Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

yesterday’s dreams

captured by yesterday’s dreams
reflected in melodious ripples of
water, trees and sky dancing
just beyond our reach
we peer beneath the surface
into shifting mirrors of time and space
overflowing with dreams and promises
each small gem waiting impatiently
to catch the sun and explode into life

I love the haunting feeling of the top photo, and the way it puts us in proper perspective. It’s April 2006. We’re at Longwood Gardens with our twin granddaughters, just below the eye of water (see below). Trees, water, grassy lawns and blossoming shrubs are welcoming the best part of Spring, accompanied by the sound of cascading water in the background.

Since 2006, our lives have taken paths we never anticipated, and sometimes didn’t want. Nonetheless, speaking for myself, it’s been a great adventure. The kind I hope and pray our granddaughters and grandson have as well.

Thanks for visiting today!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 February 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, April 2006 

That time of year again

I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that paid much attention to Lent. A few childhood friends, usually Roman Catholic, talked about giving up things like cake, ice cream or cookies. They almost always fell off the wagon within a week or so. So why bother in the first place?

Nearly three years ago I revisited Lent. The short litany below challenged me to give up several things I greatly desire.

I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.

Quoted by Cynthia Bourgeault in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 147 (Cowley Publications 2004)

Several weeks ago I attended a Sunday morning worship service at a nearby African American church. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was warmly welcomed, and also felt somewhat lost. The pastor had invited me to hear a guest speaker/preacher.

I was happy to be there. Most attendees were African Americans. They didn’t worship according to spoken or unspoken rules and traditions of churches I’ve been in most of my life. I was out of my comfort zone, not always sure what to do next.

I’d like to believe I’m not part of racial tension in the USA today. Yet I know this isn’t true. In some ways, it chose me; I didn’t choose it. Still, I’m aware of my resistance to changing the comfortable routine I enjoy, especially on Sundays.

So I’ve been asking what I can do to get out of one of my favorite comfort zones, churches that worship the way I worship. It matters where and with whom I worship, and according to whose traditions. It also has the potential to change me yet again, from the inside out.

I don’t know how this will play out. Nonetheless, I’m beginning again with the prayer above, and another visit to this church.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 February 2020
Image found at bonhoefferblog.wordpress.com

Thank you, Anita Hill

I’m reposting this in honor of women who stand up to power today,
and in light of news about the Harvey Weinstein case.
 

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017, reposted 25 February 2020
Photo found at gq.com

On a cold morning

Like clockwork
On a cold morning
in February
the air comes alive

Fluttering wings
and hopeful
wannabes
strut their sweetest songs

A maybe pair
of small song sparrows
flits from twig to twig
male in patient pursuit

While nearby
streaking through air
landing on a dime
and taking off again

beak stuffed with
twigs and detritus
a tireless common pigeon
weaves a crude nest

Fragile hope springs
from the ground
sending up small fireworks
of purple and gold

All seen in my backyard this weekend and this morning. I think I’ve got the pigeon nest spotted, just outside my kitchen window. They’re not the most exotic of birds, and their offspring look like awkward adolescents. Still, I’m won over by the parents’ loyalty and their remarkable ability to endure all kinds of weather without abandoning each other. All in my backyard.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 February 2020
Photo of wood pigeon nest found at commons.wikipedia.com

I believe in god | Dorothee Soelle

Here’s one of the most compelling personal credos (statements of belief) I’ve ever read. Soelle wrote it after World War II and during the Vietnamese War. Even if you’re not an outwardly religious person, I hope you’ll give it a read. It’s down to earth and challenging no matter what your beliefs might be.

