Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Birdsong

Invitation | Mary Oliver

This morning I’m tempted to rush into battle mode. So many things are going so wrong. This poem from Mary Oliver helped restart my day–though I’m still not sure what will come of it. My comments follow.

Invitation

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake  of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver; poem found on pp. 18-19 of Red Bird
Published by Beacon Press

The line from Rainer Maria Rilke is found at the end of his poem, Archaic Torso of Apollo. There, as here in Mary Oliver’s poem, we’re offered no clear interpretation of “You must change your life.”

Here’s how I’m thinking about it today:

This shared world, filled with beauty, seems intent on self-destruction. Would we throw it all away by refusing to act, just once, with beauty and courage? Do the unexpected? Change the conversation, or our knee-jerk reactions to things that annoy and offend us?

Perhaps the most courageous thing I can do today is as simple as a smile. Especially in tense or fearful situations. We say a smile is worth a thousand words. It’s what most of us are starving for every day. True, smiles won’t heal or resolve every problem. Nor are all smiles to be trusted.

Still, Mary Oliver challenges us to stop, listen and (I think) smile at these crazy beautiful goldfinches. They just can’t stop singing for sheer delight and gratitude! Trying, perhaps, to tell us something we desperately need to hear from each other?

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 July 2020
American Goldfinch songs found on YouTube

In the Evening, in the Pinewoods | Mary Oliver

Who knows the sorrows of the heart?
God, of course, and the private self.
But who else? Anyone or anything else?
Not the trees, in their windy independence.
Not the roving clouds, nor, even, the dearest of friends.

Yet maybe the thrush, who sings
by himself, at the edge of the green woods,
to each of us
out of his mortal body, his own feathered limits,
of every estrangement, exile, rejection—their
death-dealing weight.

And then, so sweetly, of every goodness also to be remembered.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Red Bird: Poems by Mary Oliver, p. 63

A few weeks ago, out walking in the evening, I heard a wood thrush. One of the most haunting, beautiful sounds on earth. It was singing in the woods behind a nearby church and graveyard.

So many deaths right now. So many regrets, angers, crushing sorrow and disbelief.

I’ll never forget the cries of a mother Canadian Goose nesting just outside my office at the seminary. A noisy raptor had been circling and screaming for too many minutes. Father Goose was sitting nearby, clearly agitated, watching the sky from time to time.

Yes, the inevitable happened. The raptor stole the baby from the nest, unmoved by the parents’ frantic, furious cries and attempts to save their newly-hatched chick.

When I arrived at the seminary early the next morning, Mama Goose was sitting immobile, holding silent vigil on grass in the back courtyard of the seminary. Her loyal partner sat nearby, watching her and waiting. It looked and felt like a mourning ritual. They were there for most of the day before they flew away.

So much sorrow and anguish right now. That’s why I need to hear a wood thrush from time to time, along with its many neighbors calling out to me: There’s more to life than meets the eye. Mourn, have faith, and carry on.

Written a few days after the loss of one of my forty-nine first cousins, and in view of my own mortality and the current situation in this world.

Thanks for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 June 2020
Video found on YouTube

Longwood on the cheap and an update

I know. It isn’t quite the same as being there in person. But it’s the closest I’ve gotten to Longwood Gardens since last fall. Be sure to turn up the volume so you can hear the birds!

This morning I walked in our neighborhood and saw a few friends from years back. The humidity was atrocious. The birdsong, however, plus all the lovely green leaves were to die for. And yes, I wore my face mask.

I haven’t been out for any great adventures since the first Sunday of March. I’m grateful D is doing all our grocery shopping. Our ages put both of us in the high risk category for Covid-19. My health issues make me a higher risk than D. So I’m here at home virtually every day. I write, walk in the neighborhood, talk to family members on the phone, and keep in touch with our neighbors.

Speaking of family, our daughter turned 50 today! She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon. Our son, his wife and three children live about an hour away. But it might as well be Portland, given Covid-19 restrictions.

Even introverts don’t like being caged. Well….not exactly caged, but I’ve definitely had my wings clipped. I don’t foresee being out and about anytime in the near future.

I felt great relief after I wrote my most recent piece, It feels so good. Resisting Mr. Trump isn’t directly about resisting him personally. It’s about how I choose to spend my time. So I’ve made some choices, and will see how it goes.

I hear people talking about ‘getting back to normal.’ From my perspective, there is no going back to ‘normal.’ Instead, our country has a looming crisis on its hands. It didn’t begin with the current administration. It began centuries ago and has continued unabated ever since. Ignorance about our country’s history is rampant. So is ignorance about science and the way we’ve ignored and put off questions about the planet and our responsibility to look after it and the people who inhabit it.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the privilege of blogging. When I look back at my beginning posts, I’m stunned by how much you’ve contributed to my life. Some by reading faithfully; others by visiting from time to time; all a great encouragement to me.

Thank you. And may our Creator bless each of you with renewed vision for what you might do with your one, lovely life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 May 2020
Longwood Gardens video found on YouTube

Small gifts of grace

On my way to the garage
A small thin cup-like piece
Of bird shell cracked and broken
Rests on our driveway
Beneath the holly tree
Where resident catbirds set up
temporary nesting quarters

Hours later and bone weary
I turn off the engine and hear
The unmistakable notes of a
Lullaby sweet and calming
Borrowed tunes full of grace
Soft and gentle from a catbird
Keeping watch from a nearby tree

I want to be a catbird when I grow up
Simple beauty singing made-up songs
Of quiet sometimes raucous joy
For everyone and no one in particular
Offering small benedictions to
Broken hearts and weary travelers
On their way from here to there

God bless us every one on this weekend of Sabbath rest and remembrance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 May 2019
Photo of a SE Pennsylvania Catbird found at reddit.com

out for an early morning walk

heavy air
weighs down lungs and feet
saps energy

black crows
squawk and squabble
over choice insects

hidden bird
pours cascading song
from nearby tree

purple thistle-down
floats through breathless humid air
rests on dew-laced grass

buzzing insects
hover over squashed remains
of sidewalk road kill

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 July 2018
Photo found at fiveprime.com

islands of shade

islands of shade sprawl
beneath tall oaks and maples
wearing shiny bright green leaves
they rustle in the morning sun
this warm humid day in May

I’m just back from voting in the Pennsylvania primary plus an early morning walk in the local park near our home. No other walkers. Just unstoppable birdsong, humid breezes and the sound of a basketball hitting the pavement.

On many days I can’t say I’m proud of the way our country or its leadership is behaving. But today, Primary voting day in Pennsylvania, I’m grateful I’m not afraid when I go to vote.

I’m also grateful for the court-enforced redistricting plan that gives us a more balanced voting map than we’ve had for years. I care which candidates run in the November midterm elections. Yet overall, I care most deeply about the opportunity to vote safely in an election that hasn’t been gerrymandered to support (if not ensure) a certain outcome for any party or candidate.

Every two years we’re given an opportunity to have a voice. I admit things don’t always go as well as they might or should. Nor does everyone have an easy or fair experience when voting. Nonetheless, unless you’re disabled, unable to vote by mail, or not registered as a Republican or Democrat, to cast a vote in a Primary is still better than sitting at home or complaining about the system.

As for staying up to watch the returns, I’ll leave that to the younger generations!

Happy walking! And may islands of shade and birdsong welcome you.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 May 2018
Photo found at inspiredroombox.com

spring beauty

morning sun
bathes fir trees
heavy with new cones

bird pairs sing —
their broken records
stuck in a groove

I wrote these two weeks ago early in the morning, then prevailed upon D to take the photo at the top. It’s from our bathroom window, looking at what was once a baby Christmas tree planted along our property boundary. The unusually high number of new cones is visible in every variety of fir tree in and around our yard. Good news for the squirrels! They go crazy when it’s a bumper crop year.

Then there were and still are mating birds all over the place singing their loud songs–sometimes female and male birds call back and forth to each other, other times male birds belligerently announce and defend their territory. No need for an alarm clock these days.

I love this time of year! Hoping you’re enjoying whatever season is happening in your part of the globe.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 May 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, 27 April 2018

slow cold drizzle

slow cold drizzle
hangs in late winter air
song sparrows sing spring

I’m just back from a morning errand. Chilled to the bone, umbrella in hand, winter hat and gloves in place along with multiple layers of warmth. As I walked down our driveway, I heard and then saw a resident song sparrow getting a jump on competitors that might want his staked-out territory! Here’s to an early spring–which we seemed to have for two  glorious days this week before another cold front came through yesterday.

Enjoy the birdsong, if not the weather, wherever you are. (There are two song sparrows on the short video.)

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 February 2018
Video found on YouTube – by Lang Elliot at musicofnature.org

It’s early Friday morning

It’s early Friday morning. Rain arrived
late yesterday evening breaking a short
oppressive heat wave. I have one hour
for a walk outside before the rain returns.

Morning smoothie safely tucked away,
I put on my rain gear and open the back door.
The rush of dense humid air assaults my lungs,
my face, and any part of my skin not covered.

It’s mid-summer. No rush of passing traffic
greets me as I turn left from our driveway.
No sidewalk here. Just a curb
and the sound of occasional tires
squishing over dark, damp pavement.

Quickly I turn left down a narrow side street
lined with neighborhood houses,
away from the flow of traffic to and from
wherever people go at this time of day
in midsummer.

I hear the sound of my shoes on wet pavement,
a few muffled voices inside a house or two,
and birdsong filling the air. Invisible waves of
of warm damp air magnify the chorus of bird calls
surrounding me from branches and treetops.

At the end of this short street I turn left
again headed toward more open spaces.
I’m now on a sidewalk, next to the grammar
school playing field on my right, and a church yard
just beyond. A white spire and white headstones
gleam beneath towering trees.

Turning right, between the school yard and
the church yard, I walk beneath trees still
filled with birdsong. Leftover rain and dew drops
fall rhythmically hitting damp ground
and empty parking spaces behind the school.

Circling around the school, toward a public park,
I start up the hill through another deserted parking lot.

My pace slows a bit. I notice
the dying hemlock now marked
with a large white X signaling the end
of its long fight against invasive insects.

Will it receive a proper burial?
A gleaming white headstone?

I circle another tree at the top of the driveway
then turn down a small path through
the park, back toward the school.
Tiny drops of water glitter on tips
of fir needles and low-hanging tree leaves,
brushing my face with cool water.

I turn left to walk behind the school, past
the athletic field on my way home. In the distance
I see the churchyard with its lush green trees.
The weeping beech towers next to rows
of white headstones rooted in earth,
soaking in summer’s gift of life-giving rain.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2017
Image found at pinterest.com

Evensong came earlier today

American Beech with seed cone, Fagus_grandifolia_fruit

~~~~~~American Beech with Seed Cone

Evensong came earlier today
Accompanied by sweet robins
Singing the sun to rest 

Mature green-leaved trees give early signs of fall
Clusters of seed pods glow yellow-green
In late afternoon sun  Read the rest of this entry »

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