Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Ghouls and Fools

Behold my four ghouls
Some greater than others
Designed to affright
disgust or delight

Traditional Irish Jack-‘o-Lantern (above) inhabits
the Museum of Country Life in Ireland

Modern carving of a Cornish Jack-‘o-Lantern
made from a turnip

Modern carving of a North American
Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkin
designed, hand carved and photographed
by my delightfully irrepressible Sister #3, Diane
who died of ALS in February 2006

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

2020 Comment: This old 2017 post is already getting looks, so here it is! The original title was Ghoulish Gallery. The changed title (Ghouls and Fools) is an obscure, slightly hidden archaic reference to our current State of Affairs only two weeks away from the 2020 Election.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 October 2017, reposted 21 October 2020
Halloween witch image found at pinterest.com
Images of Cornish and Irish Jack-‘o-Lanterns found at Wickipedia
Photo of Jack-‘o-Lantern pumpkin taken by Diane Renich Kelley

What it looks like to be brave

This is my first attempt to clarify what it looks like for me to be brave today.

Being brave means

  • Not second-guessing myself or my language.
  • Not wondering whether people will like or believe what I say or write.

Given my age and health, bravery is chiefly about spoken and written speech.

  • How willing am I to be blunt, no matter who is listening/reading?
  • How willing am I to become a learner, not just by reading books, but by listening to what others say about me as a white citizen of the USA?

Signs I’m being brave:

  • Giving up more rules for good white girls and women, enforced directly and indirectly since the day I was born
  • Engaging in conversation or not, as I choose
  • Taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually
  • Speaking my mind and engaging in conversations that matter
  • Feeling both clear and out of control

Being brave isn’t measured by

  • What my father would say or think
  • What my church friends, pastor, or former colleagues and students would say or think
  • What my readers think about what I write

So what’s at stake?

  • It isn’t whether we can get along.
  • It’s whether white citizens of the USA are willing to look into our long history of racism without making excuses or trying to explain things away.
  • It’s also whether churches and religious institutions will take racism seriously, no matter whether they supported it directly or indirectly.

It’s also about

  • What I do or write in response to what I’m learning and seeing daily.
  • Being clear about what I need to hear about from the pulpit regarding racism.

In the final analysis, the goal isn’t to change other people. It’s to change me.

Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting if you’d like!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 October 2020
Quotation found at pinterest.com

It’s Monday morning!

Coming in for a landing
jostling for space
grabbing the prize
and gobbling it down
or flitting away to
a private dining room
in the brilliant maple tree
they swarm like bees

Red-bellied woodpeckers
hairy and downy woodpeckers
an occasional flicker
house finches and sparrows
tufted titmice and chickadees
red-bellied nuthatches
and plain black and white nuthatches
red cardinals and reddish-brown mamas
plus uncertain adolescents
interrupted occasionally
by raucous blue jays jumping
up and down and all over
our squirrel-proof birdfeeder

I wanted to come upstairs
and write a letter to you
but the birds kept calling out
with their happy dances plus
indiscriminate pooping on the porch rail
while Smudge slept soundly
on his special rocking chair
in the living room
resting from his nighttime
take-down of a baby cricket

It’s Monday morning
and I’m feeling rather frisky
and just a bit bold if not brave
Autumn is the most poignant
season of all with its nonstop
invitation to dance as leaves
flutter to the ground sparkling
with golden glory next to cast-off
pods from birdseed plus the other
stuff too all over the place
like a spatter paint job on
porch and lawn feeding the aging
grass with free fertilizer from above

A bit of nonsense, and a prayer that your week will be full of unexpected surprises of the good kind. Happy Monday, no matter what!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 October 2020
Photo of female Red-Bellied Woodpecker found at pilotonline.com

Am I brave?

Where is my center?
The one thing that matters
Above all else

What is truth?
Not what I see with my eyes
But enact in my life

Brave
I want to be brave again
I think

Yesterday’s bravery looks on
With bated breath
Was it for real or not?

Since childhood
I’ve prepared for this moment
Without a map

Now I’m a grown-up
Battle-worn and wondering
Can I do this again?

I don’t generally think of myself as a brave woman. Determined? Yes. But not brave.

My life has been a series of interruptions by men. Some were accustomed to taking over and talking over others. They seemed to be the truly brave players on the scene. People like my father, my first boss, some male pastors with whom I’ve worked, male teachers and professors, male board members, presidents, vice-presidents and colleagues. Sometimes male students.

They seemed to sound ‘brave,’ if not always wise. At best I might have called myself ‘disciplined.’ But even that sounds weak. Especially now, in a world reeling from a dearth of true bravery. The kind that moves ahead without knowing how this is going to end. Without hanging onto ‘power over’ other people. Without the need to prove something personally, or make sure this turns out right.

Most Christian churches with majority white members are likely in need of brave leaders. I’m not an official church leader. I’m a retired theologian. Nonetheless, it’s time to step up. Time to become brave yet again. This time without apology or fear of what people may think about me.

There’s too much at stake to put my trust in niceness, or even in making sure I’ve gotten every word in the right place, spoken or written in the right way, at the right time.

I’ve begun reading Brenda Salter McNeil’s Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now. I’ll say more about it in a later post. It’s a great read so far.

Thanks for visiting and reading. On another note, my poem, Haunted, has been published in a South Georgia newspaper. In addition, my primary care physician asked for it–to use in a small discussion group the practice has begun.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 October 2020
Image found at StarTribuneBaltimore.com

Smudge’s Health

How quickly life’s pages turn
Without an option to return
To yesterday’s life now fading

Everything changed in the time it took
To close and later open the front door
To unexpected pain and agony

Looking into our cat’s eyes I see
He already knows something is amiss
As he hobbles up to greet me

Smudge isn’t well. All day yesterday I thought about how hard it was to let our first two cats go. The first was 2 years old. The second was an overripe 19 years. Both were euthanized due to health issues. Now it seems Smudge’s days are fewer than we thought they would be. He’s about 7 years old.

The vet says he has a small heart murmur. It wasn’t there last year. He also thinks Smudge may be suffering from a small blood clot that lodged in his right back foot. He’s now on a very small baby aspirin dose every other day. If his foot pads are warm, that’s a good sign. Today they’re warm. Still, the likelihood that he’ll return to ‘normal’ isn’t high.

We tried to contact several cat cardiologists yesterday (referrals from our vet). To no avail. Maybe today? Covid-19 has made everything more difficult, including getting an appointment with a cat cardiologist. Sadly, I haven’t found one article that sounded upbeat about this particular health issue in cats. How long might Smudge beat the odds?

The last few days felt like a very sad dream. Today I’m being extra kind to Prince Oliver Smudge the Second. He still makes me laugh, and tugs at my heart. What’s a cat-lover to do?

Thanks for listening and empathizing.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 October 2020
Photo taken above our kitchen sink by ERFraser, July 2014

What will we sing at our funeral?

After the post-election fight
(There will surely be one)
After things said and done
(Never to be taken back)
Who are we?
Who are you?
Who are ‘they’?
Who am I?
Do we know how to live together?
Do we know ourselves?

The election pales before
Post-election realities
We can’t turn the clock back
The ticking never stops
Hours chime down
And then ahead despite
Agonies of loss and outrage
From either side of this drama

This country simmers
On the brink of boiling over
Into a million public and private
Wars of attrition and retribution
Burning to the ground every sign of
National good will or peace on earth

“My country, ‘tis of Thee sweet land of liberty?”
What will we sing at our funeral?

I pray I’m wrong. Yet there are already signs of kick-back. White Power individuals and groups are moving to take things into their own hands. Meanwhile, POTUS looks the other way, or acknowledges them publicly in ways that encourage them.

Who will be our true leaders in this unmapped territory? What are my values? What does it mean to follow Jesus no matter where this path takes me?

If my preferred candidates don’t win, will my values or direction suddenly change? Or am I willing to join and keep learning from children, women and men who live all their lives, as Jesus did, without the assumption of good will or peace on earth?

Praying we’ll find our way together,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2020
Map found at pinterest.com

The Naming of Cats

In Honor Of Prince Oliver Smudge the Second, aka Smudge,
Who spent his royal time this day being transported by his Proud Owners,
Queen Elouise and King David, to and from His Royal Highness’ doctor’s office

Nothing life threatening. Just a nagging pain in his right rear paw pads. It takes all the fun out of rough-housing and running around the house chasing mice and crickets. Still, he’s to see a cat heart doctor in the next few weeks to find out how serious his newly diagnosed heart flutter is and what to do about it. In the meantime, he gets to be all lazy and fawned over. What a life!

No, I didn’t plan this post for today. It just happened, folks. However, I’m well into James Cones’ book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. I’m also reading W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and re-reading slowly Mary Oliver’s slender volume of poems, Thirst.

Yesterday evening, I played my piano for the first time in months. We bought it right after our daughter was born in 1970. It traveled with us from South Carolina to Southern California to Nashville, Tennessee, to Pennsylvania. As beautiful as ever.

Smudge has always left the living room when I’ve started playing. He loves to walk all over it (lid closed on the keyboard!), but seems allergic to my playing. Last night, however, he wasn’t feeling as frisky as usual, and stayed right on his chair while I played.

Hoping your days are filled with beauty, truth and hope. Not because the sun is going to come out tomorrow, but because creation never stops playing music for us. We just have to listen for it. Not to deny the seriousness of life, but to baptize life today with a different kind of truth. Truth that reminds us of our Creator’s presence no matter what happens next.

Thanks for visiting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 October 2020
Poem and image found at tumblr.com

Messenger | Mary Oliver

This is the opening poem in Mary Oliver’s slim volume, Thirst. The volume is dedicated to her partner of many years, Molly Malone Cook, who died in 2005. My comments follow.

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Death stares us in the face daily. Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, raging forest fires, climate change and more bring it home.

No matter which political and/or religious side you’re on, we live in the world of 2020, not 2019. As I see it, we’re in a national and international valley of death. Some self-inflicted; some visited on us unawares.

Given these realities, what are we now to do?

In the midst of her valley of death, Mary Oliver seeks to clarify her work. Yes, she grieves the loss of her partner. In addition, she wants to know why she’s still alive, and what the meaning of her life is now.

Though I still have my partner, this is my question as well. What am I called to do and say right now, in this world of Covid-19 et al? Not in a drab and dreary way, but in a way that conveys my love for this world, focuses on what matters, remains open to the miracle of joy, overflows with gratitude, and proclaims “how it is that we live forever.” Not for ourselves alone, but for this world starving for love and for life.

We matter, singly and together. No matter how defeated or discouraged we feel.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 October 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

My week in review – with Smudge

Smudge watching our squirrel-proof birdfeeder

This past week felt like an out of control rollercoaster. Up one moment, down the next. Clearly running out of steam. I thought I had this Covid-19 lifestyle all sorted out.

There’s something diabolical about maintaining a Covid-19 lifestyle while watching Covid-19 cases rise, POTUS tank, voting procedures being weaponized, fires on the West Coast, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and general disarray throughout a country that now feels more like fiefdoms. Oh…not to forget the plot to kidnap a female governor and begin an internal uncivil war. This is not a joke.

Nothing is so discouraging as watching POTUS & Crew flounder daily. No, I don’t watch or listen to the news all day. Just once a day is more than enough.

Thankfully, I accomplished several things this week. First, I voted by mail, using a friendly drop box at a nearby library. Done! Second, I had my annual “Wellness Visit” for old folks. The major goal is to identify elderly citizens who need further follow-up or help. I’m happy to say both D and I got a pass for the coming year. We also got flu shots. Mine hurt for several days. D’s didn’t. Life is so unfair.

While talking with my wonderful primary care doctor, she asked about my writing. I told her about my poem, Haunted, including the fact that I sent it off along with a letter to the editor of a local south George weekly newspaper. She requested a copy of the letter and the poem! Why? Because some members of this family practice have begun a voluntary small group meeting to talk about issues including racism. I was stoked and grateful.

As for the photo below, I didn’t see the dead mouse until I finished breakfast. No, Smudge didn’t eat it. The poor little mouse is now somewhere on its way to dust. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the way Smudge chose to announce his overnight triumph!

Little things mean a lot. Especially now.

Praying you’re finding your way through these strange days.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 October 2020
Photos of Smudge taken by ERFraser, late September, and 9 October 2020

To fight aloud, is very brave — | Emily Dickinson

charge_of_the_light_brigade

~~~Charge of the Light Brigade, painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.

What does it mean to be brave? Emily Dickinson gets right to the heart of things with her focus on true heroes. My comments follow.

To fight aloud, is very brave –
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe –

Who win, and nations do not see –
Who fall – and none observe –
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love –

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go –
Rank after Rank, with even feet –
And Uniforms of Snow.

c. 1859

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

The USA is besotted with romantic notions of Bravery. Captivated by monuments to those who fell to ‘ensure our freedom.’ Memorials to those who displayed Bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

We pause to honor those who stood or fell on our behalf. And yet….Who are the true heroes among us?

Emily’s poem is a slow, pensive hymn of remembrance for individuals who fought and fight battles, unseen and unacknowledged. Women, men, girls and boys more gallant than national heroes. In their hearts they charge daily against The Cavalry of Woe that would take them down in misery, sorrow, despair, pain, agony and defeat.

The poem, written in about 1859, brought to mind Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” along with paintings that memorialize tragedies.

Emily’s poem could also be a eulogy for uncounted heroes and heroines who bravely fought their internal enemies. Few, if any, know their names or the stories of their gallant deeds. Unseen and unsung, they remain hidden. Small bits of unexplored or never remembered history.

Does anyone notice or care? Emily does. She is one of these more gallant souls. Her poems remind us of her internal battles, though we don’t know what each was about.

Emily’s final stanza lifts up internal bravery for our respect, perhaps also for her personal comfort. She sees more than one Angel per warrior. Imagine it: unnumbered ranks of Angels process reverently in soft, snowy plumes. Their uniforms drop blankets of snow around and over uncounted heroes and heroines. Snowy flags of honor drape each unsung warrior who charged bravely ahead against all odds.

Angels also recognize the bravery of patriotic heroes, though not because of visible service. No one gets a pass when dealing with the internal Cavalry of Woe threatening daily to undo us.

My heart has been an unseen battlefield most of my life. It’s littered with spoils of war—war I’ve waged against my Cavalry of Woe. I fought much of it silently, assuming I was a loser. The woes weren’t strange or unusual, but common and everyday. Things like Fear of Harsh Punishment, Getting through Harsh Punishment, Perfectionism, Depression, Self-loathing, Self-doubt, Fear of Abandonment, Fear of Speaking in My Own Voice.

Whether we believe we’re gallant or not, Emily invites us to trust the cloud of Angel witnesses passing by, clothed in snow-white plumes. Reverently and respectfully they accompany us in life and in death. Honoring us as patriots who fought and still fight gallantly on behalf of our true selves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 Sept 2016, edited and reposted 8 Oct 2020
Painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.,
found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade

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