Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Happiness

Morning Poem | Mary Oliver

No “orange sticks of the sun” this morning. Just rain, gusty wind, and the nonstop sound of water draining from the gutters. Nonetheless, Mary Oliver’s poem invites me into a world waiting with open arms. My comments follow.

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches –
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries in it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead –
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging –

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted –

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

© Mary Oliver, 1992, in New and Selected Poems, Vol. One, pp 106-07
Published by Beacon Press

I don’t have to feel happy and upbeat every morning. This poem isn’t about how I feel. It’s about what I’m already being offered, and what I already need no matter how I feel.

I don’t even have to pray. The gift is already there. Ready and waiting for me to discover it. The answer to what I’ve always wanted. The world re-created overnight. Wild and beautiful. Carrying on with or without me. An answer to a prayer I never even prayed.

I’m encouraged when I think about Mary Oliver’s life. She left everything in order to make a life for herself. One day at a time. Heading upstream. One small observation at a time, plus a few words ‘thrown together.’ Mary Oliver lived what she wrote, and wrote what she lived.

No magic wand or mantra can make it all come out right. Still, each morning we’re offered the gift of another day. Plus imagination to look beyond the heaviness of today, and see that dark pond of water lilies blazing with color.

Praying you’ll have a glimpse of blazing lilies today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2019
Photo found at etsy.com

Unexpected Gifts

I’m just back from a long morning walk. Gorgeous sky, just-right breeze, birds singing, at least 5 nannies or moms out with tots in open-air limousines (strollers), and a far-off sighting of Rita walking her dog. And that was just the beginning.

Most wondrous was a sudden realization. For years I’ve been fearful about turning 78, even though I still have just over two years to go before that happens.

My Mom died in February 1999. She was 78 years old. She had a stroke (brain bleed) that she couldn’t overcome because of her already compromised body. Three months after the stroke, she died peacefully in a wonderful hospice facility.

That same year, my fear of turning 78 was born. Magnified by fear that I might not even make it to 78 years. Never mind that my father was nearly 97 when he died. My problem would be getting to 78 and beyond without dying.

This morning, for the first time, I realized I no longer fear turning 78 or not living long enough to celebrate 78 years. Why not? I’m not sure.

A second unexpected event was seeing one of my neighbors when I was almost home. She had just finished a novel she thought I would love. She was right! I carried it home and will begin reading it today. It’s a murder mystery set in the marshlands of the North Carolina coast. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.

And finally, a third exciting reality: Our painter is beginning work on our bedroom! After which the carpet will be replaced, and we’ll start putting it all back together again.

More than enough to fill my happiness cup for today, with some left over for tomorrow.

Happy Monday to you!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2019
Photo of North Carolina Marsh found at ncwetlands.com

Old photos never die

They just fade away….

One moment captured forever
silent witness to hopes and dreams
never realized

This is my parents’ formal wedding portrait taken 75 years ago today, 13 September 1942 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

shattered lives
fall apart unplanned
two people bound to each other

I often wonder how my parents felt when they looked back at this lovely photo. They look happy, wealthy (they were not), supremely ready for whatever came next (they were not).

Within months, my father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and put into a sanatorium full of other TB patients. If he wanted to get well, he had to remain bed-bound for months, visitors strictly limited and regulated. If he didn’t keep the rules, all bets were off. His roommate couldn’t take the pressure of lying there. He died of TB. My father took a lesson from him and lay there, resolved.

In the meantime, I was born in November 1943, several months after my father went off to live in the sanatorium. He came home when I was 10 months old. A stranger to me, as I was to him. I was not the son he wanted.

My mother walked to the hospital when she went into labor, and then cared for me with the help of a family in the portrait above. We were living in their house at that time. The Hancox family included Mom’s maid of honor (“Aunt” Wyn), her flower girl (Wyn’s only child), and the man who gave Mom away, “Uncle” Ed. He’s standing just behind Mom and Aunt Wyn.

My maternal grandfather did not approve of this marriage and chose not to attend. He lived in California. I don’t remember the name of the man who served as my father’s best man.

My parents married with the blessing of a mission agency that would, if all went well, send them to Africa. While out speaking on behalf of this agency, my father came down with TB, which put in jeopardy the great plan to go to Africa. Five years and three babies later, my mother contracted polio–most likely from our new sister who was only 6 months old.

That was the end of being missionaries. I don’t think it was the end of mother’s world. She had her hands full.

It was, however, the end of my father’s hope of being somebody who mattered, especially in the church. He grieved this missed opportunity all his life. Which isn’t to say he would have made an outstanding missionary.

My mother, a polio survivor, musician and committed extrovert, did her best to care for four daughters in near-poverty circumstances. When it came to talking about regrets, she would have none of it, even though she lived with constant physical pain.

I love looking at the photo above. It shows my parents at their best. Looking out, as we all do, on what we hope will be a bright tomorrow. I’m grateful to have this marker of their happiness.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 September 2017
My Parents’ formal wedding portrait, 13 September 1942

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Penchant

Just to let you know…

Dear Friends,

Our daughter and her husband arrived Wednesday night for an eagerly anticipated visit with us. I’m in Mom Heaven! Though the weather is cool, damp and rainy, my heart is warm, happy and sometimes achy-teary. This is the first time a visit has felt so heavy with change and uncertainties.

Yesterday was gorgeous. We went to the super market and brought home lots of good veggies, fruit, and other things healthy and not-so-healthy. I’m sticking to my disgustingly healthy CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) diet, and enjoying every opportunity for conversation and afternoon walks.

The rest of the week promises versions of today: messy/rainy on the outside, laid back and warm on the inside. I hope your weekends also include time for conversation that matters with people you love.

I’ll post as I’m able.

Love,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 May 2017
Photo found at pixabay.com

Exposed

Several days ago, just for fun, I posted a small poem and a photo. I loved finding the photo prompt, making a connection right away, and then putting together a small poem about what I saw. I felt happy about it.

After I published it, I went visiting other bloggers to see what they were writing about. As it happened, several posts I read were top-notch. Way beyond my own small post that was ‘just for fun.’

Bummer! It didn’t take long. The more I read other posts, the smaller I felt. Inadequate and virtually voiceless. I even thought about taking my post down.

That evening I wrote about all this in my journal. Here’s the paragraph that best describes how I felt.

  • Right now I feel hot and bothered, a bit chagrined, small, less than an average writer, even embarrassed, as though I wasted my time with this piece of writing. Even though it gave me joy to do it! I think I’m weighing myself against other writers. They seem to have more finesse, deeper ideas, more winsome ways in their writings, more responses to what they post, better ideas and even more fun in life even if I don’t want to live their lives.

I wrote on, trying to sort this out. Near the end, I started coming to terms with myself. Here’s a key paragraph.

  • I want to let my heart speak to other hearts. Yet right now I seem to want my heart to make them happy—so they’ll come back for another happiness pill? I don’t know. We do seem to be a culture driven by expectations of happiness—meaning that somewhere out there today I’ll find something to make my day—something to make me happy—something to help me feel alive and worthwhile.

I don’t pretend to be an accurate observer of our current culture. What I say may be wrong of most people ‘out there.’ It was not, however, wrong about me on that particular day. I was driven by my need to feel happy. I was looking for “something to help me feel alive and worthwhile.” Not in someone else’s writing, but in my own. Which I did–for a very short time.

Why did my initial joy vanish so quickly? Perhaps I lost my confidence? I don’t think so….

I am, however, sure of this.

  • My experience after posting my poem exposed something in me that I don’t like. I say it often enough: Comparison is the source of all discontent. I say it because I don’t want it to be true of me. Sometimes it isn’t. But on that day, it described me with painful precision.

Thanks for listening!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 January 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt:  Exposure

First Apartment | Photo Tour

Broadway entrance 1965

Lovely, isn’t it? I thought so, too. One small fact: Ours is the red stairway, not the white stairway with the lovely climbing roses!

We arrived in late September 1965, days before D began his graduate program, and a few weeks after our wedding. During that fall we worked our hearts out getting our little space the way we wanted it.

I married a man who loves to take photos. Back then they were all slides. I thought it excessive. Just like my father who never missed a chance to take a photo. At this time in my life, however, I’m grateful for the slides and photos we’ve amassed over the years.

Which leads to a small fact I didn’t fully appreciate until I looked at these old photos. Bookshelves and books have been our go-to interior decorating strategy ever since we got married.

Here’s evidence that we’re already headed in that direction. Not very elegant, but the picture shouts out to thousands of books to come, “You are so very welcome in this house!”

Broadway moving-in mess 2, 1965

Notice the towels stacked on a box by the bed, stuff all over the bed and adjacent chair, lamp not in the right place, and who knows what on the front half of the dresser and on the floor. But the books? Safely put away in their place of honor, on top of the dresser in their brand new bookshelf.

Here’s a better picture of our bed, all made up just for this photo. Notice the bird prints on the wall, long before we became amateur birders. I like the blues and greens in the bedspread. Yes, that’s a garter belt on the right head-post.

Broadway bed 1965

OK. That ends the bedroom tour. Now to the front living room area. Here we have evidence of Cambridge grime. Nasty stuff that had to be scrubbed off before we could paint anything. I’m especially taken by the luxurious amount of hair I had on my head back then. Amazing.

Broadway Grime 1965

We worked on this as often as possible during the first couple of months. Mostly on the weekends. It was exhausting. Here’s proof of how exhausting it was. It’s my ‘don’t you dare take this photo’ pose, which I’ve perfected over the years. I almost didn’t include it. But…

Broadway don't you dare 1965

Here’s the outcome in our living room. I see I made a mistake in my post yesterday. We had two large windows in the living room, not just one. And there’s no clock on the mantel. Oh well. The photo on the mantel is Sister #3, Diane! That was a nice surprise for me.

Broadway fireplace and table 3, 1965

The record player and radio were our total entertainment center for years. No TV. No internet, of course. Exorbitant (for us) costs for long-distance phone calls. Snail mail that brought real letters and real bills.

Here’s another living room shot–this time of me sitting on the old sofa that came with the apartment. I’m facing the fireplace. Looking like a lady, all relaxed and reading something. No shoes. Just home from work. Notice the turned-over sofa cushions. The wrong side looked better than the right side.

Broadway sofa and lamp 2, 1965

 One last photo–our old porcelain bathtub with clawfeet.

FRASER_S_0315

 Good for a long soak after a hard day’s work!

 © Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2015
All photos by DAFraser, Fall 1965

searching for myself

This poem came to mind yesterday.
First published 10 Feb 2015, it captures the vulnerability of a lonely soul.
Lost and looking for relief in all the wrong places.

* * *

searching for myself
lost somewhere out there
in your eyes your smile
your listening ear
your approval your tenderness
your dream for me Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Up My Pride | A Meditation

Here’s a meditation on one of my favorite Psalms, only 3 verses long, and one of my everyday challenges as a blogger.

Psalm 131, Today’s English Version
Lord, I have given up my pride
And turned away from my arrogance.
I am not concerned with great matters
Or with subjects too difficult for me.
Instead, I am content and at peace.
As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms,
So my heart is quiet within me.
Israel, trust in the Lord
Now and forever!
* * *
Read the rest of this entry »

“There breathes not a breath…”

Three of my favorite devotional authors loved and were loved by children:  Amy Carmichael, George MacDonald and Oswald Chambers.  They seemed to understand life from a child’s point of view.

I want to be a child forever! Read the rest of this entry »

“I am a little weary of my life…”

‘Tis the season to be jolly, right?  It all depends.  George MacDonald’s opening line for his December sonnets describes a state in which I find myself these days:

I am a little weary of my life….

He inquires about his weariness.  Perhaps it’s from something that’s meant to be.

Shall fruit be blamed if it hang wearily
A day before it perfected drop plumb
To the sad earth from off its nursing tree? Read the rest of this entry »

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