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.

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.

The Alliance of Carolinians Together Against Coal Ash 

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.

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

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.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Review: Abductions and Lies by K.M. Rockwood

Abductions and Lies: A Jesse Damon Crime Novel by K.M. Rockwood Wildside Press, $14.99.  Paper. ISBN: 9781479420261, 203 pages.  E-book, $2.99.  Available from and

I greeted the new and sixth Jesse Damon novel with joy.  I’ve read Rockwood’s first five and was so glad she found Wildside Press to keep her series going.  After I finished reading it, I asked myself why I enjoy Jesse’s adventures so much.

Jess is a paroled ex-con, who was in prison twenty years, from age sixteen, for murder.  He didn’t kill anyone, but was literally “holding the bag” in a robbery that ended in murder.  Adapting to the outside world has been tough for him, and he is often the “person of interest” whenever a new crime is committed, if there’s a remote chance he could be involved.  Then his experience fulfills that saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

When Jesse tries to help other people, he usually ends up a suspect, but he keeps on doing it.  He feels he can’t explain his behavior to the police because they never believe him.  So he lies.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails miserably.

In a freak car accident that hit a light pole and took out that part of the city’s electricity, he leaves his job at Steel Fabrications about 3 a.m. and is walking home when the police arrest him and show him to a woman who claims he’s the one who tried to hijack her car. 

This isn’t the first time he has been wrongly arrested.  Parolees have few rights, and this time they don’t even process him according to the rules they should follow.  There have been several abductions and murders of women recently in the area where Jesse lives and works.  It wouldn’t take much for him to be sent back to prison and be stuck there the rest of his life.

One of his regular tormentors is Carissa Daniles who works for the Rothberg Register and rarely checks her facts.  She shows up like a bad penny whenever Jesse is arrested and here she is this time to see him fingered as the man who car-jacked the latest victim.  By the next morning Jesse’s photo is plastered on the front page of the Register saying he’s a suspect in the Riverfront Murders.  Furthermore she has been dating Belton, the policeman who loves to harass Jesse, and does again, once he’s at the jail.

In the cell with him is Kyle, who was arrested for embezzlement. Jesse helps him calm down so he doesn’t make their situation in a shared cell any worse than it already is.

To Jesse’s surprise both he and Kyle are brought before a judge to determine whether they can be bailed out.  Jesse had never had enough money to be released on bail.  He had found a money clip the watchman at work must have dropped (he recognized Steb’s clip) right before he was arrested.  He found out it contained $3000 when they took away his belongings to lock him up.  He’s tempted to use it if bail is set, but keeps to his plan to return it to the watchman.

To his surprise bail is not only granted, but paid, and he is free to go.  He discovers that his landlord Jumbo George had sent his lawyer to free him and paid the 10% bond.  Jesse is working part-time for George fixing up some old buildings he has bought, so he’ll let Jesse work off what he owes him.  Kyle, also released, is angry at his wife and vice versa, and he and needs a place to stay. Since George has an empty, though not yet renovated, apartment, Jesse suggests Kyle talk to him.  This works for Kyle, whose first response to getting out of jail is to get drunk.  Jesse works out the rental arrangement with George, then takes Kyle upstairs, gets him into bed and covers him.

Jesse has a girlfriend, though Kelly has a drinking problems and sometimes doesn’t want to see him.  He loves being with Kelly and her children Brianna and Chris, but Kelly seems now to be using him only to babysit, nor is she telling him what she’s up to while he feeds the kids, helps them with homework, and reads them bedtime stories.

I don’t know that I can explain why I love Jesse.  He is so honest about his feelings and so misused and mistrusted.  We can all be seen as suspicious at times, but Jesse deals with it constantly, and he doesn’t turn mean, bitter, or manipulative.

So, whenever things work out for him, even briefly, in some (usually unexpected) quarter, I feel so happy. If you haven’t read a Jesse novel yet, try this one, and then go back and read the other five.  He’ll hook you.  I can’t wait for number seven.  I checked and the first five are available on Amazon.  Judy Hogan


KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for her novels and short stories.