Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

Advent haiku and more

a day
unlike all others
wakes unannounced

I first posted this piece three years ago. The last three years brought major changes for all of us. With a few edits, here’s what I said then, and need to hear again today.

Writing haiku is an exercise in listening. Slowly. Without preconceptions. Without urgency. Without wondering when the alarm will go off to jolt me into action.

I readily admit that being retired is an advantage. Yet my internal life doesn’t always remember what it means to be retired. Much less where to focus long, patient listening that does more than take me in circles.

Three years ago, an on-line retreat invited me to write one haiku a day not just during Advent, but for the next six months. As a daily exercise it put the brakes on my urge to do something. It turned my attention toward nature and our Creator, and invited me to make new connections.

The haiku above suggests life is a daily gift to each of us from our Creator. A page-turner. An open, still-being-written adventure lived one day at a time. A puzzler without answers or clues at the back of the book. One of a kind.

Today, thanks to Covid-19, I’m enjoying Sabbath rest and the first day of Advent at home. I pray each of you takes time to listen with your heart and rest in the one-of-a-kind person you are.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 December 2017, reposted 29 November 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com, Sunrise in North Dakota

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

empty bird feeder, a cat and Mr. T

the bird feeder swings
empty in morning sunshine
a cat sleeps soundly

~~~

What will this auspicious day tell us
about ourselves
or will it all be about Mr. Trump
whose dis-fortune has waxed eloquent
in decades and years past

Some may wish to disappear
Just withhold needed food
And we will all surely starve
From our homemade C-19 stew
Without a roadmap or remedy in sight

There’s nothing so naked
As hanging out in the public eye
Bereft of sustenance
Without a plan
And without a leader

The saddest part is that no matter who wins this election, Mr. Trump still has over two months in office.

Thank you for your visits during this year of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter. I can’t tell you how life-giving it has been to write and post my thoughts. Today I’m feeling worn out. Not yet ready for whatever comes next.

For now, I’m going to cook, walk, enjoy the sunshine, listen to music, play with Smudge, and maybe even play the piano.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2020
Photo of Smudge taken by ERFraser, 2014

Are you a pioneer?

Starting from scratch
And working her butt off
Dreaming of something
From ashes or nothing at all
She listens and suggests

From behind
From the back row
Occasionally from the podium
Often without a map
Or a mentor

Doing what needs to be done
Bringing people together
Focusing on the end game
Encouraging without pretending
All is well when it is not

Searching endlessly
For ways around roadblocks
Listening calmly to contrarians
Then opting for creativity
Rather than neat outlines

Taking risks small and large
Living with consequences
Finding a way forward
Through next steps
All this and more

Who is this woman?
Do I recognize her?
Try looking in the mirror.

Several days ago a friend of many years challenged me to do two things.

  • First, read a letter I received in the 1960s. It was from Erwin N. Griswold, former Dean of Harvard Law School. He left to serve as Solicitor General of the USA under President Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Griswold sent the letter on the occasion of my retiring as a secretary in the Dean’s Office. He couldn’t be there for the party. I still weep when I read it. You can read it here.
  • Second, make a list of all the ways I’ve been a pioneer. I was flabbergasted. I’ve sometimes thought of myself as ‘the first’ this or that. I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer. Yet, as my friend pointed out, I’ve been in a wilderness often, which is precisely where the food is.

Yesterday I spent all morning working on the meaning of ‘pioneer’ and making a list. Four things are clear to me today.

  1. I was and still am a pioneer. Not just in my family, but in churches, in classrooms, in positions of leadership, and in my volunteer work with Dawn’s Place.
  2. Ever since I was born I’ve gone against the flow, internally if not externally.
  3. A recent serendipitous encounter with a Black woman in Georgia is important, not just ‘happenstance.’
  4. This is what I’m to focus on in this last part of my life. Not being a pioneer, but doing what I can to support the next generation of pioneers.

How do you think about yourself? Are you a pioneer? The short clip at the top is outstanding. Especially if you aren’t sure what a pioneer looks like.

Happy Tuesday, and a huge Thank You for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 September 2020
Video found on YouTube

Bitter fruit of ignorance

Weariness and
Overload conspire
Eyes numb
Mind on go
Finds a mess
In everything

Neat and tidy lists
Stare at nothing
Wondering
If I’m lost
And whether
I’ll ever return

Feelings of
Futility wash over
Heart and brain

I want to cram
A lifetime of
Undigested history
Into my heart and mind
Even though
There isn’t time
Or space
To accommodate
The bitter fruit
Of ignorance
Looking the other way
Making false assumptions
Keeping secrets
And smiling
In weak attempts
To make all things
Come out right

Sounds pretty gruesome. And yet…

I wouldn’t change for a second the opportunity to examine the history of racism in the USA, the way it shaped me from the day I was born, and what needs to happen now, not later. Yes, it would be nice to have a President who cared about this as well.

Unfortunately, this buck doesn’t stop with POTUS. It stops with me. I owe it to myself, my neighbors, strangers, and my Higher Power who weaves all things well. Even though I don’t always get it, I’m committed to muddling through as needed.

Right now, the muddling is about what this 76-year old retired theologian, educator, administrator, writer might do. All things considered.

Thanks for stopping by today. Check out this link to read about W.E.B. Du Bois.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 September 2020
Quotation found at azquotes.com

Memories and Old Photos Revisited

1974 May Sherry's 4th Birthday in Altadena

before my eyes
they swim
in salt water

old photos
fresh with memories

I blink
reluctant to move
my eyes

tears water
my face

 ***

Christmas stockings in Altadena

1974 Christmas Altadena Stocking stuffers Sherry and Scott
Peanut butter sandwiches and milk on the lawn

1974 Feb Scott and Sherry eating on the front lawn Altadena house

Picking cherries in California

 1974 Aug Sherry Cherry picking in California

 Thinking deep thoughts with Rosey Grier

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Not sure what to do with all this snow above Altadena!

1975 Jan Sherry and Scott in the snow San Gabriel Mountains

Shopping with Mom – Note boa (?) on daughter’s arm

1975 Elouise with Sherry and Scott shopping ND
Posing with Mom and Dad on a hot day in Arizona

1975 Sep Family portrait in Arizona

Those were the days!
Beauty and memories captured on camera
Reminders of what endures from generation to generation

Have a happy weekend!
And don’t forget to take a few photos.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2016, reposted 23 August 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, except last photo — taken by D’s mother

Happy Happy Happy! | Longwood Meadow Photos

One of my favorite visits to Longwood Gardens. Enjoy!

This afternoon (August 2017) I’m happy and relieved. D and I took off right after breakfast to drive to Longwood Gardens. The weather was picture perfect.

Why so happy? Because this was my first attempt at (slow!) hiking in the meadow since before I broke my jaw and lost all my energy. I was hesitant about doing it, but decided I’d never know until I tried. Here’s a lightning quick look.

Butterflies, bees and dragonflies were out in droves
on this side of the meadow.
We walked to the top, sat in the shade a bit,
then returned and exited via the forest path.


Next we walked over to the café for a little lunch. I had a mildly spicy vegetarian chili and a cup of fresh fruit. D settled for a turkey sandwich. Then we walked through part of the conservatory, did a short visit to the flower walk, and headed home.

Good health news: Yesterday I saw my Lucy (pacemaker) cardiologist and his wonderful assistant who makes sure Lucy is working properly. She’s doing an outstanding job, I’m happy to say!

I’m eager to try a few more external activities, in addition to daily walks here in our neighborhood. No big social events, just lovely strolls outside that let nature do its work renewing me for whatever comes next.

Cheers!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 August 2017; reposted 20 August 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, 9 August 2017, Longwood Gardens Meadow

Thank you, John Lewis

Today has been more than a bit somber. My most recent burning memory of Representative John Lewis is his sterling leadership during last fall’s Congressional impeachment investigation of Donald Trump. The 5-minute video above shows him supporting further impeachment investigation.

And now Mr. Lewis is gone. He was the last Black leader living who participated in the 1963 March on Washington, shortly before the 1963 Civil Rights Act became the law of the land. In his speech (below) he clarifies his opposition to the legislation.

The young Lewis is speaking to citizens gathered in Washington to demand racial justice. John Kennedy was President. As you can hear, John Lewis wasn’t one to tone things down. He speaks without apology, and without pretending the proposed legislation was what Black people needed. He was correct.

This nation has lost one of its true patriots. If you’d like to read and hear more, Vox has posted six speeches (including the two above) that capture John Lewis’ remarkable service to this country. You can find them here.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2018
Videos found on YouTube 

Pyramids and Camels | Photo Memories Revisited

Camel rides and Pyramids

The worlds of 2010 and 2019 are gone. I pray we’re up to the task of making wise, faithful decisions about our lives as world citizens, not isolated human beings. Enjoy the pics! This was one of many great adventures. Getting married 54+ years ago was the first!

It’s a good thing, being married to D. My life might have been dismally dull without his get-up-and-go. He’s no extrovert, mind you. He just has the Travel Bug in him, bigtime. Our trip to Egypt, piggybacked onto a week of D teaching in Cairo, was a Spectacular Adventure.

It’s January 2010, just one year before the uprising in Egypt. Our driver and guide picked us up early in the morning. We arrived at the pyramids of Giza before the site was crowded with visitors and vendors.

It’s winter, yet the sun blazes down almost every day like a hot flame. The air temperature begins chilly but often rises into the low 70s.

Hence our sun hats and my white sun shirt peeking out from my travel jacket. The jacket is a small men’s silk blazer—a thrift shop find here in Philly. It has ample side pockets (note water bottle peeking out) and vest pockets inside. Best bargain ever! It doesn’t bother me a bit when airport personnel and passengers call me “Sir,” then beg profuse pardons….

Now we’re going to back track a bit. I want you to appreciate how tiny we feel. I’m there in the center, standing at the base of a pyramid.

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Here are a few pictures of us on and next to the largest pyramid.
Note the size of the building blocks!

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David and Elouise on Giza pyramid

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Time to go get on a camel or two! Just for comparison, here’s an expert camel rider. Note his legs resting casually on the back of his camel, his super comfortable clothing and air of confidence. Even his camel looks relaxed, if not smiling. Nothing to it! The rider doesn’t even have foot stirrups.

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So here we are, getting up close and personal with our rented camels. They’re going to take us off on a little trek into the desert. No problem. Our guide will be right there if anything untoward happens. Just relax and do what the patient camel guide tells me to do.

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Whew!

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Do I look like the cat that just swallowed the mouse, or what?
Now it’s D’s turn!!!

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Showoff!
Here we go….off into the desert.

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Note: Without our trusty guide who accompanied us on foot, we wouldn’t have these photos of the two of us. And, I must add, without workouts at Curves my legs would not have been up to the task of keeping me on top of the camel!

Here’s a bit of what we saw, including a photo of Cairo in the distance.

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The camel ride ended near the Sphinx.
After spending time there, we said farewell and left.

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This was only one of our Egypt adventures. The others simply added to my sense that I owe Egyptian history, culture and inventions a debt I can never repay.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2016, reposted 8 July 2020
Photo credits: DAFraser and our Egyptian tour guide

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

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