Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Daily Prompt

draining the swamp

welfare for the wealthy
addicted to power and privilege
never trickles down

It’s a nice image, this trickle-down myth. It could sound almost patriotic if it weren’t so patronizing.

We aren’t dummies. Especially those who live at the lower end of the trickle down that never seems to arrive.

I think it all gets diverted into a swamp somewhere out there in the ocean on an island far far away. Anonymous trickle-down, deposited anonymously into thousands of anonymous rabbit holes for those who believe wealth assures them of power and privilege and, most importantly, survival.

It does not. True survival is visible in any city or town with eyes to see and ears to hear.

I’m no economist. I am, however, a voting taxpayer. And I do know how to smell a swamp nearby, especially when it’s dressed up as a ‘deal.’

Happy Monday, everyone!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 November 2017
Cartoon found at dailykos.com
Daily Prompt: Underdog

Clutching fragile identity

 

Clutching fragile identity
close to her body
She enters the room
secured by precious props
disguised in glitter –
Mundane necessities
for the ornamental woman

I’ve often wondered who invented clutch bags for women. The most alluring, annoying, disempowering fashion item I’ve ever met.

Imagine working a room with only one hand and arm. Clutching a small bag in the other hand, or trying to keep the bag nonchalantly hanging by a metal chain from your shoulder or arm. Or eating your meal while balancing a slippery clutch bag on your lap. Or going through the agony of deciding which absolutely essential items you need to take along this evening. Or the higher agony of feeling totally insecure and incomplete without something clutched in your hand, close to your body. Like a decoration, or a weapon of social warfare.

I still own a few beautiful clutch bags—small, lovely, ‘feminine’ and retro. They’re sitting in the museum of my dresser drawer. Nothing worth selling. Just reminders of past years when I flirted with being a ‘stylish’ woman, and how awkward I felt.

By the way, what ever happened to sensible, stylish pantsuits for women, with sensible pockets?

Thanks to WordPress for this prompt, and the invitation to highlight one of my favorite imponderables.

And thanks to you for stopping by! We spent Thanksgiving Day with D’s sister, her husband, one of their friends, and their sweet kitty. Great food and conversation, a brisk walk around the block a couple of times, and a chance to enjoy and strengthen bonds that matter. No clutch bags allowed. 🙂

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 November 2017
Image of vintage clutch bag found at pinterest.com
Daily Prompt: Clutch

Surely goodness and mercy….

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day; yesterday’s post is still on my mind. I’m grateful for the poem that was in me, grateful for words to tell you about this episode in my professional life, and grateful to be who I was and still am. A tough old cookie. A highly sensitive and intuitive wise woman. A thriver. A persistent woman who won’t sit down and shut up. Or stand up and perform on command.

I didn’t get here by myself. I got here thanks to scores of women and men who saw in me more than I could see in myself. I also got here thanks to my Creator, my true Parent from the beginning, walking with me and watching my back.

Following a well-earned sabbatical leave and peaceful summer break, I was on my way to the seminary for the first day of fall term. Several students who protested against me a year earlier were likely to show up in my required course.

To say I was anxious would be an understatement. Yet here’s what happened next, as described in the semi-memoir I began writing during my sabbatical.

I stopped at a traffic light and waited for it to change. Two older men, perhaps in their seventies, were coming down the sidewalk, facing me. They were out for an early-morning walk. They moved along quickly, talking and laughing. The sun was up. It was a gorgeous day.

As they came closer, I noticed they were holding hands. This seemed rather unusual. But it was also wonderful. My mind turned to friendships among older men. I wondered how long these men had known each other and whether they walked together every day.

Suddenly, without any signal and without breaking their stride, they left the sidewalk and began walking through a large parking lot. They seemed to be of one will. As they angled away from the sidewalk, I saw it for the first time—the short leather strap they were holding between them. One of them was blind.

In a flash my eyes filled with tears. I saw myself walking blindly into this class. Seeing some things, but not everything. Knowing someone with sight beyond my sight was beside me. All I had to do was follow God’s lead, keep holding on to the strap and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Elouise Renich Fraser, excerpt from Confessions of a Beginning Theologian, p. 132, Intervarsity Press 1998

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life….”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 November 2017
Photo of shepherd boy playing flute to sheep found at nikisawyer.com

Daily Prompt: Mercy

Perhaps on a rare day

Things fall apart
Perhaps on a rare day
They will fall together

Shadows sift through memories
Find her wandering alone
Lost in a forest of horrors
Body parts scattered around
Remains of anonymous whisperers
Still echoing through trees

There’s more than one way
To take a body apart in darkness
Her heart pounds in her chest
She wonders where this will end
All is not necessarily well that ends

Resisting the urge to run
She faces accusers now residing
Within her body of rearranged parts
That don’t remember where they belong
Or where they were going
Before tongues began wagging
Slicing their way through air
Intent on silencing her voice forever

This happened in the early 1990s. I was a tenured full professor. The course was required for all MDiv (Master of Divinity) students. It was the first course I’d taught in which women, men of color, and international students outnumbered white men.

I never saw it coming. The day after I turned in all grades for fall term, the dean asked to see me. At the meeting he gave me the news. During the semester, about half the students from this course had lodged serious concerns with him and with the president about me. More than once.

The seminary president wanted a meeting with me and with the dean to talk about these concerns. No, I could not meet with these students before or after this meeting. No, I could not have a list of names because the students feared retribution. Nor could I have a list of their concerns. Most students who signed the formal complaint were white men; some were men of color; some were women.

I agreed to the meeting only if I had time to review the list of complaints, and only if I could bring a senior colleague—an African American woman of great wisdom and experience.

My requests were resisted. Nonetheless, I persisted, and the meeting took place. It lasted one and a half hours. I felt trapped in someone else’s muck and mire.

Before the meeting, I’d studied the three pages of typed, detailed notes the dean had taken during meetings with students. According to the students, I was sadly deficient in three areas: my theology, my teaching style, and my character. Each area included excruciating detail. I did not recognize myself.

The dean and president denied my request for a meeting with at least some of the students. I was never told who they were. With the exception of a brave few, they remained nameless. Some were doubtless in my later courses.

I wasn’t disciplined. I was, however, broken in spirit, and grateful for my upcoming spring term sabbatical. I was also grateful for my female college who met with me following the meeting to talk about what had just happened and what I’d learned that would help me in the future.

My recent nightmare stirred all this up. The poem is about me. It’s sent out with prayers for all children, young people, adult women and men who endure daily dismemberment and humiliation, seen and unseen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2017
Photo of Deep Forest found at mybligr.com

Daily Prompt: Sludge

morning’s first sunlight

A particular slant
of morning’s first sunlight
bathes the towering oak
setting fall leaves on fire
beneath a deep blue sky

Most mornings I look out our bedroom window to see what’s going on in the sky. The largest tree on our backyard horizon is an old, magnificent oak. The leaves are lovely; they don’t, however, produce the best fall foliage unless the light is just right.

For the past few weeks, early morning sun has transformed brownish oak leaves into a stunning display that lasts for a few minutes and is gone. This morning the sky cooperated with a crystal-clear, almost cobalt blue background. A great beginning to a special day, which happens to be my 74th birthday!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 November 2017
Photo found at shutterstock.com
Daily Prompt: Particular

In the Driver’s Seat | A Nightmare

Here’s a short version of a response to my recent nightmare, beginning with two uncomfortable facts.

  1. I’m the leader of this group.
  2. This nightmare is primarily about my voice, not a musical program.

In addition, I can’t ignore these realities:

  • Human body parts lying around the house
  • Men sitting on the sidelines, not at the table
  • The atmosphere: Sullen, Passive, Disengaged, Heavy, Disconnected, Disinterested, Bored, Dangerous

Here’s what I would do differently, as of today:

  1. After I see the first body parts, I consult with D. We’re in agreement. This is not a safe place.
  2. I ask D to contact the proper authorities immediately. He might need to call my contact person for help with this. Tell the proper authority that there are human body parts lying around this house and that we need someone to come immediately, without a siren.
  3. Introduce myself briefly to the group, and begin circulating a sign-up sheet to include everyone present: name, address and contact information – printed legibly.
  4. Read names aloud, connect them with faces, and welcome them to this meeting. (There are less than 20 people in the room.)
  5. Invite men sitting on the sidelines to join us at the table, or leave now.
  6. Tell the remaining group what I’ve seen in other areas of this house, and that D has contacted authorities. We won’t work on a musical production at this meeting. Someone will be in touch with you about whether another rehearsal will be held, and where.
  7. If and when we reconvene, we’ll create our own musical program, drawing on input from everyone. I urge you to think and write about what you’re thinking and feeling right now. What music, poem, or other creative writing might respond to and honor the bodies and lives affected by this tragedy?
  8. If you’d like to stay until authorities arrive (assuming they haven’t arrived), you’re free to stay here with D and me. If you need to leave, feel free to do so.
  9. For those who remain, we’ll be thinking and talking about how we’re feeling right now.

I’m not sure about letting the men and even group members leave—perhaps before the authorities arrive. But I have no grounds for keeping them, and have collected their names and contact information.

Perhaps this seems morbid for Sabbath reading. Nonetheless, it puts things into perspective for me. This is about giving up my need to survive, or to change situations. It’s also about speaking truth in a clear voice. A spiritual skill each of us needs in today’s world, whether we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ or not. Even a nightmare can lead to productive reflection and dialogue.

Thanks for reading and commenting if you’d like.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 November 2017
Daily Prompt: Atmospheric

cracks in the pavement

she tiptoes on eggshells
of shattered dreams —
cracks in the pavement
of life after death erupt
with unexpected beauty

For all the children of the world, young and old,
who live with shattered dreams.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 November 2017
Image found at lovethispic.com
Daily Prompt: Mushroom

the long walk home

I wonder—
Do breathless trees
dusky skies
and lengthening shadows
remember what they see
beneath fading twilight
swathed in heavy garments
unsure of her destination

Is this a woman? I think so. She seems to be taking the long walk home. Which may or may not be that dark cottage hovering in the background, watching as she makes her way.

Is she alone? I think not. The trees, skies and passing shadows reveal more than what’s happening on the ground or in the background. If this world is God’s poem (thank you, Mary Oliver), we have reason to hope. Not because of the play of light in the trees, on the ground or in the background, but because of the Light that shines even in our darkest hours.

Sometimes, perhaps always, we must leave home to find our true home. Or better, to be found by God’s everyday angels in this world that belongs not to us, but to God.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2017
Autumn Landscape at Dusk, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh found at Wikiart.com
Daily Prompt: Dubious

Our National Nightmare

Burning with contempt
We peer into the mirror
of our discontent
strutting proudly
through our dens
down hallways
of our disbelieving minds

Deliriously happy
to be Great Again
Or
Deliriously happy
we are Not Like That

There, but for the grace of God, go I?
Really, my heart?

This moment is full of danger and opportunity. The opportunity to work on our national homework—long overdue.

Perhaps it’s too late for some. It’s never too late for our surviving children and the surviving children of this world.

Is this a nightmare from which we’ll one day wake? Or is it the nightmare that will take all of us down—together yet divided.

Every time national events cause deep revulsion or fear in me, I know it’s time to take stock. What is this national nightmare trying to say to me right now?

It doesn’t matter which issue we’re dealing with. White supremacy, human trafficking, pornography, sexual abuse and predators, political gridlock, opioid epidemic, mass killings, racial profiling, homegrown terrorism, corporate greed, broken promises, or a hundred other issues. Plus a steady dose of twitter-like hyper-inattention.

It’s all part of our National Nightmare, not new, yet starkly in focus and fed by Mr. Trump’s persona and ubiquitous presence in our media.

No one can deal with everything. So I’ve chosen a few things to explore between now and Christmas. Things with which I’ve had close encounters of the uncomfortable sort, each of which boils down to one very large issue: Abuse of Power.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for caring and doing what you can to level the imbalance of power around you. Right in your own backyard.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2017
Daily Prompt: Strut

early morning

A flock of small birds
speeds south
high above tree tops

Early morning sun shivers
behind gray clouds
creeping across the sky

Next to the radiator
my cat huddles
soaking in precious warmth

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I were a bird or clouds or a kept cat. Then again, I don’t think that would be nearly as adventuresome as getting up each day wondering what it will become by nightfall.

I don’t know why I’m the woman I am, why I was born into this skin, or why I had no say about the family or country into which I was born.

I used to fret about this, as though things would be better if I were someone else. Born to different parents, at another time and in another place.

Today I love who I am as one of God’s creatures. Small, yet as precious as the smallest hummingbird making its annual migration from North to South. Flying, not tiptoeing my way into the next season of my life. Held in God’s large hand.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 November 2017
Photo found at pinterest.com
Daily Prompt: Gingerly

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