"Some people never think about the sun and the stars."
That's how poet Lucy Baldwin of Newport News described her inspiration for writing during an interview this month at her home.
For Baldwin, God, faith and nature serve as the building blocks not only for writing, but for everyday life. And in almost 87 years of living, Baldwin has faced difficulties that would test even the strongest of the faithful.
It was four years ago—Easter Sunday 2010—when Baldwin learned she'd have to undergo emergency surgery that, while saving her life, would severely limit her mobility. Due to complications of diabetes, surgeons had to amputate her left leg at the knee.
Where some would be tempted to focus on the fear and challenges of the loss of a limb, Baldwin chose to do what she's always done: She prayed.
She said she even asked the surgeon to join her in prayer and in singing her favorite hymn, "Because He Lives." Following the surgery she wrote, "I knew I had Jesus, and I prayed to God. And God heard my prayers. Trust in God."
Prayer and writing have been two of the constants in Baldwin's life since childhood. A native of Munroe, N.C., Baldwin recalled tacking a piece of paper to the refrigerator to capture ideas throughout the day. If inspiration struck while she was outside playing, she'd run back into the house, jot down her thoughts, and head back out into the sun.
That same determination to write followed her through life, and she has crafted poetry and essays on topics ranging from faith, patriotism and civil rights to nature and motherhood. To honor the fallen of the armed forces, she wrote "In Remembrance." In "The Mighty Oak," she compared humanity to the life of a tree. To share memories of her mother, she wrote, "On Mother's Day, which reads in part: "Mother was there to hold my hand. I always heard my mother pray, 'Be still, child, and do obey."
To view Baldwin's recitation of "A Tribute to Martin Luther King," go to dailypress.com/videos.
Now facing the loss of sight in her left eye, Baldwin said she is racing to get as many thoughts on paper as possible before her vision fails. She writes daily in a collection of wire-bound notebooks and hardcover journals.
This passion for writing keeps Baldwin going despite her physical limitations, said Marie St. Clair, who leads the Urban Performing Arts Program for Hampton's Parks and Recreation department.
After learning about Hampton's Music and Poetry Night (a youth poetry program that meets monthly), Baldwin contacted St. Clair and asked to share her work.
She "called me to ask if she could read just one of her poems because she can't get out." St. Clair and one of the group's leaders visited Baldwin and listened while she read not just one piece, but all her work.
"(Baldwin) said that now she will pray harder that God will not take her sight so she can have some new poems written when we come back," St. Clair said via email
Despite being a prolific writer, Baldwin has had little interest in publishing her work. In 1995 a piece entitled "Think of the Sun in All That You Do" was printed in the Hampton Neighbors edition of the Daily Press.
Earlier this year, Baldwin's "Under These Skies" was included in an anthology entitled "This Time Around — Expedition." The piece is another exploration of Baldwin's focus on faith and hope. Here is an excerpt:
"Under these skies, we all do live.
We have love, joy and peace to give.
Let's see what we can see, what we can do today.
Let's sing, smile or pray.
To smile is a beautiful thing, coming from me or you.
Under these skies, we all must pray.
We all must pray.
It helps all to have a blessed day.
Under these skies, we have trials and tribulations, too.
But God always sees us through."
The mother of six children—four boys and two girls, "at least" 15 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren, Baldwin has shared her faith with several generations. It was in the 1960s that she moved with her husband from North Carolina to Hampton to be near his family. Over the years, the children grew and moved out, and when her husband died in 1990, Baldwin decided the house was too big.
She moved to a senior citizen community in Newport News with her son Otis, and the two remain faithful companions today.
"He cooks, he cleans and he goes to work, too," Baldwin said of her son who arranges his work schedule so his mother's time alone is limited. "I don't know what I'd do without him," she said.
Of his mother, Otis Baldwin said, "The way she writes is the way we were raised, "adding, "I'm proud of my mom."
Price can be reached by phone at (757) 247-4745.
National Poetry Month Continues
Poets across the nation continue to celebrate the spoken word with special events and activities. For ideas, go to poets.org. For an up-to-date listing of events across our region, go to dailypress.com/books and scroll down to the community calendar.