Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Spiritual Formation

Have we lost our way?

From the corner of my eye
They sailed by just outside
My kitchen window
Brilliant gold bodies rising
And dipping together
Through damp morning air
And today’s rain shower

Yesterday’s sunshine
Brilliant with gold petals
And fine feathers hovered
Gracefully in warm spring air
Drinking in the wonder
Of juicy insects and
The good earth’s bounty

Outside my window I hear
The soft chirp of birds
In earnest conversation
About nothing and everything
In general that birds love
To talk about behind our
Backs and without our consent

Is there salvation in nature?
Are we the only wise ones
Left on the face of the planet?
Or, heaven forbid, have we
Lost our way home to the
Meadows and ponds and
Buzzing of bees and insects?

Yesterday we took advantage of warm sunshine and breezes, and visited Longwood Gardens. This time we focused our energy on the Meadow, walking almost the complete perimeter. D took tons of photos, and I’ll have a photo post later.

In the meantime, I’m pondering how to take more dirt walks, as recommended by John Muir!

Happy Thursday! I’m glad to be back at it. Our granddaughters’ commencement and other wonderful activities here at home have just about sated me for social life. I miss regular writing and posting…..

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 June 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens Meadow, 12 June 2019

 

Bittersweet

A passage from one of Mary Oliver’s poems came to mind Wednesday evening as I wrote in my journal. On Tuesday we heard our two granddaughters speak to gathered friends and family for half an hour each. They talked about their lives, their dreams, and their experiences in school and on trips here and abroad. Each is sensitive, observant, articulate, and determined to follow her dreams.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal. The passage from Mary Oliver’s poem follows.

It’s all so bittersweet – watching our children and grandchildren grow up – time taken from my life as their lives expand outward – and mine exhales, drawing energy inward – already dying. Maybe becoming elderly is about becoming expendable – moving over or moving on to make room for the next generations.

Mary Oliver says it well – most of our ‘lives’ we’re not even here – the great before and the ageless after of a flash in the darkness.

Tonight I’m weary, and my heart is letting me know it’s running out of steam. Yes, it’s late in the day. It’s also late in my life. Teach me to number my days. To love life, and relinquish what I can no longer carry.

I wonder how my highly sensitive self is figuring into my health as I age? I feel more reflective, and content to do nothing in particular except feel my feelings and rest my body and mind.

It was difficult to watch one granddaughter’s highly sensitive self yesterday as she spoke. I wanted to hug her and tell her how wonderful it is to have this awkward gift.

Here are the closing stanzas from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine.” She’s urging us to pause and Look! Our time on this earth is short. Pay attention Now! to the hummingbird, the roses, the lilies floating in the black ponds….

Look! for most of the world
is waiting
or remembering—
most of the world is time

when we’re not here,
not born yet, or died—
a slow fire
under the earth with all

our dumb wild blind cousins
who also
can’t even remember anymore
their own happiness—

Look! and then we will be
like the pale cool
stones, that last almost
forever.

© Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. One, pp 56-57
Published by Beacon Press (1992)

Tomorrow is commencement day. I’m getting ready by chilling out, breathing deeply, and taking in this beautiful weather before it disappears.

Happy Friday, and thanks for visiting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 June 2019
Photo found at georgiawildlife.com

Fear has no wings – For our granddaughters 2019

I wrote this over two years ago., and am posting it again for our two beautiful granddaughters.

I was born into a Christian sub-culture driven by fear. Fear of the world, and fear of God whose all-seeing eye follows us day and night.

This was both comforting and terrifying. The world ‘out there’ was harsh and unforgiving. A dangerous place for little girls and big girls. I needed a Guardian.

Yet God’s all-seeing eye was taking notes. Was I being naughty or nice? Was I pleasing God or making God sad, angry or disgusted?

It was super-important to be productive as well as untouched and untainted by ‘the world.’ Evil lurked around every corner. Fear was the best preventive medicine I could take.

Fear helped me keep rules. Fear helped me develop keen eyes for what would please people in authority over me. Fear surreptitiously kept my hand to the grindstone. I wanted to be ready for the day when God would judge me for what I had done and not done.

I grew up without wings. Instead, I developed a remarkable talent for trying harder and jumping higher. Failure or even the whiff of failure was devastating.

Now, many failures later, I’ve begun developing tiny wings. Baby wings. The kind I trimmed back most of my life, trying to stay in the nest and out of trouble.

Being born plopped me into an aching world fraught with pain and anguish, troubles upon troubles. It’s impossible to stay out of trouble if I’m alive and breathing. Whether it’s my fault or not isn’t the issue.

Today I accept trouble in my life. Not because it’s good, but because it helps me develop baby wings. It helps me look up and around, gaining a glimpse of where I might fly next. I don’t want to waste more time trying to jump higher.

Here’s a favorite quote from Simone Weil’s Waiting for God. The highlighting is mine.

There are those people who try to elevate their souls
like someone who continually jumps from a standing position
in the hope that forcing oneself to jump all day—and higher every day—
they would no longer fall back down, but rise to heaven.
Thus occupied, they no longer look to heaven.

We cannot even take one step toward heaven.
The vertical direction is forbidden to us.
But if we look to heaven long-term,
God descends and lifts us up.
God lifts us up easily.

As Aeschylus says,
‘That which is divine is without effort.’
There is an ease in salvation more difficult for us than all efforts.

In one of Grimm’s accounts, there is a competition of strength
between a giant and a little tailor.
The giant throws a stone so high that it takes a very long time
before falling back down.
The little tailor throws a bird that never comes back down.
That which does not have wings always comes back down in the end.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2017, reposted 6 June 2019
Photo of baby golden-eye ducks found at urbanpeek.com

To the Gardener after reading Psalm 1

Your words, so beautiful to read,
Crush me beneath the weight of
Life already lived – a great muddle
Of garden-rich vegetables plus toxic
Stew of tongue and cheek hurled
My way, often from my own mouth.

At this age I’ve little left but memories,
Plus ever-present directives from
Well-meaning people and ill intentions
From the other kind. To say nothing of
My own sometimes distressed mind
And body seeking solace and reassurance
That I matter to somebody if not
To myself.

Here, then, is my request:
I long to start over as a small tree
Planted by rivers of clear, pure water,
Guarded and pruned by Your hands
Alone. If this is not possible, I would
Also settle for a long and lovely
Winter’s nap.

From one of Your elderly fans,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2019
Image found at JackMaxwellArt.com

Swimming together upriver

Swimming together
Upriver
Against tide and time
Searching for clues
Who am I?
Who are you?

Life dives deep
Takes us to depths
Unanticipated
Time runs short
Patience grows weary

A wise woman once told me
The best pearls
Are discovered
At the bottom
Of the river
Hidden and waiting
Eager to be found
Small gems worthy
Of a lifetime of
Living and dying

Reading and thinking about death has made me acutely aware that each day matters. Not that each day didn’t already matter. Still, I’m now more focused on each day than on each week, month or year. Especially when it comes to life with D. And, indirectly, with our children and their families.

When I look around at friends and family members, I see how many have lost spouses to death. We have time some of them didn’t have. So for right now, life is fiercely about the two of us. It isn’t about what might happen at the end, or how long we might have before death. Instead, it’s about the difference it makes today in our relationship when we read and talk together about death.

I grew up in a family that didn’t talk easily about death. The focus was always on the here and now–especially how to be a good girl and make the family proud. It was also usually about ‘them.’ That would be whoever just died, what she or he died of, how shocked or not shocked we are about this, and when the funeral will be held.

Of course these and other things are important. Yet I’m finding this discipline of reading and talking about death more encouraging than I expected. It isn’t always easy. Still, it’s a relief and an unexpected adventure.

So far we’ve barely scratched the surface. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to find a friend or family member and give it a try.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 June 2019
Double exposure taken accidentally the day we became engaged; Tybee Island Beach, Savannah, Georgia

Prayer from a beginner

Because You know me best
And lived Your unscripted life
Amongst the rest of us in the
Tangible body of a human being
Full of gracious truth and mercy….

I pray for grace to write poems
Leaping here and there
Without effort or forethought
Landing on the right note
At just the right time

I ache to write how much You
Love us and our stumbling music
Plus our tears in the night when
No one is looking or hears
What You alone understand

In rare moments when apt words
Tumble from my subconscious
I’m in awe and deeply grateful
For songs You sing to each of us
Especially in the shadowy light
Of any too-long day or night

And finally, for each of us,
I pray courage to face each day
Without fear and with no more
Uncertainty or loneliness than
You were able to bear when
Walking in our shoes of clay

From one of your followers.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2019
Image found at WFMT.com

Writing about Life and Death

Dear Friends,
I have death on my mind these days. Not without life. Yet it’s different, this discipline of writing about death.

Just over a week ago my Fitbit One fell into the toilet! No kidding. No resuscitation. And no easy replacement. I’ve used a Fitbit for approximately ten years. Never once did it jump into the toilet. Until now.

Alas! My faithful Fitbit One is no longer sold or actively supported by Fitbit. So I’ve moved to a lowly pedometer. It won’t produce the same data and analysis. It will, however, get me off my butt and moving every day.

My latest waking dream, posted with a poem called Portals, was also about big change. In the dream, I’ve left my familiar world and just arrived in a different space. It looks and feels like a transitional space. Think of an international airport only nicer. A place where people of all ages, races, nationalities and ways of life are mingling. I’m a beginner, yet at ease and happy to be there.

Here’s something else that’s happening. I’m playing the piano more often and enjoying it more. In the dream I find a room brimming with children singing, and adults out in the hallway singing along with them. I didn’t want it to stop.

Which reminds me of my visits with Diane. Each time I visited, I cried when it was time to leave. Every visit held moments of beauty, pain, and deep connection. Saying goodbye was painful. I didn’t want to leave because Diane might die before I returned.

That’s similar to the way I feel about playing the piano. It’s a sign that beauty hasn’t vanished from my life. Nor will it. Just as long as I stay ‘close to the bone’ and keep telling the truth. Even if I’m not able to play the piano anymore.

In the meantime, I want to know how all of this will play out in my writing. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says this:

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.

© Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, p. 3, published by Pantheon Books in 1994

One thing is certain. Each of us will die sooner or later. I want to walk and write toward death truthfully and with intention, open to voices of others, and especially open to my own voice and experiences along the way.

Thanks for listening and visiting!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 May 2019
Photo found at messynessychic.com

Conversations on Loving and Dying

Diane is on my mind these days. Sister #3 of four daughters. She died of ALS after 10 years of learning to live with it and with death. During this time I visited her regularly, and witnessed a chain of small and large deaths. Game-changers.

Muscle movement died off bit by bit. Some capacities disappeared overnight. This was death in life, taken in a thousand small and large bites. When she died, she was barely able to move her eyes and eyebrows—keys to communicating with family members and caretakers.

What does it mean to die? I don’t believe Diane died just on the day she never woke up. She died a thousand times over on the way from here to there. She learned to embrace and live with death. Sometimes with gusto. Other times with anguish and anger.

Recently D and I started reading and talking about Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. It’s by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush. Ram Dass had a stroke about 20 years ago, and is still learning to live with death. His friend Mirabai Bush spent time with him talking about death, and then helped bring this book to life.

The book invites us into conversation about questions we often ignore. Especially conversation with the person we’re most likely to be with when we die. Call it getting ready to die by learning to let go of what holds us back.

Recently I wrote a poem about numbering my days. It takes wisdom to number our days. I can’t pretend death is way off in the distance. I don’t know when it will come. I do, however, know I need wisdom to make choices. What will I do and not do right now, given the time I have today?

Diane is my heroine for this kind of wisdom. She numbered her days. She decided what she would and would not do in the time she had left, and what would signal the end—time for comfort care until she died.

I don’t have ALS. Still, I have fewer years to live today than I had yesterday, and at least two health issues that will likely contribute to my death.

I’m relieved I’ve begun these conversations with D. They aren’t always easy. They are, however, always productive.

As always, thank you for visiting and reading. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write from my heart. No matter where it finds me on any given day.

Elouise♥ 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 May 2019
Image found at amazon.com

Lost

Aching for a day of rest
Quiet time. Down time.

I’m lost. Uncentered and
Unfocused. Getting through
Each day as I’m able without
Much structure or sense of
Movement. The world feels
Heavy tonight. I want to
Shut it out yet cannot.

Weather. Politics. Disasters
In the making. Addictions to
Addictions. Things falling
Apart display the seamy
Side of life and how little we
Understand where, how or
Why we’re going or not
Going.

Blatant. It’s not hidden
Anymore. No filters to drown
Out today’s terror or tomorrow’s
Warring madness. Caught
Without a plan or the humility
Of guidance or signs of care
For real people not on the
Power grid.

Then again, it isn’t new or
All that different than my
Post-WWII childhood. Just more
Open. Unapologetic. In my face
Like that horror movie I never
Paid to see.

They say we should hope.
I say hope is hopeless minus
Action. Yet here I am. Old.
Not sure I have it in me to
Resist injustice no matter
Where and when it’s found.
Help me find my way home.
I think I’m lost.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2019
Image found at wnycstudios.org

On any given day

Death knocks
Each time I blink
Or turn around
To answer the door
Or look the other way

An incessant drizzle
Muffles the sound of
A clock chiming hours
Now gone forever. . .
Steals through pores
In skin and brain
Takes up sweet residence
Pays no rent and
Leaves no tips
For the next occupant

Today I’m off to the kitchen to make a big pot of lentil/veggie soup for my hungry soul. I’m comforted by the thought of death intermingling with life. It doesn’t make it any more attractive. It does, however, make sense of the passing away of each moment.

It also suggests ways to acknowledge its presence instead of wasting energy ignoring it — or trying to lock it in the recesses of a large closet to be opened only upon my death.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 May 2019
Image found at fotosearch.com

%d bloggers like this: