Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Six

Doc Ellen Tinsley, morning glories on chain-link fence.

The Late Years Forty-Six September 15, 2019

Another reminder: part of me is fragile. 
“Keep listening to your body,” says my
doctor. I do. I sleep more. But some 
days are too full. I do my best, then rest.
I find blue morning glories, then orange,
to go with white. The tiger lilies rise above
the swarms of small sunflowers. The zinnias,
when the wind lays them flat, turn and
go up again. Their panoply of colors
makes Robin smile. I find okra. Despite
chaotic planting, it endured, but our
rooster, worried for his hens, chases
me off, and I drop the okra. I’ll go find
it before I open the coop. My second
Russian book will be published–stories
so important to me twenty-seven years
ago. They still are. I can yet write and
think, talk and plan my day. “Keep doing
what you’re doing,” says my doctor. 

I do. I will.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Five

 Morning glories in Judy's back yard garden

The Late Years Forty-Five  September 8, 2019

First, I waited for the leaves.
There had been–at the very edge–
grass clumps, but no hint of morning
glories. Finally, here and there
heart-shaped leaves. Then a week
without rain. I checked for any sign
of color to go with green. Then
came the edge of a hurricane with
wind and rain. Morning glory leaves
know how to hang tough. When sun 
returns, there they are–half a dozen 
white blooms. What color will show 
up next? We also have our quiet days
when very little seems to happen.
Are we healing? Will we live long
enough for our wishes to come true?
Have we still latent in us a success 
story? Will that editor choose the 
next book in my Russian series? 
He did. Jubilation! Let the world
know. Our story, our history is 
being told, book by book, year by
year. Do I have enough years left? 
Maybe not twenty, as I had hoped, 
but maybe enough to leave our love 

lie open to the wide, wide world.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Four

Photo of first zinnia by Tim Hogan in Mom's garden

The Late Years Forty-Four September 1, 2019

Was it love or simply attraction? Or both? 
What exactly is it when you can’t let go,
even when you try? You know you can’t
be indifferent. You see through his poses,
his act of not caring, his jealousy not hidden
very well, and after he died, you still have
him in your life. Funny, how a whole life
can hang on a few moments of ecstatic
union. His wife, his children, his grandchildren 
love you because you knew how much his 
family, his birthplace, his country meant to 
him. He said you’d have to be divorced.
That was after several weeks of tender 
communion. You ignored the word he was 
pointing to in the dictionary. It wasn’t possible. 
He could pretend, but for you it was too late. 
Did he think he could gesture to the wild 
forest and say, “Let’s go there and never 
come back,” and you would forget?
Foolish man. Then, in a book years later, 
he drew that image of a man and a woman 
walking into the forest. But from the very 
beginning, he’d prophesied that one day 
we’d each have a wing and fly somewhere–

together. I still believe it.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Three

The Blue Grosbeak at Jordan Dam, near Moncure, N.C.

The Late Years Forty-Three August 25, 2019

We have so many poisons now. It’s a wonder
we stay alive as long as we do. We kill on purpose
and by accident with our pesticides and
herbicides, by what we let out of our smokestacks 
and car exhausts. Our big trucks do their share
with their diesel engines as they drag their logs
and tankers uphill. No wonder our emergency
rooms are crowded and we die before our time.
Still, I have lived this long: eighty-two years.
I can look at death and nod. Yes, eventually. 
I recognize the land of the dead when I see it.
Broken rocks, all sizes, browns and greys. No
color. No vegetation. It had seeds, but it was
sprayed to kill any life, vegetable or animal.
Yet I hear a cricket, and then the true miracle:
the heart-shaped leaves of morning glory
outwitting a rock death, rain finally rinsing off
enough poison to bring forth something green
right at the edge. Leave those rocks alone, and
they will bring forth the undead, the vine, and 
in time the pink, purple, blue buds, which will 

open to the sounds of a bird’s hymn of praise.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Two

Judy, while teaching at her Lifestyle Workshop for Writers on June 1. Photo by Elisabeth Plattner.
Usually I put up a blog on Sunday, but last Sunday, I went to the Emergency Room to see about this possible small stroke I had on Saturday. They did many tests, and no brain damage. Here's the poem. I just remembered to do my blog for last week. JH

The Late Years Forty-Two August 18, 2019
For my audience at South Regional on August 17, 2019

A curious conjunction. I had them
laughing, mesmerized, their eyes alight.
They wanted to hear every word I said,
but my words skittered away from me.
I said the wrong one, or the word I wanted
vanished while I tried to find another
one that would work. What overwhelmed
my mind that Saturday in the library I loved?
About ten women came, and my son Tim,
who brought me and also carried in the 
box of books I wanted to sell. A lovely
librarian, Teresa, had everything set up, 
even cookies and tea. She had a
sound man put a mike on me and
adjusted it. Women drifted in, eager,
curious, and I welcomed them all. Then
I transformed them, even while my
mind was playing tricks. Was I having
a stroke in the middle of my success?
By 4:30, I wanted to go home, but
they didn’t want to leave. Most stayed
talking while Tim packed up the books.
He brought me my yoghurt drink, and
our friend Virginia rubbed my back. 
Slowly, I felt better. I pulled on a long-
sleeved shirt and wasn’t too hot as we
drove home in ninety-degree weather.
I rested while they made supper. 

Afterwards I bathed and slept.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Late Years Forty-One

Judy by her hydrangea bush in early spring 2019

The Late Years Forty-One August 11, 2019

It’s so easy to worry, and I do.
About money, my health, my friends.
Then come the surprises. The credit
card company tells me I have money
with them which I didn’t know about.
They sent it to my bank. It’s teaching
time, but where are all my students?
I write to two of the silent ones. They
answer that, yes, they’ll take my class,
and one wants to take them both. I
Spend a day quietly to give my heart
time to heal, get back to normal. It
does heal. I rise early, breakfast as
usual, and take my morning walk.
The little bird sings to me before
sunrise. My friends see something
in me they value. They hang on,
let me see their agony. I wish them
courage. In this life we never get 
to coast. It’s “work, work, if we
don’t work, we don’t get anything, 
not even love.”* My Muse lives,
my health holds. I have enough
money. There are tears, but 
laughter, too. Don’t forget
to give thanks.

* Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Late Years Forty

Photo by Tim Hogan

The Late Years Forty August 4, 2019

Lacrimosa was the name for Mozart’s Requiem 
in D Minor, played so often when we lose people. 
Tearful. Full of tears. Yet we laughed when 
Johnsie joined us. She’s still fighting her own 
personal war with an enemy invading her
body. We hug her. Keely has brought a cake
to celebrate Dean’s birthday and mine, and the
halt of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is to
bring fracked gas and its accompanying
explosions into North Carolina. We’ve already
lost too many fervent souls. They fight and they
smile as long as they can. On other fronts, love
is demonstrated other ways. We have a leak
bringing down our ceiling plaster. I call Gene.
He has lost sight in one eye. A retina got
detached. He guides Tim by their smart phones
through the steps to stop the leak. Tim had
planned to sleep in, but he calls Gene to
learn how to stop the leak. Gene describes
that he needs to blow down a clogged pipe, but
how to do that? Finally, Tim finds a way, and a 
lot of gunk come out and then the water
that had been blocked. The air-conditioner
works again, and the wet ceiling dries. We
take a long breath. If only we could save
Johnsie, bring back sight in Gene’s eye.