Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Wheels within Wheels or…

Why I have hope for my children and grandchildren.

I know. It sounds presumptuous. The world seems to be going to you-know-where in a handbasket. Whatever that means. I think that means going downhill fast. Possibly exploding into smithereens at the bottom.

I’m no Doubter. I fully accept the reality of climate change and, in particular, the reality of our abysmal human contribution thereto. Yet we seem honor-bound to look the other way, or helpless in the face of measurable warning signs.

Nor am I a Pollyanna, as we used to say way back when. I don’t wake up, see the sky falling and smile cheerfully, whistle a happy tune, or go about my business in denial. Everything isn’t chirpy, cheery or going to be all right.

I’m a pragmatic, realistic, down-to-earth woman who also happens to be intuitive, imaginative and energized by a challenge. I’m also a woman of faith, though I don’t expect God or a Higher Power to swoop down and rescue us at the last minute.

Life—past, present and future—is complex. Wheels within wheels spiral up, down, in, out, all around. In no way capable of being fathomed,  controlled or predicted.

I’ve seen yesterday’s disasters lead to today’s unpredicted miracles. And vice versa. Not because they were good or evil in themselves, but because they contained within them the possibilities for both good and ill.

Wheels within wheels are already turning this way and that, moving in directions we may never experience in our lifetimes. The future is unknown. And yet…the unknown already contains the seeds of tomorrow’s brilliant solutions and horrifying disasters.

I live in a world my grandparents and my parents didn’t expect. We haven’t self-destructed. Nor are we heaven on earth. We’re still made up of wheels within wheels, finding ever-new ways to accomplish good and evil.

I can’t guarantee things will turn out well for those I most love. Nonetheless, I have faith in our Creator who offers multiple opportunities to exploit wheels within wheels for good, not for ill. I also support and applaud human creativity that turns complexity into brilliant, often simple solutions that turn out right.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 June 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Wheel

The Wind took up the Northern Things

Winds of change overtake us every day. Natural and unnatural disasters intrude. Emily Dickinson invites us to take a closer look. My comments follow.

The Wind took up the Northern Things
And piled them in the south –
Then gave the East unto the West
And opening his mouth

The four Divisions of the Earth
Did make as to devour
While everything to corners slunk
Behind the awful power –

The Wind – unto his Chambers went
And nature ventured out –
Her subjects scattered into place
Her systems ranged about

Again the smoke from Dwellings rose
The Day abroad was heard –
How intimate, a Tempest past
The Transport of the Bird –

c. 1868

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

The calm before a storm is nothing compared to the calm after a storm. Wind, dust, earthquakes, locusts, famine, fire, floods. Devastating, destructive, unpredictable. Then it’s over. Deadly silent. Until nature ventures out, surveys the damage and begins reclaiming her rhythms, colors, textures and stunning beauty.

There’s nothing romantic about the destructive forces of nature. No one who has survived their fury can forget the terror. Or the people, animals, natural resources and futures gone or changed forever.

Nonetheless, I hear Emily inviting us to consider the other side of the storm. What happens following unpredictable upheaval? What happens when everything is different and nothing can be taken for granted?

Healing and rebirth don’t happen overnight. Nature will take its time just as it always has. We can count on her subjects and systems doing their thing, even though everything will be different, changed in some way.

As for us, life changes immediately in the aftermath of major upheaval. Belongings and people we took for granted or undervalued yesterday are suddenly precious. Whether missing or found against all odds, each person and each item becomes the subject of conversation, tears and thoughts shared around fireplaces. Personal and intimate.

This everyday hearth fire, unlike a firestorm, warms our hearts. We’re not alone. A bird sings. Was it blown here by the storm? I don’t know. Still, its simple song says I’m not forgotten, even though my small world just got turned upside down.

I hear in Emily’s poem an invitation to think about the value of human life as well as the value of our planet. Both seem under siege right now. Not just by politicians or corporations, but by people such as you and I. I don’t have answers. I do, however, have hope that we’ll wake up before it’s too late.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 June 2017
Response to WordPress Prompt: Local

On being married to D

I like to think I have no illusions about myself. Nonetheless, this past week proved otherwise. It was all about cleanliness in the kitchen D and I share every day.

I’m an expert from way back when it comes to cleanliness. After all, I was Mother’s Big Helper, her #1 Daughter trained to know and do everything the right way.

Not only do I know how to do cleanliness, I can tell you horror stories about what will happen if you ignore my gentle ‘reminders.’ I can also show you exactly how to do tasks in a way that maximizes efficiency and cleanliness.

So this past week D failed to live up to my standards, and I failed as well. With flying colors.

In the still-hot aftermath, I hit my journal, trying to vent and turn a corner in what felt like anguish and despair. I found myself wondering, not for the first time, why I married this man more than 51 years ago.

The venting wasn’t productive. So I began thinking about the kind of man I married and the kind of woman I am. And perhaps, just why some things are so difficult for us.

