Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Hope

A July 4 quandry

All day I’ve been wondering how to celebrate our nation. We have a system intent, it seems, on other-destruction and self-destruction. Though it’s most visible in the breakdown of our democratic ideals, it’s also visible in the way we treat strangers coming into our country. Is this the beginning of the end? Is there reason to hope? A few comments follow my poem.

Ignorance and Fear
clothed in swaggering Pride
peer down with Contempt
born of Lonely Bitterness
intent on Self-Destruction

And yet….“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

Today is our annual National Pride day—the 4th of July. A grand celebration of the nation I love yet scarcely recognize not simply today, but in the history of our occupation of this land.

It’s easy to point to the behavior of certain officials in public office. In fact, they might be at or near the top of my list. Nonetheless, their behavior amplifies and builds on behaviors and attitudes already festering in our daily lives.

From the perspective of an ant on the ground (that would be me), it seems we’re doomed to more downhill behavior from all quarters. The sky is falling, isn’t it?

Yet the verse above comforts me. Chiefly because of my own ignorance and fear clothed in swaggering pride. I no longer fear the Judge of my worst imagination. Yes, my fear was fed by faces and behaviors of persons who judged me harshly—and taught me to judge myself harshly.

However, unlike them, the Judge of all the earth sees everything about me. That includes what was and was not done to or for me, along with what I’ve done or not done, and why.

Even more amazing, this Judge of all the earth invites me to come just as I am, without fear and without excuses. Why? Because this Judge is the Only One who understands me better than anyone, including myself.

The challenge is clear. I can’t count on this for myself without counting on it for others. The Judge of all the earth will do right for each of us. Not necessarily in my lifetime or yours, but at the right time and perhaps in unexpectedly gracious ways.

Here’s to a thoughtful and happy 4th of July!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 July 2019

Portals

Doors and windows
Hopes and fears
Toy with my mind
Restless in sleep

What lies within
beyond or behind?
Is this a point
Of no return?

I don’t remember
Leaping into this
Semi-other world not
Reality as I know it

Everyday events
Morph into unfamiliar
perspectives and tastes
Soon turned normal

Is this my home away
From home or a new
Portal ushering me from
This life into another?

I haven’t had many dreams in the past several years. However, they’re beginning to re-emerge.

In my latest waking dream I’m in a great, mixed company of people, including children. We’re in a large conference-like venue. I’m surrounded by strangely familiar and unfamiliar bits of reality.

Overall, I like the unfamiliar bits. First, the food — living plants and flowers eaten without plates or utensils. It tastes good, and there’s plenty of it. Second a room filled with children singing. Their music floats into a large corridor where adults of all ages sing along. What could be more uplifting than that?

I’m not afraid, though my level of uncertainty and sense of being a newcomer is sky-high. I don’t feel out of place. Instead, I feel my way along like the beginner I am, surrounded by people I know or knew, and some I don’t know at all.

Is this a party? Will it end? I don’t know. I wake up teary, wishing the dream would just keep spinning out.

That’s where I am as of today. This was a busy week, with more time away from home than usual. Today I’m chilling out, grateful for friends I saw this week, for good doctors, and for plenty of plant food (minus flowers) for my ridiculously cruciferous smoothies.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 May 2019
Photo of Smudge in our attic, taken by me in February 2019

Born to Die


Teach us to number our days;
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, New International Version

I can’t help thinking these days about a theme in the gospels. Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. Not for political fame or religious adulation, but to die. He seemed to know what it meant to number his days.

Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem
Stubborn and determined
Abrasive and unconventional
Observant and angry
Weary and compassionate
Single-minded and welcoming
With his face set toward Jerusalem
From the beginning
Born to die sooner not later

I’m used to celebrating Jesus’ life and all the good and challenging things he said. I’m not so accustomed to celebrating his dogged, stubborn, insistent daily orientation toward death.

Jesus of Nazareth didn’t just happen to fall into the hands of his political and religious enemies. He knew who would betray him, yet didn’t try to stop him. Instead, he sent his betrayer out to do the deed. He met death straight on. Just as he was. Without machines of warfare, without fame or fortune, and without an army of loyal supporters.

“Teach us to number our days.” It’s a tough standard. I’d rather add to my days. Pretend it won’t happen to me today. Or that I’ll die in the best of circumstances.

We live in a time of global and local upheaval. Everywhere. What does it mean to set our faces toward death? I think it would mean setting our faces differently toward each other and toward nature.

I could sit back and say what will be, will be. The future isn’t mine to see. Still, what does it mean to number my days? And how does this change the way I live in the present, no matter how long it is before I die?

Writing about death (instead of ignoring it) is comforting. It’s also challenging. My hope is that the challenging part will bring more joy, gratitude, empathy and compassion into my life. Not just for myself, but for family members, friends, neighbors and strangers. We’re all in this together, though strangely alone in our deaths.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 April 2019
Photo found at nateholdridge.com

An Easter Lament and Question

Nothing comes easy these days
Small deaths and large
Gaping holes
Clutter the landscape

Rain falls sideways
Streaking over my back yard
Daring me to will it
To the ground

Out of control and out of time
Bombs tick silently
Within this fragile planet of creatures
And plant life whipped
By gales of political
And personal expediency

So many deaths
Not enough tombs
Or people with vision
And voices to help us
Find our way home

‘Come to me
All who labor
And I will give you rest’
Yet even You were hung
On a tree whiplashed
And left to die

How will Easter
Arrive on this good earth
Not just for the flowers
But for all of us?

Is dying our only option?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 April 2019
Photo found at pixabay.com

Why Mary Oliver’s words matter

A few years ago a friend introduced me to Mary Oliver via one of her books of poetry, Thirst. Spare on words and extravagantly beautiful, her forty-three poems grabbed my heart and my imagination. The collection focuses on her grief after the death of her longtime partner, and her struggle to find words that capture the reality of her faith.

Mary Oliver challenges me in ways similar to Emily Dickinson, with one exception. Oliver’s poetry, also heavy with meaning, is remarkably and painfully direct. In each poem she invites me to enlarge the way I see, experience and respond to what seems everyday and ordinary.

Since her death on January 17, scores of visitors have visited this site looking for posts about Mary Oliver. At the top of the list: It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, a poem about prayer.

In the last week I’ve read and listened to multiple tributes to Mary Oliver. Her poetry is stunning; her challenge to us as human beings is direct and piercing: Wake up, Observe, Report. Not simply about nature, but about this world and its creatures as part of God’s great poem. A reality we ignore to our great loss.

Here’s one of Mary Oliver’s shorter poems. I love the way it makes simple what isn’t always easy.

Musical Notation: 2

Everything is His.
The door, the door jamb.
The wood stacked near the door.
The leaves blown upon the path
that leads to the door.
The trees that are dropping their leaves
the wind that is tripping them this way and that way,
the clouds that are high above them,
the stars that are sleeping now beyond the clouds

and, simply said, all the rest.

When I open the door I am so sure so sure
all this will be there, and it is.
I look around.
I fill my arms with the firewood.
I turn and enter His house, and close His door.

Mary Oliver, from poems in Thirst, p. 38; published by Beacon Press (2006)

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 January 2019

Dancing in the face of partisan politics

Pray tell me
How do I dance
In the face of partisan politics
Straining to separate me
From other human beings

And how do I dance with freedom
In the face of threats
To undo me
Or you
Or us

Age and health
Weigh heavily on me
As does diminished ability to move
Freely on my own

And this dance floor seems too small
To hold my aching heart
Longing for more
Than I can ever accomplish

Or perhaps
The ‘more’ is already here

Behind and around me
Invisible
Doing what You intend it to do
Making its way unseen in
Bits and pieces I gladly gave away
And passed along so that
They don’t belong to me
Anymore

As health issues come creeping or crashing into my life, I feel like fighting back. Making sure I’m still out there, doing my thing. I feel the tug of wanting to make a difference.

Perhaps it’s time to rest, dream and even drift through each day. Grateful for living this long. Grateful for opportunities to connect with neighbors near and far.

It seems slow dancing is what’s called for. Listening to internal and external music. Connecting with family, neighbors and strangers. Reading. Listening. Praying for the next generation. And writing my heart out. Preparing for whatever is around the next corner.

Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2018

A Day! Help! Help! | Take 2

Emily Dickinson’s short poem came to mind this morning. I first commented on it in March 2017, after the 2016 election and January 2017 inauguration of Mr. Trump as POTUS.

Tomorrow we get to vote again, though not for another president. My comments follow in the form of a letter to Mr. Trump.

A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!
Your prayers, oh Passer by!
From such a common ball as this
Might date a Victory!
From marshallings as simple
The flags of nations swang.
Steady – my soul: What issues
Upon thine arrow hang!

c. 1858

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Dear Mr. Trump,

I am not one of your fans. I am, however, a believer in more than chance happenings.

