Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

The Naming of Cats

In Honor Of Prince Oliver Smudge the Second, aka Smudge,
Who spent his royal time this day being transported by his Proud Owners,
Queen Elouise and King David, to and from His Royal Highness’ doctor’s office

Nothing life threatening. Just a nagging pain in his right rear paw pads. It takes all the fun out of rough-housing and running around the house chasing mice and crickets. Still, he’s to see a cat heart doctor in the next few weeks to find out how serious his newly diagnosed heart flutter is and what to do about it. In the meantime, he gets to be all lazy and fawned over. What a life!

No, I didn’t plan this post for today. It just happened, folks. However, I’m well into James Cones’ book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. I’m also reading W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and re-reading slowly Mary Oliver’s slender volume of poems, Thirst.

Yesterday evening, I played my piano for the first time in months. We bought it right after our daughter was born in 1970. It traveled with us from South Carolina to Southern California to Nashville, Tennessee, to Pennsylvania. As beautiful as ever.

Smudge has always left the living room when I’ve started playing. He loves to walk all over it (lid closed on the keyboard!), but seems allergic to my playing. Last night, however, he wasn’t feeling as frisky as usual, and stayed right on his chair while I played.

Hoping your days are filled with beauty, truth and hope. Not because the sun is going to come out tomorrow, but because creation never stops playing music for us. We just have to listen for it. Not to deny the seriousness of life, but to baptize life today with a different kind of truth. Truth that reminds us of our Creator’s presence no matter what happens next.

Thanks for visiting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 October 2020
Poem and image found at tumblr.com

Messenger | Mary Oliver

This is the opening poem in Mary Oliver’s slim volume, Thirst. The volume is dedicated to her partner of many years, Molly Malone Cook, who died in 2005. My comments follow.

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Death stares us in the face daily. Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, raging forest fires, climate change and more bring it home.

No matter which political and/or religious side you’re on, we live in the world of 2020, not 2019. As I see it, we’re in a national and international valley of death. Some self-inflicted; some visited on us unawares.

Given these realities, what are we now to do?

In the midst of her valley of death, Mary Oliver seeks to clarify her work. Yes, she grieves the loss of her partner. In addition, she wants to know why she’s still alive, and what the meaning of her life is now.

Though I still have my partner, this is my question as well. What am I called to do and say right now, in this world of Covid-19 et al? Not in a drab and dreary way, but in a way that conveys my love for this world, focuses on what matters, remains open to the miracle of joy, overflows with gratitude, and proclaims “how it is that we live forever.” Not for ourselves alone, but for this world starving for love and for life.

We matter, singly and together. No matter how defeated or discouraged we feel.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 October 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

My week in review – with Smudge

Smudge watching our squirrel-proof birdfeeder

This past week felt like an out of control rollercoaster. Up one moment, down the next. Clearly running out of steam. I thought I had this Covid-19 lifestyle all sorted out.

There’s something diabolical about maintaining a Covid-19 lifestyle while watching Covid-19 cases rise, POTUS tank, voting procedures being weaponized, fires on the West Coast, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and general disarray throughout a country that now feels more like fiefdoms. Oh…not to forget the plot to kidnap a female governor and begin an internal uncivil war. This is not a joke.

Nothing is so discouraging as watching POTUS & Crew flounder daily. No, I don’t watch or listen to the news all day. Just once a day is more than enough.

Thankfully, I accomplished several things this week. First, I voted by mail, using a friendly drop box at a nearby library. Done! Second, I had my annual “Wellness Visit” for old folks. The major goal is to identify elderly citizens who need further follow-up or help. I’m happy to say both D and I got a pass for the coming year. We also got flu shots. Mine hurt for several days. D’s didn’t. Life is so unfair.

While talking with my wonderful primary care doctor, she asked about my writing. I told her about my poem, Haunted, including the fact that I sent it off along with a letter to the editor of a local south George weekly newspaper. She requested a copy of the letter and the poem! Why? Because some members of this family practice have begun a voluntary small group meeting to talk about issues including racism. I was stoked and grateful.

As for the photo below, I didn’t see the dead mouse until I finished breakfast. No, Smudge didn’t eat it. The poor little mouse is now somewhere on its way to dust. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the way Smudge chose to announce his overnight triumph!

Little things mean a lot. Especially now.

Praying you’re finding your way through these strange days.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 October 2020
Photos of Smudge taken by ERFraser, late September, and 9 October 2020

To fight aloud, is very brave — | Emily Dickinson

charge_of_the_light_brigade

~~~Charge of the Light Brigade, painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.

What does it mean to be brave? Emily Dickinson gets right to the heart of things with her focus on true heroes. My comments follow.

To fight aloud, is very brave –
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe –

Who win, and nations do not see –
Who fall – and none observe –
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love –

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go –
Rank after Rank, with even feet –
And Uniforms of Snow.

c. 1859

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

The USA is besotted with romantic notions of Bravery. Captivated by monuments to those who fell to ‘ensure our freedom.’ Memorials to those who displayed Bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

We pause to honor those who stood or fell on our behalf. And yet….Who are the true heroes among us?

Emily’s poem is a slow, pensive hymn of remembrance for individuals who fought and fight battles, unseen and unacknowledged. Women, men, girls and boys more gallant than national heroes. In their hearts they charge daily against The Cavalry of Woe that would take them down in misery, sorrow, despair, pain, agony and defeat.

The poem, written in about 1859, brought to mind Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” along with paintings that memorialize tragedies.

Emily’s poem could also be a eulogy for uncounted heroes and heroines who bravely fought their internal enemies. Few, if any, know their names or the stories of their gallant deeds. Unseen and unsung, they remain hidden. Small bits of unexplored or never remembered history.

Does anyone notice or care? Emily does. She is one of these more gallant souls. Her poems remind us of her internal battles, though we don’t know what each was about.

Emily’s final stanza lifts up internal bravery for our respect, perhaps also for her personal comfort. She sees more than one Angel per warrior. Imagine it: unnumbered ranks of Angels process reverently in soft, snowy plumes. Their uniforms drop blankets of snow around and over uncounted heroes and heroines. Snowy flags of honor drape each unsung warrior who charged bravely ahead against all odds.

Angels also recognize the bravery of patriotic heroes, though not because of visible service. No one gets a pass when dealing with the internal Cavalry of Woe threatening daily to undo us.

My heart has been an unseen battlefield most of my life. It’s littered with spoils of war—war I’ve waged against my Cavalry of Woe. I fought much of it silently, assuming I was a loser. The woes weren’t strange or unusual, but common and everyday. Things like Fear of Harsh Punishment, Getting through Harsh Punishment, Perfectionism, Depression, Self-loathing, Self-doubt, Fear of Abandonment, Fear of Speaking in My Own Voice.

Whether we believe we’re gallant or not, Emily invites us to trust the cloud of Angel witnesses passing by, clothed in snow-white plumes. Reverently and respectfully they accompany us in life and in death. Honoring us as patriots who fought and still fight gallantly on behalf of our true selves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 Sept 2016, edited and reposted 8 Oct 2020
Painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.,
found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade

The Unreality Show

The Unreality Show
Continues unscripted
Relentless and determined
One labored breath at a time
Inhaled then exhaled
Wincing and fidgeting
Drifting and struggling
To keep it all together
As things fall apart

Mr. Trump returned to the White House. Not quietly in the middle of the night, but with a show of defiance that reveals his weaknesses. All caught on camera and in tweets to the world. It seems he decided he had to get Covid-19 in order to demonstrate how important it is not to give in to it.

Surrender to the realities of Covid-19, and to experienced Covid-19 experts? Forget it. That might look like defeat. Yet how else is a body to heal? Much less a soul and a heart well practiced in the proud clamor of unpredictable, destructive behavior now vainly turned to his own vain advantage.

I grieve what Mr. Trump has done to and against this country. We’re not perfect, and never will be. Not by a long shot. Today, however, we’re farther than ever from what we might have become in the last four years. This is true even though the past four years have clarified fault lines we would rather not (yet must) examine.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m instructed to pray for leaders of this nation. Today my prayer joins others, beseeching God for mercy. Not by sending a special healing miracle for Mr. Trump, but by mercifully removing him from his current position of seemingly limitless power. Power Mr. Trump does not now, and has never had.

May God have mercy on us all.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 October 2020
Photo of POTUS returning to the White House found at theintercept.com

Chains

Chains of fearful submission
Rattle through the nighttime
Terrorizing citizens caught
In the act of looking the other way

This simple act caught on screen and
Controlled by centuries of false freedom
Binds tongues and stokes the proud
In these days of wine and funerals

Whiteness permeates communal air
Contaminating the atmosphere
Dripping with the stench of refuse
From centuries of proud fear

Sunday church comes just in time
For another needle of painkiller
Soothing hard hearts and closed minds
Ready for another week of denial

This is my personal statement, based on a lifetime of church service and membership. Both conservative and not so conservative.  

Ever since this nation’s founding, independent and denominational white churches in the USA have enabled the war against full citizenship for people of color, American Indians, and many immigrants. How did churches do this? Chiefly by staying within so-called safe “non-political’ bounds, and practicing forms of charity that required sacrifice without causing a political ruckus.

Denial has a way of becoming deadly. It’s a downward slope leading to disaster. Many white churches in the USA are in denial. Some may talk about change. Others who care deeply about these things read books and get involved personally.

Rarely, however, is there difficult institutional change. The kind that’s visible, that stirs up uncomfortable controversy and leads to even more difficult change. Yet that’s what it means to follow Jesus the Jew on his way to death. He was crucified (hung on a cross/tree) for living the Good News for All and telling it like it is. Not with rancor, yet without mincing words or minimizing the cost to him or to his followers.

I’m praying for visible changes of heart and habits of life. We’re in this for the long haul, no matter how the upcoming election plays out. 

Thanks for visiting, and for doing what you can where you are. As for me, I’m reading James Cones’ book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 October 2020
Book cover image from amazon.com

Hugs and More Hugs!!!

Here’s a shout-out to my bloggy friend Carolyn, Queen of Hugs! Yesterday she got super-good news from her doctors. Today she asked her readers to do something to celebrate her milestone. I thought the video at the top was fabulous. So I’m posting it in honor of Carolyn. (Check out the link above to read about her good news, and see the way she announced it.)

My favorite evening wind-down shows are all about animals and the way they’re cared for. In well-run zoos, on refuge farms, in vet clinics formal and informal, here and abroad. You name it. It doesn’t matter. The bond between owners and pets or rescued animals is awesome.

Maybe we could learn a lesson or two about joy and faithfulness from their remarkable, unpredictable behavior. To say nothing about what it means to give and receive love.

In the meantime, huge congratulations to Carolyn, giver and receiver of many hugs!

Happy October! Don’t forget to hug a special person, pet, or animal today. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what joy feels like.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 October 2020
Video of Amazing Animal Hugs hugs found on YouTube

the long walk home, 3 years later

I first posted this in August 2017. Mr. Trump had been in office for less than a year. Now he’s up for re-election, and today’s world is far removed from anything that feels like home. Are we going to make it from here to there? And what will happen to us along the way?

*****

I wonder—
Do breathless trees
dusky skies
and lengthening shadows
remember what they see
beneath fading twilight
swathed in heavy garments
unsure of her destination

Is this a woman? I think so. She seems to be taking the long walk home. Which may or may not be that dark cottage hovering in the background, watching as she makes her way.

Is she alone? I think not. The trees, skies and passing shadows reveal more than what’s happening on the ground or in the background. If this world is God’s poem (thank you, Mary Oliver), we have reason to hope. Not because of the play of light in the trees, on the ground or in the background, but because of the Light that shines even in our darkest hours.

Sometimes, perhaps always, we must leave home to find our true home. Or better, to be found by God’s everyday angels in this world that belongs not to us, but to God.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2017, reposted 30 September 2020
Autumn Landscape at Dusk, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh found at Wikiart.com

What’s on your menu today?

What will become of us
cooped up in our small islands
of cautionary restrictions?

Do we have what it takes
to get through the next six weeks
much less the next four years?

Despair is a cruel partner
easily allowed through the front door
and welcomed at the table

Sadly, today’s menu isn’t great —
Warmed up soup thickened
with yesterday’s moldy bread

Gagging is in order —
Precursor to starved hearts
sour innuendos and warmed-over lies

The perfect ending
to a less than perfect storm
of neglect, pride and presumptive prejudice

All coming our way
whether we ordered it
or not

This is a bit of what creeps around the edges of my mind these days. I know and believe the Judge of All the Earth will do right. I also know The Supreme Court of the United States is not now and will never be the Judge of All the Earth. Or even of the USA.

Nonetheless, prospects for our shared future aren’t looking good. We’ve lost our way, or never found it.

We are not now and have never been a White Nation. We’re a nation founded by immigrants who came in and, by whatever means possible, took over what didn’t properly belong to them or to us.

There have always been clear, humane alternatives. Thankfully, there are still women, men and children who care about and do the right things. Small reminders that it isn’t over yet, and that the Judge of All the Earth will have the final say.

I think I’ll throw out that warmed-over gruel, and start over from scratch. Good scratch!

How about you? How are you dealing with today’s imperfect storm?
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 September 2020
Cartoon found at npr.org

Longwood in Early Autumn | Photos 2020

Last week we visited Longwood Gardens Covid-19 Style. Timed tickets, face masks, social distancing, limited facilities and outdoor eating opportunities. But the Meadow didn’t care! So that’s where we spent most of our time. A late celebration of our 55th wedding anniversary. Was it worth it? Yes!

Believe it or not, D took the top photo while we were waiting in line to be admitted. Below is a trained spruce (plus shadows) on the front wall of the Visitor’s Center. We’re not yet in the Gardens. We’re on the patio, snaking our way to the front door. Thankfully, the line kept moving, though at what I would call a snail’s pace. Still, it was mid-morning, with a stiff breeze and cloudless skies.

First we took a quick walk around the main Conservatory. Imagine the sound of water spilling from small fountains and waterfalls. Peaceful and inviting, with only a small handful of visitors. The large formal pool in the first photo is sometimes drained for large social events or dinner parties. Very upscale. No, I’ve never been invited. Nor do I wish to be! The second photo features black Japanese bamboo reaching for the sky as the background for two lovely lanterns.

After watching a water show from the verandah of the Conservatory, we walked over to the Meadow. It was stunning, especially from a distance. Late summer/early autumn overgrowth and seedtime!

Unfortunately, the lovely stiff breeze made it tricky to get clear photos. Nonetheless, D came through! Here are a few of my favorites.

We exited the meadow and crossed the bridge over the pond. I’m standing there studying the algae. The water was almost invisible. Still, paying attention paid off! As you’ll see below. Think tiny baby, larger mama? and maybe great big papa?

The high point of our visit! I can’t begin to describe how exciting it was to spot these creatures! So…Here are my final two photos. D took them near the end of our visit.

I hope this lifts your spirits the way it lifts mine. I was exhausted when we got home. Still, I wouldn’t trade anything for this opportunity to visit Longwood. Especially now.

Thanks for visiting. I’m sending this with prayers for wisdom and courage in the days ahead.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 September 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 23 September 2020

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