Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude and Healing

Late Spring at Longwood 2019 | Photos B


Walking in the meadow is the opposite of strolling down the flower walk at Longwood. The flower walk fairly screams (in a lovely voice, of course) for you to pay attention. In the meadow the vast fields and expansive sky overwhelm everything. If you want to see what’s happening, you have to keep your eyes peeled. A good photographer helps, too! Without D’s photo above, I might have missed those three tiny blossoms.

Ditto for this unusual display:

Instead of going up through the middle of the meadow, we decided to take a longer walk to a forested area. It’s full of birch trees, has a stream flowing through it, and lower temperatures than the open meadow.

The first photo below features a lovely grassy path. The second is an old farm house converted into an historical museum about this land and its uses over the years. We didn’t walk that far this time. If you visit Longwood, a small tram makes regular trips back and forth to the museum. It’s well worth a visit. Air conditioned, with restrooms.

As we descend toward the birch tree forest, the path looks a bit like a washed out gulley. Even so, the little butterfly didn’t mind! I think it’s a Painted Lady. In the third photo we’re in the wooded area, standing on a small bridge, looking down at mud and debris left over from spring rains.




Below are twisted roots of a tree just beside the creek. They’ve ventured into the water. In the second photo, taken from the opposite side of the bridge, water is flowing downhill over rock formations. Though you can’t see them, hungry mosquitoes are in feast mode! We didn’t linger.

We passed numerous bird houses, with or without roof-top gardens; some with occupants. The two birds below are swallows.

At the top of the meadow this bee hotel had already hatched most of its occupants. A nearby sign explained all.


The meadow has several shaded places to sit down and rest a bit, some fancier than others. Here’s my favorite top-of-the-meadow resting spot. We’re beneath large old shade trees, looking out at the view.



Here are examples of what we saw on the way downhill to the formal gardens, plus a look back at the museum on the far side of the meadow. Don’t miss that juicy grub in the first photo!

Every time we visit Longwood, I get teary when we reach the meadow. Partly because walking in it with D has been part of my recovery from whatever ailed me over the last several years. I remember when it was just a big piece of land, not open as a garden for visitors. Now, every time we leave I’m grateful for one more opportunity to just be there.

As always, thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoy some healing beauty in your life today, along with the other stuff.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 June 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser, 12 June 2019, Longwood Gardens Meadow

heaviness of years past

It’s Monday morning
I’m still trying to
Find myself

Not lost
Perhaps misplaced
Somewhere back there?

Yesterday in church
I wept for the heaviness
Of years past

Wounds and scars
From a thousand misfired
Bullets

Invisible reminders
Deep within of tales not told
Or understood

The most difficult thing I’ve done as a follower of Jesus is to step out of my hiding places. Not primarily to face my friends or foes, but to face myself. In my family of origin, hiding was the best way I could cope and survive as a child and teenager.

As a young adult and later as a professional, I carried a weight of fear in my guts. Fear that some grand tribunal would subpoena me to testify against myself.

Sadly, I thought this process would be about my small and large transgressions, as determined by their eyes. In my worst fears, I would be shamed and punished before an audience of my peers plus strangers. They would make an example of me, much as my father tried to make an example of me as the eldest of four daughters.

Instead, as a 40-something, I found myself in Al-Anon groups of women and men struggling as I was. Listening to them helped me listen to my story. Maybe I didn’t need to fear some unknown grand tribunal.

These new friends didn’t absolve me, and they didn’t try to fix me. Instead, they listened, and showed me how they worked on their own wounds and scars. By honoring themselves, they honored me.

So there I was in church yesterday, weeping. Realizing that no matter what I do, I will be welcomed with open arms when I die.

Where will I go? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I believe I will be in the presence of The Only One who understands me fully and loves me from the inside out. I’ll also be free of wounds and scars. Free to be the beautiful woman I am.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2019
Photo found at fromthegrapevine.com, Flowers on a tombstone, Czech Republic

Evensong

My feet ache
relieved and resting
The humidifier hums
in the background
Soft cotton
envelopes each leg

Pajamas are my
evening friend
holding me close

Wrapped in
my mother’s shawl
breath comes
and goes easy

The old house creaks
beneath D’s feet

Whatever today
was about slips
away with each
exhaled breath
cleansing this
body I call home
sweet home

Today I went to see my Lucy Pacemaker heart doctor. As expected, my irregular heartbeat is growing with each passing year. I don’t like it. I am, however, grateful for each day and night I’m given.

While sitting in the doctor’s office I reviewed my recent journal entries. Then I read and reread a chapter from Upstream, a collection of Mary Oliver’s essays and poems. She describes how she moved beyond difficult situations of her childhood. Her solution was twofold: immersion in the natural world, and in the world of literature. As she describes it, these were “the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place” (p. 14).

So here I am, near the end of my life, finding myself living more and more in the worlds of music and writing. My own and that of others. My pared-down yet equally exciting (to me) version of upstream living. Leaving behind, yet drawing on the unsolvable puzzle of my childhood almost without noticing it.

I wrote the poem above just before Christmas. There’s something magical about capturing in words the simple wonders of my life. I might enjoy wandering in a forest somewhere. However, I choose to stay close to home. Close to D and Smudge. Close to the bone. Close to this last fling. Close to my journal and my heart.

Thanks for reading and listening.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 February 2019
Photo of Milky Way Night Sky found on pixabay

Small gifts

Small gifts grace my eyes
Bursting with life and color
They command the scene
Announcing their calm presence
in the garden of my life

It’s difficult to think of my life as a garden. But that’s just what it is, isn’t it? A small patch of earth populated by new growth, the occasional stunning blossom, weeds, trampling of feet, the stench of manure, and all the rest that goes into the pot.

It seems nature, aided and abetted by a Master Gardener, combines the good, the bad and the ugly within one spectacular display. Seen from afar the garden glimmers almost like a desert mirage.

The photos above are from Chanticleer Garden. It’s a magical place. Even so, weather happens. People happen. Bird poop, poison ivy, weeds, and predatory mosquitoes happen. It takes a team of gardeners to keep up with pests, damage and overgrowth on the ground.

As for my life, I’m at peace with my past. Still, I can’t dispense with a team of gardeners, much less the Master Gardener. There’s work yet to be done beyond my limited eyesight and capacities.

Above all else, I want to keep the ability to see and appreciate small gifts sent via nature. Gifts that arrive unannounced, just when I need them. Like the photos in this post.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 October 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, July 2017, at Chanticleer Garden.

Scars upon scars

Scars upon scars
cover futile attempts
to distance pain
of yet another blow
to my body, soul, dreams
or soothing denial

It’s nothing
I can take this
I don’t need to talk about it
I dealt with that long ago
Didn’t I?

And how can I help you today?
I have plenty of time.
I can proofread that if you’d like.
It’s nothing. Really. Nothing at all.
No problem. It won’t take long.
No need to apologize
for anything, really.
We all make mistakes.

Time passes
skin thickens
spine goes rigid
demeanor tentative
neutral eyes scan
from the periphery
avoid other eyes
awkward at best
antennae soar heavenward
nothing and nobody is
safe but this last remnant of
body-soul on alert
not to be lulled into
carelessness

It wasn’t being born female that scarred me. It was overtime, double duty hyper-vigilance plastered layer upon layer with each attempt to control, use or fix me.

Over time petrified limbs of my body and soul cowered whether I wanted them to or not. I fell into protective behaviors that stifled every hint of unhappiness or, God forbid, revulsion. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Each woman is different. Internal scars from child abuse, and sexual harassment or unjust workplace practices that disadvantage women are not the same as external scars or physical challenges. Sometimes the best way to begin healing is to find a trusted friend or referral service to suggest next steps that might work for you.

I was initially helped by a twelve-step group of over 20 women meeting weekly in a church basement. It didn’t cost me anything but my pride plus $1 a week (optional) in the basket. For 5 years I showed up 2 or 3 times each week for this and other twelve-step meetings. All while I was teaching full-time at a seminary. It took me that long to realize I needed professional help. By then I was in my late 40s.

I began blogging four years ago to break silence about my childhood and teenage years. Today it’s about more than that—though dealing with my past helped free me to write as I do today.

When we women invest wisely in our emotional, spiritual and physical health, we do the most important work of our lives. We don’t deserve to carry heavy layers of scars. Some can be laid aside. Others we get to keep. They connect us to sisters and brothers, and can, from time to time, add to our beauty and wisdom.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 January 2018
Photo taken by my father, 1954/55, my youngest sister and I, Savannah, Georgia

My story from the inside out

I grew up in a church that wanted to know exactly when and where you were converted, and from what. The deeper the degradation, the more your story was valued. Unfortunately, I had no dramatic story. Sometimes I wondered whether I was a ‘real’ Christian.

In November 2013 I wrote the following brief piece to read at a church meeting. I read it this morning and teared up. A timely reminder of how God works in my life.

I don’t remember when I received Jesus into my life. I do, however, remember times when I was lost, and God came looking for me. One of these was a huge turning point in my life.

I was in my 40s. Outwardly I seemed to be following Jesus; inside, I was lost.

  • I was filled with shame and terrified that any day I would be exposed as a fraud, an imposter.
  • I was plagued by chronic anxiety about events at home and at work.
  • I was harshly judgmental toward myself and toward others.
  • I felt my life was out of control, yet I kept trying to make it work.

In my mid-40s, I learned about family matters over which I had no control. Secrets I’d been carrying inside me for years began to eat away at my gut. I fell into deep depression. At home I sat for hours doing nothing but staring out the window, or weeping uncontrollably. At night I frequently asked God to just take me while I was sleeping. I didn’t want to wake up the next morning. I wanted to die.

I had always survived by being a good girl on the outside, and hiding what was on the inside. This took great effort. I had also become addicted to running my own life and thinking I could run everyone else’s too! But it wasn’t working; my body, my emotions and my spirit were in turmoil.

I believe God was trying to get my attention. And there was a price: I would have to come out of hiding and ask for help. I was terrified. What would people think of me? Fortunately, I was also desperate.

So I began attending a 12-step program to deal with some of my family matters. At my first meeting no one frowned, judged me, or expected me to perform. They weren’t shocked when I told them why I was there. They just welcomed me, smiled, listened, encouraged me, and said to keep coming back.

So I did. Slowly, I began to relax, join the rest of the human race, and trust that God was in this process.

Today I’m still a recovering human being and a grateful follower of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I still struggle with shame and anxiety, and try to control my life or change other people. I don’t, however, suffer from deep depression or pray that God will take me while I’m sleeping. I remind myself daily that I am God’s beloved daughter child, and that this is more than enough to bring God delight. When the time comes for my final home-going, my only hope will be to appear before God then as I do now: just as I am without one plea.

If you’re feeling lost or despondent today, God may be trying to get your attention.

Elouise ♥

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 July 2017

A Blank Canvas Reimagined

no-woman-is-an-island-2

I can’t get A Blank Canvas out of my mind. Sometimes, especially with distressing or puzzling dreams, I’ve written the next scene out as I imagine it might be. But this dream was different. Here’s what I’ve written instead–

No woman is an island….

Gentle swells of water
Calls from seabirds
The sounds of waves
Lap against my ears
Tree leaves rustle

The greatest adventure of my life
In the company of others
Keeping it simple
Floating in deep waters
Singing life with my words Read the rest of this entry »

Stripped | #1

music-notes-heart-beat-heartbeat-and-music-notes2

This morning small verses began popping into my mind. In fact, they haven’t stopped coming. So here’s #1 with brief comments about my hospital visit six days ago to get a pacemaker.

#1
Stripped to my
Lowest common denominators
I lie naked

My worst nightmare, especially at this age: Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Mom, I miss you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Forsythe Park Fountain, Savannah, Georgia

Dear Mom,
I miss you. I’d love to sit down with a cup of tea and continue the conversations we had before your stroke. Though you didn’t particularly like all my questions about your past, you did your best to answer them.

I’m grateful for every conversation we had back then. I’m also grateful that you wrote down memories of your early life. A bit of your personal history. Every now and then I find myself hungry for more, though most of the time it’s enough. Your written words give glimpses of your heart and your struggle with circumstances over which you had no control.

I’ve been thinking about your memorial service in 1999. I got to make remarks on behalf of the four of us, your daughters. I decided to show and tell how much you loved teaching children music. Not just to the four of us, but to the kindergarten children you taught after I’d married and moved away.

I still have your old spiral music notebook, filled with children’s songs. For your service I picked out several of my favorites and said a bit about each song before I played the music. I also read the words and demonstrated motions for at least one of the songs. The one about how elephants kalump along, their long noses swaying in time to the music!

The most fun was coming to the end of “The Polliwog’s Story,” and (like you, without warning) suddenly turning around on the piano bench to give everyone a big scare with the last line! They loved it! For a moment we felt your joy and exuberance, and celebrated your lively spirit and your love for children and music.

I also played some of your favorite adult hymns. Not too many, but just enough, with comments about why I chose each. The most difficult to get through was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” That was the hymn you tried to sing so often when you first got polio, even though your vocal chords were paralyzed.

I’m tearing up as I write this part. I owe you so much. I’ve been reading a book by Henry Nouwen. He talks about the way absence can cause our love for someone to grow. I’m beginning to understand what he’s talking about.

Part of it is my freedom to write you these letters and say things I couldn’t say while you were with us. It’s also because I understand our family dynamics more than before, and how costly they were for you, not just for me.

A few days ago I was thinking about my grandparents and how little I knew any of them except for your father, my California Grandpa. That got me thinking about the way you and he related to each other, especially since your Mom wasn’t around for most of your life.

When we lived on the West Coast, we spent lots of time visiting Grandpa and going with him to fun places like the Wilson Observatory and the Griffith Park Zoo. Even his apartment was fun! There were long sidewalks outside. I remember learning to ride my first bike on them. The bike he gave me, with training wheels.

After we moved to the East Coast, things changed. But you still kept in regular touch through letters. I know you wrote to him about us and what we were up to, because his letters to you sometimes included comments back to each of us.

He seemed to dote on us. It meant a lot to me back then to know he thought we were the best and the brightest little girls in the whole wide world. I’m guessing it meant a lot to you, too. You must have missed him terribly. I think you inherited your love of fun and of children from him.

How do you like the photo of the Forsythe Park Fountain? I love the water droplets flying through the air! If you enlarge it, you’ll see pink azaleas blooming in the background.

Love and hugs,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 March 2015

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