Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Nature

The Sixth Recognition of the Lord | Mary Oliver

Every summer the lilies rise
and open their white hands until they almost
cover the black waters of the pond. And I give
thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks,
it doesn’t seem
festive enough or constant enough, nor does the
name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come
into it often enough. Everywhere I go I am
treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and
am given water. My eyes thirst and I am give
the white lilies on the black water. My heart
sings but the apparatus of singing doesn’t convey
half what it feels and means. In spring there’s hope,
in fall the exquisite, necessary diminishing, in
winter I am as sleepy as any beast in its
leafy cave, but in summer there is
everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,
the hospitality of the Lord and my
inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body
through this water-lily world.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 28

Dear Mary,

Your poem made me weep. I don’t know if you intended this, but your “Recognition of the Lord” is also a recognition of your “beautiful, temporary body.”

I long for a permanent body as beautiful as your water-lily world. Not the kind of beauty that gets attention, but the beauty that’s carried in our hearts and souls. No matter what’s happening to our aging bodies.

I never thought of myself as beautiful when I was growing up. Even now, the most I can usually admit is that I’m acceptable. My husband of many years has trouble convincing me that to him, I’m more than acceptable.

What challenges me when I think about the water lilies, roses, peonies, lilacs, and azaleas is that they never complain about the astonishing brevity of their beauty. Here today and gone tomorrow.

Do I want to be like they are? Sadly, no amount of makeup or other ways we try to fool nature will ever satisfy me. So this lovely Recognition of the Lord, the One who created us, is incredibly demanding. Yes, we have our time to flourish, and yes, we fade. Like flowers of the field and water lilies.

If this is meant to comfort me in my aging body, I still have work to do. Letting go isn’t my favorite pastime. Which, I’m guessing, wasn’t yours, either.

Thank you for prodding my heart and mind today, and sharing your lovely and beautiful voice with all of us.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 July 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, June 2019

Sunflowers and Cicadas

Lost in a crowd
Wondering who I am
today and what will
become of us

A sunflower dropped
into the earth by
accident or design
pays no attention

Cicadas raise their
shrill chorus and fall
back into waves of
welcome silence

Hot sunrays pierce
the haze of dawn
with a vigor I cannot
mimic or resurrect

Climbing a small hill
and moving from shade
to shade I wake up
to this burning day

What is progress? I hope I’m making some today. A recent appointment with my integrative doctor produced more follow-up than I like. It feels like being in half-here mode. Living between what I’ve been and whatever comes next. It’s pushing me back to hard questions about what I will and will not agree to at this time of my life. And, more important, what I want to do with my time right now.

In the meantime, I’m mesmerized by our impromptu sunflower family springing from the earth beneath last winter’s large bird feeder. You’d think I’d never seen a sunflower. Nevertheless, it’s magical to find unplanned beauty right in our back yard.

Hoping you’ll find beauty in small things today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2021
Backyard photo taken by DAFraser, 25 July 2021

Summer 2021 Update for My Friends

Dear Friends,

I’m taking several days off from regular posting. Weariness has caught up with me, and I’m grateful to be seeing my integrative doctor tomorrow. Nothing horrible, though the nagging reality of diminishing energy is no fun. Especially in this Summer’s heat.

Yesterday D and I spent time visiting with a neighbor and one of his friends. We sat outside on the patio next to his lovely garden and had a lively conversation. It made me realize once again how fragile life is, and how much each connection and communication matters.

As for the work I need to do, it’s almost all in my office, crying out for attention. I’ve already gone through quite a bit, sometimes tearing up as I read old notes from family members, students, colleagues and friends. A few days ago I uncovered yet another neatly organized box of letters and photos. I’m astonished at how much I’ve kept and almost forgotten.

So now it’s down to what I’ll keep, what I’ll get rid of, and what our children and grandchildren might want to see or have.

From another perspective, it’s down to how many times I’m going to pause to rejoice, lament, or read. Though I don’t tend to cling to the past, it seems I’ve let it cling to me. Perhaps because I knew I wouldn’t adequately appreciate it until now.

On a lighter note, we’re watching a brave patch of sunflowers growing in our back yard. Remnants left behind from the large bird feeder we put out this past winter. Yesterday I saw the first bits of yellow petals beginning to unfold. It looks like we might have 7 flowers in all, thanks to the kindness of winter birds dropping sunflower seeds (among other things) in the snow! According to the chart above and their current height, I think they’re Giant Singles (about 5 feet high).

Cheers and prayers for all of us as we make our way through this rapidly changing world.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 July 2021
Photo found at thegardeningcook.com

Chart found at pinterest.com

Summer and what comes next

Heaviness sits on my heart
waiting for the next beat
of life that diminishes daily
without so much as a
fond farewell or kiss of peace

Outside the air blazes
with heat and the sound
of nothing in general since
the smart people left
for the beach long ago

Two small bird baths
sit ready for the steady
drop-in of customers
cleaning their whistles
and frolicking in water

A small huddle of live
sunflower plants lift
their faces upward without
a murmur or so much as
a pair of sunglasses

Ringing in my ear reminds
me of cicadas that haven’t
yet made it back to our
neighborhood though we
were expecting cacophony

What more is there to do
on a hot summer day than
take it easy and write a
poem for friends I’ve often
met right here and now

I’m keenly aware of my age these days, especially with recurring heat emergencies here in Eastern Pennsylvania. I’m also thinking about what comes next, regardless of the heat.

Right now I’m working through my office–my last bastion of files, piles, and seeming disorder that passes for good-enough order most of the time. And yes, tears are part of the deal. Happy tears, sad tears, disbelieving tears, and the teary acknowledgment of how many gifted women and men I’ve worked with and taught over the years.

Thanks for stopping by today. I pray each of us will come to know and appreciate ourselves and what we bring to this world a bit more each day.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 July 2021
Photo found at pixabay.com

A Lament and a Catbird

Whatever falls from
My tongue daily betrays
My sad acknowledgement
Of growing limitations
And disinterest in
Keeping up with the latest
So-called improvements
Intended to make writing
A joy a bliss or even an ecstasy
Beyond knowing or understanding

Which would be my current
Problem precisely to a T –
Not knowing and not understanding
And beyond that not interested
in finding out how to navigate
the avalanche of ever so
unhelpful changes now multiplying
like lantern-flies or cicadas or
voracious ants or even Smudge’s
daily attempts to cool his body
via white-fur dumps everywhere

No, I’m not going crazy. I’m fed up with the pace of changes. Yes, I have a live-in expert who remembers everything. His on-line name is D. However, he is not paid nearly enough to save me from my own ineptitude.

Here’s reality in a nutshell: I am a writer. I love being a writer. Nothing makes me happier these days than letting what’s inside make its way onto the page and then sharing it with you.

My favorite thing yesterday was watching our back-yard catbird ecstatically splashing in the birdbath, throwing water up into the air with his wings, and catching the drops as they fell on his hot little body. I witnessed three such episodes. I also got a dose of his scolding call when I was cleaning and refilling his lovely little bathtub!

Praying today brings joy in the midst of everyday frustrations.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2021
Photo of catbird bathing found at thebackyardnaturalist.com

Slogging

Heavy air
Crushes lungs
Dragging
My body
Up the hill
In hot
Humid air

No elation
Just the
Steady beat
Of aching feet
Meeting hot
Pavement
Despite
Beauty all
Around
Begging
For attention

This morning’s humid air was heavier than I am, bearing down relentlessly despite my determination to finish walking through the neighborhood.

I do not consider the above to be one of my better poems. Which is just as well, given the circumstances. Nonetheless, it is the full truth about this morning’s usually cheery walk filled with happy bird-song.

Slogging. My word for the day. According to Merriam Webster it means “To plod (one’s way) perseveringly especially against difficulty.”

So here’s the irony of aging, which I put in the ‘difficulty’ box:  The smarter we get, the slower we go.

That’s it in a nutshell. The great conundrum of senior wisdom based on experience, now trapped in aging bodies. Which, when I’m honest, can also be encouraging. Not the slow part, but the smarter part.

In other words, I like to believe my life experience (good, bad, ugly, disgusting, heavenly) has taught me more than I ever learned in school, at home, or even in the church. This is true whether I’m able to remember and articulate it, or not.

For now, I’m sticking close to home which has its own slogging work to do!

Here’s hoping you’re still in one piece and thriving at the end of this week.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2021
Photo found at mentalfloss.com

Carolina Fraser’s Grand Prize Photo

Greater Roadrunner, Los Novios Ranch, Cotulla, Texas

This was my absolutely best news of the day! One of our granddaughters, Carolina Fraser, won Audubon’s 2021 Grand Prize for amateur photographers. Are we psyched about it? Absolutely!

If you’re interested in seeing all of Audubon’s 2021 Amateur Awards, here’s the link. The photos are fabulous.

Below is the write-up Carolina submitted with the photograph.

Category: Amateur
Species: Greater Roadrunner
Location: Los Novios Ranch, Cotulla, Texas
Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon 500mm f/4.0 lens; 1/3200 second at f/6.3; ISO 2000

Story Behind the Shot: One of my favorite places to take photographs is among the oil pumps and open space at Los Novios Ranch in South Texas, where wildlife weaves through cacti and birds perch on fence posts. On a blazing hot summer day just before sunset, I found myself lying facedown at an uncomfortable angle, my elbows digging into a gravel path as I photographed this roadrunner. I manually adjusted the white balance until I captured the bird bathed in golden sunlight as it took a dust bath.

Bird Lore: An icon of the southwest, the Greater Roadrunner is uniquely adapted for living on the ground in dry country. It can run considerable distances at 20 miles per hour and derive the moisture it needs from lizards, rodents, and other prey. When water is available, it drinks readily, but it seldom if ever uses water for bathing. Instead, frequent dust baths are the rule for roadrunners, along with sunbathing on cool mornings.

The other news of the day is pretty routine. We enjoyed a lovely, very warm walk early this morning before today’s temperature soared into the low 90s. Other than that, it was all about household stuff, and making sure the bird baths were clean and ready to go.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 July 2021
Photo of Greater Roadrunner taken by Carolina Fraser

This morning’s walk

Heat rises quickly
in this tinderbox of grief
a blue jay screams

green grass and tree leaves
offer distraction in vain
sorrow boils over

turning toward home
we pass the cemetery
open arms waiting

How many more unscheduled deaths will there be? How much bone-dry drought can we endure? How many unkept promises and lies are we willing to overlook?

No answers, just questions. Plus recommitment to doing what I can within my small world of family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. It isn’t about saving the world. It’s about making connections that matter. The kind that make our humanity visible in all its flaws and glory, while getting on with the work of becoming human. Together.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2021
Hot summer sun photo found at pixabay.com

This pain-ridden world

Feeling my way
through one day after another
grates against my desire
to fly and soar with cranes

Scanning the horizon
I see clouds ahead not
the fluffy kind but heavy
with whatever is coming
next in this pain-ridden world

I turn to my trusty keyboard
to play a tune or write a
poem in words that never
quite capture the love I feel
for this world gone crazy
with grief and disbelief
even though we saw it
coming long before it breached
the horizon now contaminated
with the debris of a thousand
misadventures in modernity

The longer I live, the less certain I am that we will implement ways to turn this planet around. Not just for the sake of our human environment, but for the sake of all creatures that inhabit planet earth. The options aren’t very encouraging. Especially if we’re depending on our politicians to deliver something better.

Roots of self-aggrandizement run deep, encouraged daily by new ‘stars’ being born who can make everything OK for maybe a minute. Distracted and distractible, I feel it even in my relatively sane world of retirement.

What will I do today? Ten more things just popped up on my radar. Now what?

More than anything else, I want to keep a steady eye and heart on True North. So what do I do with all this distraction? Today I’m listening to my body and heart as never before. I don’t want to become another misadventure.

Small. I need to keep thinking small. Though I can’t save the world, I want to love it in ways that bring life and joy to me and to those who cross my path. Whether they like the path I’ve chosen, or not.

I pray each of us will find our way through whatever is troubling us right now, and that we’ll experience unexpected joy along the way.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 June 2021
Photo found at nps.gov

Late Spring Photos 2021 | Longwood Meadow

Here they are! Some of D’s photos from our latest visit to Longwood Gardens. The day was sunny and breezy, not too hot or cold. First, here’s what we saw when we crossed the bridge leading to the meadow. Yes, that would be me with my trusty backpack and sun hat.

And what might this be?

It’s the back of a turtle in the pond coated with yellow-green algae. Look carefully and you might see the outline of the turtle’s head on the right. The catbird below was perched just above the pond and turtle.

Now we’re over the bridge, at one of the main entrances to the meadow.
This first glimpse always takes my breath away.
Sort of like coming home after a long trip,
and tearing up in a good way.

Right away we hear and see red-winged blackbirds.
If you have good eyes (or a magnifying glass),
you might spot an insect in this male blackbird’s beak.

Later in the summer and fall, the meadow will be blazing with yellow. Right now it’s all about new  green growth, plus colorful blooming ‘weeds’ and the enormously popular mating season.

In the three photos below, even though the plant colors are subdued, they stand out against the sea of green. Not so immediately visible are three insects, all in the same photo. Can you find them? Hints: One insect is very small and dark; the others are a bit larger and are getting on with the business of producing the next generation.

Here’s a look into the distance from one side of the meadow.
As you can see, growth is still in early stages.

What a gorgeous roof (below)!
I’m not sure whether this is for birds or other meadow dwellers.
Still, I love the stylish hat…

Finally, iridescent beauty below. Four of my favorites,
partly because of their colors.
Also because of their size.
The kind of early beauty that’s often hard to find or see,
in the unpredictable disorderliness of the meadow.

I’m grateful our Creator sees every bit of beauty on this earth, including beauty where we least expect to find it — in each of us, in strangers, and in neighbors.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 June 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser, Longwood Meadow Garden, 16 June 2021

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