Sunday, June 13, 2021

Being Wise Nineteen



Grace with Margaret and baby Dick, 1913, China


Being Wise Nineteen June 13, 2021

I live with boxes and clothes.

No messages have come in

so far. Boxes of books, seeds, 

piles of clothes: gifts, hand-me-downs

for winter and summer. I don’t need

many. I don’t go out much. I sorted

the gardenias Janet brought me, the

fresh white ones from those turning

yellow, dying. I miss old friends.

I still have some. I can’t go back

into the past. But it’s still there

in my mind. Thailanna and that

loving family I won’t forget, nor 

Sam, who let me know in so many 

ways, that he loved me, valued me.

All that work we did on Grace.

He wouldn’t let me stop until I’d

discovered who all these people were:

the missionaries and their children.

A lot of women wanted that book

because Grace had mental illness.

There is plenty to do here. All I

need is the will. My shoes fit now.

I have more energy. Slowly I’ll

summon my will. I’ll tackle the

boxes, the piles of clothes. I’ll

remember to be grateful for all

the loving people I’ve had in my life.

When you’ve been loved, you’re

honor-bound to give love back.

Not brood, not despair. Life’s

riches will come.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

                         Butterfly on pink zinnia summer of 2020

Being Wise Eighteen June 6, 2021

On one Friday so much happened.

I saw my foot doctor for the second

time, and she said I could wear both

shoes now. I wore the sandal going in

and both shoes going out. I was afraid

of surgery. Instead, I could put on my

shoes. She recommended the brand

Altra, more toe room. We drove to

my old shoe store, and they brought

shoes to try on. Size 12, a little larger.

They fit perfectly and didn’t pinch

at all. “Do you want to wear these home?”

“Yes.” Then I needed medicine. Today,

if possible. I got an appointment for

2:15. “What now?” asked Janet. “The

library.” And we picked up the book

that had come in. Last, we went for my

appointment with Dr. Woods and his

nurse Deb. Once I had the prescription, 

we went to CVS Drugstore. Dr. Woods

had already phoned it in. Then we went

home with shoes and pills. My feet

were tired, but I was triumphant.

I would heal now.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Being Wise Seventeen

                                                        Judy age Seven

                Being Wise Seventeen May 30, 2021

This year a lot of people wished me

Happy Birthday. I turned eighty-four.

A significant year. Twelve times seven

At seven I began to write stories. I was

in bed with rheumatic fever. At fourteen,

I began to keep a diary, which has

continued. At twenty-one I had my

great rebellion. I tried to change

everything: my clothes and possessions,

how I thought and behaved, but the

deep self never changed. My mother

thought I’d lost my mind. My father

suggested Ethan Frome and other

humanists, since I was rejecting

Christianity. By 1965, when I was 

twenty-eight, I’d divorced Tom, my

alcoholic husband, had a little girl

Amy, and was studying classics in

Berkeley. By 1972 I’d married Terry

and had a baby boy, Tim, and we’d

moved to North Carolina. I was

co-editor of Hyperion Poetry Magazine,

and we lived in an old farmhouse

in Cedar Grove. By July, I had a

baby girl, Ginia. In 1974 I left Terry

and went to live in Chapel Hill’s

Chase Park apartments, as one of

two white families. And I’d been

president of the small press 

organization 1975-1978. In 1985 I

became an affiliate of the Durham

Arts Council. I had published many

books. By 1981 traveled to England

and Wales and Holland. By 1985 even

to Finland. And the children and I

were living on Barclay Rd. In Chapel

Hill, their favorite house and

neighborhood. By 1993 I’d left Carolina 

Wren Press to others, and I’d been to

Russia twice, and Mikhail had come

to North Carolina once. In 1993 three

Russian writers had visited me for five

weeks, and my first grandchildren 

were born, Megan and Will to Amy in

El Paso. I stayed ten months to care

for them. By 2000, I was living alone

in a small house in Moncure, making

friends here, and working on 

environmental problems. By 2007 I had 

two more grandchildren, Lilly and Bobby, 

born to Ginia, and I helped with  local 

elections in Chatham County.

By 2014 the political situation became more

difficult and even worse in 2015, when

the state allowed coal ash to be dumped

in my new community. This finally 

ended in 2020 when we won our court

case. We also had the Covid 19 pandemic

that year. I stayed home mostly. Now,

in 2021, I am eighty-four. I have lived

a good and productive life. I’ve suffered,

and so have my children, but I can’t

complain, nor do I wish to. Today

Ginia, Lilly, and Bobby will come

to have pizza with Tim and me.

I am grateful for these years, my work,

all my friends and loves. Perfection

is not my goal, but learning wisdom.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Being Wise 16

                             Early spring in my garden a few years ago.

Being Wise 16

I had to wait a week to see the doctor.

It hurt to walk, less if I took Tylenol

and soaked my right foot in Epsom Salt

water. I made muffins, less strenuous

than making bread. I missed my homemade

bread. The doctor fitted me with a kind of

shoe. It helped. The next day I made bread.

I was tired but relieved I'd have my own

bread again for toast and sandwiches.

The muffins got me through, but the bread

is cause for celebration. I walk more

easily, balance better. I'm reading a favorite

author. That helps. Soon I may walk outside

again. Dr. Williams knows what she's doing. 

Thank God.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Being Wise Fifteen

            Purple Iris spring 2021 photo by Janet Wyatt

Being Wise Fifteen May 16, 2021

It’s harder to be wise 

when you’re in pain.

I have these twisted toes–

a “hammer toe” it’s called.

I’ll see a doctor in five days.

Meantime I soak my toes,

take Tylenol, read a good 

book, walk as little as

possible, but I do the dishes,

cook the supper, check the

email, make lemon grass 

tea, joke with my son, play

Glenn Gould playing Bach,

try to ignore my Achilles

heel, which, in my case, is 

my toes. Keep my sense

of humor. There are worse

things, and I sleep well.

Janet brings me books from

the library. Tim carries over

the bowl of hot water with

its Epsom Salt to soothe my

wayward foot. I have books

I love. I’ll make muffins

today. We’ll have Rigitoni

and cheese and Vegan rice

from Angelina’s. Only five

days now. Frustrating, but

I can cope.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Being Wise Fourteen

 Our purple iris--gift from Tracey, photo by Janet April 2021

Being Wise Fourteen May 9, 2021

A day for mothers, to thank them.

I’ve mothered three of my own and

a lot of other people’s. Sometimes

it was a problem. They worshiped

me and then they cast me out. Or

they demanded more than I could

give. What helped the most was

learning to read the souls of my

friends and neighbors, not to mention

my children. Some people love to

be understood. Others hate it.

Children are the real test. They let

you know how they come across.

Even animals can do that. Pay

attention to how people respond,

whether they trust you. If you scare

them, they’re probably hiding

something. If they lie, and some

people do, even to themselves, 

they may confess later. Such

defenses can be learned as children.

I myself invented my own archetype

to be and to live out. I wanted to be

Sophia, wise, and a healer. I’d 

serve the Muse, let her live in me

and shape my words. Then Penelope 

to an Odysseus, but Odysseus, too.

An explorer, one who traveled but

always came home. It has surprised

me, the people who remembered

me after years of silence, who 

returned to tell me their stories, 

who helped me when I hadn’t 

cried for help. It means I’m safe.

Some do try to hurt me or control

me, but it never quite works. I’m

going to be myself always, and

that self, that being sees farther

and overlooks what’s not important.

The game in life is to be yourself

and no one else. A challenge

sometimes, but worth the Trouble.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Being Wise Thirteen

 My neighbors back in 1998-9    Demetrius with his father Kenny and his mother Sissy.

Being Wise Thirteen May 2, 2021

Here is this time when I begin 

to feel my age. I’m not getting

stronger but weaker. My doctor

wants me to exercise more, but

I’m not doing it yet. I want to

stay strong, get stronger, stop

losing weight, but I’m finding

that hard to do. I manage my

few chores, my short walks,

my irregular sleep patterns. 

I have a few pains in my 

right foot, in my left shoulder.

I receive interesting emails

and letters. People love me.

My neighbor Harold tells

me I’m an icon in our

neighborhood. He was the

first one to welcome me

in the summer of 1998. I

came to a meeting about the

low-level nuclear dump

planned for Moncure. We

stopped it. Now they want

to do another one. Harold

hugged me those twenty-three

years ago. The child next door,

three years old, Demetrius,

also hugged me–what he could

reach–my legs–and died ten

years later in a car crash. I’m

known more now than ever

before, my name in the paper,

pictures of my books. And we

defeated the coal ash dumping,

though seven million tons of it

is left for us forever. You do

what you can. You hope it’s

enough. There are still things

you can do. Be thankful.