Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Christmas in bleak midwinter

Outside my kitchen window
the sun beams bright and clear
on a cold Monday morning

Hungry birds run into each other
trying to gobble as many
ripe red berries as the law
allows in this increasingly
lawless dreamland called
these ‘United’ states

A slight glimmer of hope
remains despite our
greedy determination
to spend it all on ourselves
before we disappear into
the vortex of a tornado or
wildfires of human mayhem

Christmas has rarely been
this bleak though in truth
it first arrived in bleak midwinter
when powers that be weren’t
expecting the revolutionary
transformation sparked by
one small baby born and laid
in a manger surrounded by
hopes and dreams despite
the stench of reality

Outside my kitchen window
the sun still beams bright and clear
on this cold Monday morning

With apologies to my friends on the other side of the globe, experiencing what may well be a bleak midsummer.  And with thanks to persistent songbirds that captured my attention this morning with their determined dive-bombing for holly berries!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 December 2021
Photo by Terry DeLuko found at pixels.com

A Christmas Card for You | Longwood 2017

In 2017, D and I took an eagerly anticipated day off to visit Longwood Gardens. The theme for 2017 was a French Christmas. Classy and elegant. The conservatory pond photo above makes the statement boldly and creatively. Thousands of cranberries and green apples are floating in the pond. The light buff floaters in the center foreground are walnuts painted gold!

Directly behind the pond,  three wreaths hang just outside the conservatory’s formal parlor. Here’s the central wreath, followed by a photo of the Christmas tree in the parlor. The wreath contains cranberries, green apples, small shiny ornamental balls and sprayed bronze leaves.

Turning around, we headed into the central Conservatory atrium decorated with poinsettia trees and plants, plus a few grapefruit trees in the center, heavy with their own decorations.

Then we checked out the Children’s Garden. Below is a clever tribute to French style sitting atop a gargoyle-like spitting fountain! It’s paired here with an elegant French-inspired Christmas tree ornament.

In the Palm Room we found a lovely orchid Christmas tree with tiny white lights, clear beaded ornaments and shiny silver globes reflecting their surroundings. Then we headed for the children’s trees, decorated by children from area schools. The example below is particularly exuberant, a spectacular contrast to the more sedate yet glamorous orchid tree.

Finally, would you believe a succulent Christmas tree? The second photo shows some detail. An amazing feat of design and innovative construction.

For all my wonderful followers and visitors, I wish you a blessed Christmas and a New Year of personal peace, growth, and contentment. Plus time to reconnect with real people for whom small things make all the difference.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 December 2017, edited and reposted 14 December 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2017

Why writing feels dangerous

How do I write when life is still a numbed-out muddle?

Last night I read about a woman who couldn’t get in touch with sensations in her body because she felt disconnected. Numb.

I relate to her. All my life I’ve experienced numbing out—sometimes on purpose; other times as the general go-to mode of my body. That means I feel out-of-place, lost, or just not interested in the vulnerability of connecting.

Years of neglect also hang out in my body. No wonder I get weary and can’t always stay awake emotionally. Perhaps some part of me has lost its memory or its ability to function with and for me.

And so I move on to something else instead of sitting with it. Or wondering about it, loving or even soothing it. Or welcoming it as a major part of the woman I’ve been and have become.

I’m a writer. I want to connect with what’s going on inside me, not just with thoughts running through my mind. I want to listen to myself, speak from within myself. Yet I’ve guarded so much for so long.

Can numbness lead to death? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m hiding from my voice. Sometimes I’m apprehensive about what I might discover or write and then let go. Even before I understand it fully.

From the moment I became a living human being, You’ve been there. Even when I was too terrified to be there. Too terrified to sit quietly with whatever was going on inside this woman I keep calling ‘me.’

Am I afraid right now? I want to believe You hold me close and won’t let me stray far from home. Yet I still think it’s my job to keep myself from straying. Maybe that’s why writing feels dangerous. My words are out there. I can’t control how they’re read or used or abused. Or heard and dissected.

