Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Beauty

Butterfly Wings

Emerging from my cocoon
last night before I slept,
my eyes devour treasure
hidden in cards and notes
scattered among my
now ancient relics

As I read them slowly
a door finally cracks open
to reality larger than life,
despite my deep fear
of failure and a similar yet
heavier fear of success

This morning I wake to
flaws and old age staring
back at me from my mirror,
daring me to forego
daily beautifying rituals
meant to atone for my faults

My heart skips a beat —
not because of this poignant
reflection but because I
finally recognize a glimmer
of butterfly wings
springing from my back

It wasn’t easy growing up in the 1940s and 50s. During and after World War II, severity was called for. This meant daily care of Victory Gardens. Mending and passing along used clothes and shoes. Not wasting anything. And, in my case, full attention to the military-like heaviness of my clergy father’s rules for good girls.

As a clergyman, Dad chose not to be a soldier in Uncle Sam’s army. He believed he was in the only army that mattered — God’s army. Joining Uncle Sam’s army was like deserting God’s army.

I wasn’t the only World War II baby born into a culture of strict rations and homegrown Victory Gardens. Food was often hard to come by. Gardens had to be plowed, planted and weeded. And children, like gardens, also had to be plowed and weeded.

The upshot was simple. No vanity, no wasting time, no over-indulgence. Just noses stuck to the grindstone of everyday recovery from the horrors of World War II. Like other children born into this era, I learned to keep my nose to the grindstone, think of myself as part of a small army of obedient girls and boys, and forget about the fancy stuff our family could never afford.

It made for outstanding work habits. It didn’t make for easy enjoyment of parties or silliness in the workplace. Even worse, it took away the joy of being a young mother.

So there I was yesterday evening, reading cards and notes I’ve kept over the years. Finally acknowledging that I did something beautiful and did, indeed, have great fun from time to time–despite the heaviness of my work ethic.

In fact, I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had in my life. Thanks to friends and family members who keep showing me how it’s done.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 June 2021
Photo found at commons.wikipedia.com

An Invitation

A walk in the late Spring
park of my mind beckons
beyond the open portal
of weary normal days
without wine and blossoming roses

Which will it be
I wonder in a weak attempt
to pretend this is about
a reasoned choice
or serious deliberation

The beauty of yesteryears
calls out from every corner
of my well-laden larder of
memories lying dormant
around and above me

Having already left this
world of visible reality
they invite my hungry heart
to feast at the table of friends
and strangers I never really knew

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 June 20

“Forest Feast” Artwork from Elizabeth Foster
Found at Melissa Shirley Designs, needlenook.com

Rita

My unquiet mind
Twisting and turning nonstop
Ponders a mystery

Without a trace
Or signal from anywhere
A friend vanishes

Bare windows stare
Unable to voice answers
To unasked questions

So much of life today is about what I don’t know. Social distancing has broken casual and formal ties to friends and even strangers whose lives intersected mine daily.

A great emptiness has descended, daring me to fill in the blanks. Where did it all go? Why isn’t my beautiful friend Rita out walking her dog every morning and evening? Why doesn’t she answer my email? And why is her phone out of service? I don’t have an answer.

Rita was in her late 80s. She walked her lively little dog Charlie in the park every morning and evening. Then came Covid and social distancing. Before that, besides seeing her in the park, I sometimes went to her place. Never a dull moment! It was all about tea, health, politics, religion, food, and whatever Rita wanted to tell me about her life.

Now my life feels smaller. I’m tormented by memories that are themselves becoming strangers. I want to be born once again. I want a starting point, a middle, and an end. Something that will hang together into a believable story of who we are, who I am, and why all these silences refuse to answer our questions.

The rhododendron at the top is for Rita, wherever she is.

Thanks for stopping by today,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 24 May 2021

Longwood Gardens May 2021 | Photos

On Monday, D and I made a long-awaited visit to Longwood Gardens! The weather was overcast and blessedly cool, a total break from our latest heat wave. Also a day made for photographers. For now, you’ll have to be content (or not) with this small handful of D’s photos.

The top photo shows what we see every time we enter the gardens. Gorgeous trees towering and spreading their branches. This time the Chinese dogwood was in bloom. On our way to the Conservatory, we passed two versions of Chinese Dogwoods. As you can see, the blossoms and leaves differ slightly.

Longwood has recently announced another huge renovation project. It will take several years. I hope I live to see it! In any case, they’ve gone all out to make the Conservatory spectacular. Here’s what we saw (and heard) as we entered.

One of the most favored exhibits–the orchid house–has been shut down as part of the renovation project. Instead, the orchids have been clustered together (imagine huddling to stay warm) in three places in an open-air hallway. Frankly, I like this look better than walls of orchid species to be studied.

The bonsai exhibit has also been woven into the main Conservatory. Here are three lovely examples–very Spring!

Finally, several unusual specimens that caught my eye. They were located here and there in the main Conservatory. I’ve begun with my favorite, and left the most unusual for the last photo. If you don’t recognize the second photo, I threw in a hint. Well, more than a hint….

Title: Bad-Hair Day on a Tree Trunk

Hoping you’re having at least a Better-Hair Day. Happy Thursday, and thanks for visiting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 May 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 24 May 2021

How would you live then? | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver puts us on the spot with whimsical questions we’ve likely never asked ourselves. My comments follow.

What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
flew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerfully sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day—who knows how, but they do it—were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Blue Iris (2004)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 167

Prisoners sometimes say what keeps them going is having a room with a view. A room with even a tiny window on a tiny plant or part of a tree branch. Like clock-work, these bits of nature became companions. They signal changing seasons, measure the speed of the wind, announce the time of day, or signal the coming darkness of night. All without a paycheck or a bonus for going the extra mile.

We humans seem glued to electronic devices, out of touch with the Garden our Creator handed over to us. Perhaps even out of touch with each other as precious women, children and men. “More precious, more meaningful than gold.”

I laugh when I read this poem. It’s full of whimsy. The kind that comes from close observation of nature and human nature, which Mary then turns into gold. Who wouldn’t like to see and experience Mary’s unexpected everyday wonders? Perhaps she’s inviting us to slow down and redirect our attention. Life is short.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich  Fraser, 22 May 2021
Photo found at npr.org

a one-year old nest

basking in sunshine
beneath snow-white blossoms
a one-year old nest

That’s right, folks. Last autumn’s empty paper wasp nest survived last winter’s harsh reality weather! You can’t see them in this amateur shot through the window, but small wasps are buzzing all around the basket-like nest. Probably checking it out like a relic in a museum!

Will there be another queen and her subjects? I doubt it, even though the nest hasn’t lost any chunks to the ground below. Still, the story isn’t over, and I’m staying tuned.

Yesterday afternoon I finished my part of our 2-week attic books marathon (at least 30 boxes almost ready to go to The Theological Book Network). Then I started on my office.

This time it isn’t about giving things away. It’s about seeing what’s there in the first place. Most of it would count as personal memorabilia. Some needs trashing, and some will go to people who need more stationary or greeting cards (for example).

The best gift of all has been seeing bits of my life in personal notes, cards, photos and letters. Some precious, some OK to let go of, and some I don’t remember keeping at all.

At any rate, yesterday afternoon I had a wonderful teary session with these bits and pieces. Especially pieces I’d forgotten about. Which led me to wonder whether I know myself anymore.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2021
Photo taken by erf, 18 May 2021

The life of birds

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, adult male

Mouthing birdseed
and surveying what lies
around and behind him,
a young male grosbeak
shows off his brand new
white back feathers and
blossoming rose-breasted chest

Nowhere to go
in particular and
not much to say,
he munches birdseed
and enjoys an early
morning breakfast
before moving on

Reminder of a new day; reminder of Spring’s heartbreaking beauty; reminder of how vast this world is and how small and earthbound we humans are.

For the last few weeks D and I have been (yet again) sorting through our many books that sometimes weigh us down. We’ve been through this drill more than once, thanks to our academic lives and limited shelf space. I’ve often said our main decorative scheme is Books and More Books, closely followed by Shelves and More Shelves.

Some books and manuscripts are sacrosanct. This includes my collection of hymnbooks and piano scores going back to my childhood piano lessons. Plus those favorite recipe books (now antiques) that I rarely use anymore. Plus our bird and plant identification books, old college and graduate school yearbooks, and would you believe multiple translations of the Bible?

Sometimes I wish I had the life of a bird. Especially on a sunny Spring day with plenty of food and water available and not a hawk in sight.

However, on the whole, I’m grateful for the life I’ve had. Not because it was easy, but because it was and still is difficult, breathtaking, exciting, nerve-wracking, crazy-making, beautiful and precious.

On that note, I’m back to the attic to work through another bookcase.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2021
Photo found at pinterest.com

Loneliness | Mary Oliver

I still tear up when I read this lovely, perceptive poem from Mary Oliver. My comments follow.

Loneliness

I too have known loneliness.
I too have known what it is to feel
misunderstood,
rejected, and suddenly
not at all beautiful.
Oh, mother earth,
your comfort is great, your arms never withhold.
It has saved my life to know this.
Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning.
Oh, motions of tenderness!

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Blue Horses (2014)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 23

When we’re born we have one chance. One chance to hit the jackpot of perfect parents, perfect siblings, perfect grandparents and all the other stuff that comes with perfection.

Yes, it includes gender, color of skin, color of hair, cuteness or ugliness, fat or skinny. You name it, and someone somewhere has known loneliness over these or other unchosen marks of our supposed superiority or lack thereof.

I grew up feeling like a fat girl with three younger sisters who were invariably cuter and more exciting than I was. To be fair, the preferred family term that stuck with me wasn’t ‘fat.’ It was ‘pleasantly plump.’

Every dress my mother made for me was ‘adjusted’ to mask my pleasant plumpness. My thin, straight hair was subjected to permanents every three months, even though the perms disappeared down the bathroom sink within two or three weeks. I never seemed to smile enough, laugh enough, or have enough girlfriends or boyfriends.

Yet thanks to our living arrangements, mother earth was always right there waiting for me. Unlike my father, she never told me to suck in my stomach, stand up straight, or wipe that frown off my face. Never.

Nor did she say “I told you so” when I was one of the last girls chosen for athletic teams. She just kept showing up, giving me time and space to turn my loneliness into freedom and a life of my own.

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for this heartwarming poem. I cried the first time I read it, and the second, and the third…. What a gift we have in rivers and roses. The handiwork of a Creator who understands us better than we understand ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 May 2021
Photo by Phil Banks, pixels.com

The Gift | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s poem is for anyone who is, as she was then, aware of the clock ticking down. My comments follow.

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Felicity (2015)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 14

When I read this poem, I tear up. Of all the things on my daily to-do lists, not once have I included “Love…as once you loved, deeply and without patience.”

From my perspective, slowing down means giving up some of my most loved habits and wants. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The puzzle of my life shrinks with each passing day. If I can’t do this, can I do that? If not, what other options do I have?

Mary’s poem jolts me out of resignation mode. Yes, my walk, “that was confident and quick, has become slow.” Just ask D when we go out for a walk in the neighborhood. Or observe me agonizing between doing this or that. It isn’t because I don’t want to do this or that. It’s because I still want it all (or most of it!), yet don’t have the energy I had just yesterday.

I imagine Mary looking at me and saying,

So what?! Even if you slow down, that doesn’t mean your heart’s ability to love “deeply and without patience” has slowed down. If anything, it’s stronger now than ever!

And yes, time is running out. Today, in my imagination, I’m a tiny wren. The kind that can’t stop letting everyone know what a beautiful life this is, and how grateful I am for our Creator, and for you. Especially in the midst of pandemic tragedy, uncertainty, and diminishing energy.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 April 2021
Photo of House Wren found at welcomewildlife.com

Early Spring at Longwood | Photos 1

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Rosebud popping out and a vacant bird nest for rent near Longwood’s large lake

Here’s a repost of some favorite photos. They’re about new life and new growth emerging from what often looks like death or the end of the world as we’ve know it. Signs of hope and beauty. Not forever, but for a season.

Yesterday was gorgeous! Cloudy, breezy, mild. Perfect for visiting Longwood Gardens. Here are some favorites taken, as always, by D. All I did was point my finger now and then if he hadn’t already clicked the camera!

We’re at the front end of the flower walk, near the main entrance.
These perky blossoms were in the cacti and succulent area,
popping up out of the gravel.
They look like they’re crafted from crepe paper.

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Nearby were more sedate, formal stonecrop
in different shapes and patterns.
This one wasn’t as uptight as some of the others!

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The following are from the flower walk itself–
a formal promenade between ever-changing seasonal plants and flowers.
Yesterday only the early signs of spring were out.
Even so, it was spectacular, and had me in tears a few times.
There’s something healing about seeing life
spring from the still-cold ground.

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Here we have early spring tulips,
followed by daffodils against a stone wall
and another variety of tulip.

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This is one of Longwood’s magnificent Japanese cherry trees in full bloom.
We’re just over halfway through the flower walk.
You can see scores of tulips and other bulbs not yet in bloom.
Three views of the cherry tree–

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Finally, a few more early tulips in creamy white,
and dainty snowdrops.
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I wish I could have taken all of you with me in person!
I have more photos, though, and will share some of them later.
Happy weekend, everybody!
Smell a flower today and smile at someone you don’t even know.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2016, reposted 8 April 2021
Photo credit: DAFraser, March 2016
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

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