Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-Six

Judy by Elisabeth Plattner June 1, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-Six  November 17, 2019

Honor comes late but welcome.
The Veteran Feminists of America
have put me on their website. They
learned all my secrets. Most things
I did quietly. I didn’t waste energy
or time, but used the Zen wisdom 
when you cut up meat: “Go for the
spaces between the bones.” It worked
every time. I told women their writing
was important, and I published them. 
Mostly, I was ignored. Every once
in awhile a woman writes to thank
me for helping her. I didn’t receive
the big literary awards–the North
Carolina Award, the Literary Hall of 
Fame, but the landscape changed.
I helped and published men, too,
but the major change in our literary
landscape in the seventies was how
so many women’s voices were now 
being heard. I published them in
Black Sun/New Moon. I drew them to
a day-long meeting called “Tell Me A 
Story That’s True.” I never had much
money but I found it to make new
things possible. A woman bought me
a tee shirt when I didn’t have the money
at the conference. We used Muriel 
Ruykheiser’s words: “If one woman told the
whole story of her life, the world would 

split open.” I hear the first crack.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-Five

 Photo taken in 2017 when Judge Fox had ruled for us in court.
Things got more difficult later. Johnsie Tipton, first left, and John Cross, end of table on the right, died of cancer in late 2018 and 2019. Terica Luxton, of Lee County, also died in 2019.

The Late Years Fifty-Five  November 10, 2019

Sunday morning. Time to write
a poem. What will it be today?
We’re back to cold. Where is my
fur-lined coat? Buried in a chair
where I threw all my winter gear.
We go from 70 to 27. Cold is no
excuse not to do my morning walk.
Then I need to take the dog out and
feed the hens. Inside we can be
cozy. Tim will light the woodstove.
Outside the rooster complains,
and daylight is slower than usual
to grace us with its presence. Sun
will warm even this cold beginning.
We live far enough south. We have
wood from friends and fatwood fire-
starters. Yesterday, when Deb’s
front tire went flat, I drove my
old truck to Clayton for our coal
ash meeting. It refused to go very
fast, but with Deb calling out the
directions, we got there. After
the meeting, my truck wouldn’t
start. I’d left my lights on. John,
parked next to us, said he had
jumper cables, so we got the engine
going and drove home. Deb left
to check the air in her spare,
which a man had put on, when
we drove into the RV park. Every
time we had a car problem, 
someone helped us. Deb and I
called our day an adventure. It
seems more like a miracle. Is 
there a message here? Someone
is looking after coal ash fighters 

who won’t quit?

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-Four

Judy sitting by the Haw River to write poems, 1992. Drawing by Mikhail Bazankov, 1938-2015. Cover of Beaver Soul, Russian edition, 1997.

The Late Years Fifty-Four  November 3, 2019

We talked about the Muse. What
Jacques Maritain calls creative
intuition, and Joyce Cary, simply
intuition. Cary says it comes upon
the artist or poet like a discovery.
Virginia Woolf says it celebrates
its nuptials in peace. It’s like a
swan floating down the river.
Eliot says what we write joins 
the tradition if it’s new and good,
and everything else shifts slightly 
to accommodate the new discovery. 
None of them, though helpful, 
wrote their thoughts as a woman
poet might. For me it’s a question
“What shall I write about today?”
which W.B. Yeats posed to himself.
As soon as I ask, the answer flows 
into my mind, a guide to follow,
word by word. My mind forgets
everything else, especially the
trivia: the new exercises I need
to do every day, whether my email
to the coal ash folks will reach them 
all successfully, and the cold
outside, the time change–seven
has become six, with daylight
earlier, and nightly dark, too. All
my worries and problems take a 
backseat or work their way into
the poem. As long as the words
in my mind don’t desert me, I can
live and write as a poet with a
sacred voice always there to
reassure and reward me,

no matter what.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-Three

Wag on the dam a few months ago. Photo by Doc Ellen, DVM

The Late Years Fifty-Three October 27, 2019

I have these aging symptoms: nosebleeds,
afib, falling. My doctor doesn’t want any falls.
They’re no fun–like falling half-way out
the chicken coop door or into the flower
garden, and once into the Christmas tree.
I rarely even get bruises. I go months
without a fall, and I’m very careful. 
Nosebleeds are a nuisance, but I know what
to do. I hate afib, but I endure it–drink
my lemon balm tea, and it goes away.
No harm done. I had seven falls in the last
year, so I’m to try physical therapy. Of
course, my sleep patterns are irregular.
I’m more of a night owl than I like.
My body is whimsical, and I have
strange dreams. Last night I was getting
to learn something new, and I was
happy about it. I had to have my dog
with me. But what was it? Not, I think,
physical therapy. Writing more, not
less, I think. I was in a big room with
other people. We were all doing it,
and we all had a dog. My Wag is old,
older than I am, has trouble with her
back legs. On solid ground she walks
fine, but on linoleum, she slips and
slides. I walk okay, and I don’t fall
most of the time. I’m very careful now.
I wanted to live to be a hundred, but
I didn't expect these annoying symptoms.
Still, I’m telling the story, and my heart
is good. I do sleep. Even if my body is
whimsical, it does still heal. I get more
chances. I don’t like these problems,
but I know how to change my life.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-Two

Eight years ago I sold my big crop of figs at our local co-op, Chatham Marketplace. But hard freezes have worked havoc on the figs in recent years.

The Late Years Fifty-Two  October 20, 2019

Mostly, I don’t think about dying.
My days are full of things to do
though I’ve learned to be satisfied
with less, to rest more, and take naps
on purpose instead of by accident.
I also do my cooking by stages, take
breaks to read my novel or answer
email. I still walk up at the dam,
unless it’s too wet or blustery. I
let my son close up the hens at night.
And in rain, I take the dog out early, 
even if we both get wet. I’m often so 
tired, I wonder if that’s how I’ll die–
too tired to move any more--but I 
sleep and my energy returns. What’s 
a little rain after all? And sleep still 
revives me even if I do wake up 
so slowly. I often wish I could do 
more. I haven’t been in the orchard 
for months. I missed the figs, if they 
were there, and the grapes. I stayed 
out of the garden when the rooster 
claimed it for his hens and chased 
me off. My heart still beats steadily. 
I remmber most things or they come 
back to mind if I’m patient. I keep 
learning to accept my limitations. 

A good life lesson after all.

The actual figs.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Late Years Fifty-One

Photo of blue-winged teals migrating by Doc Ellen Tinsley, DVM.
The Late Years Fifty-One  October 13, 2019

Aging. The term never meant much.
Now it does. I move so slowly. Every
morning my body has to start all over
again. First, sit up; then move to the
end of the couch so I can hold onto
it and two chairs to stand. Then a step
at a time, arms out for balance, into
the bathroom. Back to get dressed,
brush my hair, put on my glasses.
Every waking is like this–always gradual.
I don’t dash anywhere anymore. I still
walk without a cane–very carefully.
I fell twice, once going up onto my
front step, and once going down, so
I’m extra careful now. I get tired
more easily, stop and rest often. More
naps in the early afternoon, and then
I have to wake up slowly again. I
write, type, read, think–a blessing. 
I’m careful not to get too hungry
or too tired. When I sleep, I go deep.
It takes time to wake up. When I die,
it will be like that–a deep sleep and

no need to wake up.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Late Years Fifty

No coal ash sign designed by Keely Wood and erected in April 2015 on Buckhorn Rd., Moncure, NC

The Late Years Fifty October 7, 2019

For Dean Tipton

Last week we lost Johnsie. The last time 
I saw her, she was happy, laughing. Two
months ago. We were celebrating Dean’s
birthday. Keely had brought a cake. She said
her doctors had told her that there was no
more they could do, after a year–or more–
of chemotherapy. Dean and Johnsie live by
the train track bringing coal ash to dump in
Moncure. They came to hearings four years
ago and said they lived at ground zero.
Johnsie told her co-workers at The Pilot that
the trains running through the center of 
Southern Pines were death trains, but no one
listened. Maybe they’ll listen now. She turned
up at our meetings whenever the chemo hadn’t
laid her flat. She was always cheerful and
thankful for all the coal ash fighters. We
tried, but we didn’t stop the coal ash trains.
So we lost Johnsie. She used to say, “Jesus,

take the wheel.” Maybe He did.