Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Writing

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

Sometimes I want to give up

I want to turn into a bird and
join the community at the birdfeeder
A sometimes raucous group and yet
they manage to fly in and out
without mayhem or madness
taking them down bird by bird

This little poem was in the middle of a long list of things bothering me yesterday.  They included personal health issues, life with our dear cat Smudge who vomits every now and then, the mess that passes as my desk, and our national mayhem and madness.

Early yesterday morning I was watching birds at the feeders outside our kitchen window. Even though it was freezing cold with ice and snow on the ground, I suddenly got all teary. I wanted to be a bird! Free to come and go without fear.

Thankfully, a telephone conversation with a longtime friend helped get me back on track.

There’s a reason I felt like packing it in. The real problem isn’t what’s out there, or even my health challenges. It’s my voice. My writing voice. Put simply: Writing on WordPress is about as safe as it can get. Visitors don’t have to agree with me, and I have the privilege of speaking my mind.

For several years I’ve wondered about publishing some of my writing, and have said No. I’ve already published as an academic; I don’t need to publish anything else.

And yet…I wrote my two published books while I was a professor and my father was still alive. I hedged my language, thinking he might read them. They included memories about my childhood, but not about the way things really were for me at home.

Blogging gave me an opportunity to describe my childhood and youth, come to terms with them, and move on as a writer. So here I am today wondering why, with a manuscript nearly ready to publish, I’m nervous and even fearful.

Yet the truth is simple: Though I don’t write to please or appease my father, I still have a whisper of fear in me. This may sound crazy. Still, I need to do this for myself, my mother and sisters, our children and grandchildren, and women and men who have encouraged me as the writer I now am.

More later about the book. Right now I’m back to proofreading.

Happy Friday, and a prayer that we’ll find our way through these troubled days.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 February 2021
Photo found at news.wisc.edu

Now read this, if you dare

Yesterday my longtime blogging friend in Australia posted a thought-provoking piece about Australia and the USA. John is now a retired history teacher, and a superb writer. His mind wanders back and forth, here and there, before coming to the end of it all. This short piece is about where our two countries find ourselves today. Read it, if you dare.

I’ll start you off with the opening paragraph, followed by a link to his piece.

Lebanon, Kansas, USA

There is a small stone pyramid about two miles northwest of Lebanon, Kansas. Lebanon has a population of something a little over two hundred people. It is on the crossroad of highway 36 and highway 281. Highway 36 runs in an almost straight line about 1400 miles or 2200 kilometres from Ohio to Colorado. In the middle, near where the town of Lebanon lies the country is flat wheat fields and looks a lot like much of Australia – small towns with few people and huge grain silos. And the highway isn’t a big highway. As in much of wheat farming Australia, the road is two lanes and narrow.

None of this is relevant but it does add to the poetry that is to come. . . .

Thanks for visiting. Yesterday’s post raised a number of questions. We like to talk about our ‘exceptionalism’ here in the USA. I’m grateful for another viewpoint from the other side of the globe.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2021
Photo found at KansasTravel.org

Disputed and Forbidden Words

“Boundaries”—
Demolished by DT & Friends

“Truth”—
It’s all relevant, right?

“Justice”–
Just for me and mine and those who support me

“Facts”—
What I wanted to see or think I saw, or what I wrote/read on Twitter

“Incitement to Riot”—
Who, me?

We’ve arrived at DT’s second Impeachment Trial
However, it isn’t only about DT
But about every Senator casting a vote
And, most importantly, about us

How did we arrive at this moment?
It isn’t as though we couldn’t see it coming
What sickness unto death infects our nation?

Denial comes to mind

We’ve become experts at our own forms of group denial.
We go along to get along. We feel helpless.
We look the other way. We roll our eyes.
We entertain gossip instead of hanging up the phone,
turning off the TV, or leaving the room.
Or we try to explain away what just happened
as though it weren’t important.

I’m as impacted by all this as the next person. Writing about it isn’t the same as taking a stand. Though I’ll admit it helps me focus.

Bottom line: We need more than Covid-19 vaccinations. I pray there’s still time to begin telling our national truth and seeking national justice for those we’ve harmed, ignored, or belittled. Plus those to whom we’ve cozied up because they had power we thought we needed or deserved.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 February 2021
Photo found at ft.com

A bit of bravado

The space between
My father’s voice and
The voices of those
In authority over me
Is very small indeed

With one quick stroke of
A heartbeat my confidence
Drains away like blood
Refusing to flow through
My body red and strong

I spoke my naked mind
To my father hoping to
Reclaim a voice lost
Somewhere in the now
Distant past of childhood

Today I must speak my mind
To systems that like my father
Believe they have the answers
Without any desire to listen
To real people with real lives.

I don’t have visible power or
The glory of being in charge
Or standing without guilt before
God and country or even the
Church I still love despite it all

Thoughts and feelings like these resurfaced in the last several days. It began with the attack on the Capitol building, followed by the feeling of being invaded in my own home. Which led to wondering whether I should smooth out some of my yet to be written blog entries.

I’m grateful I’ve moved beyond that for now. Still, I’m no less aware that we here in the USA are in a situation for which there is no map.

My mother wasn’t allowed to speak her truth. Neither was I or my three younger sisters. Instead, we often ended up vying for Daddy’s favor. My main objective was to get through the next bad scene without another beating. It took bravado, though I often got into trouble anyway. Still, I scraped together enough bravado to maintain my sense of self, desecrated as it was.

For this coming year I’m counting on truth, and hoping for a bit of bravado! My blog is still about telling the truth. Now notched up a bit, given the woman I am today, the situation in which we find ourselves, and the reality of my impending death. Time is running out.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 Jan 2021
Photo of Bravado Echinacea (coneflower family) found at garden.org

What we’ve lost

The urge to write is upon me
Though ‘about what’ escapes me
Not because nothing is happening
But because my world is shrinking

Behind me an organ plays and
A choir sings about what we’ve lost
A kind of dirge marching slowly
Across pages of my weary mind

Yesterday I gave up trying to figure
It all out as though truth were a
Puzzle to solve for fun and recreation
Before blowing it to smithereens

Is this the beginning of the end?
For what am I willing to live or die?
And why am I here in the first place?
Does anyone out there know or care?

The heaviness of our post-election massacre of truth isn’t a good sign. I keep reminding myself that ‘they’ and ‘we’ are not in control. Though what we do matters, what happens next matters even more, regardless of the outcome of this political tantrum about the 2020 Election. Following the wrong leader can be deadly.

In addition, finding our way home is more difficult and not nearly as much fun as getting lost. Do we have enough shared good will or desire to find our way home, together? Perhaps we’re too busy scoring points, or too certain this attempt to keep Trump in office will fail. Maybe we’re unwilling to see what we’re doing to each other, no matter the outcome.

And here’s another reality: Disenfranchising certain voters has been happening for decades, though it’s never happened to me. Perhaps the silver lining in this cloud is that some of us will finally get it. That is, how it feels and what it means to be deemed nobody.

Happy New Year to each of you, and thank you for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 January 2021
Image found at mynorthwest.com

Life and Death | New Year’s Eve 2020

Words flow like honey
Filled with sharp barbs
Invisible and relentless

Each birth
Each birthday
Each anniversary
Each retirement whether
Planned or not
Each debilitating accident
Each political chess game
You didn’t see coming
Plus Colvid-19 and who’s
Who in the Electoral College Zoo

Grace and glory mixed with
Wormwood and gall
Invite us into the reality of death
Not once in this precarious life
But over and over one day
Following another like a bad
Or good dream depending on
How the ball bounces or
Where it lands on the roulette wheel
Or where we place our trust
As the end precedes the beginning
One day at a time inviting our
Attention not to things that
Dissipate inevitable sorrow
But to sweet gifts of life
Small and almost invisible
Accompanying us into
Each new day and
This new year

Most of my life I’ve assumed New Year Day was the beginning of another great adventure. This year I’m taking it as an invitation not to ignore my coming death. Not because I’m “old” but because I’ve never known when my last breath would leave my body.

Add to that the shape of things today. Not just Covid-19, but streaming refugees, loss of trust between the USA and former allies, the nightmare-like nature of post-Election 2020 claims, grossly inadequate attention to issues related to race, ethnicity, local economies, and growing wealth among those who need it least.

What does this mean? I’ve lived most of my adult life by daily lists. To-do lists. The kind that invite a feeling of despair because they’re never finished. Never.

During the last few weeks I’ve focused on four things that bring me joy: blogging, music, writing poetry, and walking with D. I can’t attend to all of them every day. Still, any one of them is, for me, a way of acknowledging life is short. I don’t have time to waste by avoiding them. Besides, avoiding what I most love won’t bring me joy I could be having right now.

Praying you’ll find your way into joy and alert peace this coming year. This life isn’t over until it’s over.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 December 2020
Image found at travelmanitoba.com

Christmas Eve 2020

Torn between competing worlds
I can’t remember when life felt
this precarious on the eve
of Your birthday celebration

Would You understand
if I told You I don’t feel like
celebrating this year?

Instead I want to be in that
stable with Mary and Joseph
Not just because it’s wonderful
But because it’s dangerous

No, I’m not looking for trouble. I’m wondering what it takes to put myself out there at this age. Can I hope for anything but being treated like a little old lady?

Not that I mind being a little old lady. In fact, WordPress makes it as easy as possible for me to speak my mind freely. So do my followers and visitors.

Nonetheless, I wonder what would happen if I said in my large family circle or in my church, straight-out, what I often say here when I’m blogging. I don’t know the answer, though I expect some might be distressed, or try to fix me. Others might pray for me, which is never a bad idea.

I’m no revolutionary. Still, sometimes the effort of putting out just one post lets me know I’ve had a relatively easy life. In addition, I wasn’t given the gift of confidence in my own voice when I was growing up.

Today the stakes are painfully high. We’re caught here together on this planet. It’s Christmas Eve, and too many of our political, social and religious leaders already know the script. The one called “How to Pretend I’m God and You’re Nobody.”

I don’t mean to sound cynical. Instead, it strikes me as miraculous that Jesus of Nazareth was born as a Nobody. The kind who kept getting in the way, until what amounted to a lynch mob tried to take him down. Yes, he died, and yes, the dance goes on.

Praying you have a thoughtful, encouraging Christmas Eve and Day.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 December 2020
Night sky image found at astronomytrek.com

What next? | Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

As some of you know, I’m a survivor of childhood PTSD. My father’s behavior toward me was the most difficult part of my growing-up years. It cost time, money and effort to become the woman I am today.

Yet I still haven’t faced what it means to be a white woman right now. Specifically, this particular white woman whose childhood set the table for racial blindness. It’s ironic. Nearly every day of my life from age 7 ½ to 14 I rode through colored town, and witnessed the realities of colored life in the Deep South.

My father’s approach to Deep South manners amounted to ‘be polite, smile a lot, and just keep going.’ Don’t ask questions, don’t debate anything, and remember you’re the eldest daughter of the white preacher who speaks from time to time at the Colored Community House.

Still, I was inquisitive. I remember asking my father more than once why things were this way. I’d lived most of my early life on the West Coast. I don’t remember seeing black people in Seattle or in Southern California.

According to my father, it all came down to the way colored people ‘like’ to live. Or what they found ‘most comfortable.’ Or how much money they made, or how they spent it. That was their choice.

Every school day during my grade school years, my father or a neighbor drove us through colored town on our way to and from school in the city. Colored town was about a quarter of a mile from our house.

Yet my father never talked with us about why colored town was there in the first place, why most of the houses needed repair, or what this meant in the larger picture of the Deep South. Perhaps he’d never looked into it.

I’ve decided I can’t avoid looking into it. Not as an academic exercise, but to face what happened before, during and after Jim Crow years, and how I’m now part of the problem.

Thanks for reading. This is a busy month for everyone, so I appreciate your visits even more than usual!

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 December 2020
Photo of segregated city bus in the 1950s found at aapf.org

%d bloggers like this: