Sunday, November 11, 2018

Shadows Thirty

Judy at her book party for her books Grace, A China Diary and Political Peaches: the Fifth Penny Weaver Mystery. 2017.
Photo by Johnsie Tipton.

Shadows Thirty October 28, 2018

Even love has its misunderstandings.
Sometimes my son and I knock heads.
We’ve learned to let go when arguments
go nowhere. Everyone has her own world
view, her own life story, fears, and dread.
Agony is human, but so is joy. We watch
the exultant eagles join the circling vultures.
For one, it’s work-related, for another, it’s 
ecstatic. When our hopes and desires
merge, worry disappears. When pain
returns, we are constrained to work free.
I write my troubles down, the better to let
them go. When they reappear, I’m
prepared. We all learn as fast as we can,
which means some more slowly than others. 
A lot depends on our heritage and even
more on work we’ve already done to cope
when people hated us, when our loved ones
turned their faces away. The late years
lead to a homecoming or some call it a
home-going. We have some say-so. For
me, there are many rewards in this last
stage, which Erik Erikson called “Ego
integrity versus despair.” We find rewards
for our self-defense, our ability to listen
and give a helping hand. People we
scarcely knew turn up to help us. A young
woman wants to study me for clues to 
living a benign life as a freedom-fighter.
Another woman in her middle years is
drawn to my relaxed humor. Most terrible
things draw our tears, but some that can
wrench us can later make us laugh. My
doctor, as I eluded the medicines and
survived, calls me Trouble, but she’s
smiling. Another older woman says we’re
both eccentric, but a good eccentric. My
son is learning to protect garden spiders, 
cherish poetry, and love my homemade bread.
I still walk without a cane, urged upon me five 
years ago. Some work I’ve let go. I rest more,
but I do all I can do–gratefully. Look around:
I have students and friends. I’m cherished by
those I want to cherish me. I’m alive and writing
down what my last years are like. Already I
inherit that persistence I fore-see in my shadow

after I’m gone. She’ll be okay.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Nine

Judy and Wag, curious. Photo by Doc Ellen, DVM.

Shadows Twenty-Nine October 21, 2018

For Ellen and Emma on a Saturday at Jordan Lake

Three women, two older, one with a small dog 
and one with a camera on a gray day at the 
Jordan Lake dam. The young one photographs 
everything: the morning glories on the verges,
purple, blue, orange. Her favorite is the blue,
she says. Below us water foams and leaps out
of the dammed up lake. We speak of the eagles.
“I haven’t seen one,” the older woman in her lawn 
chair says.  Then, “Wait. Speaking of eagles,
there’s a young one. They look like red-tailed
hawks.” We look at that high-flying speck. We
speak of pollution, how this grand lake became
polluted a year after it was made. How the changing
climate can wipe out migrating flocks which
can’t feed off grain in the fields as they journey
south. “The eagles are okay. Their diet is fish.”
A week earlier, when they counted the eagles
they could see from the dam, they saw twenty-five
young and mature. If we can learn to preserve
the lake, the eagles, and the fish, we might manage
to preserve human life through its stages, young
to old. The young one says, “I want to go back
there.” The older women are glad. Keep up
the fight to treasure and protect our world alive.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Shadows Twenty-eight

Juvenile Bald Eagles playing at Jordan Lake. 
Photo by Doc Ellen, DVM

Shadows Twenty-Eight.  October 14, 2018

Are people like eagles? Sometimes.
They can be larger in their spirits
than those around them and see to
the heart with a kindly but relentless
eye. Left by themselves they find
the world constantly entertaining.
Some people avoid them–afraid
or contemptuous? A few are drawn
and want to be taught and influenced.
Those give an ineffable joy, a glimpse
of something eternal which not even
a savage hurricane can destroy.
They build nests high and in unlikely
places–often messy and yet comfortable.
At maturity they don’t actually compete.
The tend to outgrow that impulse, but
their goal is to be the best that they can
be. We might envy their high-ranging
flights. Sky per se doesn’t frighten
them. It feels like home. They willingly
go it alone, but companionship at those
heights is their chief reward and
birthright when all is said and done.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Seven

Photo by Ellen Tinsley, DVM Judy and Wag coming out of the fog.

Shadows Twenty-Seven October 7, 2018

For Ellen

How to tell it? I have a new friend
in the midst of my aging, when new
friends are rare. She’s a bird-watcher.
I’m a people-watcher. What I learn,
I scarcely know until I put it in my
books. Some mistrust other people
first and foremost. I attend to them
with my mind open. She talked to 
my dog, and Wag listened. Wag is
tolerant now of other people but
skeptical, too. It takes time for her
to trust, but the bird-watcher turned
out to be a dog-whisperer and spoke
Wag’s language, baffling to me. Mind
over matter maybe. Wag would stop,
hesitate, and then touch her nose to
the outstretched hand. Me she pulled
in, too, to tell of the sixteen eagle
nests around our Jordan Lake. I
asked how they would have fared
during our hurricane. She said they
have favorite places to hunker down
during storms, but we had four days
of wind and rain, so she’s checking
on them. She watches for them to
fly by, way up there and catches
them in her camera the way she
caught Wag and me as we walked 

toward her, both smiling, she says.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Four

 My figs back in 2011, after Hurricane Irene. No figs this year.

Shadows Twenty-Four September 16, 2018

During Hurricane Florence

This monster hurricane has shaken our
assumptions. Wind and rain, if intense,
can’t be stopped. People are begged
to leave their homes, but many refuse.
So streets, cars, houses, stores are flooded.
Rescue work is unleashed. Here we had
wind and rain, but in bearable amounts. 
We were safe. We had electricity. Tim
watched the hurricane news. I worked
proofing my novels, written, but not yet
published. We could still cook our food, 
heat tea, make coffee. At the coast, some
died, and many lost everything. We can
expect more and more storms like Florence
because we pollute the air, and the earth
warms. Scientists tell us that we’re
already at the tipping point of climate
change. Do we remember to value our
human connections, our friends wherever
they live and those we love whether
we understand why or not? This twenty-
first century challenges the human
spirit even more than the twentieth
did and threatens us with the vengeance
the earth itself wreaks, and no human
mind controls.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Five

Shadows Twenty-Five September 23, 2018

I slowed down, did easy work, nothing
strenuous. The hurricane left us to mop
up and dry out. Sun came back, the better
to see the devastation. Here, where we
escaped the worst, life was almost normal
despite rivers that flowed upstream, the
milk we couldn’t buy, the flooded roads
we couldn’t pass. I wanted more work.
I made a list I’m crossing off. Something
in me wants serious work, to tell some
story more than poetry tells or my
diary. A new book then about aging
and adapting. There is more to tell
than I have admitted so far. At eighty-one,
how many women tell what it’s like,
to lose the capabilities we always assumed,
to have gates closed, but the mind still
open, still able to articulate paradox
and justice, when everything in the human
being or in the state works easily and
smoothly together, each part doing its
own work? Mine has been to write, tell
my mind’s story. I’ve written many books,
but there is still more to tell. I will.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Six

Photo of Wag during our morning walk by the retired Horse Vet. Wag is 16 years old, 112 in dog years. She still loves to walk.

Shadows Twenty-Six September 30, 2018

When Wag and I walk at the dam
shortly after it gets light, we meet
people, too. Two women–mother
and daughter--come to run. An older 
man walks his father’s dog round
and round. He tries not to see me,
but to my “Good morning,” he mutters,
“Morning.” I see fisher people below
on either side of the dam, watch how
the lake water is now being released
to rush downstream. A new figure
appeared. An older woman with a
camera. She talked to Wag, who
listened. I decided she must be a
dog-whisperer. When she held out
her hand, Wag slowly approached
and sniffed. Her truck license said,
“Neigh Dr.” She told me she was
a retired horse vet. Now she talks
to me, too. She’s watching for the
eagles who have a nest not far
away. I saw one once, perched
on a pipe the way the vultures do.
Until I was close, I didn’t see the 
white head and tail feathers. He
waited until I was close to fly off.
Perhaps he already knew me. I’m
sure the eagles know the horse
doctor. They’re probably curious.
She loves watching for eagles
and talking to Wag and me.