Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Advent Exercise

mountain of sorrow

mountain of sorrow
strewn with graves of the slaughtered
cannot forget

I wrote this after watching a special report last night on the PBS News Hour. It included video of hastily dug stone-marked graves for men and boys slaughtered on Sinjar Mountain during genocidal war against Yazidis in Sinjar District, Iraq.

It caught my attention because it happened in the last several years, just ‘yesterday,’ right before our eyes. Genocide is an attempt by some human beings to disappear other human beings from the face of the earth. Uncounted numbers of men, boys, women and girls were found unworthy of belonging to the human race. Their crime: being Yazidis.

Advent has its dark side. A Jewish baby born to a young unmarried Jewish woman will one day be judged by his own people and others, and declared unworthy to belong to the human race.

His crime? Speaking the truth about people who populated his world. Sometimes it was unwelcome truth, delivered in unconventional ways. He didn’t hold back or grease the hands and reputations of religious leaders, politicians, or everyday human beings like you and like I.

Nor did he hold back in showing us how to live, speak, and die for truth. Especially when other human beings are being disappeared.

This challenges me. I don’t want to be among the disappeared. Nor do I want to collude in the disappearance of others. What does this mean for me, looking ahead?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2017
Photo found at

Advent and Lullabies

wraps today’s anguish
in lullabies

Living with unexpected physical challenges feels like a roller-coaster ride. Up one day, down the next. My short list of essentials for each day is simple: write, read, listen to or play music, exercise, rest, and prepare food as required for my diet. Sometimes my energy level is up, and I’m able to do everything and then some. Other days, I pare it down.

I’m not in love with this situation. Nonetheless, over the last two years I’ve accepted my wellbeing as my number one priority–not the way the house looks, or showing up for gatherings I used to attend regularly.

As the first-born of four daughters, I learned to neglect my own wants and needs in favor of caring for others. Today I often think of myself as the little girl I once was. I focus on listening to her and comforting her–acknowledging in the present that she still lives in me and still needs affection and affirmation.

All I have is one moment at a time–the precious gift of the Spirit of my Creator. Writing has been my best tutor when it comes to connecting with myself in the present. It’s demanding, but immensely rewarding when a haiku or poem begins to take shape on paper because it’s taking shape in me–echoing what’s going on inside me. The haiku above is a case in point.

Even Jesus wasn’t born into this world immune to tough choices or anguish. I can imagine his earliest comfort included lullabies. They also work for me. Especially when I sing them to myself as a way of bringing my past into the present.

The Christmas Lullaby tune above is “Restoration” from William Walker’s shape-note song book, Southern Harmony. It’s an old American tune, sung here by Doc Watson.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 December 2017
YouTube video found here 

sitting alone

sitting alone
in her outdoor living room
lost in memories

Is she resting? Waiting for someone? The sun looks warm, and the park grounds are inviting. She seems lost in thought, sitting there in the sun. What stories might she tell me? Or we could just sit there silently, basking in memories and resting. Perhaps smiling at each other  from time to time. Listening to the birds and watching passersby. There’s room for one at least one more person on that park bench. Two are better than one, aren’t they?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 December 2017
Painting found at
Painting by Morteza Katozian, Iranian Artist

bleak winter knocks

bleak winter
knocks on the door –
my heart leaps

We’re in the middle of an unusually cold, windy December. Too cold to do my normal outside walking. Gusts of wind rattle our old house, toss garbage cans around in the driveway. Our cat Smudge goes on high alert.

It’s also Advent, time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. I can’t help making the connection between our bleak winter and one of my favorite Christmas carols, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” words by Christina Georgina Rossetti.

The last verse is my favorite. I memorized it when I was a child.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

As a child I didn’t understand what it meant to give my heart. Today I understand more, but not everything. It’s comforting to give my heart to the One who knows me best. Especially when bleak winter comes knocking at the door in the midst of uncertainty and change. Perhaps my small heart will warm and comfort this Child who is so like and unlike I am.

Advent blessings to each of you, from my heart to yours.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 December 2017
Photo by David Byrne, found at
Bleak Winter,” Scotland

startled birds

startled birds swerve
surfing updrafts and downdrafts —
thick tree trunks sway

As seen early this morning. Birds and trees dealing with a turbulent, invisible ocean of air.

I’m looking out a window in our heated house, wondering whether I could survive outdoors. It’s hard enough to survive inside.

Life is turbulent. It isn’t easy to surf icy blasts of unexpected change and disorientation. Witness the last few weeks and years, with more to come.

Sometimes I wish I were more like birds riding updrafts and downdrafts, swerving and turning with the wind. Or like huge tree trunks that sway precariously, yet survive virtually unscathed.

Then again, maybe they figured it out ages ago, and have tried for decades to show me how it’s done. I think I’m beginning to catch on, though it still takes my breath away.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 December 2017
Photo found at

evening silence

evening silence
seeps through weary pores
calms my heart’s breath

Do hearts breathe? Mine does. In and out, day and night. Life-giving blood flows constantly, silently moving through my body to cleanse and renew.

There’s nothing like evening silence. It’s almost palpable. I feel it reaching out to me, willing me to relax. Putting the day’s activity, noise or even silence into perspective. Calming my heart’s breath.

Advent also reaches out. Inviting me to be conscious of, but not stuck in the bleak winter in which we live. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Sometimes almost to the ground. Flat on our faces with despair or heartache.

Into bleak winter I look for Light and Hope to arrive in surprisingly ordinary ways. Secretly and silently. Can you see it flickering? Sometimes I can, especially when I invite evening silence into my ordinary life.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 December 2017
Photo found at – evening prayer candle in a Coptic chapel, Egypt


disappeared seeds
sown in haste germinate –
my heart skips a beat

It’s the late 1950s. I’m a young teenager, sitting at the supper table with my parents and my three sisters. I’m teary, feeling crampy and a bit nauseous. Not eager to eat anything.

My father tells me to stop crying and eat my dinner. I can’t stop crying, and my stomach ache isn’t going away.

My father tells me to stop this nonsense immediately, or he’ll give me something to really cry about. I burst into loud tears and run upstairs to my bedroom, sobbing my heart out.

My childhood, youth and adulthood are littered with occasions that replicate or echo these dynamics. My biggest problem, so it seems, is that I’m over-emotional and haven’t yet learned to control myself.

I learned to ‘disappear’ myself by choking on my emotions, swallowing them, eating them alive, or trying to paste a happy face over my true face.

When I wrote about the pain of retirement, I said I feel ‘disappeared.’ I didn’t hear it then as a loaded word. But now I do. A cue of sorts. The kind that suggests the opposite of what it seems to say. Following is my un-disappeared, crystal clear comment about myself.

No, I do not feel sorry for myself. No, I’m not stuck in a gear I need to shift out of. No, I’m not simply repeating myself over and over and over again.

My words are my words. My feelings are my feelings. I’m as entitled to them as anyone else is to his or hers. I dare not sit on them, deny them, modulate them to suit your ears, or beg forgiveness for not living up to what you believe should be the standard for my life.

I’ve never understood why some men (also some women) have, throughout my life, felt free to give advice about how I should NOT be. Or about what I should be ‘over’ by now.

My father buried and tried to smother in his body and soul the very things he demanded I bury in my body and soul. Not because they would harm me, but because they made him uncomfortable, or didn’t fit his view of the woman he wanted me to become. Or the man he thought he was.

I’m grateful for my feelings. I admit to feeling uneasy sometimes about letting them show. Yet overall, I’m grateful to be a highly sensitive woman of a certain age. Unleashed, untamable, not prone to shame or responsive to scolding.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 December 2017
Image  found at

breathless air

breathless air hangs
beneath steel-gray sky —
birds take cover

That’s what I saw outside our kitchen window this morning. Not the little bird, but the calm before a snow storm making its way up the East Coast. Right now the first flakes are coming down steadily. And I’m going into hibernation mode!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 December 2017
Photo found at

afternoon sun

late afternoon sun
warms exposed tree limbs
waiting for winter

Yesterday afternoon I walked outdoors in bearably cold weather. The bright sun was low in the sky, already dropping beneath tree tops. I could feel the warmth on my face, and wondered whether tree trunks and branches also felt the warmth.

How odd that trees shed their protective leaves for winter and face wind, sleet, snow and ice with bare limbs. We humans, however, pile on layers so thick that we’re scarcely recognizable in our winter combat suits. Especially as we age.

It’s challenging to see trees accept the coming winter stripped down. Naked. All their graceful, awkward or broken architecture clearly on display. Not as a sign of aging, but of strength. Perhaps even courage?

I’d like to think so. In part because I’ve always wanted to be a tree — or at least a poem lovely as a tree. A tree with roots sunk deep into the ground, finding rivers of water in underground sanctuaries untouched by human hands. Still producing fruit in its season.

Happy Friday and happy walking!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 December 2017
Photo found at Shutterstock

roughing it

thin whistle
of white-throated sparrow
hangs in mid-air

The first I’ve heard this December. A sign of cold weather ahead? I’m never sure how to interpret this one-of-a-kind winter song. It’s always thin and high-pitched, and often trails off as though frozen in the air. Nothing like the full-throated winter call of the tiny house wren.

Is the sparrow announcing its presence? Maintaining boundaries? Better, perhaps it’s defying all preconceptions about its stamina, determination, survival instincts and importance in the greater order of this world. Reminding me life is greater and perhaps more precious than human existence inside a pre-heated igloo full of comfort and convenience props.

I love my heated dwelling and all my squirreled-away survival rations. I adore the sound and feel of precious radiator heat on a cold morning. I willingly tolerate the heart-stopping roar of my morning Vitamix machine. It enables me to sit at my kitchen table looking out the window, listening for sounds of outdoor creatures and imbibing my half-digested breakfast. Imagining I’m roughing it.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 December 2017
Photo found at

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