Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

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

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

A Lament and a Catbird

Whatever falls from
My tongue daily betrays
My sad acknowledgement
Of growing limitations
And disinterest in
Keeping up with the latest
So-called improvements
Intended to make writing
A joy a bliss or even an ecstasy
Beyond knowing or understanding

Which would be my current
Problem precisely to a T –
Not knowing and not understanding
And beyond that not interested
in finding out how to navigate
the avalanche of ever so
unhelpful changes now multiplying
like lantern-flies or cicadas or
voracious ants or even Smudge’s
daily attempts to cool his body
via white-fur dumps everywhere

No, I’m not going crazy. I’m fed up with the pace of changes. Yes, I have a live-in expert who remembers everything. His on-line name is D. However, he is not paid nearly enough to save me from my own ineptitude.

Here’s reality in a nutshell: I am a writer. I love being a writer. Nothing makes me happier these days than letting what’s inside make its way onto the page and then sharing it with you.

My favorite thing yesterday was watching our back-yard catbird ecstatically splashing in the birdbath, throwing water up into the air with his wings, and catching the drops as they fell on his hot little body. I witnessed three such episodes. I also got a dose of his scolding call when I was cleaning and refilling his lovely little bathtub!

Praying today brings joy in the midst of everyday frustrations.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2021
Photo of catbird bathing found at thebackyardnaturalist.com

Slogging

Heavy air
Crushes lungs
Dragging
My body
Up the hill
In hot
Humid air

No elation
Just the
Steady beat
Of aching feet
Meeting hot
Pavement
Despite
Beauty all
Around
Begging
For attention

This morning’s humid air was heavier than I am, bearing down relentlessly despite my determination to finish walking through the neighborhood.

I do not consider the above to be one of my better poems. Which is just as well, given the circumstances. Nonetheless, it is the full truth about this morning’s usually cheery walk filled with happy bird-song.

Slogging. My word for the day. According to Merriam Webster it means “To plod (one’s way) perseveringly especially against difficulty.”

So here’s the irony of aging, which I put in the ‘difficulty’ box:  The smarter we get, the slower we go.

That’s it in a nutshell. The great conundrum of senior wisdom based on experience, now trapped in aging bodies. Which, when I’m honest, can also be encouraging. Not the slow part, but the smarter part.

In other words, I like to believe my life experience (good, bad, ugly, disgusting, heavenly) has taught me more than I ever learned in school, at home, or even in the church. This is true whether I’m able to remember and articulate it, or not.

For now, I’m sticking close to home which has its own slogging work to do!

Here’s hoping you’re still in one piece and thriving at the end of this week.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2021
Photo found at mentalfloss.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

In praise of meadows

This morning D and I drove out to Longwood Gardens for a visit. Imagine great weather, wonderful breezes, and puffy white clouds floating beneath a bright blue sky.

D is downloading his photos even as I write this. So yes, you’ll get to see some awesome photos later. In the meantime, here’s one of my early poems, written in 2015 after a visit to Longwood’s still new Meadow Garden. D took the photo above during a Meadow visit in August 2014.

By 2015 I’d been retired from the seminary for several years, and had been blogging since late December 2013. I didn’t have much self-confidence, and felt like an odd ball without a home.

Looking at photos taken in Longwood’s Meadow Garden gave me the idea for this poem. For me, the meadow is the highlight of Longwood Gardens. Not the meticulously planted, pruned and displayed wonders of an estate garden, but the wild, unpredictable beauty of a large meadow inhabited by birds, bees, butterflies and other small creatures.

Here’s the poem–unchanged from its first debut.

Is there something to be said
for wild, lightly cultivated gardens—like meadows?
Not showcases of stunning flowers and cultivated flower walks,
But life-giving, naked, raw beauty—
able to withstand harsh weather with grace—
Welcoming visitors of all kinds.

I want to be a meadow garden
With paths for thoughtful feet
Space for tears and laughter
Occasional butterflies and birds,
Spiders, moths, and ‘lesser’ life forms.

Perhaps the wildness of my internal life
Wants to be honored, named and lightly cultivated?
Recovery isn’t about taming life.
It’s about reclaiming it—
The semi-wild meadow
that hears and sees music 24/7.
That’s what I want to be. Living life
naked, lightly cultivated and beautiful.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 June 2021 (poem first published in March 2015)
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Meadow Garden, August 2014

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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