Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Please save a seat for me

Please save a seat for me
Out there
Within the Great Beyond
Where water flows
And falls
And drips
Its mist upon my hair
And canopies
Of bamboo leaves
Sway gently to and fro

Simple chairs
Would be enough
No thrones
Or special seats
Just friends and strangers
Gathered there
As part of
Your parade
Within this low-hung vault
Of heavenly earth’s delights

A Carolina wren broke into song just outside my window as I was writing this. So beautiful! My favorite year-round songbird, no matter how cold it gets.

The last couple of months have been full of pseudo-icy weather. Slippery. Unsettled. Not sure how things would turn out. All set in motion by our great waterbed leak at the end of July.

Things are now back together. Sort of. And the clock still ticks down. All day, every day.

I think we’re invited–even urged–to see heaven on this earth. Today! Looking back through our Longwood photos from last week, I had a little reminder that it’s as simple as showing up and paying attention.

Hoping you have a few heavenly moments today!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 October 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 7 October 2019, Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Monday morning photos | Longwood Fall 2019

What would we do without nature’s stunning beauty? Especially now, in the midst of disappointment, betrayals, upheavals, back-stabbings and fury. Here’s a quick Monday-morning peek at the way nature reaches out to us.

Granted, it isn’t always pretty. It is, however, a reminder that whatever I think I am on this speck of dust, I’m not alone or forgotten.

The roses above are in a small rose garden at Longwood. It’s being redesigned, and will make its debut next spring. In the meantime, the gardeners created a mixed company of compatible plants, including roses.

Everything doesn’t always need to be in bright colors. On the way into the Visitor’s Center, we saw several gorgeous examples of fall beauty in browns and grays.

Finally, one last look at the small garden arrangement just outside the Visitor’s Center. An autumn extravaganza of enthusiasm!

The last several weeks have been filled with unexpected challenges. Last week’s visit to Longwood reminded me that we’re not alone, and that autumn has its own gracious and graceful beauty, unlike any other season.

Happy Monday to each of you, whether you’re in the autumn flameout years of your life or not.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser, 7 October 2019, Longwood Gardens

Ikebana and Chrysanthemums at Longwood 2019 | Photos

I’m in agony! Too many beautiful photos from our recent Longwood visit! Here’s a condensed version of what we saw in the main Conservatory. The Ikebana installations were stunning. Nothing fragile here. Just artists, often in teams, playing with flowers and bamboo and who knows what else to come up with these magnificent displays.

Here’s the information sign that stands beside the installation above.

For starters, here are a few chrysanthemum displays, beginning with the view down the center at the side entrance to the conservatory.

Here we have two medium-size installations standing at the opposite end of the stream. Notice their uses of materials.

The next conservatory room was a stunner. I wasn’t expecting anything like this:

After walking around the perimeter, we took a last look back. I love the beautiful ceiling, reflected in the water below and echoed in the weaving of bamboo leaves. All rather graceful and flowing.

After a deep breath, we turned around to see this installation right down the middle of the old conservatory entrance.

As a guide pointed out, both installations went through lengthy screening and certifications for safety. Especially the ‘bridge’ above, under which real live people would be walking. The two guides above are Longwood’s version of street patrols. Making sure nothing untoward happens to us or to this gorgeous entrance.

Finally, here are some of my favorite small installations. They’re scattered throughout the conservatory. Gems waiting for you to turn the corner!

We saw tons more than this. I’m tempted to do another Longwood post later. It was a wonderful day. Not too cold or hot; just-right breezy; not as many visitors as usual. And these stunning pieces of installation art. I loved it! I loved being with D! And I especially loved coming home to my lovely rocking chair and putting my feet up!

Thanks so much for visiting. Here’s to a wonderful Thursday and upcoming weekend.

Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 October 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser, 7 October 2019, Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Lost soulmates

Keeping up appearances
Grows costly and unrewarding
Except when you smile
With that boyish grin
The one that caught me
Unawares decades ago
Long before we knew
Anything about loving
Or keeping faith or how
Not to parent our children —
When we lost soulmates still
Needed parenting and loving
From the inside out of our
Lonely tentative hearts

The gardens smell winter coming
Chill air reaches out at night
Draining life-giving juice from
Once lush greens and pinks
And purples and magenta —
Crowding close to each other
They lean in for a farewell look
At us taking the flower walk
Sunrays streaming down in
Breezes and fading memories

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 October 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 7 October 2019 at Longwood Gardens Flower Walk

Four Sisters and a Doll Buggy

D and I are just back from a wonderful day at Longwood Gardens. Breezy, clouds and sun, not too hot, less visitors than usual, and plenty of photos to share with you later this week.

One of my sisters recently posted this old photo on her FB page. My Dad took it in 1953, just weeks after Sister #4 was born. We had moved from California to a rural community about 15 miles outside Savannah, Georgia. Sister #4 made her debut in the back seat of the car on the way to the hospital in downtown Savannah. She’s nearly 10 years younger than I.

