Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Nature

It’s Monday morning!

Coming in for a landing
jostling for space
grabbing the prize
and gobbling it down
or flitting away to
a private dining room
in the brilliant maple tree
they swarm like bees

Red-bellied woodpeckers
hairy and downy woodpeckers
an occasional flicker
house finches and sparrows
tufted titmice and chickadees
red-bellied nuthatches
and plain black and white nuthatches
red cardinals and reddish-brown mamas
plus uncertain adolescents
interrupted occasionally
by raucous blue jays jumping
up and down and all over
our squirrel-proof birdfeeder

I wanted to come upstairs
and write a letter to you
but the birds kept calling out
with their happy dances plus
indiscriminate pooping on the porch rail
while Smudge slept soundly
on his special rocking chair
in the living room
resting from his nighttime
take-down of a baby cricket

It’s Monday morning
and I’m feeling rather frisky
and just a bit bold if not brave
Autumn is the most poignant
season of all with its nonstop
invitation to dance as leaves
flutter to the ground sparkling
with golden glory next to cast-off
pods from birdseed plus the other
stuff too all over the place
like a spatter paint job on
porch and lawn feeding the aging
grass with free fertilizer from above

A bit of nonsense, and a prayer that your week will be full of unexpected surprises of the good kind. Happy Monday, no matter what!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 October 2020
Photo of female Red-Bellied Woodpecker found at pilotonline.com

Messenger | Mary Oliver

This is the opening poem in Mary Oliver’s slim volume, Thirst. The volume is dedicated to her partner of many years, Molly Malone Cook, who died in 2005. My comments follow.

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Death stares us in the face daily. Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, raging forest fires, climate change and more bring it home.

No matter which political and/or religious side you’re on, we live in the world of 2020, not 2019. As I see it, we’re in a national and international valley of death. Some self-inflicted; some visited on us unawares.

Given these realities, what are we now to do?

In the midst of her valley of death, Mary Oliver seeks to clarify her work. Yes, she grieves the loss of her partner. In addition, she wants to know why she’s still alive, and what the meaning of her life is now.

Though I still have my partner, this is my question as well. What am I called to do and say right now, in this world of Covid-19 et al? Not in a drab and dreary way, but in a way that conveys my love for this world, focuses on what matters, remains open to the miracle of joy, overflows with gratitude, and proclaims “how it is that we live forever.” Not for ourselves alone, but for this world starving for love and for life.

We matter, singly and together. No matter how defeated or discouraged we feel.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 October 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

Hugs and More Hugs!!!

Here’s a shout-out to my bloggy friend Carolyn, Queen of Hugs! Yesterday she got super-good news from her doctors. Today she asked her readers to do something to celebrate her milestone. I thought the video at the top was fabulous. So I’m posting it in honor of Carolyn. (Check out the link above to read about her good news, and see the way she announced it.)

My favorite evening wind-down shows are all about animals and the way they’re cared for. In well-run zoos, on refuge farms, in vet clinics formal and informal, here and abroad. You name it. It doesn’t matter. The bond between owners and pets or rescued animals is awesome.

Maybe we could learn a lesson or two about joy and faithfulness from their remarkable, unpredictable behavior. To say nothing about what it means to give and receive love.

In the meantime, huge congratulations to Carolyn, giver and receiver of many hugs!

Happy October! Don’t forget to hug a special person, pet, or animal today. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what joy feels like.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 October 2020
Video of Amazing Animal Hugs hugs found on YouTube

the long walk home, 3 years later

I first posted this in August 2017. Mr. Trump had been in office for less than a year. Now he’s up for re-election, and today’s world is far removed from anything that feels like home. Are we going to make it from here to there? And what will happen to us along the way?

*****

I wonder—
Do breathless trees
dusky skies
and lengthening shadows
remember what they see
beneath fading twilight
swathed in heavy garments
unsure of her destination

Is this a woman? I think so. She seems to be taking the long walk home. Which may or may not be that dark cottage hovering in the background, watching as she makes her way.

Is she alone? I think not. The trees, skies and passing shadows reveal more than what’s happening on the ground or in the background. If this world is God’s poem (thank you, Mary Oliver), we have reason to hope. Not because of the play of light in the trees, on the ground or in the background, but because of the Light that shines even in our darkest hours.

Sometimes, perhaps always, we must leave home to find our true home. Or better, to be found by God’s everyday angels in this world that belongs not to us, but to God.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2017, reposted 30 September 2020
Autumn Landscape at Dusk, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh found at Wikiart.com

Longwood in Early Autumn | Photos 2020

Last week we visited Longwood Gardens Covid-19 Style. Timed tickets, face masks, social distancing, limited facilities and outdoor eating opportunities. But the Meadow didn’t care! So that’s where we spent most of our time. A late celebration of our 55th wedding anniversary. Was it worth it? Yes!

Believe it or not, D took the top photo while we were waiting in line to be admitted. Below is a trained spruce (plus shadows) on the front wall of the Visitor’s Center. We’re not yet in the Gardens. We’re on the patio, snaking our way to the front door. Thankfully, the line kept moving, though at what I would call a snail’s pace. Still, it was mid-morning, with a stiff breeze and cloudless skies.

First we took a quick walk around the main Conservatory. Imagine the sound of water spilling from small fountains and waterfalls. Peaceful and inviting, with only a small handful of visitors. The large formal pool in the first photo is sometimes drained for large social events or dinner parties. Very upscale. No, I’ve never been invited. Nor do I wish to be! The second photo features black Japanese bamboo reaching for the sky as the background for two lovely lanterns.

After watching a water show from the verandah of the Conservatory, we walked over to the Meadow. It was stunning, especially from a distance. Late summer/early autumn overgrowth and seedtime!

Unfortunately, the lovely stiff breeze made it tricky to get clear photos. Nonetheless, D came through! Here are a few of my favorites.

We exited the meadow and crossed the bridge over the pond. I’m standing there studying the algae. The water was almost invisible. Still, paying attention paid off! As you’ll see below. Think tiny baby, larger mama? and maybe great big papa?

The high point of our visit! I can’t begin to describe how exciting it was to spot these creatures! So…Here are my final two photos. D took them near the end of our visit.

I hope this lifts your spirits the way it lifts mine. I was exhausted when we got home. Still, I wouldn’t trade anything for this opportunity to visit Longwood. Especially now.

Thanks for visiting. I’m sending this with prayers for wisdom and courage in the days ahead.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 September 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 23 September 2020

the red cardinal revisited

the red cardinal
sings his bright clear spring song
perched on bare branches

When I published my first post, Dear Dad, on 27 Dec 2013, my voice was anything but bright and clear. Singing was definitely out of the question. As a survivor of childhood PTSD, I used an elaborate strategy of calculated silence and half-truth.

How much did I owe the world? How much did I owe my family? How much did I owe the church? My father was a clergyman. Revered, respected, loved and sought after by people with sorrows such as mine.

But I wasn’t one of his followers. I was his first-born of four daughters. I watched my tongue constantly. Smiled when expected. Stifled tears. Did as I was told. Set an example. And took the beatings like the contrite spirit I was not.

Breaking my silence of decades took decades. It started in my 40s, with trips to Al-Anon meetings for five years. There I learned to relax and share things I’d never told anyone. Then I worked with an intern therapist who helped me complete a genogram (family tree, with notes). Finally, in the early 1990s, I began working with a psychotherapist.

I put in hours and years of work. Did tons of homework. Cried buckets of tears. Filled unnumbered journals with dreams and personal entries.

Yet my recovery isn’t measured in months, years or numbers of pages written in journals. It’s measured in my voice. At first feeble, halting, self-conscious and terrified. Beginning with my husband and immediate family, then with my sisters and parents, slowly but surely with several trusted friends, and finally, a few years before I began blogging, with my large extended family on my father’s side.

My voice is the measure of my recovery.

Regardless of the weather, the political climate or my health, the question is the same: How free am I to tell the truth? That’s the thermometer that matters.

I’ve always cared about issues that have to do with women. I used to think getting a decent academic position would somehow ‘prove’ my worth. Or set me free. Especially if I was granted tenure.

Well, that wasn’t my riddle to solve. My riddle was my voice.

I began blogging because I knew it would challenge me to tell the truth freely, with words chosen by me, not by someone else.

So the little red cardinal outside my window caught my attention. The ground was covered with snow, and the laurel bush had been beaten down by more than one Nor’easter. Yet the little red cardinal sang his heart out. Freely. Telling his truth about life and announcing his territory and the hope of spring.

Though I’m a follower of Jesus, this doesn’t make life easier. In fact, it’s more difficult because it means both living and telling the truth. Especially when it’s most unwelcome or unexpected.

