Sunday, July 24, 2016

These Gifts Are Like Prayers



Can Flowers Change Your Life? IV. January 10, 2016

Cold rain, cold sun.  The indoor
flowers bloom.  The small orchid
has dozens of flower stalks aimed
at window light, patient on grey days,
eager, when sun is full and skies blue
again.  The amaryllis begins its slow
rise, a centimeter at a time.  A reporter
came to my book signing, smiling the 
whole time.  He said his editor gets
a kick out of me. Jane calls me noble,
Susan gives me corn and potato chowder.
Zoila helped me harvest lemon balm and
weed in the orchard.  Today I will
speak to my community about my
love for them and the war we fight
to stop the coal ash, and then we will
sing.  Enough money has come in
for me to pay my bills and keep 
publishing books.  I have eased my
way through stressful days–too many
meetings, but now I rest and see my
way forward.  I’m on my leyline, 
more than I’ve ever been before.  I’m
fulfilling a prophecy I saw fifteen years
ago: my books are coming into print.
What I never expected is coming true,
too.  People are reaching out to help me
before I ask.  Shawn repaired the
clothesline; Jane brought lights for
the sign.  Julia traded her lovely calendar
for a new book.  Dawn and Jim have 
ordered fatwood fire starters.  I have students
eager to hear what I’ve learned about
writing these forty-two years of teaching,
nurturing those who doubted their
powers.  Cathy is praying for our gospel
sing benefit today.  All these gifts are like
prayers, all these hands keeping me steady 
on my feet like Terica did Friday.  Somehow 
the Universe is sending light to me, sanctioning 
what I write, what I do, and even who I am.

***


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Two Souls With One Body and Two Wings


Mikhail Bazankov during Literature Week at the Kostroma Writers Organization, a year or so ago.

***
Can Flowers Change Your Life? XVI. April 3, 2016

  Your witchery is of a different order from others’–and springs, I believe, from the extraordinary self-possession you command.  It is unique in my experience of women.  You have my unqualified esteem and respect; you have my trust and my heart; and if I love you, my dear, it is as one loves the familiar room to which one returns after desperate wandering.  In this room I might draw the shades upon the world and live in comfort forever.  Do not cry for me, Jane, but carry me always in your heart, as one who loved you for that courage to be yourself, and not what convention would have you be.  Your Rogue.  --Jane and Her Lord’s Legacy by Stephanie Barron, 290.

“One day, Judy, each of us will have one wing, and we will fly somewhere together.”
--Mikhail Bazankov, August 1990.

I never thought of Jane Austen being 
like me in her love life, but in this 
imagined portrait by Stephanie Barron, 
I see new truth.  The older I get, the
more I love Jane’s mind.  She is herself,
her thin rapier giving us truths about
our foibles, our goodness, and our
essential humanity.  One man I loved
told me he was always comfortable 
in my presence.  I barely understood
the significance. Of course then a bold,
outrageous man would find Jane’s
mind and heart his comfort.  Mikhail
never used those words, but he didn’t 
need to.  When he and I were at peace
and simply attuned one to another,
in those rare, heightened moments,
that was why.  We were separated by
distances, of miles, and responsibilities
to ourselves and other people.  We 
fought, hurt each other, tried to get away,
but the join always held.  It holds today,
though you died late last year.  I hope,
my love, that now you live in comfort
forever.  Here I continue to work my way
through a thicket of problems and doubts,
but come to rest at intervals in your
presence when we simply were together,
two souls with one body and two wings.



My phalaenopsis, given to me by the Xin family in 2015, had twelve blooms. In 2016-May-July, it has had twenty-four blooms, and still has two that refuse to fall.  It doesn't take much water, but it needs light!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Can Flowers Change Your Life?


Can Flowers Change Your Life? I.

October 18, 2015

They change mine.  The first frost warnings
are out.  I planted zinnias late–the big ones,
mixed colors.  I had to dig out high weeds,
fertilize, and then sow the fragile seed.
Grass flourished as the seeds became
seedlings, so I dug out the grass.  Then 
Wag became obsessed with unearthing 
voles.  I scolded but her deeper instincts 
were at work.  She must remove the voles 
herself. I put down cayenne pepper 
and fox urine granules.  Some of the 
voles moved into the lawn, but others 
merely hunkered down and waited.  
Meantime the flowers rose on long, 
healthy stems and began to bloom. 
By then it was September.  Undeterred 
by wind that pushed them over or 
erratic rain–too little or too much--they 
held high their blazing reds, oranges, pinks, 
whites, yellows, lavenders.  Once when I 
set a bouquet on the front stoop, a butterfly 
found them and left reluctantly.  Every time 
I see them in their part of the garden, in my
kitchen, on my dining table, or traveling 
in my car to give a friend, they tell me 
everything will be okay.  I seem to need 
reminding more and more these years, 
They bloomed, they still bloom, they keep 
on blooming.  Only a hard frost will still 
their cheerful voices.

***

Sunday, July 3, 2016

This Side of My Watershed


Cosmos on my dining table

***
Can Flowers Change Your Life? VIII. February 7, 2016

My ordinary life then, made momentous?
The neighbor’s roosters, a plastic box
with paper clips, a button announcing coal ash
with a red slash through it.  We are being
given this highly toxic waste under protest.
I sometimes forget to take it off my jacket
in the house.  A water bottle when the
Health Department was rewarding people
for eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
every day.  Nearby, my six books published
since 2012, and a candle for when the power
goes out, a printer and keyboard, a Russian 
lacquer cup in red and black with flowers
painted on it, holding pens and pencils.
Russian paintings all around me, books
on shelves and on the floor behind me.
My students crowd into the living room
and don’t complain that the chairs are
close together.  Children’s drawings
on the freezer and refrigerator even from
Russia: Dasha’s flying beaver, and
Alyosha’s elephant.  Then Bobby’s 
exuberant drawing of me, Lilly, and him 
about to leave in my truck to see farm 
animals, zoo animals, or tame squirrels.  
The big orchid is waking for spring, 
pushing out flower stems, and the 
little orchid’s in full bloom.  The day
is gray, but no ice.  Cold, but no snow.
My life takes one more turn in its path.
The light I’ve been following is straight
ahead.  It has always been there.  It became 
my inner circling sun.  It was my leyline.
It had a voice that guided me and 
reminded me, but now I see face to
face. Yes, I have too many gifts, but
I see now how not one will be wasted.
Everything I am and feel and do is 
part of this side of my watershed.  
I move down into the valley, but I
know whatever comes to meet me
will be part of the good I’m here to do.
All I need is patience and to pay close
attention.  The flowers that surround me
promise all will be well.


***


Nikolai Smirnov's painting of a Russian farm in first snow.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coal Ash Fighters Will Win


Here they are, some of the state's fighters to stop Duke Energy from polluting people's wells at their coal ash dumps and moving it around the state.  We'll win, too.  Here's the letter they sent Friday, June 24, 2016, to the North Carolina General Assembly.  How just, how true, how necessary for the people of North Carolina and their leaders to listen and respond and do the only right thing, which is articulated so well in this letter.  Judy Hogan, Chair of Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump.

***
To the Members of the N.C. General Assembly:

Since the Dan River coal ash spill in February 2014, seldom has a day passed in North Carolina when coal ash is not in the news; the disposition of coal ash in North Carolina is of vital importance to public health and the environment. Our communities are being profoundly impacted: some of us already living day to day with contaminated water and air, and others are facing new impacts in areas which have been targeted for the disposal of coal ash.

During the summer of 2015, North Carolina communities previously impacted by coal ash, and those currently dealing with new coal ash landfills, joined together with a shared vision and common goal to form the Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) Against Coal Ash. Believing that the coal ash emergency in North Carolina deserves a real, comprehensive solution that will protect all communities, we crafted the ACT Against Coal Ash unifying principles. A few of the key principles are below, and the full document reads:

We call on N.C. decision makers and Duke Energy to strive for a permanent solution to coal ash that prioritizes community safety. We demand that any coal ash that cannot be safely recycled or processed be stored on Duke Energy property with the company maintaining liability. We will not accept dumping of the ash in other communities or capping-in-place as solutions. We demand that the ash be urgently isolated from ground and surface water at all locations.
http://actagainstcoalash.nccoalash.org/index.php/unifying-principles/

Please don’t let this short session close without taking action to assure that communities near coal ash sites have safe replacement water supplies as soon as possible, that communities facing new coal ash landfills are protected and that cleanups move forward quickly, with no “capping in place.”


We believe that all people, regardless of race and socio-economic class, have a right to healthy communities, clean water, clean air, and safe food and soil.

We believe that living in close proximity to coal ash infringes on these basic rights.

We demand a transparent process to coal ash cleanup in which Duke Energy and N.C. decision makers are open and honest about the health effects of chemicals found in coal ash, and any plans for disposal or recycling coal ash.

We call on Duke Energy and N.C. decision makers to urgently respond to the need to test any water supply well that may have been contaminated by coal ash, not just those with 1,000 feet. The tests must be paid for by Duke and performed by an independent lab using the most sensitive and comprehensive testing methods.
We call on N.C. decision makers to require Duke Energy to pay for independent oversight of the coal ash cleanup process, independent analysis of current coal ash contamination, research by public and private entities to find the best solutions to this problem, and random and unannounced inspections of the coal ash sites by state regulators.

We demand that N.C. decision makers and Duke Energy prioritize worker safety during all phases of coal ash cleanup and site remediation.

We call on N.C. decision makers and Duke Energy to strive for a permanent solution to coal ash that prioritizes community safety. We demand that any coal ash that cannot be safely recycled or processed be stored on Duke Energy property with the company maintaining liability. We will not accept dumping of the ash in other communities or capping-in-place as solutions. We demand that the ash be urgently isolated from ground and surface water at all locations.

We call on Duke Energy and N.C. decision makers to invest in a sustainable, healthy, affordable, and responsible energy future for N.C. that supports the growth of solar, wind energy, and energy efficiency programs, and moves away from coal, natural gas, and other harmful and expensive methods of generating power that poison communities and affect North Carolinians’ quality of life.

As our elected representatives you have the opportunity - and responsibility - to do what is right for the residents of North Carolina. We call on the General Assembly to make sure no community is left to suffer from coal ash now, or in the future.

Sincerely, 
The Alliance of Carolinians Together Against Coal Ash 
actagainstcoalash.org 

Individual community representatives: 
Bobby Jones, representing Down East Coal Ash Coalition, Goldsboro 
Caroline Armijo, representing Residents for Coal Ash Cleanup, Belews Creek 
Roger Hollis, representing residents near Cliffside / Rogers Energy Complex
Debbie Baker and Amy Brown, representing neighbors of Allen Steam Station
Jeri Cruz-Segarra, representing residents near Asheville Steam Station
John Wagner and Judy Hogan, representing Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump

Deborah B. Graham, representing neighbors of Buck Steam Station

***

On May 14, several of the justice fighters from ACT came to hear the words of Duke University scientist Avner Vengosh, and former NIEHS scientist George Lucier, speak about coal ash contamination.

Afterwards, I wrote a poem, and here's a piece of it.

Yesterday,
as scientists explained their work,
and all the justice fighters listened,
I saw hope being born again.  
To hang onto the Spirit of Truth
can be an awkward journey, and
a lonely one.  Hope is harder than
despair, but once that candle is lit,
darkness disappears

[From Can Flowers Change Your Life XXI.]

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Listen to the Voice Within



Photo of one of my white rock hens by John Ewing

***

Can Flowers Change Your Life? XIII. March 13, 2016

Somehow 
the Universe is sending light to me, sanctioning 
what I write, what I do, and even who I am. 
Can Flowers Change Your Life? IV.

Begin at the beginning.  Care
for ourselves and others.  Listen to
the voice within.  The more we listen,
the more we hear.  The work grows
harder, but the rewards come faster.
Other people’s love and nurturing
now sustain me.  Everything I’m doing
helps the good in that ongoing earthly
war between the good and the evil.
Let me be thankful and acquiesce.  
Can Flowers Change Your Life? VII.

Yes, I have too many gifts, but
I see now how not one will be wasted.
Everything I am and feel and do is 
part of this side of my watershed.  
I move down into the valley, but I
know whatever comes to meet me
will be part of the good I’m here to do.
All I need is patience and to pay close
attention.  The flowers that surround me
promise all will be well. 
Can Flowers Change Your Life? VIII.

I walk my farm looking for change.
The purple shamrock is inching through
its oak leaf cover.  I rake it back.  The
hydrangea has green tips with infant leaves.
Figs, too, feel the sudden warmth after
so many icy days.  Pear blossoms swarm
into the tree whose height defies pruning.
The redbuds risk blooms.  It’s all risk
with the last average freeze date weeks
away.  My life is all risk, too.  Where I
walk to dig and plant, weed, and gather
food are stumps and stems, holes and
rocks so easily causing me to stumble
or lurch.  I put out my arms to balance,
hold onto a limb or a fence, or simply
stop and re-balance.  I can’t lose any
more. I need my organic, homegrown
food, and the way farming makes me
stretch and use all my body parts.  Will
I be able to keep hens in my nineties?
Not if I don’t do it in my eighties.  Use
it or lose it.  I walk more slowly, but I
do walk and carry feed and water, dig
out chickweed and grass clumps, 
chicken delicacies.  They come running,
scatter when I toss in weed clumps,
then rush back.  It’s my challenge to death.  
I will leave my hope behind for others.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Universe's Capable Hands



Can Flowers Change Your Life? XII. March 6, 2016

Wind rocks the tops of the pines,
loosens old, useless needles,
holds new green ones out to sun.
When the wind is high, the small
oak branches and large dead limbs
fall.  I gather kindling.  I want to be
sturdy these last years, keep
balancing, hands out, when my body
leans too far one way or another.
You lose the power when you don’t
use it, whether muscular or mental.
I walk more slowly, hold on to the
fences, avoid Wag’s vole holes, 
but I can still shovel, hoe, and rake.
I can cut firewood.  I can plant seeds
and water them.  Each day brings more
work, but each day I finish one job
and start another.  I live the way I 
want to live.  I dodge my enemies’ 
arrows and take strength from those 
who comfort me.  All the garden
daffodils have risen to give me white 
light at night, nodding pale yellow
 by day.  They lift up their bonnets 
in spite of my neglect of their bed.  
As soon as I removed the dead stalks 
from last year’s flowers, they burst into
white flame.  How much more
comforted can a human being be?  
I have no excuses.  All I have to do
is my very best.  The rest is in 
the Universe’s capable hands.