Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

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

Lost

Lost–

Not simply to myself
but to others who think
they’ve found me

as though I were a box
of brown/white/red/black/yellow rice
sitting on a bottom shelf

Even writing
feels like wandering
down neglected back roads

and fake inroads
littered with poisonous comments
I’d rather not hear

Much more of this
and I’ll be certified useless–
stuck in todays’ sorrows

wondering how this came to be
and why I find myself on the
bottom shelf in the back row

As a nation we’re lost in warring madness, even though there’s been no official declaration of war.

I’m grateful for heated dialogue, courageous and persistent protests, and demands for sorely needed change. I’m also grateful for medical and support personnel as well as researchers paying attention to Covid-19 patterns and realities.

Without them, we wouldn’t have documentation about the high cost of Covid-19 to Black lives (see visual chart above). Nor would we hear about the high inhuman cost of rewarding corporations and Fat Cats on the take.

Still, we don’t yet have a clear path forward that takes these realities into account, or nation-wide strategies to create fair playing fields for all denied basic human rights and dignity. The next Presidential election feels like light years away.

I wonder how all this affects you, and your daily decisions. I’m still feeling my way along, grateful for WordPress and for you.

Thanks for visiting and reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 June 2020
Graphic chart of COVID-19 impact on NYC neighborhoods found at rollingstones.com

Longwood on the cheap and an update

I know. It isn’t quite the same as being there in person. But it’s the closest I’ve gotten to Longwood Gardens since last fall. Be sure to turn up the volume so you can hear the birds!

This morning I walked in our neighborhood and saw a few friends from years back. The humidity was atrocious. The birdsong, however, plus all the lovely green leaves were to die for. And yes, I wore my face mask.

I haven’t been out for any great adventures since the first Sunday of March. I’m grateful D is doing all our grocery shopping. Our ages put both of us in the high risk category for Covid-19. My health issues make me a higher risk than D. So I’m here at home virtually every day. I write, walk in the neighborhood, talk to family members on the phone, and keep in touch with our neighbors.

Speaking of family, our daughter turned 50 today! She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon. Our son, his wife and three children live about an hour away. But it might as well be Portland, given Covid-19 restrictions.

Even introverts don’t like being caged. Well….not exactly caged, but I’ve definitely had my wings clipped. I don’t foresee being out and about anytime in the near future.

I felt great relief after I wrote my most recent piece, It feels so good. Resisting Mr. Trump isn’t directly about resisting him personally. It’s about how I choose to spend my time. So I’ve made some choices, and will see how it goes.

I hear people talking about ‘getting back to normal.’ From my perspective, there is no going back to ‘normal.’ Instead, our country has a looming crisis on its hands. It didn’t begin with the current administration. It began centuries ago and has continued unabated ever since. Ignorance about our country’s history is rampant. So is ignorance about science and the way we’ve ignored and put off questions about the planet and our responsibility to look after it and the people who inhabit it.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the privilege of blogging. When I look back at my beginning posts, I’m stunned by how much you’ve contributed to my life. Some by reading faithfully; others by visiting from time to time; all a great encouragement to me.

Thank you. And may our Creator bless each of you with renewed vision for what you might do with your one, lovely life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 May 2020
Longwood Gardens video found on YouTube

Smudge and the Good Morning News

Our recalcitrant child. No, he is NOT allowed in the sink! Just on it….

You want me to do WHAT?

 

If you insist….

Other good morning news:

Just as I was finishing breakfast, the doorbell rang. D answered. He’d just returned from grocery shopping. A not-so-young man reached out his hand to give D something. It was D’s wallet in a Ziploc bag! It had fallen out of his jacket pocket as he loaded bags of groceries into the car. After he left, I retreated to the kitchen with tears of gratitude in my eyes. It’s one thing to do something unexpected for someone else. It’s another to be on the receiving end. Especially as one of those ‘elderly’ people.

Also this morning, as I was drinking my breakfast smoothie, I signed up to follow Longwood Gardens on Instagram. Today’s theme is wisteria. Glorious lavender wisteria! Get the photos for yourself. Just go to the very bottom of the link above. Or, if you’re already on Instagram, add Longwood Gardens to your account. There are several other ways to get the photos. So take a look at the link above! No excuses!

Yesterday morning I had a scheduled phone conversation with my favorite cardiologist. I enjoyed it so much, I’m considering a request that there be No More In Person Visits! Bottom line: I got cleared for another six months. Nothing new, and my heart and blood pressure are doing well for now, all things considered.

Best of all, the sun is out today! Not as blistering hot as yesterday, but sunny enough for a nice late afternoon walk with D.

Cheers!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 May 2020
Photos of Smudge taken by ERF, March 2020

Much ado about nothing

Laboring to stay focused
My mind wanders up and down
Back alleys of my mind

A young deer stares at me
From a flimsy one-page shelter
Of May meadow blossoms

Outside air is chill and damp
With the barometer falling
From a sky of prescient clouds

I feel the beat of my heart
And the urgency of getting
Something done today

Just beside my computer
A bright light stares my way
Flooding me with happy beams

My eyes wander back
To the deer who has yet
To blink an eye or make a move

Outside the earth rejoices
At the gift of clean and quiet air
Not what we expected

I grew up believing I was born to make a difference (for good, of course). Which, in my world, meant I was not born to sit around doing nothing. Especially when the world seemed to be falling apart.

Nonetheless, right now I’m practicing the option of doing nothing. Or at least ‘almost nothing.’

Hoping you enjoy a nice chunk of quiet downtime today or tomorrow. Nonstop pandemic distractions aren’t necessarily good for our health.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 May 2020
Photo found at rewildingeurope.com

Love Sorrow | 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
Image found at 123rf.com

broken bodies

into dawn silence
the lone catbird signs softly
as earth holds its breath
remembr’ing bodies broken
released into waiting arms

Yesterday was communion Sunday–via virtual church on YouTube. “This is my body broken for you.”

We can’t turn the deaths of broken Covid-19 bodies into beautiful ceremonies. Still, there’s something to be said for the way this earth welcomes our broken bodies without judgment. Death can’t be glorified. It can, however, be seen as the beginning of something else. Often as release from what has become unbearable.

I hope a catbird sings soft songs for me when my time comes. I also pray this Monday finds you grateful to be alive, and ready for whatever comes next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 May 2020
Photo found at birdatlas.bc.ca

Waiting for the shoe to drop

Or not.

Holding my breath
Never did get me very far

I know because my body
Told and tells me so

Caught in endless cycles
Of butting heads

I’ve learned the hard way
That my head

Is very hard indeed while
My ability

To concede with graceful
strength and courage

Was sorely lacking in my
self-education project

Undertaken from the moment
Of my birth until

Today I woke up breathing
Deeply knowing

Your life-giving breath is better than
A thousand choke holds

While waiting for the shoe to drop
Or not

Mary Oliver’s “Of The Empire” couldn’t have been written had she not chosen decades earlier to leave home in order to save her one precious life.

A pattern runs through my life like an unnamed theme-song. Do your best to please those in authority, without giving up your integrity.

Not that this is a bad skill. It got me through many touch-and-go encounters. Integrity is important. But when it’s only skin deep, there comes a time when the wound is too great to bear.

I think Mary Oliver understood this much earlier than I.

Even my sisters understood this, each in her own way. All they did was see what didn’t work for Elouise, and then they did something else. As often as needed. Sometimes with seemingly harmless humor or deference. Other times with defiant behavior that screamed for safety and space to breathe deeply without fear.

Will I ever reach the promised land? I don’t know. I do know this point in our shared history is an opportunity I don’t want to miss. It isn’t just about me anymore. It’s about each and all of us.

With thanks to Mary Oliver, family members and friends who’ve shown me a better way.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 May 2020
Image found at theproductivewoman.com

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