As you may recognize, we’re all dressed up for Easter, and relatively pleasant and happy. Partly because Sister #4 is riding in great style in our prized doll-buggy.  Sister #4 was only weeks old when this photo was taken. Notice how propped up she is.

The doll buggy wouldn’t have made it across country had we not pleaded with Dad to bring it along. The car trunk wasn’t huge, and the five of us (no Sister #4 yet) were packed like sardines into the car. It took tears, and winning Mom over to our side, but we finally got Dad to agree. Old softy? Not quite. I think he knew he was outnumbered, and didn’t want wailing passengers in the back seat as we drove across the states.

In California we made generous use of the buggy, pushing Sister #3 (Diane) around the yard, as well as our dolls. It was by far the most impressive toy we’d ever owned. Thanks, I think, to the generosity of Mom’s father (Grandpa Gury). We had no idea Sister #4 would also become its happy occupant.

If you examine the dresses we ‘big girls’ are wearing, you’ll notice a theme. Mom made each dress, adjusting things in order to fit our particular needs. I also like the gloves we’re wearing. And the white socks and shiny patent leather Sunday shoes, of course.

Finally, the photo also tells me Mom had just cut our hair–bangs for each of us, and hair not too long or short. Just right for the preacher’s daughters!

Cheerio! And I hope your Monday was full of lovely surprises.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 October 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, Easter Sunday 1953 outside our new living quarters near Savannah, Georgia

With thanks to Emily

Pierless Bridge - pinterest

Something about aging. I don’t know what it is. I only know what it feels like. A journey into mists, slow and sometimes laborious. Wondering where all that energy went. And how I ever accumulated so many bits and pieces from my past.

Today it’s about clearing the bits and pieces out. Getting to something else, beyond the false fog of my fortressed life.

For decades, I relied on bits and pieces. Every carefully sorted, filed and piled item was a bit of insurance. Proof of my value, resources to be used next term, a hedge against false charges, reminders of why I was here and what I had agreed to do. Plus gems stashed away for later perusal.

Then, in April 2016, I fell and broke my jaw. Life changed. Immediately.

Out of that anguish, I wrote a post that has become one of the top ten posts visited on this site, with 589 views as of today. It’s my commentary on Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, Faith — is the pierless bridge.

I read it several times in the last few weeks of chaos and confusion about many things.

There’s fog and then there’s smog. Fog is good. Smog is rotten–the stuff that hung in the air in the late 1940s when I lived in the Los Angeles area. I don’t mind a bit of fog, though it sometimes puts me on edge. I think of all the accumulated clutter of my life as smog. Things and attitudes about ‘things’ that throw me off balance. That keep me from living and dying to each day.

So here’s the last paragraph of my comments about Emily’s poem, reformatted a bit to catch the heart of the matter for me then, now, and tomorrow. The question is how do I get from here to there? And whose faith really matters?

Before my faith and before my birth
there was something else

The Source of my life greets me
from within the Veil
to which Faith leads

Here waits the One who birthed me
Who boldly and courageously watches for me
from the other side of my human life
spinning out a fragile steel-buttressed thread of Faith—
my Creator’s Faith in me
Faith that leads me home
just as I am and yet will be

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 October 2019
Image found at pinterest.com

A Tribute to Brian

Golden Wattle, Australia’s National Flower

One of my faithful blogging friends has died. Gone on from this world to whatever lies beyond and within. I hope he won’t take offense at what I’m about to say. Then again, if he didn’t, he probably wouldn’t be Brian.

I never met Brian in person. In his younger years he visited the USA and studied our history. Especially military history. He was a proud immigrant (by choice) from England to Australia, always aware he was British, and proud of it.

Brian was about 12 years older than I. He was afflicted with difficult physical challenges, and blessed with a memory for historical detail. As he said about his posts, they were rambles. Rambles through the past of just about any world issue or slice of his personal history you might enjoy hearing about (or not).

As you might have observed in his comments on some of my posts, Brian was a self-proclaimed atheist. However, he enjoyed reminding me that he was raised in the church and sent his children to church schools. Definitely an enlightened atheist. Never afraid to confront me, miss the mark entirely, or listen to my responses. Every now and then he even ended up agreeing with me.

Sometimes Brian’s comments annoyed me just a bit. More than once I had to wait a day before responding. A few times I considered trashing a particularly off the wall comment. However, sleep and my better angels out there somewhere helped me listen and respond. It’s fair to say his challenges went way beyond the ‘normal’ challenges I got when teaching in seminary. For that, I owe him many thanks.

Brian was also a self-proclaimed curmudgeon. From my perspective, he pulled it off gloriously. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to discover that behind his curmudgeonly atheist persona lay a tender, sometimes lonely heart. Which may be what drew me to him.

The world is less interesting with Brian gone. I’m blessed to have met him here in Bloggy Land where anything and everything can happen. I’m also grateful for the experience of walking with him just a bit of the way. All things considered, I wouldn’t be surprised if our paths crossed again…somewhere and sometime beyond our knowing.

If you’d like to learn more about Brian, here’s a link to his blog.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 October 2019
Photo found at pinterest.com

For pastors, church leaders and followers

In light of today’s political and social challenges
What might I say today to pastors and church leaders?
Not just in churches that call themselves evangelical
but in churches and religious communities of any kind

How are you today?

Better yet, the question a friend recently suggested:
I wonder what it’s like for you right now?

Right now
Given lines set in concrete
The growing breakdown of everyday norms and expectations
Daily eruptions on social media and in families
and congregations gathering each week
Expecting a word of challenge and encouragement
in the midst of chaos and fear

I can only imagine what it’s like for you right now —

How do you maintain your sanity as a pastor or leader
and your integrity as a human being
affected by our current frenzy of tongues unleashed
or lips tightly sealed?

Are there political differences within your own family?
How do you deal with these along with
political and social differences within your congregation?

If we could be together in a classroom
what would you want to explore first?
What might help you reframe the daily deluge
of unchecked words flying through the air?

Of maybe you just want us to know
what it’s like for you right now
No matter what comes next in this unscripted journey

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 September 2019
Image found at wikimedia.org

The underbelly of the Church – because it matters NOW

I’m feeling small these days. Are you? The challenge at the end of this post is meant for all of us who feel unprepared or small.

Below is a quote from Simone Weil about the social and patriotic power of the Church. Not church as we know it on Sunday mornings, but the Church as a powerful institution within a political setting.

Weil wrote during the Nazi era. Her words are troubling, given the rise of the white Evangelical church’s political influence in the USA. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, but also in public arenas where religious language virtually baptizes political figures as agents of God, up to and including Mr. Trump.

In light of the Nazi era, this turn of events is more than troubling. Many, though not all German Protestant and Catholic churches, including pastors and revered theologians, colluded in the rise of Hitler. Their open support amounted to baptizing Hitler as God’s agent sent as their Great Leader at this time. Yes, there would be some bloodshed. But in the end, life will be better for those who survive, and Germany itself will gain esteem throughout the world.

Here’s what Simone Weil had to say about herself and the Church during the Nazi era. I read this as a comment on both Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany, though she refers to the Catholic Church. Highlights are mine.

All things carefully considered, I believe they come down to this: what scares me is the Church as a social thing. Not solely because of her stains, but by the very fact that it is, among other characteristics, a social thing.

Not that I am by temperament very individualistic. I fear for the opposite reason. I have in myself a strongly gregarious spirit. I am by natural disposition extremely easily influenced in excess, and especially by collective things. I know that if in this moment I had before me twenty German youth singing Nazi songs in chorus, part of my soul would immediately become Nazi. It is a very great weakness of mine. . . .

I am afraid of the patriotism of the Church that exists in the Catholic culture. I mean ‘patriotism’ in the sense of sentiment analogous to an earthly homeland. I am afraid because I fear contracting its contagion. Not that the Church appears unworthy of inspiring such sentiment, but because I don’t want any sentiment of this kind for myself.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Published by Harper Perennial in 1950 to celebrate 100 years since Weil’s birth

I couldn’t agree more. I’m also troubled by the silence of many white Evangelical churches that (rightly) choose not to get on the Trump bandwagon. Silence often enables the abuse of power. I don’t want to catch the silence virus. Hence this post and others to remind me that I have a voice, it counts, and I must exercise it regularly.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2018, reposted 26 September 2019
Image found at books.google.com

An Emptiness

Hollowed out by loneliness
Overflowing with farm animal stories told and retold
Filled with edgy impatience when you were not holding forth
An aching emptiness devoid of compassion or empathy
For yourself or others who pleased you not
Constantly dreaming of unachievable plans and goals
A my way or the highway kind of man
Stalking happiness but rarely finding it in my presence
Convinced the world of regular people was as hollow
As your own unfulfilled plans and dreams
An empty cup unable to overflow
With blessings of praise or the joy
Of looking into your four daughters’ eyes
Without seeing the son you never had
Fighting to the bitter end to have things your way
Surrounded by people who cared for you
Even when you cared not for them
An off-tune cymbal full of noisy clanging
Signifying the agony of your debilitating shame and loneliness

How sad to love a father who never learned to love himself.
How horrifying to hear the bleakness of his life growing up.
How painful to know things might have been different.

I love my father.
I have forgiven him to the extent I’m able.
I am not the Judge of all the earth.
I pray for his soul and his redemption,
and that he is learning in death to love himself
as he has been loved.

This poem is my attempt to describe what I now see in my father. It’s based on my relationship with him from 1943 (the year I was born) until his death in 2010. He was 96 years old, months from turning 97. I was 66, months from turning 67.

Many thanks to Mary Oliver for her poem, A Bitterness. It got me wondering what I might write about my father from my perspective today.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 September 2019
Image found at vocal.media

%d bloggers like this: