Sunday, March 25, 2018

Shadows Two

Early Spring in 2011. Beets and Leeks


Shadows Two March 26, 2018

Erik Erikson said Ghandi found his
true identity when he was fifty. I
was seventy, still healthy, writing
and publishing books, teaching writers,
a small farmer with a flock of White
Rock hens, and a leader in my
community. At eighty, I take that
diversity of tasks for granted. I don’t 
debate. It is a balancing act, and
my balance ability is distressed
by my age. Still, I rake and dig.
I hold onto tree branches and my
chain-link fence. I’ve said I’m
both Penelope and Odysseus. I
did have my once-in-a-lifetime
love–across the ocean, despite
the language barrier, and our
different lifestyles. We fought,
but we held on. He became one
of Homer’s shades, reduced to
shadows in the Underworld, but
still alive, still speaking and
foretelling the planet’s future if
we don’t attend to the signs. I’ll
be a shade, too, before too many
years have passed. Some of that
is beyond my control, and some
is up to me. The doctors urged
a cane four years ago, but I said
no. “I can’t farm with a cane.”
They said medicine, but I was
wary of the side-effects, the
medicine worse than the complaint.
My body heals while I sleep. It 
puts me to sleep a lot. But my 
aches and pains go away. I tell
them I have good telemeres.
They listen. The symptoms which 
puzzled them have disappeared.
Eighty isn’t so bad if you accept
that your pace will be slower; 
you’ll do less work in a day and
choose your tasks carefully, 
get as much exercise as possible,
and let people help you. My helpers
appear out of the blue. I don’t ask
why. They don’t tell me why. They
simply go to work. I give them bread.
A piece of Judy’s bread toasted
with marmalade makes them happy. 
No, I’m not a shade yet, and life
still pulls surprises out of my 

lucky grab bag. I can’t complain.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review of Tormentil Hall by Katherine Wolfe

Tormentil Hall: The Eighth Penny Weaver Mystery by Judy Hogan. $15. March 2018. Paperback, ISBN-13: 978-19775235709, 212 pages. Hoganvillaea Books. To order, $18 (tax and postage added) PO Box 253, Moncure, NC. 27559

By Katherine Wolfe, Goldsboro writer.

I must confess I liked Sands of Gower so much that I was worried I might not like Tormentil Hall as well. How wrong I was!. From the first page, I knew my second visit to Gower would be equal to or better than the first. (It takes more than one date to get to know someone or more than one visit to know a place.) 

As Penny introduces her friends Sammie and Derek to Wales, the reader is reacquainted with the Gower Peninsula, its villages, its mountain, its history, and why Penny goes there to write poetry and think about her life. The story begins as a peaceful holiday vacation for Penny's friends, but conflict quickly develops and a murder occurs which keeps the reader engaged until the end. 

In solving the murder, Penny and Sammie travel to the village of Pwll-du and Swansea where they interact with everyday people: the librarian, the post office owner, a retired barrister, B&B owners and guests, and the police department. As they unravel the mystery, the reader learns much about the human race and its prejudices as well as its ability to love, heal, and rise after being knocked down. 

When I finished the book, I felt like I had traveled with Penny and Sammie. I liked the walks along the cliffs, eating digestive biscuits, sitting around a table with the people of Gower, drinking milky coffee with meat pies, Welsh cakes, or a ploughman's lunch of cheese, bread, and pickles. 

Note: if you order two of the Penny Weaver Mysteries, it’s only $25, including tax and postage. Learn more at

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Susan Cotten A Flower of the Heart

My phalaenopsis in early spring


Flowers of the Heart Twenty-Four March 11, 2018

For Susan Cotten

I still miss Susan. She lived next door to the
post office. She was nearly unflappable.
She listened, she teased us. She had grown
up in Moncure and knew all the old-timers,
but newcomers were welcome, too. She 
teased her husband about his chickens 
and at first refused to eat their eggs,
but she came around. She was a Republican
and teased me about being a Democrat.
We laughed. When I was told by a hospital
neurologist, after some tests, that I shouldn’t
drive, I thought I’d better set up a mailbox
here, but Susan said she’d bring me my
mail and she did. When I got a different
diagnosis and went back to driving, I could
visit Susan again. I wrote about her in our
electric co-op’s magazine and how she
lived by the Golden Rule, which is not
always a behavior guide to Christians. In 
my experience, it’s rare. Susan did all
the work a postmaster does, but she didn’t
have the title. She served us well and
beyond expectations for three years, and
then they advertised for her job, and Robin,
who qualified, became, not our postmaster,
but one step higher in postal rank than Susan. 
Robin struggled to make us happy. We missed
Susan so much. Susan was sad and wouldn’t
talk to anyone at first. She missed us, and 
we missed her. When she got a job in 
personnel at Walmart, she found a new 
niche where she could treat everyone as she 
would like to be treated. The Christmas
after she found her new job, she brought
me gifts: kitchen towels, pot-holders,
dishcloths. When I use them, I think of 
her. Another Christmas she brought me
a warm blanket to put over my legs in a 
cold house. Some friends stay even when 
you don’t see them often. When we do meet,
we exchange tight hugs. I still miss her.
A rare spirit, alive and loving, among us.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Robin Beane A Flower of the Heart

Sensation Cosmos on my dining table.

Flowers of the Heart Twenty-Three  March 4, 2018

For Robin Beane

She’s a worker. Running a small post office
and two carrier routes has challenges thick
on the ground, but Robin has a tough spirit.
She holds it together even when her back 
hurts or her teeth are killing her. Her first
job, when she took over, was winning us
over. We all loved Susan, whom she replaced.
Small post offices in rural North Carolina
are like general stores used to be. We love
to chat with our postmaster. We want to be
known, maybe even spoiled. Robin set out
to spoil us. Susan had lollipops for children.
Robin went farther. She put out candy for
adults, too. She was always glad to see us,
wished us a good day when we left. When
I got a box of books, she’d heft it onto
her shoulder and carry it to my truck. The
tradition of the mail must go through holds 
here. She came in even on icy mornings.
The old building had its limitations, but
Robin worked to get things fixed: heating,
cooling, painting, steps (when a mail truck
backed into them). When you live alone, as
I do, and many others here, it’s cheering
to be welcomed, as if you’re important,
even treasured. It isn’t only me. I see
everyone who comes in regularly, enter
with the confidence that they’ll be
treated kindly, attentively. When Robin’s
back went out, we had subs. We were
relieved and joyful when Robin returned.
Her newest innovation is a thousand-piece
jigsaw puzzle laid out on the end of the
counter. She said it was for people who
had to wait. There is rarely a line in the
Moncure post office. I’ve been in offices
where there was always a line of a dozen
people waiting, and the person on the 
window was surly. Not in Moncure. We
have high standards, and so does Robin.
To my surprise, people are filling in
the jigsaw. They’ve got the corners
and sides, and are now working on the 
middle. We meet our neighbors there,
too, and say hello even when we don’t
know their names. People have been
given a jump when their battery died.
I had to wait for a tow truck once. 
Robin came out to check on me. I’ve
asked men when they were at the 
counter to carry a heavy box of books
to my truck, to save Robin’s back. Such
neighborliness is rare now in our
country, but it’s alive and well in

Robin’s post office.