First, a confession. For months, I’ve been captive to the anti-Trump approach to daily happenings. I didn’t think about you all the time. Nonetheless, following your election and inauguration, my days seemed governed by what you did and what I thought and felt about it. Usually it felt like going from one bad scene to an even worse scene.

Looking  back, I don’t regret thinking all that through, or writing about some of it. In fact, I rather enjoy going back to see my small trail of contributions to what’s been a national preoccupation and discussion. Trying to figure you out.

There isn’t, of course, any figuring that will balance things out nicely. Especially for those whose lives are in disarray thanks to your words and deeds. Plus the words and deeds of others you’ve enabled, if not unleashed.

And so I’ve moved on. I still believe each day contains the possibility of Victory, no matter how tomorrow’s midterm elections turn out. I also imagine Emily Dickinson’s “common ball” as our planet, which I would describe as this grand terrestrial ball. A dance, open to anyone who wants to accept the invitation. There’s only one hitch. Our Creator presides over this dance. Not any human leader, billionaire or organization.

So I’m taking dance lessons again. My neighbors and their pets are teaching me to lighten up. Women and men of color are teaching me to listen deeply to what’s happening. Children of all colors are teaching me to forget about how I look and how old I am. Friends of many years are helping me reconsider my dance partners. I’m tired of the same old rhetoric, the same old hopes for tomorrow, the same old anxiety about whether I’ll be asked to the dance.

I’m already in the dance! Stumbling along, sometimes gifted with a bit of insight, scraping together my courage, and showing up in the grand ballroom of life. You might like to try it yourself, if you dare.

From one voter among millions,
Elouise Renich Fraser

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 November 2018

white affirmative action

Think of it when you go to sleep at night
Think of it when you walk or drive to the polls
Think of it when you go to church on Sunday
Think of it when you walk freely to the store
Think of it early and often and examine yourself
White gentile woman man or child that you are

By whose decree was this white affirmation
Heaped upon me and those who like me
Had no choice in the color or pedigree of our skin
Yet are heralded welcomed and protected
As the keepers and the color of purity
Angels in the making if not god almighty

Baby steps.
We need baby steps.
We need leaders who don’t look like us
Who don’t mind if our grammar isn’t perfect
Leaders who know the lay of the land
Because they’ve been there and ache
To show and tell the look of life on the other side
The toll exacted by border walls projected willy-nilly
To enhance the purity of so-called whiteness
That never existed in the first place

Humans exist in the first place
And hopefully in the last place
But only if we tend to these tiny shoots
Struggling to breathe and find sustenance
In a stingy, greedy, heads in the sand
Make-believe-we’re-OK land of no return
For this we are called
Out of ourselves and into a great
Mixed company dying to live
Before it’s too late

Thoughts on the eve of our mid-term elections. Can we find our way through this wilderness? It won’t happen overnight or without skilled leaders. Leaders who know about life because they’re already living it from the inside out. Against all odds and upstream.

Here’s how I see it. As a ‘white’ (actually German-Swiss-French) woman who is a citizen of the USA, I benefit every day from affirmative action. I’m on the lookout for skilled women, men and children who already model ways to live in a society at war with itself, without giving up hope and without being naive.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2018

Unraveling

her life at loose ends
she scans the near horizon
searching for a thread
beyond sight and out of mind
stolen while she slept

While out walking this morning I saw my friend Rita and her lively little dog. I recalled the first time I ever had tea at Rita’s. She’d asked a childhood friend to join us. Both are in their 80s. They grew up together in Philadelphia and remained good friends over the years.

Within a few minutes I knew this bright, interesting woman had problems with short-term memory. Over and over I answered the same questions. She was fully aware of my presence, and genuinely interested in my responses–which she heard many times over.

Does she have Alzheimer’s Disease? I don’t know. I do know she’s now confined to her living quarters and has someone helping her out. I’ve also learned in the last month that another friend’s sister and mother died of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The poem could be about any of us, whether we carry Alzheimer genes or not. Nonetheless, I have to admit it’s on my mind more often than I’d like, and I scan every news article I see about the latest AD research.

Perhaps one day all these loose ends will be woven into the beautiful patchwork quilt of hope we’ve been looking for all these years.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 September 2018
Image found at movestrongkbs.com

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