Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Still without a flight plan

Coming out of a fog
Finding my feet and voice yet again
Feeling my way home

These words, and the poem below capture layers of unknown realities all the way from what was supposed to be a post-Trump era, to living in an aging body still full of surprises. Here’s the poem as first published in March 2020.

Without a Flight Plan

Disoriented
Suspended in space and time
Where are we going?

Calm and mindful
In a holding pattern
Waiting to land

Circling landmarks
Every twenty-four hours
Drones in the sky

Specks of dust
In an ocean of dismay
Looking for home

© Elouise Renich Fraser, March 2020
Published in Without A Flight Plan, 2021, p. 45

I’m just back from a short morning walk. The sun is out, the heat wave has subsided for now. Summer school is over, and the school playground is blissfully quiet. I see only a handful of others out for a walk with their dogs. I’m walking with myself.

Walking or sitting, I feel the weight of what we call ‘old age.’ I now understand that being old means not having a flight plan.

I’m a diehard maker of lists/flight plans. I like checking off my lists. Lately, however, the lists have become weights. The kind I carry around from one day to the next because I didn’t do all those things, thanks to unpredictable turns of event or the weather or how well I did or did not sleep last night.

Old age is not for sissies. Do I have a plan now for each day? No, I do not, with a few exceptions:

  • I will eat
  • I will sleep as needed
  • I will fill the birdseed feeders
  • I will make sure the birdies and Smudge have fresh, clean water
  • I will love D

Period, the end.

Well, except for one more thing. Copies of Without a Flight Plan are available at Amazon.com in various countries. I am also giving them away as requested and possible. However, if poetry isn’t your thing, I will not be offended. In fact, I will thank you for reading this far! Forgive me if I wander. I understand it’s allowed at this age.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 August 2022
Photo of snow geese near Mount Baker, Washington, USA, found at correre.org

Sabbath Rest Memories | Photos revisited

In April 2016 I broke my jaw, then had them wired for 4-5 weeks. D and I had already talked about a cruise. After much ado about whether it would work for me, we took the leap (after the wires were removed). The cruise was wonderful! For me it was a huge rest, with minimal responsibilities, and lots of wonderful food (chosen by me), plus daily opportunities to visit windmills, castles, cathedrals, and parks. 

~~~~~

One year ago D and I, with our daughter and son-in-law were enjoying a huge once-in-a-lifetime cruise down the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Here are random favorites that depict the heart, if not the full reality of Sabbath rest. The ducks at the top are showing how it’s done. We spotted them at Kinderdijk. The photos below were taken on the way to Cologne and in one of the parks there.

For starters, here’s a photo of me sound asleep, doing Nothing.
Just looking at this makes me go all limp.
And what about those snazzy socks!

Here are some rather limp cattle we passed along the way.
They didn’t even look up or ask what we were doing!
Just kept napping, chewing their cud, and chilling out.

Not to be outdone by cattle,
this water fowl family is getting into the spirit of things, too.
Doing mostly nothing but enjoying an outing together.

And here’s a young couple also doing nothing
but resting and enjoying this beautiful view of the river.
I wonder who they are?

Here they are again!
We saw them quite often during the cruise.
They smiled a lot. Definitely a sign of Sabbath joy.

Well look at that!
This Sabbath rest thing seems to be popular with everyone.
Especially when it means enjoying nature.

Here’s our trusty photographer, aka D,
taking a picture of himself in front of a reflective screen.
He’s enjoying relaxed time in his very relaxed outfit!
You don’t have to dress up for Sabbath rest, you know.

Nearby was this calm bunny taking great joy in a favorite snack!

There’s that good-looking couple again!
They look like they’re enjoying each other and nature and
a complete break from their normal busy, creative lives.
Just as I’m trying to do right now.

You might say nature enjoys Sabbath every day.
But sometimes it outdoes itself with beauty. Natural beauty.
This looks like Sabbath-day best to me.

And this little bee is having the feast of a lifetime.
You might say its cup is running over with joy and delight.

Back on the cruise ship, D got this evening shot of
the Cologne Cathedral, spires pointing upwards.
A silent reminder of the source of our life, our rest and our joy.

Blessings of peace and rest to each of you.
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 July 2017, reposted 6 August 2022
Photos taken by DAFraser, Summer 2016 Viking Cruise

song birds caroling

song birds caroling
sun breaking through mist-drenched air
dropping dew drumming

* * * * *

A mini rainforest

reverberating voices

shimmering light-rays and

drenched greenery

enfold me within

a universe of

hushed gladness

reorienting

my steps, my thoughts

my sense of wonder

bathing me in

peaceful anticipation

on my journey home

~~~

Another of my favorites from my first year of blogging. Visiting my early WordPress posts is stirring up old memories of people and places I’ve known or visited. The photo at the top reminds me of multiple forests I’ve hiked in with D and family members.

Thanks for stopping by! Today I’m taking it easy, resting after a fruitful shopping spree with D yesterday.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2014; reposted 3 August 2022
Photo found at pixabay.com

The Long and Short of it

A ping pong in my mind
Spins from one reality to another

Grounded
I know I’m not lost
But the feelings in my bones
And in my feet keep
Bouncing back and forth

Stricken
By the deaths of colleagues
And friends I feel lost in the
Immensity and beauty of life
Wondering how long this will last

Drunk
By the glory of nature
Around but not in me
My eyes and ears turn into gluttons
For the beauty this earth

The photo at the top was my best effort at finding a photo remotely like an old postcard I received from my seminary theology professor, Dr. Paul King Jewett. It’s dated 1 July 1977. It showed up in a drawer of personal items I’ve saved over the years.

This past week two of my seminary colleagues died: Dr. J. Deotis Roberts, and Dr. Ron Sider. In addition, one of my seminary students from the mid-1990s died. Then just yesterday, I attended (via You Tube) a memorial service for a prominent member of our church.

All of this pushes me to stay focused on the glorious and inglorious parts of my life. Especially peripheral neuropathy in my feet. I now have a spiffy cane that accompanies me on my walks around the neighborhood. I don’t always need it. Nonetheless, it gives me confidence. Especially when I walk across a field or stroll past unruly dogs!

Within the last week I’ve begun using a series of online exercises. They’re offered by an Australian physiotherapist at MoreLifeHealth.com. No drugs. Just simple, daily exercises to strengthen and relax my feet and legs. Free. He also offers help for patients with peripheral neuropathy in their hands. Here’s a link to all his videos for various health issues.

Hoping your week is both challenging and uplifting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 July 2022
Painting by Albert Bierstadt, circa 1876; Found at Wikimedia Commons

the sound of silence

cascading waves break
in calm rhythmic procession—
fiddler crabs scurry

* * * * *

I loved trips to the beach on Tybee Island
back in the 1950s when it wasn’t famous, and
sunblock and skin cancer seemingly hadn’t been discovered.

Anyone could just drive out for the day,
slather oily suntan lotion all over,
soak in the beauty and vastness of the ocean,
and ignore the gritty sand that seeped into everything.
PB and jelly sandwiches never tasted better.

Today when I visit a quiet seashore with a beach
it becomes a little homecoming:
Nurturing, reconnecting, relaxing, larger than life itself.
Not unlike everyday homecomings
that mesmerize and ground me:

the hum of summer cicadas
the sound of wind rustling through trees
a steady heartbeat
slow rhythmic breathing
sunrise transforming the morning sky
moon and stars suspended in a crystal-clear night sky
clouds of gnats swarming in the air
sweet robin-song at dusk
fireflies flickering on and off
bats dancing in the evening sky
flocks of snow geese taking elegant flight
Canadian geese traveling noisily across the autumn sky
human voices echoing faintly across the water
multicolored flowers shimmering in a distant garden
clouds drifting across an Atchison blue sky
the sound of silence

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 June 2014
Photo found at VisitSavannah.com
~~~

Yes, I’m still here. Slowly but surely making progress on home projects I’ve put off for a while. They include a book of poetry I’ve published on WordPress. Not everything, but pieces that paint a picture of my life as I experienced it. I may not get through a review of all of them. Nonetheless, it’s worth taking time to look back and think about where I was and where I am now. The poem above is included in the collection I’m putting together.

Thank you for your presence in my life. Especially given today’s often strange, unpredictable world filled with pain, agony, and daily reports of things falling apart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 July 2022 

triumphs and trophies

Smudge Bowl

triumphs and trophies

artfully spaced on his plate–

Smudge the Conqueror!

* * *

poetry in motion

he positions each precious treasure

precisely as he alone imagines it

before bowing his head low

to savor his hard-won

succulent entrée

featuring

feathered pea protein, duck, chicken and assorted fish flavors

compliments of Her Royal Highness

Queen Elouise

~~~

This morning I rediscovered this fun poem. It captures at least some of the frustration and glory of having a meticulous cat. Here’s hoping your day includes a wonderful surprise or two!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 June 2014, reposted 20 July 2022
Photo taken by Elouise

Vitamin D, Crows, and Daylilies

I’m feeling my way through
our neighborhood one step
at a time though a misstep
could end in heartbreak

Released from four walls
I find strange solace as
nature surrounds me with
glory and the piercing cries
of crows being chased by
tiny sparrows protecting
their nests and their young

An uninvited insect lands
on my ring finger thinking
I might have something to
offer though it’s way past
breakfast time as midday
sunshine streams down on
my naked arms depositing
bits of vitamin D as ordered
by the doctor just yesterday

I find myself at loose ends these days. Doing what I can on my lists, and leaving the rest. All too soon, however, I’m starving for whatever I’ve decided to leave undone. Such as writing poetry.

For the last few weeks I’ve been walking outside in the morning as often as the weather permits. About a week ago I got my new light-weight walking cane, which makes things easier.

Invariably, I end up feeling teary (in a happy way) when I see towering trees, hear scores of birds singing, or pass a friendly walker or two. Yesterday, I even had the opportunity to stomp out a red lantern fly! And never a day passes without daylilies breaking out all over.

Surely some of this deserves to be written down and passed along. Especially in these troubled times.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2022
Photo of daylilies found at pixabay.com

Terror, Faith, 9/11/2001 and Today

It’s no accident, this constant ringing in my head each time another unplanned attack takes place on home turf.

We have a long-practiced habit here in the USA. Instead of focusing on our personal problems, we focus intently on those of others. That includes leaders and residents of the USA as well as those of other countries.

Whether we like it or not, our bluff is being called every day and night. Instead of learning to live together as human beings, we’ve majored on becoming a country divided against itself. Worse, we don’t seem ready to examine ourselves as part of the problem.

Back in 2001, I spoke at a seminary-wide gathering to consider the still-fresh bombing of the twin towers in NYC. The only thing I could do with honesty was speak about myself, acknowledging my own lack of readiness to die in an instant.

Here’s what I said then and am saying again today in light of home-grown terror that’s tearing us apart.

It’s difficult to focus.
Voices and images
clamor for my attention,
my response,
my analysis of what is beyond all reason.

I force myself to stay close to the bone,
close to home, close to my Christian roots.

Death is in the room.
Not a new presence,
not even unexpected.

It, too, clamors for my attention,
masquerading in terrible new configurations.

I don’t want to die,
especially if I must suffer in my death.

From the throne of his cross,
the king of grief cries out….
‘Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by?’

There is no redemption
apart from suffering and death.
None.

I want to be redeemed.
I do not want to die, or to suffer.
I am not a very likely candidate for redemption.

Death is relentlessly in this room.
My death.
Your death.
Christ’s death.

Unfinished family business is in this room.
Violent behaviors and attitudes
passed down from father to daughter;
Habits of not telling the truth,
passed down from mother to daughter;
Withholding of love and affection,
Relentless inspection and fault-finding,
Love wanting expression but finding no voice,
Truth wanting expression but finding no listening ear.

Unfinished family business is in the room with death–
A gnawing ache more than my body can bear.

I like to think I’m ready to die.
But I am not.
Nor will I ever be.
Not today, not tomorrow,
Not in a thousand tomorrows.

If I say I am ready to die,
I deceive myself,
and the truth is not in me.

There’s always more work to be done–
Unfinished family business
Unfinished seminary business
Unfinished church and community business
Unfinished personal business

Christ died to relieve me
of the awful, paralyzing expectation
that one of these days
I will finally be ready to die.

Christ finished his work so that
I could leave mine unfinished
without even a moment’s notice.

The Heidelberg Catechism says it all–

“What is your only comfort in life and death?

“My only comfort, in life and in death, is that I belong–body and soul, in life and in death–not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ….”

These days I’m praying for small ways to make lifegiving connections with those I love and those I too often love to hate.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 July 2022
News photo found at http://www.nbcnews.com

Tell me if you can, if you dare–

I wrote the poem below early in my blogging days. Back in the 1940s and 50s, I was the oldest of four daughters. My father was an ordained clergyman, loved by many, feared by me. It seems life in these “United States” is becoming more and more like my childhood. Especially, but not only, for women of any age. 

I’m grateful for women and men who helped me become the human I am today. Today I don’t bear a grudge against my father. I do, however, see my experience as a window into unnumbered worlds of madness for too many women, children, teenagers, and men. The calling of politicians, church leaders, or pimps is NOT to force us into the mold of their making. 

When did it all begin?
When did I enter your supply chain?
When did I become a commodity, a disposable object
not for sale but for use on demand,
with or without pay?

When did I become your toy
to imagine as prey,
to stalk, hunt down,
toss around and torment
with or without warning?

When did I become candy for your eyes,
your imagination,
the desires of your heart?

When did it all begin?
Was it the moment I was born?
The moment you laid your eyes on me?
Then your rules, your hands, your cane,
your ruler, and wooden spoon paddle?

When did paddling become beating?
As though you could whip me into shape.

What did you see in me?
A human being created in God’s image?
Or just another rebellious, angry, willful little girl—
A challenge to your male authority.
A game, an object to be studied, touched, scolded,
played with, experimented with,
held close/held at bay, shamed, humiliated,
denied voice, dignity, will and privacy.

What were you thinking?

When did I become a projection of your stern will
and your lonely, terrified heart?
Not even a ghost of myself
No matter what I wore or didn’t wear
What I said or didn’t say
How I said it or didn’t say it
What I did or didn’t do

When did I become your enemy to be hunted down and subdued,
locked in the bar-less cage of your aching, demanding,
never-satisfied self?

Tell me if you can, if you dare—
When did it all begin?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 June 2014, reposted 5 July 2022
Image found at thewei.com

baptismal waters

I’m working on a book of poems selected from my blog. This morning I came to this description of my mother’s “baptism” not long before her death. The setting is a not-for-profit hospice near my parents’ home in Savannah, Georgia. Reading this account always makes me tear up with gratitude and sadness. 

baptismal waters
rise gently enfolding her
world-weary body

* * * * *

I’m standing in a windowless, high-ceiling concrete room
with a concrete floor, drainage holes and air vents.
A deep whirlpool tub stands in the middle
filled with warm steamy water.
The room faintly resembles a large sauna minus the wood.
Functional, not beautiful.

Mother is in hospice care after suffering a stroke weeks ago
and then developing pneumonia in the hospital.
Her ability to communicate with words is almost nonexistent.
Today she’s going to be given a bath.
I’m told she loves this, and that
Sister #4 and I are welcome to witness the event.

For the past hour caregivers have been preparing her–
removing her bedclothes, easing her onto huge soft towels,
rolling and shifting her inch by inch onto a padded bath trolley,
doing all they can to minimize pain and honor her body.
Finally, they slowly roll the trolley down the hall.

The hospice sauna room echoes with the sound of
feet, soft voices, and running water.
It takes a team to carry out this comforting
though strange and even unnerving ritual.
Mother is safely secured to the padded bath table and
then lowered slowly into the water.
Her eyes are wide open.

For a few moments she fixes her eyes on mine.
The table  descends bit by bit.
How does she feel?
What is she thinking?
At  first her eyes seem anxious.
Is she afraid?
The warm waters rise around her and the table stops descending.
Her face relaxes and she closes her eyes.

The team works gently, thoroughly, not in haste.
They focus on her, talk to her and handle her body with reverence.
My eyes brim with tears.
This woman who bathed me, my three sisters
and most of her grandbabies is being given a bath
by what appears to be a team of angels in celestial garments.

They finish their work and roll Mother back to her room.
Her bed has clean sheets.
Fresh bedclothes have been laid out.
Caregivers anoint her body with oil and lotion, turn her gently,
and comment on how clear and beautiful her skin is.
They finish clothing her, adjust the pillows to cradle her body,
pull up light covers and leave her to fall asleep.

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2014, reposted 28 June 2022
Photo found at pixabay.com

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