Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

The air of early August

Sights and sounds of life
Fill this morning’s dense humid air
Gray and white clouds sail across blue sky

Gentle breezes persist
Carrying the voices of children
On a mission in the park
Earnestly they discuss strategies
For climbing the maple tree
Towering above them

A woman heavy with child
Drops off a friend heavy with back pack
And her young toddler eager
To climb steps on the playground gym
Preparing for those Mt. Everest trees
Waiting on the perimeter

All of us serenaded
By a chorus of birds and cicadas
Rising and falling in concert
On the air of early August

Just a few observations from my morning walk. Plus a downloaded photo of a butterfly bush plus butterfly. I walk by butterfly bushes nearly every day. Lots of lovely blossoms, but not many butterflies yet.

Being a sometimes teary sort, I’ll admit to getting the sniffles when I saw children playing in the park. A reminder of how quickly life comes and goes, taking us with it.

I don’t know if there’s a secret to living with joy and gratitude. I am, however, certain butterflies and children can show me the way when I’m willing to have a childlike heart. Which is all I’m asked to have in the presence of the One who knows me best.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 August 2018
Photo found at almanac.com

Dealing with Apathy | Dear Mr. Trump

On August 1 I wrote the post below. It’s in the form of a letter to Mr. Trump.

Then I decided not to hit Publish. Why? Because I began hearing a small, nagging voice: It won’t make any difference anyway. Why bother?

So I didn’t trash it. I kept it, and looked at it yesterday. Still no joy in posting this. So I didn’t.

Yet if I’m not clear and open about what I’m experiencing as a citizen of the USA, I’ll completely lose my nerve. The unthinkable will merge into the thinkable even when it isn’t. Or worse, I’ll just give up and fall into that bottomless pit called Apathy.

I’m not one to let things go. Especially when they’re important to me. So I’m posting this for my sake. It’s also my way of standing with others still figuring out their own journeys through this alien landscape, uncertain what’s coming next.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, my hope is not now and will never be built upon Mr. Trump’s performance–past, present or future. Or on the performance of anyone else in any administration, national, public or local.

____

Dear Mr. Trump,

I see you’re distressed yet again about Robert Mueller’s ongoing, legally-authorized investigation. Yet again, you’re asking the Attorney General of the USA to halt Mueller’s probe.

I also observe that you don’t enjoy being an onlooker who is unhappy with the way someone else is doing his or her job. Perhaps you’re also afraid of what this might mean for you or someone close to you somewhere down in the road.

In any case, I respectfully remind you that every day we wake up, every American–whether she or he voted for you or not–must live with the reality of your administration.

Please demonstrate your trust for the man you hand-picked to be Attorney General of the USA, and let our justice system do its work without interference from the top.

Respectfully,

Elouise Renich Fraser
Citizen of the USA

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 August 2018 and 3 August 2018

Somewhere she waits

Surfacing above deep waters
Her body a hieroglyphic vision
Of life’s subterranean journey
Through unseen landscapes
Sacred and scarred
Inspected and celebrated
Not for character or fame
But for enduring and surviving
An endangered relic
Visited periodically
In a backwater museum
Somewhere she waits

For all senior citizens periodically celebrated for living yet another year. Keepers of wisdom and history, we’ll never know them unless we ask and listen with our hearts and minds wide open. No matter how foreign, slow or garbled the language. Old age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom. It is, nonetheless, an often ignored tablet of history that shaped, blessed and haunts us.

I wrote the poem after looking at a recent photo of my Aunt’s 91st birthday party. She has multiple daughters and sons who care for her. Not all are so blessed. Though even when blessed, it’s painfully possible to be seen without being heard.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2018
Ukrainian Black Ink Drawing found at 123rf.com

Doing it My Way

Well, here I am a week later, learning to focus on thing I know I can enjoy right now. No matter what comes next.

Several days ago I decided to  list many items as I could think of. Not a bucket list of things to do before I die, but a list of things I want to enjoy as much as possible right now.

I won’t bore you with the full list, which is still growing. I do want you to see, however, that I’m in full Do It My Way mode! Sometimes I laugh out loud when I’m reviewing the growing list. And sometimes I tear up.

So here goes–a selection, beginning with the first item that popped into my head.

  1. Cooking for myself, My Way! Possibly the most important item on my list. The thought of handing over my diet to rank amateurs or know-it-alls is unthinkable.
  2. Cleaning out my dresser drawers, closets and a few other hiding places. Why? Because I don’t want ANYBODY to see what’s there, unless it counts as Something I Cannot Do Without.
  3. Dressing myself each day all by myself, in clothes that are comfortable and attractive to me (not necessarily to you).
  4. Taking care of ALL personal hygiene needs. You might try imagining what it’s like to be happy doing these things….
  5. Getting out of bed at night to look at the moon, the planets and the stars
  6. Reading poetry written by others and by me
  7. Writing poetry
  8. Having a sense of where I am and what time it is, and enjoying the rhythms of each day
  9. Feeling connected to items in our home–where they came from and why they’re important to me
  10. Recognizing myself in the mirror
  11. Knowing how to call 911 in an emergency
  12. Remembering and recognizing the faces of my family members and friends

Small things that make up my life. Things I can enjoy, appreciate and take note of every day. Not because disaster might come in a certain shape, but because life itself is precious, and all I can count on is what I have today.

