Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Aging

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention | Mary Oliver

Here’s my pick for today: a lovely poem from Mary Oliver about life and death. Why today? Because it’s my 77th birthday! See my comments below.

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on, “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, found on p. 9 of Thirst 
Published by Beacon Press 2006

Rue: regret
Lassitude: fatigue, weariness, apathy
Vainglory: excessive vanity, inordinate self-esteem

I know it isn’t spring or summer, but neither do the roses. They do their thing, then disappear until it’s time to start all over.

Death is making the rounds these days. Not just death that follows old age, but death from Covid-19, suicide, broken hearts, incurable illnesses, street fights, unleashed hatred or anger, and more. Still, death isn’t our worst enemy.

We’re not on earth to live forever. We’re here to discover and fulfill our earthly purpose as human beings. Welcoming the stranger, accepting our own strangeness, giving and receiving help, taking our personal histories seriously.

In some ways, the roses have it easier. It isn’t easy to be human. We need each other if we’re going to thrive.

Still, like roses, we’re meant to be extravagant. Giving, giving, and giving again. Not obsessively or compulsively, or because we feel guilty, or for personal gain. But as an overflow of beauty and grace.

Think about it! Fragrant roses, baby birds, clouds, sunrise and sunset, fields of tulips, new-fallen snow, and gnarled old tree trunks soaring toward the sky. All this and more with thanks to our Creator.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 November 2020
Photo found at etsy.com

squabbling sparrows

outside my window
squabbling sparrows fight for food –
silence reigns within

Onlooker. That’s what I am these days. Not when it comes to local stuff, but the other stuff. Frankly, I’d rather be a sparrow right now than a politician or public official.

Whatever this year has been on the outside, I’m grateful for time to examine my life as a white woman. All without the expectations or interruptions of ‘normal’ daily life.

Put another way, I don’t want to be out there squabbling over the 2020 Election, or suddenly find myself without a job or a sensible plan for the future.

Being a senior citizen has its drawbacks. For one, we don’t get much overt respect, especially in our modern-day young and (especially) white culture. When respect happens, it tastes really good. So far, D and I have been able to navigate this bizarre Covid-19 world. It helps that we’re both introverts with tons of books, and the desire to read and write.

Back to the standoff  and squabbling that’s playing out before our eyes. It’s deadly. No good will come of it. I’m praying justice will be done when Mr. Trump is no longer POTUS, and he can no longer evade courts of law. Still, the behavior of his extremely disaffected followers isn’t a promising sign.

While watching the sparrows squabble with each other, I heard and saw a large blue jay squawk its worst as it landed on the bird feeder and sent all the sparrows fleeing. Everything wasn’t great before the male jay arrived, but at least there was food on the table. And no big bullies in sight.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2020
Photo found at thespruce.com

silent morning breaks

silent morning breaks
my refrigerator hums
one more soul departs

Each death is singular and tragic, especially as the numbers continue to climb precipitously.

This isn’t voluntary mass suicide. It’s a tragedy long in the making, now playing out minute by minute as our current POTUS refuses to face reality about the 2020 Election or Covid-19.

Then there are his very public caretakers. I’m tempted to mock them. But I can’t. For whatever reason, they, along with millions more, have latched onto DT as their hero, even though he can’t deliver on his promises. Another tragedy in the making.

In addition, death by Covid has become so ‘normal’ that I find myself more horrified by daily data updates than by singular tragic deaths.

What happens to our souls when we learn to live with nonsense? Or turn to data more quickly than to human beings and their families struggling to make sense of nonsense? I know I’m guilty. The sheer horror of what’s happening right now in our country is a nightmare gone berserk.

Today I’m praying for singular souls that depart due to Covid-19 or any other cause made more difficult because of Covid. I’m also praying for the aching souls of relatives and friends mourning their deaths.

Who knows? Any one of us or our loved ones might be next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2020
Photo of sunrise on the East Coast found at tripadvisor.com

stripped of color

stripped of color
bare branches shiver
falling leaves take flight

D and I are just back from a blustery walk. Dead leaves whipped through the air and across the road. A few trees still looked spectacular. Yet on the whole, the achy beauty of autumn colors has become torn, tattered browns of brittle leaves.

What does it take to survive late Fall and early Winter? Or the unsettling reality of climate change? Or the huge surge of Covid-19 cases in the USA, coupled with the refusal of millions to take simple precautionary measures?

As a citizen of the USA, I shiver as I watch the barometer of Covid-19. It isn’t chiefly about our health. It’s about our relationships with each other. Especially with those most affected by the pandemic. We seem to have forgotten we’re all human beings.

Many of us run away from truth about our country. We harbor persistent, deep-rooted racial ignorance, and neglect citizens and visitors who fall near or beneath the poverty level. It isn’t difficult to see this, no matter which political party we favor.

Even so, I have hope. Not because Spring always follows Winter, but because hope is for any season of any year. Someone Else with far more gracious eyes than mine is in charge. My part is to follow Someone Else (Jesus of Nazareth), and do what I’m able to do.

I’m relieved that POTUS, our Governors and politicians, the Supreme Court, Wall Street investors, and deep-pocketed billionaires are not in charge of how and whether Spring will follow Winter.

With the exception of most conifers, leaves fall freely every Autumn. Why? Maybe they know Spring follows Winter. Today their job is to step aside, and let Someone Else figure out how we’ll get from here to there. My job is to do my part, and leave the rest to my true Leader, Jesus of Nazareth.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 August 2020
Image found at merriam-webster.com

off-pitch and stumbling

off-pitch and stumbling
the first notes of a sweet song
fall on hungry ears

I spotted him just as we were finishing a quiet walk through the cottage garden display at Longwood Gardens. The young gray catbird was making an enormous amount of noise. Some on key, some petering out and falling to the ground.

From my perspective, he was practicing to become a concert catbird, struggling with new melodies and his still brand new voice.

I have a weakness for catbirds. They don’t have flashy feathers; instead, they have some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Happily, they like our yard. Sometimes we get an extra treat: they seem to be competing with each other for the best voice of the day!

Shifting gears, here we are on the ground with a new Presidential situation. We face monumental problems for which we need monumental solutions. As a writer, I want to find a different, somewhat new voice. Not to parrot what I hear from the White House or from disgruntled or elated citizens, but to keep naming truth about myself and our situation, as I see it.

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t prepared for this kind of writing. The kind where I get to put the words out there, but have only small clues about how my audience is responding—or not. So I’m going to stay with what works for me—focusing on myself, and making connections with what’s happening in my back yard—literally and figuratively.

I don’t have what that young catbird has. I do, however, have a voice that needs exercising. I look forward to the coming months, though with trepidation.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, May 2012

Absence

absence eats slowly
into edges of presence
morning rises late

It isn’t just the season. It’s my life slowly diminishing one day after another.

The 2020 Election has opened a door for substantial change. I want to be part of the geriatric action. I wonder how many others raised in my generation (1940s and 50s) feel this as well. Here we are, often carrying painful bodily and emotional damage. What will this Election mean for us?

I’ve been thinking hard lately about my schedule, and how to manage daily routines without cutting into writing time. I’m not there yet, but I’m seeing a little light. Which is all I need right now. A little light of day and a little light of hope for our future as a nation.

Praying for small and large gifts of kindness, gratitude and hope to rise like the sun, against all odds.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2020
Photo of November sunrise in Ashland, Oregon found at outdoorexposurephoto.com

sweet hush of silence

sweet hush of silence
fills the old woman’s ear
lulling her to sleep

I wrote this haiku just before I went to bed last night. Not because it’s fun (though it is!), but because the process requires focus on the present moment. Letting go of everything. Beginning to ‘see’ what’s staring me in the face. A gift, waiting for me to acknowledge its presence and then capture the moment on paper.

On 1 December 2017 I wrote my first haiku. It’s in my first haiku mini-notebook with about 100 others. Here’s what I wrote that day.

silence descends
over dismal swamp —
a child weeps

Though I haven’t written one a day for many months, I’m drawn to them during our current upheavals: Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Loss of Protected Habitat, Building the “Wall” and Divide and Conquer moves having babies.

Gail Sher wrote one of the most helpful books I’ve read about writing. It’s called One Continuous Mistake. Actually, the title is about life and writing. Without mistakes, how will we learn? How will we discover and accept our humanity?

Haiku opens up insights and connections I wouldn’t otherwise notice. I’m not an expert. Still, I’m fascinated by the way writing haiku helps me see deeply into what’s in front of me, especially in nature and in human nature.

These days, writing haiku beats the TV screen, ubiquitous radio news feeds, and photos used to create shock, if not awe. It also reminds me that this is not my final home. I’m coming to feel more comfortable about being a wayfaring stranger passing through this life. Haiku helps me look for more than meets my eye.

Hanging in there with all of you. I can’t wait until this election is over, if not done with. Then the real work can begin, no matter who becomes the next POTUS.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 November 2020
Book cover image found at amazon.com

How do we vote for this earth?

This gorgeous photo is a tiny reminder of how much our climate is changing. Whether you’re a climate change believer or not, one thing is clear. Fire with a mind and life of its own is taking us down.

I’m not a climate scientist. I’ve been on this earth for nearly 77 years. Yet I’ve never seen so many apocalyptic-like fires ravaging the West Coast and middle states. To say nothing of drought, flooding, and the invasion of insects and pesticides that suck the life out of trees, crops and human beings.

This election isn’t just about who our leaders will be. It’s about this earth, and what we’re leaving to children and young adults.

We’re not Adam and Eve. We are, however, the current keepers of this earth, whether we like it or not. The next generations are already reaping the whirlwind we’ve unleashed on this planet. Do we know how to vote for this earth?

This topic wasn’t on my mind when I got up this morning. But being faced with Word Press’s latest surprise (no more automatic classic editor), I decided to face the music and see what I could do. I like simple. I like uncomplicated. Neither of those seems true of the Grand New WP Plan for my writing life!

Hoping your day is chugging along without unexpected reminders of how old and retro you are! Actually, I remember when retro was cool….

Elouise♥

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2020
Image found at unsplash.com

 

What it looks like to be brave

This is my first attempt to clarify what it looks like for me to be brave today.

Being brave means

  • Not second-guessing myself or my language.
  • Not wondering whether people will like or believe what I say or write.

Given my age and health, bravery is chiefly about spoken and written speech.

  • How willing am I to be blunt, no matter who is listening/reading?
  • How willing am I to become a learner, not just by reading books, but by listening to what others say about me as a white citizen of the USA?

Signs I’m being brave:

  • Giving up more rules for good white girls and women, enforced directly and indirectly since the day I was born
  • Engaging in conversation or not, as I choose
  • Taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually
  • Speaking my mind and engaging in conversations that matter
  • Feeling both clear and out of control

Being brave isn’t measured by

  • What my father would say or think
  • What my church friends, pastor, or former colleagues and students would say or think
  • What my readers think about what I write

So what’s at stake?

  • It isn’t whether we can get along.
  • It’s whether white citizens of the USA are willing to look into our long history of racism without making excuses or trying to explain things away.
  • It’s also whether churches and religious institutions will take racism seriously, no matter whether they supported it directly or indirectly.

It’s also about

  • What I do or write in response to what I’m learning and seeing daily.
  • Being clear about what I need to hear about from the pulpit regarding racism.

In the final analysis, the goal isn’t to change other people. It’s to change me.

Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting if you’d like!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 October 2020
Quotation found at pinterest.com

Am I brave?

Where is my center?
The one thing that matters
Above all else

What is truth?
Not what I see with my eyes
But enact in my life

Brave
I want to be brave again
I think

Yesterday’s bravery looks on
With bated breath
Was it for real or not?

Since childhood
I’ve prepared for this moment
Without a map

Now I’m a grown-up
Battle-worn and wondering
Can I do this again?

I don’t generally think of myself as a brave woman. Determined? Yes. But not brave.

My life has been a series of interruptions by men. Some were accustomed to taking over and talking over others. They seemed to be the truly brave players on the scene. People like my father, my first boss, some male pastors with whom I’ve worked, male teachers and professors, male board members, presidents, vice-presidents and colleagues. Sometimes male students.

They seemed to sound ‘brave,’ if not always wise. At best I might have called myself ‘disciplined.’ But even that sounds weak. Especially now, in a world reeling from a dearth of true bravery. The kind that moves ahead without knowing how this is going to end. Without hanging onto ‘power over’ other people. Without the need to prove something personally, or make sure this turns out right.

Most Christian churches with majority white members are likely in need of brave leaders. I’m not an official church leader. I’m a retired theologian. Nonetheless, it’s time to step up. Time to become brave yet again. This time without apology or fear of what people may think about me.

There’s too much at stake to put my trust in niceness, or even in making sure I’ve gotten every word in the right place, spoken or written in the right way, at the right time.

I’ve begun reading Brenda Salter McNeil’s Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now. I’ll say more about it in a later post. It’s a great read so far.

Thanks for visiting and reading. On another note, my poem, Haunted, has been published in a South Georgia newspaper. In addition, my primary care physician asked for it–to use in a small discussion group the practice has begun.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 October 2020
Image found at StarTribuneBaltimore.com

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