D was raised by his mother. She and his father divorced when D was about 3 ½ years old. His father lived far away and wasn’t present in D’s everyday life. The relationship between his parents was never easy or without anger. At home with a single mom and three children, the kitchen was clean; it was not, however, a classroom for doing things the right way.

I grew up with parents who not only stayed together, but never once had open conflict about anything. Furthermore, though I had a father present in the house, the house was my mother’s domain. She was responsible for keeping it clean, neat and orderly. He was not.

The kitchen, in particular, was a hub of activity with four daughters to feed and train as good housekeepers. The emphasis wasn’t on cooking; it was on cleanliness and doing things the right way.

Despite being a polio survivor with significant health issues, my mother was an expert housekeeper. She made sure her #1 Daughter was trained as expertly as possible.

Why? Because she didn’t want me to grow up as she did, without anyone to show her how to be a mother, much less a housekeeper. When my mother was 8, my grandmother left with another man and filed for divorce.

My mother routinely redid my work in her kitchen. I wasn’t as efficient or neat as she thought I should be. No matter what I did, it seemed something was not quite right. I felt frustrated and humiliated.

As I got older, I felt angry. So when I became a wife and mother, I made sure to soften my mother’s approach. Yet I still came along after D, insisting that my way was the better way. Especially in the kitchen.

Just realizing this softened my heart and got me ready for yet another difficult conversation with D. Not about my mother, but about the two of us and how to manage differences that trigger conflict between us.

It’s never easy. Yet going back to my childhood helped unlock some unfinished business that still spills over into our marriage.

Today I’m grateful I can make choices based on our happiness instead of my mother or my father’s expectations. Or my own.

Thanks for listening!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 June 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Illusion

Hemming and hawing

Hemming and hawing
Their way through the muck
Fearful of committing truth
Eager for voters’ approval
They flounder

Political correctness
Blinds leaders to the truth
Of their deepest commitments
Creates wormholes
In character

Yesterday’s principles
Become today’s mush
Flavor of the moment
Quickly thrown together
Cold and tasteless

***

There isn’t a leader alive who isn’t tempted to hem and haw. Fear of committing truth seems to have become an epidemic.

The fear is well founded. The cost of being drummed out, forced out, scapegoated, fired, sued or made a target of revenge is very high. Ask any leader who has paid the price.

Leaders willing to go against expectations of their parties or constituencies seem to be a dying breed. They deserve our respect and our thanks. Whether we agree with them or not.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 June 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Commit

paper-thin wings

paper-thin wings
of spun silk gleam
atop purple-crowned thistle

***

I’m captivated by this ephemeral moment caught in the blink of a camera. Nature’s grandeur arrives in a heart-beat and departs in a heart-beat. Not once or twice, but uncounted times over.

Often in times of desperation or dismay, nature spills over on our behalf. Free of charge. All we need are eyes to see. Especially the small things we might not notice.

Life has a paper-thin quality. It doesn’t last forever. Not even in the most substantial tomes, libraries, decrees or declarations.

Yet we pass through each day surrounded by reminders of continuity and grandeur far beyond our making. Spinning out our personal histories in the brief moments  of our seasonal lives. Trusting in whispers of something and Someone greater than ourselves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 June 2017
Photo found at Pixabay.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Paper

Tough words for tough times

Words are actions. Written, spoken or springing to our minds, they aren’t make-believe. They convey intentions. They can’t be taken back, whether delivered flawlessly, flippantly or in jest. The large or small grain of truth has already been fired from the well-aimed barrel of a well-oiled tongue.

This morning I read Psalm 12. It invited me to ponder not just my tongue and what it reveals about me, but the cacophony of words flying about us on any given day.

  • Cutting. Slicing. Insinuating.
  • Demolishing. Killing. Maiming.
  • Flattering. Deceiving. Boasting.
  • Lording it over others.
  • Maligning the needy and the poor.
  • Decrying the rich and the famous.
  • Strutting. Preening.
  • Poisoning the air with intent to kill, maim, prevail at any cost.

Truth is difficult. It takes an effort. A clear head and a clear heart. Self-knowledge. Honesty and humility.

Here’s the full text of Psalm 12. The psalmist speaks passionately, with hyperbole, so great is his despair as well as trust in the Lord. His despair is not an exaggeration. Neither is his faith.

Psalm 12 (New International Version)

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
Those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor;
They flatter with their lips
But harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
And every boastful tongue—
Those who say
“By our tongues we will prevail;
Our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
Like silver purified in a crucible,
Like gold refined seven times.

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
And will protect us forever from the wicked,
Who freely strut about
When what is vile is honored by the human race.

Tough words for tough times, yes. Though not without hope for all of us. The damage doesn’t fall simply on the poor and needy. It falls on all of us–those who use their tongues and pens as weapons of war, or those who prefer firing bullets in the privacy of their minds and hearts.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2017
Image found at pinterest

Kickback

Molasses
oozes
through
my veins

Sluggishness
creeps
from head
to toe
smothering
every desire
to move

Thoughts
of despair
meddle
with my sanity
laugh
at my dreams
mock
and taunt me

Doesn’t everyone
have a down day
now and again?

I’ve had stretch of good days. Very good days, in fact. The Meddler isn’t happy about this. She doesn’t like being ignored.

Well, it isn’t going to happen. Today I’m weary from the daily grind of creating health-inducing smoothies, making sure I have the right vegetables and fruit for smoothies, chopping them up for smoothies, and cleaning up my smoothie blender so it’s ready for the next round.

The Meddler keeps trying to remind me of cat-fur bunnies multiplying by the hour, decisions waiting to be made, and closets screaming to be changed out for hot weather.

I’ve decided to chill out for the rest of this day.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 June 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Meddle

My Voice and My Dad


When I began blogging over three years ago I was terrified. I’d carried family secrets around with me for nearly 70 years. My Dad died in 2010. Over ten years before he died I confronted him about his harsh treatment of me as a child and teenager.

Yet I still had things I needed to say, in writing. Publicly. To him and to anyone else who cared to listen.

Here’s an excerpt from a post I published on 27 January 2015. That was one year after I began blogging, nearly 5 years after Dad died at age 96. I’d begun posting Dear Dad letters from time to time, even though it felt awkward.

I’m surprised at feelings I’ve had since I began writing Dear Dad letters. Sometimes I’m afraid I’m trying to get something from Dad that he can’t give me. I don’t think I am. I definitely feel I’m ‘out there,’ in the driver’s seat without a finished roadmap, uncertain where this will lead.

Most surprising, though, has been a sense of relief. Not because I know what I’m doing, but because I know I need something for myself. Something I can receive only by speaking to him about the very subject he wasn’t always interested in hearing about—me, his first-born child, female. . . .

These Dear Dad letters feel right because I’m my father’s daughter. I’m not asking for anything. I’m not expecting anything from him. Simply put, I need to be present to Dad in a way I’ve never been present to him before.

I’d describe it as barging right in and announcing my presence. Not rudely, but confidently. Interrupting Dad was a big no-no when I was a child. Knock before entering; enter only if permission is granted. Dad is very busy right now in his study. Don’t disturb unless absolutely necessary!

But he’s my Dad! I’m allowed! No explanations needed. No big crisis. No requests to make things better. No great accomplishments or failings to report. And no clear strategy or plan about why I’m here just now, why he’s the one with whom I need to speak, or what I’m going to say next. I just know I need to be here.

This strikes me now as it did then—the language of a mature, responsible adult woman. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now what Dad would think of this.

After all, he’s my Dad and I’m entitled to be with him and say things to him at any time. Whether he’s living or not.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 June 2017
Image found at skitguys.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Relieved

blossoming like a rose

Today’s prompt brought back an anthem from my college choir days. It’s been playing through my head all day–one of the most beautiful anthems I’ve ever heard.

The lyrics are based on Isaiah 35, a poetic passage that foresees a time to come when all will be well for the blind, deaf, weak and weary. For all who are discouraged, afraid and convinced they’ve been forgotten. Holiness will reign and injustice will be a thing of the past.

And what about this earth? It will also change in ways we can’t imagine. The opening lines of the anthem set the tone. From my memory…

The wilderness and the solitary place shall rejoice,
And the desert will be glad, and blossom like a rose.
For in the wilderness shall water break forth,
And streams flow in the desert.

This is Isaiah’s poetic vision of coming peace with justice. To some it may seem naïve or even make-believe. Yet doesn’t each of us harbor a wish, if not a vision for a better tomorrow?

The account of creation, the fall, and the resulting impact on all generations can sound heavy if not heavy-handed. Nonetheless, the God described throughout Hebrew and Christian Scriptures never gives up. Over and over opportunities are offered for turning around and taking another path. One that leads to justice with peace.

The God who created us is angered by injustice, moved by the plight of those who pay dearly for the decisions of others, including rulers of all kinds. Some leaders work with every intention of doing what’s best for everyone. Others seem intent on doing what’s best for themselves and their own, not for the people they serve or for strangers within their gates.

A beautiful anthem doesn’t solve our problems. It does, however, remind me that our leaders are not God, no matter how committed they are to doing good, and no matter how much we the people may want them to be God.

The anthem also reminds me that I’m not God and you’re not God. No matter how good or right we think we are, we can’t ensure that all will one day be transformed, much less pull it off.

I can, however, take one precarious step forward at a time, and trust God to do right, as the only Judge of all the earth.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 June 2017
Photo found at emeralddesert.com – Desert Bloom in Palm Springs, California

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Blossom

A word is dead

Another short gem from Emily Dickinson, for children of all ages and all stations in life. My free verse response follows.

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Young People
Edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin
Illustrated by Chi Chung
Sterling Publishing Co., 1994

Words spoken
thought
given away
on faces
in body language
live and multiply—
shaping us
shaping them
into people
we are
or are not
together

Spoken words
birth attitudes
expectations
hope and despair
inextricably linked
in this short life

Not the answer
to our wildest dreams

Not a solution
for the world’s woes
or private sorrows

But like smiles—
small change
of treasure
received
or withheld

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 June 2017
Image found at twimg.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Create

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