Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Photos

Images I can’t get out of my mind

It’s July 4th. Our nation’s great big birthday party day. Yet as much as there is to love about our nation, right now there’s way too much of the other stuff happening. Whatever happened to the American dream?

On 2 July 2018, The New York Times featured an article by Laura M. Holson about Tom Kiefer and his collection of photographs, “El Sueño Americano” (The American Dream). Now retired, Mr. Kiefer worked as a janitor at a border crossing between Mexico and the USA. Holson writes,

There, he collected tens of thousands of items that were confiscated and thrown in the trash by Border Patrol agents from undocumented migrants crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. He began photographing the items in 2007.

“I couldn’t leave them,” he said.

Below is a small selection from his collection of over 600 photographs. Each photo includes Kiefer’s explanation about why these items were routinely confiscated. On one level, they document the stripping away of life-sustaining items from women, children and men crossing the border. They also say something (what is it?) about our nation’s ongoing obsession about ‘them’ and ‘us.’

You can find scores more at Tom Kiefer’s website. I find his contribution to our current conversation about immigrants seeking asylum invaluable. Worth more than written commentaries or debates about the fine points of the law. If you live in Michigan, over 100 of Mr. Kiefer’s photos will go on exhibit in October at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

Each photo includes Kiefer’s brief explanation about why these items were confiscated. The small toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes at the top were considered potentially lethal non-essential personal property, and disposed of during intake. Mr. Kiefer notes that “while in custody, most migrants will not have access to toothpaste and toothbrushes.”

Here are four other examples. The first two were considered personal items and non-essential. In addition, the combs and brushes were considered potentially lethal.

Next we have cans of tuna. Along with other food items confiscated such as beef jerky, granola bars, dehydrated soup and powdered milk, they were considered contraband and disposed of during intake. Mr. Kiefer notes that tuna is an efficient, compact source of protein, and that this particular brand had a pull-top lid.

Next we have heavy-duty gloves used for many purposes. However, given the desert and mountain terrain of the border, plus sometimes below-freezing winter temperatures, they were invaluable. Yet they, too, were considered non-essential personal property and discarded at intake.

Finally, a photo of an item migrants carried in their bandanas. Non-essential personal property. Discarded.

What’s going on here? I don’t know. But I’ll make my comments in another post, and would love to hear from you as well.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 July 2018
Photos found at the New York Times and on Tom Kiefer’s website (see links above)

framed in peace

framed in peace
pond and sculpture composed
wait in silence

empty chair beckons
story rests in closed book

***

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 June 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser in 2001 at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Whose body is it anyway?

Several days ago I posted the poem below. It came to mind this week when I thought about the way women’s bodies are shamed and punished. Sometimes to such an extent that we don’t recognize our bodies anymore as gifts. And many of us haven’t learned to be their vociferous, ferocious and loving advocates.

This body
Like my heart
A house of Your creation
Stands ready to greet the stranger
Whose form and visage
Isn’t as expected
Lost
Dust of the earth
Sorrowful yet not without hope
She stands
Waiting

Who is this stranger who stands waiting? I think I’m the stranger. Alienated from my female body even though I call it ‘my’ body. Part of this is a hangover from childhood and youth. The consequences of being directly and indirectly abused in my female body.

It seems my body keeps trying to get my attention,. It’s tired of hanging around waiting to do my bidding, or carrying me here and there no matter how it feels.

Instead, it wants me to stand up for it and stop forcing it to keep going. Or hoping someone else will save the day, like Prince Charming.

Several evenings ago at the end of an unusually busy day, I stood at the kitchen sink slogging through a pile of dirty dishes. It was late. My feet and back were screaming for mercy.

All I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. That, or be rescued by a prince who would gallop into the kitchen and do for me what I refused to do for myself—take care of my weary body.

It struck me as odd if not self-defeating that I wanted help from someone else. There I was, supposedly a grown-up woman with a mind of her own, unable to do what I needed to do. Stop. No matter what happened or didn’t happen to the dirty dishes.

