Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Nature

The life of birds

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, adult male

Mouthing birdseed
and surveying what lies
around and behind him,
a young male grosbeak
shows off his brand new
white back feathers and
blossoming rose-breasted chest

Nowhere to go
in particular and
not much to say,
he munches birdseed
and enjoys an early
morning breakfast
before moving on

Reminder of a new day; reminder of Spring’s heartbreaking beauty; reminder of how vast this world is and how small and earthbound we humans are.

For the last few weeks D and I have been (yet again) sorting through our many books that sometimes weigh us down. We’ve been through this drill more than once, thanks to our academic lives and limited shelf space. I’ve often said our main decorative scheme is Books and More Books, closely followed by Shelves and More Shelves.

Some books and manuscripts are sacrosanct. This includes my collection of hymnbooks and piano scores going back to my childhood piano lessons. Plus those favorite recipe books (now antiques) that I rarely use anymore. Plus our bird and plant identification books, old college and graduate school yearbooks, and would you believe multiple translations of the Bible?

Sometimes I wish I had the life of a bird. Especially on a sunny Spring day with plenty of food and water available and not a hawk in sight.

However, on the whole, I’m grateful for the life I’ve had. Not because it was easy, but because it was and still is difficult, breathtaking, exciting, nerve-wracking, crazy-making, beautiful and precious.

On that note, I’m back to the attic to work through another bookcase.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2021
Photo found at pinterest.com

Loneliness | Mary Oliver

I still tear up when I read this lovely, perceptive poem from Mary Oliver. My comments follow.

Loneliness

I too have known loneliness.
I too have known what it is to feel
misunderstood,
rejected, and suddenly
not at all beautiful.
Oh, mother earth,
your comfort is great, your arms never withhold.
It has saved my life to know this.
Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning.
Oh, motions of tenderness!

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Blue Horses (2014)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 23

When we’re born we have one chance. One chance to hit the jackpot of perfect parents, perfect siblings, perfect grandparents and all the other stuff that comes with perfection.

Yes, it includes gender, color of skin, color of hair, cuteness or ugliness, fat or skinny. You name it, and someone somewhere has known loneliness over these or other unchosen marks of our supposed superiority or lack thereof.

I grew up feeling like a fat girl with three younger sisters who were invariably cuter and more exciting than I was. To be fair, the preferred family term that stuck with me wasn’t ‘fat.’ It was ‘pleasantly plump.’

Every dress my mother made for me was ‘adjusted’ to mask my pleasant plumpness. My thin, straight hair was subjected to permanents every three months, even though the perms disappeared down the bathroom sink within two or three weeks. I never seemed to smile enough, laugh enough, or have enough girlfriends or boyfriends.

Yet thanks to our living arrangements, mother earth was always right there waiting for me. Unlike my father, she never told me to suck in my stomach, stand up straight, or wipe that frown off my face. Never.

Nor did she say “I told you so” when I was one of the last girls chosen for athletic teams. She just kept showing up, giving me time and space to turn my loneliness into freedom and a life of my own.

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for this heartwarming poem. I cried the first time I read it, and the second, and the third…. What a gift we have in rivers and roses. The handiwork of a Creator who understands us better than we understand ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 May 2021
Photo by Phil Banks, pixels.com

Breakfast with the Birds

brazen bold bluejay
hogs large birdfeeder
grabs one seed and bolts

small chipping sparrow
flees to small feeding window
to make a withdrawal or two

quick brown chipmunk
vacuums between green grass blades
packing cheek pouches with loot

one male blackbird
flashes bright red wing bars
coming in for fast food takeout

I sit behind my kitchen window
grateful to be alive
and eating indoors

Most days I’m mesmerized by the way birds cooperate in order to get a bite to eat. Actually, I’m not sure they’re cooperating. They seem to love or at least tolerate their unspoken pecking order, which lies at the bottom of most of their unruly behavior.

Almost every day I wonder what it would take to live in a different human pecking order. One based on need and the desire to survive together. Not on our current order driven by size, brilliant feathers, or loud, rude voices.

Last night I was feeling down. Having my computer keyboard die on me yesterday was more than I’d planned on. Most evenings, I write in my journal. Last night I decided to read from Without a Flight Plan. It was just what the doctor ordered. A bit of birdseed to get me through the night.

This post was created with thanks to D for loaning me his ThinkPad.
Thanks to you for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 April 2021
Photo found at ebay.com

News About Without a Flight Plan

Here’s the latest news on my book of poetry!

Without a Flight Plan is now available on Amazon! However, if you search for the book title, you won’t find it. We’re trying to get that corrected. If it can’t be corrected, so be it.

Monday, April 26 update. The correct title now shows on Lulu, and should soon show up on Amazon and other sellers.

Instead of using the title, search Amazon.com (under Books) for Elouise Renich Fraser. You’ll see the title is given as Telling the Truth 2020. This was the project title, not the book title. However, we’re working to get that sorted out, if possible, through Lulu. In the meantime, I would not recommend trying to purchase it from Lulu.

If, for any reason, you’re not able to purchase the book online, contact me at tellingthetruth1993@gmail.com. I’d be happy to send you the book (with covers and all photos) in a pdf file, at no cost. Though I want the book out there in print, I’m not trying to make money. I getting my current, mostly unfiltered voice out there before it’s too late. Or better, while I can still enjoy it!

Confession: I cried buckets of tears when we finally figured out why we couldn’t find the book online. I’ll probably cry a few more tears. However, the most important thing is that you’re able to read my poems and see some of David’s stunning photos yet again! Yes, the cover shot (chosen by me) is his, too.

Questions? Let me know. And thanks, as always , for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 April 2021
Cover photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens

The Gift | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s poem is for anyone who is, as she was then, aware of the clock ticking down. My comments follow.

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Felicity (2015)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 14

When I read this poem, I tear up. Of all the things on my daily to-do lists, not once have I included “Love…as once you loved, deeply and without patience.”

From my perspective, slowing down means giving up some of my most loved habits and wants. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The puzzle of my life shrinks with each passing day. If I can’t do this, can I do that? If not, what other options do I have?

Mary’s poem jolts me out of resignation mode. Yes, my walk, “that was confident and quick, has become slow.” Just ask D when we go out for a walk in the neighborhood. Or observe me agonizing between doing this or that. It isn’t because I don’t want to do this or that. It’s because I still want it all (or most of it!), yet don’t have the energy I had just yesterday.

I imagine Mary looking at me and saying,

So what?! Even if you slow down, that doesn’t mean your heart’s ability to love “deeply and without patience” has slowed down. If anything, it’s stronger now than ever!

And yes, time is running out. Today, in my imagination, I’m a tiny wren. The kind that can’t stop letting everyone know what a beautiful life this is, and how grateful I am for our Creator, and for you. Especially in the midst of pandemic tragedy, uncertainty, and diminishing energy.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 April 2021
Photo of House Wren found at welcomewildlife.com

Early Spring at Longwood | Photos 1

P1120817

Rosebud popping out and a vacant bird nest for rent near Longwood’s large lake

Here’s a repost of some favorite photos. They’re about new life and new growth emerging from what often looks like death or the end of the world as we’ve know it. Signs of hope and beauty. Not forever, but for a season.

Yesterday was gorgeous! Cloudy, breezy, mild. Perfect for visiting Longwood Gardens. Here are some favorites taken, as always, by D. All I did was point my finger now and then if he hadn’t already clicked the camera!

We’re at the front end of the flower walk, near the main entrance.
These perky blossoms were in the cacti and succulent area,
popping up out of the gravel.
They look like they’re crafted from crepe paper.

P1120765

Nearby were more sedate, formal stonecrop
in different shapes and patterns.
This one wasn’t as uptight as some of the others!

P1120768

The following are from the flower walk itself–
a formal promenade between ever-changing seasonal plants and flowers.
Yesterday only the early signs of spring were out.
Even so, it was spectacular, and had me in tears a few times.
There’s something healing about seeing life
spring from the still-cold ground.

P1120771

Here we have early spring tulips,
followed by daffodils against a stone wall
and another variety of tulip.

P1120773

P1120784

P1120787

This is one of Longwood’s magnificent Japanese cherry trees in full bloom.
We’re just over halfway through the flower walk.
You can see scores of tulips and other bulbs not yet in bloom.
Three views of the cherry tree–

P1120786

P1120793 P1120803
Finally, a few more early tulips in creamy white,
and dainty snowdrops.
P1120794
P1120796
P1120805

I wish I could have taken all of you with me in person!
I have more photos, though, and will share some of them later.
Happy weekend, everybody!
Smell a flower today and smile at someone you don’t even know.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2016, reposted 8 April 2021
Photo credit: DAFraser, March 2016
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

Weariness

Cape May Warbler

Weariness
Floods my body

Lethargy tells
Me to stop now
Before I collapse
Without anything
Coherent on this
Page of my life
Waiting to be
Lived

I hear birds
Outside the window
Their insistent beautiful
Songs float through
Early morning air
Searching for a
Place to land

Half asleep
My mind floats at will
Reassuring me
That all will be well
That is well

I want to believe
Yet cannot stop pondering
The fate of all that
Is not well now
And forever

I don’t think I’m hitting rock bottom. I am, however, weary in body and spirit. Sometimes I’m standing still. Going nowhere. Other times I’m on a roller coaster swinging wildly between slow, difficult climbs uphill, and furious descents to whatever awaits me.

