Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

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

The looking-glass

This morning I looked into my bathroom mirror and got a fright. Who is this woman? Do I know her?

Well…of course I know her. Still, there’s something about mirrors that feels like betrayal. They’re so honest!

So I washed my hair and washed my face and, for at least a few minutes, felt quite lovely, thank you.

Here’s a poem I wrote in December 2016. I’ve had it on my mind for about a week, so now it’s your turn to have it on your mind–for at least the minute it takes to read it!

Her bespoke face
betrayed no provenance
no signature or style
save those life etched within each line
each scar and curve of chin and cheek

No sign of props placed here and there
to hold it all in space
no awkward look or heavy paint
to dazzle or illuminate
Just a canvas standing there
with pleasant eyes of burning depth
and mouth with upturned corners

Quite suddenly she smiled at me
and said hello-how-are-you?
One of a kind I see — said I —
with hat tipped to my Maker

Given today’s upheavals here and abroad, I pray each of us will find a bit of peace and hope to share with neighbors and strangers alike. Thank you for stopping by.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 February 2022
Image found at pingfind.com

The greatest gift

When I began blogging, I didn’t give much thought to writing poems. I loved to write. I loved using imagery. I loved playing things out in words. And I loved reading poetry.

But writing it myself? Not since my freshman year of college, when my writing professor told me I would never write poetry. I believed her. Until I began blogging.

This morning I read the poem below. I’ve read it many times, always accompanied by tears of gratitude along with recognition that my life is in its final chapter. I hope you enjoy it and are prompted to remember things that bring joy and music into your heart and mind.

music to my ears

I love the calm cadence of your voice
and the way you make rare 
the everyday

waves rolling in on the beach
wind whispering in the willows
my husband reading to me aloud
Mendelssohn’s E Major Song Without Words
J. S. Bach’s C Major Prelude #1
doves cooing in the morning
robins singing in dusky evening
the overwhelming calm of Psalm 23

I chose the Bach rendition above because of the player’s calm approach to Bach’s Prelude in C Major. Also because it’s being played by a so-called amateur who gets the nuances just right.

Wishing you a calming Tuesday no matter what’s going on around you,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2/22/2022
Video found on YouTube

noisy silence

noisy silence
invades the old woman’s ears
cars cruise past her sleeping house
on their way to nowhere

darkness falls heavy
over her weary body
aching for mercy
and lovely songs that linger
through long nights
of farewell

Yesterday was a spectacular day. A grand mix of icy cold, beautiful sun, and a hint that we might be on a warming trend. My various body parts cooperated quite well so that I felt almost normal. Until late evening.

Something about evening can bring out pain and tears. True to form, last night my body reminded me that it’s still there and it isn’t getting any younger. Even so, it was a beautiful day–the kind that felt almost normal.

When it was time to sleep and my body objected, I went into my office, opened a notebook, and wrote whatever came to mind, including the first version of the poem above. Then I went to bed and promptly fell asleep.

Today isn’t nearly as spectacular as yesterday. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for another day on this earth with family members, friends, D, Smudge, and each of you, of course. Thanks for stopping by!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 February 2022
Photo found at wallpaperaccess.com

In the deep mid-winter | 3 Haikus

buzzing ears open
for business this frigid day
listening to nothing

wind howls
through cracked walls
a baby cries

travelers
missing in action
full stop

Real Winter. We haven’t had it here in Eastern Pennsylvania for several years. Now it seems to be making up for lost time.

This morning I set things up to make a big pot of spiced red lentil soup. I also used my SAD ‘happy light’ to help with my mood. Best of all, I decided not to race out early this morning (with D driving) for a blood draw before 9am.

Not a bad beginning to what promises to be a gusty, sun-shiny day, with the temperature plummeting tonight. Not many birds were out for their early morning suet feast.

Beginning this week, I’ll see three of my doctors, one a week, to find out what my blood tests, MRI, and other tests to my feet and legs are adding up to.

In the meantime, I’m finding out when my feet don’t hurt. It’s all about music! Playing the piano instantly takes my mind off the pain. So does walking in the house or working in the kitchen with my new headphones, listening to direct-feed music, babbling brooks and birds, or anything else remotely musical. Thanks to our daughter and her husband for the birthday headphones.

Best of all, I have no pain when I’m sitting at my computer writing poetry or posts for you.

