Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Relationships

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

Our current bankruptcy

When all is not said or done
for want of Wisdom,
What more is there
to do but close my eyes
and sleep the sleep
of wearied souls

I used to think old age
would bring increased
Wisdom if not Wealth
And yet I observe how
much more rewarding
it is to stockpile Wealth

and send Wisdom packing
to the dogs as they say
when dismissing what
seems not worth saving
much less passing along
to the next generation

Then again we never were
a nation of invaders
schooled in the art of
Wisdom as Wealth
How else to explain our
Growing bankruptcy?

Watching news outlets is sometimes like playing Which side are you on? Or Gasp-Worthy News. Or now we’ll interview past holders of political office to see what they think about today’s gasp-worthy news though sadly, they no longer have power to change our growing polarizations.

Is this what we want to leave to our children and their children? Of course not. And yet…..

What’s a citizen to do? The most difficult challenge I face daily isn’t the news, but how I interact with friends and strangers. What would it be like to suspend all news, and actually get to know more neighbors and neighborly strangers?

Time? Yes. Also effort, patience and persistence. And, above all, an open heart ready for Wisdom to grow a tiny bit stronger than it was yesterday.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 July 2021
Image found at snopes.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

Something about fireworks

Coming up for air
My eardrums breathe
A sigh of relief

Something about fireworks
Doesn’t sit well with
my wondering soul

Why this grand
Display of pseudo-bombs
Bursting in air?

Sound-echoes of death
To enemies and the weak
Linger in putrid air

Turning the corner
I make my way home
In deepening shadows

It was fun when I was a child in the 1940s and 50s. Nothing more dangerous than fire crackers and sparklers. Usually purchased from a temporary ‘store’ on the side of the road, and enjoyed in our back yard.

I also remember growing anxiety about safety, and the fight within each state over whether to allow unlicensed firework stands to set up temporary operations. Usually this happened around New Year’s Eve, and July 4. If you couldn’t purchase fireworks legally, you could cross over into the next friendly state and find more than enough to go around.

Only when D and I moved to Pasadena, California in the early 1970s did we see a proper July 4 fireworks display. It was in the Rose Bowl. The best seat in the house wasn’t in the stands. It was up high on a ridge overlooking the Bowl. More than enough to awe any child or adult.

Given the current state of our disunion, however, I find the sound of huge fireworks displays disturbing. I can’t help thinking about guns fired too frequently every night of the year, and the trauma this creates.

I also can’t help noticing the bravado that sometimes emerges from adults and young people when engaged in these activities. Is this entertainment, or a way of signifying who we think we are or should become?

I don’t lose sleep about this. Nonetheless, I wonder about the impact and imprint of what feels more and more like a troubling display of misplaced or misdirected patriotism.

Praying your week brings joy and opportunities to connect with family and neighbors.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 July 2021
1940s and 50s Fireworks Stand photo found at pinterest.com

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

Storage | Mary Oliver

What about all the stuff we collect over the years? Mary Oliver knows. My comments follow.

When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
everything.
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing—the reason they can fly.

Published 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (p. 7)
Copyright 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
First published in Felicity, 2015

I grew up in the 1940s and 50s. Back then (post-World War II) we were trained to make do with whatever was at hand. Throwing things away was not encouraged.

Almost anything could be repurposed, altered, or made to fit the need at hand. Glass bottles, aluminum tumblers that used to be filled with store-bought cottage cheese, lids for just about anything, hand-me-down clothes, kitchen utensils, and bits of old candle wax. Furthermore, if we didn’t need it, someone else probably did.

Here, however, Mary Oliver invites us to let go of stuff that takes up unnecessary space. Why? Because it makes room in our hearts for love, for the trees, and for the birds who own nothing.

Could it be that the stuff taking up space includes old attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and other human beings? These might also be lurking in boxes we’ve not examined or relinquished. Which leaves little if any room for the birds, for other human beings, or even for our own growth.

What would it take for us to soar and dance together in the sky?
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 June 2021
Video of Starling Murmuration found on YouTube

ready or not

Staring into the dark
Behind my eyelids
I see nothing
Though the buzzing
In my ear never stops
Like insects in night air
Accompanying the sound
Of tires racing downhill
Outside my window

I imagine the sun
Beaming down brightly
And backyard birds
Feasting on birdseed
Thanks to the kindness
Of the old couple who
Inhabit this old house
Now gone quiet without
The excitement and anguish
Of teenagers to color
The air or play with the
Cat or slowly but surely
Abandon this old house
For their own

Opening my eyes I see
A desk full of ideas
And papers to be sorted
Not my wildest dream
Though I want to begin and
End somewhere before
The sand in my hourglass
Runs dry whether I’m ready
Or not

Despite all the books I’ll never read, countries I’ll never visit, friends and family I may never see again, and daily news that colors the air we breathe, I love life. I also love family members and friends who helped me become the woman I am today.

Death is on my mind today. On Father’s Day our daughter’s father-in-law died. Yet another reminder that I don’t know when my time will end on this earth.

Thanks for stopping by today, and telling someone you love them.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2021
Photo found at labmonline.co_uk

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

I’m ceded — I’ve stopped being Theirs | Emily Dickinson

harvest-moon-sept-2016

I’m drawn to this poem from Emily Dickinson for two reasons. First, I sometimes call myself Queen Elouise. Second, it captures the difference between belonging to Them and belonging to Grace. In my view, it describes what we need today in this world of stunning beauty, visible misery, and stunning injustice. My comments follow.

I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Theirs –
The name They dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools,
I’ve finished threading – too –

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, of Grace –
Unto supremest name –
Called to my Full – The Crescent dropped –
Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,
With one small Diadem.

My second Rank – too small the first –
Crowned – Crowing – on my Father’s breast –
A half unconscious Queen –
But this time – Adequate – Erect,
With Will to choose, or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown –

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Emily’s poem reminds me of the biblical exhortation to put away childish things. Here, Emily is ready to put away her childhood name—the name They chose and dropped on her face at her infant baptism.

In fact, They can put that name (Princess?) in the attic trunk along with childhood toys and activities she no longer needs. Perhaps they served her well, but they have no place in her new, freely chosen baptism into the fullness of her personhood.

And so Emily announces her conscious Declaration of Independence. Her rebaptism is possible because of Grace, not because of someone else’s past decision for her, or their approval of her decision now. This choice is hers alone, made possible by Grace! Not forced, not from shame or blame, and not as a power move.

This independence won’t come without clarity of speech and action. Even more difficult, since it’s driven by Grace this means clarity driven by the Grace of truth, not by anger or a desire for revenge or retribution.

I respect you, and I am not your possession. I’m not interested in childish approaches to life. The name you gave me no longer fits. I don’t want or need your affirmation. I have a new, fuller Calling. I’m not the silver sliver of a Crescent moon. I’m a full-orbed Harvest Moon, signified by this ‘one small Diadem’ I now wear.

I’ve outgrown my childish identity. Back then I was at best a half conscious Queen. Today I’ve come of age. No more baby crown, and no more cute crowing or baby talk. I am Adequate and Erect. I don’t want or need the kingdom, fancy parades, or pandering obeisance. I’m content with a simple Crown and telling the truth in my own voice, as I see it.

Need I say Queen Elouise again? Now, more than ever, I long to be

…Adequate – Erect –
With Will to choose or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown –

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 November 2016, lightly edited and reposted 18 June 2021
Photo of Harvest Moon by Robin Osbon found at almanac.com

On being Black in America | Frederick Joseph

Late last week a friend sent me the quote below from Frederick Joseph. She found it at Blavity, which she describes as “an excellent source to learn what is newsworthy to the black community.”

Here’s what Frederick Joseph had to say:

As a Black person in America, I’m tired.
Tired of waking up and not knowing
what new trauma will seep into my bones.
What new video of injustice will be etched into my memory.
What new name will become a hashtag.
Whether I will become a hashtag.

~~~

I don’t know what it’s like to live in black or brown skin. Nonetheless, here’s a first attempt to imagine how it might feel if the new “black or brown” were now “white.”

Feeling my White way along
this unfamiliar path I stop
to consider what it would
take to live for just one day
and one long night in the skin
of a Black person in the USA

Trapped with nowhere else to go
I’m caught in the glare of unsought
publicity turning uglier while the
latest news bulletin breeds fear
in the hearts of women and men
caught on camera in White skins

Newsy chats with experts and officials
don’t calm my racing heart already
sinking beneath words doled out about
future solutions while I want only
the honor of being recognized
today as the Full Citizen I already am

As a white citizen, I know the tug of wanting to keep going based on myths, hopes, dreams and a heavy dose of addiction to sham. We would rather live on tomorrow’s promises that yesterday and today’s reality. So where do we go from here?

I don’t know. However, I’m going to start checking out Blavity. Otherwise, I might miss what’s most important to the very citizens whose lives are routinely in jeopardy.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 June 2021
Photo found at alphanewsmn.com

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