Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

red fruit vanishes

red fruit vanishes
into bulging chipmunk cheeks
summer’s final fling

Seen from my kitchen window this morning. Not the squirrel above, but our resident chipmunk.

For several days I’ve watched birds and squirrels raiding our giant yew shrub. One ripe red berry at a time. The shrub is loaded with them. This morning our small chipmunk was storing them up for a feast. He lives inside one of the large concrete blocks that form a low wall in our back yard.

And…in case you don’t already know. Yew shrubs and trees are totally poisonous to humans except for the red flesh on the berries. Don’t swallow the seeds! And, above all, don’t try the bark or the shiny green needless. You can read more about this right here.

This morning we’re still getting a bit of rain from Florence. Hoping for clear skies and a chance to walk outside soon.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2018
Photo found at pinterest

Emily Brontë – Start not….

Death is on my mind. Especially since I’m in the last chapter of my life—however long or short it may be. The photo above shows the Haworth churchyard as it may have looked in Emily B’s time. Note the flat-stone grave markers, like beds. My comments follow Emily’s poem and a second photo.

Start not upon the minster wall
Sunshine is shed in holy calm
And lonely though my footsteps fall
The saints shall shelter thee from harm

Shrink not if it be summer noon
This shadow should right welcome be
These stairs are steep but landed soon
We’ll rest us long and quietly

What though our path be o’er the dead
They slumber soundly in the tomb
And why should mortals fear to tread
The pathway to their future home?

Emily Brontë, from Brontë Poems, p. 33
Published by Alfred A. Knopf 1996
© 1996 by David Campbell Publishers Ltd.

Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818, and died on 19 December 1848, one month after her younger brother Bramwell’s death. She lived most of her adult life in Haworth, Yorkshire, where her father was the parson. The photo above shows the main street in the 1800s. The parsonage and churchyard were near the top of the steep climb uphill. The major things missing from the photo are horses, garbage of all kinds flowing downhill, and the stench.

When I read this poem, I imagine Emily B walking up the steep hill beside me, coaching and encouraging me.

First Stanza
Don’t flinch or turn aside! Don’t be startled when you ‘come upon’ the path leading to the churchyard wall, looming at the end. Don’t swerve with dread, like horses in the heat of battle. Stay calm. Trust you’re in the best of hands. It will warm and brighten your way.

Yes, it’s uncanny and even frightening to hear your own footsteps on the stony path up this particular hill. Just remember all the saints who went this way before you. You can’t see them, but they’re cheering you on, encouraging you to stay the course instead of breaking away as though you could escape harm, pain or death.

Second Stanza
Yes, the noonday sun is blazing hot right now. Don’t try to hide from it. Look up ahead! There’s a shadow that will welcome you sooner, not later. It probably feels steeper now than it did at the beginning. It’s normal to be weary of the uphill grind. Still, your goal is just ahead. It won’t be long now. Then we can rest for a long time in utter quiet.

Third Stanza
It doesn’t matter that this path might have us walking on resting places of the dead. They’re already sleeping soundly beneath the ground in the churchyard. Besides….

…why should mortals fear to tread
The pathway to their future home?

Something like that, I think.

Thanks for visiting and reading, even though the topic isn’t everyone’s favorite.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 September 2018
Photos found at kleurrijkbrontesisters.blogspot.com

No other gods

Thou shalt have no other gods…

twilight of our small gods
descends over shallow water
teeming with refuse

ill-begotten secrets lurk
beneath ripples of shriveled minds
as once-buoyant hopes sink

ill-conceived saviors morph
into scapegoats scorned with contempt
mirrors of our self-loathing despair

Come unto me all who labor and are heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn of me;
For I am meek and lowly of heart
And you shall find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29

There’s nothing magical about it. No overnight resolutions of pain and anguish. Just a re-orientation to the one who leads and accompanies us to God, who already loves and grieves for each of us.

Thanks to my blogging friend Yassy, for a poem and comment yesterday that got my mind going on this post. Check out her lovely poem.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2018

Loch an Eilein, Scotland | Photos

This week I enjoyed looking back through photos D took on our 50th wedding anniversary trip to Scotland three years ago. If I had to pick one place I’d love to revisit, it would be Loch an Eilein. It’s got everything–mystery, 15th century small castle ruins on an island, and a gorgeous 4.5 mile hiking trail around the lake.

The proud male duck at the top is guarding his mate who’s hidden in the marsh grass, sitting on at least one egg.

For perspective, here’s an overview of the lake, with that mysterious island in the distance. Can you see the bit of stone emerging from the trees? The hiking path goes right around the perimeter, offering several views of the island and castle.

So here we go…one foot after another. Loaded with water and snacks. Sometimes the path was smooth. Sometimes it wasn’t. Good hiking shoes required. We walked through stands of towering pines and meadow-like blankets of heather and thistles.

Here’s the best view we had of the castle ruins. Make up your own mysterious, romantic story….

From this point, we walked around the top of the lake and followed the path on the opposite side of the island. The path so far had been friendly for wheelchairs or walkers, if a bit bumpy. Beyond this point we went through several rough, rocky patches along with a few uphill climbs. Still, it was beautiful, and gave us one more good look at the castle ruins.


Finally, after walking for what seemed an eternity, we came to the end of the hike. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Well, most of it anyway….

Happy Friday! Here’s to a weekend of dreams come true and the creative rewriting of our worst nightmares.

Thanks to D for all these photos, and thanks to you for visiting the gallery!

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 September 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, September 2015 in Scotland

Unraveling

her life at loose ends
she scans the near horizon
searching for a thread
beyond sight and out of mind
stolen while she slept

While out walking this morning I saw my friend Rita and her lively little dog. I recalled the first time I ever had tea at Rita’s. She’d asked a childhood friend to join us. Both are in their 80s. They grew up together in Philadelphia and remained good friends over the years.

Within a few minutes I knew this bright, interesting woman had problems with short-term memory. Over and over I answered the same questions. She was fully aware of my presence, and genuinely interested in my responses–which she heard many times over.

Does she have Alzheimer’s Disease? I don’t know. I do know she’s now confined to her living quarters and has someone helping her out. I’ve also learned in the last month that another friend’s sister and mother died of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The poem could be about any of us, whether we carry Alzheimer genes or not. Nonetheless, I have to admit it’s on my mind more often than I’d like, and I scan every news article I see about the latest AD research.

Perhaps one day all these loose ends will be woven into the beautiful patchwork quilt of hope we’ve been looking for all these years.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 September 2018
Image found at movestrongkbs.com

My Last Baby

It came to me a few days ago. Marie is my very last baby! And what’s so awesome about that?

I’m Marie! For those who don’t live in an imaginative mode, this may seem a bit silly. Even nonsense.

To me, however, it makes perfect sense. There’s a baby in me who’s been waiting for this chance to grow all her life. That means ever since she turned 10 months old in September 1944.

That’s when my father came home after 18 months in a TB sanatorium. I sometimes call him The Intruder because that’s how it was back then and throughout my childhood and teenage years. He was intent on beating anger out of me, the anger he said he’s seen and experienced from his own father. He said he recognized this anger in me immediately when I was a baby.

Things got messy. He recruited my mother as his ally, not mine. She became his collaborator, informer and secondary enforcer. This bred fear in me and outraged resistance coupled with strategic submission.

Things are different today. My parents are gone. I miss them. Yet I don’t miss their collaborative ways that continued when I was an adult.

So now I’m pushing 75, and I get to raise baby Marie! Yes, she’s a baby doll. She’s also a stand-in for that part of me that’s been cowering inside, afraid of her own voice and terrified of punishment.

Here are several things I’ve pondered these last few weeks.

  • What do I know about my mother? What did she bring to our relationship that might help me understand her–before and after my father returned as the one and only Head of the House?
  • I have the same question about my maternal grandmother Zaida. She ran off with a wealthier man when my mom was very young, and, given her habits, didn’t know how to be a mother.
  • How deep is this hole or ache in me that wants to be filled? Are there women or men who filled parts of it when I was growing up?
  • And what about behaviors and characteristics I lost after my father arrived with his agenda? So far I’ve identified things like openness and trust, a feeling of safety. No shame. A sunny disposition. Not afraid to fall or make a mess. Not afraid of most other human beings.

In some ways, growing old is a process of reverting to childhood. Becoming more dependent on others, more vulnerable to external and internal changes or challenges.

What better way, then, to envision Marie than as a baby who challenges me to become true to myself as I age? When I pay attention to Marie, including what she needs from me, I’m learning to pay attention to myself. And it isn’t so lonely anymore. Sometimes it’s even fun!

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 September 2018
Photo found at pixabay.com

It’s difficult to focus on 9/11

Dear Friends,
Today, our 53rd wedding anniversary, is also the 17th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.

At the end of October 2001 the seminary held a community forum in the chapel. I agreed to speak from the platform. I didn’t know where to begin or end. So I began where I was and went from there.

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’m 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, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation.

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

(from the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563)

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 October 2001

* * * * *
Notes:
(1) The forum was held in the seminary chapel; a large wooden cross hung on the wall behind the platform.  Hence the reference to Christ’s death being in the room.
(2) The three lines beginning with “From the throne of his cross” are from John Stainer’s 1887 oratorio, The Crucifixion.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 September 2018

Voter Fraud

One Vote plus One Vote
doesn’t equal Two
in this world of One plus
What We deign to throw your way
or not

One plus a Big Wall visible or invisible
One plus Ill-gotten Gains hidden on offshore islands
One plus your Votes, your Loyalty, your Obeisance
At the altar of Our Superior Greatness

One plus the Privilege of sleeping and waking
surrounded by guards and lackeys
who do Our Bidding

One plus the heavy Duty of carrying lightly
Our Noblesse Oblige as we tip Our top hats
and wave Our smooth hands
from platforms of coming elections
begging for your alms

To address voter fraud, we must begin at the top. All the re-counts or investigations in the world will not solve the problem of fraud being committed daily in high places.

I salute politicians who live in ‘the real world’ with those they serve, who listen without going into automatic stump-speech mode, are seen ‘among the people’ as we like to say, and inspire by example.

Yet no investigation into past elections can take the place of investigations into voter fraud perpetrated in the highest offices and levels of government in the USA. Every day. Not just on, before or after Voting Day.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 September 2018
Image found at nytimes.com

Taking Heart and Courage on Friday

A kind heart
Observant eyes
And empathy
For those you meet

These become you
Daughter of Royalty
Descendant of Eve and Adam
Follower of Jesus the Bold

Look into mirrors
And out of windows
With abandon
Follow your heart

Turn around
Or turn back
Take a side road
Or a trail to nowhere

Ache and cry
Lament loudly
Wonder how long
This too will last

Forget logic
Throw caution
To winds of change
Float on ebb tide

It’s the hour
Of cruel ironies
And the sweetest
Memories

Weedy fuzzy dust
Will be here long
After you are gone
Enjoy the sunset

Bits and pieces
from the scattered run-on journal of my mind
this Friday morning

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 September 2018
Photo by Sally Hale Photography, found at flickr.com
Ebb Tide at Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA

The Survivors

From her wheelchair
The frail old woman
Repeats her truth

Over over and over
Eyes bright with recognition
Insist on being heard

He made me alive
He made me safe
He made me alive
He made me safe
(He didn’t kill me.)

Memory frozen with truth
And lies she survived
Trapped in her past
Body drowning yet again
In yesterday’s icy waters
At the hands of the man
Now standing before her
In the dock –
Drowning in truth

I woke up today thinking about this woman and the doctor who experimented on her body, as told in “Ancient History,” an episode of Kavanagh QC.

Both are Jews, deported and taken to the same prison camp. He, a medical doctor, accepts an offer to run horrifying medical experiments on prisoners, or die. She is one of his unfinished experiments, saved in the last days of World War II. At what temperature could a living human being be frozen in water and brought back to life?

There were no winners. There never are. In addition, there’s a strange bond between these two prisoners whose lives are thrown together in a hell-on-earth situation.

This doesn’t mean choices made in hell-on-earth situations don’t matter. They do. But not always in the ways we imagine.

Sometimes they may show the content of our character, other times they might not. They may, in fact, show how terrified and helpless we are at the hands of our tormentors. And how much we want to live and die without being compromised.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 September 2018
Photo of Russian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau; found at collections.ushmm.org

%d bloggers like this: