Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

What the world needs | Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman made things straightforward, simple and down to earth. My father did not. I was raised in a Christian culture (presided over by my father) that saw life outside our ‘safe’ space under attack by twin demons: complexity and danger. Especially if life outside made me come alive.

  • Dancing? No way! Definitely the first step toward raucous, immoral behavior.
  • Lipstick? No way! A sure sign of debauchery. (Until it suited my father to make it imperative.)
  • Dating unchurched and thus unreliable (might grope or rape me) males? No way! (Not that dating was high on my list.)

So here I am today. A supposedly grown-up white woman still figuring out how, at this age and under our current circumstances, to go and do what makes me come ALIVE!

All things  considered, I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while. However, reading and writing make me come alive. Along with music and poetry. Talking with my children and grandchildren. Stopping for a street-side chat with neighbors. Hearing from friends all over the world. Playing with Smudge.

Then there are lovely morning walks. I’m just back from one with D, seeing and hearing birds sing at will. No officious patrol cars tracking them down and locking them up for looking suspicious or disturbing the peace.

The end of the matter is this: I’m most alive when I’m an uncaged songbird! I want to spend my short life singing songs of truth, especially when I’m surrounded and it looks like the sky is falling.

These are trying times. It’s the 4th of July. I wish I could say Hurray for the USA! We’ve come a long way baby! Break out the champagne! Let the fire crackers fly through the air!

But I cannot. Why not? Because right now this contentious, at-risk world needs people who have come alive. Women, men and children willing to tell the truth about their lives regardless of the cost. Willing to listen long and hard to songs they’ve never heard before. Willing to look into the eyes of strangers, smile, and say “Good morning! Would you be willing to tell me about your life?”

Hoping you have a thoughtful 4th of July filled with songs and stories you’ve not heard before.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 July 2020
Image found at quoteswave.com

What ‘human rights’ don’t look like

Recently a friend sent me the following list. I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. It was compiled by Dr. Valerie Bryant, a Black therapist in Brooklyn, NY. In the list she names black citizens threatened or killed in recent years while engaging in the behaviors she names.

Think of Dr. Bryant’s list as a roll call clarifying the difference between living black or brown, and living white in the USA. It’s also an invitation to reflection about ourselves, and the meaning of human rights.

…As a white person when you go out in the street, you don’t have to think twice of being murdered by a police officer or citizen acting like a police officer.

Or as a white person,

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper).
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and
#AtatianaJefferson).
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and
#RenishaMcBride).
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
I can sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
I can go to church (#Charleston9).
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
I can run (#WalterScott).
I can breathe (#EricGarner).
I can live (#FreddieGray).
I can be arrested without the fear of being murdered. (#GeorgeFloyd)

***These are NOT human rights if only white people have them.*

With compassionate rage
Valerie Bryant, PhD
Fort Greene Bklyn 11205

How would my world change if I woke up with different colored skin than I now have? Can I remember how I was taught to think or talk about skin color?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2020
Image found at stlpublicradio.com

It’s been an age

Tree

This is one of my favorite poems, at least as true today as it was when I posted it in November 2014. Today has been filled with a mixture of happiness and contentment, along with a lurking feeling that we’re all at sea, and the ship of state is stressed.

How do you see yourself and others today? I hope you’ll give yourself a great big smile before the day is done. Then give away at least one more smile. All we can count on is the present.

It’s been an age since I first met you—
You there, looking back at me
Three score years plus eleven to be exact
You haven’t changed a bit, they say
You and I know better
Sometimes I can’t believe it’s you
I hardly know you
Could we start over do you think?
Would it be as much fun?

I don’t know.
Was it fun for you?
Are you as puzzled as I am?
I seem to have more questions than answers today
Where and when did we find each other?
We seem to get along
But then we always did even when we didn’t
So who am I to say?

All I know is looking back at me
Wondering where the time has flown
And who this beautiful woman is
Smiling at me through the mirror

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 November 2014, reposted 18 June 2020
Photo Credit:  DAFraser, December 2012
Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon

Resisting Mr. Trump


Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama (1965)

What is the content of my character? The question haunts me. I’m in the golden to fading-golden years of my life. Until early this year, all my ducks (as many as I could herd) seemed to be lining up in a neat row, with plans and documents in fairly good order.

The appearance of Mr. Trump on the overtly political stage distressed me in 2016. Today it horrifies me that he’s still there.

This isn’t about who wins the next election. It isn’t even about Covid-19. It’s about resistance and the content of our character.

Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to lose sleep over the content of his character.

I wonder about myself.
Do I understand true resistance?
And what is the content of my character right now?

For decades I minimized the circumstances of my childhood. I thought that if I got on with my life as an adult, the baggage of the past would gradually fade away.

That didn’t happen. It never does. I had to resist openly. I had to open my mouth, and say what I needed to say to the people who most needed to hear from me–my parents. Which I did on the eve of my 50th birthday.

I grew up under the strict, sometimes harsh tutelage of a father who contantly reminded me that he was in control, and I was not. But power is never a sign of ‘rightness’ or even (as in my ordained father’s case) ‘righteousness.’

When I look back at my internal resistance to my father’s heavy-handed methods of control, I wonder how I did it. Stubborn? Yes. I was stubborn–though not in the way my father thought I was.

Instead, I learned to embody stubborn resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. Sometimes it worked to my advantage. Overall, however, it did not. My body paid a high price.

It would not be fair or true to say my father and Mr. Trump were cut from the same cloth. Still, there are obvious overlaps, including unhealthy narcissism. The kind that tries to eradicate healthy narcissism in others.

It doesn’t matter whether Mr. Trump wins the next election or not. He has already wreaked havoc here in the USA and abroad. It won’t do for me to hold my nose and wait for November.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 May 2020
Photo of 1965 March from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama found at americanyawp.com

Love Sorrow | Mary Oliver

This poem from Mary Oliver struck a chord in me. Partly due to the current pandemic, with its waves of sorrow. But also because of my personal history. My comments follow.

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Red Bird, a collection of poems
“Love Sorrow” is on p. 64

Dear Mary,

Your poem about loving sorrow brought back memories of my childhood and adult life. Especially things taken or withheld from me before I understood they were mine. Plus bits and pieces I lost or gave away throughout my life.

Sorrow, especially if it showed, was an indulgence I needed to give up. Or get over. What’s done is done. It won’t do to make my friends uneasy, or get into trouble with adults who wanted me to be someone else. I learned early to swallow or deny sorrow. Especially in public.

I think you would be horrified though not surprised at the world as it is today. We’re drowning in sorrow and anger, trying to figure out how this tsunami pandemic caught us so unprepared for death and dying, as well as living mindfully.

I don’t want to drown. I want to live and grow, especially now as time is running out.

Thank you for showing me how to befriend my sorrow. How to welcome her into my life, and learn to live with her as the child she is. And how to watch her begin to relax and grow into a strangely wonderful companion.

With gratitude and admiration,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 May 2020
Image found at 123rf.com

Are you willing to be condemned? | Lent, Holy Week and Life

I learned condemnation from my father. When I was very young I heard and felt it in his voice and punishments. Or was it the day I was born female? I wasn’t the son my father hoped for.

If only you would keep your mouth shut and play the piano more often! I really like it when you play the piano. It makes everybody happy and proud. And don’t forget to listen to the men. I like that, too!

No, sweetheart, you don’t need to read all those books. Though we’re proud when you make the honor roll. Still, I don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for at a big university.

You want to be what???? A theologian? A professor? But you’re married aren’t you? Well….if your husband approves of it, who am I to stand in your way?

How dare you cut your parents off until you’re willing to talk with us again? You need to wake up and remember who you are! You were always rebellious and angry. Too bad you couldn’t be more like your sisters.

Am I willing to be condemned? It’s the question I’ve lived with for years. Not because I live in the past, but because I’m always in the present.

Condemnation can arrive cloaked as something else: being overlooked, underestimated, disbelieved, targeted for harassment.

So…For what am I willing to be condemned? For being the woman I am, fully accepted and loved by our Creator. Not always right; not always wrong. Always one of our Creator’s beloved daughters.

In the meantime, my goal is to keep True North in view, and put one foot, one word, one poem, one truth in front of another.

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2020
Image found at kissclipart.com

Beneath trees of my childhood | Photos

Beneath trees
of my childhood
memories flood
my eyes with
dreams and sorrows
packed within
the space of one life
gazing at tamed
and untamed beauty
underestimated
until this moment
of imminent loss

Below are photos of old trees, including palmettos and water oaks, plus the river in front of the house my family lived in during the 1950s. Even though years have passed, and the old house has been turned into an elegant piece of real estate, the trees we played under are still standing. The final photo is an unexpected gift from one of our visits—a mama carrying her two opossum babies.

I grew up under these trees every day from age 7 l/2 to 13. The Spanish moss is probably the same moss, or at least its prolific offspring.

I’ve included one photo from 1996, the year Sister #3, Diane, came to Savannah for a last visit. She had learned weeks earlier that she had ALS. At her request, we drove out to the old Montgomery house for her last visit, this time in mid-winter, at low tide.

Nature and old photos have a way of cleansing us. Cherish your old photos if you still have them. And remember that someday you, too will be cherished in old photos.

Happy Monday, and thanks for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2020
Photos taken near Savannah, Georgia, by DAFraser in 1996 (Diane), and 2010, following my father’s memorial service

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat | Edward Lear

Time for a mid-week break and a bit of nostalgia! Were you treated to this poem when you were a child? My father used to recite it from his phenomenal memory. Of course the entire poem is non-sense, given the history of cats and birds! But then again, we can always dream, can’t we? See below for the text.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
By Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

I think I’ll read this to Smudge tonight!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 March 2020
Video found on YouTube

Uneasy in my own skin

Uneasy in my own skin
Now turning on me
If not one thing
Then it’s another

I love my dermatologist
Except when the phone rings
and the voracious analysts
want one more piece

of my disappearing body
bit by bit they cut and scrape
burn and stitch so often
I can’t remember when

I was once a whole woman
Or was it a tiny little girl
Fresh from the oven
Ready for sacrifice

To the sun goddesses
And my tan is better than
Your tan even if it isn’t
At least I didn’t blister!

I think the poem says it all. Yesterday afternoon I got a call back from my wonderful dermatologist. Two bits of my flesh passed with flying colors. They’re not sure about the third. So yes, they want more. Not what I wanted to hear.

Still, here’s to outstanding dermatologists who don’t always get to deliver good news. Without them, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. Not because of nips and tucks, but because of many small and a few larger patches of skin they recognized as problematic.

So…..have you been putting off a visit to your dermatologist?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 March 2020
Image found at publicdomainpictures.net
Sunbathers at Tybee Island Beach near Savannah, Georgia

yesterday’s dreams

captured by yesterday’s dreams
reflected in melodious ripples of
water, trees and sky dancing
just beyond our reach
we peer beneath the surface
into shifting mirrors of time and space
overflowing with dreams and promises
each small gem waiting impatiently
to catch the sun and explode into life

I love the haunting feeling of the top photo, and the way it puts us in proper perspective. It’s April 2006. We’re at Longwood Gardens with our twin granddaughters, just below the eye of water (see below). Trees, water, grassy lawns and blossoming shrubs are welcoming the best part of Spring, accompanied by the sound of cascading water in the background.

Since 2006, our lives have taken paths we never anticipated, and sometimes didn’t want. Nonetheless, speaking for myself, it’s been a great adventure. The kind I hope and pray our granddaughters and grandson have as well.

Thanks for visiting today!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 February 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, April 2006 

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