Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Six


Doc Ellen Tinsley, morning glories on chain-link fence.

The Late Years Forty-Six September 15, 2019

Another reminder: part of me is fragile. 
“Keep listening to your body,” says my
doctor. I do. I sleep more. But some 
days are too full. I do my best, then rest.
I find blue morning glories, then orange,
to go with white. The tiger lilies rise above
the swarms of small sunflowers. The zinnias,
when the wind lays them flat, turn and
go up again. Their panoply of colors
makes Robin smile. I find okra. Despite
chaotic planting, it endured, but our
rooster, worried for his hens, chases
me off, and I drop the okra. I’ll go find
it before I open the coop. My second
Russian book will be published–stories
so important to me twenty-seven years
ago. They still are. I can yet write and
think, talk and plan my day. “Keep doing
what you’re doing,” says my doctor. 

I do. I will.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Five

 Morning glories in Judy's back yard garden

***
The Late Years Forty-Five  September 8, 2019

First, I waited for the leaves.
There had been–at the very edge–
grass clumps, but no hint of morning
glories. Finally, here and there
heart-shaped leaves. Then a week
without rain. I checked for any sign
of color to go with green. Then
came the edge of a hurricane with
wind and rain. Morning glory leaves
know how to hang tough. When sun 
returns, there they are–half a dozen 
white blooms. What color will show 
up next? We also have our quiet days
when very little seems to happen.
Are we healing? Will we live long
enough for our wishes to come true?
Have we still latent in us a success 
story? Will that editor choose the 
next book in my Russian series? 
He did. Jubilation! Let the world
know. Our story, our history is 
being told, book by book, year by
year. Do I have enough years left? 
Maybe not twenty, as I had hoped, 
but maybe enough to leave our love 

lie open to the wide, wide world.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Four


Photo of first zinnia by Tim Hogan in Mom's garden

***
The Late Years Forty-Four September 1, 2019

Was it love or simply attraction? Or both? 
What exactly is it when you can’t let go,
even when you try? You know you can’t
be indifferent. You see through his poses,
his act of not caring, his jealousy not hidden
very well, and after he died, you still have
him in your life. Funny, how a whole life
can hang on a few moments of ecstatic
union. His wife, his children, his grandchildren 
love you because you knew how much his 
family, his birthplace, his country meant to 
him. He said you’d have to be divorced.
That was after several weeks of tender 
communion. You ignored the word he was 
pointing to in the dictionary. It wasn’t possible. 
He could pretend, but for you it was too late. 
Did he think he could gesture to the wild 
forest and say, “Let’s go there and never 
come back,” and you would forget?
Foolish man. Then, in a book years later, 
he drew that image of a man and a woman 
walking into the forest. But from the very 
beginning, he’d prophesied that one day 
we’d each have a wing and fly somewhere–

together. I still believe it.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Three



The Blue Grosbeak at Jordan Dam, near Moncure, N.C.

***
The Late Years Forty-Three August 25, 2019

We have so many poisons now. It’s a wonder
we stay alive as long as we do. We kill on purpose
and by accident with our pesticides and
herbicides, by what we let out of our smokestacks 
and car exhausts. Our big trucks do their share
with their diesel engines as they drag their logs
and tankers uphill. No wonder our emergency
rooms are crowded and we die before our time.
Still, I have lived this long: eighty-two years.
I can look at death and nod. Yes, eventually. 
I recognize the land of the dead when I see it.
Broken rocks, all sizes, browns and greys. No
color. No vegetation. It had seeds, but it was
sprayed to kill any life, vegetable or animal.
Yet I hear a cricket, and then the true miracle:
the heart-shaped leaves of morning glory
outwitting a rock death, rain finally rinsing off
enough poison to bring forth something green
right at the edge. Leave those rocks alone, and
they will bring forth the undead, the vine, and 
in time the pink, purple, blue buds, which will 

open to the sounds of a bird’s hymn of praise.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Late Years Forty-Two


Judy, while teaching at her Lifestyle Workshop for Writers on June 1. Photo by Elisabeth Plattner.
Usually I put up a blog on Sunday, but last Sunday, I went to the Emergency Room to see about this possible small stroke I had on Saturday. They did many tests, and no brain damage. Here's the poem. I just remembered to do my blog for last week. JH

***
The Late Years Forty-Two August 18, 2019
For my audience at South Regional on August 17, 2019

A curious conjunction. I had them
laughing, mesmerized, their eyes alight.
They wanted to hear every word I said,
but my words skittered away from me.
I said the wrong one, or the word I wanted
vanished while I tried to find another
one that would work. What overwhelmed
my mind that Saturday in the library I loved?
About ten women came, and my son Tim,
who brought me and also carried in the 
box of books I wanted to sell. A lovely
librarian, Teresa, had everything set up, 
even cookies and tea. She had a
sound man put a mike on me and
adjusted it. Women drifted in, eager,
curious, and I welcomed them all. Then
I transformed them, even while my
mind was playing tricks. Was I having
a stroke in the middle of my success?
By 4:30, I wanted to go home, but
they didn’t want to leave. Most stayed
talking while Tim packed up the books.
He brought me my yoghurt drink, and
our friend Virginia rubbed my back. 
Slowly, I felt better. I pulled on a long-
sleeved shirt and wasn’t too hot as we
drove home in ninety-degree weather.
I rested while they made supper. 

Afterwards I bathed and slept.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Late Years Forty-One


Judy by her hydrangea bush in early spring 2019

***
The Late Years Forty-One August 11, 2019

It’s so easy to worry, and I do.
About money, my health, my friends.
Then come the surprises. The credit
card company tells me I have money
with them which I didn’t know about.
They sent it to my bank. It’s teaching
time, but where are all my students?
I write to two of the silent ones. They
answer that, yes, they’ll take my class,
and one wants to take them both. I
Spend a day quietly to give my heart
time to heal, get back to normal. It
does heal. I rise early, breakfast as
usual, and take my morning walk.
The little bird sings to me before
sunrise. My friends see something
in me they value. They hang on,
let me see their agony. I wish them
courage. In this life we never get 
to coast. It’s “work, work, if we
don’t work, we don’t get anything, 
not even love.”* My Muse lives,
my health holds. I have enough
money. There are tears, but 
laughter, too. Don’t forget
to give thanks.


* Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Late Years Forty


Photo by Tim Hogan

The Late Years Forty August 4, 2019

Lacrimosa was the name for Mozart’s Requiem 
in D Minor, played so often when we lose people. 
Tearful. Full of tears. Yet we laughed when 
Johnsie joined us. She’s still fighting her own 
personal war with an enemy invading her
body. We hug her. Keely has brought a cake
to celebrate Dean’s birthday and mine, and the
halt of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is to
bring fracked gas and its accompanying
explosions into North Carolina. We’ve already
lost too many fervent souls. They fight and they
smile as long as they can. On other fronts, love
is demonstrated other ways. We have a leak
bringing down our ceiling plaster. I call Gene.
He has lost sight in one eye. A retina got
detached. He guides Tim by their smart phones
through the steps to stop the leak. Tim had
planned to sleep in, but he calls Gene to
learn how to stop the leak. Gene describes
that he needs to blow down a clogged pipe, but
how to do that? Finally, Tim finds a way, and a 
lot of gunk come out and then the water
that had been blocked. The air-conditioner
works again, and the wet ceiling dries. We
take a long breath. If only we could save
Johnsie, bring back sight in Gene’s eye.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Nine


Judy by Emma Tobin, late 2018, teaching a class.

