Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Beauty

The Shepherdess Speaks

Simple elegance
Strong body
Sun bonnet
casts shade over
tumbling tresses
Hint of smile
Head turns slightly
Eyes averted
Basket of posies
loops gracefully
around bare forearm
Sweet dress
swirls gently over
exposed ankles
Feet clad in
flat slippers
firmly grounded
Left arm cradles
shepherd’s crook
worn and ready
at her side
Beware wolves
in shepherd’s clothing

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 September, 2014, reposted 20 January 2021
Photo credit:  DAFraser
Statue stands in the Main Fountain Garden of Longwood Gardens, PA

The unsung life of birds | Photos

Junco huddles in bare lilac bush one day after the storm

Swarming outside our kitchen window
They take speedy targeted turns
Though not always with good manners
Flocking nonstop to the one thing
They need this season above all else –
A turn at the table set for everyone

The pecking order becomes clear
In the space of about three minutes

Red-bellied woodpeckers take top honors
Clearing the deck and wrapping themselves
Around the feeder in order to get that
One big seed and retreat to the nearest tree

Feisty cantankerous house finches follow quickly;
Swarming house sparrows hog the food and linger
Fighting furiously for the best seat at the table;
Chickadees and tufted titmice land, grab and go;
Red and white-bellied nuthatches often prefer it
Upside-down and are gone in a flash,
Favorite seeds gripped in razor-sharp beaks

Brilliant male cardinals and their mates hover
In nearby shrubs, watching for an opening
Though he frequently shoves her to the
Sidelines where she patiently (?) waits her turn
Beside sweet grey and white juncos sitting
On the porch rail watching for just the right
Moment to swoop in and grab a bite or two

Isn’t it wonderful to write scripts for the birds? I wonder what they would write about us.

This week we’ve had ample time to study the seed and suet feeders. Generally speaking (in case you’re wondering), ubiquitous gray squirrels are being deflected from the impenetrable bird feeder, thanks to the recently hung suet feeder. They prefer trying to bite through the suet screen, hoping to break in and grab the whole cake!

David took the photos above and below the day after this week’s wild wind, snow, sleet and ice storm. Enjoy!

The morning after the storm

House sparrows

Nuthatch on suet feeder; yes, the squirrels managed to spring the cage, but not far enough to deliver the whole cake!
Now fully secured, assuming they can’t bite through small padlocks….

Red male cardinal feasting

Female cardinal and a white-bellied junco

I pray this closing week of Advent brings hope and peace into parts of our lives that are difficult at any age.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser, 17 December 2020

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

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

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

It’s Monday morning!

Coming in for a landing
jostling for space
grabbing the prize
and gobbling it down
or flitting away to
a private dining room
in the brilliant maple tree
they swarm like bees

Red-bellied woodpeckers
hairy and downy woodpeckers
an occasional flicker
house finches and sparrows
tufted titmice and chickadees
red-bellied nuthatches
and plain black and white nuthatches
red cardinals and reddish-brown mamas
plus uncertain adolescents
interrupted occasionally
by raucous blue jays jumping
up and down and all over
our squirrel-proof birdfeeder

I wanted to come upstairs
and write a letter to you
but the birds kept calling out
with their happy dances plus
indiscriminate pooping on the porch rail
while Smudge slept soundly
on his special rocking chair
in the living room
resting from his nighttime
take-down of a baby cricket

It’s Monday morning
and I’m feeling rather frisky
and just a bit bold if not brave
Autumn is the most poignant
season of all with its nonstop
invitation to dance as leaves
flutter to the ground sparkling
with golden glory next to cast-off
pods from birdseed plus the other
stuff too all over the place
like a spatter paint job on
porch and lawn feeding the aging
grass with free fertilizer from above

A bit of nonsense, and a prayer that your week will be full of unexpected surprises of the good kind. Happy Monday, no matter what!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 October 2020
Photo of female Red-Bellied Woodpecker found at pilotonline.com

Longwood in Early Autumn | Photos 2020

Last week we visited Longwood Gardens Covid-19 Style. Timed tickets, face masks, social distancing, limited facilities and outdoor eating opportunities. But the Meadow didn’t care! So that’s where we spent most of our time. A late celebration of our 55th wedding anniversary. Was it worth it? Yes!

Believe it or not, D took the top photo while we were waiting in line to be admitted. Below is a trained spruce (plus shadows) on the front wall of the Visitor’s Center. We’re not yet in the Gardens. We’re on the patio, snaking our way to the front door. Thankfully, the line kept moving, though at what I would call a snail’s pace. Still, it was mid-morning, with a stiff breeze and cloudless skies.

First we took a quick walk around the main Conservatory. Imagine the sound of water spilling from small fountains and waterfalls. Peaceful and inviting, with only a small handful of visitors. The large formal pool in the first photo is sometimes drained for large social events or dinner parties. Very upscale. No, I’ve never been invited. Nor do I wish to be! The second photo features black Japanese bamboo reaching for the sky as the background for two lovely lanterns.

After watching a water show from the verandah of the Conservatory, we walked over to the Meadow. It was stunning, especially from a distance. Late summer/early autumn overgrowth and seedtime!

Unfortunately, the lovely stiff breeze made it tricky to get clear photos. Nonetheless, D came through! Here are a few of my favorites.

We exited the meadow and crossed the bridge over the pond. I’m standing there studying the algae. The water was almost invisible. Still, paying attention paid off! As you’ll see below. Think tiny baby, larger mama? and maybe great big papa?

The high point of our visit! I can’t begin to describe how exciting it was to spot these creatures! So…Here are my final two photos. D took them near the end of our visit.

I hope this lifts your spirits the way it lifts mine. I was exhausted when we got home. Still, I wouldn’t trade anything for this opportunity to visit Longwood. Especially now.

Thanks for visiting. I’m sending this with prayers for wisdom and courage in the days ahead.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 September 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 23 September 2020

Fountains and Music at Longwood Gardens

We’re just back from a day at Longwood Gardens. The first time we’ve been there since October 2019!

D took the movie above. A bird’s-eye view of today’s late morning concert. I’m going through the rest of D’s photos and will post my favorites later this week.

Imagine hot sun, long lines at the entrance (Covid-19 style), gorgeous blue sky, stiff breeze, limited number of visitors, masks required, timed entry by pre-registration only, food services minimal.

Still, it was a gorgeous day. I was elated to discover I could still walk the meadow without collapsing. Until I got home, of course.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 September 2020
Longwood Gardens Fountain Show taken by DAFraser, 23 September 2020

55th Wedding Anniversary | Scotland Photos

This Friday, September 11, D and I celebrate 55 years of marriage. Five years ago we flew to Scotland to celebrate our 50th anniversary (and visit the Fraser Castle of course). No travels this year, so I’m posting Scotland photos instead. All photos in this post were taken by D, and approved by me.

On our way from Edinburgh to Glasgow, we spent a day at the The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The top photo was taken along the way. If this is what it’s like to be put out to pasture, I’m all for it! When we got to the Park we selected one of their four hiking trails. The Lodge offered food and rest-stop facilities (not housing). Then we got going on the trail.

This lovely female Mallard was floating at the base of the trail,
surrounded by graceful greenery. Picture perfect!

We saw several wood carvings along the way, and spooky stumps.
Then there was that weirdo mirror in the forest. Aren’t we beautiful?

Here’s one of the rest stops that popped up here and there.
This one came with its own live canopy and ceiling decorations!

Beautiful vistas, the sound of running water, plus
tumbled rocks lining the creek.

More whimsy with tree stumps and trunks,
with doors and windows to die for!

Finally, several beautiful forest birds. An English Robin,
a Great Tit, and one young European Robin.

OK. So it’s only a shadow of the real thing. However, all things considered, I’d rather do this than get on a plane and go anywhere right now. Thanks for coming along!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 September 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser, September 2015 at the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in Scotland.

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