then more pills, and the 
body then is truly sick, won’t fight any more. 
Milosz lived under the Nazis, under Stalin.
He fought and he survived. I, too, am
fighting, and I, too, am surviving. Love
can conquer. Give it a try.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Two

Judy making bread, with sticky hands.

Shadows Twenty-Two September 2, 2018

Proust thought Time destroyed us,
those hidden memories our only
salvation. For me, Time allows
fulfillment, to come into my own,
to learn, to heal, and even to be
recognized and valued. There were
people who hated me, but they
didn’t stop me. My own body
slowed me down, reminded me
I had done well and to think of those
I love. I persuaded my friends
and my doctor to trust my way
of life, my faith in myself; to let
me continue my independent way. 
My son and I learned to live
together. We lost some crops,
but harvested bushels of tomatoes.
I made spaghetti sauce and soup.
Now there are grapes to make
Muscadine jelly, pears to make
preserves. I do my work as a
writer, editor, teacher. I celebrate
Jaki, whom I first published
forty-five years ago. I will
teach poetry and story writing.
Like the moon’s slow, steady
increase of its light, I resume

my own life of work and love.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shadows Twenty-One

Zinnia with butterfly


Shadows Twenty-One

For Jaki

You looked so fragile, but I
knew even then that you were
tough. Now I look back on
your resurrections. After you
left that March day in 1973,
I saw a small white dogwood
blooming across the racist fields.
It named your spirit. A briefcase
full of poems: some loving, some
harsh. I felt their power. Then
that Fourth of July, when we 
went to Asheville, you with
baby Eva, and in your appointment
book for January, you wrote:
“background music, fireworks,
cheering,” and then, over and
over: “simmering of blood,
simmering of blood, simmering
of blood.” I put that page–110–
in your book. Those early years
I worried about your life. After
Imani died, I worried about
your health. In your grief, 
your hands were paralyzed. You
couldn’t write. You healed again,
and now they’ve honored you,
made you the state’s laureate poet.
You wanted me there to celebrate.
I offended many in those days 
forty-five years ago. I broke up
the cliques, published the writers 
who were different, who were
marginalized. Together we changed
those margins, and you’re alive
and still speaking truth.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Shadows Twenty

Cosmos in my garden in 2014. They bloom again this year.

Shadows Twenty August 19, 2018

For Virginia

How do I describe my faithfulness to my
deepest knowledge, to what I see but
can’t easily reveal in words. I tried not
to be good as a child is good. I rebelled
against old formulas, trite words. I loved
Thoreau’s wisdom: “If I see someone
coming to do me good, I run for my life.”
I rejected that impulse to “do good.” Yet I 
have always worked against evil when
I saw it blazing up in corporations, in
those fearful of rocking the boat, or who
were terrified to be seen as bad, as trouble-
makers. So I’ve been castigated, dismissed, 
written off. It hasn’t been so bad. Some
tender hearts have loved me, and even
tough-spirited strangers have helped me
out. I have a few fans of my books. I
don’t need acclaim, but I do need to feel
loved and acknowledged by those I love
and trust, those who can see with clear
eyes who I am, what I care about. I’ve
been told many times that what I want
is impossible, will never happen. They
say life isn’t like that. You don’t get what
you wish for. In short, the power of evil
is too great. I don’t give up, however,
and then people love me. Things begin
to change. What my skeptics have
forgotten is the power of transformation
and what love can do when it’s unleashed,
when we see clearly, when other people’s
minds open like a book that wants to be
read. I can’t make that happen. I can’t
stop it. I can, however, give it my 
gratitude and let it go to work.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shadows Nineteen

Zinnias in bloom a few years ago. they bloom now, too.

Shadows Nineteen August 12, 2018

For Tim

So much change since April, when
my son arrived to help me with this
aging time and the body’s unpredictable
messages. He was there when my nose
bled. He picked up chores when my
heart beat too fast. He scolded if I
worked too hard. He likes pizza and
spaghetti, so I make those often. We
talk out problems, so I write less
in my diary, and I’ve stopped reading
mysteries to help pass the time. We
argue sometimes and then make amends.
I go to sleep early, and he stays up late.
He closes the chickens up at night, 
and I let them out in the morning. He 
fixed the clothesline when it fell
down and loves my Wag as well as
his Sophie. He writes poems now
and came to my workshop. He’ll
soon leave to work in Durham, but
I can do most things now. I have my
strategies and resources. When I 
can’t find things, he finds them. I
couldn’t have made him move here
to help me out, but he came, and he
stays. He’ll get his own place soon,
but he wants to be nearby. There are
things I can’t do any more and won’t
try, but I write, I laugh, I share the
wisdom of having lived sixty years
doing what my Deep Self said to do.
I’ve also realized that I’m happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Shadows Eighteen

Shadows Eighteen August 5, 2018

Sleep is a gift. When I want to,
sometimes I can’t. When I don’t
want to, sometimes it takes me
without any notice until I wake up.
Mostly, it’s generous. I sleep at night,
even before dark, and before light, 
wake for the day, already rested.
I know it heals. The body and soul
blend together in sleep, help each
other, confide their troubles, and
let them go. I am changed, renewed,
healed, ready to take on what the
new day will uncover. Lately? More
joy than sorrow, healing laughter,
a grateful heart.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Shadows Seventeen

Judy making pizza in August 2018

Shadows Seventeen July 29, 2018

For Mary Susan and Tom Heath

At two a.m. I’m wide awake. What
is my mind trying to tell me? Not, 
I think, “Slow down.” I already have.
No, it’s urging me to do a little more
each day until I approach normal, a
new normal. Full recovery is slow, maybe
not even possible, but I can pick my
own tomatoes, make the soups and
sauces that will brighten winter days.
Tomatoes are good for the body and 
the soul. They heal in subtle ways.
In the garden I still find the neglected 
thyme and oregano. I add some basil
I dried a few years ago. I buy fat
green peppers and slice up strong
white onions. The garlic is sprouting,
but I dice it small and add it to the
celery, and then stir in tomato paste
and many sauce tomatoes. They are
ripening in paper bags where the
bugs can’t eat them, and keeping
cold in the refrigerator for the next
batch of sauce. Whatever my old
heart is up to, it thrives on a plate
of spaghetti with melted cheese,
and a rich tomato sauce. Don’t 
forget the bay leaf, a sprinkle of
black pepper added to the sauteeing

onions, and a dash of salt.