The Late Years Thirty-Nine July 28, 2019

The human body has its ways
of sending messages, especially
when aging. I know when I need
to slow down, rest, listen, obey.
I had these messages years ago.
I’d have vertigo then. Nothing
to do but lie flat. I learned to
drink self-heal tea–better than 
Dramamine. Now it’s afib–
my heart racing. I drink lemon-
peppermint tea, take deep breaths,
forget about work, sleep if possible.
Then allow myself a lazy day: 
read a novel, write in my diary.
How I love to work, get things
done. I remind myself that
everything can wait for a day.
“Take a load off.” “There’s no
rush.” The work I want to do
will be there tomorrow and the
next day. I slept. I rested.

I listened. I healed again.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Eight


Photo and sign by Keely Wood. A hot day in Moncure, N.C.

***
The Late Years Thirty-Eight July 21, 2019

I was thirty-eight when I had that dream.
I was sitting in a circle with black women,
and someone stabbed me in the back.
A nightmare which has come alive
in my mind again, but of course it has
happened before–in the intervening
years. I use my ingenuity and courage
and make things happen: a small press,
a major library program for new writers,
a statewide writers organization where
all are welcome, giving a death blow
to the clique mentality. It’s no wonder
I was hated. I didn’t publish them. I
Interfered with their power base.
Or here, I wanted to protect my
neighbors from coal ash poison, and
in years earlier, formaldehyde, plus
other causes of cancer. I lost John
Cross, who was always willing to help,
and Terica, endlessly inventive about
how to fight fracking and coal ash 
dust, and Cora, who told me she
loved me as if she knew people who
didn’t. I wouldn’t change what I’ve done
even if I live among those who stab
me in the back when they can. I forget 
more. I can’t go and do as much as
once. Yet here I am. Help me or 
harm me, but let me do my work

while I live.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Seven


Photo of sunrise  from Jordan Lake Dam on New Year's Day 2019 by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Thirty-Seven July 14, 2019

It is quite true that the artist, painter, writer or composer starts always with an experience that is a kind of discovery. He comes upon it with the sense of a discovery; in fact, it is truer to say that it comes upon him as a discovery. It surprises him.
–Joyce Cary, Art and Reality, p. 15.

What then do all these words mean
that come upon me–years of them now?
I listen. I record. I respect, nay, I honor
that mysterious flow. As to Eliot’s vision
of how a new voice will become part of
the tradition that has gone before and change
it all, I’m hesitant to claim to be that
important. Besides, he says, such poetry
won’t be personal, and mine definitely
is. My friends and children, my chickens
and hydrangea bush, the little blue
grosbeak who sings to me at six in the
morning–at sunrise time–when I go to 
walk, are personal, or are they? Does the 
bird’s insistent call when the sky is pink 
all the way around, red, and even green
in places, and he waits to hear me sing,
“I see you!” does that stay personal
or does it change into a token of eternity?
What happens to the words I hear in
my ear and baptize with the water
of my spirit, which lifts me past my
balance problem, my lament that I can’t
do everything I did only eight years ago?
The answer comes easily now. I’m still
making discoveries, and they are 

still in possession. I needn’t be afraid.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Six



Judy and Sheila Crump after Gospel Sing to raise money to fight our coal ash dump. Photo by Johnsie Tipton.

***
The Late Years Thirty-Six July 7, 2019

It has been so for most of my life. 
Some people love me, and some hate me. 
I think of the woman in the post office, 
being waited on. I didn’t know her, walked 
around her and put my package on the scales,
not imagining I would offend her, but when
she left, she said pointedly and coldly, “Sorry
I interfered with your post office business.”
Meaning: “You interfered with mine.” I
was reprimanded. True, I didn’t think my
gesture would be offensive. She probably
has me pigeon-holed now as a racist.
Another day, walking toward Food Lion, 
a woman coming out calls to me, “Miss
Judy.” It’s Delois, whom I know, and who
hugs me. “How you been?” “I’m fine.
How is your mother?” I hadn’t heard since
late last year. Cora was so sweet, so dear.
Once she told me, as if in defiance of 
somebody, “I love you.” “Mama passed,” 
said Delois. “I’m sorry. She was so sweet.”
I’ll be more careful in the post office, but
I doubt I’ll change the mind of the other
woman. Delois’s hug and Cora’s love
are what sustain me. A friend told me
 years ago, “If you make enemies, it means
you’re getting something done.” If people

love you, you’re doing something right.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Judy Featured in Two Events July 17 and August 17, 2019



Photo by Emma Tobin, December 2018

Judy Hogan featured in two events: July 17 and August 17, 2019

July 17, Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. I’ll be at the Eva Perry library in Apex near Raleigh, for an author tea, along with authors Peggy Payne and Anna Jean Mayhew. The Eva Perry Regional Library is at 2100 Shepherd’s Vineyarad Dr., Apex, NC 27502. 919-387-2122. Contact: Lisa Locke, Adult Services Librarian. Tea will be served, and the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions. Please come. It should be fun. 

Peggy Payne (born 1949) is a writer, journalist and consultant to writers. She has written four books and her articles, reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, among others. Her books focus on spirituality.

Anna Jean (A.J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and was a finalist for the Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. She has been writer-in-residence at Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France, and was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers' Network. A native of Charlotte, NC, A.J. has never lived outside the state, although she often travels to Europe with her Swiss-born husband. Her work reflects her vivid memories of growing up in the segregated South. A.J.—a mother and grandmother—now lives in a small town in the North Carolina Piedmont with her husband and their French-speaking cat.

Judy Hogan was co-editor of a poetry journal (Hyperion, 1970-81).  In 1976 she founded Carolina Wren Press.  She has been active in central North Carolina as a reviewer, book distributor, publisher, teacher, and writing consultant. She was one of the founders of the NC Writers Network, and chaired the board from 1983-7.
She has published twenty-two books including seven volumes of poetry, ten mystery novels, and four non-fiction books, the latest being Baba Summer: Part One about her experiences with Russians in the 90s. Between 1990 and 2007 she visited Kostroma, Russia, five times, teaching American literature at Kostroma University in 1995 and giving a paper to a Kostroma University Literature Conference in March 2007. She worked on five exchange visits, as well as cooperative publishing with Kostroma writers and exhibits of their artists. Judy lives and farms in Moncure, N.C., near Jordan Lake. 

On August 17, Saturday at 2 p.m. Judy will read at the South Regional Library in Durham from two new books, Baba Summer: Part One, and Bakehouse Doom: The Tenth Penny Weaver Mystery. After a short break, Judy will give a workshop on writing memoir, from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and buy books. A memoir is a form that is quite flexible, and most people can do it fairly easily–tell the story of their lives.
The South Regional Library is at 4505 South Alston Ave, Durham, NC 27713. Contact Teresa May, 919-560-7410. It’s free!


Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Four



Blue Grosbeak. Photo by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Thirty-Four  June 23, 2019

Did the little bird miss me when 
I stayed home to avoid the rain?
Then it didn’t rain. He hadn’t
forgotten me and sang robustly
from the razor wire protecting the
dam machinery and later let me
close before he dipped his wings
and flew away. When you move
slowly as I do now, you see more. 
You have time to watch the eagles
flying over. Once I saw two, both
carrying fish. The fishermen ignore
them, and the eagles ignore the
fishers. Right at the end, as I
return to my truck, I hear the
Carolina Wren cheering, cheering,
cheering me. I watch for morning
glory leaves, some orange native
ones, some invasive purples,
blues, pinks, and whites–no color
yet but crowding heart-shaped
leaves. Here no one fears them.
In my garden they can wrap
around a tomato plant and squeeze
it to death. Here their bright colors
imitate the sunrise, and no one
minds. They can be as invasive
as they want to be. The stones
and dirt that make this dam are

glad to see them, as am I.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Three


Photo of family of deer crossing shallow water only a few feet from Doc Ellen Tinsley DVM

The Late Years Thirty-Three  June 16, 2019

Sometimes, when you have trust in
yourself, other people, the way things are 
made, results you never dreamed of
come to pass. You learn that the treasurer
of the coal ash fighters has quit, not the
first to give up hope. Then a name falls
into your mind. She seems like a long
shot, but, impulsively, you ask, and
she agrees to be the treasurer, which
saves our group from dissolution. I
promise to help her and show her
what to do. You were worried about
money, too. Can you pay for your
groceries till the end of the month?
Much less, any new expenses? Then
the bank statement comes. The sales
of your books through Amazon has
brought in over a hundred dollars. 
And your son’s dog, Sophie, so 
fearful of being abandoned, hunts
for him, waits for him, but then
comes to you, when you call her, to be 
petted and comforted. Sometimes
the Universes gives you the kind of
consequences you didn’t dare imagine. 
Not deus ex machina, which it feels
like, but fruit falling into your hands
from the trees you took care of. Yet
such fruit can only be called
the Gift of Grace.



Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-Two



Judy at Lifestyle Workshop, by Elisabeth Plattner.

***
The Late Years Thirty-Two June 9, 2019

Alone again, but then I have always been.
Today, only I to walk the dam, hear the
little bird who sings to me. The fishers
are down below. An early eagle flies 
low over the dam. When it rains, my
bird stops singing. When I take down
my umbrella, he starts agaain. A
Carolina wren joins, then a cardinal.
A few lights come on as the clouds
move back in. I’m alone, yet connected.
Each of us, the bird, the fishers, the big
eagles, all alone, like it or not. I know
I take more risks than some. I want to
be in this life as long as I can. To be
alive–fully alive–is to be at risk. In
one way it’s all risk. You love someone,
and rarely and amazingly sometimes
he loves you. But sometimes not.
In any case, you’re always still on 
your own. Don’t forget. Yet one small
singer, blue-winged, can make
all the difference.



Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Late Years Thirty-One




Blue Grosbeak photo by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Thirty-One June 2, 2019

When I arrived at the dam, a little bird
sang to me. He perched on a pipe by the
side of the road over the top of the dam
some minutes before sunrise, and as I
walked closer, he flew to the next pipe 
and again sang. Then the next. When
his mate joined him, they flew up and
then down to the river. I made their
day without even trying, and trying
sometimes doesn’t do it. A freely given 
gift, on the other hand, is always
welcome. What do I give the dark
blue bird, the blue grosbeak, with
his merry song? Only my presence.
He doesn’t ask me for food or drink.
But each morning he returns, as if
to lead me toward the sunrise he
knows in his small bones is coming
closer any minute. He thinks he has
made a conquest since I follow him and
love his little warble, and miss him
when he swoops off again. So many
gifts are given to us every day, but
we have to see them and let them
in to our deep soul. Who would
have thought that my hydrangea bush,
a gift of my daughter, then cut to the 
ground by a neighbor man helping
with yard work, would not only rise
again but put on a hundred blue
blooms? Do we see these gifts? Can
we allow what lies outside our 
familiar inner world, to stir our
gratitude when it’s so freely given?



Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Late Years Thirty


Wag on the Jordan Lake Dam, 2018. Photo by Ellen DVM

The Late Years Thirty May 26, 2019

My dog and I have both slowed down.
We don’t walk very fast, but we
still walk every morning our half a mile
across the dam at big Jordan Lake. And
when I put her outside, she walks her path 
in the backyard, round and round, though
in the house often her feet slide apart, 
and she can’t get traction. I’ve put down
mats to help. I might have twenty more
years if I’m lucky, but she is close to
one hundred and nineteen dog years, 
while I am turning eighty-two. She
sleeps a lot, and I work on typing a book
I wrote eight years ago. My son and our
friend replace the boards on the back
porch in the hot sun. It’s easy for me to
worry about her, and yet she still waits
for me near the gate when it’s time to
take our walk, and she nuzzles me to 
let her out when we reach the dam. Bird
calls ring around us. A blue nuthatch 
sings from a pipe as we start across the
dam, and then his mate joins him for a
celebratory flight. Some people say that
dogs have souls. I believe it. Wag rarely
barks now, but her soul is in her eyes 
when she looks at me.



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.