Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Slogging

Heavy air
Crushes lungs
Dragging
My body
Up the hill
In hot
Humid air

No elation
Just the
Steady beat
Of aching feet
Meeting hot
Pavement
Despite
Beauty all
Around
Begging
For attention

This morning’s humid air was heavier than I am, bearing down relentlessly despite my determination to finish walking through the neighborhood.

I do not consider the above to be one of my better poems. Which is just as well, given the circumstances. Nonetheless, it is the full truth about this morning’s usually cheery walk filled with happy bird-song.

Slogging. My word for the day. According to Merriam Webster it means “To plod (one’s way) perseveringly especially against difficulty.”

So here’s the irony of aging, which I put in the ‘difficulty’ box:  The smarter we get, the slower we go.

That’s it in a nutshell. The great conundrum of senior wisdom based on experience, now trapped in aging bodies. Which, when I’m honest, can also be encouraging. Not the slow part, but the smarter part.

In other words, I like to believe my life experience (good, bad, ugly, disgusting, heavenly) has taught me more than I ever learned in school, at home, or even in the church. This is true whether I’m able to remember and articulate it, or not.

For now, I’m sticking close to home which has its own slogging work to do!

Here’s hoping you’re still in one piece and thriving at the end of this week.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2021
Photo found at mentalfloss.com

Carolina Fraser’s Grand Prize Photo

Greater Roadrunner, Los Novios Ranch, Cotulla, Texas

This was my absolutely best news of the day! One of our granddaughters, Carolina Fraser, won Audubon’s 2021 Grand Prize for amateur photographers. Are we psyched about it? Absolutely!

If you’re interested in seeing all of Audubon’s 2021 Amateur Awards, here’s the link. The photos are fabulous.

Below is the write-up Carolina submitted with the photograph.

Category: Amateur
Species: Greater Roadrunner
Location: Los Novios Ranch, Cotulla, Texas
Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon 500mm f/4.0 lens; 1/3200 second at f/6.3; ISO 2000

Story Behind the Shot: One of my favorite places to take photographs is among the oil pumps and open space at Los Novios Ranch in South Texas, where wildlife weaves through cacti and birds perch on fence posts. On a blazing hot summer day just before sunset, I found myself lying facedown at an uncomfortable angle, my elbows digging into a gravel path as I photographed this roadrunner. I manually adjusted the white balance until I captured the bird bathed in golden sunlight as it took a dust bath.

Bird Lore: An icon of the southwest, the Greater Roadrunner is uniquely adapted for living on the ground in dry country. It can run considerable distances at 20 miles per hour and derive the moisture it needs from lizards, rodents, and other prey. When water is available, it drinks readily, but it seldom if ever uses water for bathing. Instead, frequent dust baths are the rule for roadrunners, along with sunbathing on cool mornings.

The other news of the day is pretty routine. We enjoyed a lovely, very warm walk early this morning before today’s temperature soared into the low 90s. Other than that, it was all about household stuff, and making sure the bird baths were clean and ready to go.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 July 2021
Photo of Greater Roadrunner taken by Carolina Fraser

Dear Friends,

Yesterday D sent me a link to the amazing performance above. It’s the kind of music that’s good for whatever ails you (or not). Relatively short and mesmerizing. Don’t miss it!

This morning I got up early to go to the hospital for another routine blood draw. This was a bit more difficult than usual due to all-night floodlights and a huge crew of workers, equipment trucks and drilling right in front of our house. It went on without a break through the night, and will continue indefinitely. Yes, we were notified months ago that this would happen sometime this summer. We were not, however, prepared for the all night drilling and floodlights!

So far this morning I’ve given up two vials of blood, done a big load of laundry, cooked a pot of quinoa, filled the bird feeder and changed out the bird bath water. I also read more from W.E.B. DuBois’s book, The Philadelphia Negro, and walked nearly one mile (goal: at least 2 miles).

As for yesterday’s post about fireworks, there was an attack last night at a Philly party that had drawn scores of neighbors. The owner of the small eatery had invited the neighborhood to a free meal. A way of saying thanks for their business. When the attack began, most attendees thought it was fireworks. It was not. Two are dead (including the owner of the eatery); one remains hospitalized. The police ran out of their 100 bullet hole markers.

We never know what a day will bring. Nonetheless, I pray we’ll find threads of acceptance and peace, no matter what our situations may be.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 July 2010
Thanks to YouTube for the mesmerizing performance of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

Something about fireworks

Coming up for air
My eardrums breathe
A sigh of relief

Something about fireworks
Doesn’t sit well with
my wondering soul

Why this grand
Display of pseudo-bombs
Bursting in air?

Sound-echoes of death
To enemies and the weak
Linger in putrid air

Turning the corner
I make my way home
In deepening shadows

It was fun when I was a child in the 1940s and 50s. Nothing more dangerous than fire crackers and sparklers. Usually purchased from a temporary ‘store’ on the side of the road, and enjoyed in our back yard.

I also remember growing anxiety about safety, and the fight within each state over whether to allow unlicensed firework stands to set up temporary operations. Usually this happened around New Year’s Eve, and July 4. If you couldn’t purchase fireworks legally, you could cross over into the next friendly state and find more than enough to go around.

Only when D and I moved to Pasadena, California in the early 1970s did we see a proper July 4 fireworks display. It was in the Rose Bowl. The best seat in the house wasn’t in the stands. It was up high on a ridge overlooking the Bowl. More than enough to awe any child or adult.

Given the current state of our disunion, however, I find the sound of huge fireworks displays disturbing. I can’t help thinking about guns fired too frequently every night of the year, and the trauma this creates.

I also can’t help noticing the bravado that sometimes emerges from adults and young people when engaged in these activities. Is this entertainment, or a way of signifying who we think we are or should become?

I don’t lose sleep about this. Nonetheless, I wonder about the impact and imprint of what feels more and more like a troubling display of misplaced or misdirected patriotism.

Praying your week brings joy and opportunities to connect with family and neighbors.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 July 2021
1940s and 50s Fireworks Stand photo found at pinterest.com

Glory Falls | Maya Angelou

Here we are, near the eve of July 4. Though it’s a day to be proud of our nation, so much has gone so wrong. My comments follow Maya Angelou’s poem.

Glory falls around us
as we sob
a dirge of
desolation on the Cross
and hatred is the ballast of
the rock
      which lies upon our necks
      and underfoot.
We have woven
      robes of silk
      and clothed our nakedness
      with tapestry.
From crawling on this
      murky planet’s floor
      we soar beyond the
      birds and
      through the clouds
      and edge our way from hate
      and blind despair and
      bring honor
      to our brothers, and to our sisters cheer.
We grow despite the
      horror that we feed
      upon our own
      tomorrow.
We grow.

Maya Angelou, poet; found in Sterling’s Poetry for Young People series, page 47.
Published in 2013 by Sterling Children’s Books, New York, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Editorial material © 2007 by Edwin Graves Wilson; Illustrations © 2007 by Jerome Lagarrigue|

I’m reminded of John Stainer’s heart-rending chorus from The Crucifixion, with its invitation to pay attention to ‘the king of grief’ instead of simply passing by.

From the throne of his cross
the king of grief cries out to a world of unbelief,
‘Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?’

It’s one thing to celebrate the insight, agony and beauty of Maya Angelou’s poem. It another to understand that most white people in the USA would prefer to walk on by and try to get on with their lives.

A few weeks ago a friend from seminary days recommended a new book. It’s helping me understand our current impasse here in the USA. It’s written by Drick Boyd, and is titled Disrupting Whiteness: Talking with White People about Racism.

The main point? It’s time for white people to start talking with each other about our individual and collective racism. What are our earliest memories about racism? What forms does racism take? When did we start assuming most white people are superior beings? How do we give up what feels ‘normal’ but is not? How can we support each other for the long haul?

As James Baldwin pointed out in The Fire Next Time (pp. 21-22):

White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

Thanks for stopping by.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 July 2021
Photo of Maya Angelou found at usatoday.com
Book covers found at amazon.com

This morning’s walk

Heat rises quickly
in this tinderbox of grief
a blue jay screams

green grass and tree leaves
offer distraction in vain
sorrow boils over

turning toward home
we pass the cemetery
open arms waiting

How many more unscheduled deaths will there be? How much bone-dry drought can we endure? How many unkept promises and lies are we willing to overlook?

No answers, just questions. Plus recommitment to doing what I can within my small world of family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. It isn’t about saving the world. It’s about making connections that matter. The kind that make our humanity visible in all its flaws and glory, while getting on with the work of becoming human. Together.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2021
Hot summer sun photo found at pixabay.com

Storage | Mary Oliver

What about all the stuff we collect over the years? Mary Oliver knows. My comments follow.

When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
everything.
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing—the reason they can fly.

Published 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (p. 7)
Copyright 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
First published in Felicity, 2015

I grew up in the 1940s and 50s. Back then (post-World War II) we were trained to make do with whatever was at hand. Throwing things away was not encouraged.

Almost anything could be repurposed, altered, or made to fit the need at hand. Glass bottles, aluminum tumblers that used to be filled with store-bought cottage cheese, lids for just about anything, hand-me-down clothes, kitchen utensils, and bits of old candle wax. Furthermore, if we didn’t need it, someone else probably did.

Here, however, Mary Oliver invites us to let go of stuff that takes up unnecessary space. Why? Because it makes room in our hearts for love, for the trees, and for the birds who own nothing.