I still owe Candice thanks for this topic! Though I’ve written elsewhere about this blog, this is another way of looking at it. Equally true and challenging. Especially today.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2018, lightly edited and reposted 7 September 2020
Cardinal duet found on YouTube

Sursum Corda | G. A. Studdert Kennedy

What kind of day did you have so far? Mine was productive, though not the way I thought it would be. Here’s one of my favorite Studdert Kennedy poems. It seemed appropriate, given the state of things today.

*Sursum Corda

There are cowslips in the clearing,
With God’s green and gold ablaze,
And the distant hills are nearing,
Through a sun-kissed sea of haze.

There’s a lilt of silver laughter
In the brook upon its way,
With the sunbeams stumbling after
Like the children at their play.

There’s a distant cuckoo calling
To the lark up in the sky
As his song comes falling, falling
To his nest—a happy sigh.

Sursum Corda! How the song swells
From the woods that smile and nod.
Sursum Corda! Ring the bluebells
Lift ye up your hearts to God.

From The Unutterable Beauty: The Collected Poetry of G. A. Studdert Kennedy, pp. 95-96
First published by Hodder and Stoughton Limited (London, 1927)
Published in 2017 by Pendlebury Press (Manchester, U.K., August 2017)

*Sursum Corda -“Lift up your hearts.” The opening phrase of a traditional Christian liturgy dating back to the 3rd century. Normally used before celebrating the Eucharist.

Can there be beauty in a warzone? Especially with people dying all around, often in prolonged agony.

Studdert Kennedy, also known as Woodbine Willie, wrote this poem during World War I. He served as a chaplain, witnessing and participating in the laments, loneliness, pain and deaths of British soldiers. He dealt with the horror of war by writing poetry.

Many of his poems are heartbreaking. They deal with harsh realities of early 20th century warfare on the ground, and the daily struggles of human beings separated from their families. They also include some reality talk with God. This poem, like a number of others, found something to celebrate. A reason to hope, despite the daily suffering and dying that surrounded everyone.

Even though nature can’t solve all our problems, it’s there for the taking. A gift. Just look around. Lift up the eyes of your heart! In your memory, listen to the birds and admire the bluebells. They’re sending us an invitation to look and listen to the larger picture of nature, not just to our own small worlds.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 August 2020
Image of cowslips found at first-nature.com

From This River, When I Was a Child | Mary Oliver

Photo of the dock and river; taken by DAFraser in July 2010

A Mary Oliver poem for all of us. My comments follow.

From This River, When I Was a Child, I Used to Drink

But when I came back I found

that the body of the river was dying.

“Did it speak?”

Yes, it sang out the old songs, but faintly.

“What will you do?”

I will grieve of course, but that’s nothing.

“What, precisely, will you grieve for?”

For the river. For myself, my lost
joyfulness. For the children who will not
know what a river can be—a friend, a
companion, a hint of heaven.

“Isn’t this somewhat overplayed?”

I said: it can be a friend. A companion. A
hint of heaven.

© 2008 Mary Oliver
Poem found in Red Bird, p. 44
Published by Beacon Press

When I read this poem, I tear up. It takes me back to my childhood in the South. We lived on a branch of the Savannah River. Our smaller yet substantial river was named the Vernon River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Vernon River spoke to me multiple times. Especially when I was feeling sad, misunderstood or inundated by the noise of four daughters living in one house with two parents. Plus small pets, parakeets, and the occasional baby flying squirrels rescued from certain death when they fell or were pushed out of their nests.

We lived in rural Chatham County, at the end of a narrow country road, 15 miles from Savannah, Georgia. I had three younger sisters. Frequently I needed a companion. A hint of heaven that was there for me, night and day.

The Vernon River did all that for me. No, I didn’t drink the salt water. But I swam in it. Better than a bath on a hot, humid day! Plus miraculous skin-healing properties of salt water free for the taking. Crabs to be caught, boiled, picked and eaten. Salt-water breezes to soothe my sad, sometimes lonely soul. The soft splash of tides coming and going like clockwork. The sound of seagulls chasing shrimp boats early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

When I read Mary’s poem, I’m out on the dock again. Alone. Sitting on top of the picnic table. Feeling the goodness of earth and heaven come together in one grand moment of peace.

Am I “somewhat” overplaying what I’ve lost? Or what the children of today may never experience?

I said: it can be a friend. A companion. A
hint of heaven.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2020
Photo of dock and river taken by DAFraser, July 2010

moss-laden oaks loom | 1950s in the Deep South

moss-laden oaks, magenta azaleas

I posted this poem in 2014. It’s an attempt to capture my first impressions of the Deep South, including strict segregation between Black and White citizens. There were 5 of us in the car (Sister #4 yet to be conceived). We’d just driven from Southern California to rural Georgia, 15 miles outside of Savannah. Another world. One I’d never imagined in my 7 1/2 years of life. 

moss-laden oaks loom
magenta azaleas blaze
deep south path through woods 

* * *

Late summer, 1950

It’s past midnight
I’m asleep with Sisters #2 and #3
Are we almost there?

Mother’s tired voice wakes me up
Nothing but darkness outside
and cobwebby stuff hanging from tree limbs

A log-cabin tavern fades into view
Neon beer ads flicker on parked cars, old trucks
Daddy reluctantly stops for directions

He goes into the tavern.
Are we lost?
No. We just aren’t there yet.

Daddy drives slowly
No street lights no signs
The old road is dark, narrow, mysterious

Mossy oaks loom overhead reflecting
weak rays of yellow light from car headlights
Weary shacks line the road

Unexpectedly we pass grand fenced-in wooded lots with driveways to nowhere
Then modest houses and a few larger houses
The road ends abruptly.

Daddy stops, gets out, peers at the giant mailbox
He turns into the driveway
We’re there.

Deep South
moss-laden oaks, no blazing azaleas
Just heavy humid air, wealth next door to poverty, fiercely guarded secrets

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 March 2014, reposted with intro14 July 2020
Google image – Springtime in Savannah, Georgia

Pyramids and Camels | Photo Memories Revisited

Camel rides and Pyramids

The worlds of 2010 and 2019 are gone. I pray we’re up to the task of making wise, faithful decisions about our lives as world citizens, not isolated human beings. Enjoy the pics! This was one of many great adventures. Getting married 54+ years ago was the first!

It’s a good thing, being married to D. My life might have been dismally dull without his get-up-and-go. He’s no extrovert, mind you. He just has the Travel Bug in him, bigtime. Our trip to Egypt, piggybacked onto a week of D teaching in Cairo, was a Spectacular Adventure.

It’s January 2010, just one year before the uprising in Egypt. Our driver and guide picked us up early in the morning. We arrived at the pyramids of Giza before the site was crowded with visitors and vendors.

It’s winter, yet the sun blazes down almost every day like a hot flame. The air temperature begins chilly but often rises into the low 70s.

Hence our sun hats and my white sun shirt peeking out from my travel jacket. The jacket is a small men’s silk blazer—a thrift shop find here in Philly. It has ample side pockets (note water bottle peeking out) and vest pockets inside. Best bargain ever! It doesn’t bother me a bit when airport personnel and passengers call me “Sir,” then beg profuse pardons….

Now we’re going to back track a bit. I want you to appreciate how tiny we feel. I’m there in the center, standing at the base of a pyramid.

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Here are a few pictures of us on and next to the largest pyramid.
Note the size of the building blocks!

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David and Elouise on Giza pyramid

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Time to go get on a camel or two! Just for comparison, here’s an expert camel rider. Note his legs resting casually on the back of his camel, his super comfortable clothing and air of confidence. Even his camel looks relaxed, if not smiling. Nothing to it! The rider doesn’t even have foot stirrups.

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So here we are, getting up close and personal with our rented camels. They’re going to take us off on a little trek into the desert. No problem. Our guide will be right there if anything untoward happens. Just relax and do what the patient camel guide tells me to do.

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Whew!

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Do I look like the cat that just swallowed the mouse, or what?
Now it’s D’s turn!!!

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Showoff!
Here we go….off into the desert.

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Note: Without our trusty guide who accompanied us on foot, we wouldn’t have these photos of the two of us. And, I must add, without workouts at Curves my legs would not have been up to the task of keeping me on top of the camel!

Here’s a bit of what we saw, including a photo of Cairo in the distance.

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The camel ride ended near the Sphinx.
After spending time there, we said farewell and left.

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This was only one of our Egypt adventures. The others simply added to my sense that I owe Egyptian history, culture and inventions a debt I can never repay.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2016, reposted 8 July 2020
Photo credits: DAFraser and our Egyptian tour guide

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