Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Nine



Photo last winter of Judy and Wag coming out of the fog at Jordan Dam by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Twenty-Nine May 19, 2019

Gifts. Why is it that I receive
so many gifs? When I fell, trying
to avoid a speeding car, my son
determined to move here from New
Mexico to help me, and he did,
though it took him eight months. 
When I began to worry about money,
a long-time friend asked me to help
publicize her new book, and sent
me $100. When my new book on
my Russian friends was slow to
take off, a Russian immigrant in
Canada wrote me how much she
loved the book and began to
share her enthusiasm in the world
wide web. She sent me her review,
and it will be published here, too.
Sometimes I want to complain,
but I hardly begin when something
unbelievable and unexpected changes
my tune. Instead, I am forced

to be grateful.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Eight



Sunrise at Jordan Lake, Ellen Tinsley, DVM, mid-April 2019

****
The Late Years Twenty-Eight  May 11, 2019

Sometimes I think of books unsold
and wonder if I’ll ever find my readers.
I know they’re out there, but the books
aren’t moving very fast out of their
shipping boxes. Then a good, independent
bookstore orders copies. The Sisters
in Crime people send a book group
offer that fits one mystery to a T.
My daughter, her kids, Tim and  
his Virginia gather for a birthday feast
of pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream
and presents. Cards tell me I’m
amazing, a marvel, loved. I have
gifts to wear, for the garden, for the
kitchen, notebooks and a pen for
writing. Even candles to blow
out. We laugh. We are a family.
Some walls still stand, but many
came down. No point worrying.
There will be readers. I dare to
consider that age eighty-two may
be even more rewarding than
eighty and eighty-one were.
I remember my own words: * “It
is enough to take a portion of the
feast. One cup of tea offered in
kindness; a few Welsh cakes 
made on a day with wind and
rain, will give us what we need
for life. It does not stop the tears
the heart must shed, or quiet hungers
we will know till we are dead. But
we can then walk on a little farther,
our hearts made light by kindness,
by old rituals preserved inside
old stones, and when we cross old
streams, we do not weep.”

* from Light Food (1985, written in Wales. XV, p. 36

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Seven

Sunrise at Jordan Lake, by Ellen Tinsley DVM, May 1, 2019.

***
The Late Years Twenty-Seven  May 5, 2019

I think of my hopes in ninety-six,
when I tried to give you up, and 
wanted to attain mastery. It helped
me let go, only that never worked,
and I know it didn’t work for you 
either. Now I wonder: did I attain
mastery? I thought it possible
twenty-three years ago. I’ve certainly
done enough writing. Poems, diary,
diary books, mystery novels have
all poured out. You also wrote and
published books. Then you died.
A slow, painful death, cared for 
by Katya and your son Alyosha,
hiding from your closest friends.
One letter I received, in English,
translated by your granddaughter
after I sent you This River: An Epic
Love Poem, about my love for you.
That one, I think, was a master
work, and now that I’ve reread 
them, the Baba Summer books, 
and Frost and Sun, Parts One and 
Two, I rest my case with those 
and our love story–the ecstatic 
moments and the agony of 
misunderstanding are all there. 
Nothing destroyed that connection. 
Even now it still holds. What does
it mean to be a master? I’d known
I could heal others, if they let me.
I was confident I could be a 
Shakespeare’s sister in a more open
age for women.That wasn’t hard, and
loving you, being your Penelope,
and also my own Odysseus, was so
natural when it happened. Time
stopped, in one way. It still stays
that way. Words flow from my
pen so easily, so confidently, so
without effort, if that is mastery,
and maybe it is: finding the words
I need when I need them, albeit
some forgetfulness. You said that
last visit was the best. Only at the
end did you call me heroic, but I
knew you were happy when I
visited schools, taught the teachers
what was happening outside Russia, 
but, more importantly, even though
times were hard and they feared
for the future, that I’d found
Paradise in the ancient city of
Kostroma–in people’s hearts,

in the love that wouldn’t let go.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Six


Judy opening first shipment of her Russian book Baba Summer

***

The Late Years Twenty-Six April 28, 2019

What no one said about aging 
was that it takes courage.
Your mind says, “At any moment
you may die.” You know it’s
unlikely when you sleep well, have
good blood pressure, and can still
wash dishes, sweep the kitchen
floor, get in and out of the tub,
feed the lively hens and not fall
down, but some reminder stays
in your mind, saying, “You never
know.” That’s where the courage 
comes in. “Do it anyway,” says
your inner voice. Don’t be a coward
now. You never were. You always
ran toward what frightened you.
If you want to live another decade 
or longer, keep moving, keep doing
all you can do. You’ll be glad in
the long run. Keep getting out
of bed; keep walking. Keep writing
down your gifts from the Deep
Self. It’s not only still there, it’s
more ready than ever to speak
your truth. As before, and for
so many years, all you have to do
is listen.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Five


Judy congratulating Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina's poet laureate whom she first published in 1977. Photo, August, 2018.

***
The Late Years Twenty-Five April 21, Easter Sunday, 2019

When you grow old, even though you still do
most things, the important things: write and
publish your books, make bread and pizza,
spaghetti sauce and fresh egg omelets,
and walk without a cane, don’t be dismayed
when people have forgotten about all you
once did and got away with–opening so many
gates to let more people in–at the councils, 
in the literary community, publishing poets
no one ever heard of, and now they’re famous–
more famous than you are. But it wasn’t fame
you were after but opening doors by challenging
the authority of the state, even of the nation.
Don’t let it get you down when they close you
out, can’t see how you could draw an audience
to a book reading. They don’t see the tree you 
are, how wide under the earth is your root
system, how high are your branches, shading
the earth, succoring birds, keeping the air
clean and sweet where your love gives shade.
Remember that you’re a tree, a huge, two-hundred-
year old white oak, standing through generations 
beside the road where so many cars and long-
haul trucks pass daily and scarcely notice you.
It’s part of life, to be loved and treasured by a
few but ignored and then forgotten by the ones
deciding things now. Go where they want you
and have felt and loved your ability to make a
new community out of a handful of strangers.
Do what you do best. Tell the whole story
of what you life has been like, of those who
treasured you, of those who do remember.

In time, they all will.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Four


Judy by Emma Tobin late 2018.

***
The Late Years Twenty-Four April 14, 2019

I lost and then I found part
of my life story–those winter
months in Kostroma near
my beloved and yet far. I made
my own life there, visited my
friends and entertained them,
wrote poems and shopped at
the big daily market for fresh
cheese and butter, rode the
trolley bus, fell on icy sidewalks,
heard the symphony orchestra, 
celebrated now painter exhibits. 
I could speak Russian which
few Americans could. I hunted
through my boxes and filing
cabinets for the second half
of Frost and Sun. No sign. I
 couldn’t lose it. Those pages 
were so completely missing. 
I remembered how in 2017 I went
several times to the Hospital
Emergency Room. I found the
title but no book on the computer.
Then I looked at all the files
stacked on the floor: coal ash 
records, recently held classes,
new published books. Could the
missing chapters be there? I’d look.
I sat near the stacks and began
to check them. I set aside ones
I’d give to Duke as archives,
others I’d need to keep, and then
I reached for the file on another
stack. Two fell loose as if looking
for me. I saw the words Frost and
Sun. Could it be? It was. All ten
chapters of my winter in Kostroma.
For my friends it was a hard time. 
They couldn’t predict their future.
They didn’t even try. “We don’t
know,” they said. Their children 
were sick. Some of the food they’d
saved for the winter had spoiled.
Their salaries would barely feed
them, yet they lavished feasts on me.
They gave me clothes for the bitter
winter. I was cherished. I knew I’d
been right to go. I’ve never regretted
that love or the risks I took. It was
the way I lived my life when I began
my full adulthood, my own claim
on this earth, my own choices, and
the consequences that followed.
I’m glad I was the way I was and
did the things I did and took the 
risks I took. Mine was and is a life
with one overriding purpose, to be
the human being only I could be,
to find that simple courage: 
to be myself.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Three


This was a CCACAD victory party back in 2017, when Judge Fox ruled for us in our court case to stop the coal ash dumping. Johnsie to the left in front, John Cross, third back on the right, and other coal ash fighters. We lost John in late 2018, and Johnsie now suffers from cancer and many chemo treatments, but these, folks, are heroic people.

