Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

What I’m FOR today

Here’s my short-version report about my health and wellbeing. I am alive; I am reasonably happy most days; I am unreasonably crabby at night when I can’t sleep so well; I have several unresolved health issues upon which I will not dwell at this time. I am, however, Alive! And coming up on my 79th birthday.

I first posted this piece in August 2018. Just looking at this photo, reminiscent of my childhood home in Georgia, makes me happy, though not equally happy for every day of my life. I pray this finds you reasonably at peace with yourself.

~~~

There’s so much going wrong today that I decided to make a roll call of what I’m FOR on this remarkable day. Remarkable because I lived to witness it! Including, in my past, the Vernon River, and dock-life when I was growing up. Plus at least the following other items for which I’m grateful:

  • this beautiful world in places increasingly touched by human tragedy
  • family members more distant in miles than ever, yet close to my heart
  • churches standing up to tough challenges without capitulating to visions of grandeur, glory or isolation
  • real places that offered me refuge and peace when I needed solitude and reassurance that my life matters
  • our son who lives reasonably nearby, and reminds me why I risked everything with my parents on the eve of my 50th birthday
  • our daughter who lives on the other side of the USA yet is present to me in ways I was never present to my mother
  • the Carolina Wren, Chickadees and Cardinals singing and chirping, plus the small ground squirrel who sits on our back yard wall surveying his spacious kingdom
  • courageous women, men and children who speak out and work for a better world for all of us
  • my neighbors: Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Protestant, or Nothing at All who greet me, invite me into conversation, groan and smile with me, and sometimes offer me tea
  • my dear husband whom I sometimes thought might be the wrong man for me, yet has become precious beyond words
  • my local church with its challenging mix of cultures, ethnicity, political persuasions, youth and decrepitude
  • days of such unexpected delight that I don’t want them to end, yet can let go because I love my water-bed and the partner swimming in it with me
  • my body and the way it’s leading me deeper into and out of myself in these early days of autumn

And of course, I’m for you, my wonderful readers–an invisible family loosely held together somewhere out there beyond our control.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2018; lightly edited and reposted 15 November 2022
Photo found at pinterest.com

The view from my attic

Two days ago I retreated to my attic. It was a cloudy, windy, cold day, late in the afternoon. Not the kind of weather that invites a lovely outdoor walk. So there I was, making do by walking up and down the attic, wondering why I’m still here.

The last several months have been difficult. Living with peripheral neuropathy is a mystery. Some days I feel normal; other days I feel like a stranger in a body that doesn’t seem to be mine. And I wonder how much longer I have on this earth.

But back to walking in the attic. The curtains at the back of the attic were open. Without warning, the sun came out, and the maple leaves suddenly came to brilliant life. Yes, they were being blown around, falling to the ground. But they were also a gorgeous reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So what beauty is there in me? In you? Especially those of any age who don’t have the options they used to have. The leaves are going to fall, no matter what. So I’m working on enjoying each day as it comes, laughing and crying as often as needed, bidding goodbye to parts of my life that were wonderful. And being grateful for the bit of wisdom I’ve learned along the way.

All things considered, I’d rather be the woman I am now than the woman I was before I began blogging.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2022
Photo taken by me on 25 October 2022

Don’t Hesitate | Mary Oliver

I feel a tug of anguish these days. It’s in the air. It’s in my body. It’s in the newspapers. It’s in deluges of unsolicited email from candidates frantically running for office. On some days I just want to crawl back in bed and do absolutely nothing but hibernate.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading this short poem by Mary Oliver. Given our national and international anguish, plus my current health issues, I can’t say it’s easy to follow her wisdom. Still, I’m doomed if I curl up and shrink to nothingness.

Here’s the poem. I hope you find it as compelling as I do.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Thank you from my heart for your visits. I’ve been overwhelmed by how many visitors I’ve been getting in the last several weeks. Especially given my inability to post or visit as often as I would like. Which, of course, has been part of my anguish.

Writing is one of the most challenging and joyful things I do. Sort of like playing the piano or watching birds flocking and fighting around the bird feeders each morning.

Praying we all find space for joy (or even more joy!) in our lives today.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 October 2022
Photo of Smudge birdwatching taken by me in September 2022

Letting Go

How hard can it get? Pieces of my life surround me day and night. Always reminding me of something I don’t want to forget, or release just yet.

Tons. That’s how much it seems I’ve already let go—books, do-dads, clothes, cards and letters, kitchen utensils, Tupperware, cookbooks, dishes, and plates. Plus files and records from years of teaching and being a dean, boxes of still usable toys for children, and pictures that decorated the walls of our six homes from the East to the West Coast. Still, some days it seems I haven’t even scratched the surface.

In addition, I’m having to bid farewell to pieces of me. I never dreamed I would be so housebound as I am now. Yes, I get out to walk several times a week (when the weather cooperates). However, I don’t leave the house now without my very nice cane, and the added burden of having to step carefully. No more running up or climbing steep hills. No more wandering through the meadow at Longwood Gardens.

Then there are daily choices I didn’t anticipate. Instead of having a plan for each day, I do what I can and leave the rest. Sometimes it’s a relief; other times it feels like I’m losing part of myself in ways I never anticipated. Especially when I want to read or write or visit my blogging friends.

Letting go. I’ve almost always known that each day is about both life and death. Yet until now, I’ve thought of life as the major component of each day. Now, however, there isn’t a day that passes without reminders that death could come at any moment. Mine, or David’s.

For the last several months, I’ve been uncertain what to write about. Perhaps I was avoiding the obvious? Maybe. Still, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I do, however, know that the community I’ve discovered on WordPress has given me great joy, a little grief, tons of affirmation, and a place to be myself.

Thank you for being there. I don’t know how things will work out, but I do know that I need to be writing about life as I experience it now. Not because it’s so great, but because it’s unspeakably precious.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 September 2022
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, September 2021

The Long and Short of it

A ping pong in my mind
Spins from one reality to another

Grounded
I know I’m not lost
But the feelings in my bones
And in my feet keep
Bouncing back and forth

Stricken
By the deaths of colleagues
And friends I feel lost in the
Immensity and beauty of life
Wondering how long this will last

Drunk
By the glory of nature
Around but not in me
My eyes and ears turn into gluttons
For the beauty this earth

The photo at the top was my best effort at finding a photo remotely like an old postcard I received from my seminary theology professor, Dr. Paul King Jewett. It’s dated 1 July 1977. It showed up in a drawer of personal items I’ve saved over the years.

This past week two of my seminary colleagues died: Dr. J. Deotis Roberts, and Dr. Ron Sider. In addition, one of my seminary students from the mid-1990s died. Then just yesterday, I attended (via You Tube) a memorial service for a prominent member of our church.

All of this pushes me to stay focused on the glorious and inglorious parts of my life. Especially peripheral neuropathy in my feet. I now have a spiffy cane that accompanies me on my walks around the neighborhood. I don’t always need it. Nonetheless, it gives me confidence. Especially when I walk across a field or stroll past unruly dogs!

Within the last week I’ve begun using a series of online exercises. They’re offered by an Australian physiotherapist at MoreLifeHealth.com. No drugs. Just simple, daily exercises to strengthen and relax my feet and legs. Free. He also offers help for patients with peripheral neuropathy in their hands. Here’s a link to all his videos for various health issues.

Hoping your week is both challenging and uplifting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 July 2022
Painting by Albert Bierstadt, circa 1876; Found at Wikimedia Commons

the sound of silence

cascading waves break
in calm rhythmic procession—
fiddler crabs scurry

* * * * *

I loved trips to the beach on Tybee Island
back in the 1950s when it wasn’t famous, and
sunblock and skin cancer seemingly hadn’t been discovered.

Anyone could just drive out for the day,
slather oily suntan lotion all over,
soak in the beauty and vastness of the ocean,
and ignore the gritty sand that seeped into everything.
PB and jelly sandwiches never tasted better.

Today when I visit a quiet seashore with a beach
it becomes a little homecoming:
Nurturing, reconnecting, relaxing, larger than life itself.
Not unlike everyday homecomings
that mesmerize and ground me:

the hum of summer cicadas
the sound of wind rustling through trees
a steady heartbeat
slow rhythmic breathing
sunrise transforming the morning sky
moon and stars suspended in a crystal-clear night sky
clouds of gnats swarming in the air
sweet robin-song at dusk
fireflies flickering on and off
bats dancing in the evening sky
flocks of snow geese taking elegant flight
Canadian geese traveling noisily across the autumn sky
human voices echoing faintly across the water
multicolored flowers shimmering in a distant garden
clouds drifting across an Atchison blue sky
the sound of silence

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 June 2014
Photo found at VisitSavannah.com
~~~

Yes, I’m still here. Slowly but surely making progress on home projects I’ve put off for a while. They include a book of poetry I’ve published on WordPress. Not everything, but pieces that paint a picture of my life as I experienced it. I may not get through a review of all of them. Nonetheless, it’s worth taking time to look back and think about where I was and where I am now. The poem above is included in the collection I’m putting together.

Thank you for your presence in my life. Especially given today’s often strange, unpredictable world filled with pain, agony, and daily reports of things falling apart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 July 2022 

Love Sorrow | Mary Oliver

Facing old age and death is no picnic. However, the post below still helps me re-imagine my relationship to my own sorrow. She’s a small version of me and needs to be loved day and night. Thank you once again, Mary Oliver.  

This poem from Mary Oliver struck a chord in me. Partly due to the current pandemic, with its waves of sorrow. But also because of my personal history. My comments follow.

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Red Bird, a collection of poems
“Love Sorrow” is on p. 64

Dear Mary,

Your poem about loving sorrow brought back memories of my childhood and adult life. Especially things taken or withheld from me before I understood they were mine. Plus bits and pieces I lost or gave away throughout my life.

Sorrow, especially if it showed, was an indulgence I needed to give up. Or get over. What’s done is done. It won’t do to make my friends uneasy, or get into trouble with adults who wanted me to be someone else. I learned early to swallow or deny sorrow. Especially in public.

I think you would be horrified though not surprised at the world as it is today. We’re drowning in sorrow and anger, trying to figure out how this tsunami pandemic caught us so unprepared for death and dying, as well as living mindfully.

I don’t want to drown. I want to live and grow, especially now as time is running out.

Thank you for showing me how to befriend my sorrow. How to welcome her into my life, and learn to live with her as the child she is. And how to watch her begin to relax and grow into a strangely wonderful companion.

With gratitude and admiration,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 May 2020, reposted on 20 June 2022
Image found at 123rf.com

Walking at Valley Forge | Photos

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today. Yesterday evening, D and I looked at his photos taken during a visit with our West Coast daughter and her husband. Today I miss long walks and hikes through Valley Forge. I also miss visits with our West-coast daughter and her husband since Covid days began. The photos below were taken in April 2018.

Nearly two weeks ago our daughter Sherry and her husband Scott arrived for a long-anticipated visit. Yesterday we drove them to the airport for a flight back to the West Coast. Always it’s too short. Always I weep my eyes out, during and after (not without happy breaks). Always I feel softened and vulnerable. Always I love this break from routine. Always I’m loathe to say goodbye.

The day after they arrived we went for a late afternoon walk through part of Valley Forge National Park. Two things strike me when we visit the Park. One is the stillness and quiet, despite being just a stone’s throw from crowded highways and huge shopping centers. The other is nonstop birdsong, whether we’re walking by the meadow or through a wooded area.

Here are a few photos, minus the beautiful birdsong. The photo at the top shows us (minus D who’s behind the camera) just beginning our walk.

Looking out over the meadows, it’s tempting to think they were always there. Before the 1977-78 winter encampment during the Revolutionary War, almost all Valley Forge was forested. During the 6-month winter encampment, most trees were cut down for firewood and buildings.

Reclaiming the land as a national memorial involved delineating swaths of forest, creating managed meadows, and leaving space for a series of state highways, walking and biking paths, visitor facilities, monuments, memorials, reconstructed troop huts, and other renovated facilities such as George Washington’s headquarters during the encampment (a gift to the Park). The Park covers 3,500 acres (1,400 ha), gets over a million visitors per year, and is open year-round. Click here to see a visitor’s map of the grounds (not true to scale).

Here’s a little jack-in-the-pulpit beside a trail through the woods.

Now we’ll pause to ponder the look of young poison ivy in Pennsylvania. Isn’t it beautiful in the late afternoon sun? And don’t forget as you hike through the woods that so-called ‘dead’ poison ivy vines (often as thick as ropes) are also virulent.


The lovely little flowers below are not poison ivy.

On our way back to the parking lot D got a photo of an elusive red-winged blackbird. In the last photo below, I’m almost to the parking lot. Notice the shaded picnic tables to the left, and facilities for visitors on the edge of the parking lot just ahead.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 May 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, 29 April 2018, reposted 13 June 2022
Valley Forge National Historical Park

Distractions

The fight begins
without apology or
convincing evidence
that we are getting
anywhere fast

Yesterday’s news
becomes today’s garbage
overflowing with fresh
litter spread across
my computer screen

The urge to stay ‘up to date’ tugs at me. So does the reality of life on the ground these days. I’m starving for safe conversations. The kind that used to happen regularly, decorating my days with sometimes giddy delight.

Today I’m grateful for telephone calls and emails with photos from family members and friends. I’m also grateful for neighbors I see at a short distance as we wave, smile, and pass each other in Covid-style ‘safety.’

Yet the birds take first prize! I love seeing them storm the bird-feeder, pair off, play hard to get, or soar across the sky in noisy flocks of starlings or crows. (Granted, the lovely albatross pair above did not visit my back yard!)

Bottom line: My kitchen window, and my own neighborhood offer much more ‘up to date’ news than most of what passes for ‘news’ these days. Yes, I’m besotted with Spring.

Still, I’m not unaware of horror and sorrows heaving like waves or burning like wildfires wherever we look. I think I’m learning to become a survivor in a world going missing in action.

Praying you’ll find joy right where you are this day, despite the noise of computers, radios, TVs and your own worst fears.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2022
Photo of albatross mating ritual found at audobon.com

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