Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Unforeseen Gift

Mikhail Bazankov, giving a speech in Kostroma, Russia.  Mikhail and I worked together on Sister Cities Writer Exchanges, 1990-2001.  He is 78 and dying of cancer.  We won't forget you!


THE OMENS ARRIVE XXIV.  August 23, 2015

I have never asked why we were 
brought together, quickly knew each other’s
real nature, and couldn’t refuse love when
it burst into flower.  It’s our great luxury
which no poverty of spirit can ever take
away.  Like a spring sun thawing an 
unexpected hard frost, melting the frozen
leaves of violets and chickweed, thawing 
the petals of daffodils, letting the tender
peas and onions return to pushing up
their green a little farther each day, we
have been given this unforeseen gift,
this bounty, the grace of mutual love. 
May we cherish and honor it until we die.
–The Omens Arrive V.

Be yourself.  All the other people are taken.  –Oscar Wilde

Where is my serenity?  The rock I always
stand on when I’m troubled and need to see?
It must be there.  For years I found it easily
whenever I needed to.  What fogged me
in?  Fear.  My aging signs are minimal,
but they buzz around me like a panicked
fly that lands on me when she can’t find
anything else to eat.  There’s no doubt
that I’m up against my dreaded bulldozer
enemy.  Coal ash trucks could be running
any time through our village.  My efforts
to grow food, to make spaghetti sauce, 
pickles, and preserves, to pull weeds and
water the vegetables, keep the old hens
and new chicks flourishing, to organize
a benefit plate sale for our legal fund,
seem inadequate, but I do know that
everything I do matters.  People count
on me, even love me.  I wish I had more
energy, more time, more help, and yet
people arrive with their gifts: weeding
flower beds, offering egg cartons, helping
find donations, writing grants.  The zinnias
bloom, the okra and bean plants rise.
Sometimes I lose my balance, and once in 
awhile I fall, but I don’t hurt myself.  My 
forgetting is a nuisance, but if I focus, I 
remember.  Everything is harder, but I can do 
a lot, and others are picking up what I can’t.  
There are detractors and skeptics, people 
blind where I can see. It comes down to faith, 
and I have faith. I always have been good at 
spinning my web across an abyss.  This is

a big one, but here I go.


Judy on November 20, taken by my sister Margie.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bees Are The Optimists

THE OMENS ARRIVE XXIII.  August 16, 2015

can’t argue with a light display like I 
have seen both outside in the world
and inside in my deepest mind.  I am
chosen, yet I fear. How can I, at 
nearly seventy-eight years, do all
that this omen insists I must do?
A day at a time.  Resting when I can
rest, working when time opens.
Speaking when my opportunity comes.
–The Omens Arrive VII.

My own hope springs from a mysterious
source, deeper even than my Muse, from
that core the dragon once guarded, that inner
circling sun I released for service years
ago.  I know how to risk all.  I’ve 
penetrated fear and dread, kept despair away
for years. Why?  Because it’s how I’m
made and why I’m loved.
–The Omens Arrive IX.

Bees are the optimists.  Do they know
they are threatened with extinction?
Probably not.  They find my new
sunflowers, planted last year but only
rising to their full height this year
when I can’t get enough comfort and
reassurance.  Yet the more I give away,
the more I receive.  This must be where
that myth about the little pot boiling up
more and more porridge comes from.
In me courage rises again and again.
I give it away as fast as I can.  I’ve seen
butterflies in the cosmos and lantana, 
bumblebees, and even hummingbirds,
but now come honey bees.  They feed us
more than we conceive.  This year the heat
kept me inside for weeks.  The weeds 
were rampant everywhere.  I worked
from urgency to urgency and never
caught up.  I did make spaghetti sauce.
I have enough figs to eat and make
preserves.  Zinnias finally flower, but
it’s the eight-feet high sunflowers
that seduce the bees.  If the bees are
at work, we will win.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pathfinders Don't Have It Easy

The zinnias were looking like this yesterday, hens in the background.  This morning frost zapped them, but the hens are not troubled.  Photo from October 2009.  This October 20 coal ash trucks began running past my house.  Will I be okay?  Will my chickens be okay?

THE OMENS ARRIVE XXI.   August 2, 2015

I’ve never been here before, and
it’s scary.  I must lead others, break
this path I’m walking.  Pathfinders
don’t have it easy.  Then gifts arrive
when I least expect them.  My activist
friends volunteer their husbands for
farm work.  Letters from older 
friends comfort me.  This leyline
path I chose is for life.  I can’t turn
back.  I wade through bamboo grass
up to my knees to find ripening
tomatoes.  I pluck fresh figs.  Some
things are alive and well, including
me even if bad dreams wake me up.  
The zinnias I freed from grass clumps
work on blooms.  The winged chicks
flourish.  Each agony of mind and
heart passes because I persist, dig
deep to lift out fresh courage.  These
years take a steady hand, a long
vision, all my practical wisdom,
and the gift of grace.


Not yet laying, but soon.  They love chickweed now growing in my backyard.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Live As If Each Day Were Your Last

My son Tim with hens a few years ago.

THE OMENS ARRIVE XX. July 26, 2015

People do count on me.  Remember that.
If I stand tall, they will, too.  If I
raise the flag of hope, so will they.
This next score of years won’t be easy.  
I’ll need all my wits and courage,
stamina, energy, and common sense.
I’ll nurture them daily by writing letters
to myself the way I’ve cared for the 
chicks: food and water, checking
every few hours; rejoicing when they
spread new-feathered wings, fly to
the high roosting bar.  When I come
to tend them, they buzz around, cheep
louder.  They know fresh feed is in
the works.  They attack my hand when 
I reach in for their feeders, squeal
when I catch them.  Am I mother yet?
Their eyes regard me as if I were.  So
I have, after years of apprenticeship
become all the mothers: of animals,
plants, spirit, and earth.  I may forget
names but my Muse is livelier, bolder
than it was seventy years ago when I
began writing stories.  The weeds
test my patience, but I do know how
to dig them out, cut them down, save
my flowers, fruit, okra, beans, herbs,
and tomatoes.  Live as if each day
were your last.  Fill them to the brim,
then rest.  Sleep like the dead–a practice
run.  Work as if the years had not
accumulated.  You are healthier than
you’ve ever been.  Others rely on you
to show the way to our common goal
of being the best people we can be and 
not resting on our laurels.  Here on
earth we have to work, but this labor 
places us in the Human Hall of Fame.


Judy's figs for sale at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro, in July 2012.  Harsh winters have been hard on my fig trees, so I haven't had figs to sell in 2014 or 2015.  Trees still live.  Hope does, too.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

We Will Fight To the End

Okra plants just beginning.  July 2014

THE OMENS ARRIVE XIX.   July 19, 2015

You can’t argue with a light display like 
have seen both outside in the world
and inside in my deepest mind.  I am
chosen, yet I fear. How can I, at 
nearly seventy-eight years, do all
that this omen insists I must do?
A day at a time.  Resting when I can
rest, working when time opens.
Speaking when my opportunity comes.
–The Omens Arrive VII., April 12, 2015

When I said, “We will fight to the end!”
they cheered and clapped.  Today I wrestle
with grass roots, digging, pulling, jerking 
them loose to make room for okra seeds.
The rains came to water what I planted
three days ago.  Each garden chore seems
beyond my powers, but day after day I
make these spaces for flowers and vegetables
to grow, a few feet at a time, on my hands
and knees.  It’s the way I do everything.  
Work, then rest.  Do the most urgent first.
Wall off despair when it sneaks around
the curtain.  I’ve made this farm fertile.
Now it gives me wild, unruly growth:
berries and figs, leeks, carrots, tomatoes.
If I’m persistent, okra and beans.  Human
storm clouds gather, too.  We take shelter,
assess strategy, plot actions, laugh.  We
fear the harm those lightning flashes can do, 
but storms have a double-edge.  Yes, they
terrify, but wait.  Here comes life-sustaining
rain, with sun to follow.  Then fruit.


Judy by "no coal ash" sign in downtown Moncure, the Coal Ash Management Company, Charah, uses that building on the far left. We put it up in the summer.  Now the coal ash trucks have to pass it.  It stands.  The WRAL report showed it on Oct. 27, 2015.