***
The Late Years Twenty-Three April 7, 2019

Most of what we’ve tried to do has 
proved futile, if not impossible.
We took on a giant public utility
and lost to the tune of seven million
tons of coal ash. It could have been
more. They promised us twelve
million. Oh, how they lied. How
falsely they attempted to reassure.
“There’s arsenic in apple juice,”
they said. But we didn’t want it in
our air, in our water, in the air we
breathed, the water we drank. Now
they want to burn the coal ash again.
“To make it clean,” they said. It still
poisons us. We sicken and die.
Already we lose our justice fighters.
Two lost: Terica and John Cross.
One more still fighting, still alive
after the twenty-third chemo 
treatment: Johnsie. What does it
take for you to see the people, the 
little children, the unborn babies?
Why don’t you wish us to live and
flourish? Your hatred is palpable.
In the name of Terica and John, 
and Johnsie, we fight on. Stop
your poison now. Change your 
tune. You, too, are only human.

You, too, can sicken and die.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Two


Baba Summer: Part One published Feb. 16, 2019. Books received March 26, 2019. E-book, $9.77; $22.30 paper. $26 with signed copy by mail in U.S., check to PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559. 

***
The Late Years Twenty-Two March 31, 2019

Our story, our history lives.
The taiga, the deep forest, your
rodina, place of birth, yet lives. 
You took me there, to the north
of the Mezha District in 1992,
August, twenty-seven years ago.
Your friends toasted me, danced
with me, and got me tipsy. I took
this photo of the Black River way
below us. They asked if I were
afraid of bears, and I said no. I was
surrounded by affection and laughter.
Now this Baba Summer book
travels back to Russia, to your wife
and son, who were there, too, that day.
They forgive me for loving you. 
They let me publish your letters.
All those little messages between
the lines. You kept telling me of
your new books: Declaration of 
Love and Russian Field. When we
stopped beside the road, I picked
a small purple knapweed bloom,
and you threw your arms wide and
told me, “I want to give my whole
soul in my writing.” I knew then,
that first day together, that I
couldn’t help loving you. The larger
world will learn of my love. There
are times in a lifetime when you 
can only say yes.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Blackbird Flying by Sheila Nickerson: Commentary



Commentary on Sheila Nickerson’s Blackbird Flying (2019), Fuze Publishing, Ashland, Oregon. 178 pp, ISBN: 978-0-9998089-6-2. Paper: $14.99.

Blackbird Flying is a myth. Symbols in a narrative. Sheila Nickerson sees the crowds of red-winged blackbirds when young, and the birds continue to return winters to this South Carolina Low Country. Among birds, they cope unusually well when their territory no long affords forage or the swampy salt water where they like to build their nests. They move on, and as a species, they are polygamous–can have many mates. They lay eggs and raise young two or three times a year. In multiple ways they are survivors.
She likens them to her family, who left Ireland during the potato famine of the middle 1800s and settled in New York City, became wealthy entrepreneurs, Funk and Wagnall dictionaries, for example, but fell into weakness, alcoholism, and in the case of the women, often lost their memories..
When hard times came again, they migrated again. They kept moving west, and she and her husband Martin ended up in Juneau, Alaska. 
Through the years, the family visited their South Carolina home on Lady Island, part of the Intracoastal Waterway near Beaufort, and Sheila returns there to see the birds, to plot her way forward and to think about the early naturalists, John White [1540?-1606?], Governor of the lost Roanoke Colony; John Lawson [?-1711] who came to early Charleston and would write A New Voyage to Carolina, and Mark Catesby [c. 1683-1749] who landed in Williamsburg, VA, and made drawings of both birds and the plants in their lives (The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands). These men recorded in words and paintings the bird life, the other creatures, and even some words from the indigenous people’s languages. Some traces of their pioneer works survive, but all those men were lost, killed, or prevented by the situation in England from returning to the new world that fascinated them. They become her guides in her mission to learn “the world’s name and the name of the world to come “ [p. 25]
Yet, even with the risk of being killed by the indigenous people or lost in myriad other ways, they kept going back into the unknown. They come out of their past to represent Nickerson’s future. Feeling alone now, the oldest in her maternal family, her mother and brother, gone; her son alienated, she would travel into her future. She asks where do those lost ones go? Where do their memories go? She visits mediums who bring back the voices of the dead, but she isn’t sure she will meet her lost ones where she is going. She’s fascinated by the phenomena of the Fata Morgana, when visions appear out of the past because of a trick of the light, like seeing The Flying Dutchman on the horizon in Alaska. Like the red-winged blackbird, she’ll take her chance, as she goes into the immensity of the universe, not certain that any traces of her or her story will be left.
She gives us one myth for the end of our lives, but there is no certainty here, and little hope. There is only courage to keep flying forward. She doesn’t talk about all the books she has written or all the people who have read and loved her books. On certain websites you will find more about her and her books. She lived in Alaska twenty-seven years and was one of their Poet Laureates. She taught poetry to children, to university students, and to prisoners. She also wrote of the Alaskan wilderness. There will be seeds left, Sheila, on the world wide web and in the minds and hearts of the living.

Judy Hogan

You may order from www.fuzepublishing.com or Amazon or independent bookstores.

Comments for the Blackbird Flying:

Nickerson watches and records, searching not only for birds, but also for apparitions and enlightenment, for a deeper understanding of life’s twists and turns, its disappointments and betrayals. The shiny bits she collects gleam and shine. The breadth of her attention and knowledge is dazzling.–Geraldine Connolly, poet. Aileron and Hand of the Wind.

Seeking the territory of home and love, Nickerson follows historical guides, observes the birds, and explores the shifting nature of memory itself. From the disappearance of the Roanoke colony to string theory to slavery to Louisa May Alcott, the reader is privy to thought-provoking perspectives on life, death, and the importance of truly inhabiting every moment.
–Lana Hechtman Ayers, editor, MoonPath Press; author, Time Flash; Another Me.

Sheila Nickerson’s book is as comfortable and brisk as wearing an old shirt on a a cool day. True, lyrical, and expansive, her essays migrate across subjects that are tangled like the weave of a bird’s nest. Birders will love this collection. Readers who can’t tell a robin from a raptor will, too. Because the bird at the center is the heart we all share.

–Christopher Cokinos, Bodies of the Holocene: Essays and The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of the Shooting Stars.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Late Years Twenty


Sunrise at Jordan Lake March 16, 2019 by Doc Ellen, DVM

***

The Late Years Twenty March 17, 2019

Normally I see the sun rise when
the cloud cover permits. The sky
can be red and pink as far as the eye
can see. Never exactly the same sky, 
yet never before had I seen cloud
feathers–huge wings of delicate white 
all over the sky, and when they
faded, the sun: molten gold. I’ll
write about those I told myself:
cloud feathers and molten gold.
These years I take days one at a
time. The practical problems
often wait too long. I’ve run
out of egg cartons. I can’t think
what to make for dinner. When
I have a list of things to do?
What shall I do first? The hens
are flying out of their run even
though I clipped their wings.
Now a possum has been sighted.
They haven’t been near the
hens for years, but they do kill
them. I’ll ask my son to help.
It’s why he’s here, but I still
hate to ask. I will. When I
ignore my aging body’s limits, 
it signals me loud and clear:
slow down. Even so, it heals.
I go on, more deliberately, paying
attention, calming myself with

tea and memory: I’m still me.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Late Years Nineteen


New Year's Day 2019 by Doc. Ellen from Jordan Lake Dam

The Late Years Nineteen  March 11, 2019

For Jaki

I was your first publisher. In 1973, 
in March, as you reminded me, you
brought me a grocery bag full of
poems–all hand-written–and I said
I’d type them. I worried about you
coming alone across that farmer’s
land to the old house he’d rented to 
Yankees. My baby was a year old,
and you, at twenty, had two small
children. I had a poetry magazine
and was doing open readings in
Chapel Hill. North Carolina was
undergoing school desegregation.
Everyone we met wanted to know,
and was determined to find out,
where we stood on the racial question.
Black writers weren’t getting
published in North Carolina, nor were
outsiders–poets who were different,
who weren’t in the dominant clique. 
In 1976 I began Carolina Wren Press
and began to publish all these
overlooked poets. Your husband 
Sherman and I had visited the
The Department of Public Instruction
and walked into a secret meeting 
of the clique poets. They were 
assigning Poets in the Schools jobs. 
I knew those people. I had already
published them in my magazine
Hyperion. I’d never before felt such
hatred simply by walking into a room.
In 1977 I published your Dead on
Arrival. It was heralded by Lance
Jeffers, who predicted your greatness.
Back in 1973 you seemed so young,
so fragile, so brave. When you left,
I saw across that farmer’s fields
a small white dogwood blooming, also
fragile, also brave. Now you’re
the state’s poetry queen: the first
African American Poet Laureate. 
You came to my Poetry class,
listened to their poems, suggested
revisions, read us some of yours.
Back then your challenges to our
racist society were clothed in 
symbols: “The Moon is a rapist...”
Now you speak your truth with no
holding back. Again I feel your
fragility, your insistent courage
like a flame in a landscape still full

of tinder. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Late Years Eighteen


Peas, beets, onions a few years ago. How I yearn for them.

***
The Late Years Eighteen  March 3, 2019

I did slow down, reconcile myself 
to doing less, expecting less. Then
spring begins: peepers, rain, daffodils
under the heavy growth of weeds
and last year’s stalks. One helper
cleared out the flower garden weeds.
I open the box of seeds. Sugar snap 
peas–a big envelope; Early Wonder
Tall Top beets–a small envelope. They 
should have been in the ground in 
February. Though my helpers cleared
the garden weeds, and I added wood 
ashes, those rows still need compost
and feathermeal. Then turning the
soil. Meantime some hens learned
to fly out onto a fig limb and down
into the garden. They’ll scratch up 
the seeds. They go through the
hole in the fence into the backyard
where I’ll have zinnias and cosmos.
My helpers say they’ll cut off the
fig limb, but will they mend the 
fence? I have the wire and the
tools. Maybe I can. The ground
in the garden is uneven, but if I
fall on the earth, it is soft, and
I don’t hurt myself. They don’t
want me to fall, but they have
other things they want to do. I
feel the urgency. I’ve been farming
in a small way, and it got into
my blood. The seed packets are
waiting. It will save money and
give us healthy food–organic and
fresh. I can make borsch and later
spaghetti sauce and minestrone.
Relying on oneself to overcome
difficulties is one dilemma. Relying
on others keeps me awake. Still, let 

me see what I can do.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Late Years Seventeen


Judy's chickens who ran away waiting on her back porch to get back in. The one in front is Isabelle or Izzy, also called Rogue One, an expert escapist even with her wings clipped.

***
The Late Years Seventeen  February 24, 2019

Hardly anything dismays a daffodil.
Crowds of them are shining in my
gardens, some stalks bent so the
blooms touch the ground, others are
as upright and cheerful as usual.
It has rained for days, the ground
soggy, mud on our shoes and on
the dogs’ feet; the hens wet, their
wings unfluffed. They gather at
the top of their “room” to watch
birds or dogs or any entertainment
that keeps them dry. I read old
diaries and think about my life.
Could it be that in my eighties
I still possess innocence of heart? I
never did try for more than who
I am, what I was. I fought and got
labeled a trouble-maker. Some few
saw deeper, saw the reality behind
the laughter and the silences. Who 
else would I be? The daffodils do
it every year, despite weeds and
other debris in their near neighborhood,

so why not me?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Late Years Sixteen


Photo of Bald Eagle near Jordan Lake Dam by Doc. Ellen, DVM
 ***

The Late Years Sixteen, February 17, 2019

You are the flower of my aging heart,
always there, in person or by email.
I called you my support system. More 
than that. Like you see into Wag’s soul, 
quiet and reclusive though she is, and
into the hearts of the eagles that keep
an eye on you while you check on
their precious nests and even attend
your public talks on eagle lore, you see
into mine. Yes, despite my suffering
when his love claimed mine, and yet
so much we had to let go, you understand
my contentment nearly thirty years
later, when our story will take its
destined place in the history of our
two warring cultures. I said, “I’m so
glad I found you in my older years, 
and you echoed the thought. Love 
becomes eternal in such moments.
Years aren’t necessary. Certain
instants in a long life when time 
stands still are all we need.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Late Years Fifteen



This is a view of the Black River in the Taiga (wild forest) in the Mezha District of the state of Kostroma, where I was taken in 1992 to see the area of Mikhail Bazankov's rodina or birth place. 

***
The Late Years Fifteen February 10, 2019

This week I proofed the first long 
chapter of my love story. He’s gone.
I’m alive. His sons and his wife live.
I live, to tell our story, our history.
At times we wanted to forget, to
escape our love. We tried and failed.
It plunged us too deep, well below
consciousness, where the Muse
dwells, and the inmost truth of our
being. Later this week, the world
will know all the details. Maybe
some of the hate will subside. What
need is war and making souls into
enemies? We got past all that at the
end of the twentieth century. Now
we have to relearn it. I lost him, but
the words still live. Those movements
thirty years ago that taught us the
permanence of love when soul is
drawn to soul. That won’t disappear
even when I die, but I have some 
years yet, and three more books
to put out into the world. We ached.
We rebelled. We hurt each other,
but we couldn’t let go. We didn’t.
Our story, our history now rests 
like those suffering ancients did

in the stars.

