Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Lily Ponds and Platters at Longwood 2019 | Photos


Have you ever seen such a pretty dragon fly? The blue in the background isn’t the sky. It’s one of the Longwood lily ponds. Here’s an overview from the far side, looking back at part of the Conservatory. It was about 1pm.


We happened to get there just as one of the gardeners jumped into the water and started pruning back huge platters and long stems beginning to collide with each other. The first pieces are lying there on the sidewalk. On the whole, I’d say he was merciless! Without regular pruning, the platters and long underwater stems will overtake everything. Each of these particular platters can grow nearly a foot a day. Or was it a yard? It was a lot!

As he hacked away, he attracted a small audience, and the pile on the side kept growing. I was surprised to see how spikey these gorgeous platters were on the edges and undersides.


I think the two specimens below are young, unfolding platters. I wouldn’t want to meet up with either of them on a dark night. The largest mature platters can hold up to 100 pounds each, providing you don’t think it’s a trampoline.



I don’t know whether the blossom behind the platter just above is the same as the blossom below. It seems it might be. In any case, it has its own spikey armor. Not what I’d usually associate with lovely, innocent water lilies.

In one of the corner ponds we saw this interesting water plant. It’s often called Nile cabbage because it was first discovered near Lake Victoria in Africa. Though lovely, it’s super invasive and a breeding ground for mosquitoes. On the positive side, it can be used in tropical aquariums to provide hiding places for small fish. It’s also used to control algae blooms. Still, I was glad to see only one of these on display, floating in its special little water tub among the lilies and other water plants.

Who doesn’t love lotus blossoms? There were several large lotus plants in the ponds. Don’t miss the pod in the center of the first blossom. I thought the pod itself was quite regal, as well!

Here are several other favorites. Sometimes the leaves are as spectacular as the blossoms.


And just a few more. That’s papyrus thriving in a shaded corner of the pond garden, just next to the conservatory. I don’t recognize the flowering water plant in the second photo.



Finally, just to prove I was there, here’s a lovely photo of Longwood Hybrid Platters, and of me standing patiently beneath the shade of a potted plant, while D takes as many photos as he would like! Look for blue jeans, a sun shirt, a white sun hat and a back pack.


I can still feel the heat of the sun when I look at these photos. Still, it was a cool weather day compared to what we had for days before, and will have more of this coming week.

Thanks for dropping by!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser, 24 July 2019
Lily Pond Garden at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

A quick update

First, Longwood Gardens photos are in the works. Yesterday D and I played hooky and went to Longwood Gardens. Our way of celebrating the end of a long streak of heat waves, rain and heavy winds. D’s photos are on my computer, and I’m already plotting a photo post. The photo at the top is a little taste!

Second bit of blog-related news. I’ve created a Mary Oliver category. I haven’t discarded or forgotten about Emily Dickinson. I am, however, especially drawn to Mary’s poetry right now, and anticipate more posts about the way they intersect with my life.

Third bit. I’ve just begun going through over 100 posts on Death and Dying. I’ve created the category, and will continue populating it with old and new material. I’m eager to think and write about life with death on the horizon. Not that that’s anything new….

And finally, I’m making peace with myself one day at a time. In general, that means taking things a bit slower than usual, and spending time in the attic each day. It’s a fabulous place to relax, read, write, do nothing at all, or think about the wonderful people who have helped bring me up whether they knew it or not.

Hugs to those who need them, and smiles to everyone whether you want them or not!

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 July 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 24 July 2019, Longwood Gardens’ Waterlilies

Think again!

If you think retirement
Is a piece of cake
Think again!

If you think the medical world
Is ready for you in your wild and precious young or old age
Think again!

If you think the good old USofA
Has the best medical system in the whole wide world
Think again!

If you think you don’t need a palliative care doctor
Maybe you do and maybe you don’t
And please, Think again!

It feels overwhelming to begin planning for the unlikely and the inevitable.

However, if I don’t, I won’t be ready for what might come on this side of death. Our national medical institutions are NOT, for the most part, prepared to help us die with or without dignity. Many still operate with the imperative of keeping the patient alive at all costs.

Thankfully, the picture is changing. Nonetheless, it isn’t keeping up with our aging population. In addition, waiting and hoping for the best isn’t a viable option. Especially if we have serious health issues that won’t reverse, and will end in death.

Yesterday D and I met with Dr. Amy, my new palliative care doctor. We had a long, sometimes teary (for me), often lively conversation about my health. It focused on my top five concerns, and how I might make my current situation more tolerable.

Dr. Amy gave each of us a bright pink (yes PINK!) form to fill out at home and sign. After my doctor signs it, I’ll show it to my other doctors. They’ll make copies for their files. Then I’ll post the Pink Document on our refrigerator door.

In case of a medical emergency, the Pink Form will travel with me. It’s an official Pennsylvania Department of Health document with its own twist. Instead of Physician’s Orders, it says Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Don’t ask me why–it’s all politics, and complicates things a bit as described above. Nonetheless….

The form includes explanations, and options for the treatment I wish to have (or not) depending on my preferences and situation. I can make changes later if I so wish.

I’m relieved to have begun this process. It isn’t about dying today or tomorrow. It’s about recording my decisions now to help avoid being caught up in endless attempts to keep me alive at all costs.

Thanks for visiting, reading and Thinking Again!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 July 2019
Cartoon found at pinterest.com

Crossing the border

Crossing the border between
then and now my mind seems
intent on rehearsing who I am
and what I have or have not done
with my one “wild and precious life”

Endless rehearsals pace back
and forth through my head repeating
and expanding a long list of reasons
why I should exist as this woman
living on an overcrowded earth

I watch from the sidelines as
unquiet thoughts spin out of
control restless and insistent
saturating the air with reasons
that will convince my interrogator
and calm my agitated spirit

This past week I worked on documents for my new palliative care doctor. I also spent more time walking in the attic than usual, thanks to our latest round of high heat and humidity.

Walking without the radio or other distractions, I found myself rehearsing much of my past history. Sometimes I resorted to singing out loud in order to stop the endless cycle of data and explanations about who I am and who I am not. And why things were the way they were.

Beginning palliative care is is about what happens next. Much of my personal work has been about looking back, making sense of what sometimes seemed to be nonsense. To that I’m now adding learning to number my days. Concretely, not just in the abstract. How will I value each remaining day for the gift it will be?

On Monday afternoon D and I will meet for the first time with my new palliative care doctor. And I’ll begin making concrete this last chapter of my life. I’m excited and a bit on edge. And yes, I’ll definitely have a report or a poem.

In case you wondered, I have Mary Oliver to thank for her wonderful question to each of us.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

©Mary Oliver, final lines of “The Summer Day,” p. 94
New and Selected Poems, Volume One
Published by Beacon Press 1992

Thanks for listening!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 July 2019
Photo found at pixabay.com

Good Girls and Bad Girls

We shrouded our pain
Silenced our questions
And secretly breathed
Lonely sighs of relief
At finding ourselves
Alive and seemingly well
Reputations intact

This was warfare
Of the delicate kind
No blood No guts No glory
Only the privilege of living
To see another day
As one of the Good Girls
Born and bred in the USA
Daughters of the Church
If not the Revolution
Living memorials to
The Great Protection Racket

Looking back at the 1950s and 60s, I can scarcely believe how naïve I was. The Big Lie was simple: We four daughters needed good men to take care of us, keep us from harm, untouched and unscathed by real life in a real world.

I’d rather live in today’s real world with all its troubles, than in the world in which I came of age. It wasn’t safe. It wasn’t heaven on earth. It wasn’t fair or just. And it most certainly wasn’t great.

I believe men can become wonderful partners. Too bad mine didn’t come along the day I was born. Which isn’t to say his life was a piece of cake, either.

Hoping you have an opportunity to make your voice heard today on behalf of truth.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2019
Photo of 1950s Sunday School in the South found at patheos.com

Coded language

Coded language
Covers fear lurking
Within contours of life
Under scrutiny
And the ungodly weight
Of being right and
Righteously unrighteous

Does this not become us?
Or are we becoming
The deepest fears
Haunting our dreams

Look in the mirror
Listen to your precious life
It doesn’t last forever
Lay aside childhood fear
Of not fitting in

Sit down and then
Stand up and speak out
On behalf of strangers

Our lives are the test
Not our coded words
Or the colors on flags
We wear and hide behind
In a desperate bid
For approval from our
Latest false gods

I wrote this last week after a particularly unspectacular news cycle filled with rage and vendettas. It isn’t ‘their’ problem. It’s our problem, born of lack of faith and lack of courage.

I applaud public figures who stand up and speak out on behalf of all of us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could change the atmosphere of our public discourse? However, even if we end up with leaders able to do this, I’m not counting on them.

I’m counting on the little people. People like you and like me. Everyday human beings who aren’t afraid to welcome strangers into their lives. Especially ‘political’ strangers who may include former friends, or family members.

When I look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, I don’t see a human being who hid behind coded words or political and religious party lines. Nor do I see someone on a great campaign to win votes. After all, in the end all that didn’t matter.

What mattered was his life of truth-telling, compassion and fierce determination to be human, pointing beyond himself to the One who matters above all others. The only One to whom he owed supreme allegiance.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 July 2019

Four Sisters in Waiting

This is one of my favorite old photos. There aren’t many that have the four of us looking so spiffy! I think we were at a summer conference in North Carolina. If so, this was 1954. I was 11 1/2; Sister #2 was 9; Sister #3 (Diane) was 5; and Sister #4 was 1 1/2 years old.

Judging by our outfits, this was probably taken on a Sunday morning. White socks, shiny shoes, clean dresses, and curled hair. Obediently looking into the camera whether we wanted to or not. We were the daughters of a preacher. Surely life was a piece of cake. Not.

Even so, I love this photo, and am grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to spend time with my sisters. Especially since the late 1990s. They’ve been mirrors for me–telling me more about myself and about themselves and our parents than I remembered.

As some already know, Diane died of ALS in 2006. So now we’re down to three. Even though we don’t always see eye to eye, I find great solace in connecting with them, mostly via the phone.

Back to the photo. If I’m correct, this was the year I played afternoon babysitter to Sister #4. Each day, immediately after lunch in the large conference dining hall, Mom (known as Mother back then) took a much-needed nap and left Sister #4 in my care.

To my great chagrin, more than one conference attendee assumed I was my sister’s mother. I don’t think Sister #4 was keen on the optics, either. I was distressed. How was I going to meet good-looking young men if I had to play momma to my sister?!

One other memory. Sister #4 loved nothing better than lively music to which she could dance. Informally, of course, since dancing itself was a Huge No-No in our family and church.

At this conference, all guests stood at their assigned tables for a hymn or two and a prayer before sitting down to eat. Sister #4 was in a high chair, and broke out into a little sitting jig every time we sang a hymn! I’ll never forget a grumpy old man telling my father he’d better keep his eye on this little girl because she was going to be big trouble!

Little did he know that this docile, obedient Sister #1 was going to be big trouble, too. It takes guts to become a Disobedient Daughter of Eve. A lesson I didn’t learn until I was an adult. Which is why I began this blog in the first place, and why I keep writing. Not to sort things out, but to document what my big trouble looked like, and what it took to break decades of destructive Good Girl habits and beliefs.

Thanks for the visit!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, Summer 1954

The Ponds

Here’s a thought-provoking poem from Mary Oliver, followed by my comments.

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them—

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided—
and that one wears an orange blight—
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away—
and that one is a lumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

©Mary Oliver, in New and Selected Poems, Vol. One., pp. 92-93
Beacon Press, Boston, 1992

Of course imperfections aren’t necessarily nothing. Sometimes they’re distress calls. Or signs of neglect.

Still, like Mary Oliver, I also want and need to see big picture beauty in a water lily pond, garden or meadow. Because, as she puts it, “I want to believe [And I do!] I am looking into the white fire of a great mystery.”

The mystery, it seems to me, isn’t simply about water lilies. It’s also about us. Especially now. Not simply because each of us is beautiful, but because taken together, we reflect the light of a mystery beyond ourselves. Something beyond our beauty, our flaws, and our “unstoppable decay.” To say nothing of the muskrats (whose days are also numbered) looking to take us down one by one.

Especially now.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2019
Photo found at pixabay.com

Still searching for myself

I’m most alive when I write –
If only for myself.
I don’t understand this deep urge
To put myself on paper,
To make visible things
I’ve held closely guarded –
As though I could keep my life
Safely contained
Within the walls of my mind
Secret, lonely, fearful.

Was or am I a big mistake
Parading as reality?
Worse yet, a fraud trying to be
What she was never meant to be?

I wonder –
Is this related to being white in the USA?
Or better – being white and female in the USA?

My mind has been on race and skin color for the last several days, triggered by one of the books I’m reading. It’s titled White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Dr. Carol Anderson, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. The book was published in 2016 by Bloomsbury Press.

Chapter titles:
1. Reconstructing Reconstruction
2. Derailing the Great Migration
3. Burning Brown to the Ground
4. Rolling Back Civil Rights
5. How to Unelect a Black President

I don’t understand the depth of our racial divide here in the USA, or of today’s white rage that seems to be spilling over at every turn. I do, however, understand that white rage is deeply embedded in this nation’s history. It’s part of our nation’s history from the beginning. Our old, old story. The one it seems we’d rather bury underground than face head on.

I don’t have answers, so I’m going to keep reading Dr. Carol Anderson’s well-researched, well-written book, and see what happens. Not out there, but in me.

Comments are welcome, whether you’ve read this book or not.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2019
Bookcover image found at amazon.com

On a walk-around

On a walk-around
In my lofty attic
Sunday morning silence
Permeates the air

My mind and heart
Fly home revisiting
Large and small circumstances
Of my unscripted life

Memories flood back
Unsolicited reminders
Of turning points and
Individuals

Each a small piece of
What feels strangely like
Home away from the home
Of my weathered body

Not as it might have been
But as it was and is
In real time with real people
Some of them jerks

Important pieces
Of a great puzzle that
Still shape and encourage
Me into this —

A real woman with a real
Voice and calling
A disobedient beautiful
Daughter of Eve

Unfinished and sometimes
Impatient I wait wondering
What more will happen
Along the way

This week I’m going to schedule a first meeting with my new palliative doctor. I wasn’t expecting the end of my life to take this turn. Nonetheless, I see this new possibility as a wonderful gift. And yes, it will take significant thought and work on my part. Not just on behalf of myself, but with family members and doctors.

I anticipate getting things in some semblance of order, adjusting my thinking about what lies ahead, and enjoying what I most want and love to do. Which will certainly include writing.

Happy Monday to each of you!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 July 2019
Photo of Tybee Island Beach found at visitsavannah.com

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