My body works and waits every day, hoping against hope. Have I forgotten how to take the initiative? How to sit down and give it a rest, fuss over it in a kindly way, and thank it for the ways it helps me get through each day?

As a child, it sometimes seemed other people owned my body. They did not. God owns it, and has given me the privilege and responsibility of being in charge of it.

It’s as though God said to me,

Here. Take this body. I created it just for you. It’s the only body you’ll have in this life. Treat it as an ever-present stranger you’ll want to get to know at least a thousand times over. Someday I’ll come knocking at your door, eager to see how you’ve treated it and what you’ve learned from its wisdom.

Women’s bodies are demeaned and pushed beyond their limits every day. Sadly, I can’t put an end to all of it. I can, however, actively love and care for my body. Which strikes me as more than enough. Upstairs attic, here I come! Though Crater Lake would be nice, too.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 June 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser at Crater Lake, Oregon, 2015

Favorite Philly Zoo Photos | Part 2

Let’s go to the zoo again! You’ll recall that we’re in downtown Philadelphia visiting the oldest formal zoo in the USA. This was just over a week ago when it looked like Spring had finally arrived. D took this photo as we were leaving the zoo. The skipping girl and abstract deer are fairly flying through the air.

Which brings us to birds. First, here’s a peek at a caged primate enjoying the fly-around tube. Primates housed in protected areas (not outdoors) get to roam from time to time. The tube snakes like a railroad track through several areas of the zoo, so they get to watch us for a change!

The McNeil Avian Center was my favorite stop. The first area was wide open, with tropical plants and a stream. Exotic birds roamed at will, and guides were available to answer our questions. Other areas had protective boundaries, always with a variety of birds housed together, with plants and ground cover that suited their natural habitats.

As we walked back through the exhibits, the afternoon sun hit the ground. You can see what happened in the second photo. Sunbathing, bird style!

Our last photo stop tells a little story. Several peacocks roam the zoo. It’s spring. As you can see below Mr. Peacock is in resplendent glory. And he tries his best. For a long, long time he tries his best. And we all watch, hoping to see what we’ve never seen before…

Alas, Ms. Peacock seems to prefer the giant sea turtles. Or was it that other male screeching from across the sidewalk?

Thanks for coming along!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 June 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser at the Philadelphia Zoo, May 2018

Favorite Philly Zoo Photos | Part 1

I don’t generally like zoos. Nonetheless, the Philly Zoo has my admiration on several counts. Besides carefully thought-out habitations, it supports worldwide efforts to strengthen endangered species. The Zoo also houses endangered and almost extinct wildlife. It’s the first ‘proper’ zoo in the USA, and is located downtown in a busy area–lots of city traffic noise. You can find out more about the Zoo, with photos, at Wickipedia and at the Philadelphia Zoo site.

Following are some of D’s photos. I’ve chosen them based on what I love to look at. Usually because of color, light and shadows, though personality counts too. I don’t remember all inhabitants’ names or countries of origin, so won’t try. The photo at the top shows the area just outside the main entrance.

We began in the exotic (often endangered) species house. It was nap time!

 

 

Now we’re outside with flamingos and other warm-weather birds. Despite their stately appearance, the male flamingos were in a take-no-prisoner mood, with too many males vying for too few females who were already sitting on their still-empty mud nests. A Great Racket ensued every several minutes, especially from the Chief Male. The yellow iris were stunning, as were brilliant feathers the males kept ruffling and showing off.

Next up were warm-weather penguins. Cute and chubby. They’re followed by the loudest of the outdoor birds. They aren’t caged, and are sitting at the end of a lovely pond watching visitors go by. D’s pond photo is another of his impressionistic water shots.

 

Finally, in the spirit of taking it easy, here are some large animals who look cool to me.

