Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Emily Dickinson

Night falls gently

Night falls gently
Without fanfare
Draping earth in shadows

The night train’s whistle
Sings a lullaby
Down by the riverside

My cat comes creeping
Onto my warm lap
For a last evening cuddle

That was last night. My favorite time of day, and, as it happens, my last day of being 75 years old! I almost always spend a little time writing in my journal before I go to bed.

Last night I wrote this, among other things:

Smudge just visited me — sitting on my lap quietly, as though he needed one last cuddle. I can’t imagine the last 6 1/2 years without him. Thank you for this small reminder of how important he is in my life. Along with David and the rest of our family. Tomorrow I’ll be 76 years old — hard to believe.

So now 76 is upon me, and I feel more than a little lost. Not within the core of who I am, but out there, when I look up and around. Where do I belong in this sea of humanity?

Many markers for what’s considered good and true have morphed into something else. Sometimes this is good riddance. Still, I’m not sure what’s going on right now, especially within our nation. I feel more at sea than ever, more guarded when I talk or write about current events, and less certain how to make a difference.

One of my Emily Dickinson posts, There is a pain — so utter, has had more than 1,000 views since I posted it in February 2018. It’s about living in Trance. A state in which we in the USA seem caught in endless loops. We refuse to look at reality, choosing instead to step over and around it. Pretending all is well when the ground is shaking beneath our feet. And has been for unnumbered years.

The Good News is that we can live in Truth. Maybe not the full load all at once, but at least in small, potent doses that begin to wake us from our national Trance. The kind that blinds us to what’s happening in the present moment. Whether personal or national.

So here’s my wish for today: I want my life, including my writing, to be part of the solution, not part of perpetuating the problem.

Blessings to each of you.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 November 2019
Photo found at pinterest.com

We never know how high we are – revisited

These few words from Emily Dickinson still bring tears to my eyes. Given current events, we could use some kingly and queenly risk-taking right now. No matter how small or fear-filled our steps may be. Happy Monday!   

Dear Emily,
I have one small suggestion to make about your poem below. Please add ‘or queen’ to your last line. Just in case that’s not possible, I’m going to do it for you every time I read it. You’ll find my comments below your lovely poem.
Respectfully,
Elouise

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies –

The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king –

Poem #1176, written about 1870
Found on Poets.org

Dear Friend of this World,
I’m sending you this little poem today from Emily Dickinson. Maybe you never heard of her. I think she was a bit shy and bashful. You know, like many of us who don’t want to become a public ‘thing,’ even though we do enjoy being noticed and appreciated.

I think that deep down, Emily wanted us to know about her little poem. Or at least to notice it. So please read it over, and over again. Once is good, five times is better.

Do you know how important your words and deeds are? Perhaps you’re tempted to water them down by over-thinking. Or you get stuck in fear. Especially fear of failure, or fear of going against expectations–your own or those of others. I do.

Sometimes I wonder whether Emily understood her own queenly power.

If you have any doubt about yourself, look and listen to what you already do every day. Just getting up in the morning is a big deal. Or smiling and offering to help a friend or stranger. Or doing what you know will honor your body and spirit or someone else’s.

The way I see it, God gave us our selves, each other, and this world with its unnumbered inhabitants as our earthly home. We’re the only caretakers God has on this earth. We’re a big deal, individually and together.

In fact, God loves nothing more than watching us step up to our full kingly and queenly stature. Especially despite our worst fears, and without expectation of payment, reward or even a ‘thank you.’ Sometimes it takes an emergency to jumpstart our royal blood. But we don’t want to wait for that, do we?

Thank you most kindly for visiting and reading.
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 September 2017, reposted 11 November 2019
Image found at pinterest

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

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

It’s all I have to bring today —

Here’s a poem from Emily Dickinson in celebration of our hearts, the fields, the meadows and the bees. Appropriate for Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year.

It’s all I have to bring today —
This, and my heart beside —
This, and my heart, and all the fields —
And all the meadows wide —
Be sure you count, should I forget —
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

Emily Dickinson, in Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson
© 1994 by Magnolia Editions Limited, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

The sum of love is beyond comprehension, beyond the capacity of a heart to understand. Wider and deeper than meadows or the sky. Elusive as bees hiding in clover and pollen drifting through the air.

Is there a way to capture it? I think Emily’s answer is No. Perhaps because we don’t own it, and thus can’t hoard it? The only option left, it seems, is to give it away. One heart at a time, expanding out beyond itself. As large and as small as nature’s unnumbered wonders ‘hiding’ right outside our doors.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 February 2019
Photo found at sureastheworld.com

through fading light

She drifts through fading light
Heavy with good old days
And nights of celestial fare
When aging memories signified
Faded minds and shrinking lives
Cemented in the here and now
Reliving ghosts of yesterdays
Remnants of fruit gone sweetly sour
With age and bitter longing

Written on the airplane after reading yet again Emily Dickinson’s poem “These are the days….”

My poem is a comment on aging and the conceit of the young. I’m thinking of the way my own young eyeballs used to roll in their sockets when the “old” folks got going. Relentlessly they recalled and relived their happiest, most longed-for yesterdays. How silly! Don’t they know the past is gone? And then there are all those not-so-longed-for yesterdays.

To my mind these aging relics were out of touch. Couldn’t they see the relentless coming and going of life’s seasons? Yet even then I was already collecting and hoarding my own memories. Preparing for days when I, like all those old folks, revisit the glories and not-so-glorious memories of yesterday that hover just beyond my grasp.

We can’t relive the past, We can, however, go back the way a short Indian summer takes us back to a bit of warmth and beauty before cold winter sets in. We can take that brief, spectacular look into the rear-view mirror of our lives and connect with ourselves yet again. This time with eyes more forgiving and content than we ever dreamed possible.

This week we’re on the West Coast, visiting our daughter and her husband. Being with them reminds me again that life is short and precious. I pray for you and for all of us the courage to stop and look back from time to time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 December 2018

A Day! Help! Help! | Take 2

Emily Dickinson’s short poem came to mind this morning. I first commented on it in March 2017, after the 2016 election and January 2017 inauguration of Mr. Trump as POTUS.

Tomorrow we get to vote again, though not for another president. My comments follow in the form of a letter to Mr. Trump.

A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!
Your prayers, oh Passer by!
From such a common ball as this
Might date a Victory!
From marshallings as simple
The flags of nations swang.
Steady – my soul: What issues
Upon thine arrow hang!

c. 1858

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

Dear Mr. Trump,

I am not one of your fans. I am, however, a believer in more than chance happenings.

First, a confession. For months, I’ve been captive to the anti-Trump approach to daily happenings. I didn’t think about you all the time. Nonetheless, following your election and inauguration, my days seemed governed by what you did and what I thought and felt about it. Usually it felt like going from one bad scene to an even worse scene.

Looking  back, I don’t regret thinking all that through, or writing about some of it. In fact, I rather enjoy going back to see my small trail of contributions to what’s been a national preoccupation and discussion. Trying to figure you out.

There isn’t, of course, any figuring that will balance things out nicely. Especially for those whose lives are in disarray thanks to your words and deeds. Plus the words and deeds of others you’ve enabled, if not unleashed.

And so I’ve moved on. I still believe each day contains the possibility of Victory, no matter how tomorrow’s midterm elections turn out. I also imagine Emily Dickinson’s “common ball” as our planet, which I would describe as this grand terrestrial ball. A dance, open to anyone who wants to accept the invitation. There’s only one hitch. Our Creator presides over this dance. Not any human leader, billionaire or organization.

So I’m taking dance lessons again. My neighbors and their pets are teaching me to lighten up. Women and men of color are teaching me to listen deeply to what’s happening. Children of all colors are teaching me to forget about how I look and how old I am. Friends of many years are helping me reconsider my dance partners. I’m tired of the same old rhetoric, the same old hopes for tomorrow, the same old anxiety about whether I’ll be asked to the dance.

I’m already in the dance! Stumbling along, sometimes gifted with a bit of insight, scraping together my courage, and showing up in the grand ballroom of life. You might like to try it yourself, if you dare.

From one voter among millions,
Elouise Renich Fraser

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 November 2018

The morns are meeker than they were

Here’s an Emily Dickinson poem for all children, including you! Plus my note to Emily below.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Young People, edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, illustrated by Chi Chung. Published by Sterling Publishing Co. (2008)

Dear Emily,

It pains me to say this, but I never thought of you as a trinket kind of girl or woman. But then again, it shouldn’t surprise me. You have a way of seeing beauty and even the entire creation in the smallest bird or flower.

I wonder if you had a trinket box like the one above. It comes from your century, and has a mustardy yellow autumn look about it. To say nothing of those pretty leaves and that bird in the center.

It’s too bad we don’t have photos of your trinkets. I was always told they could make or break a woman’s image. Nothing too big. Nothing too gaudy. Nothing that would call attention to me. As though I were saying, ‘Look at me!’

But your little poem has a different outlook. You want to be part of nature’s annual parade of colors. Or maybe it’s a great production. Or better yet, a grand ball in the ballroom of fields and forests glowing with bright colors.

Whatever it is, it won’t do not to smile back when nature smiles at us. So I’m off to my oldest trinket box to find something to wear today to the ball. I think I’ll look for that topaz birthstone ring my mother gave me when I was a child.

With kind regards,
From grown-up Elouise and baby Marie

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 October 2018
Photo of 1800s Trinket Box found at pinterest.com

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

Here’s an Emily Dickinson poem that’s been widely studied by scholars. I’m still not sure what to make of it. I can, however, connect it to what I’ve experienced in my life. My personal comments follow.

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And We roam in Sovereign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him –
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through –-

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
‘Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

c. 1863

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

This poem has kept me coming  back for well over a year. Here are a few thoughts about the poem, which reads more like a small story or long riddle than a philosophical or political point of view.

This poem is at least indirectly about Emily. It’s about her life as a prolific poet, a well-known figure in her setting, and lover of the outdoors. And the reality that she is a woman. My first comment, then, is that she’s contemplating her life as she has experienced it. A loaded gun standing there in the corner–waiting, as something she doesn’t fully own.

The action begins only after the owner appears, identifies himself and carries her away. Not as a person, but as a weapon that will benefit him. It strikes me as sad that the adventure is in the forests, valleys and mountains she loves to roam. We know this from other poems. Yet now her function isn’t to talk to the animals, the trees or the birds, but to do her owner’s bidding. Shoot to kill, on demand. Beginning with a Doe about which we know nothing more.

Emily comments on her new-found ‘half-life’ (my term, not hers). Her Master depends on her to do his bidding. Not some of the time, but spectacularly, all the time. She finds comfort in this new-found power to guard her Master’s head, as well as in the reputation and safety she now enjoys as the rifle/voice of the Master.

It’s a messy situation. We don’t know where Emily stands with all this. In the last stanza she struggles with an unresolved question about power. If her Master dies, what will happen to her? Perhaps she fears she’ll be picked up by someone else and used as his obedient, powerful speaker/killer. Surely she didn’t enjoy killing that Doe.

The poem reminds me of times when so-called Owners used me, beginning with my father. In these situations they used my voice or my words without my permission, to distort truth or amplify their own power. I often wished I could die or disappear.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 August 2018
Photo found at Nature Photography, jonrista.com

late afternoon sun + Emily

late afternoon sun
catches courting butterflies
dancing in mid-air

I was out for a walk and there they were. Not the two above, but doing the same dance. Circling each other as they drifted through the air.

Almost as wonderful as seeing them was finding this butterfly poem from Emily Dickinson!

Two Butterflies went out at Noon—
And waltzed above a Farm—
Then stepped straight through the Firmament
And rested on a Beam—

And then—together bore away
Upon a shining Sea—
Though never yet, in any Port—
Their coming mentioned—be—

If spoken by the distant Bird—
If met in Ether Sea
By Frigate, or by Merchantman—
No notice—was—to me—

Emily Dickinson, Poem #533
Poem found at poets.org, now in the public domain

I’d like to be a butterfly, wouldn’t you?

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 August 2018
Photo found at http://www.nhm.ac.uk

%d bloggers like this: