Sunday, December 27, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-Five


Photo of Wag by Doc Ellen DVM at Jordan Dam

Talking to Myself Fifty-Five December 27, 2020

Oh, Wag, where have you gone?

The house feels empty. You fought

so hard to keep living and then you

quit. Too much trouble to eat or

drink. Your moans got quieter. Your

front paws barely moved. Tim said,

“She’s dying,” and so you were. He

said, “I’ll bury her, out behind the

garden.” I said okay. Words escaped

me. I remembered the puppy I 

rescued when the weather turned

cold. I got her inside the backyard

fence. She cried all night. I called

the animal rescue people and got

her inside. She hid behind the

toilet, her little world in disarray.

Two dog-lovers came. The man

got down on his hands and knees, 

and acted like a dog. You were

reassured. You peed on the woman

who was holding you, and she

didn’t mind. They gave me a booklet

on dog care. We’d had a dog when

the kids were young, but she lived

outside mostly. When she died,

she’d gone into the woods, and we

didn’t see her die. You lived eighteen

years.  People told me, “She must

be loved to live so long.”  She couldn’t

walk, had trouble eating, often kept

Tim awake. He carried her in and

out, knew how to position her so

she wouldn’t cry and could get

to sleep. Now you sleep with the

night creatures, and Janet says

you watch us from your new

heavenly home.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-Four

Photo by Janet Wyatt

 Talking to Myself Fifty-Four December 20, 2020

Christmas in a pandemic requires thought

and deliberation. My grandson, off at college,

has the deadly virus, though he’s not very

sick. In a family that doesn’t go to church,

he does, and he looks to me, who grew up

in the church, for comfort. I’ve given him

my Bibles and told him about his great

grandfather who was a minister, and about

his great, great grandparents who were

missionaries in China over a hundred\

years ago. Bobby wants to read their story, 

which I have published in a book called

Grace: A China Diary, 1910-16.  I’ve

wrapped it for his Christmas present.

We send emails. I may not see him at

Christmas, but there are many ways to

send and receive messages when your

society has fallen victim to a new plague.

I send cookies and books to my grandchildren

for whom I cared when they were babies.

For Lilly, who lives nearby, I’m giving the

activist anthology Impact, where I appear

fighting the dumping of coal ash in my

community. For me emails arrive, some 

cards and gifts. I make cookies and so does 

my helper Janet, from recipes I take out

every Christmas. Familiar tastes and smells

in our cold, dark days to throw a little

light, a little love, a solemn thankfulness 

that we are still alive.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-Two

 Talking to Myself Fifty-Two December 13, 2020

                                Photo by Janet Wyatt

A strange year. They give us rules

and more rules, but too many people

are getting sick. A vaccine is coming,

but will there be enough? Health 

workers first and then the elderly.

Meantime the postal service isn’t

working well. Letters disappear. 

Ordered books don’t arrive. Bills

can’t reach their destination, and

people buy on line and wait for

their packages. Rene brings her

church’s basket of fruit. Neighbors

bring wood. A few cards arrive.

More gifts go into the mail. Will

they get there at all, much less in

time for Christmas? We rejoice that

we’re alive, that our woodstove 

heats our small house, that our

old dogs sleep. I take gingerbread

to the postal workers and my friends

at the Mini-Mart. Janet helps me

make cookies to take to loved

people. I can’t do all I used to, but

I do some. I send words by email

and mail. I wrap a few books for

the grandchildren. Christmas is

for peaceful nights, celebrations,

feasts and smiles. We are healthy

We have each other, we are warm

and well-fed. This year, too, will

slowly pass and bring us joy again.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty-One

 Talking to Myself Fifty-One December 6, 2020

I’ve lived as though in an underground

burrow, rarely outside the front or back

door. My son wants to be there at the 

front in case I fall. Janet sees me go

down the back steps and waves me on.

I count my steps. I don’t fall. I had a

tiny filling on Wednesday, and my dentist

went another mile and cleaned off some

tartar. On Friday, after a year of talking

by phone, I saw my doctor. I gave a

good report: no nose bleeds, no afib,

no lost words, and a new attachment

by email. She laughed, delighted. I

said I was slowly getting stronger,

walking better. “Come back in three

months.” Only it’s four. She’s popular,

has a heavy patient load, but she exults

with me over my successes. Meantime,

my son continues the heavier chores:

sees to the hens, hanging up the clothes,

and my helper Janet put in a zinnia

garden, which gave me flaming blooms

of color well into November. She even

tamed the rooster to eat out of her hand.

I’m alone most of the time. Then,

suddenly a hug from my check-out

friend at the Mini-Mart. She misses

me, sent a Christmas card. The virus

has kept me away since March, but

we hear there’s a vaccine on the way,

and we old ones have priority after

the health workers. I can’t wait. I’ll

slowly get back to my hens, to planting

tomatoes, sugar snap peas, maybe

onions and beans. Spring will arrive, 

and I can work outside again.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Talking to Myself Fifty

Talking to Myself Fifty November 29, 2020

I used to be quite good at solving problems.

I learned not to waste time worrying, but

to begin the search for answers. When

I wake up at two in the morning and can’t

sleep, I make my breakfast and then sleep

again. It works. With people, I trust my

instincts. I had to learn to listen. I do

now. Those connections with others

demand I pay attention, imagine what

life is like for them. If I am mistreated

or manipulated, I let them go. The rewards

are great for trusting those other eyes

and what they see. It’s work, but I

garner rich rewards. My years have

brought more praise than I conceived

possible. I welcome those who choose

to listen and trust me. They people my

inside life and keep me learning from

everything that happens to me, body

or soul or both. I don’t know why people

love me, but it’s their love which holds 

me up, opens doors, comforts my quiet

days alone, helps me forgive their 

impatience and distractions. I can imagine

way beyond the outward persona

and recall the hungry soul.  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Nine

Orchids I had a few years ago near my back door.

Talking to Myself Forty-Nine  November 22, 2020

Who wants to know the dark side

of our human nature? I haven’t 

especially sought it out but decided

to teach Villon’s poetry, the Testament,

in particular, a moral treatise of the

400s in Paris, which he knew well.

He was hounded and hunted for

his knowledge, and he did break

a few laws and was exiled from

Paris as he was dying. He left

information behind him, forgave

his enemies and hoped for the

protection of Heaven. I’m guessing

he wanted his Testament published,

and it was the underbelly of Paris

revealed–all those priests and

powerful citizens who overindulged

in sex and drink. He knew them all

and had sinned himself. His assumption

was: God honors honesty. If I’d lived

then, I would not have known those

prostitutes, would probably not have 

imagined the trickery and debauchery

that existed behind the scenes of the

wealthiest citizens. But Villon 

claimed a place in literary history 

for his poetry. He comes after Dante,

who put so many of his fellow 

citizens in hell and his beloved

Beatrice in Heaven. Chaucer also

showed where people failed the

moral behavior expected of them,

Villon is only a century before

Shakespeare. Somehow I wasn’t

surprised. He obviously had fun

with naming this dark side of French

history, and he must have made

some people love him else they

wouldn’t have published him in 1489.

I believe he enjoyed every word he

wrote, as I’ve enjoyed upsetting

those who misuse power and want

to rid themselves of their critics.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

 Photo of butterfly on zinnia in my garden by Janet Wyatt

Talking to Myself Forty-Eight November 15, 2020

The past is never the past, though

it may seem so. Yes, we’re older,

and yet certain days and years still

live inside us. We remember moments

of extreme happiness, watching out

the train window as we pass the

peasant houses, the fields in rain.

So deeply green the soft grasses,

tender, unforgettable; the agony

of loss, and yet a new story, a

new understanding in a quiet

house, where I am fully at home,

yet guarded, protected from much

exertion. I proof my new book,

which takes me back a quarter

of a century or more. I’ve told

all my secrets, the loves that

sustained me, the friends who

cherished me then and still do,

as I cherish them. I am given

new ways to imagine even

my spirit’s gift, a kind of

knowing. The natural world 

opened my eyes and listened

to the secret words of my heart.

Nothing was lost. Everything

important to me is still here.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Seven

 Bald eagle facing camera by Doc Ellen at Jordan Lake


Talking to Myself Forty-Seven  November 8, 2020

For Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

New visions, new hope. We celebrate.

Our next American president has a heart

big enough to love us all, very much

including those who voted against him.

He tells us, those on the ground and those

watching all over the world, that we are

now part of Joe Biden’s family. Those

words we learn as children: “with

liberty and justice for all” will come

true now. A white man and a black

woman say so. Joe and Kamala bring

their families, black and white, from

toddlers to the man who, at seventy-eight

will be our next president, onto the stage.

For those listening and watching, waving

flags, smiling and crying, they know they

are witnessing a new day, not only

in America, a land of “possibilities,” 

but in our world, in time to fight climate

change, to kill the pandemic that is

killing us, to tackle systemic racism.

More people voted this time than ever

 before: seventy-four million alone for

Biden. It took days to count all the 

ballots. But they counted them. We 

used our privilege–to vote.  Our voices 

and our votes made it possible. 

We can  once again believe in 

that elusive liberty, that justice for all.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Six

 Photo of Judy at Lifestyle workshop by Elisabeth  2018


Talking to Myself Forty-Six November 1, 2020

For Yuri

“Nature for me--fire, water, wind, stones, plants, animals–all these are parts of a broken single being. And man in nature is the mind of a great being accumulating strength in order to gather all of nature into a unity.”–Mikhail Prishvin.

You find me in Russian literature. Not

too surprising. Have I not loved your poets

and story tellers from my youth? Dostoevsky,

Tolstoy, Akhmatova, Esenin, Mandelstam.

I wait in the hour when the time changes

back from two in the morning to one, and

the dogs, restless in their sleep, yelp and

cough, then grow quiet. I wanted to be four

things: my own archetype: Shakespeare’s

Sister as Virginia Woolf envisioned her; 

then partner, a Penelope to an Odysseus, 

but also an Odysseus myself. Then healer. 

Sometimes people yielded me the power

to touch and reassure them. Others fled

my love. But one remained. I wanted to be

a master of my art, and it was in your city

of Kostroma that I found my way and that

by loving all the people who let me into

their souls and even some who tried to keep

me out. Now you call me a master. In these

years of my aging, it’s hard to believe. Yet

then, in that quiet, borrowed apartment, I

felt my mind giving me all it had. Words

came easily. So many losses around me and

unhappy people, and yet I flourished. I

was happy. People loved me for myself.

I was a stranger, but treated like kin. Your

tiny grandson let me hold him. Vera gave

me a mustard plaster. You found my

apartment, understood I wanted solitude,

to be with myself by myself, to create,

to love, to do what only I could do. The

dogs are asleep. I’ll sleep now.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Five

 Blue iris in Judy's garden a few years ago.


Talking to Myself Forty-Five October 25. 2020

And what is love? Long ago St. Paul

told us what we needed to know.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does

not envy; it does not boast. It is not

proud. It does not dishonor others.

It is not self-seeking; it is not easily

angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but

rejoices with the truth. It always

protects, always trusts, always hopes,

always perseveres.... Now these

three remain: faith, hope, love, but

the greatest of these is love.”*  He

speaks of love. Finally, I hear him

and believe him. He loves me. Our

age is a difficult age. It is hard to

hope, hard to believe even in love, 

and yet it arrives, despite all the

illness, the deaths, the terrible

fear of losing everything. Then

we know we can be happy. We

will live; our words will last.

We are like a huge old black oak,

its roots under both our houses.

We are not forgotten. We are

safe. Even when we fall, we will

continue to be known and loved.

* St. Paul, first Corinthians 13.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Four

 Two pink zinnias and a yellow butterfly by Janet


Talking to Myself Forty-Four October 18, 2020

For Janet

In my mind’s eye a zinnia garden

outside my back door. Tall, large,

showy circles of pure color atop

branching stems: orange, red, yellow,

white, purple, even green. The frost

hovers and will kill them all. Not  yet! 

Not yet! Janet dug out the roots of

the spreading small sunflowers, 

found rich compost and dug that in,

scattered seeds and watched the

seedlings and the morning glory

weeds pop up. Brought me a photo

of the first bud, then bloom. Slowly

they gained height, branched to 

make room for dozens of blooms. 

