Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

My mother’s spirit

My mother’s spirit
Came calling last night
I saw her footprints
In this morning’s snow
Precise and measured
She passed quietly
Beneath my window
Step by small-hooved step
Down the driveway
Before crossing over
Into the woods beyond
Our house asleep
And dreaming

I think they were the prints of a red fox–which reminded me of my mother’s bright red coat. She would have loved the brilliant rainbow umbrella, and the fashionable leggings and boots.

The tracks down our driveway this morning told me I’m not alone. Neither are my three sisters, each of us with our own mother-daughter relationship to ponder. Mother Eileen died in mid-February 1999, twenty years ago, seven years before our sister Diane died of ALS in mid-February 2006.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 February 2019
Photo found at fiftiness.com

I’m not my mother

I’m not my mother
Or the young girl
She wanted me to be
Surrounded by friends
Pretty with curls in my hair
Dressed in cheery colors
Enjoying a childhood
Unlike hers lived in fear
Of gossip and taunts
From girls going nowhere
Despite their self-assured
Superiority unknown
In my mother’s world

I fought against my mother. Refused her regular advice about clothes and colors. Felt ashamed of her outgoing ways and her polio-scarred body; her face devoid of make-up. Nothing could hide the tremor on the left side of her face. Or the sight of her estranged mother arriving at grade school, dressed like a diva bearing gifts to her royal daughter.

I endured with chagrin and barely suppressed anger her attempts to make my straight thin hair curly and fulsome, like her beautiful auburn hair.

And…she taught me to play the piano. Cook. Clean. Starch and iron clothes. Make beds. Fold towels and sheets. Organize drawers and cupboards. Things her absent mother never taught her.

There’s a saying I remember from my growing-up years. I didn’t care for it; my mother did. Her kitchen wall hanging proclaimed it boldly: “Bloom where you’re planted.” I couldn’t; neither could she.

Two lost souls thrown together. One extroverted, the other introverted. Both lonely; intelligent; eldest daughters; desperate to be loved and heard; musicians from the inside out. Overshadowed and dominated by a world of men. Unable to play and sing our songs freely without fear of having our wings clipped.

And yet…every time I read My mother’s body, I feel a tug at my heart. Pulling me back toward her. Not out of pity, but with understanding that’s still taking root in me. Softening me toward her and toward myself. Especially when I’m playing the piano, and feel some of her musicality playing through me.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2019
Photo of winter snowdrops found at pinterest.com

The Good Old Days

With thanks to the Polar Vortex, depicted above on the left.

Cold air blankets my body
Seeps through pores
Insinuates its way
Past layers of fleece

Shivering, I opt for
Mind control

I re-mind myself
Of long hot summers
And how I’ll yearn for
These good old days
To soothe my fevered skin
And drooping brows
Long since resigned
To a losing battle against time,
gravity and the elements

With apologies to my friends in Australia, now enduring the opposite side of Polar Vortex weather.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 January 2019
Weather Underground image found at colleenhurley.wordpress.com

An evening prayer

Today I got a little lost
Until You found me
In the hymns I played
At the end of the day

I’m weary and it’s late

Last night I had a hard time
Getting to sleep which
Made this entire day feel
Off-balance –
already behind and unable
to catch up with myself

This night – sing me to sleep
And wake me with joy
Alive and ready for another
Day – found and grateful

From my journal yesterday evening.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 January 2019
Photo found at unsplash.com

soul-pain

Tears flow easily these days,
fed by inescapable beauty
plus the soul-pain of being
alive and open to life.

Or perhaps it’s chill winter
resurrecting shared memories,
turning spare light into a
celebration of what we
have together, parsed out in
days and nights of longing for
spring’s welcome thaw.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 January 2019
Photo found at thefuntimesguide.com

Gifts of old age

Gifts of old age
Come slowly sifting
Decades of memories
Through a heart
Converted to truth

Soft and pliable
It weighs the years
Discarding self-contempt
For self-acceptance
And understanding
Of what and why
And wherefore these
Shadows are nothing
In the end but
The reverse side of
Life interrupted and
Redeemed at great cost

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 January 2019
Photo found at artistsnetwork.com

Why Mary Oliver’s words matter

A few years ago a friend introduced me to Mary Oliver via one of her books of poetry, Thirst. Spare on words and extravagantly beautiful, her forty-three poems grabbed my heart and my imagination. The collection focuses on her grief after the death of her longtime partner, and her struggle to find words that capture the reality of her faith.

Mary Oliver challenges me in ways similar to Emily Dickinson, with one exception. Oliver’s poetry, also heavy with meaning, is remarkably and painfully direct. In each poem she invites me to enlarge the way I see, experience and respond to what seems everyday and ordinary.

Since her death on January 17, scores of visitors have visited this site looking for posts about Mary Oliver. At the top of the list: It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, a poem about prayer.

In the last week I’ve read and listened to multiple tributes to Mary Oliver. Her poetry is stunning; her challenge to us as human beings is direct and piercing: Wake up, Observe, Report. Not simply about nature, but about this world and its creatures as part of God’s great poem. A reality we ignore to our great loss.

Here’s one of Mary Oliver’s shorter poems. I love the way it makes simple what isn’t always easy.

Musical Notation: 2

Everything is His.
The door, the door jamb.
The wood stacked near the door.
The leaves blown upon the path
that leads to the door.
The trees that are dropping their leaves
the wind that is tripping them this way and that way,
the clouds that are high above them,
the stars that are sleeping now beyond the clouds

and, simply said, all the rest.

When I open the door I am so sure so sure
all this will be there, and it is.
I look around.
I fill my arms with the firewood.
I turn and enter His house, and close His door.

Mary Oliver, from poems in Thirst, p. 38; published by Beacon Press (2006)

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 January 2019

Clouds of snowy ermine

Floating on water
Warm and welcoming
I drift through treetops
The color of brown
Graceful they sway
Lifting bare branches
Toward the sky
Elegant in winter
Garb accented with
Clouds of snowy ermine

Bits and pieces of this morning’s waking dream….all but the snowy ermine (stoat), too elegant to omit.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 January 2019
Photo found at mymodernmet.com

Lost in an internal maze

Brilliant winter sun-rays
Filter through frigid air
Endangering darkroom eyes
Unaccustomed to light

Blinking he looks away
Unwilling to sacrifice
Hazy unclear sight for clarity
Or the fine details of truth

Better the sweet comfort
Of blurred lines mixing
Facts with fiction or
Reducing them to nothing

Stumbling blindly
From pillar to post
He makes his lonely way
Lost in an internal maze

I didn’t set out to write about Mr. Trump, yet it seems I have. So now I’m sitting here wondering what’s going on in me. Have I given up on his presidency? Disengaged myself from caring anymore?

That might happen if I believed that whatever he does, I will likely weather the storm. Yet I don’t believe that. His actions put us and others at risk every day.

More likely, I wrote this because I lack visible power over what’s happening in Washington. I voted. Now it seems there’s no more I can do to make a visible difference.

Nor can I say I hope for something better from Mr. Trump. I don’t. I’m an aging citizen, with limited time and energy. I want to know how to make my voice and my concerns heard.

Though I could perhaps feel sorry for Mr. Trump, that isn’t an option. He has openly chosen his way of doing business, and is following it regardless of intended or unintended outcomes for our nation or our allies.

What now? If I remember right, Jesus rebuked those who paraded their supposed righteousness before everyone’s eyes. Instead, he recognized with gratitude and admiration the widow who, almost unnoticed, gave from her heart the bit she had.

I want to find my bit, and offer it from my heart. Not to Mr. Trump, but to this world God already loves — the same world I’m learning to love in spite of our differences and blurred visions of reality.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 January 2019
Photo found at freepik.com

The weather goes awry

So much
For forecasts
Or low odds
On life
Turning its tail
And running
Away
Without us

Howling wind
Sucks drafts
Of spinning leaves
And drunk robins
Heavenward
Tree branches
Lash out
In vain

All
We ever wanted
Gone
Up the chimney
In smoke
Churning with
Hopes and dreams
Unrealized

How quickly things fall apart–or fail to materialize. A death here. A death there. Unplanned events and unanticipated outcomes send us spiraling. Looking for something to soothe weary minds and hearts, and point us forward. Together, rather than scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Despair? Not yet. A sense of loss or betrayal? Sometimes. But more often aching loneliness for what might have been and may yet become. With or without us.

While I was writing this, the outside temperature plummeted toward single degrees, and wind from the north picked up speed. A good time for indoor Sabbath rest.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 January 2019

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