Credo

I believe in god
who did not create an immutable world
a thing incapable of change
who does not govern according to eternal laws
that remain inviolate
or according to a natural order
of rich and poor
of the expert and the ignorant
of rulers and subjects
I believe in god
who willed conflict in life
and wanted us to change the status quo
through our work
through our politics

I believe in jesus christ
who was right when he
like each of us
just another individual who couldn’t beat city hall
worked to change the status quo
and was destroyed
looking at him I see
how our intelligence is crippled
our imagination stifled
our efforts wasted
because we do not live as he did
every day I am afraid
that he died in vain
because he is buried in our churches
because we have betrayed his revolution
in our obedience to authority
and our fear of it
I believe in jesus christ
who rises again and again in our lives
so that we will be free
from prejudice and arrogance
from fear and hate
and carry on his revolution
and make way for his kingdom

I believe in the spirit
that jesus brought into the world
in the brotherhood of all nations
I believe it is up to us
what our earth becomes
a vale of tears starvation and tyranny
or a city of god
I believe in a just peace
that can be achieved
in the possibility of a meaningful life
for all people
I believe this world of god’s
has a future
amen

Dorothee Soelle, Revolutionary Patience, pp 22-23, 3rd printing May 1984
English translation © 1977 by Orbis Books
Published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY

Wishing each of you a thoughtful, challenging day.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 February 2020
Image found at cia.gov

The distance between then and now

The distance between then and now
Boils down quickly to a handful of
Opportunities lost in translation

Heavy baggage dumped in swamps
Still unopened and never claimed

On-demand smiles of yesterday hidden
Beneath faces lined with sadness and grief

Moments of vulnerability unexplored
In favor of stiff upper lips and privacy

The openness of childhood and youth
Shut down in favor of family reputation

Yet miles of heart-stopping space open
Like the Grand Canyon between us and
old photos tugging at our lonely hearts

I feel sad and happy every time I look at this old photo. I’m sitting on the bench surrounded by my mother, her father, and her father’s mother. Four generations. The poem reflects how difficult I find it to become a human being. Especially when working on family-related issues.

Becoming human may be our greatest achievement. Not wealth or happiness or helping people all over the world, but the ability to become who we are from the inside out. Sort of like the velveteen rabbit, so that by the time we leave this world, we’ve become Real human beings.

Here’s to heaps of practice and a few great breakthroughs every now and then!

The photo at the top was taken by my father in 1944. We’re in California, visiting with my Grandpa Gury and my very proper Great Grandmother Gury (an immigrant from France). I’m sitting in the middle; my beautiful mother is on my right.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 February 2020
Photo taken by my father, JERenich in 1944, California

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper | Poet and Abolitionist

Thanks to Poem-a-Day for introducing me to Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s poetry. And thanks to Black History Month for bringing it to mind. My comments follow.

Aunt Chloe’s Politics

Of course, I don’t know very much
About these politics,
But I think that some who run ’em
Do mighty ugly tricks.

I’ve seen ’em honey-fugle round,
And talk so awful sweet,
That you’d think them full of kindness,
As an egg is full of meat.

Now I don’t believe in looking
Honest people in the face,
And saying when you’re doing wrong,
That “I haven’t sold my race.”

When we want to school our children,
If the money isn’t there,
Whether black or white have took it,
The loss we all must share.

And this buying up each other
Is something worse than mean,
Though I thinks a heap of voting,
I go for voting clean.

First published by Ferguson Brothers in Sketches of Southern Life (1891), now in the public domain
Published online by Poem-a-Day on 23 June 2019, by the Academy of American Poets

“Honey fugle” means to deceive by flattery or sweet talk, to swindle or cheat. Click here to see the full definition.

I love Aunt Chloe’s straightforward language. Rigged voting machines and gerry-mandering didn’t begin yesterday. Nor did pie-in-the sky promises and ‘street money’ handed out to influence our votes. As Aunt Chloe points out, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is if the money isn’t there to fund those lovely promises. Everyone loses, no matter the color of our skin.

Aunt Chloe nailed it decades ago. Her words are presented in a no-nonsense voice that invites us to believe her and do something about it. Maybe it’s as simple as getting off our political bandwagons and taking a look at ourselves.

