Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

living water and unread books

Avalanches of living water
and unread books thunder
through the back of my mind
nagging me relentlessly
on my way from here to there

So quickly life morphs
from beauty to sadness,
All contained in one day’s
rather humdrum yet
consequential decisions

Arriving at the next station
I find myself peering into
a garden of stillness that
echoes all things lovely
yet strangely silent in this
living afterworld of old age

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 June 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, May 2021

Butterfly Wings

Emerging from my cocoon
last night before I slept,
my eyes devour treasure
hidden in cards and notes
scattered among my
now ancient relics

As I read them slowly
a door finally cracks open
to reality larger than life,
despite my deep fear
of failure and a similar yet
heavier fear of success

This morning I wake to
flaws and old age staring
back at me from my mirror,
daring me to forego
daily beautifying rituals
meant to atone for my faults

My heart skips a beat —
not because of this poignant
reflection but because I
finally recognize a glimmer
of butterfly wings
springing from my back

It wasn’t easy growing up in the 1940s and 50s. During and after World War II, severity was called for. This meant daily care of Victory Gardens. Mending and passing along used clothes and shoes. Not wasting anything. And, in my case, full attention to the military-like heaviness of my clergy father’s rules for good girls.

As a clergyman, Dad chose not to be a soldier in Uncle Sam’s army. He believed he was in the only army that mattered — God’s army. Joining Uncle Sam’s army was like deserting God’s army.

I wasn’t the only World War II baby born into a culture of strict rations and homegrown Victory Gardens. Food was often hard to come by. Gardens had to be plowed, planted and weeded. And children, like gardens, also had to be plowed and weeded.

The upshot was simple. No vanity, no wasting time, no over-indulgence. Just noses stuck to the grindstone of everyday recovery from the horrors of World War II. Like other children born into this era, I learned to keep my nose to the grindstone, think of myself as part of a small army of obedient girls and boys, and forget about the fancy stuff our family could never afford.

It made for outstanding work habits. It didn’t make for easy enjoyment of parties or silliness in the workplace. Even worse, it took away the joy of being a young mother.

So there I was yesterday evening, reading cards and notes I’ve kept over the years. Finally acknowledging that I did something beautiful and did, indeed, have great fun from time to time–despite the heaviness of my work ethic.

In fact, I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had in my life. Thanks to friends and family members who keep showing me how it’s done.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 June 2021
Photo found at commons.wikipedia.com

impressions of yesterday

1963 Aug Elouise Double Exposure flipped

A bit of nostalgia. We visited our son’s family yesterday for the first time since pre-Covid social distancing. This morning I couldn’t help thinking about this photo. It still makes me smile! Can you see D’s smiling face on my cheek? 

impressions of yesterday
captured by accident
a remarkable mistake
turned into a keepsake
hopes and dreams
yet to be realized
outer signs of internal graces
made strong through
the tempering heat
of life lived wide awake
in person and together
the beauty of two souls
bound together in one image

The photo was taken by a friend. We were at Tybee Island Beach near Savannah, Georgia. D had just taken the photo of me with the old roller rink in the background. He forgot to advance the film before our friend took a photo of us together. So we ended up with this dream-like double exposure.

The day was momentous. This was only minutes before D proposed to me as we walked down the beach. If it had been today, I might have proposed to him many months earlier. But that was then—August 1963, weeks before D left for the West Coast, and a year before I graduated from college. I was almost 20 years old.

Don’t miss the prices on the side of the pavilion. You can have a good laugh at how ‘cheap’ things were back then. The pavilion, with its roller rink, is long gone—doomed because of building code upgrades. A good thing, yet looking at this double exposure makes me long a bit for the good old days.

Impressions only? I don’t think so. Memories are dear, and now make up the majority of my lived world. They also capture reality—along with a healthy dose of nostalgia.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 May 2017, reposted 7 June 2021
Double exposure taken by DAF and a friend, Aug 1963

An Invitation

A walk in the late Spring
park of my mind beckons
beyond the open portal
of weary normal days
without wine and blossoming roses

Which will it be
I wonder in a weak attempt
to pretend this is about
a reasoned choice
or serious deliberation

The beauty of yesteryears
calls out from every corner
of my well-laden larder of
memories lying dormant
around and above me

Having already left this
world of visible reality
they invite my hungry heart
to feast at the table of friends
and strangers I never really knew

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 June 20

“Forest Feast” Artwork from Elizabeth Foster
Found at Melissa Shirley Designs, needlenook.com

White Debt in the USA

Walking a tightrope
I ponder yet again
which post to release
into this world of growing
antagonism and planned
chaos dripping silently
into veins as we sleep
our days away thinking
we whites are alive because
we’re awake and breathing

Who are we in this pandemic
of more than Covid-19?

How might we join the struggle
that needs more than any
one person can give or endure?

How can we maintain sanity
while acknowledging our
current insane addiction
to anything that will bring
relief if only for a heartbeat?

Last night I watched Judy Woodruff’s NPR News interview with Professor William Darity, Professor of Economics and African American Studies at Duke University. I highly recommend it.

Near the end of the interview, Professor Darity favors the appointment of a Presidential Commission (rather than a Congressional committee) to study our overall history and current situation. The goal: recommendations that address the enormity of our white debt to citizens of color.

Will we ever be able to make reparations? Not just for Tulsa, but for all the other riots, lynchings, redlining, gerrymandering, gentrifying, food deserts, highway construction through neighborhoods and much much more. That’s still to be determined. On the other hand, we white people might begin by divesting ourselves of habits that ensure our survival. Not just our survival at the cost of other people, but at the cost of our well-oiled niceness and ignorance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 June 2021
Photo found at pinterest.com

A prayer for our nation | Zephania Kameeta

Dear Friends,

Today is Memorial Day. A day to honor those who served or lost their lives in various wars. I love our country, and I honor those who served with honor.

Sadly, many of us have denied, forgotten or minimized how little our country does for living veterans. Their bodies and spirits fight daily against disabilities and diseases directly related to their military service. I reject the argument I heard again just this week: These disabilities and diseases are part of what they signed up for.

It is not an exaggeration to say our military personnel of color have suffered the most neglect. Not just in terms of health, but in terms of post-war benefits. Our country applauded them while they were serving in active duty. Yet adequate funds for housing, education, health and other benefits have been withheld from most of them for decades.

I remember how distressed our black ex-military seminarians were when their academic support from the USA was diminished far below that being received by our white ex-military students. It wasn’t the first time this had happened to black ex-military personnel.

This is a problem for the USA government. However, it’s also a problem for all of us in the USA. We’ve lost our way with ex-military personnel (and their families), women military personnel, and everyday citizens of all colors. They are entitled to their just rights and honor.

I love this country. I also love Reverend Zephania Kameeta’s rendition of Psalm 114 for today’s world. An honored and honorable church leader in Namibia, he offers a timely challenge for all of us.

Psalm 114

When the oppressed people left the house of colour worshippers,
when the despised left the state of slavery and racism,
they became the Lord’s holy people,
the oppressed became his own possession.

The oppressors looked and ran away;
the worshippers of race and colour were paralyzed.

The mountains skipped like goats with joy;
and the hills jumped about like lambs in happiness.

Tremble, earth, at the coming of our Liberator,
at the presence of our God,
who hears the prayers of the poor,
who changes despair into hope and sorrow into joy!

A prayer from Why O Lord? Psalms and sermons from Namibia, by Zephania Kameeta, p. 41
© 1986 World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland

Thanks for stopping by this Memorial Day.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 May 2021
Photo found at parkhillsrca.org

Rita

My unquiet mind
Twisting and turning nonstop
Ponders a mystery

Without a trace
Or signal from anywhere
A friend vanishes

Bare windows stare
Unable to voice answers
To unasked questions

So much of life today is about what I don’t know. Social distancing has broken casual and formal ties to friends and even strangers whose lives intersected mine daily.

A great emptiness has descended, daring me to fill in the blanks. Where did it all go? Why isn’t my beautiful friend Rita out walking her dog every morning and evening? Why doesn’t she answer my email? And why is her phone out of service? I don’t have an answer.

Rita was in her late 80s. She walked her lively little dog Charlie in the park every morning and evening. Then came Covid and social distancing. Before that, besides seeing her in the park, I sometimes went to her place. Never a dull moment! It was all about tea, health, politics, religion, food, and whatever Rita wanted to tell me about her life.

Now my life feels smaller. I’m tormented by memories that are themselves becoming strangers. I want to be born once again. I want a starting point, a middle, and an end. Something that will hang together into a believable story of who we are, who I am, and why all these silences refuse to answer our questions.

The rhododendron at the top is for Rita, wherever she is.

Thanks for stopping by today,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 24 May 2021

Longwood Gardens May 2021 | Photos

On Monday, D and I made a long-awaited visit to Longwood Gardens! The weather was overcast and blessedly cool, a total break from our latest heat wave. Also a day made for photographers. For now, you’ll have to be content (or not) with this small handful of D’s photos.

The top photo shows what we see every time we enter the gardens. Gorgeous trees towering and spreading their branches. This time the Chinese dogwood was in bloom. On our way to the Conservatory, we passed two versions of Chinese Dogwoods. As you can see, the blossoms and leaves differ slightly.

Longwood has recently announced another huge renovation project. It will take several years. I hope I live to see it! In any case, they’ve gone all out to make the Conservatory spectacular. Here’s what we saw (and heard) as we entered.

One of the most favored exhibits–the orchid house–has been shut down as part of the renovation project. Instead, the orchids have been clustered together (imagine huddling to stay warm) in three places in an open-air hallway. Frankly, I like this look better than walls of orchid species to be studied.

The bonsai exhibit has also been woven into the main Conservatory. Here are three lovely examples–very Spring!

Finally, several unusual specimens that caught my eye. They were located here and there in the main Conservatory. I’ve begun with my favorite, and left the most unusual for the last photo. If you don’t recognize the second photo, I threw in a hint. Well, more than a hint….

Title: Bad-Hair Day on a Tree Trunk

Hoping you’re having at least a Better-Hair Day. Happy Thursday, and thanks for visiting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 May 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 24 May 2021

On the verge of Summer

Dying more or less
mimics water draining
from the sink–
Sometimes fast
sometimes slow
sometimes with a
fury known only
to the drowning

Looking around I try
to remember what
I just left behind
But cannot

Sooner or later
all will lie silent
waiting for Spring or not,
While here on the verge
of Summer the sun
already boils over
with heat I know
nothing about, having
never visited the furnace
of this new day

Praying this day brings us joy, peace and opportunities to know and appreciate ourselves and others more than we did yesterday.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 May 2020
Painting found at landscapepainter.co.nz

How would you live then? | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver puts us on the spot with whimsical questions we’ve likely never asked ourselves. My comments follow.

What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
flew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerfully sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day—who knows how, but they do it—were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Blue Iris (2004)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 167

Prisoners sometimes say what keeps them going is having a room with a view. A room with even a tiny window on a tiny plant or part of a tree branch. Like clock-work, these bits of nature became companions. They signal changing seasons, measure the speed of the wind, announce the time of day, or signal the coming darkness of night. All without a paycheck or a bonus for going the extra mile.

We humans seem glued to electronic devices, out of touch with the Garden our Creator handed over to us. Perhaps even out of touch with each other as precious women, children and men. “More precious, more meaningful than gold.”

I laugh when I read this poem. It’s full of whimsy. The kind that comes from close observation of nature and human nature, which Mary then turns into gold. Who wouldn’t like to see and experience Mary’s unexpected everyday wonders? Perhaps she’s inviting us to slow down and redirect our attention. Life is short.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich  Fraser, 22 May 2021
Photo found at npr.org

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