Could it be that the stuff taking up space includes old attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and other human beings? These might also be lurking in boxes we’ve not examined or relinquished. Which leaves little if any room for the birds, for other human beings, or even for our own growth.

What would it take for us to soar and dance together in the sky?
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 June 2021
Video of Starling Murmuration found on YouTube

ready or not

Staring into the dark
Behind my eyelids
I see nothing
Though the buzzing
In my ear never stops
Like insects in night air
Accompanying the sound
Of tires racing downhill
Outside my window

I imagine the sun
Beaming down brightly
And backyard birds
Feasting on birdseed
Thanks to the kindness
Of the old couple who
Inhabit this old house
Now gone quiet without
The excitement and anguish
Of teenagers to color
The air or play with the
Cat or slowly but surely
Abandon this old house
For their own

Opening my eyes I see
A desk full of ideas
And papers to be sorted
Not my wildest dream
Though I want to begin and
End somewhere before
The sand in my hourglass
Runs dry whether I’m ready
Or not

Despite all the books I’ll never read, countries I’ll never visit, friends and family I may never see again, and daily news that colors the air we breathe, I love life. I also love family members and friends who helped me become the woman I am today.

Death is on my mind today. On Father’s Day our daughter’s father-in-law died. Yet another reminder that I don’t know when my time will end on this earth.

Thanks for stopping by today, and telling someone you love them.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2021
Photo found at labmonline.co_uk

This pain-ridden world

Feeling my way
through one day after another
grates against my desire
to fly and soar with cranes

Scanning the horizon
I see clouds ahead not
the fluffy kind but heavy
with whatever is coming
next in this pain-ridden world

I turn to my trusty keyboard
to play a tune or write a
poem in words that never
quite capture the love I feel
for this world gone crazy
with grief and disbelief
even though we saw it
coming long before it breached
the horizon now contaminated
with the debris of a thousand
misadventures in modernity

The longer I live, the less certain I am that we will implement ways to turn this planet around. Not just for the sake of our human environment, but for the sake of all creatures that inhabit planet earth. The options aren’t very encouraging. Especially if we’re depending on our politicians to deliver something better.

Roots of self-aggrandizement run deep, encouraged daily by new ‘stars’ being born who can make everything OK for maybe a minute. Distracted and distractible, I feel it even in my relatively sane world of retirement.

What will I do today? Ten more things just popped up on my radar. Now what?

More than anything else, I want to keep a steady eye and heart on True North. So what do I do with all this distraction? Today I’m listening to my body and heart as never before. I don’t want to become another misadventure.

Small. I need to keep thinking small. Though I can’t save the world, I want to love it in ways that bring life and joy to me and to those who cross my path. Whether they like the path I’ve chosen, or not.

I pray each of us will find our way through whatever is troubling us right now, and that we’ll experience unexpected joy along the way.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 June 2021
Photo found at nps.gov

Late Spring Photos 2021 | Longwood Meadow

Here they are! Some of D’s photos from our latest visit to Longwood Gardens. The day was sunny and breezy, not too hot or cold. First, here’s what we saw when we crossed the bridge leading to the meadow. Yes, that would be me with my trusty backpack and sun hat.

And what might this be?

It’s the back of a turtle in the pond coated with yellow-green algae. Look carefully and you might see the outline of the turtle’s head on the right. The catbird below was perched just above the pond and turtle.

Now we’re over the bridge, at one of the main entrances to the meadow.
This first glimpse always takes my breath away.
Sort of like coming home after a long trip,
and tearing up in a good way.

Right away we hear and see red-winged blackbirds.
If you have good eyes (or a magnifying glass),
you might spot an insect in this male blackbird’s beak.

Later in the summer and fall, the meadow will be blazing with yellow. Right now it’s all about new  green growth, plus colorful blooming ‘weeds’ and the enormously popular mating season.

In the three photos below, even though the plant colors are subdued, they stand out against the sea of green. Not so immediately visible are three insects, all in the same photo. Can you find them? Hints: One insect is very small and dark; the others are a bit larger and are getting on with the business of producing the next generation.

Here’s a look into the distance from one side of the meadow.
As you can see, growth is still in early stages.

What a gorgeous roof (below)!
I’m not sure whether this is for birds or other meadow dwellers.
Still, I love the stylish hat…

Finally, iridescent beauty below. Four of my favorites,
partly because of their colors.
Also because of their size.
The kind of early beauty that’s often hard to find or see,
in the unpredictable disorderliness of the meadow.

I’m grateful our Creator sees every bit of beauty on this earth, including beauty where we least expect to find it — in each of us, in strangers, and in neighbors.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 June 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser, Longwood Meadow Garden, 16 June 2021

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