Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Mary Oliver


A passage from one of Mary Oliver’s poems came to mind Wednesday evening as I wrote in my journal. On Tuesday we heard our two granddaughters speak to gathered friends and family for half an hour each. They talked about their lives, their dreams, and their experiences in school and on trips here and abroad. Each is sensitive, observant, articulate, and determined to follow her dreams.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal. The passage from Mary Oliver’s poem follows.

It’s all so bittersweet – watching our children and grandchildren grow up – time taken from my life as their lives expand outward – and mine exhales, drawing energy inward – already dying. Maybe becoming elderly is about becoming expendable – moving over or moving on to make room for the next generations.

Mary Oliver says it well – most of our ‘lives’ we’re not even here – the great before and the ageless after of a flash in the darkness.

Tonight I’m weary, and my heart is letting me know it’s running out of steam. Yes, it’s late in the day. It’s also late in my life. Teach me to number my days. To love life, and relinquish what I can no longer carry.

I wonder how my highly sensitive self is figuring into my health as I age? I feel more reflective, and content to do nothing in particular except feel my feelings and rest my body and mind.

It was difficult to watch one granddaughter’s highly sensitive self yesterday as she spoke. I wanted to hug her and tell her how wonderful it is to have this awkward gift.

Here are the closing stanzas from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine.” She’s urging us to pause and Look! Our time on this earth is short. Pay attention Now! to the hummingbird, the roses, the lilies floating in the black ponds….

Look! for most of the world
is waiting
or remembering—
most of the world is time

when we’re not here,
not born yet, or died—
a slow fire
under the earth with all

our dumb wild blind cousins
who also
can’t even remember anymore
their own happiness—

Look! and then we will be
like the pale cool
stones, that last almost

© Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. One, pp 56-57
Published by Beacon Press (1992)

Tomorrow is commencement day. I’m getting ready by chilling out, breathing deeply, and taking in this beautiful weather before it disappears.

Happy Friday, and thanks for visiting!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 June 2019
Photo found at

the long walk home

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
Autumn Landscape at Dusk, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh found at
Daily Prompt: Dubious

It doesn’t have to be the blue iris

It’s the end of a busy week, and we’re hoping to visit Longwood Gardens tomorrow (yay!). One thing that helped me stay focused this week was Mary Oliver’s poem below. My comments follow.


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, Beacon Press 2006

Mary Oliver invites me to attend to small things right before my eyes, often at my feet. Pay attention. So much attention that I can’t stop thinking about it/them.

One small thing caught my attention this past week. At first I didn’t see any connections. Or hear any voices speaking into my silence. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

‘It’ is a small, striped-tail chipmunk (ground squirrel) that regularly sits on a cement block wall just along the edge of our backyard driveway. He or she? I don’t know. I do know it’s often sitting or lying on that wall in just the same spot. And has been since the wall was completed several years ago.

Sometimes it runs down the wall and jumps into our pile of yard trimmings, looking for food. When the weather is chilly, it stretches out on top of its favorite cement block and soaks in the sun. Other times it sits there alert, watching for possible intruders.

I think it has a nest inside one of the cement blocks—on the unfinished back side of the wall. Sometimes when I walk by on the way to the garage it quickly races into one of the cement blocks.

Several kinds of hawks frequent our area. I’ve watched them swoop down into our back yard to surprise a large gray squirrel, a slow sparrow or a dove. I’ve also heard our small chipmunk squawking out the alarm, joined by other small backyard creatures. Sometimes the hawks have their way.

We live in unsettled times. It takes determination to focus on simple things that inhabit our lives. Especially when there are hawks out there with their beady eyes scanning the ground for juicy tidbits.

Mary Oliver’s poem invites me to pay attention to the chipmunk. To hear our Creator’s voice speaking through the simple things of life. Not giving up, but staying alert, living each day simply and fully. Which can be a way of saying thank you. Without fancy gestures or heavy words laden with heavy thoughts. This isn’t a contest.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2017
Photo found at Pinterest

Caught in a near nightmare

This morning I woke up feeling strangely empty. And weeping. Partly because of a near-nightmare and partly because we’re living, it seems, in a near-nightmare.

In the dream, I’m alone in a small room, just getting ready to exit. I’ve decided this small room isn’t going to work for me. Suddenly a man I don’t know and have never seen before walks into the room. He isn’t impressive in stature or looks, yet I know in my gut that he’s potentially bad news. He immediately flops down on the single bed near the door.

As I walk toward the door to exit, he reaches out and grabs my hand. His face clouds over with contempt and a sneer. I know I’m done for if I don’t take charge. I feel small and defenseless. Caught in a nightmare not of my making. I feel his grip tightening on my hand.

I wake up not knowing what to say or do next.

The man’s eyes, the sneer on his face, and the totally invasive nature of his presence and behavior communicated his firm belief that I was totally irrelevant. In his eyes my life mattered not a whit.

It’s sometimes difficult these days, especially since I’m on the older end of the age spectrum, to maintain a sense of relevance. But this was bigger than that. It was about the invader’s power and willingness to exercise it no matter who I might have been. Though I’ll admit it didn’t help to be female.

This tired old world is in a season of growing visible and present chaos. The kind this world has seen before, though not with so many growing warehouses of nuclear arms and an over-supply of trigger-happy leaders ready to prove their supposed virility. Ordinary people seem to have become irrelevant. Except as props on a political stage.

I don’t fixate on this every day. Nonetheless, it’s always in the air begging for my addictive attention. If I remain fixated, I’m a goner, dead or alive.

Instead of playing along with the ‘dream’ man’s agenda for me, I relax, ignore his eyes and disgusting speech, and pray out loud and in a strong voice these challenging words from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Six Recognitions of the Lord.”

Oh feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
The fragrance of the fields and the
Freshness of the oceans which you have
Made, and help me to hear and to hold
In all dearness those exacting and wonderful
Words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
Follow me.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, stanza 5 from “Six Recognitions of the Lord”
Beacon Press 2006

Which is my prayer for all of you as well. No matter what comes next.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 September 2017
Image found at

Daily Prompt: Irrelevant

Something about prayer….

My history with prayer is all over the map. I’ve probably heard more prayers than I’ve heard sermons. Too many to count. On the other hand, I’ve always struggled with prayer. Here are two posts talking about my childhood struggles with prayer: here and here.

Last year a friend gave me a slim volume of poems by Mary Oliver, a winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The volume I’m reading is Thirst.

What caught my eye this week was the first stanza of a longer poem titled “Six Recognitions of the Lord.” I’m still taking in the first stanza.

I know a lot of fancy words.
I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
Then I pray.

When I read these simple words, I feel lighter. I grew up hearing and trying to replicate, in my way, prayers that would be polite and proper. Yes, I spoke from my heart no matter when I prayed. Yet I also felt unbearably self-conscious about my prayers, especially about the words I used.

It didn’t matter whether I was praying privately or publicly, I feared my words wouldn’t live up to what God expected to hear from me. Or that they would be used by others to judge my spiritual formation.

Looking back, I know my family upbringing contributed to some of this. Whether by design or not, my prayers to God felt like baring my soul to whomever was listening. I feared someone was grading, judging or scrutinizing me. Would I pass the test?

Mary Oliver’s words are to the point and liberating. They’re also primarily about personal prayer, not public prayer. Though they may apply there as well.

The best analogy I can think of would be a child talking to a trusted parent or caregiver. Freely, without shame or hiding. With no need to impress anyone. Not calculating or careful about choice of words or what the other person might think about what I’m saying.

God just wants me to show up, talk and listen. Listen and talk. Using my own words. No matter how I feel today about God or myself.

First, Mary Oliver invites me to tear all fancy words from my heart and my tongue.

Praying your Sabbath is filled with childlike joy and delight.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 July 2017
Artwork found on Google at

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