Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Hope

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

Dealing with Apathy | Dear Mr. Trump

On August 1 I wrote the post below. It’s in the form of a letter to Mr. Trump.

Then I decided not to hit Publish. Why? Because I began hearing a small, nagging voice: It won’t make any difference anyway. Why bother?

So I didn’t trash it. I kept it, and looked at it yesterday. Still no joy in posting this. So I didn’t.

Yet if I’m not clear and open about what I’m experiencing as a citizen of the USA, I’ll completely lose my nerve. The unthinkable will merge into the thinkable even when it isn’t. Or worse, I’ll just give up and fall into that bottomless pit called Apathy.

I’m not one to let things go. Especially when they’re important to me. So I’m posting this for my sake. It’s also my way of standing with others still figuring out their own journeys through this alien landscape, uncertain what’s coming next.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, my hope is not now and will never be built upon Mr. Trump’s performance–past, present or future. Or on the performance of anyone else in any administration, national, public or local.

____

Dear Mr. Trump,

I see you’re distressed yet again about Robert Mueller’s ongoing, legally-authorized investigation. Yet again, you’re asking the Attorney General of the USA to halt Mueller’s probe.

I also observe that you don’t enjoy being an onlooker who is unhappy with the way someone else is doing his or her job. Perhaps you’re also afraid of what this might mean for you or someone close to you somewhere down in the road.

In any case, I respectfully remind you that every day we wake up, every American–whether she or he voted for you or not–must live with the reality of your administration.

Please demonstrate your trust for the man you hand-picked to be Attorney General of the USA, and let our justice system do its work without interference from the top.

Respectfully,

Elouise Renich Fraser
Citizen of the USA

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 August 2018 and 3 August 2018

gibbous moon rises

gibbous moon rises
veiled in pink sunset clouds
set against blue sky

It matters yet doesn’t ultimately matter what was in the news, what I wore when I went for an evening walk, the country and circumstances of my birth, the reason I voted the way I did, or whether anyone cares about any of this.

As the sun sets, the moon rises. It invites me to join it in a large place defined not by what I bring but by who I am. Part of God’s creation, one of God’s beloved daughters and sons. Capable of reflecting and receiving light in what sometimes seems impenetrable darkness.

Standing at my window I pray and trust that the large Presence I cannot see with my eyes will become an even larger Presence in my heart and in my voice. And that I will recognize the same Presence in my brothers and my sisters. No matter the country or circumstances of our birth, the reasons we voted the way we did, or who cares or doesn’t care about any of this.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 June 2018
Photo of lunar eclipse taken by Alan Dyer, found at Amazing Sky Photography
Inspiration for haiku found outside my window, looking at the evening sky 

Dust of the earth

This body
Like my heart
A house of Your creation
Stands ready to greet a stranger
Whose form and visage
is unexpected

Lost
Dust of the earth
Sorrowful yet not without hope
She stands
Waiting

I found this scrap of a poem in one of my old journals from two years ago. It makes more sense today than it did back then. In May 2016 the strangers were my broken heart and jaw, along with my face reflected in the mirror. A face I scarcely recognized.

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 23 this past week. Especially this line: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

I still believe the enemies are my enemies, not necessarily God’s enemies. And I still believe I’m invited to join the table with those who are my enemies, or seem enemy-like to me.

Nonetheless, last week I got thinking about aging, and the way these health and well-being strangers keep showing up at my front door. So I’ve reluctantly expanded ‘my enemies’ to include them.

This means I’m learning to receive them as strangers, and listen to what they have to say. Perhaps we can one day be friends. Or at least acquaintances?

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 May 2018
Photo found at islamforchristians.com

spring beauty

morning sun
bathes fir trees
heavy with new cones

bird pairs sing —
their broken records
stuck in a groove

I wrote these two weeks ago early in the morning, then prevailed upon D to take the photo at the top. It’s from our bathroom window, looking at what was once a baby Christmas tree planted along our property boundary. The unusually high number of new cones is visible in every variety of fir tree in and around our yard. Good news for the squirrels! They go crazy when it’s a bumper crop year.

Then there were and still are mating birds all over the place singing their loud songs–sometimes female and male birds call back and forth to each other, other times male birds belligerently announce and defend their territory. No need for an alarm clock these days.

I love this time of year! Hoping you’re enjoying whatever season is happening in your part of the globe.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 May 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, 27 April 2018

%d bloggers like this: