Full Bloom 17, November 20, 2016
There's color in the treetops now,
though fading. Arctic air reminds
me that winter won't be denied us
who live in the temperate zones. I
walk the dog early to let her continue
her winter nap. There are wings in
and out of the feeder. I mix sponge
for bread, light the fire I laid a week
ago. Sun was stronger then, and its
heat against the storm door warmed
me. The dog curls tight, hides her
nose; the hens, oblivious of cold,
rush into the orchard. Bach's music
lulls me to sleep. I have climbed
that sharp curve the publisher of
Grace gave me. Voices comfort me.
My daughter wants me to come for
Thanksgiving dinner and bring
pumpkin pie. Women in my
community agree: we will fight
if harm threatens. We won't be pushed
back to the fifties and its many
discriminations. We remember "with
liberty and justice for all." Never
perfectly kept, but not denied either.
Our enemies will learn humility
at our hands or at Someone Else's.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
My friend Gene Dillard, once in my poetry classes, began working in mosaic art a few years back, and having covered his garage walls, he began on the inside of his house, and now is working on the outside. These mosaics take about a year to complete a side, and mean piecing tiny pieces of tile or glass patiently hour after hour. He finds it a way to meditate. What do you think? Back in 2004, he spent a year in Honduras with the Peace Corps, building things--water systems as I remember--and writing poems in his spare time. I've added in a few poems. Aren't these beautiful? Judy Hogan
The right side of the front of the house.
After only one week,
routine is sneaking
up the valley
like a cloud band,
seducing my mind.
Too soon I forget
how the new Honduran culture
embraced my heart
in its strong Latin hands,
then tore it open,
exposing me to new houses,
foods, cobblestone calles.
Everything attained a new height.
For a brief time
I had slipped
my cultural bondage.
Driveway side of house, recently completed, with sun on its mirrors.
Inside of Gene's house, with ceiling, doorways in mosaic.
I saw his bent frame
walking toward the Mercado,
across his shoulders
a large pole with
huge bunches of bananas
hanging from each side.
through my mind
like corrugated sheet metal
used for roofing
in the third world
I thought he was a troubadour
carrying many fascinating
odes encased with
a protective outer skin,
waiting for a chance
Front of garage was his first wall mosaic, but he has also done the side you see to the left.
Here is the new tree, with mosaic leaves, house behind it.
In the silence of Copan Ruins
the wind blows
through the Ceiba trees,
a symbol for the Mayans
of the ever present
I am reminded
by the moaning wind,
as I view the deserted temples
that I am alone.
My loneliness forms itself into
dew droplets on the Ceiba leaves,
drips on to the stone reliefs
that make up this city.
Don't forget the chimney, and see if you can find Gene up there!
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Margaret Roys Stevenson, my mother at age three on their cottage steps in Kuling, the resort for missionaries in China, 1915.
Full Bloom 7 September 11, 2016
Summer wanes at long last.
I will be eighty next spring.
September lets in cooler air.
The hill I climb is steep. A gift
to publish Grace’s diary after
years of digging out its secrets.
In some way I fulfill her and
give away all she lost. Then,
after these eighty days of work,
I can turn back to my life story
and my Russian love. Now
Grace comes first–impulsive,
elusive, funny, unpredictable,
and ultimately unreliable for
her children and her husband.
So, confined, declared insane,
operated on as a means of control:
shock treatment, hysterectomy.
Yet she still loved to play the piano
and laugh. As she lay dying of
cancer, Mother reported that she
was sane. She took her a rabbit,
offered a ride wherever she would
like to go. Grace chose the mental
hospital to see her friends. She had
loved China; Norman, Oklahoma
was never home. When Gracie
died, she was inconsolable and
ran away, looking for a stricter
faith, a strait-jacket that would
hold her together, and then was
found wandering along a railroad
track. My grandfather never tried
to stop her, so the looney bin was
where she lived too many years.
She was sixty-four when she died
and left fear behind for other people:
my mother, her brothers, and their
children. Now I give her early,
happy life away to others. The gift
she had was too heavy for her, too
hard to balance. Now I carry it,
must let it lie lightly on my shoulders,
not heavy on my heart. I’m stronger,
wiser, and people have helped me, will
still help me make Grace immortal, too.
Christmas 1913, on the steps of their Nanking home: left to right, Grace, Jeanie, her younger sister, holding Margaret, Charlie, Grace's younger brother, and Samuel Isett Woodbridge, her father.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Grace Roys, holding Richard, with Margaret, my mother, beside her, 1914, Nanking, China
Full Bloom 6 September 4, 2016
[Written two days after I learned my book about Grace and Harvey Roys, my maternal grandparents would be published by Wipf and Stock of Eugene, Oregon]
Another turn in my life’s path.
Many threads are knotted. Who
knew this was possible? It began
with a question: Who was my
Grandmother Grace? She shaped
my childhood. Her mental illness
frightened Mother, and we knew
we should take care not to be
too smart, too high-strung, too
interested in sex, too artistic.
Yet we were all that and normal.
Grace was sometimes normal,
then lost her balance when her
eight-year-old daughter died and
never completely recovered.
Mother never got over her fear.
I explored, learned of Grace’s
beauty, her mischief, her will
to have her way, her going to
the sick Chinese in the night,
her love of her babies, her music,
her fluent Chinese and many
friends, her breaking her marriage
vows and running away. She
dreamt she was in Heaven with
Gracie. She brought us rabbits at
Easter, and got our hair cut without
asking permission. Gladiolas and
cats were her passion. She tried
to be good, but she jumped her
fences too often. I inherited her
gift, lost in her; in me, full bloom.
Grace and Harvey Roys in Kuling, China, probably 1912.