So….The next time you hear politicians making promises too good to be true, think of a flugel horn (profuse apologies to lovers of flugel horns). It may sound sweet and mellow. Nonetheless, sweet music and stars in our eyes won’t buy groceries, pay for medical bills, or turn manipulation into truth. Instead, the cost will continue falling on all of us.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 February 2020
Image found at Wikipedia.org

Sunday morning musings

Sunday morning
Sitting near the back row
In a neighborhood church
Pondering the reality
That I am now one of the
Old Folks at Home
An aging white woman
Wondering what on earth
I have to offer this generation
Drowning in possibilities
I never dreamed about

A life —
That’s all I have
A life already lived
Partially grieved and celebrated
Now halfway resting
In this odd space
Called retirement with
all the time in the world
yet no spare time to be found

So what’s left to offer?
Just one thing comes to mind —

Smiles
Free smiles and maybe a kind word
No manipulation
No smirking
No hesitation
No holding back
No looking away
No pretending not to see
the child or young person before me
carrying an invisible cup running over
too often with confusion, self-judgment or worse

Smiles
That’s all I have to offer
Smiles that say
With or without a word
I’m so happy to see you today!
Smiles that reflect our Creator’s delight
in each child or young person’s beauty
whether they get this yet or not

Simple things. That’s what I can do. No promises made. No lists of things to do after this moment. Just a smile and a silent prayer for that child or teenager already dealing with the heaviness of being in this world. Who can’t relate to that?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 February 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

February’s lightness of being

Looking for just the right words
To convey lightness of being
Descending through rainbows
To the ground of our heaviness
Bent beneath cares and sorrows
Though the sun shines brightly
This first and only Monday morning
Of week three and counting down

How do we live with sinking feelings
As friends and strangers known
To us if not by us wither and pass
Beyond veils of mist and ashes
Dying quickly as lines form
At the rear and out of control
If not out of mind and time
Waiting to hear the bell toll

This isn’t directly about the latest virus. It’s about how we get through one day at a time in a world that seems to be falling apart. Virus or no virus. I vote for rainbows and the Creator to whom they point. How about you?

Here’s to a Happy Monday, no matter the circumstances. Not because it’s cheery, but because this day belongs to Someone Greater than ourselves, who loves us and wants nothing more than our faithful presence. Especially when things seem to be falling apart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 February 2020
Photo found at orcaissues.com

Valentine’s Day at Longwood 2016 | Photos

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are some flower children to brighten your day, chosen because my eyes love looking at them. The couple above make me laugh. Creatures from another planet welcoming us with open antennae and open arms. Or are those gullets? And how about those imposing hats?

All photos in this post were taken at Longwood Gardens by D, my partner for over 54 years. Sometimes I ask him to take a particular picture. Most of the time, though, he just shoots away, and I post whatever strikes my fancy. A fine arrangement.

Here are two photos in gorgeous pinky tones. The second may look like it’s upside down, but I don’t think it is. The small, single-petal blossoms seem to be hanging down on stems, floating in the air.

The next plant, not an orchid, has beautiful pink and orange tones. Muted cool-blue/green background and foreground colors make it a standout. Not a stunningly beautiful plant, but serene and sure of itself. What’s not to love?

Next we have three members of the orchid family, each different, and begging for attention. I’m torn between the first two. The first is rather imposing and sure of itself. Just below, we have a quiet, gentle type. Which shows how little I know about orchid anatomy. In the third photo, we seem to have a family competing for attention. Or maybe they’re celebrating someone’s birthday? Or Valentine’s Day?

Finally, perhaps my favorite. It’s totally calm, serene, and happy in its subdued non-orchid outfit. Elegant. Not flashy.


Wishing you an elegant day no matter how messy things get from time to time. Thanks for visiting!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 February 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser in February 2016 at Longwood Gardens

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