Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Hope

Egrets | Mary Oliver

I wonder what Mary Oliver would say about us today. Especially about the last year and the coming four years. We can’t know, given her death on 17 January 2019. Still, there’s a message for us in this poem. I need it. Do you? My comments follow.

Egrets

Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going. Finally
I could not
save my arms
from thorns; soon
the mosquitoes
smelled me, hot
and wounded, and came
wheeling and whining.

And that’s how I came
to the edge of the pond:
black and empty
except for a spindle
of bleached reeds
at the far shore
which, as I looked,
wrinkled suddenly
into three egrets –
a shower
of white fire!

Even half-asleep they had
such faith in the world
that had made them –
tilting through the water,
unruffled, sure,
by the laws
of their faith not logic,
they opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.

Poem by Mary Oliver.

Do you hear it in the poem? Mary keeps going, and the egrets keep going.

Mary is determined to find the pond, no matter how obliterated the path has become, how many thorns tear into her arms, or how many mosquitos dive-bomb her for a bite or two.

Finally, Mary comes to the pond and sees three beautiful egrets! They aren’t sweaty or frustrated. They’re not batting away the mosquitoes. Instead, not by logic but by faith, they “opened their wings softly and stepped over every dark thing.” All this despite hot, humid, mosquito-infested air, and rot lying beneath the surface of the pond.

Am I prepared to keep going as Mary did?

I’m grateful and relieved to have President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the helm. Still, we already know at least some of what they know: We’ve inherited a nation filled with untended paths, thorns, pesky mosquitoes, and a swamp full of rotting hulks and hidden traps lying just beneath the surface.

Slogging and soaring. It seems both are necessary. Though slogging, on its own, isn’t enough.

We need to soar. Not by flying away from the swamp, but by banking on faith, not simply logic. The egrets show Mary and us the way. They use their wings not to leave the swamp, but to step quietly and without fanfare over “every dark thing.”

Praying we’ll find our way, plus unexpected beauty from time to time.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 January 2021
Photo found at pixels.com

Photographer: TF Baccari

The nature of our souls

Slow motion rollout
of a white horror show

Surreal white choices
(one would be too many)
to humor or ignore POTUS

A white-washed sense
of entitlement plus

White-washed decisions
to treat white-washed intruders
with white-kid gloves

Meanwhile, white POTUS cowers in the White House

Congressional Building guards caught
off-guard without a plan of attack
to restrain white-washed white folk

no game plan
no war-like riot gear
no immediate shooting
from the hip

just bald-faced white anger
sending a white message to
the world from white intruders
and white ‘defenders’ alike

Beyond this patch-up of verses, I don’t have a quick solution to our deadly, death-dealing disease that keeps strangers at a distance.

The challenge to President-Elect Joe Biden and to us as a nation is clear. It isn’t how did this happen, as though a better plan would have held back this surge. It’s about why this happened, and what we can learn from our own responses to it.

Yes, Mr. Trump incited this riot. On the other hand, it couldn’t have happened  without the collusion of white America.

Distancing ourselves from our own national mess, ignoring it, or gasping in horror and then looking the other way isn’t an option. Especially for those who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth. This isn’t about politics. It’s about the nature of our souls, measured by our willingness to begin at the very beginning. As strangers in need of each other.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 January 2021
Image found at patheos.com

Yesterday’s sorrows

A chain of prayer
Rises in midnight hours
As restless sleepers
Wake to the sound
Of yesterday’s sorrows
Rising to the surface

Perhaps one’s own trials
Or a loved one’s emergency
Or dense silence inviting
A song or a prayer to
Fill the empty void of night
Broken only by the wind

Since the beginning of Covid-19 social distancing, I sometimes find night silence distressing.

It happened again last night. Not just because of what’s going on out there, but also what’s rising to the surface in me. Sadness, sorrow, and trepidation. Names of family members who tested positive for Covid-19, now in quarantine because of contact with someone else. An urgent request for prayer from a former colleague. Or even a welcome email from a former student now living in another country, without many options.

One of the gifts of this painfully long social distancing has been a measure of quiet in the house. At night, however, silence weighs heavily when I want to get back to sleep. Hopefully unheard by D, I sometimes begin singing (very softly) favorite hymns as they pop into my mind. Not just one verse, but as many as I can recall. Think of an extended lullaby.

Other times I go down my mental list of friends and family members having more challenges than usual just now. Then I whisper (often with tears) my gratitude for D, for Smudge, for our neighbors, and for opportunities to support local and worldwide relief efforts.

Somewhere in the middle of all that it usually happens. I drift off to sleep. If I don’t, I go to my office, close the door, open my journal, and write my heart out. Thankfully, this last resort is rare. Still, it works like a charm. The tears flow freely, and then I’m back to bed and sleep.

I pray each of you finds ways to sleep well, and exercise your faith and gratitude during these strange months of Covid-19 et al, already extending into another year. Happy Wednesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 January 2021
Image found at pinterest.com

What will become of us?

What will become of us?
Even the Supreme Court
Can’t fix this sickness unto death
Leaking through our doors
Streaming through our apps
Insinuating itself into every
Pore of our nation’s unchecked
Pandemic failure to thrive

Tomorrow the Electoral College
Does its business not once for all
But as an unintended trigger of
Anger, elation, false dreams and fake news
Now available 24/7 on demand
Minus warnings that lies and innuendo
Are more than dangerous to our
Collective health and welfare

This past year has been an exercise in bleakness. Which reminds me that Advent is about despair, fear, unjust rulers and religious leaders, sickness, and sorrow. In the bleak mid-winter.

When I hear people talk about “getting back to normal,” I cringe. Our track record when dealing with the aftermath of national crises, including unjust realities, isn’t great. Even the birth of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t solve everything.

We keep hearing that Covid-19 vaccines will make things better. Perhaps. Nonetheless, I’ll do what I can to support changes that matter for the good. I’ll also celebrate when we manage to get something right and just. It does happen every now and then, along with painful failures.

Between now and the end of this year, I’ll post as I’m able. Praying each of you is taking daily time to rest, meditate, and consider the impact of 2020 on your life and the lives of others.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 December 2020
Image found at christianity.com

Farewell, November

yew branches thrash and bend
blown from every direction
the bird feeder flails

relentless nature
announces the arrival
of another day

sitting beside me
a small heater hums softly
to rain drops falling

What a strange month this has been. Lots of flailing and thrashing. Too much bluster, and too little calm. Especially in our news cycles. Even though November is my birthday month, I’m happy to bid it farewell.

Do I miss the energy of 2020 Election bluster? No. True, it made for breathless news cycles. It also made for unfiltered offloading of frustration, despair, angst and anger. In the end, however, it reinforced my belief that hope doesn’t come from any one of us. It comes from the One who sees everything without blinking an eye.

So yes, there’s a method to the madness of this world. Still, I’d rather have it interpreted from above than below. Today’s unhinged weather reminds me that though I’m not in charge, I’m still alive.

Just now the thunder crashed closer to home than I like. Happy Monday!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 November 2020
Photo found at toughlittlebirds.com

squabbling sparrows

outside my window
squabbling sparrows fight for food –
silence reigns within

Onlooker. That’s what I am these days. Not when it comes to local stuff, but the other stuff. Frankly, I’d rather be a sparrow right now than a politician or public official.

Whatever this year has been on the outside, I’m grateful for time to examine my life as a white woman. All without the expectations or interruptions of ‘normal’ daily life.

Put another way, I don’t want to be out there squabbling over the 2020 Election, or suddenly find myself without a job or a sensible plan for the future.

Being a senior citizen has its drawbacks. For one, we don’t get much overt respect, especially in our modern-day young and (especially) white culture. When respect happens, it tastes really good. So far, D and I have been able to navigate this bizarre Covid-19 world. It helps that we’re both introverts with tons of books, and the desire to read and write.

Back to the standoff  and squabbling that’s playing out before our eyes. It’s deadly. No good will come of it. I’m praying justice will be done when Mr. Trump is no longer POTUS, and he can no longer evade courts of law. Still, the behavior of his extremely disaffected followers isn’t a promising sign.

While watching the sparrows squabble with each other, I heard and saw a large blue jay squawk its worst as it landed on the bird feeder and sent all the sparrows fleeing. Everything wasn’t great before the male jay arrived, but at least there was food on the table. And no big bullies in sight.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2020
Photo found at thespruce.com

stripped of color

stripped of color
bare branches shiver
falling leaves take flight

D and I are just back from a blustery walk. Dead leaves whipped through the air and across the road. A few trees still looked spectacular. Yet on the whole, the achy beauty of autumn colors has become torn, tattered browns of brittle leaves.

What does it take to survive late Fall and early Winter? Or the unsettling reality of climate change? Or the huge surge of Covid-19 cases in the USA, coupled with the refusal of millions to take simple precautionary measures?

As a citizen of the USA, I shiver as I watch the barometer of Covid-19. It isn’t chiefly about our health. It’s about our relationships with each other. Especially with those most affected by the pandemic. We seem to have forgotten we’re all human beings.

Many of us run away from truth about our country. We harbor persistent, deep-rooted racial ignorance, and neglect citizens and visitors who fall near or beneath the poverty level. It isn’t difficult to see this, no matter which political party we favor.

Even so, I have hope. Not because Spring always follows Winter, but because hope is for any season of any year. Someone Else with far more gracious eyes than mine is in charge. My part is to follow Someone Else (Jesus of Nazareth), and do what I’m able to do.

I’m relieved that POTUS, our Governors and politicians, the Supreme Court, Wall Street investors, and deep-pocketed billionaires are not in charge of how and whether Spring will follow Winter.

With the exception of most conifers, leaves fall freely every Autumn. Why? Maybe they know Spring follows Winter. Today their job is to step aside, and let Someone Else figure out how we’ll get from here to there. My job is to do my part, and leave the rest to my true Leader, Jesus of Nazareth.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 August 2020
Image found at merriam-webster.com

missing in action

missing
in action
full stop

The background noise of Mr. Trump and his defenders isn’t going away anytime soon.

The foreground clarity of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamal Harris isn’t going away either.

In fact, each day brings a bit of hope. Not because Biden and Harris won the election, but because the next POTUS is taking his task seriously. Not for popularity or personal gain, but for the heart and soul of this nation.

Still, I don’t wear rose-colored glasses.

Wealthy patrons of Mr. Trump and sold-out members of the Senate and Congress have a lot to lose. So do white people who feel entitled to more and better, or who refuse to look into the history and hearts of our black citizens and learn to lament and repent.

Showing up. I can’t remember when our current POTUS showed up for all of us (including his followers), much less for the rest of the world (unless it benefited him). I’m more than ready for a full stop.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 November 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

Absence

absence eats slowly
into edges of presence
morning rises late

It isn’t just the season. It’s my life slowly diminishing one day after another.

The 2020 Election has opened a door for substantial change. I want to be part of the geriatric action. I wonder how many others raised in my generation (1940s and 50s) feel this as well. Here we are, often carrying painful bodily and emotional damage. What will this Election mean for us?

I’ve been thinking hard lately about my schedule, and how to manage daily routines without cutting into writing time. I’m not there yet, but I’m seeing a little light. Which is all I need right now. A little light of day and a little light of hope for our future as a nation.

Praying for small and large gifts of kindness, gratitude and hope to rise like the sun, against all odds.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2020
Photo of November sunrise in Ashland, Oregon found at outdoorexposurephoto.com

Haughty eyes and lying tongues

This morning a Bible college classmate from the 1960s, a Trump supporter, forwarded an urgent message from a former Republican Congresswoman. In it, the Congresswoman calls Christians to pray for five things, all related to the (wrongful) outcome of the election.

Her bottom line: Democrats in seven key states stole or tried to steal the election from Mr. Trump and his followers. Her language pits conservative ‘evangelical’ Christians who voted for Trump against voters of any religion who didn’t vote for Mr. Trump.

Her language is incendiary and blatantly partisan. It’s also skillfully filled with conservative church language designed to ramp up self-righteous anger, especially at other Christians, in order to achieve a political outcome.

I don’t buy it. At the same time, it’s a troubling sign of our times.

In her strongly-worded message, the Congresswoman quotes from Proverbs 6:16-19, applying this to those who, in her scenario, fixed the election outcomes so Mr. Trump would lose. Here’s the passage:

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

This strongly worded caution about the way we treat one another isn’t just for Democrats. It’s for anyone and everyone, including Republicans, Independents, non-voters, the Congresswoman herself and Mr. Trump.

Praying this day will bring us closer to each other as United States citizens dealing with huge problems that increase by the hour. We need each other now more than ever.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 November 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

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