Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Hope

the long walk home, 3 years later

I first posted this in August 2017. Mr. Trump had been in office for less than a year. Now he’s up for re-election, and today’s world is far removed from anything that feels like home. Are we going to make it from here to there? And what will happen to us along the way?

*****

I wonder—
Do breathless trees
dusky skies
and lengthening shadows
remember what they see
beneath fading twilight
swathed in heavy garments
unsure of her destination

Is this a woman? I think so. She seems to be taking the long walk home. Which may or may not be that dark cottage hovering in the background, watching as she makes her way.

Is she alone? I think not. The trees, skies and passing shadows reveal more than what’s happening on the ground or in the background. If this world is God’s poem (thank you, Mary Oliver), we have reason to hope. Not because of the play of light in the trees, on the ground or in the background, but because of the Light that shines even in our darkest hours.

Sometimes, perhaps always, we must leave home to find our true home. Or better, to be found by God’s everyday angels in this world that belongs not to us, but to God.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2017, reposted 30 September 2020
Autumn Landscape at Dusk, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh found at Wikiart.com

What’s on your menu today?

What will become of us
cooped up in our small islands
of cautionary restrictions?

Do we have what it takes
to get through the next six weeks
much less the next four years?

Despair is a cruel partner
easily allowed through the front door
and welcomed at the table

Sadly, today’s menu isn’t great —
Warmed up soup thickened
with yesterday’s moldy bread

Gagging is in order —
Precursor to starved hearts
sour innuendos and warmed-over lies

The perfect ending
to a less than perfect storm
of neglect, pride and presumptive prejudice

All coming our way
whether we ordered it
or not

This is a bit of what creeps around the edges of my mind these days. I know and believe the Judge of All the Earth will do right. I also know The Supreme Court of the United States is not now and will never be the Judge of All the Earth. Or even of the USA.

Nonetheless, prospects for our shared future aren’t looking good. We’ve lost our way, or never found it.

We are not now and have never been a White Nation. We’re a nation founded by immigrants who came in and, by whatever means possible, took over what didn’t properly belong to them or to us.

There have always been clear, humane alternatives. Thankfully, there are still women, men and children who care about and do the right things. Small reminders that it isn’t over yet, and that the Judge of All the Earth will have the final say.

I think I’ll throw out that warmed-over gruel, and start over from scratch. Good scratch!

How about you? How are you dealing with today’s imperfect storm?
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 September 2020
Cartoon found at npr.org

Are you a pioneer?

Starting from scratch
And working her butt off
Dreaming of something
From ashes or nothing at all
She listens and suggests

From behind
From the back row
Occasionally from the podium
Often without a map
Or a mentor

Doing what needs to be done
Bringing people together
Focusing on the end game
Encouraging without pretending
All is well when it is not

Searching endlessly
For ways around roadblocks
Listening calmly to contrarians
Then opting for creativity
Rather than neat outlines

Taking risks small and large
Living with consequences
Finding a way forward
Through next steps
All this and more

Who is this woman?
Do I recognize her?
Try looking in the mirror.

Several days ago a friend of many years challenged me to do two things.

  • First, read a letter I received in the 1960s. It was from Erwin N. Griswold, former Dean of Harvard Law School. He left to serve as Solicitor General of the USA under President Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Griswold sent the letter on the occasion of my retiring as a secretary in the Dean’s Office. He couldn’t be there for the party. I still weep when I read it. You can read it here.
  • Second, make a list of all the ways I’ve been a pioneer. I was flabbergasted. I’ve sometimes thought of myself as ‘the first’ this or that. I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer. Yet, as my friend pointed out, I’ve been in a wilderness often, which is precisely where the food is.

Yesterday I spent all morning working on the meaning of ‘pioneer’ and making a list. Four things are clear to me today.

  1. I was and still am a pioneer. Not just in my family, but in churches, in classrooms, in positions of leadership, and in my volunteer work with Dawn’s Place.
  2. Ever since I was born I’ve gone against the flow, internally if not externally.
  3. A recent serendipitous encounter with a Black woman in Georgia is important, not just ‘happenstance.’
  4. This is what I’m to focus on in this last part of my life. Not being a pioneer, but doing what I can to support the next generation of pioneers.

How do you think about yourself? Are you a pioneer? The short clip at the top is outstanding. Especially if you aren’t sure what a pioneer looks like.

Happy Tuesday, and a huge Thank You for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 September 2020
Video found on YouTube

This season of lament

I’m frozen
Cut off from reality
Not sure where I am
Or where I’m going
Deep sadness wells up
Ancient dikes breach
Cracks in dishonest walls
That tried to contain a world
Held together by lies and
Decay deliberate and brutal
Now breaking through
Elephant-size breaches
Lying before me in shambles
Buried by an unrelenting
Avalanche of disinformation
Grinding us down to
Our lowest common
Denominator

The odds aren’t on our side. Especially if we rely on our limited understanding. Which is all we have on any day of the week.

There is no Top Genius of this world. No Strong Man or Strong Woman of this world who knows or understands the past, present and future with utmost clarity. All we have is what’s left of what we received the moment we were born, and what we’ve been given or taken. For good and for ill.

So here I am with you, in a season of Lament. Without a clue whether we’ll be spared the consequences of actions never taken, taken too quickly, or taken in spite.

Am I without hope? Not unless I try to carry on with life or business as usual. So yes, I’m muddling through with everyone else. Praying, and watching for moments of grace and unexpected connections. Small signs that our Creator is still at work.

Praying your day contains some of those small signs.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

Governance by and for the people?

I’m sitting here
Wondering
How long
We have until
The end of governance
By and for the people
As we’ve never known it?

How long until
The end of faking it
As though we were one nation
On the streets
In the pubs
Or on the beaches
To which many
Seem wedded?

Then again,
Perhaps I’m wondering
About the wrong things
Asking myself
The wrong questions

How about this instead?

How long do we have
Until the last gasp
Of looking the other way
In nearly invisible glances
Drips end-stage poison
Into our veins
Insuring apathy forever
And the death of desire
For a more perfect
Union?

Confession: I didn’t watch Mr. Trump’s RNC “convention.” I have, however, paid attention–though not with much enthusiasm, and in small pieces.

I’m struck by how quickly our country has fallen under the spell of this man whose speech and behavior have crossed the line on innumerable occasions. It doesn’t matter whether we’re Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. Where has all our mojo gone?

Apathy is a silent poison. Strengthened every time we look the other way, or get mesmerized with The Show. Entertained even if horrified, outraged or fill in the blank. Addicted comes to mind.

Every day I wonder how much energy I’m using up in relation to Mr. Trump. Especially when I need my best energy for staying on course. Doing what I can to promote and support a more perfect union. Not for some, but for all of us–citizens, immigrants and refugees alike.

Thanks for reading, visiting, and doing what you can to promote and support “a more perfect union.”

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 August 2020
Image found at slideplayer.com

A million distractions

A million distractions
rise daily from fertile ground
I close my eyes
trying to concentrate on Now

Now laughs at me
wonders whether I’m alive

Focus is for the birds
not for live human beings
swept up and along in
warped boats struggling
to stay afloat long enough
to be appreciated if not loved

The crowd roars its approval
begs for more showers of poison
from tongues wed to never-never land
coming your way today
unless you’d rather be
a bird

Just a few thoughts that reflect my desire to be over and done with the 2020 Election for our next POTUS. Why? Because  we have unfinished business. It isn’t about one thing. It’s about our entire history as a nation. We’re in a national ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment, invited to light a candle deep inside the hidden yet not-so-hidden history of this nation. Put another way, we’re invited yet again to stop walking over our history in Trance mode.

So yes, today I’d rather be a bird! Focused on what matters most.

This morning a couple of cardinals visited our recently-hung bird feeder. Clearly focused on food! Hoping this day offers food for our souls, and that we’re alert enough to accept it.

Happy Tuesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 August 2020
Photo found at kaytee.com

By hook or by crook

No river runs through it
No sounds of mercy or grace
Pierce neglect and screaming injustice
Writ deep and wide through the heart
Of God bless America

Look the other way my children
Fence it in and hold your tongues
There is no sweet by and by
When the clock strikes twelve
And one more soul is taken

Now open your textbooks and read
With me the unbeatable story of
America’s Great Success
Betrayal heaped on betrayal
By hook or by crook

No, I haven’t given up hope. However, unless I examine the sad and sorry facts of our history with slavery, so-called post-slavery, lynching, and mass incarceration, I won’t get it. Ever.

Even though I’d rather live in my supposedly safe small world, I can’t. It doesn’t help when I avoid hard data. Especially the kind that shows the systemic costs of our nation’s failed approach to slavery and its perpetually reinvented substitutes.

We NEVER got rid of slavery. We just changed the way we thought about it–especially the costs of being black or brown in the USA. Worse, if we have white skin we might even get away with not thinking about it at all. Not my problem?

For the last two weeks I’ve been working in An American Lament about Slavery and so-called ‘Post-Slavery’ in the USA. Not fun. Depressing sometimes. Even tempting me to despair. But facts are facts, especially when they’re in my face.

Check out the 2010 graph at the top. Right now we’re in the midst of a ten-year census count. I wonder how the 2010 chart at the top will change?

Praying for courage to do what I’m able to do, one day at a time. Especially when it comes to changing my well-worn ways of coping in a nation built on too many lies.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2022
Graphic image found at prisonpolicy.org

Happy Happy Happy! | Longwood Meadow Photos

One of my favorite visits to Longwood Gardens. Enjoy!

This afternoon (August 2017) I’m happy and relieved. D and I took off right after breakfast to drive to Longwood Gardens. The weather was picture perfect.

Why so happy? Because this was my first attempt at (slow!) hiking in the meadow since before I broke my jaw and lost all my energy. I was hesitant about doing it, but decided I’d never know until I tried. Here’s a lightning quick look.

