Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Late Years Thirty

Wag on the Jordan Lake Dam, 2018. Photo by Ellen DVM

The Late Years Thirty May 26, 2019

My dog and I have both slowed down.
We don’t walk very fast, but we
still walk every morning our half a mile
across the dam at big Jordan Lake. And
when I put her outside, she walks her path 
in the backyard, round and round, though
in the house often her feet slide apart, 
and she can’t get traction. I’ve put down
mats to help. I might have twenty more
years if I’m lucky, but she is close to
one hundred and nineteen dog years, 
while I am turning eighty-two. She
sleeps a lot, and I work on typing a book
I wrote eight years ago. My son and our
friend replace the boards on the back
porch in the hot sun. It’s easy for me to
worry about her, and yet she still waits
for me near the gate when it’s time to
take our walk, and she nuzzles me to 
let her out when we reach the dam. Bird
calls ring around us. A blue nuthatch 
sings from a pipe as we start across the
dam, and then his mate joins him for a
celebratory flight. Some people say that
dogs have souls. I believe it. Wag rarely
barks now, but her soul is in her eyes 
when she looks at me.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Nine

Photo last winter of Judy and Wag coming out of the fog at Jordan Dam by Ellen Tinsley, DVM

The Late Years Twenty-Nine May 19, 2019

Gifts. Why is it that I receive
so many gifs? When I fell, trying
to avoid a speeding car, my son
determined to move here from New
Mexico to help me, and he did,
though it took him eight months. 
When I began to worry about money,
a long-time friend asked me to help
publicize her new book, and sent
me $100. When my new book on
my Russian friends was slow to
take off, a Russian immigrant in
Canada wrote me how much she
loved the book and began to
share her enthusiasm in the world
wide web. She sent me her review,
and it will be published here, too.
Sometimes I want to complain,
but I hardly begin when something
unbelievable and unexpected changes
my tune. Instead, I am forced

to be grateful.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Eight

Sunrise at Jordan Lake, Ellen Tinsley, DVM, mid-April 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Eight  May 11, 2019

Sometimes I think of books unsold
and wonder if I’ll ever find my readers.
I know they’re out there, but the books
aren’t moving very fast out of their
shipping boxes. Then a good, independent
bookstore orders copies. The Sisters
in Crime people send a book group
offer that fits one mystery to a T.
My daughter, her kids, Tim and  
his Virginia gather for a birthday feast
of pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream
and presents. Cards tell me I’m
amazing, a marvel, loved. I have
gifts to wear, for the garden, for the
kitchen, notebooks and a pen for
writing. Even candles to blow
out. We laugh. We are a family.
Some walls still stand, but many
came down. No point worrying.
There will be readers. I dare to
consider that age eighty-two may
be even more rewarding than
eighty and eighty-one were.
I remember my own words: * “It
is enough to take a portion of the
feast. One cup of tea offered in
kindness; a few Welsh cakes 
made on a day with wind and
rain, will give us what we need
for life. It does not stop the tears
the heart must shed, or quiet hungers
we will know till we are dead. But
we can then walk on a little farther,
our hearts made light by kindness,
by old rituals preserved inside
old stones, and when we cross old
streams, we do not weep.”

* from Light Food (1985, written in Wales. XV, p. 36

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Late Years Twenty-Seven

Sunrise at Jordan Lake, by Ellen Tinsley DVM, May 1, 2019.

The Late Years Twenty-Seven  May 5, 2019

I think of my hopes in ninety-six,
when I tried to give you up, and 
wanted to attain mastery. It helped
me let go, only that never worked,
and I know it didn’t work for you 
either. Now I wonder: did I attain
mastery? I thought it possible
twenty-three years ago. I’ve certainly
done enough writing. Poems, diary,
diary books, mystery novels have
all poured out. You also wrote and
published books. Then you died.
A slow, painful death, cared for 
by Katya and your son Alyosha,
hiding from your closest friends.
One letter I received, in English,
translated by your granddaughter
after I sent you This River: An Epic
Love Poem, about my love for you.
That one, I think, was a master
work, and now that I’ve reread 
them, the Baba Summer books, 
and Frost and Sun, Parts One and 
Two, I rest my case with those 
and our love story–the ecstatic 
moments and the agony of 
misunderstanding are all there. 
Nothing destroyed that connection. 
Even now it still holds. What does
it mean to be a master? I’d known
I could heal others, if they let me.
I was confident I could be a 
Shakespeare’s sister in a more open
age for women.That wasn’t hard, and
loving you, being your Penelope,
and also my own Odysseus, was so
natural when it happened. Time
stopped, in one way. It still stays
that way. Words flow from my
pen so easily, so confidently, so
without effort, if that is mastery,
and maybe it is: finding the words
I need when I need them, albeit
some forgetfulness. You said that
last visit was the best. Only at the
end did you call me heroic, but I
knew you were happy when I
visited schools, taught the teachers
what was happening outside Russia, 
but, more importantly, even though
times were hard and they feared
for the future, that I’d found
Paradise in the ancient city of
Kostroma–in people’s hearts,

in the love that wouldn’t let go.