Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Within my Garden, rides a Bird

Here’s a fun riddle-like poem from Emily Dickinson, followed by my note to Emily. Today is the anniversary of my sister Diane’s birthday. She lived with ALS for ten years before dying in 2006. Diane was 61 years old. One of her greatest joys was watching hummers feast in her back yard garden. A garden created in her mind, and in reality by her family and friends. A magical place where anything could happen.

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel –
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As ‘twere a travelling Mill –

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose –
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted –
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres –
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, ‘twere we –
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity –

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye –
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!

c. 1862

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

Dearest Emily,

What a fun riddle! Of course the answer is obvious, at least to your Dog. What isn’t so obvious is how your nimble mind creates miniature stage productions from fleeting, everyday realities.

I don’t remember one single occasion when a tiny hummer elicited in my mind’s eye a complete and detailed account of what was going on before my wide-open eyes—all in the space of 5 seconds max.

I see a gorgeous hummingbird. You see an entire stage production played out impromptu on the canvases of your Garden and your fertile imagination.

Actually, spectacular is too weak for whatever is happening in your imagination. And then there’s your super-observant Dog who figures it all out!

I fear we’re losing our capacity to see things with lively imagination. Not just in the natural world, but on the streets of our towns and cities. And in each other.

What might happen if we could be inquisitive young children again? Or get caught up in the wonder of other human beings, or the keen observational skills of our pets?

Just a note to let you know how much I enjoyed your poem. Happy Wednesday to you from me, your erratic pen pal and sometime follower.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 April 2019
Hummingbird and Roses artwork found at pinterest.com

Thinking about death

A stranger to myself
Thoughts of this and that
Invade my mind —
One insight after another
Offering a panacea
to this earthly body
Plodding on despite
Resurrection of hope
And flashes of insight about
Who I am and why this
Right now instead of that

Yet like a sick rollercoaster
Moments of brilliance
Collide with weary batteries
Unable to keep up with
This ever more distant
Dream called normalcy
That sputters weak as
Watered-down tea in
Tasteless cups of vintage wine
Gone sour hidden in
Abandoned corners now
Littered with the debris
Of forgotten loves and
Laundry not hung out to dry

I’m dying
One breath at a time
Aided by living
One breath at a time
Do I understand this?
Somewhat
Do I like this?
No
Do I accept this?
Sometimes

And there’s this as well –
The daily rescue of my entire being
From the despair of not knowing
Whose or why I am in this world
And why the beauty of staying battles daily
With the beautiful lure of leaving

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 April 2019
Image found at bestwallpapers.in

Sunday afternoon walk and my heart

Spring air hangs breathless and damp
Broken by chirping bird songs
And children’s muffled voices
Clouds roll in silent and gray
Saturated with sprinkles
Gathering for a shower

The gathering shower turned into a ferocious thunder and lightning storm–over 500 lightning strikes last night in Philly! I slept through every moment of it. Astonishing. Today the storm is over the Atlantic, and blustery wind has moved in. Temperatures drop by the hour.

Nonetheless, beautiful green leaves, colorful flowering trees and shrubs, and small wildflowers are taking over! No turning back the clock.

During the last month I rearranged my daily routines to support what my heart wants and needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as postponing grocery shopping. Other times, it’s not so easy. Like staying home from church two of the last four Sundays after waking up with an unsteady heartbeat and the weakness that comes with it.

On the other hand, during the same time frame I visited with two of my woman friends, talked with at least two others on the phone, had email correspondence with a few others, enjoyed tea and conversation with our next-door neighbors, walked regularly with D, talked with our son and daughter via phone, and played with Smudge.

I’ve also posted from time to time, enjoyed hearing from some of you, and saw others peeking out from your gravatars!

So here’s to a thoughtful Holy Week, listening to all nature sing on and off-key, and staying in touch with ourselves and with the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Much we need Thy tender care.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2019
Photo of Center City, Philadelphia; taken by Bill Cannon; found at fineartamerica.com
Photo of Smudge playing hide and seek, taken by me!

Why stick around?

My fingers wait expectantly
Pause, take a deep breath and begin

A brief list of reasons to stick around:

No.

A brief list of reasons I’m needed:

Maybe.

Trying to get my bearings
In this age of approaching death
With scores of unanswered questions
Littering every inch of every path I’ve ever taken

And yet
I felt needed back then
Fully awake each day to challenges
That meant something to somebody
Things that would make a difference

Is that all this life is about? No.

Perhaps I’m going at this the wrong way

Maybe I need myself
Just as I am

Not to be a hero
Or the perfect aging-with-grace senior
But to love myself
Especially those aging parts that give me grief

Not so they’ll go away and leave me alone
Though I confess to the occasional daydream
But because they need me

They need me to go with them
Through this brilliant terrifying valley
Of aging and dying with or without dignity

Besides,

Who else would hear the true beat of my heart
From the inside out

Or sit in the attic loving the silence of treetops
Dancing in the wind

Or play the piano feeling waves of music
Flooding my soul

Or understand the sweet comfort of falling asleep
While leaning on D’s shoulder

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 April 2019
Photo of a German forest at sunset, found at pixabay.com

Overweight and unhappy

14 July 1958, Newton, Kansas. Grandpa and Grandma Renich, front row center with three daughters and a Great Aunt; my father in the middle on second row 

Overweight and unhappy
His bulk filled the back side
Of the old round kitchen table

Hour after hour he sat
A lonely figure staring silently
Or issuing ultimatums
Bushy eyebrows drawn together
Nowhere to go and little to offer
But weary leftovers
Of a grueling life plus
The occasional snarl
At young grandchildren

A memory from the early 1950s. I’m 7 years old. I’m in the kitchen of my paternal grandparents’ home in the Midwest. My parents dropped me off with Sister #2 while they drove with baby Sister #3 (Diane) to a conference in Philadelphia. When they returned, we continued our cross-country move from Los Angeles, California to Savannah, Georgia.

I’ll never forget how intimidated I felt around Grandpa Renich. He was given to frowning a lot and smiling seldom. He also took seriously his duty of administering punishment as needed, which he did at least once to Sister #2. I was happy I wasn’t going to live nearby.

Last night I watched a report on the growing rate of suicide among elderly men and women. For an alarming number, the feeling of being a leftover–old, forgotten and stale–becomes the dominant theme. Many also deal with debilitating chronic pain, loss of bodily functions, and illness. For some, this is worse than death itself. And so they opt to exit instead of waiting around for the inevitable.

My paternal grandfather wasn’t happy, and he didn’t take his life. Had he chosen to do so, I think I would understand now what I couldn’t understand back then.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 April 2019
First Renich Family Reunion Photo taken in Newton, Kansas

I Love Philly!

I Love Philly –
Its raw in-your-face ways
Its fierce determination
NOT to be NYC or WDC
Or proud Boston Brown Bread
Heavy with the blood of patriots
and all that watered-down tea

Give us Philly Cheese-Steaks
Italian Ice and Mummer’s Day Madness!

Sports teams scramble to recover
Their fair share of glory and grace
Weekend night-lifers crawl through
Crowded streets of over-enthusiastic
Pedestrians while car-lovers fight
For space on pot-holed one-way streets
And raucous horns inch their way
Toward old-timey traffic lights destined to
Stop them cold mid-way through
The next intersection

I Love Philly –
That great planned city of love
and a bit of Northeast craziness on
Any fine day or night of the year

So where did this come from? I wish I knew! I’m never sure what’s going to pop into my mind. This one came floating in the window this morning after I got home from an early morning blood test (and 12 hours of fasting).

At any rate, I obeyed my inner voice and scribbled it down. I’d been thinking about how happy and grateful I am to live in this part of the USA, as crazy and raucous as it is from time to time. During the last 36 years it grew me up as a real, live adult woman.

Cheers and Happy Monday!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 April 2019
Photo of Philadelphia’s LOVE statue found at WHYY.org (Click on link for a brief history of the statue.)
Statue Artist: Robert Indiana

Swamped

Swamped
By enthusiasm
In over my head
Planning futures
I cannot deliver

Dreams masquerade
In yesterday’s clothes;
Life stumbles into
Uncharted terrain
Grand intentions
Beg me to clip their wings
Then crash into splinters
Drowning at my feet
Screaming for mercy

Yesterday was beautiful–sunny and mild. I felt like doing anything and everything. On my feet. Until I couldn’t.

Unfortunately, D is a convenient target when things start falling apart. Which they do and did. It’s easy to pick a verbal argument with him (about him, of course).

It’s way more difficult to stop my tongue and ask myself how I got to this unhappy space. And what I must do right now to care for my aching feet.

Several days ago I posted Exiting the Room. It was, and still is, about my heart’s health. However, it’s also about exiting negative emotions or breaking vicious cycles that creep up on me. And giving D the break he deserves!

Happy Friday!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2019
Image  found at imgnooz.com

Catnap

Smudge sinks into my lap
Warm and content —
Lost in another world
Dreaming of cat treats and
Strategic warfare against
Careless mice and crickets
All the while twitching
Beneath his ermine coat
Claiming his royal throne
And capturing my heart

For Prince Oliver Smudge the Second, now 6 years old♥  I wrote this today after breakfast and a nice long lap-fest with Smudge. It’s difficult to imagine life without him–though I would still have D, of course! 

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 April 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, Fall 2013, about a week after Smudge was rescued by our granddaughters and daughter-in-law. He’d been abandoned in a state park. A sad story with a happy ending.

one last slow dance

wispy silver veins
gleam frosty white lavender
cling to each other
floating on mid-summer air
one last slow dance together

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 April 2019
Photo taken DAFraser Summer 2016, Glen Eyrie Conference Center, Colorado

A fool’s paradise

We live in a fool’s paradise
Breathing toxic air and
promises of a better
tomorrow arriving daily
at our front doors from
gluttony and avarice —
smiles pasted on faces
covered with guile taking
us down without a whimper

I love silly pranks that do no harm. Sort of. That’s because I’ve rarely been on the other end of a silly prank and felt no harm done. There’s something demeaning about being taken for a fool, or watching someone else be taken for a fool.

On another level, what would it take to make us wise as a nation? Or how about treating ourselves and each other as human beings capable of weighing evidence or even telling the truth about how things are for us right now? Or listening to us without interrupting to tell us about some pie-in-the-sky grand fix for everything?

No, I’m not down on the democratic process. However, we’re already getting into presidential campaign rhetoric and it’s only April 2019. So I’m staking out my position now.

Here it is: I don’t want to waste time listening to reassuring promises, sure-fire fixes or negative rants against ‘the other side.’ Perhaps we could get right to the heart of the matter—listening and responding thoughtfully to the voices of the people. All of us. Even those we call foolish.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2019
Quote found at askideas.com

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