Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Aging

I could not prove the Years had feet | Emily Dickinson

Clothes that don't fit

In 2016 I first discovered this delightful poem by Emily Dickinson. She was about 32 years old when she wrote it. It’s full of wisdom and a touch of self-directed humor. I still hear it asking me to examine myself. Especially now. Not in a morose way, but with eyes and ears that understand I’m not the person I was when I first began blogging.

I could not prove the Years had feet –
Yet confident they run
Am I, from symptoms that are past
And Series that are done –

I find my feet have further Goals –
I smile upon the Aims
That felt so ample – Yesterday –
Today’s – have vaster claims –

I do not doubt the self I was
Was competent to me –
But something awkward in the fit –
Proves that – outgrown – I see –

c. 1862

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

As usual, Emily speaks her truth indirectly with abrupt, even maddening pauses, and omitted words. Her poem, like her life, is cloaked in mystery and leaves me wanting more detail.

Yet without trying to do so, Emily invites me to reframe my life. To consider where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to go.

When I was a child my great big goal was to learn to play the piano. If I could do that, I would be content and ecstatically happy. Or so it seemed back then.

In fact, my life has been shaped by a series of goals that promised a kind of heaven on earth. For example, playing the piano, going to college, having a real boyfriend who really loved me, getting married, having children, going to seminary, teaching in a seminary. Possibilities I never dreamed would come my way.

When I listen to my heart, it invites me to keep pushing the envelope of what feels comfortable to me. I know this feeling—a combination of excitement, dread and anticipation.

I even made a list of things that will keep pushing the envelope. Promise you won’t laugh!

  • Pick up the phone and call someone
  • Knock on a door and say hello
  • Send a card or note
  • Write poetry and share it

They may or may not mean much to other people. But for me, it’s about practicing small behaviors I’ve often found intimidating. In a way, my goal is to pretend I’m an extro/introvert! Oriented outward as well as inward. Though in my introverted way, of course.

Is this possible? Why not? It’s better than setting another lofty goal I don’t need anymore. I need clothes that fit me now. Outfits that allow me to follow my heart, be my own boss (sort of), and maybe even surprise myself every now and then.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 March 2016, edited and reposted 15 September 2022
Photo from the fashionfoot.com

Letting Go

How hard can it get? Pieces of my life surround me day and night. Always reminding me of something I don’t want to forget, or release just yet.

Tons. That’s how much it seems I’ve already let go—books, do-dads, clothes, cards and letters, kitchen utensils, Tupperware, cookbooks, dishes, and plates. Plus files and records from years of teaching and being a dean, boxes of still usable toys for children, and pictures that decorated the walls of our six homes from the East to the West Coast. Still, some days it seems I haven’t even scratched the surface.

In addition, I’m having to bid farewell to pieces of me. I never dreamed I would be so housebound as I am now. Yes, I get out to walk several times a week (when the weather cooperates). However, I don’t leave the house now without my very nice cane, and the added burden of having to step carefully. No more running up or climbing steep hills. No more wandering through the meadow at Longwood Gardens.

Then there are daily choices I didn’t anticipate. Instead of having a plan for each day, I do what I can and leave the rest. Sometimes it’s a relief; other times it feels like I’m losing part of myself in ways I never anticipated. Especially when I want to read or write or visit my blogging friends.

Letting go. I’ve almost always known that each day is about both life and death. Yet until now, I’ve thought of life as the major component of each day. Now, however, there isn’t a day that passes without reminders that death could come at any moment. Mine, or David’s.

For the last several months, I’ve been uncertain what to write about. Perhaps I was avoiding the obvious? Maybe. Still, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I do, however, know that the community I’ve discovered on WordPress has given me great joy, a little grief, tons of affirmation, and a place to be myself.

Thank you for being there. I don’t know how things will work out, but I do know that I need to be writing about life as I experience it now. Not because it’s so great, but because it’s unspeakably precious.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 September 2022
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, September 2021

We never know how high we are

Here’s a message for me. Perhaps for you, too? I never dreamed my most daunting challenges would come near the late end of my life. Thanks for stopping by today. Especially given the mess we seem to have gotten ourselves in.

~~~

Dear Emily,
I have one small suggestion to make about your poem below. Please add ‘or queen’ to your last line. Just in case that’s not possible, I’m going to do it for you every time I read it. You’ll find my comments below your lovely poem.
Respectfully,
Elouise

We never know how high we are

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies –

The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king –

Poem #1176, written about 1870
Found on Poets.org

Dear Friend of this World,
I’m sending you this little poem today from Emily Dickinson. Maybe you never heard of her. I think she was a bit shy and bashful. You know, like many of us who don’t want to become a public ‘thing,’ even though we do enjoy being noticed and appreciated.

I think that deep down, Emily wanted us to know about her little poem. Or at least to notice it. So please read it over, and over again. Once is good, five times is better.

Do you know how important your words and deeds are? Perhaps you’re tempted to water them down by over-thinking. Or you get stuck in fear. Especially fear of failure, or fear of going against expectations–your own or those of others. I do.

Sometimes I wonder whether Emily understood her own queenly power.

If you have any doubt about yourself, look and listen to what you already do every day. Just getting up in the morning is a big deal. Or smiling and offering to help a friend or stranger. Or doing what you know will honor your body and spirit or someone else’s.

The way I see it, God gave us ourselves, each other, and this world with its unnumbered inhabitants as our earthly home. We’re the only caretakers God has on this earth. We’re a big deal, individually and together.

In fact, God loves nothing more than watching us step up to our full kingly and queenly stature. Especially despite our worst fears, and without expectation of payment, reward or even a ‘thank you.’ Sometimes it takes an emergency to jumpstart our royal blood. But we don’t want to wait for that, do we?

Thank you most kindly for visiting and reading.
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 September 2017, reposted 26 August 2022
Image found at pinterest.com

Still without a flight plan

Coming out of a fog
Finding my feet and voice yet again
Feeling my way home

These words, and the poem below capture layers of unknown realities all the way from what was supposed to be a post-Trump era, to living in an aging body still full of surprises. Here’s the poem as first published in March 2020.

Without a Flight Plan

Disoriented
Suspended in space and time
Where are we going?

Calm and mindful
In a holding pattern
Waiting to land

Circling landmarks
Every twenty-four hours
Drones in the sky

Specks of dust
In an ocean of dismay
Looking for home

© Elouise Renich Fraser, March 2020
Published in Without A Flight Plan, 2021, p. 45

I’m just back from a short morning walk. The sun is out, the heat wave has subsided for now. Summer school is over, and the school playground is blissfully quiet. I see only a handful of others out for a walk with their dogs. I’m walking with myself.

Walking or sitting, I feel the weight of what we call ‘old age.’ I now understand that being old means not having a flight plan.

I’m a diehard maker of lists/flight plans. I like checking off my lists. Lately, however, the lists have become weights. The kind I carry around from one day to the next because I didn’t do all those things, thanks to unpredictable turns of event or the weather or how well I did or did not sleep last night.

Old age is not for sissies. Do I have a plan now for each day? No, I do not, with a few exceptions:

  • I will eat
  • I will sleep as needed
  • I will fill the birdseed feeders
  • I will make sure the birdies and Smudge have fresh, clean water
  • I will love D

Period, the end.

Well, except for one more thing. Copies of Without a Flight Plan are available at Amazon.com in various countries. I am also giving them away as requested and possible. However, if poetry isn’t your thing, I will not be offended. In fact, I will thank you for reading this far! Forgive me if I wander. I understand it’s allowed at this age.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 August 2022
Photo of snow geese near Mount Baker, Washington, USA, found at correre.org

song birds caroling

song birds caroling
sun breaking through mist-drenched air
dropping dew drumming

* * * * *

A mini rainforest

reverberating voices

shimmering light-rays and

drenched greenery

enfold me within

a universe of

hushed gladness

reorienting

my steps, my thoughts

my sense of wonder

bathing me in

peaceful anticipation

on my journey home

~~~

Another of my favorites from my first year of blogging. Visiting my early WordPress posts is stirring up old memories of people and places I’ve known or visited. The photo at the top reminds me of multiple forests I’ve hiked in with D and family members.

Thanks for stopping by! Today I’m taking it easy, resting after a fruitful shopping spree with D yesterday.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2014; reposted 3 August 2022
Photo found at pixabay.com

The Long and Short of it

A ping pong in my mind
Spins from one reality to another

Grounded
I know I’m not lost
But the feelings in my bones
And in my feet keep
Bouncing back and forth

Stricken
By the deaths of colleagues
And friends I feel lost in the
Immensity and beauty of life
Wondering how long this will last

Drunk
By the glory of nature
Around but not in me
My eyes and ears turn into gluttons
For the beauty this earth

The photo at the top was my best effort at finding a photo remotely like an old postcard I received from my seminary theology professor, Dr. Paul King Jewett. It’s dated 1 July 1977. It showed up in a drawer of personal items I’ve saved over the years.

This past week two of my seminary colleagues died: Dr. J. Deotis Roberts, and Dr. Ron Sider. In addition, one of my seminary students from the mid-1990s died. Then just yesterday, I attended (via You Tube) a memorial service for a prominent member of our church.

All of this pushes me to stay focused on the glorious and inglorious parts of my life. Especially peripheral neuropathy in my feet. I now have a spiffy cane that accompanies me on my walks around the neighborhood. I don’t always need it. Nonetheless, it gives me confidence. Especially when I walk across a field or stroll past unruly dogs!

Within the last week I’ve begun using a series of online exercises. They’re offered by an Australian physiotherapist at MoreLifeHealth.com. No drugs. Just simple, daily exercises to strengthen and relax my feet and legs. Free. He also offers help for patients with peripheral neuropathy in their hands. Here’s a link to all his videos for various health issues.

Hoping your week is both challenging and uplifting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 July 2022
Painting by Albert Bierstadt, circa 1876; Found at Wikimedia Commons

the sound of silence

cascading waves break
in calm rhythmic procession—
fiddler crabs scurry

* * * * *

I loved trips to the beach on Tybee Island
back in the 1950s when it wasn’t famous, and
sunblock and skin cancer seemingly hadn’t been discovered.

Anyone could just drive out for the day,
slather oily suntan lotion all over,
soak in the beauty and vastness of the ocean,
and ignore the gritty sand that seeped into everything.
PB and jelly sandwiches never tasted better.

Today when I visit a quiet seashore with a beach
it becomes a little homecoming:
Nurturing, reconnecting, relaxing, larger than life itself.
Not unlike everyday homecomings
that mesmerize and ground me:

the hum of summer cicadas
the sound of wind rustling through trees
a steady heartbeat
slow rhythmic breathing
sunrise transforming the morning sky
moon and stars suspended in a crystal-clear night sky
clouds of gnats swarming in the air
sweet robin-song at dusk
fireflies flickering on and off
bats dancing in the evening sky
flocks of snow geese taking elegant flight
Canadian geese traveling noisily across the autumn sky
human voices echoing faintly across the water
multicolored flowers shimmering in a distant garden
clouds drifting across an Atchison blue sky
the sound of silence

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 June 2014
Photo found at VisitSavannah.com
~~~

Yes, I’m still here. Slowly but surely making progress on home projects I’ve put off for a while. They include a book of poetry I’ve published on WordPress. Not everything, but pieces that paint a picture of my life as I experienced it. I may not get through a review of all of them. Nonetheless, it’s worth taking time to look back and think about where I was and where I am now. The poem above is included in the collection I’m putting together.

Thank you for your presence in my life. Especially given today’s often strange, unpredictable world filled with pain, agony, and daily reports of things falling apart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 July 2022 

Vitamin D, Crows, and Daylilies

I’m feeling my way through
our neighborhood one step
at a time though a misstep
could end in heartbreak

Released from four walls
I find strange solace as
nature surrounds me with
glory and the piercing cries
of crows being chased by
tiny sparrows protecting
their nests and their young

An uninvited insect lands
on my ring finger thinking
I might have something to
offer though it’s way past
breakfast time as midday
sunshine streams down on
my naked arms depositing
bits of vitamin D as ordered
by the doctor just yesterday

I find myself at loose ends these days. Doing what I can on my lists, and leaving the rest. All too soon, however, I’m starving for whatever I’ve decided to leave undone. Such as writing poetry.

For the last few weeks I’ve been walking outside in the morning as often as the weather permits. About a week ago I got my new light-weight walking cane, which makes things easier.

Invariably, I end up feeling teary (in a happy way) when I see towering trees, hear scores of birds singing, or pass a friendly walker or two. Yesterday, I even had the opportunity to stomp out a red lantern fly! And never a day passes without daylilies breaking out all over.

Surely some of this deserves to be written down and passed along. Especially in these troubled times.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2022
Photo of daylilies found at pixabay.com

Love Sorrow | Mary Oliver

Facing old age and death is no picnic. However, the post below still helps me re-imagine my relationship to my own sorrow. She’s a small version of me and needs to be loved day and night. Thank you once again, Mary Oliver.  

This poem from Mary Oliver struck a chord in me. Partly due to the current pandemic, with its waves of sorrow. But also because of my personal history. My comments follow.

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Red Bird, a collection of poems
“Love Sorrow” is on p. 64

Dear Mary,

Your poem about loving sorrow brought back memories of my childhood and adult life. Especially things taken or withheld from me before I understood they were mine. Plus bits and pieces I lost or gave away throughout my life.

Sorrow, especially if it showed, was an indulgence I needed to give up. Or get over. What’s done is done. It won’t do to make my friends uneasy, or get into trouble with adults who wanted me to be someone else. I learned early to swallow or deny sorrow. Especially in public.

I think you would be horrified though not surprised at the world as it is today. We’re drowning in sorrow and anger, trying to figure out how this tsunami pandemic caught us so unprepared for death and dying, as well as living mindfully.

I don’t want to drown. I want to live and grow, especially now as time is running out.

Thank you for showing me how to befriend my sorrow. How to welcome her into my life, and learn to live with her as the child she is. And how to watch her begin to relax and grow into a strangely wonderful companion.

With gratitude and admiration,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 May 2020, reposted on 20 June 2022
Image found at 123rf.com

On singing myself to sleep

Before I go to bed each night, I make an informal entry in my evening journal. Here’s the heart of what I wrote last night. I had in mind the ongoing three-ring circus of politics in the USA as well as my own health issues. Though you may not have had a blood draw early this morning, perhaps you can relate.

Today was gone before it began
I never caught up with it or myself

Tomorrow already bears down–
An early morning blood draw plus
everyday tasks amid unrelenting
uncertainty and distractions

Be close to me this night
Open my ears to hear and follow You
It’s time to rest beneath Your wings
And sing myself to sleep

I’ve often sung myself to sleep. Whatever pops into my mind. As many lines and verses as I can remember. Followed by the next song–usually a hymn–that rises to the surface.

When I was in grade school, it was somewhat onerous to memorize hymns (all stanzas, no mistakes). Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the comfort they bring to me. Especially at night when I’m feeling a bit lost in the craziness of our war-weary world.

Singing myself to sleep isn’t magic. It is, however, a way to do for myself something I can’t remember anyone doing for me as a child–singing me to sleep. In addition, it shuts out all those other voices clamoring for attention.

Thanks for stopping by today!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 June 2022
Photo found at pinterest.com

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