We brought some in. She took 

some for friends. She guarded

her treasures and made photos for

me, So many photos, sometimes

with a butterfly. I’ll never forget

my zinnia garden. Let the hard

freeze wait!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Three


 Judy's zinnia garden, planted by Janet summer of 2020


Talking to Myself Forty -Three October 11, 2020

When you live in a pandemic

that gets worse when you so need

it to get better, to go away, in fact,

ordinary problems get magnified,

distorted, all out of proportion. 

A sick dog will keep you awake 

or even some especially good

news like finding a publisher

asking for the writings of a woman 

who is “courageous, innovative,

definition-defying.” You wonder:

how did he know what you were 

like? You queried him immediately

in the pre-dawn quiet house, but

no response came yet to this

magic call for poems, and you

lay awake wondering how long

it would take him. Of course,

your expectation was unreasonable.

But you’re eighty-three and 

already your options in this life–

your only life–are fewer each year.

You walk to improve your ability 

to walk. You proof old manuscripts 

which you want to enter the world

of published books. You search

for publishers and publish some 

books yourself. You’ve always been

yourself and no other. It was easy

to ignore you since you weren’t

seeking fame, but only readers.

You reached them not as mobs but

as thoughtful individuals. Fame can 

wait. I don’t need to be alive when 

it comes, but the books have to be 

out there somewhere readers can 

pick them up and enter my created 

world of peace, love, and sanity.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-Two

 Hummingbird at Jordan Dam by Doc Ellen, DVM


Talking to Myself Forty-Two October 4, 2020

My main goals now are healing and

strengthening. Slowly, I do more

work in a day, leave home more often.

I saw my eye doctor, got my hair cut,

mailed out review and thank you 

copies of my new book, and will see

my dentist in ten days. I’m even

having a bookmark made. So far,

so good. I get tired, but I don’t get

sick. I made bread yesterday and

will make pizza today. I wake at

two a.m. but sleep later. I enjoy

my work of proofing and teaching. 

We live in strange times, yet I

read, write, and teach as per usual.

I forget more easily. Some people 

I used to see often, I miss. I see

them rarely or not at all. I reread

books I wrote years ago and aim

to publish. I like the life I’ve lived,

the courage I found, the stands I

took. Some of my enemies never

ceased to hate me, but some forgave

me when they knew me better. I

have been doing what I felt called

to do, and I’m quietly grateful I

have friends in far away places: 

China, Russia, Finland, Holland, 

Italy, England, Wales, 

Am I not blessed?

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-One

 Red zinnia from our flower garden, thanks to Janet for flowers and photos /summer 2020

Talking to Myself Forty-One September 27, 2020

The thing about aging is that it’s so slow.

Slow to get sick and slow to heal. I walk

slowly. I work slowly. It takes me longer 

to get dressed, to bathe, to eat, to gather

the trash or start the wash. And I put

off mopping the kitchen floor. I accept

help even when I don’t need it. Easier

than arguing, and then I know I won’t fall 

down. I didn’t used to worry about

falling, didn’t use a cane. I still don’t 

like it, but then I fell and got a black

eye. Another fall broke three toes. So

I use a cane. I still don’t like it, but it

might prevent a fall. At night I sleep

with the lights on and use a walker to

the bathroom. I did get a haircut so I 

don’t look as old as I am, and I think

it helps. Slowly, I can do more and

not get sick. Slowly I proof and

publish more books. The main thing

is to keep walking, keep working,

rest as needed, but don’t stop.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty

     A Teen's Christmas in Wales. Pub date: November 15, 2020

Talking to Myself Forty September 20, 2020

For Dr. Cohen

Some days are hard and wear me out.

Other days I float through, even though

I dreaded them. Going to the eye doctor

during a pandemic I’d delayed for three

months, but they gave me an appointment

right away, the same week, and Janet

said, “I’ll drive.” So driving home with

dilated eyes wouldn’t be a problem. I

said, “Yes, if you’re sure.” We waited

an hour. I love that Doctor Cohen, and

he remembered me. “Writing any books

lately?” I told him about The Teen’s

Christmas in Wales. “Good, good,” he

said. I said I was teaching, too. “Keep

it up,” he said. They took pictures of

the back of my eyes. He seemed to 

approve of what he saw. He looked

and looked for himself at the back of

my eyes. Then he said, “Your eyes

are good, and these glasses are okay,

too.” The ones that got bent when I

fell last November. True, I’d been reading

with them. Still, I’d worried. Janet

had waited and drove us home, gave

Wag a little time outside and then went

off to her next job. All the rest of the

day, I kept thinking: My eyes are good. 

My glasses are good.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Nine

 Thanks to Janet Wyatt, a white cosmos from our garden.

Talking to Myself Thirty-Nine September 13, 2020

I never know what’s going to 

keep me awake, but it’s usually

at two a.m. Maybe worrying

about the ballot. We’re doing it

absentee this year and witnessing

each other’s. I read all the instructions

twice, and we’re going to drive ours

right to the Board of Elections

because we don’t trust our president

not to cheat or try some other act

of the dictator, even more obvious

than trying to ruin the postal service.

Once I’m awake, there’s not

much I can do but get up and

make breakfast and then sleep

another hour or two later, and 

reread the directions. The main

things turned out to be simple,

and we did receive our ballots. 

Who would have thought ten years

ago that our president wouldn’t

want us to vote? If you’re a worrier, 

two a.m. is bound to be a problem

once in awhile. Except for that,

I sleep like a log.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Eight

    Naked Ladies/Tiger Lilies

Talking to Myself Thirty-Eight September 6, 2020

Summer is winding down. The naked

ladies have begun their rise as the air

cools. Some call them tiger lilies, but

I like naked ladies. They always 

surprise me. The zinnias hold their

own a few feet away, and some

determined cosmos. When you’re

eighty-three, you heal so slowly,

but my helpers confirm: I’m looking

better, I’m coming down the back

stairs with more ease and grace.

We’ve lost our heat index days.

I can work harder, longer. I rarely

fall. My body’s slow to heal, but

it does heal. My new book was

approved. And in the wider world

where it has become so hard to

hope, we have good news. The

big industrial polluters are being

slowed and even stopping. They

told us that all we have to do is

last one day longer, and we did.

In a pandemic it’s hard to believe

in any victory, any pause in 

pollution and devastation. Yet

quietly and without fanfare it

arrives, and the naked ladies

join in the zinnia chorus with its

pinks, oranges, multiple reds,

yellows and even greens.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Seven

Our Zinnia Garden, photo by Janet Wyatt 

Talking to Myself Thirty-Seven August 30, 2020

Zinnia time again, thanks to Janet.

How I wanted something we planted

to grow. The perennials fought their way

to bloom: daffodils, a few determined

crocuses, daylilies, the small sunflowers,

the hydrangea bush, and the forsythia,

but I missed my zinnias. Janet egged

me on, and we ordered Benares giants,

all colors. And my favorite cosmos: 

Sensation. Pink, white, purple.

Yesterday Tim picked the first bouquet.

The more you pick them, the more

they bloom. Now they rest on our

dining table: dark red, bright pink,

yellow, the new green. They join the

table clutter: this week’s newspaper, 

various papers I’m working on, books, 

my Trollope novel Phineas Finn, my

appointment book, cracker boxes, 

salt, the honey jar, miscellaneous spoons,

a roll of paper towels, Tylenol, file

folders, toothpicks, the sugar bowl,

green placemats. They belong. I’ll

make sure the zinnias have their water.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Six


photo of our first Zinnia bloom taken by Janet Wyeth

Talking to Myself Thirty-Six    August 23, 2020

It’s hard to admit that my life had lacked joy.

Then it arrived, despite the deadly virus, the

rare face-to-face conversations, the rising

death toll, my slow rate of healing. We have

seven new Zinnia blooms: pink, yellow,

orange, white, and many buds rising. We

eat a lot of beans and rice, homemade

bread and ginger tea. Then comes a

letter in Russian. I paste it into my translation 

program and read: “Sweet Judy.” He thanks

me again for his voyage to America twenty-

seven years ago. It was work, but those days

of communion, of barriers falling down, were 

worth it many times over. He’s writing about it. 

He is convinced that between Russians and

Americans there is not much difference. I’m 

lifted up, grow stronger, walk more easily.

Then joy. Now I know all will be well with me.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Five

Talking to Myself Thirty-Five August 16, 2020

I had decided to try a street event. 

First Sunday I believe they called it.

They gave me a space on the sidewalk

in front of the Joyful Jewel, an art shop.

Sales were hard to come by. I barely

made more than I paid to enter.

Then the art shop owner, Mariah,

came outside and said she’d be happy

to take my books. I gladly accepted.

About that time I began to publish 

my mysteries myself. Friends advised

me to do three or four a year. When

I had the funds, I did three. Mariah

kept smiling, but I suspect the volume

of books overwhelmed her. Then

I joined her annual Voice and Vision

event in April and wrote poems about

paintings I liked. Clearly, the poets’

art came from the heart. They hugged,

cried, and laughed. Around them the 

paintings, sculptures, hats, cups all 

rejoiced with us in this shop which 

hallowed the eternally creative spirit. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Four

Talking to Myself Thirty-Four August 9, 2020

These years push forward their agenda,

but I’m not to know the details or the names.

My episodes might be tiny strokes I don’t

even notice. Or maybe seizures. Brain

doctors can name many things that can

go wrong in an aging brain. Yet most

days I’m tranquil, resting body and mind

more than I used to, sleeping or not

sleeping by whimsy. Sometimes I feel

jittery and make myself rest. One doctor

congratulates me on doing this well at age

eighty-three. Anther threatens me with

massive stroke. Yet I walk, I read, I try

to solve copyright problems for my new

book. Days pass. I muster my patience.

I still love a man who no longer walks

the earth. I type old manuscripts and

translate a Russian friend’s memories, 

amazed that he trusts me. I read old

books and study our failings and 

foibles, our moments of truth-speaking

and commitment to justice. No one

else knows the details either. Doctors

love to try their fancy medicines, but 

sometimes the cures are worse than the 

episodes. I want to choose how I live

my life–as long as I can. I haven’t

done too badly so far. 


Photo by Janet Wyatt in August 2020  Rose of Sharon tree.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Three August 2, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Three August 2, 2020

I remember Schelykovo. You 
took me there that first week.
We saw the house, carefully
preserved, of Russia’s playwright,
loved and honored as our Shakespeare.
We went into a peasant house, sat 
on the benches against the walls,
visited the pool where the Snow Maiden 
died, wetted our faces for a long
life, if not an immortal one. Your
friend Yuri knew him personally,
was scolded and influenced by the
great man. And I, at an age you 
never reached, still have my
students. How much longer will
I influence them, scold them, and
praise them? In some ways I was
the peasant woman you longed
for but less submissive, more
outspoken. Someone to cherish 
while keeping your distance. Still,
we had those moments. We stood
outside ourselves, we communed. 
No one noticed at first, We sat on
rocks in a stream bed. You prayed
to a tree that it wouldn’t rain. Each
day I get older, but you stay the
same. Your life is trapped in
eternity, but we each have a wing,
and who knows where and when
we’ll be together again.

Photo of the front of Schelykovo by Vera Belikh. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-Two

Talking to Myself Thirty-Two July 26, 2020

For Dr. Kylstra

I had agreed to another MRI.
The stroke doctor interpreted my 
two episodes as stroke. I didn’t
think so, but I wondered if he was 
going to claim stroke no matter
what this brain picture showed.
My own doctor, who always
listens to me, said she’d support
me, whatever I decided to do. My
body, my choice. I like that logic.
I wrote to the neurologists a letter
asking for a diagnosis to be 
explained, and no scare tactics.
Doctors make mistakes, too,
right? So I went into the tube,
and they took pictures. They did 
find the little bleeds in my brain
but said, “No sign of stroke.”
My brain’s behavior was more 
like Cerebral Amyloid Angioplasty. 
I wanted to shout, “See! I was
right.” They may never admit it,
but I know what to do. Trust my
own doctor and choose carefully. 
I won’t have this body much
longer. I may not make it to a
hundred, but I haven’t done too
badly so far. I’ll continue 
recovering my health, write, and
publish four more mysteries
and three more Russian memoirs.
Once we’re clear of the pandemic,
I can re-open my home to my children,
grandchildren, friends on this island
of peace and love.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty-One

