Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Writing

Summer 2021 Update for My Friends

Dear Friends,

I’m taking several days off from regular posting. Weariness has caught up with me, and I’m grateful to be seeing my integrative doctor tomorrow. Nothing horrible, though the nagging reality of diminishing energy is no fun. Especially in this Summer’s heat.

Yesterday D and I spent time visiting with a neighbor and one of his friends. We sat outside on the patio next to his lovely garden and had a lively conversation. It made me realize once again how fragile life is, and how much each connection and communication matters.

As for the work I need to do, it’s almost all in my office, crying out for attention. I’ve already gone through quite a bit, sometimes tearing up as I read old notes from family members, students, colleagues and friends. A few days ago I uncovered yet another neatly organized box of letters and photos. I’m astonished at how much I’ve kept and almost forgotten.

So now it’s down to what I’ll keep, what I’ll get rid of, and what our children and grandchildren might want to see or have.

From another perspective, it’s down to how many times I’m going to pause to rejoice, lament, or read. Though I don’t tend to cling to the past, it seems I’ve let it cling to me. Perhaps because I knew I wouldn’t adequately appreciate it until now.

On a lighter note, we’re watching a brave patch of sunflowers growing in our back yard. Remnants left behind from the large bird feeder we put out this past winter. Yesterday I saw the first bits of yellow petals beginning to unfold. It looks like we might have 7 flowers in all, thanks to the kindness of winter birds dropping sunflower seeds (among other things) in the snow! According to the chart above and their current height, I think they’re Giant Singles (about 5 feet high).

Cheers and prayers for all of us as we make our way through this rapidly changing world.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 July 2021
Photo found at thegardeningcook.com

Chart found at pinterest.com

The Apple Tree

I want to be a poem tree. Reaching out and up to the heavens, blown by the wind of God’s Spirit, sheltering birds, bearing fruit, sinking roots deep into the ground, soaking up water, thriving in sometimes hostile circumstances. The kind of tree Psalm 1 describes.

A tree planted by living water
That brings forth its fruit in its season.
Its leaves don’t wither;
Whatever it does, it prospers.

Poem trees (surely you’ve seen one) don’t have only one way of communicating. Yet their impact is simple. They point to the inexplicable. The way a life sometimes can.

Which reminds me of Jesus of Nazareth. Not just as a human being and God’s beloved son-child, but as a tree. What kind of tree was he?

I think he was a poem tree. Pointing with ordinary words to the inexpressible, to what we discern through and beyond spoken or written words. The truth about God and about us. Grand, yet simple.

As simple and grand as a common, ordinary apple tree. Known and loved worldwide. Dependable, not full of exotic promises about heavenly hybrids that may offer curb appeal, but end up being a disappointment or just another pretty ad.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. I first heard this song in the 1980s when I was studying theology. The lyrics captivated me. I can’t be Jesus Christ the apple tree. Nonetheless, I want to be a poem tree with a small resemblance to the simple, poetic significance of this one life. I also want to rest a while, a very long while, beneath its shade.

To hear a performance of Elizabeth Poston’s haunting tune, click here. It takes only 2 minutes, 42 seconds. Well worth a listen!

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

* * *

Lyrics published in Divine Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1797,
written by Joshua Smith/William Northup

Tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987, sung here by
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, about 1993.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2015, edited and reposted 20 July 2021
Photo from chiefrivernursery.com

A Lament and a Catbird

Whatever falls from
My tongue daily betrays
My sad acknowledgement
Of growing limitations
And disinterest in
Keeping up with the latest
So-called improvements
Intended to make writing
A joy a bliss or even an ecstasy
Beyond knowing or understanding

Which would be my current
Problem precisely to a T –
Not knowing and not understanding
And beyond that not interested
in finding out how to navigate
the avalanche of ever so
unhelpful changes now multiplying
like lantern-flies or cicadas or
voracious ants or even Smudge’s
daily attempts to cool his body
via white-fur dumps everywhere

No, I’m not going crazy. I’m fed up with the pace of changes. Yes, I have a live-in expert who remembers everything. His on-line name is D. However, he is not paid nearly enough to save me from my own ineptitude.

Here’s reality in a nutshell: I am a writer. I love being a writer. Nothing makes me happier these days than letting what’s inside make its way onto the page and then sharing it with you.

My favorite thing yesterday was watching our back-yard catbird ecstatically splashing in the birdbath, throwing water up into the air with his wings, and catching the drops as they fell on his hot little body. I witnessed three such episodes. I also got a dose of his scolding call when I was cleaning and refilling his lovely little bathtub!

Praying today brings joy in the midst of everyday frustrations.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2021
Photo of catbird bathing found at thebackyardnaturalist.com

In praise of meadows

This morning D and I drove out to Longwood Gardens for a visit. Imagine great weather, wonderful breezes, and puffy white clouds floating beneath a bright blue sky.

D is downloading his photos even as I write this. So yes, you’ll get to see some awesome photos later. In the meantime, here’s one of my early poems, written in 2015 after a visit to Longwood’s still new Meadow Garden. D took the photo above during a Meadow visit in August 2014.

By 2015 I’d been retired from the seminary for several years, and had been blogging since late December 2013. I didn’t have much self-confidence, and felt like an odd ball without a home.

Looking at photos taken in Longwood’s Meadow Garden gave me the idea for this poem. For me, the meadow is the highlight of Longwood Gardens. Not the meticulously planted, pruned and displayed wonders of an estate garden, but the wild, unpredictable beauty of a large meadow inhabited by birds, bees, butterflies and other small creatures.

Here’s the poem–unchanged from its first debut.

Is there something to be said
for wild, lightly cultivated gardens—like meadows?
Not showcases of stunning flowers and cultivated flower walks,
But life-giving, naked, raw beauty—
able to withstand harsh weather with grace—
Welcoming visitors of all kinds.

I want to be a meadow garden
With paths for thoughtful feet
Space for tears and laughter
Occasional butterflies and birds,
Spiders, moths, and ‘lesser’ life forms.

Perhaps the wildness of my internal life
Wants to be honored, named and lightly cultivated?
Recovery isn’t about taming life.
It’s about reclaiming it—
The semi-wild meadow
that hears and sees music 24/7.
That’s what I want to be. Living life
naked, lightly cultivated and beautiful.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 June 2021 (poem first published in March 2015)
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Meadow Garden, August 2014

Breakfast with the Birds

brazen bold bluejay
hogs large birdfeeder
grabs one seed and bolts

small chipping sparrow
flees to small feeding window
to make a withdrawal or two

quick brown chipmunk
vacuums between green grass blades
packing cheek pouches with loot

one male blackbird
flashes bright red wing bars
coming in for fast food takeout

I sit behind my kitchen window
grateful to be alive
and eating indoors

Most days I’m mesmerized by the way birds cooperate in order to get a bite to eat. Actually, I’m not sure they’re cooperating. They seem to love or at least tolerate their unspoken pecking order, which lies at the bottom of most of their unruly behavior.

Almost every day I wonder what it would take to live in a different human pecking order. One based on need and the desire to survive together. Not on our current order driven by size, brilliant feathers, or loud, rude voices.

Last night I was feeling down. Having my computer keyboard die on me yesterday was more than I’d planned on. Most evenings, I write in my journal. Last night I decided to read from Without a Flight Plan. It was just what the doctor ordered. A bit of birdseed to get me through the night.

This post was created with thanks to D for loaning me his ThinkPad.
Thanks to you for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 April 2021
Photo found at ebay.com

News About Without a Flight Plan

Here’s the latest news on my book of poetry!

Without a Flight Plan is now available on Amazon! However, if you search for the book title, you won’t find it. We’re trying to get that corrected. If it can’t be corrected, so be it.

Monday, April 26 update. The correct title now shows on Lulu, and should soon show up on Amazon and other sellers.

Instead of using the title, search Amazon.com (under Books) for Elouise Renich Fraser. You’ll see the title is given as Telling the Truth 2020. This was the project title, not the book title. However, we’re working to get that sorted out, if possible, through Lulu. In the meantime, I would not recommend trying to purchase it from Lulu.

If, for any reason, you’re not able to purchase the book online, contact me at tellingthetruth1993@gmail.com. I’d be happy to send you the book (with covers and all photos) in a pdf file, at no cost. Though I want the book out there in print, I’m not trying to make money. I getting my current, mostly unfiltered voice out there before it’s too late. Or better, while I can still enjoy it!

Confession: I cried buckets of tears when we finally figured out why we couldn’t find the book online. I’ll probably cry a few more tears. However, the most important thing is that you’re able to read my poems and see some of David’s stunning photos yet again! Yes, the cover shot (chosen by me) is his, too.

Questions? Let me know. And thanks, as always , for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 April 2021
Cover photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens

About my book of poems

Dear Friends,

The last few weeks have been hectic. Not with busy work, but with my book of poetry! It’s not yet out there, but forthcoming. Title: Without a Flight Plan.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Writing poetry is easy, compared with preparing it for publication.
  2. Though self-publishing through Lulu is a blessing, it’s also a hassle. Not with them, but with back and forth electronic clarification or correction of anything at all. After proof-reading and fiddling with four trial copies, I’m ready to let it go. But see #3!
  3. Before I sign off on the book, I must supply (for outlets that offer the book) a brief description of what the reader can expect to find in my poetry. Expletive deleted.

Several years ago I decided I would not try to publish a book of my poetry. It felt like a huge interruption and a hassle I didn’t want to invite into my life.

That was then; this is now; and yes, I’ve changed my mind.

Why? Partly due to choices made and not made by our former POTUS. His lack-luster response to Covid-19 will haunt us for years. As will his unprofessional behavior in front of cameras eager to catch every glimmer of the Trump circus.

Still, the bottom line isn’t Trump, it’s how I experienced life during 2020. A great mish-mash of ups and downs, disappointments and unexpected gifts.

When I was teaching seminarians in the 1990s, I had two books published. One (coauthored) was called Making Friends with the Bible. The other, Confessions of a Beginning Theologian, was about how I became and was still becoming a theologian. Both books drew on personal experience and observations. In addition, each was judiciously worded. I didn’t want to upset my father or anyone in authority over me.

In this collection of poems, I don’t hold back or try to dress up what I wish I could say out loud. Even better, I no longer wonder what my father would say if he ever read these poems. Nor do I worry about what family, friends or strangers might think of me. So yes, it’s time to get one more book out there!

Thanks again for visiting, and listening not just to me but to your own heart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, March 2016

What’s a senior citizen to do?

Wheels rush downhill
Splashing through
Early Spring water

My mind travels
Backward through time
Now gone forever

Last night our cat
Conquered and ate
Yet another mouse

All except his head
And tail and a few entrails
Yet to be identified

It’s downhill all the way
No chance to return
To the beginning

I thought I would fear
This end of life scenario
Hurtling toward me

And yet…

I’m caught between the joys and agonies of this life.
Right now the agonies seem to be outpacing the joys.
Even so, I want to live forever, joys and sorrows included.

So what’s a senior citizen to do?

Keep my head above water and my eyes wide open; support the next generations; and have my pen ready to capture truth in words I didn’t know were in me.

On balance, after removing D from the equation, blogging saved my life. It gave me a life I never dreamed I would have, and friends I never thought I would meet.

Thanks for stopping by. Your visits and comments give me hope for this tired old world. The same world for which Jesus of Nazareth lived and died.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 March 2021
Image found at steemit.com

Coming up for air

 

Coming up for air
Weary mind and body
Conspire

Catching me off guard
They try changing the subject
Of my latest thought

Which to be sure
I cannot remember in full
Now lost in my dreams

Clouds outside hang heavy
With bits of sleet and weary snow
Frozen and mushy

Like my brain melting
And freezing again drifting
on Shumann’s Träumerei

I’m a bit weary and giddy today. Last night we sent off the (hopefully) last version of my small book of poetry: Without a Flight Plan.

Do I need to publish a book? No. Do I want to? Yes, even though I’ve already said I’m not going to write another book.

So…What happened? 2020 happened. Covid-19. Trump. Black Lives Matter. Social Distancing. And a whole lot more. In addition, my dearly beloved husband suggested last November that I put together a book of my poetry for family members. He also offered to get it ready for printing.

My first response? No way! However, on second thought, last year was one of the most bizarre years of my life. So I decided to let some of last year’s poems speak for themselves (without commentary), along with some favorite Longwood Gardens photos taken by D.

So yes, I’m weary of proofreading. However, I’m excited about having a book this close to becoming real. Especially at this time in my life.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 February 2021
Thanks to YouTube for the video at the top.

thick roots revisited

P1040831

thick roots tangled knots
barely hanging onto bank
drink deep waters

The last several days have been unpredictable and sometimes discouraging. I keep reminding myself that I’m not in charge of things. The news these days isn’t great. Even so, every day offers an opportunity to look up, look back, look ahead, and take another step. I wrote the following comments in April 2017.  

 ~~~

This haiku was my third post to this blog, published on 3 January 2014. It still haunts me, though not in the same way.

I first saw these roots when D and I were walking with our daughter and her husband through Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. The tangled roots were beautiful and foreboding.

It was a bit like blogging, which I’ve experienced as a formidable venture into unknown territory. Like being born and surviving. Sometimes against all odds.

Writing lets my exposed roots show, often whether I realize they’re showing or not. Writing also stakes my claim to a tiny, precarious plot of land that sits open, vulnerable and visible to passersby.

I’ve traveled a long way since my early posts, yet my roots are still my roots. Bare, and barely hanging onto precious ground that’s stronger, deeper, and more nourishing than I could have imagined.

Deep waters aren’t visible, and they don’t untangle all the knots in my life. Sometimes I wonder whether they’re drying up.

Yet even in dire circumstances, I discover more than enough to get me through each day. Sometimes with tears of sorrow and disbelief. More often with joy and sheer gratitude for the privilege of being human. Able to thrive in the forest next to redwood giants, with miniscule ferns growing around and from my feet.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 April 2017, and 16 February 2021
Photo credit: DAFraser, October 2012, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon

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