Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gardens

A Morning Walk at Chanticleer

This morning I met a friend at Chanticleer Garden for a late autumn walk. The weather was sunny, chilly and very breezy. D wasn’t along to take photos, so I did a quick check of the Chanticleer website for recent photos. Of the nine posted here, I chose three for this post. The photographer’s name is Linda Roper.

Because we’re having a late autumn chill (so it feels to me), trees are late showing their autumn colors. Not to worry. All those nonstop rainy days in summer produced a bumper crop of beauty. Here are the other two photos.

So it wasn’t quite this picture-perfect when we were there. But it was close! A great way to begin the day and get my morning allotment of sunshine and unexpected, overflowing grace.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 October 2019
Linda Roper, photographer: October 2019 at Chanticleer Gardens

I have not told my garden yet

This poem from Emily Dickinson caught my eye this week. I found it in a volume of her poems for young people. Nonetheless, I heard it as an adult poem about adult pain. My comments follow the poem.

I have not told my garden yet,
Lest that should conquer me;
I have not quite the strength now
To break it to the bee.

I will not name it in the street,
For shops would stare, that I,
So shy, so very ignorant,
Should have the face to die.

The hillsides must not know it,
Where I have rambled so,
Nor tell the loving forests
The day that I shall go,

Nor lisp it at the table,
Nor heedless by the way
Hint that within the riddle
One will walk to-day!

Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Young People, edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, illustrated by Chi Chung. Published by Sterling Publishing Co. (2008)

This poem is about death: Emily’s preoccupation with death, and her own death. Whether final or as daily reality. Each stanza adds depth to her poetic riddle.

Stanza 1. Emily thinks about her garden, the place that brings her happiness and peace. It seems she’s afraid she might not survive breaking the news, though we’re not yet certain what the news is. It’s clear this won’t be easy or happy news. Not for the garden, the bee, or her.

Stanza 2. Emily thinks about village shops that stare at her when she’s out and about. There she’s known as shy and perhaps ignorant. She has no intention of letting the shops know her plans. They wouldn’t believe that she, of all people, would have “the face to die.”

I take this “face to die” as setting her face toward death, which she names in the last line of the stanza. She faces death with determination, perhaps the way Jesus ‘set his face’ toward Jerusalem—the city in which he would die.

For Emily, it doesn’t matter what the shops or shoppers might think about her. She’s stronger than she’s given credit for. Indirectly, she’s saying they don’t know her at all. So why should she tell them anything at all about her “face to die.”

Stanza 3. Emily now thinks about the hillsides and the forests. She loves both settings yet determines to keep them in the dark. It seems that if she doesn’t tell the hillsides about it, they won’t tell the forests. Perhaps they’ll think she doesn’t love them anymore? Or perhaps the hillsides and forests will die of sorrow?

The verb ‘rambled’ has more than one meaning. It could mean rambling around in the woods, as well as the rambling of Emily’s voice speaking freely to the trees and hillsides. Not to ramble anymore would be a great loss for them and for her. Here she can speak out loud freely and directly. Yet she isn’t going to tell them the day she’ll “go.”

Stanza 4. Finally, Emily has no intention of talking about this at “the table,” which I take to be her family circle. Not even in what we might call baby talk that’s less than clear. She’s also determined not to suggest that “within the riddle” is a hint that “One will walk to-day!”

The last stanza seems to have two meanings: one about her family circle; the other about the poem itself. Which has me wondering whether this is ‘only’ a riddle, or a veiled clue to her unhappiness and desire, if not clear intention, to “walk to-day.” To die to her family and her beloved garden, and never return. A form of death no matter how you read the poem.

I don’t know whether Emily wrote this poem before or after she wrote I Years had been from Home. I do know these are the words of a woman in distress who chooses to tell the truth but tell it slant.

Yes, my heart goes out to her. Emily has a level of courage I haven’t often seen or heard in this life.

Thanks for visiting and reading, and leaving your own interpretive comments or questions if you’d like.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 July 2018
Photo found at

bright ruffled poppies

bright ruffled poppies
dance along the garden wall
bowing and nodding

Here’s to the women in my life who mothered me along the way! You didn’t even know you were doing it. Sometimes I didn’t know, either. I’ll never forget the friend who invited me to a makeup demo. I’ve never been a big makeup fan. It was the devil’s paint when I was growing up–also a sad and sorry sign of being a ‘loose’ woman.

Nonetheless, by the time I got to the seminary as a professor in the early 1980s, I was in dire need of mothering. This little makeup demo was a tiny step that helped give me more confidence than I ever had as a child, teenager, or young adult.

Along with the makeup demo came a little tutorial on colors that would complement my summer beauty! Imagine that…thinking of myself as a ‘summer.’ Even more spectacular, these two little tips became the foundation of everything I wore or gently applied to my face. Colors that actually made me happy to look in the mirror.

Then there was my emotional/physical/spiritual storm during the late 1980s and 1990s. This time it wasn’t about what was on the outside. It was about what was eating me away on the inside. It took a while to get there, but in the early 1990s I met a gifted psychotherapist who actually listened to me and wanted to hear about my life. Without meaning to, she mothered me for decades, and still plays a role in my life. Encouraging me through this last chapter.

I wouldn’t be here at all without my birth mother. She was beautiful on the outside and inside, and her life was fraught from the beginning. Sadly, she never talked much about herself. I think she carried a lot of shame, along with physical pain and the challenge of living with my father for over 60 years. Some of what she wasn’t able to give me, a great host of women have given me in small and large ways. Often when least expected.

For these women, past and present, I’m sending these poppies. Small signs of the beauty to which you introduced me. I see bits and pieces of beauty in life, in nature, in friendships, in myself, and in hard places I thought I would never experience. All because you showed me your beauty from the inside out.

Yesterday afternoon I visited my neighbor’s backyard garden. He had planted a row of oriental poppies against his garden wall. They were magnificent. Hence the haiku and the photos above of gorgeous, crepe-paper-like oriental orange poppies.

Here’s to a Happy Mother’s Day and Year to all Mothers–including those we never expected to cross our paths along the way.


©Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 May 2018
Photos found at

Dear Dad | Photos and a Dream


Castle Fraser — Front drive leading to formal entrance under the arch.

Dear Dad,

The 102nd anniversary of your birth came and went last week. For the first time since you died in 2010, it didn’t trigger a downward spiral in me. Read the rest of this entry »

frog prince | sweet nothings

frog prince,
your eye
your lips
your smile
so sweet Read the rest of this entry »

simple lines


simple lines



* * *

restless energy Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Dad, I’ve been thinking….


Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week.  Wondering about things that happened and didn’t happen.  Wondering what it would be like if….

Actually, I got to the ‘what if’ stage just about an hour ago. Read the rest of this entry »

“Thou in my heart hast planted…”

Longwood Meadow Gardens Entrance/Exit - November 2014

It’s November.  My husband and I just finished a hike through the meadow at Longwood Gardens Though the weather forecast promised warm afternoon sun, it’s gray, cold  and misty.  On a whim, I ask my husband to take a picture of this sign. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shepherdess

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
Photo credit:  DAFraser
Statue stands in the Main Fountain Garden of Longwood Gardens, PA

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