Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: my neighborhood

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

What I’m FOR today

There’s so much going so wrong today that I decided to make a roll call of what I’m FOR on this remarkable day. Remarkable because I lived to witness it! Including, in my past, this river and dock-life when I was growing up. Plus at least the following other items for which I’m grateful:

  • this beautiful world in places touched by human tragedy
  • family members more distant in miles than ever, yet closer to my heart
  • churches standing up to tough challenges without capitulating to visions of grandeur, glory or isolation
  • real places that offered me refuge and peace when I needed solitude and reassurance that my life matters
  • our son who turns 50 today and reminds me why I risked everything with my parents on the eve of my 50th birthday
  • our daughter who lives on the other side of the USA yet is present to me in ways I was never present to my mother
  • the Carolina Wren, Chickadees and Cardinals singing and chirping, plus the small ground squirrel who sits on our back yard wall surveying his spacious kingdom
  • courageous women, men and children who speak out and work for a better world for all of us
  • my neighbors: Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Protestant, or Nothing at All who greet me, invite me into conversation, groan and smile with me, and offer me tea
  • my dear husband who I sometimes thought might be the wrong man for me, yet has become precious beyond words
  • my local church with its challenging mix of cultures, ethnicity, political persuasions, youth and decrepitude
  • days of such unexpected delight that I don’t want them to end, yet can let go because I love my water-bed and the partner swimming in it with me
  • my body and the way it’s leading me deeper into and out of myself in these last days of summer 2018.

And of course, I’m for you, my wonderful readers–an invisible family loosely held together somewhere out there beyond our control.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2018
Photo found at pinterest; Skidaway River, Isle of Hope near Savannah, GA

It’s early Friday morning

It’s early Friday morning. Rain arrived
late yesterday evening breaking a short
oppressive heat wave. I have one hour
for a walk outside before the rain returns.

Morning smoothie safely tucked away,
I put on my rain gear and open the back door.
The rush of dense humid air assaults my lungs,
my face, and any part of my skin not covered.

It’s mid-summer. No rush of passing traffic
greets me as I turn left from our driveway.
No sidewalk here. Just a curb
and the sound of occasional tires
squishing over dark, damp pavement.

Quickly I turn left down a narrow side street
lined with neighborhood houses,
away from the flow of traffic to and from
wherever people go at this time of day
in midsummer.

I hear the sound of my shoes on wet pavement,
a few muffled voices inside a house or two,
and birdsong filling the air. Invisible waves of
of warm damp air magnify the chorus of bird calls
surrounding me from branches and treetops.

At the end of this short street I turn left
again headed toward more open spaces.
I’m now on a sidewalk, next to the grammar
school playing field on my right, and a church yard
just beyond. A white spire and white headstones
gleam beneath towering trees.

Turning right, between the school yard and
the church yard, I walk beneath trees still
filled with birdsong. Leftover rain and dew drops
fall rhythmically hitting damp ground
and empty parking spaces behind the school.

Circling around the school, toward a public park,
I start up the hill through another deserted parking lot.

My pace slows a bit. I notice
the dying hemlock now marked
with a large white X signaling the end
of its long fight against invasive insects.

Will it receive a proper burial?
A gleaming white headstone?

I circle another tree at the top of the driveway
then turn down a small path through
the park, back toward the school.
Tiny drops of water glitter on tips
of fir needles and low-hanging tree leaves,
brushing my face with cool water.

I turn left to walk behind the school, past
the athletic field on my way home. In the distance
I see the churchyard with its lush green trees.
The weeping beech towers next to rows
of white headstones rooted in earth,
soaking in summer’s gift of life-giving rain.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2017
Image found at pinterest.com

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