Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Live Wire Problems of the Living

Can Flowers Change Your Life? XVII. April 10, 2016

The mind disturbed seeks its peace,
so I today hope to reconcile and
return to wholeness the storms within
my mind and without it in the breasts
of other people.  The Arctic air descended
when our spring was in full flower.
Is all my fruit destroyed?  I lit the
woodstove, wrapped myself in warm
clothes, drank hot tea, and watch sun
return us to normality and reveal our
losses.  I still do almost everything
I did five years ago, but more slowly.  
I can’t chase a hen who got loose.  
I have to wait until she comes to me.  
I’m not good in a crisis like I once was. 
I need to pull back and calm down.  
I fall asleep fast but worry will wake 
me early and not let me go until I 
write it away.  I wanted to live a long 
life.  I am.  I’ve argued with doctors 
who end up helping me stay away 
from so many medicines, and my basic 
health holds.  I rest more but I do recover.
I have too many gifts and too many 
calls, but I haven’t failed any yet.  
So it’s harder now?  Live and learn.  
I do.  I have.  I will.  In the end I’ll die.  
Then my life can be examined, my foibles
noted, my enemies flouted, my friends 
reassured, my accomplishments praised, 
my presence mourned, but not yet.  I live 
with all the live-wire problems of the 
living, and I still have my chance. 


My son Tim a few years ago with hens.

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.