Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Loneliness

The Beautiful, Striped Sparrow | Mary Oliver

Here’s a thought-provoking poem from Mary Oliver about loneliness. My comments follow.

In the afternoons,
in the almost empty fields,
I hum the hymns
I used to sing

in church.
They could not tame me,
so they would not keep me,
alas,

and how that feels,
the weight of it,
I will not tell
any of you,

not ever.
Still, as they promised,
God, once he is in your heart,
is everywhere—

so even here
among the weeds
and the brisk trees.
How long does it take

to hum a hymn? Strolling
one or two acres
of the sweetness
of the world,

not counting
a lapse, now and again,
of sheer emptiness.
Once a deer

stood quietly at my side.
And sometimes the wind
has touched my cheek
like a spirit.

Am I lonely?
The beautiful, striped sparrow,
serenely, on the tallest weed in his kingdom,
also sings without words.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver
Thirst, pp.29-30
Published by Beacon Press

I don’t mind being alone. I do mind the loneliness that sometimes comes with this pandemic. Instead of “almost empty fields” to roam, I have a smallish neighborhood full of children, parents, and senior citizens. Quite wonderful, actually.

It’s a short walk from our house to temporarily quiet spaces. The soccer field and playground area behind the elementary school is almost deserted. As is the church parking lot and cemetery directly across the street.

Then there’s our small, beautiful village park full of large old trees. The little kid playground and big kid tennis courts have been closed for now. But the softball/soccer field is wide open. A few families are out with their children and/or dogs burning off energy. And best of all, the trees and shrubs are sending out new growth and bright blossoms.

I’ve not had a deer stand “quietly at my side.” Still, I’ve felt the wind and bits of rain on my face, and heard the music of robins, woodpeckers and Carolina wrens welcoming spring. All topped off by relatively quiet air space, with a small trickle of commercial flights passing over to land at the Philly airport.

Wishing you a not-so-lonely Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 April 2020
Photo of Baird’s Sparrow found at birdsoftheworld.org

My mother’s body

Time
and again
This is my body
broken

My mother’s body
haunts me
A living reminder

I stare through windows
wondering
how we traveled
so lonely
for so long

Misplaced
inadvertent flowers
bloom
without rhyme or reason
out of season
now out of time

Looking
into a mirror
I catch her
watching me
wondering

Lost birds
flutter on the ground
unable to spread
their wings and soar
together

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 January 2019
Painting by Natalya Zaytseva; found at ssatchairt.com

The Memory Unit

The Memory Unit gathers –

A motley congregation
faces the long, high pulpit and
double-locked entrance.
Weary attendants gather behind
the pulpit busy with paperwork
and a phone that never rings
for these lost sheep.

Women and men in varied
stages of present non-presence
watch and wait for what will not
arrive today or tomorrow.
In various stages and styles
of dress and distress they sit
on chairs or in wheelchairs or
lie strapped on trolleys to
avoid inconvenience or upset.
Some moan or shout while others
eerily silent stare and a few
bright-faced parishioners knowingly
greet everyone and no one passing by.

Silent or babbling, singing or shouting
repetitive statements and vociferous
objections to no one and everyone
in particular the congregation of
expectant supplicants searches
not for lost sheep or a shepherd
but for themselves and worlds
they can never re-enter even if
they come through the locked door
caring for and loving them as they are
if only for this passing moment.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 April 2018
Poem based on my memory of a visit several years ago to a Memory Unit in Philadelphia
Photo taken by Maja Daniels in a Memory Unit in France; found on npr.org

out of synch

Today I’m feeling out of synch. This morning I was out the door early for a haircut appointment, followed by a little grocery shopping. Then lunch at home, and now it’s almost mid-afternoon. This evening I’m planning to attend a service for my friend Margie who died last month.

Tired. That’s how I feel today. Weary. Also uncertain about how I fit into this world just now. Not simply because of recent tragedies and turns of political events, but because of something in me that hasn’t yet found a home.

Most of my life is back there somewhere. Some of it lost forever. Other parts tantalize me. I’d like to go back and reclaim some of them. Others I’m happy to leave in the dust.

A couple of nights ago I wrote these lines in my journal, addressing them to myself and our Creator:

I miss the feedback and rapport of the classroom and working on projects with colleagues. It feels as though I’m in a different universe. Cut off from people and events I used to enjoy. It’s difficult to know whether I’m on track or lost.

I want to feel and know I’m needed, that I’m more than yesterday’s action. I matter, even though I can’t show up the way I used to, or be as spontaneous about activities or plans. It seems everything I do must first be filtered through a host of limitations – a checklist of criteria that gets longer with each new twist or turn in the road.

I want to be needed, not just welcome to participate. Who or what needs me? I don’t know, beyond the obvious family and friends.

Please, help me either resolve this or live with it.

Retirement is wonderful. I love almost everything about it. Yet it has, in many ways, left me with a new kind of loneliness I hadn’t anticipated. The kind that won’t be resolved via extroverted social media platforms, fashionable outfits to enhance my good qualities, or painfully awkward attempts to be someone I am not.

The one solace I have is that loneliness is common. Especially in our over-bearing, over-achieving, over-fretting society. So, in a sense, I suppose I’m right in step when it comes to fashion.

Is loneliness the fashion and grim reality of this age? I’m not certain; yet I fear it’s the truth, from the highest levels of power to the lowest.

Thanks for reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 October 2017
Photo found at independent.co.uk
Daily Prompt: Fashionable

restless energy

restless energy churns
from here to nowhere
searching for answers
without clear questions

Loneliness has been a companion ever since I was a child. Most days it doesn’t come sneaking out of nowhere to grab me. Today was an exception.

Memories from my past haunted me, especially memories about my spiritual formation. Not because of what I did or didn’t do, but because of things done to me, whether knowingly or unknowingly. I felt old, lonely and unprepared for what might be coming in the future. And whether D would be there for me.

We’ve just returned from afternoon tea and conversation with our next-door neighbors. So right now I’ve put aside my memories and my restless search for clarity and reassurance. Instead, I’m going for a walk outside. In the company of trees, grass, birdsong, cicadas, dog-walking neighbors, and the setting sun.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 August 2017
Photo found on Pixabay.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Lurch

sequestered spaces

We retreat into sequestered spaces
somewhere on the boundary
of lived reality and death

Inexpressible loneliness
greets and enfolds us in grief
pierced raw by sorrows

Death of a child, a spouse, a friend, a stranger
Declining trust and good will
Specter of lost leaders and followers

Inexpressible anguish
stalks this land of promised opportunity
with freedom and justice for all

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 Aug 2017
Image found at chicagotonight.wttw.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Solitary

Chewing My Cud

~~~~~A tarine cow chewing the cud near the Habert de la Dame

Dear Friends,

Today’s Daily Prompt is ruminate.  You know—chewing the cud. Turning things over and over and over. Mashing them around. Trying to make digestible what might be indigestible. Spitting out what reminds me of liver and okra. Swallowing the rest and hoping the outcomes are good for me.

So what’s this post all about? Several things. Please note I need no sympathy. In fact, I abhor it. I’d rather have empathy or even your listening ear. You don’t have to like it, agree with it, think about it, try to solve it, or come back for more. If all you do is read with a listening ear, I’ll be deliriously grateful.

So let’s start with my health. It’s on my mind daily. Maybe that’s what happens in the golden years—things just sort of moosh together and feed on each other relentlessly.

The list gets longer: heart arrhythmia and heartbeat speed or lack thereof; non-diabetic hypoglycemia; jaw bone loss of memory and inability to function properly; kidneys showing signs of aging; on glaucoma watch with nothing to report lately; IBS ever with me and I with it; still allergic to chocolate; caffeine considered poison to my system; lactose and soy intolerant; those pesky little skin cancers that just seem to keep popping up; and whatever I forgot to mention or didn’t mention on purpose.

And yet.

I look around and am beyond grateful for this female body and the ability to care for it. I spend hours in the kitchen making sure the food train is ready to go, and cleaning up pots and pans. I have a lovely kitchen, enough food, water, cookbooks galore, and a pantry full of ingredients. Best of all, I have a kitchen dining area with a lovely view of our back yard, bird feeders, birds and bees, trees, shrubs, spring flowers, the sky, the occasional bunny rabbit, groundhogs, and did I mention squirrels or that stray cat?

Two days ago I was—and still am—sorrowful because another church friend died last week. Teared up all day. In church, out of church. Anxious about my health, given my age. Down in the dumps about the way this presidential election and outcomes have galvanized family, friends, neighbors and strangers against each other. I’m also lonely—feeling like Emily Dickinson’s poem from the inside out. Yet hungry for time alone, especially in the evening, and for music to sooth my spirit and bring on another wave of tears. Vulnerable and grateful.

And yet.

That very evening I had fallen apart. Out of control in the space of a heartbeat. Storming around the attic overwhelmed by messiness. We’re making great progress up there. Yet the messiness freaked me out. Not just my messes, but you-know-who’s messes. To say nothing about how I’ve been cleaning up (other peoples’) messes all my life and I’m sick and tired of it and I won’t take it anymore!

What’s going on? What if I tried something different next time? I don’t have answers. That’s why I’m writing about it. My way of ruminating. Out loud.

Thanks for listening, and not trying to solve my stuff. Empathy is also deeply appreciated.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 March 2017
Photo found at braemoor.co.uk

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Ruminate

It might be lonelier

emily-bp-blogspot-com-blue-peninsula

I see myself in this poem. And my mother. And other women I’ve known who seem to wear a mantel of sorrow, even when they’re happy. My comments follow.

It might be lonelier
Without the Loneliness –
I’m so accustomed to my Fate –
Perhaps the Other – Peace –

Would interrupt the Dark –
And crowd the little Room –
Too scant – by Cubits – to contain
The Sacrament – of Him –

I am not used to Hope –
It might intrude upon –
Its sweet parade – blaspheme the place –
Ordained to Suffering –

It might be easier
To fail – with Land in Sight –
Than gain – My Blue Peninsula –
To perish – of Delight –

c. 1862

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

Emily already knows Loneliness and perhaps wants something else. Yet she fears that giving it up will lead to even greater Loneliness. Her life might not have enough room for Peace, Hope or Delight—in addition to Loneliness.

Change of that magnitude would make too much noise, demand too much space. Intrude upon the Lonely, Dark existence she experiences in her crowded little Room. Or worse, she might lose the little everyday happiness and security she already has in her crowded little Room. I take this to be her life, a life of creative solitude and family duties.

In addition, Emily says her little Room might be too crowded for Him. Who is He? Perhaps a man or someone else who wants to be in her life? Or perhaps the One who offers her the Sacrament of Peace and Hope, with or without anyone else in her life? I don’t know.

It seems a sense of Fate hangs heavy over Emily’s life, taking up almost all the room or energy she has for human emotions of Delight. Yes, she may welcome relief from time to time, but the cost of giving up her Ordination to Suffering seems too heavy to bear.

Emily hasn’t renounced happiness. It still manages to creep in. Yet giving herself completely to Delight might annihilate her. She wouldn’t be able to count on predictability or control. Perhaps she wouldn’t be able to write as much. Perhaps she wouldn’t be safe from betrayal or disappointment. Her worst fears might be realized.

In the end, Emily would rather drown with land in sight, than arrive only to “perish – of Delight.”

This poem may not be gender-specific, yet in my experience a similar debate rages inside many women. Especially when the heavy hand of authority keeps reminding them of their Fate. That to which they were Ordained–duties and distractions that don’t allow space or time to exercise personal gifts and welcome Delight into their lives.

This is Women’s History Month. I celebrate women the world over who had a late start or haven’t yet found Delight, Hope and Peace in this world. If women seem complicated and unpredictable, maybe that’s because we’ve lived multiple lives for too long. Masking and denying our true selves to survive. Creatively. The way Emily survived.

I celebrate Emily Dickinson’s creativity. Her poetry speaks to me about courage and commitment to truth. Best of all, her enigmatic voice lives on, suggesting a different, slanted way to view the natural world and the dynamics of our inner and outer lives.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2017
Photo found at bloggingdickinson.blogspot.com

Faculty Wife | Part 15

1972 Oct Cowboys Blocks and Trucks

…Keeping the home fires burning. That’s my hat, not yours! October 1972

By summer 1972 D knew things might not work out for him at the Bible College. I wasn’t sure they would work for me, either. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

%d bloggers like this: