Sunday, May 31, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-four

Buds of orchid from Rita Baldwin's Orchid House

Talking to Myself Twenty-Four May 31, 2020

Today we celebrate my birthday.
I turned eighty-three years on
Wednesday, but today my daughter
and her two children will join us 
in our front yard and sit six feet
apart. Tim will buy “take out” 
pizza, one meat and one vegetarian. 
Lilly begins grad school in August.
Bobby will be a junior at his college.
We all like pizza. Tim brought
two chairs from his storage unit. He’ll 
take out two of mine, old-fashioned
ones–one from my grandma. How
she loved me. She called me Judith.
How I loved her and those times
I visited her in Pittsburgh, and she
told me stories. I learned them,
too. What a life I’ve made. How
well I’ve lived. I trusted my heart,
and my heart thrived. We learn 
on Tim’s TV how angry our
black brothers and sisters are over
one policeman’s killing of a black
man he was arresting for no reason.
Our president has been unjust, our
country divided and too many
people angry. It’s time to consider
justice and transformation. Enough
of using force to achieve what we
need. Remember Henry David
Thoreau and Martin Luther King
and Gandhi. It’s time to trust

the God Within.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Three

Writer friend Sasscer Hill, as a child: 
"You can't have my chicken."

Talking to Myself Twenty-Three May 24, 2020

Here is Yuri, writing me emails in Russian,
which I find I can read only occasionally
turning to the dictionary. Then he tells me
of a translation program. I find it on the web. 
It works well. Another resource to learn
his meaning. He writes simply. So I
recognize most of his Russian words. Google
translates them quickly: Enlightenment!
No language in the world can keep me out.
We all adapt, stay in our houses, wear
masks when we venture out. Even I have
one, homemade by one of Tim’s fellow 
workers. My broken toes are healing and
soon I can walk without the boot. What
a good life I have, even so. Old friends
write to me. We’re all still alive, getting
elderly, but still as active as possible.
Tim finds the food, the paper towels, 
the medicines for the dogs; feeds and
waters the chickens. Janet carries Wag
out and is digging the grass out of our
flower garden. We’ll have zinnias
and cosmos, their lively colors, rising
again when the wind blows them
sideways. Our volunteer peach tree 
by the back of the house has green
peaches already. The invading blackberry
bushes have have red fruit. The hydrangea
has its hundred florets. The rain
stirred its roots and sent out blooms,
and Yuri has me reading Russian again.

Here is Yuri, writing me emails in Russian,
which I find I can read only occasionally
turning to the dictionary. Then he tells me
of a translation program. I find it on the web. 
It works well. Another resource to learn
his meaning. He writes simply. So I
recognize most of his Russian words. Google
translates them quickly: Enlightenment!
No language in the world can keep me out.
We all adapt, stay in our houses, wear
masks when we venture out. Even I have
one, homemade by one of Tim’s fellow 
workers. My broken toes are healing and
soon I can walk without the boot. What
a good life I have, even so. Old friends
write to me. We’re all still alive, getting
elderly, but still as active as possible.
Tim finds the food, the paper towels, 
the medicines for the dogs; feeds and
waters the chickens. Janet carries Wag
out and is digging the grass out of our
flower garden. We’ll have zinnias
and cosmos, their lively colors, rising
again when the wind blows them
sideways. Our volunteer peach tree 
by the back of the house has green
peaches already. The invading blackberry
bushes have have red fruit. The hydrangea
has its hundred florets. The rain
stirred its roots and sent out blooms,

and Yuri has me reading Russian again.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Two

Talking to Myself Twenty–Two May 17, 2020

It can all be done, I remind myself.
In a pandemic things slow down. My
proof copy takes three weeks. Then
three more to get a whole shipment.
I’ll change the pub date. My foot
heals. That was slow, too. I spend
more time looking at the green trees,
watching the hens who have learned 
to hide their eggs among Tim’s
bicycles or in the midst of the flower
garden. The daylilies are rising, and
Janet and I are plotting to plant zinnia
and cosmos seeds to arrive in two
weeks. It means weeding and corralling
the hens, clipping their wings, mending
their fence, fertilizing, but that’s what
farmers do. It means work. I’ve been
idle because of three broken toe bones,
but they don’t hurt now. Let me
recover my strength and wits, feel
less helpless and more canny. Things
will grow even now, and slowly
our pandemic will let go.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-One

Vera and Yuri Lebedev, my Russian friends from Kostroma

Talking to Myself Twenty-One Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020

I saw the word pismo (letter) when
I glanced over my shoulder. A Russian
letter from a Russian friend. Then I saw 
Yuri. I hadn’t heard from Yuri in years.
He wrote to me after Mikhail died in
2015. They didn’t know–even his closest 
friends didn’t know–that he was dying. They
learned too late. His wife and his son
cared for him that last year. I’d written
to him in January and sent my new
book, This River: An Epic Love Poem,
the Volga painted by Rumyantsev on  
the cover, looking across to Kostroma.
They were connected by their childhoods.
Yuri explicated Russian writers of the
nineteenth century. Mikhail’s novels
explicated, and were saving, the Russian 
soul. It can’t be faked, but it can be told.
When Mikhail left town, Yuri came
and took me to their apartment. They
fed me and put out honey for my tea 
to heal my cough. We sat hours over 
our meals, speaking, sharing stories.
I had very few Russian words, they
no English, but we used the dictionary.
Everything was told. We didn’t hesitate.
We played with baby Vanya. I taught
him to say, “Hi.” It came out, “Argh.”
How we laughed. Vera gave me a 
mustard plaster. I’d never had one.
Then she brought in big art books
and showed me paintings while the
mustard plaster worked on my cough.
An apartment was found for me. Vera
showed me what was safe to buy and 
what not. Yuri walked me to the university 
 so I could meet the Rector. At night  
we talked and laughed and told secrets.
 The rest of the family visited. We feasted.
When it was time for me to go home, I
cried. Yuri said, “Don’t cry, Judy," and I
cried more. Now comes a letter in
Russian, and photos of Yuri and Vera, 
then the whole family. I am loved, not
forgotten. “We hold these memories

in our hearts."

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty

Blue iris in Judy's garden 2018.

Talking to Myself Twenty May 3, 2020

What am I afraid of? In my dream
I couldn’t organize other writers 
though I tried. They were all so different,
and they wouldn’t listen to me. Then
they disappeared, and I was lost. All
around me were huge stone buildings,
but there were no trains. I asked help,
but no one helped me. Then I was
alone. I didn’t know where I was or 
how to get home. We all are alone,
and I’ve always been that way. I
wasn’t afraid. It was easy to love
other people, and they trusted me.
I need to heal. I am healing, It takes
time and patience. My body has
ancient wisdom in its bones. It
knows how to get better. I can’t be 
lost if I’m alone. Alone I always
know what to do. A train will come.
Everything will be clear again. Some
few will listen to me. My words will
matter. The deep places will speak,
and many people will listen. I’m safe.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Talking to Myself Nineteen

Baby chicks on roosting bars in their coop.

Talking to Myself Nineteen April 26, 2020

Every day more white iris. The chickens haven’t
bothered them. Tracey gave me bulbs, which I
duly planted, but they didn’t bloom until this year.
Then the chickens ate the weeds which held them
back, and here they are. The violets returned when
I let go the reins, some mysterious, some defiant. 
This morning I think of losses. Lisa Mansfield
whose smiling face I met in the post office. I worried
about her, living so close to that coal ash dump.
Poisoned, then murdered, along with her husband
still angry about that coal ash dump so close to their
home. Angry enough to kill, but someone else killed 
him and Lisa. Then John Cross, so kindly, often 
gave me rides to meetings. Once he fixed a weak 
board on the back porch. Terica-for-Peace dies
of lung cancer. She cheered me on when I began
working against fracking. Then Johnsie. She knew 
the coal ash trains going through Southern Pines
were death trains. People talked about her love
and her smiles. No one was a stranger. No one
listened to her warnings. Was it the cancer which
killed her, or the cure? Now our twenty-first
century plague carries off thousands. What have we

come to in the land of the Pilgrims?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Talking to Myself Eighteen

Sunrise at Jordan Lake earlier this month by Doc Ellen, DVM.

Talking to Myself Eighteen April 19, 2020

Is this my eternal life, wearing a boot
to protect fragile toe bones while they
heal? Sleeping with one foot under 
the covers and one on top? Using a
borrowed walker to move from the
couch to the kitchen and to my
computer and writing chair; staring 
at the trees outside, watching the 
chickens cultivate the backyard
and where our garden was? Only 
blackberry vines now. We had the
perennials: daffodils, violets, and
now the white iris. In front, forsythia
and hydrangea, daylily leaves, and
next door the remains of our champion
black oak, finally on the ground, 
tangled in chickweed. Tim brings
in eggs laid among the bicycles
under a tarp The wilderness has
jumped the fence, but the grape
vines again run over the top
of the chicken run. They run over
the fig trees, too. It doesn’t bode
well for tomatoes and zinnias.
Emails from friends: “How
are you?” “Still healthy, broke 
some toes, but they’re healing 
slowly.” I write about my life,
remember when I kept our
baby writers’ network afloat,
when I influenced the National
Endowment panel to keep the
required number of books 
published to two, instead of 
increasing it to ten. I told them: 
“We have no household budget.”
I lived then in subsidized housing,
got food stamps. Janet comes,
and we reminisce about our losses 
and hardships and our small, but 
persistent, victories. I didn’t get 
the grant I tried for, so I said
we’d have a conference for 
women’s stories. Six hundred
women came, and I told them
their writing was important. We
called it “Tell Me a Story That’s True.”
I still believe, with Muriel Ruykheiser,
“If one woman told the whole story
of her life, the world would split
open.”I’m still working on it.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Talking to Myself Seventeen

  Judy's flock of white rock chickens outside their chicken door.

Talking to Myself Seventeen April 12, Easter 2020

We never know what will happen to us
before it does. I’ve had many surprises–
some scary, some gifts I never anticipated.
I always learned. I rarely anticipated success, 
but it found me in unexpected places. 
Last Monday night I fell, with cane, walking 
from my couch bed to the bathroom and 
hurt my right foot. I took Tylenol and went
back to sleep. In our pandemic we’re told 
to stay away from hospitals “Call your
provider.” I emailed her: what to do? My
little toes were hurting a lot.”Go to an
orthopedic clinic.” “Which one?” The answer
came back: “Ortho Now for emergencies.
Call first.” Tim doubted it would be safe.
I called.  It sounded okay. They were
careful because of the coronovirus. I
Could come right away. We went. A
friend of Tim’s had given him a walker.
We took it and I put a sock on my foot.
We were seen right away. My foot was 
examined and x-rayed, Two small bones
were broken. Then they put on a boot 
to keep it in position for healing. “Come
back in four weeks or later, if it’s healing
well.” Living with a boot and a walker
isn’t easy. I take Tylenol when it hurts
a lot. Gifts arrive: a better walker. Janet,
when Tim is gone all day and Wag needs 
to go out. I can wash dishes and make 
my lunch and our supper. I read and write.
I can send emails. I look at the greening
world outside my window, watch our
dogs and hens in the backyard, hearing 
the morning roosters. Janet nestles
Wag in her arms, talks to the hens and
our Silver Polish rooster whom she 
admires. Friends write to me, and I
answer. My days pass slowly, but

my foot is healing.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Talking to Myself Sixteen

Talking to Myself Sixteen April 5, 2020

A new kind of plague let loose
in the world. How could we forget
the numbers lost in the 1300s and
even to the 1800s in Europe and
Asia: the Bubonic and Pneumonic?
Millions died, carried by fleas from
rats, spread by ships. We thought we 
ran the world, but the world as we
knew it has disappeared. “Please
stay at home. Wash your hands.
Keep six feet away from your
friends and loved ones. Don’t travel.”
We have to go out for food and
medicine. The hospitals need masks,
ventilators, more nurses. “Please
stay home. It saves lives. Maybe
yours or someone you love. The 
elderly are most at risk.” Young
men in pickup trucks speed through
the quiet neighborhoods. “We are
staying home, but the death toll is
still rising. Blame China, blame
the president. Save the economy.
Wall Street is staggering. The
stimulus package won’t be enough.
Millions have lost their jobs. Stores
are closing. Yet this year there
were daffodils and forsythia, the
yellows of spring, and the white
iris. First one, then a second. The
violets have moved into the flower
garden. More iris lift their buds.
The hydrangea is leafing out. Day
lilies rise in time for June. We won’t
forget this--ever.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifteen

A Champion Black Oak in Pennsylvania

Talking to Myself Fifteen March 29, 2020

Every time I take the dog out
or walk around the house to
the backyard, I see the Champion
Black Oak laid low between 
Chloe’s house and ours. Two
years ago, also March, we hired
Mr. Tyndall to take it down. He
didn’t even write a contract.
He trusted us each to pay him
$900. Then Chloe ordered him 
to stop, get off her land. The 200-
year-old trunk and a few limbs
were all that was left. Her husband
was in ICU. She feared he would
die. I paid Mr. Tyndall the $900 I'd 
saved. Then for two years I worried
it might fall on my house. We’ll never 
know whether it would have, but,
finally, Red was hired, and he and
his helper cut it down. I watched
Red cut around the trunk and lay
it down on top of all the other
tree debris. Before Chloe lived
next door, Robert and Emma 
owned the champion, and Robert
promised he wouldn’t cut it down. 
Then he died, and Emma moved to 
town. I sent Chloe certified letters
which she refused. And talked to
her of our danger. The tree still
stood. Then I learned of a tree-
cutter who charged less than usual,
and Chloe hired Red. She was at
work, but Red came, and with a 
quiet elegance laid our champion 
on the ground. A sad demise, but I
didn’t lose my books and papers.
I watched it fall. Now we live 

with its inglorious remains.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Talking to Myself Fourteen

One of Judy's hens taken by John Ewing a few years ago.

Talking to Myself Fourteen March 22, 2020

Things here are the same, yet not the same.
I still sleep well, eat my healthy diet, draw
the hens to follow me, jugs of feed in my hands, 
out to the coop. While I take down the shutters,
they eat out of the jugs, then try to slip back
into the coop. I keep the rooster in view
because he jumps on me, beak out. Even 
through thick cloth, he draws blood. I take
them handfuls of chickweed while I hurry
out of their coop. The red bud tree is our own
burning bush. The forsythia has finished, and
the hydrangea’s leaves are trying again. Wag
and I have beaten a path to the back gate. I 
hurry her in before the hens escape. I make
the dinner and wash the dishes. I take my
daily walk in the front yard.Tim goes out to 
work, and I stay home. This corona flu bug
lurks for two weeks. We don’t know whether
we’ll get sick. “Stay away from the hospital,”
they tell us. "Call your provider.” It has been
ten days since I diagnosed myself to “shelter
in place.” My doctor works overtime with
sick people Not everyone gets real sick. Stay 
away from the hospital,” they tell us. "Elderly 
are most at risk. Stay home.” The wider
world changes, but this domestic life, not
much. They say it will be over in eight weeks

Let May come soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirteen

Talking to Myself Thirteen March 15, 2020

While looking at a photo by Barry Udis in  the Joyful Jewel’s March Email

Colors strike me first, and they persist.
The deep blue of a lake among mountains
also dark blue, but the bright yellow green
of early spring between them, and far
in the distance blue hills. A scene
you could look at forever but seemingly
inaccessible. We can see it, even
recognize it at some level, but we can’t
go there. Access is forbidden. We have
only our eyes to bring it closer, to
imagine what a journey it might be to sit
beside such blue, to have that new green
all around us as if it were Spring’s blood, 
the gods’ ichor. Their blood isn’t red,
like ours, but exactly that penetrating
green that declares creation is first
and foremost–its grasses and trees–
a green you can’t forget.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Talking to Myself Twelve

Blue grosbeak at Dawn at Jordan Lake Dam by Doc Ellen

Talking to Myself Twelve March 8, 2020

Is my body finally accepting these
changes I learned in my physical
therapy lessons? Maybe. Yesterday
my left leg protested even walking.
Today hardly any pain. I’m doing
the exercises that are to be my
homework for the rest of my life. 
Will it make the pain go away? I 
was not a believer. I walked at
the dam with my son. He suggested
it, but it went well. I didn’t get so
tired. Maybe my body has adapted
to these new rules, and I can do them
with more confidence. Today we 
go on daylight savings time, but
it’s dark now. I can’t explain to my
dog that now yesterday’s six is 
today’s seven. True, it’s harder to
change habits when you’re eighty-
two, I’ve made many changes in
my life. I lived years without a cane, 
but it could save my life. I want to
live, not have my aging body start
running and no way to stop it until
I fall. So far, so good. I’m alive now. 

Let’s keep it that way.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Talking to Myself Eleven

                         Phalaenopsis (orchids) in early spring.

Talking to Myself Eleven  March 1, 2020

Titles elude me, and names, sometimes
today’s chores. I write things down so as
to remember them. Most return when I
need them, but not all. After four months
of physical therapy, meant to cure my
body’s impulse to run, I’m not cured. I
worried when Sophie didn’t respond to
my call, turned and ran toward where she
was sleeping, but I didn’t want to run. 
Fortunately, the refrigerator stopped me.
I hit my head but then I could walk
normally. If only it doesn’t happen again. 
I do try to walk heel first like they taught me,
but when I’m scared, I run. I don’t control
what scares me, but I can walk every day
and do the exercises, and use my cane when
I go very far. In this new year, I’ll turn 
eighty-three. I should be in better shape.
I thought I was. They thought I was. Give
myself credit. I’ve learned a lot, and my
body does well most of the time. It’s
another opportunity to show my courage

and do my best. That counts.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Talking to Myself Ten

Aleksei Belikh in fur hat, brown fur coat with neighbors and snowman, Kostroma, Russia, after a big snow.

Talking to Myself Ten February 24, 2020

First sleet, then snow, surprised us, although
it had been predicted. We didn’t think it would
be cold enough. Tim kept the woodstove
burning I watched the sleet changing to flakes, small
but insistent and sticking. He saw to getting the
dogs out and back in with snow on their coats.
That was Thursday. By Friday afternoon, it was
nearly gone, and we only lost power for two
hours in the night. Tim set up candles. I slept
through it. I didn’t want to risk falling, so he fed
the hens and kept the fire going. He stayed home 
from his morning job but went to his afternoon
one. The dogs loved the snow; the chickens
hated it. They thought the ground had disappeared.
I was timid until I was sure the ice was gone.
Our friends stopped by Wednesday night but 
continued south on Thursday and missed our 
snowstorm. The road outside was quiet in the
early morning, and then the long-haul trucks
returned. By Saturday I could see the snow 
was gone, and ventured out.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Talking to Myself Nine

My son Tim with my hens a few years ago when he was visiting.


Talking to Myself Nine February 16, 2020

I give myself lectures and reminders.
I write walk! In my appointment book
and sweep. I think I could mend the fence
between the backyard and the garden.
I could plant zinnias and tomatoes, if
nothing else. I could keep the hens in
their run. I could clip their wings so
they wouldn’t fly. Soon I’ll walk at the 
dam again until I do half a mile. I’ll
use my cane and walk heel first.  I
rarely shuffle now. They said I should
be fine, but keep doing my exercises.
Sometimes my left leg hurts when I
first wake up. Then, once I’m moving 
around, that goes away. My small health
problems haven’t returned–only one
small nosebleed. I’m good to go, as
they say. Everything is easier, but 
I am careful not to do too much.
I sleep when I’m sleepy and get up early.
The house is quiet. The bird clock
ticks. I bundle up to stay warm until
Tim gets up and makes a fire. We’re
having a warm winter. The daffodils 
and peepers are shouting “Spring.”
Sometimes our mornings are cold, but
the sun warms me, especially when it 
beats on the back storm door. I live
a slowed down life, and my memory 
sometimes eludes me, but generally I

sleep and eat well, and my days are light.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Talking to Myself Eight

Up close daffodils in my flower garden; next door Robert and Emma Smith back some years. I still miss them.

Talking to Myself Eight February 9, 2020

I often ask myself: How am I doing?
Some days lately, the answer is spectacular.
A stunning review. Am I that good? Yes.
Or an article in the local newspaper. He’s
pleased. I’m ecstatic. He listened so well.
Other days I’m glad I managed to make
quiche. We love it so. Or more daffodils
open. I tell Tim, even if they’re encased
in ice, they’re fine when the ice melts.
There are disappointments, too, but there
always were. I haven’t quite given up
on contests, but I haven’t won any so far.
I try a new one. I can think of so many
things I’d like to do and want to do, but
I hesitate. Maybe later. When I’m stronger.
Inch by inch. Step by step. One thing for 
sure, words still rise up from the deep 
pool in my mind and speak themselves

to my ear.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Talking to Myself Seven

Judy Hogan in 1976 at a Cosmep (small press) conference in Austin, Texas. I was the chair, and 39 years old.

Talking to Myself Seven   February 2, 2020

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” said Dr. K.
My blood pressure was normal, even ideal
for a woman of eighty-two. My black eye 
had finally faded. I was learning to walk 
heel first, and I had healed. My body worked 
its own miracle. It helped that I slept a lot,
and rewards I did not expect came: a Midwest
Book Review of pure praise. Then a front page
story about my writing life. Over seventy years
of it, back to age seven when I lived in bed.
I wrote stories. I was happy. The stories 
continued, and then I wrote poems and kept
a diary. I tried novels and plays, and an epic 
of my own life. My husband showed my
diary to his friend, who called it pure fiction.
Not to me. It was my heart’s truth, but was I 
a real writer? Finally, I answered my own 
question. “A writer is one who writes.”
I read Anais Nin’s published diary. Sometimes
I published part of my diary. Later I published
my poems, and my friend Paul and I started
a poetry journal using underground presses
in Berkeley. We bought an offset press, which
changed publishing, at least for us. We named
it Hyperion, the light god. We wrote and
published against the Vietnam war. We found
so many new voices. Paul was in Berkeley. 
I was in Evanston. We published writers in 
Alaska and California, and later in North
Carolina and Texas. I understood the women
writers better, and he, the men, so we each
had power. We won National Endowment
grants. In North Carolina I found Jaki 
Shelton and others who came to my open
readings. Lots of new women writers.
Then I started my own press, Carolina Wren.
I even published a street poet, Michael 
Riggsbee. He would sell his book for $2, 
or for fifty cents if that was all they had.
Amon Liner found me. I barely understood
his poems, but he didn’t care. He explained
them to me. I put Jaki in print, and she’s now 
our state’s poet laureate. I gave up Carolina
Wren but began publishing my mystery
novels. Twelve now, including one amazing 
review and a front page article. Seven
decades of writing, and people begin
to notice. I celebrate quietly, and
my heart is happy.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Talking to Myself Six

Judy being interviewed by Virginia Hudson


Talking to Myself Six January 26, 2020

As the years roll on, I think more
about when I won’t be here.
I’ll be leaving behind many words.
Will they resound? Echo? Murmur?
Sing? Will people love them?  Repeat
them? Memorize them? Sleep with
them under their pillow? Will my
words keep them awake because
someone’s suffering is being transmitted?
Even after I’m gone? Part of me won’t
ever be lost though I, too, will die.
Meantime I’ll take good care of my
life and my words and write down
what I hear in my heart. I fell and then,
slowly, I healed. Now I walk better.
Some aches, but I’m stronger. My
legs and arms are more reliable. 
My brain is changing so I won’t
fall down so easily. My feet plant 
themselves more convincingly. If
I start to fall, I catch myself. I
practice, I argue, I adapt. For now
I’m alive. For now I’m ready for
the new. If I lose sleep, I’ll catch
up later. I still have all the

resources of the living.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Talking to Myself Five

Judy, photo by Emma Tobin

Talking to Myself Five   January 19, 2020

I’ve had very few successes in
my book publishing life. So far,
twenty-four books, twelve mysteries, 
seven of poetry, four non-fiction,
and one, my grandmother’s diary,
which I annotated. I wanted to
understand her better. She was
bi-polar and spent too much time
in mental hospitals. I used to say,
“If I didn’t write, I’d go crazy.”
Lately I’ve begun writing more 
and more often, and I’m publishing
two or three books a year. But one,
the eleventh, won me praise I had
come not to expect. My writing
skill is called deft; with more plot
twists and turns than a bakery
box of pretzels. I’ve never seen
such pretzels, but they must be 
impressive. I was stunned by the
praise of the Midwest Book Review.
It lifted me up out of my quiet
life, reading, writing, cooking, 
learning how to strengthen my legs 
and body core. Then, in the same
day, Friday, January 17th, a newspaper
friend came to interview me. His
questions set off the story of my life.
I am as amazed as he is.  By all
the things I’ve done. I worked behind
the scenes most of the time. At that
women’s gathering which we called
“Tell Me a Story That’s True,” I stood
before six hundred women and said,
“Your stories are important. Women
need to write down the stories they’ve
told no one.” I took my own advice 
and I’ve been doing it, too. After
my friend left, I felt the familiar urge
to write. I’ve written so many books,
so many poems, so many pages in my
diaries. My words are there and will
be kept in a major women’s collection
at a major university, and I’m still 
writing, still putting on paper 
the truth I experience: my very own
truth. In one day I learned that 
my life mattered. I crossed some 
boundary, and my story began to be
known by s world of new people,
strangers, those unknown to me,
who will laugh and cry with

 my words ringing in their ears.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Talking to Myself Four

My garden peas in early spring, a few years ago.

Talking to Myself Four January 12, 2020

It’s not easy to let go all those things 
I used to do without debating. When
the hens found their way into the
garden, I didn’t mend the fences.
Next thing I knew, they were living
in the backyard. When I took out
the morning feed, they came on
the back porch and followed me,
sometimes coming in with me, 
sometimes staying out. I always
had a garden. This year I haven’t 
ordered seeds. I practice walking
with a cane and not shuffling–
a way to prevent my body from
running. My new shoes are a 
little too long, but with thick
socks I manage quite well. My
glasses got bent when I fell, but
I’ve postponed getting them fixed. 
Am I lazy now or simply being
wise? With my son for backup,
I walked again at the dam. It
went well, and now I practice 
my cane walk in the front yard.
It doesn’t take long, and it goes
more easily. I’ll see my doctor
in two weeks. She always cheers
me and makes me laugh. I got
through that time of healing,
which went so slowly. What
is it I need to say to myself?
Do all you can do. Rest when
you’re tired. Don’t give up yet. 
You have years to go, 

one day at a time.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Talking to Myself Three

Zinnias on my kitchen table 


Talking to Myself Three January 5, 2020

When did it begin? I was thirteen.
I loved that teacher. I saw the 
beautiful flowers our neighbor
had in her yard. I wanted to take
my teacher flowers like those–
zinnias they were. In our backyard
we had a big oak tree. I planted
zinnia seeds. I watered them
and waited. Nothing came up.
Someone explained: for zinnias 
the soil has to be just right; then
plenty of sun. I still plant zinnias,
and now their brilliant colors
rise up, and if the wind knocks
them over, I know they’ll turn 
their stems and go up again.
I take them to our postmaster,
and all the workers and customers
like them. The word spread about
my zinnias. I got a call: could
her friend come and pick some
for a wedding? I said yes and 
watched them pick “as many
as you like.” There were many, 
and they took a generous number.
With zinnias, the more you pick,
the more there are. Give zinnias
away, and more buds appear.
They’re still my favorite flower.

The wedding was beautiful, she said.