Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Late Years Twelve

Photo taken by Sanford Herald  reporter Kathryn Trogdon back in April 2015, before a hearing for permission to dump coal ash in Lee and Chatham County. Two people in this photo have either died in 2018 or are sick with cancer now.

The Late Years Twelve January 20, 2019

Mediation? Find a middle ground?
There is no such place. We were
wronged. They forced killing ash
on us, sent it through the air off
their trucks and trains: arsenic, lead,
Chromium Six, Silenium, radioactive
ash. Tiny invisible particles we’ve
breathed in that went straight to our
brains, leaked into the groundwater,
poisoned the earth where our wells
were sunk centuries ago. Babies,
the unborn, our elderly, at risk, and 
this land has been poisoned many
times before by the old Cape Fear
Steam plant, by the particle board
manufacturer, by the company that
made seatbelts. Ten factories along
the Haw and the Cape Fear Rivers.
The trains and trucks roaring past our 
homes. We could not leave. We had
no money to leave, and who would 
want what we loved: our homes
belonging once to our ancestors, back
to slavery times? Once there were
plantations, and before that, land
grants. Now mainly factories here,
thousands of workers, a few homes. 
Down our two-lane roads the trucks
come and go, leaving their poison.
The wind blows, the water moves
above and below ground. We have
been sacrificed. No more! You got
into our midst. Now, leave, but before

you go, clean up your mess.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Late Years Eleven

Let’s stop the poisoning of our water, our air and the Neuse River! Let’s hold Duke Energy accountable for the devastation they have done and continue to do to our community! This poisonous coal ash has caused cancer, heart conditions, respiratory conditions and so much other sickness and even death in our community. We must protect our families! Please join us!

From our friends in Goldsboro fighting against Duke Energy, advertising their next meeting of the Down East Coalition. They also are to have a "Star" processing plant, as are we here in Moncure. We worry about the Haw and the Cape Fear River. We already have had 7 million tons of coal ash dumped in our community. Now they want to poison the air with a Star processing plant that pollutes every time it is turned on or off.
The Late Years Eleven January 13, 2019

The rain pours down. The mud from
earlier drenchings had finally dried,
but this is our year to get rain and more
rain. The rivers were still over their
banks. My dog hesitates, then plunges
into it. She accepts the towel when she
comes back in. For me it means
another day inside. Time to accept
what I can’t change. My age, too.
I debate how much I can reasonably 
do, what I need to postpone or cancel.
My days have their limits, and yet I
do still write and publish books. I still
fight our oppressors, Duke Energy
among them. The governor has failed
us. The state environmentalists ignore
our truth and deny our sufferings. We
still have voices, and we still own
the truth. None of our enemies take
it up. They pretend they can’t hear us.
They have their bag of tricks and never
tire of bringing them out. So they give
an unpublicized Open House instead of
a publicized open hearing. But truth
will out, and the death toll grows. Wear
your gas masks and wait. More flooding
will come and prove how wrong they are.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Late Years Ten

My garden okra August 2011 after Hurricane Irene.

The Late Years Ten  January 6, 2019

I have to measure everything I do,
take rests between chores, quit my
writing work early, be careful not to
exhaust myself, or my heart will race,
my nose will bleed. If I’ll miss lunch,
I take a snack. And here is January. 
I long for my garden, and it’s time
to order seeds. Maybe I can plant peas. 
Day by day, twenty minutes a day, 
pull out the weeds, untangle them 
from the sign-holders I propped the 
peas with; cut the strings that held up 
the tomato cages. Fix the gate so it closes 
tightly; rescue the thyme and oregano, 
if they’re still there, and the self-heal.
Probably the soil is still fertile if I can 
get down to it. Add some compost 
and feather meal, some wood ashes 
from the stove. I think my days would 
balance better. Most of the time I hold
my own, do my inside chores, sleep 
well, make headway, hour by hour on 
my new book about aging. What can 
an old woman do? If I could have
garden peas and beets, tomatoes, beans, 
and okra to eat, I’d feel rich again. 
My twenty minutes a day  might make 

a miracle. Worth trying.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Late Years Nine

Sunrise at Jordan Lake Dam through fog, 
photo by Ellen Tinsley, DVM.


The Late Years Nine December 30, 2018

The clock ticks steadily in a quiet house.
No bird calls for the hours. My heart
also ticks in quiet but regular rhythm.
I don’t see my doctor again for three
more months. Some mornings when I
drive at dawn to the dam and the lake
beyond, I can barely see through the 
fog. Only me, my dog, and my truck’s
headlights to guide me. My dog waits
quietly, expectant. When I turn, she
knows we’re nearly there, and she nuzzles
into my side to be let out. I have to turn
off the headlights, put on the brake,
undo my seatbelt, loosen the leash,
often tangled in her feet, and then we
stand down, ready to walk in cold,
in fog, in sun, even in rain some days,
when I get out my white umbrella.
The sun will be behind dark clouds,
slowly turning pink. Then the clouds
in the northwest turn pink, and the water. 
A steak of orange light on the southeast 
horizon. Birds high and determined.
Even eagles, though, at their height,
I can’t tell. The fog dissipates, more
birds fly over–gulls, I think. Maybe 
those are wild ducks. I do recognize 
the heron, with its slow, steady wing 
flaps. And once, up close, I saw a 

fully mature American bald eagle.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Late Years Eight

The Late Years Eight December 23, 2018

For Terica Luxton

She was Terica-4-Peace. She was a janitor
who ignored class distinctions, never mind 
race. She taught herself website construction.
She had grandchildren and fought fracking.
She loved flowers and sold plants to raise
money to fight off fracking. She welcomed
me when I joined the fight. She was one of 
the first to pick up her sword. She was a
proud member of E-Lee, Environmental
Lee, the little county that had had hardly
any polluting industries and now had a 
small amount of gas the frackers were after. 
Not if Terica was fighting. Then she fought
for her breath. We held ours. Would she be
okay? Those who knew Terica-4-Peace
loved her, She made signs and costumes,
marched and demonstrated. She didn’t
say much. She worried about her grand-
children. They all lived too close to where
the gas was under the ground, close to the
aquifers. She was a fighter 4 peace, a friend,
a lover, a doting grandmother, but her body
lost its battle with cancer, that ugly but
persistent enemy. But we know her memory
won’t die. Terica-4-Peace yet lives and
will win and keep winning.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Late Years Three

My backyard zinnias in 2014.

The Late Years Three November 18, 2018

Back in 1996, I wrote down my life and
writing goals. One has seemed elusive:
“I want to root myself here in Moncure,
create an island of sanity and love around
me, draw my children and grandchildren
and friends here to see me, and I want to
contribute as I can to my community.”
Now, at eighty-one, i realize, despite my
love of solitude, this island exists. My
son came, worried about me, to be here
when I had my minor health problems.
My students keep coming, in person or 
by Skype. New friends and old ones
seek me out. Yesterday a student from
classes I taught in the eighties. Marjorie
raised nine children. They all felt loved, 
and they spread out into the world and
went where so many people suffer.
Now she wants to write again, but how
to get started? Virginia comes and 
helps Tim rescue a hen who flew to 
the top of the chicken fence, and then
they put medicine on the head of the
one black one who lives with sixteen 
white ones, so she wouldn’t be picked on.
Other days, others came. Ellen who
studies eagles at Jordan Lake. The eagles 
know her, and she named them, revels
in their high flights, recognizes them
when I see only specks flying over.
She writes their story. A young student
wants to be here, look at all the pictures
on my walls, hear my stories, follow me
to the coop to bring scraps in the afternoon.
Virginia comes often, loves the spaghetti
sauce and homemade pizza, gives me
frequent hugs and studies poetry with me.
She says she feels at home here. Sometimes
I worry about the unswept floor or all the
boxes and papers, but nobody else does.
We speak of what matters and laugh at 
life’s absurdities and miracles. People
continue to help me. Roger came to help
catch hens before their journey to be
processed. He’d never done that 
before, nor had Tim. How lucky I
am to have my wishes come true

here on this island of sanity and love.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Late Years Six

The Late Years Six December 9, 2018

For Al Curtis

In the early days, he worked for Wayne Combs,
who had a place on Franklin Street, then out
in rural orange County. Al took over Wayne’s
business when he moved back to Elkin, up in
the mountains, so I always went to Al, and he
would go out of his way to help me. If possible,
he would let me wait in the shop while he did
repairs or changed the oil. He’d check the tires,
and he’d repair only what was necessary, and
let me pay over several months if I needed to.
He helped me find another car when my blue 
Plymouth with a new transmission got totaled.
Then I drove a gold Chrysler Lebaron for ten
years. My Russian friends called it the “dleenaya
machina,” the “long car,” when I drove up
in it. When it needed replacing, Al sold me his 
own mid-sized dark green Dodge Dakota truck,
and I still drive it. He fixed everything, except
the engine. One of his friends prophesied
that the engine had another ten years on it.
It has a new used fuel pump, a new radiator 
and other parts, but though with its rust spots,
it’s not beautiful, it goes. We chatted some
about politics or weather.  I took him 
some eggs, a loaf of bread, or fig preserves
sometimes. He told me, when he was having eye 
problems He used a little flashlight to help him
see. On recent visits he had lost weight, and
the last time we talked, in mid-November,
he said he couldn’t do the inspection this
week and sent me to Sturdivant’s. I know
now that he was even then suffering from the 
cancer that killed him, but I couldn’t have
told. He also advised my son Tim where he
could buy a radiator for his truck for little
cost. Until Randy called, I didn’t know what
I had lost. In my Rolodex, under Al Curtis, ;
I have the words: ‘My faithful mechanic.” 
For more than twenty-five years, he took care 
of my cars, and for fifteen, my truck. Few
 people in my life have been so trustworthy. 
Al was a linch-pin: steadfast, honest, reliable,
true to his word, a good friend to those who
saw him clearly and valued what they saw.