Sunday, February 4, 2018
Pete MacDowell A Flower of the Heart
Snow goose image borrowed from the Cornell website on birds. See those black wingtips? I saw them on the Haw in the early 90s.
Flowers of the Heart Nineteen February 4, 2018
For Pete MacDowell
I knew Mary first. She worked for Chatham
County back in 1998, when we were still fighting
the low level nuclear dump. She brought Pete
to a party I had here, but it was when he took
my poetry class that I got to know him better.
About that time, in 2014, I published my
love song This River: An Epic Love Poem.
He was very enthusiastic and bought it for his
friends, one of whom was a Taoist, and wrote:
“This epic poem is a page turner. Think Romeo and
Juliet in the US and Russia in their 50s talking
through a translator. If you love the interior dialog
of Jane Austen, intense feelings searching for
clues from the other, with all that hope and
fear, this is it. But it is also a deep meditation on
our nature as a human species and our fundamental
relationship with other species. The two rivers,
at one level at least, are the Haw and the Volga.
Judy did most of her writing from the banks of
the Haw. Her feel for nature is transformative.
She has a deep Taoist understanding of our
link with nature.” Those words sang in my heart.
Not long after that, Pete retired from being a
strategist with North Carolina WARN, and
they moved to Alexandria, Virginia, to be near
their daughter and grandchild. Pete returned
to the poetry class, which we then did by
Skype. He led the way. Skype worked most
of the time, and we kept going, and pulled
in a few more poets: Katherine, Tracey, Joanie,
Clare. Pete wrote new poems every week,
lampooning Trump and other politicians’
reckless behavior in a democracy. He also
described the geese and ducks which came
to the pond behind his ground-floor apartment,
and his grandson’s antics. Sometimes he sang
of other loners he met in his neighborhood.
Once his mind had ranged wide, plotting
strategy that would teach Duke Energy
better manners. He’d always send me notes
of praise when I’d write caustic letters
to the editor. This year my newest poetry
book emerged. Pete waxed enthusiastic
again. “Judy, I am absolutely loving
Those Eternally Linked Lives. Please
send me three more. Thanks so much
for your guidance in poetry and life.”
Out of my love and the suffering
which accompanied it, I somehow
spoke to Pete and others, too. A
writer lives for such words. They
reassure and heal. They carve themselves
deep in the mind. So many risks, not
to mention agonies of doubt have their
confirmation: you did the right thing.