My mind tries naming things I’ve accomplished this day, this week, this month, this year. Yet the litany of things done doesn’t relieve the anguish of this heavy, relentless tug at my body and spirit.

We here in the USA are in a mess. We don’t know how to get out of it. Whether we like it or not, it colors every day of our lives.

Nonetheless, I believe our Creator and Redeemer understands the big picture, and invites me to trust that all will be well. One day, one breath, one weariness and one joy at a time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2021
Photo found at birdsandblooms.com

The Fist | Mary Oliver

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for yet another challenging poem. I imagine you watching us, willing us to do better. My comments follow your poem.

The Fist

There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
creation?
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
suggesting
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, poem found on pp. 46-47 of Thirst,
Published by Beacon Press

Dear Mary Oliver,

I don’t know where to begin. Things are such a mess down here since you left. And still the sun goes down, often in blazes of glory that fade and then, right on time, return the next day.

Never resting, really. Just moving on to circle this war-weary earth every 24 hours so everyone knows we haven’t been left to our own devices, or shut down due to human failure.

As if it weren’t amazing enough to see the sun setting, songbirds join in the morning sunrise chorus. Especially in spring when their hormones seem to go wild with passion. Or at least the urge to procreate.

This morning I watched with disbelief as a fat red robin jumped into a pan of freezing cold water and splashed away before running off to pursue a female robin. Just two minutes later, a small gray junco did the same thing even though, as you know, they don’t procreate here in Pennsylvania. Are they crazy? Do they know something I don’t know, sitting behind my kitchen window, shivering?

There’s so much we don’t know right now. Why did this person got Covid and die while that person didn’t? Or why did my friend die who didn’t have Covid at all?

When I was growing up, they said most brutish behaviors were about lack of self-control. Today I’d say most of our crazy choices seem to be about fear. Not fear of Covid, but fear of having our “rights” taken away. I’m sorry to say we don’t seem to be softening as a nation, cleaning up our brutish ways, or finding our places in this strange world.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all accept the sun’s invitation? I imagine us jumping into the cold water together to clean our tired bodies and revive our aching souls.

I hope you’re doing well today. And please, pray for us as you’re able.

Your admirer,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2021
Sun setting over a city found at wallpaperaccess.com

 

 

when life goes south

when life goes south
as they love to say
the weary get up
and get going

anywhere
it doesn’t matter
just so there’s
a sunrise tomorrow

and stars above
when evening calls
to carry me away
beyond these hollows

seeking to prepare
I don my travel clothes
now old and worn
from years of waiting

in the distance
a lone owl sings
its screeching song
chilling my weary bones

Time is short no matter when it began.

Signs of old age are incontrovertible. Also not to be argued: I’m in the exit line. How close to the last moment of the last day or night? I don’t know. But I’m feeling it. Partly due to pandemic unknowns. But more because of a year of not being the ordinary human being I think I was in February 2020.

It’s never too early or late to prepare for the end. In fact, I’d argue that something like preparation begins the moment we’re born into this world, whether we realize it or not.

Today the sun is out, still melting mounds of stubborn snow in our back yard. Our resident pigeon pair is already hoping for an early-bird hatching. A male red-wing blackbird has been visiting our feeder along with all the other regulars. A good day for an afternoon walk. Time is short, and I love life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 March 2021
Image found at forbes.com

When Death Comes | Mary Oliver

Death is on my mind. Not just because we’re in the season of Lent, but because it’s impossible to escape death. Here’s Mary Oliver’s take on death. My brief comments follow.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

© 1992 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press
From New and Selected Poems, Volume One (pub. 1992), pp. 10-11

It’s impossible to get through Lent without pondering death. Not just the death of Jesus of Nazareth, but my own death. How do I prepare to die?

Writing about death helps. So does revisiting deaths of family members and friends. Also, acknowledging holes in my life that will never be filled. And my own fear of dying before I think I’m ready.

So what does it mean to live each day as potentially my last day on this earth? Mary suggests I pay attention to the now of this world. Become more than a visitor. Become amazed at this world and its inhabitants. Especially those flowers of the field that have put up with the likes of us from the very beginning.

As for going through what Mary calls the “the door” of death, yes, I’m curious. Though not as curious as Mary. Still, the focus is today, the only way to prepare for tomorrow.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 February 2021
Image found at wwwreligionlac.net

%d bloggers like this: