Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Late Years Two

Backyard zinnias 2014

The Late Years Two  November 11, 2018

Today the frost comes down, plummeting
to sunrise. Problems, when they arrive,
are magnified. I send thought messages
when none come by phone or email, but
I don’t think they’re listening. So many
people are preoccupied with the now. I
let it make me stumble, too. Take the 
long look, take comfort where it’s
offered, let go worry. I slept well. The
woodstove’s fire is laid. I’m swaddled
in warm clothes and a soft blanket.
I fell but didn’t even bruise myself.
I picked zinnias, and my son picked
lemon balm, which he calls tea before
the cold killed. Winter is announced,
but it’s not severe. The sun will lift
the air into the fifties, and it will beat
on the back door and warm the house.
Mrs. Crawley always said, “It’s no good 
to worry. Turn it over to God.” God for 
me is the grain of the universe. Let it 
go. Do what you can. That’s always 
enough. You’ve known that a long time.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Late Years One

My backyard in 2009, with zinnias, cosmos, and White Rock hens.

The Late Years  November 4, 2018


After hesitating, the cold comes down.
Nearly freezing, with wind. Sun
combats clouds, winning by afternoon.
Hard to know what is best when there
are so few choices. If I have at least
the gray before full dawn, I can see my
way. Full sun, when it comes, is
intoxicating even if I can’t look it in
the face. My life is circumscribed to
small spaces, for writing and for
sleeping. Three hours in the kitchen
exhausts me, but I still make pear
preserves. I venture to the hen house
to open their shutters and let them into
their yard and the orchard. I feed and 
drop bread crumbs to watch them
shriek and scramble. I plot robust
meals, take frequent breaks to rest,
read, or write a few pages. I’m putting
books in print and writing poems.
I still have students who like my 
Muse-inspired approach to critiquing.
A young woman studies my life,
early and late. Another woman trusts
me with the novel she worries over.
A third welcomes me when I go to
walk at the big dam and teaches me 
about eagles. My son lifts the heavy
chores off my shoulders. My Muse
still speaks, when I open my mind. 
People say, “Have a blessed day.”  All
my days lately are blessed. I’m loved.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Shadows Thirty

Judy at her book party for her books Grace, A China Diary and Political Peaches: the Fifth Penny Weaver Mystery. 2017.
Photo by Johnsie Tipton.

Shadows Thirty October 28, 2018

Even love has its misunderstandings.
Sometimes my son and I knock heads.
We’ve learned to let go when arguments
go nowhere. Everyone has her own world
view, her own life story, fears, and dread.
Agony is human, but so is joy. We watch
the exultant eagles join the circling vultures.
For one, it’s work-related, for another, it’s 
ecstatic. When our hopes and desires
merge, worry disappears. When pain
returns, we are constrained to work free.
I write my troubles down, the better to let
them go. When they reappear, I’m
prepared. We all learn as fast as we can,
which means some more slowly than others. 
A lot depends on our heritage and even
more on work we’ve already done to cope
when people hated us, when our loved ones
turned their faces away. The late years
lead to a homecoming or some call it a
home-going. We have some say-so. For
me, there are many rewards in this last
stage, which Erik Erikson called “Ego
integrity versus despair.” We find rewards
for our self-defense, our ability to listen
and give a helping hand. People we
scarcely knew turn up to help us. A young
woman wants to study me for clues to 
living a benign life as a freedom-fighter.
Another woman in her middle years is
drawn to my relaxed humor. Most terrible
things draw our tears, but some that can
wrench us can later make us laugh. My
doctor, as I eluded the medicines and
survived, calls me Trouble, but she’s
smiling. Another older woman says we’re
both eccentric, but a good eccentric. My
son is learning to protect garden spiders, 
cherish poetry, and love my homemade bread.
I still walk without a cane, urged upon me five 
years ago. Some work I’ve let go. I rest more,
but I do all I can do–gratefully. Look around:
I have students and friends. I’m cherished by
those I want to cherish me. I’m alive and writing
down what my last years are like. Already I
inherit that persistence I fore-see in my shadow

after I’m gone. She’ll be okay.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Nine

Judy and Wag, curious. Photo by Doc Ellen, DVM.

Shadows Twenty-Nine October 21, 2018

For Ellen and Emma on a Saturday at Jordan Lake

Three women, two older, one with a small dog 
and one with a camera on a gray day at the 
Jordan Lake dam. The young one photographs 
everything: the morning glories on the verges,
purple, blue, orange. Her favorite is the blue,
she says. Below us water foams and leaps out
of the dammed up lake. We speak of the eagles.
“I haven’t seen one,” the older woman in her lawn 
chair says.  Then, “Wait. Speaking of eagles,
there’s a young one. They look like red-tailed
hawks.” We look at that high-flying speck. We
speak of pollution, how this grand lake became
polluted a year after it was made. How the changing
climate can wipe out migrating flocks which
can’t feed off grain in the fields as they journey
south. “The eagles are okay. Their diet is fish.”
A week earlier, when they counted the eagles
they could see from the dam, they saw twenty-five
young and mature. If we can learn to preserve
the lake, the eagles, and the fish, we might manage
to preserve human life through its stages, young
to old. The young one says, “I want to go back
there.” The older women are glad. Keep up
the fight to treasure and protect our world alive.