Thanks for coming along! In Part 2 we’ll visit the aviary and our last heart-breaker stop for the day.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 June 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser at The Philadelphia Zoo, May 2018

Catching up with myself

One of my faithful readers has challenged me (informally, of course) to tell you the story behind the photo above. It was my last photo in the Valley Forge National Park post about a week ago.

I immediately thought of three true stories, but another turned up this morning. Nonetheless, just so you don’t feel deprived, here’s a one sentence version of each story I’ve chosen not to tell in detail.

  1. Because Elouise is the firstborn of four daughters, she feels the need to keep running or walking faster in order to stay ahead of the pack breathing down her neck.
  2. Elouise and D love to go for walks during which D takes pictures while E just keeps walking ahead and circling back and then walking ahead again, again and again for as long as it takes.
  3. This was a very long walk with restroom facilities and a comfortable car at the end of the journey which Elouise has now almost reached.

OK. All true, and I could produce more of the same. However, on a more serious note, I’ve never thought of myself as needing to catch up with myself. Which means my self knows where it’s going and I need to learn to follow it. So I’ve chosen to see the photo as a kind of allegory of my current life: learning to listen to what I need and can deliver to myself.

Just over two years ago my life changed. Full stop. Don’t move. Breathe deeply, relax and learn to accept.

Short version: Multiple heart problems partially resolved by lovely Lucy Pacemaker. Two weeks later, nasty fall on sidewalk and a broken jaw that forever changed my walking and eating habits. Slow slide afterwards into adrenal fatigue with improvement, not yet resolved. And just over a year ago, a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease.

The impact on my life was sudden and confusing. I never dreamed recovery would be a long, slow forever slog. Or that other issues already residing in my body would be discovered and need attention as well.

The upshot was that I can no longer predict with certainty what I’ll need or be able to do day-to-day. I know the general limits and possibilities of each day, yet I never know how each day will play out. Things that seemed easy yesterday often feel impossible the next day. There isn’t much I can count on except that I have to eat, sleep, listen to and follow my body.

I remember when I first heard the phrase ‘listening to our bodies.’ I thought I knew what that meant. Yet I now know this is an invitation to controlled chaos. In the midst of this chaos, my body is the only reliable indicator I have to get me from here to there. That is, to a place of acceptance and gratitude without becoming bitter, cynical or despairing. And without making presumptions about tomorrow.

The photo reminds me that though this is a lonely task, beauty accompanies me. Sometimes it isn’t as obvious as Valley Forge National Park. Yet it’s always there waiting to be discovered. Sometimes in my backyard; sometimes in other people; sometimes in music or writing or the wanderings of my mind. I may seem alone and feel lonely; yet there’s more going on than loneliness when I’m willing to receive it. That’s when I truly catch up with myself and am grateful.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 May 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser at Valley Forge National Park, 6 May 2018

spring beauty

morning sun
bathes fir trees
heavy with new cones

bird pairs sing —
their broken records
stuck in a groove

I wrote these two weeks ago early in the morning, then prevailed upon D to take the photo at the top. It’s from our bathroom window, looking at what was once a baby Christmas tree planted along our property boundary. The unusually high number of new cones is visible in every variety of fir tree in and around our yard. Good news for the squirrels! They go crazy when it’s a bumper crop year.

Then there were and still are mating birds all over the place singing their loud songs–sometimes female and male birds call back and forth to each other, other times male birds belligerently announce and defend their territory. No need for an alarm clock these days.

I love this time of year! Hoping you’re enjoying whatever season is happening in your part of the globe.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 May 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, 27 April 2018

Walking at Valley Forge | Photos

Nearly two weeks ago our daughter Sherry and her husband Scott arrived for a long-anticipated visit. Yesterday we drove them to the airport for a flight back to the West Coast. Always it’s too short. Always I weep my eyes out, during and after (not without happy breaks). Always I feel softened and vulnerable. Always I love this break from routine. Always I’m loathe to say goodbye.

The day after they arrived we went for a late afternoon walk through part of Valley Forge National Park. Two things strike me when we visit the Park. One is the stillness and quiet, despite being just a stone’s throw from crowded highways and huge shopping centers. The other is nonstop birdsong, whether we’re walking by the meadow or through a wooded area.

Here are a few photos, minus the beautiful birdsong. The photo at the top shows us (minus D who’s behind the camera) just beginning our walk.

Looking out over the meadows, it’s tempting to think they were always there. Before the 1977-78 winter encampment during the Revolutionary War, almost all Valley Forge was forested. During the 6-month winter encampment, most trees were cut down for firewood and buildings.

Reclaiming the land as a national memorial involved delineating swaths of forest, creating managed meadows, and leaving space for a series of state highways, walking and biking paths, visitor facilities, monuments, memorials, reconstructed troop huts, and other renovated facilities such as George Washington’s headquarters during the encampment (a gift to the Park). The Park covers 3,500 acres (1,400 ha), gets over a million visitors per year, and is open year-round. Click here to see a visitor’s map of the grounds (not true to scale).

Here’s a little jack-in-the-pulpit beside a trail through the woods.

Now we’ll pause to ponder the look of young poison ivy in Pennsylvania. Isn’t it beautiful in the late afternoon sun? And don’t forget as you hike through the woods that so-called ‘dead’ poison ivy vines (often as thick as ropes) are also virulent.


These lovely little flowers are not poison ivy.

On our way back to the parking lot D got a photo of an elusive red-winged blackbird. In the last photo below, I’m almost to the parking lot. Notice the shaded picnic tables to the left, and facilities for visitors on the edge of the parking lot just ahead.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 May 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, 29 April 2018
Valley Forge National Historical Park

the old woman + photos

the old woman sits
staring beyond the window
into her future
hovering beneath the sky
dancing in the setting sun

The words came to me this morning while I was sitting at my kitchen table, looking out the window at our back yard. Being with my adult children and their spouses always puts me in a pensive mood–along with the sheer joy of being in their company. Each visit feels a bit more precious than the last.

Our daughter and her husband have been here for several days. So far we’ve had a mix of cold and now very warm, moving toward hot weather later this week. I’m happy to say the attic guest room is a huge hit! On Monday we visited Longwood Gardens for an afternoon of picture-perfect weather. Yesterday we went for a late-afternoon walk along forested trails in Valley Forge Park. I’ll post photos later.

In the meantime, here are three more from our Longwood visit on Monday afternoon. Proof that Spring has arrived for sure.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 May 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, 30 April 2018, Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens in April | Photos 2

This sleepy momma is sitting on her nest taking a mid-afternoon snooze. She’s next to the Longwood Gardens Lake, not far from her sleepy mate. He looks like he might fall into the water any minute now.

I took an opportunity to have a little lake-side sit-down myself, near the  geese and a lovely dawn redwood tree. I’m in the white sunhat. The other woman is having a snooze with the geese.

Now we’re walking on toward the back entrance to the flower walk. First, some baby ferns being born. Then a photo of bare tree roots that have been on top of the ground for years, holding up a dead trunk. They’re now a study tree for children doing a study tour of the gardens. I think it’s a statue of honor for all us oldies out there who just keep hanging on!


The flower walk was almost deserted. It’s early tulip, hyacinth, pansy, narcissus and daffodil season. Even though it doesn’t look lush, it’s full of early spring color and new growth.

 

 

 

In just over a week our daughter and her husband will arrive for a visit. On the agenda: a drive out to Longwood. We can’t wait to see them again. Portland, Oregon is a long way from Philadelphia.

This visit to Longwood was a welcome break from getting our attic ready to serve as a guest bedroom. I’ve decided cleaning out and repurposing an attic is sort of like having a baby when you’re too old to have a baby. Only this time, D did most of the heavy lifting, for which I’m grateful.

I’ll post some photos of our attic renovation later this week. It’s looking good!

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 April 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, 13 April 2018

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