Butterflies, bees and dragonflies were out in droves
on this side of the meadow.
We walked to the top, sat in the shade a bit,
then returned and exited via the forest path.


Next we walked over to the café for a little lunch. I had a mildly spicy vegetarian chili and a cup of fresh fruit. D settled for a turkey sandwich. Then we walked through part of the conservatory, did a short visit to the flower walk, and headed home.

Good health news: Yesterday I saw my Lucy (pacemaker) cardiologist and his wonderful assistant who makes sure Lucy is working properly. She’s doing an outstanding job, I’m happy to say!

I’m eager to try a few more external activities, in addition to daily walks here in our neighborhood. No big social events, just lovely strolls outside that let nature do its work renewing me for whatever comes next.

Cheers!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 August 2017; reposted 20 August 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, 9 August 2017, Longwood Gardens Meadow

Betrayal

This week a study guide in An American Lament made painfully clear how much I don’t remember. Thanks to Rev. Darryl Ford for pulling key data together. I’ve outlined major turning points below, with a brief comment (mine) at the end regarding churches.

April 9, 1865, Close of the Civil War. U.S. Congress takes steps to level the scales of racial injustice.
1866, Fourteenth Amendment passed – full citizenship for slaves
1869, Fifteenth Amendment passed – racial discrimination in voting banned (men only)
1870 to 1875, Reconstruction policies passed between 1870 and 1875, protecting legal rights of African Americans: voting, holding office, serving on juries, receiving equal protection; plus Federal troops ready to send South to enforce these laws and protect African Americans from harassment at voting booths by white supremacist groups

Early results encouraging, especially in southern states with larger African American populations.

1876, Presidential election subverted. The Hayes Compromise of 1877 (informal): federal troops sent to southern states (to enforce new freedoms for African Americans) will be removed in return for electoral votes needed by Rutherford B. Hayes. See political cartoon above.

1877, Reconstruction era buried; Jim Crow era begins, putting ex-slaves at the mercy of former masters. Laws regarding equality were now seen as absurd or un-Christian.
1883, The Supreme Court agreed, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was deemed unconstitutional.
• No further civil rights legislation was signed until 1957.

Jim Crow era
• Discriminatory laws passed for every area of life including towns and spaces in which black people were not allowed to live.
• Segregation took over every area of life – prisons, hospitals, schools, hospitals, orphanages; textbooks used in schools; books for black students stored apart from books for white students; two Bibles in the Atlanta courts—one for black witnesses; one for white witnesses

Where were American churches? Largely silent and complicit, too often delivering sermons supporting segregation.

Where are American churches today? Too often defined by identity politics, or by the importance of being ‘good people’

Being racist isn’t only about burning crosses or participating in lynchings. It’s also about closeting oneself as an individual, reducing the problem to “bad actors” seen in the news. Or desiring political favors/power more than integrity.

By looking the other way, or offering heartfelt exhortations about being good and generous individuals, we muddy the water. We fail to look into the mirror and acknowledge that we, too, are part of what’s still wrong in the USA. Put another way, we turn this social problem into a personal issue regarding individual choices, rather than seeing it for the centuries-long systemic issue it has been from the beginning.

Thanks for visiting, reading, and doing what you can where you are.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 August 2020
Political cartoon found at en.wikipedia.org

I’ve been weakened by the walls I’ve built | James DePreist

DePreist’s star along Portland, Oregon’s Main Street Walk of Stars

James DePreist is on my mind again, thanks to a note from a long-time friend. DePreist was a world-renowned orchestra conductor, a survivor of polio contracted while conducting the Bangkok Symphony, and a nephew of his world-renowned Aunt Marian Anderson. He was born in Philadelphia in 1936.

DePreist died in 2013. You can read about his life in The New York Times obituary or on Wikipedia. At the time of his death, he had been conductor of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon since 1980.  He had also written two volumes of poetry in his own free style.

Of all his poems, this one has challenged me most. Not just in the past, but today. Given our current situation regarding Black Lives, and Covid-19, it resonates loudly. A timely invitation to examine walls I’ve built, and deal with questions now “breeching my barricades.”

I’ve been weakened by the walls I’ve built,
robbed
of strength-drenched testing,
protected into an unprepared defense
of self.
Failing in my futile fortress to see
contentment’s numbing trap
I
answerless
must battle the questions now breeching
my barricades.

Poem written by James DePreist
©1986 and published by University of Portland Press in This Precipice Garden, p. 6

This is where I find myself today. Answerless. Not so much for my childhood upbringing in Georgia, but for my adult years when I thought I knew better.

While it’s true we never know how much good we’ve done, it’s also true we never know how much pain or damage we’ve inflicted. And then there’s always the question about now. What now? What next? How must I change, what will it cost, and what will I gain?

Thanks, as always, for visiting and reading. I pray you’re finding ways to deal with questions now breeching your barricades.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 August 2020
Image found at en.wickipedia.org

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