Talking to Myself Thirty July 19, 2020

When the big doctors talk,
we’re supposed to listen.
They don’t tolerate arguments
and turn to threats. All I want
is a good explanation. I don’t 
believe my two episodes were
strokes. The doctor says if I
don’t take their medicine, I’ll
have a massive stroke and
end up in a nursing home. All
I’ve had so far–and nine
months apart–were a headache
and trouble speaking for a few
minutes. The big doctor doesn’t
listen to me. My friend suggests
a blood test for heavy metals,
reminds me of all the poisons
in the area where I live–from
coal ash dust in the air and
forever chemicals in our water.
And who knows what else?
It’s a wonder I’m alive and
mostly functional. They don’t
seem interested in my thoughts
or my realities. They’re scientists
not dictators. Their job is careful
diagnosis, not mindless threats,
not scare tactics. I won’t be cowed.
I’ll speak up. I always do, and
I can spot one abusing his power
in a flash. Isn’t the medical code
of ethics “Do no harm”?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Talking to Myself Thirty

Last summer's zinnia with butterfly

Talking to Myself Thirty July 12, 2020

It’s the doctors that scare me. 
Not my own. She listens and thinks
for herself. I told her that I’d had
some bad experiences with
neurologists, the ones who study
the brain. So it was a risk, talking
to one, but she arranged it, and
I told him my story. He listened well,
but did he think for himself? The
stroke doctor was certain I’d had
a stroke. I’m sure I didn’t. If I’m
having strokes, they want me to
take a blood-thinner. If I’m having
a cerebral amyloid angioplasty, 
blood-thinners could kill me. I’m
not ready to die. My body keeps
healing. Yes, some loss of memory,
but a normal part of aging. I forget
words and names or where I put
things. Pretty usual for eighty-three.
Can I be right? The doctors wrong?
It has happened before. It’s my body, 
my health, and I have a stubborn 

streak, but let me be wise.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Nine

Talking to Myself Twenty-Nine July 6, 2020

Good things are happening, and some
more difficult. Wag and I have our
medicine, and are healing. I slept
twelve hours. Strange, but the
antibiotics kicked in. There is to
be an article about me in the
newspaper. I think back to the degree
I never got, but how I learned,
reading Homer and Hesiod, Sappho 
and Catullus, the pre-Socratics and
Plato in Greek and Latin. Two
professors believed in me and helped
me. The others were skeptical. Over
fifty years ago. These days I’m 
contained. Not even going outside 
without help. Not able to get my
dog in and out. My friend and I
prepare a flower garden, but no 
seeds are yet in the ground. One
hen keeps getting into the backyard
by flying over the fences. We want
to clip one wing so she won’t fly,
but she has disappeared. With
my eleventh mystery, I got finally
a rave review. Other good things
are happening. Should we take a 
risk that that winged chicken won’t
be back? Or trust the gods of 
chickendom to keep her busy
on her own land?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Eight

Gladioli borrowed from web

Talking to Myself Twenty-Eight June 28, 2020

She brought in flowers–gladiolas,
my grandmother’s favorite, deep red
and pink orange, fallen over but still
blooming on our dining table. They
brought them  to me in Russia. I was
the guest, given the best food even
before the children. I was taken to
meet the local administrators. They
fed me huge meals, gave me vodka,
danced for me, sang katushki. We
walked and hugged our favorite
trees. Theirs were familiar. Mine
was new. Through trees we spoke
our love, calmed our spirits. You
tried to stop loving me, and I tried,
too. It went too deep.  Feasts were
provided, but I couldn’t eat. They 
showed me their gardens. They
grew their food all around their
house. In desperate times they had
fruit and meat. They were rich and I
shared their bounty, their aching
songs, their laughter. All these
connections. The same flowers;
different times. I still flourish, still
marvel at the treasures I’m given
that I never asked for.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Seven

Three of Judy's Plymouth Rock hens waiting on the back porch

Talking to Myself Twenty-Seven June 21, 2020

Getting back on my feet–quite literally.
Those three toes needed special attention
and protection for eleven weeks in a big 
heavy boot. I had to learn to walk again.
I iced it once a day while I read my
favorite books. I had a walker for nighttime
trips to the bathroom. I didn’t want to
break any more toes. By day I walked on
my own: slowly, deliberately. I made
the meals. Lots of tacos, pizza, spaghetti
sauce, sometimes quiche, homemade
bread, and ginger and lemon grass tea.
I lived indoors, and Tim took care of
the hens and the shopping, carrying
Wag outside and back in. Now the boot
is off. One more x-ray and I’m free. They
all say, “Use a cane.” I still don’t want to,
but I will, at least until 
I walk surefootedly again.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Six

Zinnias and cosmos a few years ago in my backyard.

Talking to Myself Twenty-Six June 14, 2020

Our Corona Virus Nineteen is supposed
to be going away, but each day there
are more deaths, more cases. The numbers
are going up, not down. We are living in
our houses all the time, if we’re careful.
But we see the rebels rushing by in fast
trucks, on speeding motorcycles. The
neighbors play loud music. The reports
of the pandemic show it’s getting worse,
not better. Some people wear masks
in the grocery store, in the mini-mart,
in the post office, but some don’t. They
keep urging us: “Wash your hands, wear
a mask, wait six feet apart.” There were 
protests and worse. People in crowds
yelling, “Black lives matter,” The crowds
carry the virus. We know about germs
now. We’re too angry to follow our
governor’s rules. I lost a filling, but
I haven’t called the dentist back or gone 
for my eye appointment. I can take off
the boot I’ve worn ten weeks. Will I
walk okay? Resume my balance? Go
outside more? Can I help plant the
flower seeds? Can I go back to feeding
the hens? When will it be safe to drive 
to the stores? Let people into the house?
Hug each other? Will I be alive when
the virus finally dies? Or will it die?
Will our lack of patience do us in? What 

will it take to outlive a pandemic?

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-Five

Judy beside blue hydrangea bush June 2019 by Doug Williams

Talking to Myself Twenty-Five June 7, 2020

The flowers continue. Daylilies in front.
No one deadheads them. The blue
hydrangeas emerge rapidly. They love
all the rain. Once it dried a little, the
backyard hens go back to their nest
in the flower garden, among the small
spreading sunflowers aiming for the
sky. So many holes in my fences,
and the hens hop into my garden
and then take over the backyard. They
sleep in the dog house Wag rejected,
lay eggs among the bicycles, and who 
knows where else. Grape vines cover
the fencing that keeps hawks out of
the run. Once Tim killed a water
mocassin that had pursued a vole
into the coop. Tim gets out my mower, 
running but not fast enough. Finally,
he figures out that it’s the idler and
borrows a “big paperclip.” Then he
mows both front and backyards.
Janet has been digging out the deep,
thick roots of a wild grass, where we
want to plant big zinnias–all colors--
and cosmos called Sensation–pinks,
whites, lavender. William says he’ll
mend the fence. My next mystery
novel arrives in the mail two days
early. A poetry book review comes 
by email–one I didn’t know about.  
The hens lay lavish numbers of eggs.
In the corner where I have my Russian 
paintings and my Finnish poster of 

glacier-carved islands, I am at home.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Talking to Myself Twenty-four

Buds of orchid from Rita Baldwin's Orchid House

Talking to Myself Twenty-Four May 31, 2020

Today we celebrate my birthday.
I turned eighty-three years on
Wednesday, but today my daughter
and her two children will join us 
in our front yard and sit six feet
apart. Tim will buy “take out” 
pizza, one meat and one vegetarian. 
Lilly begins grad school in August.
Bobby will be a junior at his college.
We all like pizza. Tim brought
two chairs from his storage unit. He’ll 
take out two of mine, old-fashioned
ones–one from my grandma. How
she loved me. She called me Judith.
How I loved her and those times
I visited her in Pittsburgh, and she
told me stories. I learned them,
too. What a life I’ve made. How
well I’ve lived. I trusted my heart,
and my heart thrived. We learn 
on Tim’s TV how angry our
black brothers and sisters are over
one policeman’s killing of a black
man he was arresting for no reason.
Our president has been unjust, our
country divided and too many
people angry. It’s time to consider
justice and transformation. Enough
of using force to achieve what we
need. Remember Henry David
Thoreau and Martin Luther King
and Gandhi. It’s time to trust

the God Within.