***
Baba Summer Part One will be published on February 16, 2019. This is the first of four memoirs about my experiences in the 90s in writer exchanges getting to know Russian people. I knew that Adelaide Books of New York City was to publish it this year, but I learned only earlier this week that it was to come out February 16, 2019. That’s a week away, folks. It might be a couple of weeks before I get the books I’ve ordered, but feel free to send in checks now for a signed copy.

Paper: ISBN-13:968-1-949680-74-9 $22.30, with tax, $24. With postage: $26 from Judy.
E-book, ISBN-10: 1949180-74-3. $9.77.

You can also buy it from the Adelaide Books website, and see some comments on my writing from Susan Broili. http://adelaidebooks.org/baba_summer.html




Baba Summer, Part One (520 pages) is a memoir by writer Judy Hogan of her first visit in August 1990 to Soviet Russia as part of a Durham, NC Sister Cities Writing Exchange with the Writers Organization of Kostroma, a city which had been closed to Americans during the Cold War.  In diary, and letters with her new Russian friends, she shares her experience, not only of falling in love with her partner in the exchange, Mikhail Bazankov, but also of many other new bonds she made with Russians: a nationally known painter, a school teacher, a translator and proof-reader at the VAAP copyright agency, and a student of philosophy.  Hogan learned to speak, read, and write Russian so as to enhance communication with her new friends.  The exchanges and their mutual projects continued through 2001, and Hogan anticipates publishing another three volumes of diary, narrative, letters, and poetry.  She names the twelve years of her intensive experience with Russians as the most important event of her eighty-one years.  This book begins in August 1990 and ends in June 1992.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Late Years Fourteen

My orchid when it was young.

***
The Late Years Fourteen  February 3, 2019

We met in a Baptist Church. Some of us are
church-goers, some of us are not. We had a 
prayer from Debbie–non-denominational.
We introduced ourselves. We were nine,
with our two lawyers. They were eight, with
their staff and lawyers. The Christian rule
is to love your enemies. First, we talked
briefly, each of us about our concerns.
Then we went over the history of what 
happened in court over the five years.
So far, we’ve both won and lost. So have
they. The appeals court said we had to
start all over, go back to the beginning,
but we all chose mediation. The mediator
was kind and respectful, treated us all
well. First, he listened to us. Everyone got
a chance to speak. Then he took our list
to our enemies to see if they could agree
to any of our wishes. Meantime we ate
a potluck lunch and rested. They’d 
brought sandwiches and ate in their designated 
rooms. The mediator returned with three
of our wishes granted, all minor, and yet
a good sign if our enemies could yield in 
small ways. We think they don’t want to
go back to court. As the afternoon wore
on, they never yielded on the big things. Our 
lawyer proposed having a break of several 
months, when more information would be
available, and they agreed. As the clock
moved toward five, we all wanted to leave. 
We said goodbye and shook hands. If we
didn’t exactly love our enemies, we did
respect them more than we had before, and 

we hope they came to respect us.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Late Years Thirteen



My figs back in August 2011. They've been hurt in recent years by late frosts, but they're still alive.

The Late Years Thirteen January 27, 2019

After Julia Kennedy’s Bijoux 12 painting

It’s the way my life is now. Some days
pale blue, threatening to turn pink like
the clouds at sunrise. Then next thing I
know, a darker blue, with streaks of 
very dark navy blue. These years have
their triumphs when I break a dead limb
off a still vibrant fig tree or the hen
whose become a successful escape
artist, trusts me enough to wait on the porch
rail at the back door for me to open the
coop and let her back in. Other days the 
light blue darkens to nearly black. I lose 
people who were always there, who
helped me in a pinch. Or I fall in the
night, reaching for the light switch. I
walk slowly, deliberately, keeping
an eye on the path lest I stumble,
but every now and then, before I
can re-balance, I’m down. Somewhere
though, just beyond, the clouds are
pink, and that’s my destination. I do
all I can do, and I still walk without
a cane. My health holds. The people
I love love me, forgive me my 
forgetfulness and my stubborn streak.
I’ll take the pale blue as skybluepink 
and imagine that more rewards will

arrive while I’m still alive.

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.