A voice seems more fragile than a body. More connected to soul. More vulnerable to attack. Yet when I’ve done my best to be truthful, and have given it away so that the river moves on within and through me, I’m not sure what else I can do except build a dam.

I know about dams. I’ve constructed many in my lifetime. Little dams. Big dams. Complex, contorted, impenetrable dams. Trying desperately to escape the truth about me.

And what if the truth about me is beautiful? Lovely? What then? Have I killed it?

A small Christmas cactus blossom rests in front of me on my desk. A lovely, fading pinkish magenta. Its fragile petals look like limp gauze wings folded around its core. It isn’t ugly; it’s dying. Doing what lovely flowers do after giving themselves away.

It’s the only way to live. Not forever, but in this present moment. My calendar lies to me daily. It promises more than it or I can deliver. I want to live this one day as if there were no tomorrow. No more, and no less.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 January 2018, reposted 10 December 2021
Photo found at pxhere.com

tear-splashed windows

sunbeams stream
through tear-splashed windows
the old woman blinks

~~~

This is not the turn I thought life would take
when I reached my late seventies.

Yesterday’s newborn chicks have finally come home to roost
not in my back yard but in my body.

Today I bear marks of what being female, white and alive cost
from the day I was born until now.

So far in my life, I’ve been able to function without getting entangled in multiple prescription drugs.

For the last several weeks, however, I’ve been looking at three prescription drugs (each from a different doctor), wondering which options would be relatively safe. Especially given my kidney disease. Some prescriptions drugs can’t be discontinued precipitously, which means no trial period.

I‘m also forced to consider my determination not to be caught up in staying “alive” at all costs. When do I cross the point of no return and stop attempts to fix what is unfixable?

I’ve never missed posting so much as I’m missing it now. I’m grateful for your visits and pray each of us will find a way through troubling times that sometimes overshadow the true gift of Christmas.

Thank you for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 December 2021
Photo found at maxpixel.net

Smiling through rain and sun

My one-eyed bright white light
Peers at me wondering where
I’ve been and why it took
So long to remember her

Smiling through rain and sun
Alike she cheers me on without
Great fanfare or even the
Hint of a bill for services

Rendered day or night
Without complaint and with
No thought of tomorrow
Or what lurks around the corner

Today the sun is out, the temperature is a bit warmer than yesterday, and I just finished cleaning out several kitchen cupboards. They were groaning under the weight of out-of-date or unused ingredients and yummy snacks I used to eat. That was before Lucy (my pacemaker), a broken jaw, kidney disease, plus whatever else has piled on since 2016.

My MRI (to help clarify the kind of peripheral neuropathy I have) did not happen as scheduled, thanks to a mistake made by the hospital. I’m now scheduled for December 29. In the meantime, I’m learning to pace myself and take time to put my achy feet up, meditate, read a bit, listen to music, or play the piano (not with my feet up!).

I still struggle with bedtime coming too quickly—before I’ve gotten ‘anything’ accomplished. At the same time, I’m keenly aware that my feet, legs, mind, heart and hands have worked with minimal rest for most of my life. I seem to have inherited from my parents and most churches I’ve attended the need to accomplish something (for others) in order to prove my female worth in this tired old world. It’s way past time to turn the tables.

Thank you for stopping by! When I review what you’ve been reading, I’m often drawn to an old post that makes me weep—not with despair, but with a kind of joy I didn’t think I would experience in this life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 December 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2017

baptismal waters

During her last years on this earth, Mother and I found each other in ways I never dreamed possible. The hospice near my parents’ home (income not a consideration) took exquisite care of her during her last three months. This piece honors her and the angels who cared for her pain-wracked body. 

baptismal waters
rise gently enfolding her
world-weary body

* * * * *

I’m standing in a windowless, high-ceiling concrete room
with a concrete floor, drainage holes and air vents.
A deep whirlpool tub stands in the middle
filled with warm steamy water.
The room faintly resembles a large sauna minus the wood.
Functional, not beautiful.

Mother is in hospice care after suffering a stroke weeks ago
and then developing pneumonia in the hospital.
Her ability to communicate with words is almost nonexistent.
Today she’s going to be given a bath.
I’m told she loves this, and that
Sister #4 and I are welcome to witness the event.

For the past hour caregivers have been preparing her–
removing her bedclothes, easing her onto huge soft towels,
rolling and shifting her inch by inch onto a padded bath trolley,
doing all they can to minimize pain and honor her body.
Finally, they slowly roll the trolley down the hall.

The hospice sauna room echoes with the sound of
feet, soft voices, and running water.
It takes a team to carry out this comforting
though strange and even unnerving ritual.
Mother is safely secured to the padded bath table and
then lowered slowly into the water.
Her eyes are wide open.

For a few moments she fixes her eyes on mine.
The table descends bit by bit.
How does she feel?
What is she thinking?
At first her eyes seem anxious.
Is she afraid?
The warm waters rise around her and the table stops descending.
Her face relaxes and she closes her eyes.

The team works gently, thoroughly, not in haste.
They focus on her, talk to her and handle her body with reverence.
My eyes brim with tears.
This woman who bathed me, my three sisters
and most of her grandbabies is being given a bath
by what appears to be a team of angels in celestial garments.

They finish their work and roll Mother back to her room.
Her bed has clean sheets.
Fresh bedclothes have been laid out.
Caregivers anoint her body with oil and lotion, turn her gently,
and comment on how clear and beautiful her skin is.
They finish clothing her, adjust the pillows to cradle her body,
pull up light covers and leave her to fall asleep.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2014, lightly edited and reposted 26 November 2021
Photo found at etsy.com, John McManus Fine Art

choices I don’t want to make

If you had gently hinted
just one short year ago
that today would find me
lost and bereft
I might have laughed

On the other hand….

To say my situation is
better than so-and-so’s
misses the point altogether
while denying reality
screaming in my feet

How to live with this
malfunction on the outside
and agony on the inside
challenges my educational
upbringing and experience

Daily and nightly reminders
pile on unavoidable witness
to the slow decay of this body
still struggling each day with
choices I don’t want to make

I haven’t posted regularly for what feels like an eternity. Actually, it feels like hanging in midair, waiting to find out how this will play out. Peripheral Neuropathy. My new ‘friend’, though I still don’t know the full picture. The day after Thanksgiving I’ll have an MRI with the hope that my neurologist will learn something new or at least helpful.

My focus today is on what I enjoy doing. Unfortunately, my feet like to remind me of what I don’t enjoy. Nonetheless, my new curriculum is interesting. Bottom line: What would I like to do right now? What brings me joy, so that I don’t even notice what my feet feel? (For example: looking at David’s Longwood Garden Photos; playing the piano, riding my indoor bike.)

In addition to two books I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m also reading a book by Mims Cushing (who lives with this disease) and Norman Latov, MD, her neurologist. Title: You Can Cope with Peripheral Neuropathy: 365 Tips for living a full life. It’s a bit dated, but the self-help pointers are ageless.

Bottom line: I feel myself becoming a ‘different’ person–not so driven, more laid back, grateful for small gifts of each day and for you.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2015

absent without leave

absent without leave
my mind wanders aimlessly
searching for anchors

solid reality
is hard to come by these days
drifting on breezes

the doorbell rings
abruptly interfering
with today’s daydreams

A cheery young man delivers my mail-order packages. I’m happy to have them, though I would have loved being interrupted by something more spectacular.

Something like this would do:

Two weeks ago I was feeling my usual morning reluctance to get up from my breakfast seat by the window, and get on the rest of the day. Suddenly I heard a great commotion outside. A large flock of blackbirds had invaded our feeders and our backyard, gobbling up whatever they could find. Males fought for seats at the bird feeder, while females and younger blackbirds scoured the yard for whatever they could find.

This went on for several minutes. Suddenly a large male took over the feeder just outside the kitchen window, opened his great beak, and let loose a masterful ‘conkeree’ louder than loud! King of the Castle? Maybe. At any rate, without a moment’s hesitation the whole herd took off into the trees before disappearing into the wild blue yonder. I was mesmerized!

Thank you kindly for your visits in the last few weeks. I’m still learning to live within my physical means. So far, three things bring me great joy: playing the piano, reading, and writing. In addition, I’m learning to be content with what I’m able to do on any given day. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2021
Video of male red-wing blackbird calls found at YouTube

The Meeting with My Parents

Diane and Elouise standing by the Savannah River
20 Nov 1993, the day after meeting with my parents

On 19 November 1993 I met with my parents in Savannah, Georgia. A gift to myself on the eve of my 50th birthday.

It took 1 ½ years to prepare for the meeting. It wasn’t a declaration of war. It was an attempt to see whether my parents and I could begin talking about my childhood. Put another way, could I hold my own viewpoint without trying to change my parents’ viewpoints?

The biggest unknown was how my father would respond. His habit was to talk over and down at me.

Now I’m in Savannah. My father is sitting directly across the table from me, with my mother next to him. I’ve asked a pastor we all know to be present. He convenes the meeting and turns it over to me. David is on my left hand; my sister Diane is on my right—both instructed not to talk or try to argue on my behalf.

I read from a single-spaced, 1 ¼ page statement. Here’s the heart of what I said about the way my father punished me as a child and teenager.

The spankings were abusive. I was very small; you were very big. I had no power; you seemed to have all the power. The spankings happened regularly for most of my growing-up years. They were terrifyingly predictable. I dreaded nothing as much as I dreaded being spanked. Worst of all, the spankings were administered in a way that shamed, humiliated, and silenced me. . . .I have been lost for most of my adult years. Lost in a sea of shame, humiliation, and fear–fear of opening my mouth and saying directly to you what I need to say: I did not deserve to be shamed, humiliated, and silenced.

Though my parents were in this together, my mother wasn’t in the room when I was being punished. My question for her was simple: What was it like for you when I was being punished? Where were you? What was it like to hear us crying and pleading? She didn’t remember hearing anything.

From my father, I wanted one thing: an apology for the way he shamed, humiliated, and silenced me. I asked for an apology, which was immediately denied. Thankfully, getting an apology wasn’t my goal.

There was one unexpected disruption during the meeting. My father abruptly walked out of the meeting, left the building, and sat in his car. We could see him through the window. No one said anything. It was my meeting. I waited several minutes. Then I signaled to David to come with me for moral support. We stood on the sidewalk beside the car while I talked with him for a long time. Eventually he agreed to come back and finish the conversation. I was astonished and relieved.

After this meeting, D and I visited my parents (in Savannah) on several occasions. I always had a list of questions to ask. I learned a lot from these informal conversations, though my father was clearly set in his ways and unwilling to change. Still, these conversations were a gift I hadn’t anticipated. Not surprisingly, many of my father’s rough ways reflected my grandfather’s unpredictable, harsh beatings of my father. A sad legacy.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser on 20 November 1993; Diane (on the left) and I are at the Savannah River waterfront.

My overflowing cup

My calling is to die
In daily increments
With mega doses of reality
Served up on weary plates
Of hyper-healthy veggies
And dreams never to be
Lived in this lifetime

Stumbling through each day
I resist the truth that my feet
Have already lived out
Their guaranteed lifespan
Of hiking and dancing
Or even strolling by the river
Come to carry me home

Looking into my shrinking world
I wonder what I’m missing
While my overflowing cup
Stubbornly splashes drops
of joy and beauty
I never hoped to experience
This side of heaven

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 10 September 2021

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