Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Considering Loss on the Eve of Our Wedding Anniversary

Wedding Day, 11 September 1965
11 September 1965

Fear of loneliness
Drifts in and out unbidden

Heavy eyelids droop
Head hangs low over keyboard

Tangled thoughts intrude
Try to distract me as though
I were the intruder

I am not.

Pulling myself together
I rouse myself to the occasion
Reaching for stars and light
I do not own.

What if he dies first?
What if I die first?

I don’t know.

So what do I know?
Only this –
That if he dies first, I will grieve.

And what will be the shape of that grief?
A hole that stretches from here to eternity
An unreachable planet long ago and faraway
A place I can no longer visit
An ocean of heaving sobs
Seaweeds of bitter regret and sweet longing
Washing up on the shore of each long day and night

On Monday David and I will celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary. I thought I knew a thing or two about love the day we married. I did not. Nor will I know all about love the day one of us dies.

The older I get, the more precious each day becomes. I remember dreading retirement. Not simply because I would miss my colleagues and students, but because I would be spending much more time with D. More than I’d spent with him most of our married life.

Could we live with each other in the same house, including the same kitchen, every day? Would we get bored out of our gourds without deadlines and meetings and endless reports? Would one of us decide to find a part-time job just to get away from it all?

Happily, we’ve survived so far, including Kitchen Wars. But that would be another story.

I’ve had death on my mind in the last weeks, given events here and around the world. Death is about more than statistics, more than a moving memorial service, more than a huge display of candles and flowers. More than a gut-wrenching news story of the moment.

Somewhere, each moment of every day, someone is grieving. I want to honor the value of just one person’s life and the value of grief. The kind that can soften us, making us more human than we were before.

It looks like Monday, our anniversary day, will be a beautiful Longwood Garden day. Maybe another walk in the Meadow? We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 September 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Overcome

We don’t marry disaster

We don’t marry disaster
It marries us
Unrelenting drought
Genocidal ethnic cleansing
Polio and opioid epidemics
Avalanches of pain and anguish
Wild fires breathing fury
Hurricanes and floods of destruction
Nature’s fury turned inward
Human fury turned outward
Multiplied exponentially

See the pictures in my scrapbook?
Like pages of a newspaper
Good news one day
Disaster the next
See that man who’s smiling?
That beautiful woman over there?
Those precious children looking your way?
The young people who think no one is looking?
There they were just yesterday
And now…..

What’s to become of us?
The ‘us’ that doesn’t exist anymore
Families torn apart
Friends for life now foes forever
Enemies within and without
In whom do we trust?
In whom do we place our hope?
False saviors arise from glowing ashes
Snake oil dealers hawk their sleazy wares

I get up in the morning
And look outside, up toward the heavens
Where the bright face of a newly waning moon
Reflects the light of a new day just dawning.
Two birds swoop silently together into an oak tree
High overhead a silver airplane leaves a misty trail
Fluffy clouds drift beneath a deep blue sky
Signs of hope and reason enough to get up
And live yet another day in my small corner
Of this world filled with small people,
Large hearts and infectious smiles.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 September 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompts: Finite; Crescendo

He fumbles at your Soul

Hurricane Harvey’s recent visit brought me back to this poem from Emily Dickinson. My comments follow.

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on –
He stuns you by degrees –
Prepares your Brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers – further heard –
Then nearer – Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten –
Your Brain – to bubble Cool –
Deals – One – imperial – Thunderbolt –
That scalps your naked Soul –

When Winds take Forests in their Paws –
The Universe – is still –

c. 1861

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

A disclaimer: I don’t think this poem from Emily is to be figured out. It resists. Emphatically.

Yet after more than a year of pondering it and the events of the last weeks, I’m ready to comment on it. Strangely, I’m sticking with my first impressions.

I’m a musician. A pianist. This poem is about music and a lot more. Not everyday music, but music that happens rarely in a lifetime.

I hear Emily describing a pianist, the power of music in the hands of a gifted performer, and the effect on the listener. This isn’t just any music, but the kind that begins innocently enough and ends with power that stuns the soul into silence. Not applause, but silence.

Some musicians were masters at this. Chopin comes to mind. I’m thinking about what’s called ‘the Raindrop Prelude.’ You can watch and hear Vladimir Horowitz perform it here. It doesn’t follow the flow of Emily’s poem precisely, but the opening raindrop notes, repeated throughout, set the stage for what’s coming. In the finale, Chopin doesn’t end with a flourish, but with a gradual distancing of the storm, raindrops still falling and fading into the distance.

I hear Emily describing the music of Nature. The kind that begins with the far-away sound of approaching thunder, and the first erratic fall of rain. Hammers, set in motion by fingers hitting piano keys, strike strings hidden from view. We hear the storm approaching. Sometimes waning, yet always moving our way.

The music draws us in, adding voices and turns of phrase, shifting and turning from here to there, sometimes lulling the listener into a reverie. Then, without warning, like the closing bars of Beethoven’s Pathetique, comes that unanticipated bolt of thunderous lightning followed by utter silence. You can watch and hear Daniel Barenboim’s performance here.

After that, nothing else matters. The music/storm has undone you. Totally. Silence is the only appropriate response. All the standup applause and shouts for more mean nothing. The finale already said everything.

Emily believed in God, and seems to have had a healthy on-again, off-again relationship with God. She also believed in the power of nature to reveal truth about us and about God. I wonder what Emily would make of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

I can’t help noticing that the Winds in Emily’s poem take Forests in their Paws, not in their teeth or claws. Perhaps there’s an invitation to see more than cruel destruction here, or a vengeful God who is somehow punishing us.

Maybe God wants our attention, and is offering us another chance to attend to each other. Strangers as well as friends and family. Costly? Yes. No matter how you look at it. Pain free? Never.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 September 2017
Photo found at Shutterstock

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Anticipate

Queen for a Day Proclamation

I, Queen Elouise,
do solemnly proclaim via my faithful town crier
the following:

On this very day,
Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Leaders of all nations, fiefdoms,
clans, tribes, and houses of worship –
NOT excluding the President of the United States of America –
shall promptly and without demur
stand before a full-length mirror
and practice articulating in full voice
each of the following statements
a minimum of three times:

I need help.
I was wrong.
You deserve better.
I let you down.
I have no excuses.
I resign.

Furthermore –
I solemnly urge each of them,
not excluding POTUS,
to practice this spiritual and political discipline
for as long as he or she remains in office

***

Guarantee of Effectiveness:

When publicly delivered as needed,
these words, any or all, are guaranteed to
make headlines and elevate truth
everywhere

Long Live True Greatness!

QE, Queen for a Day

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 September 2017
Image found at clipart-library.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Elevate

fraught labor of love

fraught labor of love
priceless heart wrenching venture
no promise of gain
beyond a nest of birdlings
precious precarious joy

Last week was the first week of school around here. On Friday evening D and I were walking past the grade school near our house. Only one car remained in the faculty parking lot.

A woman carrying a large bag and other take-home items left the building and walked toward the car. She looked a bit weary, though not unhappy. I greeted her and said something about hoping she enjoyed the long holiday weekend.

She smiled, laughed, and said something like this, “You know, I’ve got the best job in the world! It just takes a while to get ready for the next day.”

I couldn’t have related more, told her so, and turned to walk on with D.

On a whim, I turned and asked about her best job in the world. I’d assumed she was an administrator type. I was more than surprised when she replied, all smiles, “I teach kindergarten and I just love it!”

So why was she leaving so late? She’d just finished setting up her classroom for the next day of school!

I love children. And I loved teaching adults. I would not, however, be the best mama or papa bird to deal with an overcrowded nest of small, vulnerable, hungry, eager, noisy, precious birdlings.

So here’s to a Happy Labor Day! Especially for all educators who love caring for and about our children.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 September 2017
Photo found at animal.memozee.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompts: Priceless; Educate

shadows

shadows of women
I may once have been recede
within a forest
fragrant firs bend branches low
heavy with pregnant brown cones

I had a waking half-dream this morning–the first three lines of the tanka above. How to end it? I don’t want more of the woman I’ve already been–though I don’t want to lose her entirely. Rather, I want to be born yet again into a life that suits me today.

This half-dream seemed to say I’m at least half-way there. Besides, this is Labor Day weekend. A most propitious time for dreaming about possibilities.

Labor Day celebrates the everyday women, men and young people who labor to get the job done. Many labor under duress in less than healthy, safe, life-giving conditions. A good time to dream about possibilities.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 September 2017
Photo found at pinterest.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Continue

What’s on my heart today

Self-contempt feeds on every critique
positive or negative,
savors and loathes it simultaneously,
then dishes it up in return
or swallows it
disguised as something I deserve or need.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I see us as a society increasingly filled with self-loathing. One give-away is contempt for others. So easy to deliver, even though every dose administered to someone else could be a sign of self-contempt.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know. I do know we seem increasingly addicted to harsh criticism. Sometimes it’s blatant. Often, however, it’s disguised as humor.

Perhaps humor is our favored remedy for damage done to us every time we’ve been treated with contempt. Especially by people with greater authority, power, stature or privileges than our own.

Sometimes it seems my entire life is about recovery from self-contempt. One thing I know: I won’t solve the ache in me by holding others in contempt. The only thing that helps is to look in the mirror when I feel contemptuous, or give contempt free rein with my sharp tongue.

  • Where did that come from?
  • Why does it seem to give me satisfaction?
  • Whose voice is that, anyway?
  • Where have I heard those words before?
  • What does my wounded spirit need from me right now?

The temptation to be contemptuous of others is powerful. Make a snider remark than he or she did! Get known as someone great who commands the stage of contemptuous put-downs! Alternatively, learn to deliver contempt thinly disguised as ‘constructive criticism’ or ‘feedback.’

Well, that’s not the best thing about today. But it’s what’s on my heart right now. The best thing would be the sun shining outside, the too-early fall respite from hot weather, and you showing up today! Thanks for reading.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 September 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Critical

The high cost of loving

Just when I think
I’ve memorized
Every line in your face
Death rewrites it

My heart stops beating
Memory fails
A lump in its throat

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Memorize

Besotted with Strangers?

Wandering from our roots
We forget the manner of our lives
Those who took us in
When we were strangers
To ourselves and others

We drown in a wilderness
Of our calculated making
Locking doors and barring windows
Buying and carrying weapons
Determined to remain standing

Waves of anger and cries for mercy
Go unheeded in this dry land
Now inundated with people
Desperate for affirmation
A threat to our ways of life

I wonder. Is it time to become besotted with Strangers?

Perhaps we could begin with the Strangers we’ve become to ourselves and others. We might even use Strangerhood as the defining description of our ‘neighborhoods’ including towns, governing bodies, reservations, prisons, churches, schools, businesses, families and cities.

A childhood Christmas carol came to mind this morning. It celebrates a dear little stranger born in a manger. The Christ child. Helpless, unknown, without rank or title, an at-risk baby, poor in wealth and status.

At every turn he welcomed and received strangers into his life. Including religious leaders who often sought to entrap him, officials and citizens who criminalized him, and his motley crew of fearful disciples who abandoned him at the end.

We aren’t the Christ child. We can, however, ask for grace and courage to reflect the truth of his life. Not for our own health and wealth, but because it offers a way to become neighbors to ourselves and others. Especially those we now see as strangers in ‘our’ land, or strangers to ‘our’ way of life or beliefs or political alignments.

Every human disaster is a reminder that we need each other. Especially those others who threaten or disrupt our tidy ways of seeing ourselves and them.

Your thoughts and comments are most welcome. Thanks for listening!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Enamored

There’s a chill in the air

There’s a chill in the air
this morning.
I warm my old skin
with soft flannel
and walk through my museum
of relics.
Nothing rhymes today.
Reason flew south months ago
leaving only my heart
and you.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 August 2017
Painting found at forhumanliberation.blogspot.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Rhyme

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