Thanks for reading!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 July 2018
Image found at grandmalin.wordpress.com

About Emily and Me

As of today, 30 July 2018, I’ve made interpretive comments on 44 of Emily Dickinson’s poems. My first, If your Nerve, deny you —, was posted on 5 February 2016. It’s high time Emily had a Category of her own. Scroll down to the bottom of every post and you’ll now find an Emily Dickinson category. Click on her name, and you’ll wake up in Emily country!

My relationship with Emily’s poetry happened almost by chance. D and I were visiting his sister and her husband. We stayed overnight. In the guest room was a small bookshelf filled with tempting titles. On the top shelf, lying there by itself, small and unobtrusive, was a Shambhala Pocket Classic titled “Emily Dickinson Poems.”

I picked it up, began reading, and couldn’t put it down. David’s sister kindly told me to take it home and keep it! I was, and still am thrilled.

Emily isn’t an easy read. Dipping into a poem here and there convinced me that, like the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, I would get to know Emily the hard way. That means reading silently and out loud, pondering and paying close attention to every word, every pause, every abrupt combination of words or structure.

No, I’m not an Emily scholar. But I am a better scholar of my life than I was before I began reading her enigmatic, sometimes off-putting poetry. It isn’t all pretty. Truth, when it follows life, isn’t all pretty.

And so Emily has become an interpreter of me. Not in place of, but not unlike the way Hebrew and Christian Scriptures interpret me. She helps me make my way from here to there without giving up hope or losing my strong voice.

I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of Air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro endless summer days –
From inns of Molten Blue –

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” —
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun –

c. 1860

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

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 July 2018

startled into flight

startled into flight
the young striped robin eyes me
from a nearby fence

twice it hops away
juvenile instincts awake
it heads for the trees

I’m just back from my morning walk. A beautiful day so far–not so hazy and humid, a little breeze in the air. Well…there was that giant mower roaring across the park hillside. But other than that, and grandparents and parents delivering young children to a summer program at the elementary school, I was blessedly alone. Until I came around the corner of the school and the poor robin, eating breakfast on the school grounds, got spooked.

Still, a great way to begin a summer day. And now I get to write about it. Icing on the cake!

Cheers!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 July 2018
Photo found in the National Audubon Field Guide

I have not told my garden yet

This poem from Emily Dickinson caught my eye this week. I found it in a volume of her poems for young people. Nonetheless, I heard it as an adult poem about adult pain. My comments follow the poem.

I have not told my garden yet,
Lest that should conquer me;
I have not quite the strength now
To break it to the bee.

I will not name it in the street,
For shops would stare, that I,
So shy, so very ignorant,
Should have the face to die.

The hillsides must not know it,
Where I have rambled so,
Nor tell the loving forests
The day that I shall go,

Nor lisp it at the table,
Nor heedless by the way
Hint that within the riddle
One will walk to-day!

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

This poem is about death: Emily’s preoccupation with death, and her own death. Whether final or as daily reality. Each stanza adds depth to her poetic riddle.

Stanza 1. Emily thinks about her garden, the place that brings her happiness and peace. It seems she’s afraid she might not survive breaking the news, though we’re not yet certain what the news is. It’s clear this won’t be easy or happy news. Not for the garden, the bee, or her.

Stanza 2. Emily thinks about village shops that stare at her when she’s out and about. There she’s known as shy and perhaps ignorant. She has no intention of letting the shops know her plans. They wouldn’t believe that she, of all people, would have “the face to die.”

I take this “face to die” as setting her face toward death, which she names in the last line of the stanza. She faces death with determination, perhaps the way Jesus ‘set his face’ toward Jerusalem—the city in which he would die.

For Emily, it doesn’t matter what the shops or shoppers might think about her. She’s stronger than she’s given credit for. Indirectly, she’s saying they don’t know her at all. So why should she tell them anything at all about her “face to die.”

Stanza 3. Emily now thinks about the hillsides and the forests. She loves both settings yet determines to keep them in the dark. It seems that if she doesn’t tell the hillsides about it, they won’t tell the forests. Perhaps they’ll think she doesn’t love them anymore? Or perhaps the hillsides and forests will die of sorrow?

The verb ‘rambled’ has more than one meaning. It could mean rambling around in the woods, as well as the rambling of Emily’s voice speaking freely to the trees and hillsides. Not to ramble anymore would be a great loss for them and for her. Here she can speak out loud freely and directly. Yet she isn’t going to tell them the day she’ll “go.”

Stanza 4. Finally, Emily has no intention of talking about this at “the table,” which I take to be her family circle. Not even in what we might call baby talk that’s less than clear. She’s also determined not to suggest that “within the riddle” is a hint that “One will walk to-day!”

The last stanza seems to have two meanings: one about her family circle; the other about the poem itself. Which has me wondering whether this is ‘only’ a riddle, or a veiled clue to her unhappiness and desire, if not clear intention, to “walk to-day.” To die to her family and her beloved garden, and never return. A form of death no matter how you read the poem.

I don’t know whether Emily wrote this poem before or after she wrote I Years had been from Home. I do know these are the words of a woman in distress who chooses to tell the truth but tell it slant.

Yes, my heart goes out to her. Emily has a level of courage I haven’t often seen or heard in this life.

Thanks for visiting and reading, and leaving your own interpretive comments or questions if you’d like.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 July 2018
Photo found at correntewire.com

shadowy islands beckon

shadowy islands beckon
the end of the day

promises of greatness
if not prosperity linger
dying on the surface

perhaps tomorrow
will bring clarity and color
to a world gone missing
before the first day ended

(Many thanks to my Australian blogging friend John for permission to use one of his beautiful photos.)

As each week ticks by, seconds tick down with frightening speed. Especially when we measure damage done in what amounts to the blink of an eye. For example, almost overnight our government and its officials have created conditions that ensure hundreds if not thousands more children, young people and parents will suffer from PTSD.

When nighttime falls or even when daylight breaks, the nightmares won’t end.

The photo above isn’t ugly or deeply disturbing. It’s beautiful. At the same time, it’s full of ambiguity about what’s happening, especially beneath the surface and in the distance.

It reminds me of the shadowy picture Mr. Trump projects now under the guise of Beauty. As in, ‘It’s going to be really really Beautiful!’ As though repeating this mantra will calm us down or reassure us.

Yet when push comes to shove, I don’t see evidence that Beauty is happening for everyone in this country, much less elsewhere. Nor do I see a clear and present pathway from here to there that doesn’t involve backtracking and distractions and attempts to make something really really big out of nothing.

We have deep rifts and problems that need solutions. But creating more enemies internally and externally just doesn’t add up to a good day’s work or a good night’s sleep for any of us.

I still believe Resistance is Never Futile. If it doesn’t get us killed, it can make us both softer and stronger. I consider myself part of the loyal Resistance. It would also be nice if we could all enjoy a peaceful evening by a duck pond.

Peace to each of you,
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2018
Photo by John of Australia. You can check out his blog site here.

Keeping on the sunny side

Last night I opened my journal to make a short entry about the day—generally gray and dismal, including a computer-related crisis. Instead, this is what came out:

A thought just came to me. I’m almost afraid to write it down.

For every day and night I live without Alzheimer’s, I want to be grateful – and take advantage of things that bring me joy. I don’t want to live each day under a growing cloud of fear and anxiety about my future or our future [mine and D’s].

I grew up consumed by anxiety, dread and fear. They followed me every day of my life. They were in the air, even when we were having fun. Never too much fun, of course.

I enjoy life, and I generally enjoy being myself and not someone else. Yet often hanging over all of it are clouds of anxiety, dread or fear.

Today it’s easy to point to fear of Alzheimer’s as the chief culprit. But it isn’t. Sometimes it seems I inherited a gene that predisposes me to the dark side of life.

I can’t stop the bad stuff from happening, and I can’t get back what I’ve already lost.

So instead of focusing on what might happen today or tomorrow, I’m choosing to focus on things that bring me joy. No matter how small or ordinary they may seem to others.

If you’re scratching your head wondering why this is such a revolutionary thought, I don’t blame you.

In my family of origin, community and church settings, the struggles of life were often celebrated and even rewarded with attention. Or so it seemed to me. The fun stuff was cake and ice cream we might get to enjoy someday if we were good girls.

I’m choosing instead to feast right now on the sunny side of life. With gusto and without apology, no matter how small or insignificant my choices seem to anyone else.

As for the other stuff, it is what it is. I can’t make it go away. I can, however, shower it with small gifts of joy and delight as often as possible.

Thanks for listening!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 July 2018
Keep on the Sunny Side found on YouTube
Live performance by The Whites and Jerry Douglas (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou arrangement)

gray clouds

gray clouds
hang overhead
ready to burst
at will

my umbrella
small and fragile
the only solace
I might carry
hangs on a doorknob
in my bedroom

unknowns pile on
one after another
an alphabet soup
of indecipherable
medicalese pointing
to things I cannot see
in this dim light

How long oh Lord?

brinkswomanship
does not become me
with so much planning
and packing to do
before that last trip
home

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 July 2018
Photo found at AccuWeather.com

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