Until next time, I’m still
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 January 2022
Photo found at houstonchronicle.com

My Great MRI Adventure | New Year’s Eve 2021

In knee-high socks
And ortho shoes she trips
The light fantastic

Light as a feather
Music spins through soft earphones
To another world

Silencing all noise
Beauty fills every fiber
Of her weary soul

I’m lying on a long, narrow table. A long capsule slides almost silently over my body.

I’ve been up since early in the morning. D is sitting in the waiting room. I’ve been told more than once that the MRI will take 15-20 minutes. My name is called. I’m ushered into a small room with a closet. I answer a barrage of questions I already answered online and in the waiting room. The woman helping me is kind.

She tells me how to put on the two gowns lying on the bench, and where to lock my clothing and belongings. The only things I’m allowed to wear are my knee-high socks and one other piece of clothing I will not name.

I emerge draped in two huge gowns.

I’m directed to a barber-shop like chair obviously made for people larger than I. I can’t lean back or touch the floor with my feet. I sit up straight and hold still while the pacemaker team disengages Lucy Pacemaker and makes sure they can monitor my heartbeat/arrhythmia while I’m having the MRI. This takes at least 20 minutes. I’m happy to say that everyone who worked with me treated me as the Queen I am, for which I was most grateful!

Finally, I’m escort by a female nurse to the MRI room. The male technician who will be in the room with me the entire time has me change my anti-Covid mask for their mask (not as nice as mine). He also has me leave my changing room key on the table. The nurse and technician help me onto a very narrow table.

As fast as lightning, the technician inserts ear plugs, adjusts my head, puts a large cushion beneath my legs and knees, glues and tapes stuff onto my chest to monitor my heartbeat, puts a finger clip on my right thumb, and a rubber ball in my left hand. I’m to squeeze it if, at any point, I’m not comfortable. If I squeeze it for any reason, the MRI will be terminated and rescheduled.

Finally, sheets are pulled up; my feet are positioned just right and strapped down so they won’t fall off the narrow table. The technician assures me that he’ll be in the room the entire time, ready to help me. Then he disappears somewhere behind my head, and the capsule starts sliding over my body. I decided early on to keep my eyes closed and practice relaxation breathing. I was not prepared for either the noise or the heat.

Nor was I prepared for the cacophony of diverse sounds that bounced around me. Sometimes there were lengthy pauses; sometimes only a few sounds. Other times it was like being caught in crossfire that didn’t want to end. I wasn’t prepared for this strange mixture that had no rhyme or reason.

However, somewhere along the way I thought about drum beats I’d heard when D and I were on sabbatical in Kenya. Instead of angst, I had a bit of curiosity and interest, though I was still shocked by the diversity and clamor of this strange machine.

Suddenly it was done. The young man and my nurse helped me back to my barber-shop chair. The nurse handed me a bottle of water which I drained to the last drop. Lucy Pacemaker was returned to being in charge of my heart. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and have D drive me home.

Thanks for visiting today! For 2022, I pray you and I will grow as truthtellers, no matter how difficult or dangerous it becomes.

Happy New Year!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 December 2021
Image found at wfmt.com

choices I don’t want to make

If you had gently hinted
just one short year ago
that today would find me
lost and bereft
I might have laughed

On the other hand….

To say my situation is
better than so-and-so’s
misses the point altogether
while denying reality
screaming in my feet

How to live with this
malfunction on the outside
and agony on the inside
challenges my educational
upbringing and experience

Daily and nightly reminders
pile on unavoidable witness
to the slow decay of this body
still struggling each day with
choices I don’t want to make

I haven’t posted regularly for what feels like an eternity. Actually, it feels like hanging in midair, waiting to find out how this will play out. Peripheral Neuropathy. My new ‘friend’, though I still don’t know the full picture. The day after Thanksgiving I’ll have an MRI with the hope that my neurologist will learn something new or at least helpful.

My focus today is on what I enjoy doing. Unfortunately, my feet like to remind me of what I don’t enjoy. Nonetheless, my new curriculum is interesting. Bottom line: What would I like to do right now? What brings me joy, so that I don’t even notice what my feet feel? (For example: looking at David’s Longwood Garden Photos; playing the piano, riding my indoor bike.)

In addition to two books I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m also reading a book by Mims Cushing (who lives with this disease) and Norman Latov, MD, her neurologist. Title: You Can Cope with Peripheral Neuropathy: 365 Tips for living a full life. It’s a bit dated, but the self-help pointers are ageless.

Bottom line: I feel myself becoming a ‘different’ person–not so driven, more laid back, grateful for small gifts of each day and for you.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2015

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