Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Nature

Late Summer at Longwood Gardens 2021 | Photos

The sun was out; the sky was blue; there was a lovely breeze in the air; humidity was low; and school was back in session! The perfect recipe for a not-too-crowded visit to Longwood Gardens. Plus, it was our one-day-early 56th wedding anniversary! All photos were taken by David.

Below is the central pond in Longwood’s famous water lily garden. Since there’s no easy way to capture the whole show, I’ve picked out some favorites, including one young platter still unfolding/unrolling its brand new pad. A small water ferry for a princess!

The corner pond below borders the conservatory hallway just next to an indoor desert garden display. The photos below highlight gorgeous leaves and one spectacular snow-white water lily.

We could have spent the entire day in the water lily garden. However, the sun, our determination to see the flower walk, and my yearning to walk through the meadow yet again kept us going. Besides, we were hungry for lunch. So when we walked back through the conservatory, here’s what we saw hanging from the rafters and lining the path to food and more late-summer beauty.

Finally, here’s what we saw when we sat down to eat our Happy Anniversary lunch at Longwood Gardens Café:

David’s lovely salad bowl

My cup of vegetarian chili full of surprises beginning with hot pepper.
Need I say more? 

We had a beautiful day roaming here and there. I’m hoping to post some of my favorite flower walk and meadow photos. But not today.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 September 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 10 September 2021

I Happened To Be Standing | Mary Oliver

I haven’t been able to get Mary Oliver’s poem about prayer out of my mind. My comments follow.

I Happened To Be Standing

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver, pp 3-4
First published in the USA by Penguin Press, 2012
© 2012 by NW Orchard LLC

Dear Mary,

I happened to be sitting yesterday in the small waiting room of a physician’s office I didn’t want to visit. Well…I didn’t have an appointment with the doctor himself, but with one of his very talented assistants, both women of course. But see, I’m already off track.

While I sat for what turned into a longer than expected wait, I pulled out your small and wonderful book of poems, A Thousand Mornings.

I had at least a thousand prayers in me as I waited. Most were in the petition mode, given the nature of this first visit to a specialist I never thought I would meet. Now look at that…I’m off track yet again.

I didn’t read your poem once. I read it many times. It exposed my angst, fear, and resistance in that moment to turning my attention outward and upward, with or without a song.

It  was good I had to wait longer than I liked. I needed every second to find my way back to that small wren singing its little heart out—by way of your beautiful poem.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2021
Photo of Carolina Wren found at unsplash.com

Food from above

My eyes land on mama squirrel
Alone on our stone wall
Now transformed into a low table
Of aging sunflower platters
Bursting with food from above —
A banquet waiting for guests

One by one she tackles
Her task with a vengeance
No pausing to enjoy the morning
Sunshine or the gorgeous
Blue sky above, she focuses
Intently on food for her babies

Only one small break for a
Quick drink from the bird bath
And she’s back at it ferociously
Determined to carry home
More than enough for the
Next generation’s deep hunger

No, she wasn’t particularly beautiful. Her body hair bore marks of nest stress, and she was clearly in a hurry to collect as much food as possible for her little ones.

For at least five minutes I watched through my binoculars before she took off. Then I teared up thinking about how much our Creator cares for me and for you.

No, we won’t necessarily find food lying around waiting for us to take it home for ourselves or our families. On the other hand, sometimes the food we need is at hand, if only we have eyes to see or hear, and courage to accept what is right in front of us. In plain view, if not always beautiful.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 September 2021
photo found at projectnoah.org

I go down to the shore | Mary Oliver

Vernon River and Marshland, Georgia, USA

This short poem by Mary Oliver has been haunting me for over a week. My comments follow.

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings, p. 1
© 2012 by NW Orchard, LLC
First published by Penguin Press 2012

Compact. To the point. No nonsense. Nothing but truth.

That’s how I want to be. Not just in my writing, but in my ability to ‘hear’ what the sea and the sky, trees and birds, clouds and thunder are saying with their busy, if not always lovely work.

The last few months have offered several opportunities to say with Mary, “Oh, I am miserable.” Or better, “Growing older is much more daunting than I dreamed it would be.” Right now I’m inundated with forms to fill out for an appointment with a new doctor next week.

It would be nice to have a shore close by, with the sea “rolling in or moving out.” Or even the Vernon River of my childhood with its 24-hour cycle of ebb and flow.

On the other hand, every morning when I go down to our kitchen I’m greeted by birds, squirrels, chipmunks, flowering shrubs, trees, clouds, wind, rain or sunshine — all with work to do. Whether I feel like working or not. Whether I’m happy or not. Whether the sun is shining or not.

Thanks for stopping by today. And dare I say, in my lovely seashore voice, of course: “Excuse me, I have work to do.”

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 September 2021
Photo of the Vernon River and Marshland found at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

On being this old woman

When all is said and done
Who are we
really?

Today I struggled with
my humanity and
my pride

Being this old woman is
A fulltime job
These days

Not what I would wish
on my best friends
or worst enemies

Aching feet and heart
arrhythmias remind
me daily of my age

Yesterday I was a tired
fed-up old lady intent on
getting through

Today I’m still a tired
old lady whose external
glories are fading

And yet the beauty of a
sunset and the song of a
resident wren

To say nothing of that
spectacular rainbow
hugging the earth

make me feel young and
beautiful if only for
a dying moment

Rollercoaster days. Up one day, down the next—with a slowly growing predominance of down days.

This morning I had a check-up for my heart’s irregular rhythms. A young woman with way more expertise than I downloaded and analyzed data stored in Lucy Pacemaker for the last two (Covid) years. Bottom line: my heart is now beating irregularly almost 50% of each day and night. Not good.

This, plus other nagging realities, makes me eager to do what I can while I can. Though life is incredibly complex and unpredictable, it’s also beautiful. If only for a few passing minutes.

I pray you’re finding your way each day, making the most of small opportunities to affirm and support others like and unlike you. Always with one eye and ear alert for unexpected rainbows or the song of a Carolina wren.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 August 2021
Photo found at dewbow.co.uk

an extravagence

an extravagance
of beauty bursts into view
and passes away

Every day and every night beauty comes out of hiding whether I see it or not.

Quixotic, ephemeral, unexpected and gasp-worthy.

I want to hang onto this overflow of grace. Capture it. Tame it. Count on it forever.

Yet like a tantalizing tale, it refuses my misappropriations, and evades capture or any hint that I own it.

Yet there it is, unexpectedly showing up just around the corner, out of reach and in full sight,

Which is to say–life right now is full of extravagant beauty even as it passes away. I want to attend to every second, let go of keeping up appearances, and relinquish what is not mine to keep.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 August 2021
Photo found at forbes.com

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

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