Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

squabbling sparrows

outside my window
squabbling sparrows fight for food –
silence reigns within

Onlooker. That’s what I am these days. Not when it comes to local stuff, but the other stuff. Frankly, I’d rather be a sparrow right now than a politician or public official.

Whatever this year has been on the outside, I’m grateful for time to examine my life as a white woman. All without the expectations or interruptions of ‘normal’ daily life.

Put another way, I don’t want to be out there squabbling over the 2020 Election, or suddenly find myself without a job or a sensible plan for the future.

Being a senior citizen has its drawbacks. For one, we don’t get much overt respect, especially in our modern-day young and (especially) white culture. When respect happens, it tastes really good. So far, D and I have been able to navigate this bizarre Covid-19 world. It helps that we’re both introverts with tons of books, and the desire to read and write.

Back to the standoff  and squabbling that’s playing out before our eyes. It’s deadly. No good will come of it. I’m praying justice will be done when Mr. Trump is no longer POTUS, and he can no longer evade courts of law. Still, the behavior of his extremely disaffected followers isn’t a promising sign.

While watching the sparrows squabble with each other, I heard and saw a large blue jay squawk its worst as it landed on the bird feeder and sent all the sparrows fleeing. Everything wasn’t great before the male jay arrived, but at least there was food on the table. And no big bullies in sight.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2020
Photo found at thespruce.com

off-pitch and stumbling

off-pitch and stumbling
the first notes of a sweet song
fall on hungry ears

I spotted him just as we were finishing a quiet walk through the cottage garden display at Longwood Gardens. The young gray catbird was making an enormous amount of noise. Some on key, some petering out and falling to the ground.

From my perspective, he was practicing to become a concert catbird, struggling with new melodies and his still brand new voice.

I have a weakness for catbirds. They don’t have flashy feathers; instead, they have some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Happily, they like our yard. Sometimes we get an extra treat: they seem to be competing with each other for the best voice of the day!

Shifting gears, here we are on the ground with a new Presidential situation. We face monumental problems for which we need monumental solutions. As a writer, I want to find a different, somewhat new voice. Not to parrot what I hear from the White House or from disgruntled or elated citizens, but to keep naming truth about myself and our situation, as I see it.

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t prepared for this kind of writing. The kind where I get to put the words out there, but have only small clues about how my audience is responding—or not. So I’m going to stay with what works for me—focusing on myself, and making connections with what’s happening in my back yard—literally and figuratively.

I don’t have what that young catbird has. I do, however, have a voice that needs exercising. I look forward to the coming months, though with trepidation.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, May 2012

Absence

absence eats slowly
into edges of presence
morning rises late

It isn’t just the season. It’s my life slowly diminishing one day after another.

The 2020 Election has opened a door for substantial change. I want to be part of the geriatric action. I wonder how many others raised in my generation (1940s and 50s) feel this as well. Here we are, often carrying painful bodily and emotional damage. What will this Election mean for us?

I’ve been thinking hard lately about my schedule, and how to manage daily routines without cutting into writing time. I’m not there yet, but I’m seeing a little light. Which is all I need right now. A little light of day and a little light of hope for our future as a nation.

Praying for small and large gifts of kindness, gratitude and hope to rise like the sun, against all odds.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2020
Photo of November sunrise in Ashland, Oregon found at outdoorexposurephoto.com

What I’m thinking about | 2020 Election

How are you doing today?

I’ve been better. This week is still a roller coaster, though I’ve kept busy with other things than the election. Here’s what I’m thinking about today. (No, the photo above is not a mistake! Read on.)

First, the drama playing out right now is sobering. Am I paying attention? Or am I caught up in the number of votes tallied so far. No matter who is named the next POTUS, this election is as much about us as it is about the candidates. What will that mean for our efforts post-election?

Second, I can’t remember another election in which citizens had to wait in long lines for so many hours to cast their votes. Why weren’t their regular voting places made available? Voter suppression is real. It’s about who’s in power, where you live, the color of your skin, the size of your income and more. All those long lines weren’t just unfortunate realities. Will we ever correct this?

Third, Trump has shown and will keep showing his true colors. Unfortunately, so have many churches that seem wed to Mr. Trump no matter what he does. The slow roll-out of votes and tallies has opened a window to realities I’d rather not hear or see. One of them is the church. What is the church these days? When is a ‘church’ not a church, but a political player with a political agenda?

On Monday of this week I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist. As it happened, he and his associates had just moved out of a wonderful suite of offices in a large hospital. They’re now near the hospital, in what was the chapel for the seminary I served for 28 years. (See above.)

Walking into the front doors was a shock. The beautiful, graceful chapel now had a set of small offices dropped into it. I could see parts of the soaring ceiling, and the top third of the soaring windows that graced each side of the chapel. I couldn’t help tearing up. Nothing was the same.

That night I woke up at about 2am and had a good cry for what was and will never again be. Today, my hope for this election is that we’ll find a way to finally care about who we say we are. One nation under God, with liberty and justice for ALL.

Watching for whatever comes next,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 November 2020
Photo found at hippostcard.com

sweet hush of silence

sweet hush of silence
fills the old woman’s ear
lulling her to sleep

I wrote this haiku just before I went to bed last night. Not because it’s fun (though it is!), but because the process requires focus on the present moment. Letting go of everything. Beginning to ‘see’ what’s staring me in the face. A gift, waiting for me to acknowledge its presence and then capture the moment on paper.

On 1 December 2017 I wrote my first haiku. It’s in my first haiku mini-notebook with about 100 others. Here’s what I wrote that day.

silence descends
over dismal swamp —
a child weeps

Though I haven’t written one a day for many months, I’m drawn to them during our current upheavals: Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Loss of Protected Habitat, Building the “Wall” and Divide and Conquer moves having babies.

Gail Sher wrote one of the most helpful books I’ve read about writing. It’s called One Continuous Mistake. Actually, the title is about life and writing. Without mistakes, how will we learn? How will we discover and accept our humanity?

Haiku opens up insights and connections I wouldn’t otherwise notice. I’m not an expert. Still, I’m fascinated by the way writing haiku helps me see deeply into what’s in front of me, especially in nature and in human nature.

These days, writing haiku beats the TV screen, ubiquitous radio news feeds, and photos used to create shock, if not awe. It also reminds me that this is not my final home. I’m coming to feel more comfortable about being a wayfaring stranger passing through this life. Haiku helps me look for more than meets my eye.

Hanging in there with all of you. I can’t wait until this election is over, if not done with. Then the real work can begin, no matter who becomes the next POTUS.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 November 2020
Book cover image found at amazon.com

What it looks like to be brave

This is my first attempt to clarify what it looks like for me to be brave today.

Being brave means

  • Not second-guessing myself or my language.
  • Not wondering whether people will like or believe what I say or write.

Given my age and health, bravery is chiefly about spoken and written speech.

  • How willing am I to be blunt, no matter who is listening/reading?
  • How willing am I to become a learner, not just by reading books, but by listening to what others say about me as a white citizen of the USA?

Signs I’m being brave:

  • Giving up more rules for good white girls and women, enforced directly and indirectly since the day I was born
  • Engaging in conversation or not, as I choose
  • Taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually
  • Speaking my mind and engaging in conversations that matter
  • Feeling both clear and out of control

Being brave isn’t measured by

  • What my father would say or think
  • What my church friends, pastor, or former colleagues and students would say or think
  • What my readers think about what I write

So what’s at stake?

  • It isn’t whether we can get along.
  • It’s whether white citizens of the USA are willing to look into our long history of racism without making excuses or trying to explain things away.
  • It’s also whether churches and religious institutions will take racism seriously, no matter whether they supported it directly or indirectly.

It’s also about

  • What I do or write in response to what I’m learning and seeing daily.
  • Being clear about what I need to hear about from the pulpit regarding racism.

In the final analysis, the goal isn’t to change other people. It’s to change me.

Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting if you’d like!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 October 2020
Quotation found at pinterest.com

Am I brave?

Where is my center?
The one thing that matters
Above all else

What is truth?
Not what I see with my eyes
But enact in my life

Brave
I want to be brave again
I think

Yesterday’s bravery looks on
With bated breath
Was it for real or not?

Since childhood
I’ve prepared for this moment
Without a map

Now I’m a grown-up
Battle-worn and wondering
Can I do this again?

I don’t generally think of myself as a brave woman. Determined? Yes. But not brave.

My life has been a series of interruptions by men. Some were accustomed to taking over and talking over others. They seemed to be the truly brave players on the scene. People like my father, my first boss, some male pastors with whom I’ve worked, male teachers and professors, male board members, presidents, vice-presidents and colleagues. Sometimes male students.

They seemed to sound ‘brave,’ if not always wise. At best I might have called myself ‘disciplined.’ But even that sounds weak. Especially now, in a world reeling from a dearth of true bravery. The kind that moves ahead without knowing how this is going to end. Without hanging onto ‘power over’ other people. Without the need to prove something personally, or make sure this turns out right.

Most Christian churches with majority white members are likely in need of brave leaders. I’m not an official church leader. I’m a retired theologian. Nonetheless, it’s time to step up. Time to become brave yet again. This time without apology or fear of what people may think about me.

There’s too much at stake to put my trust in niceness, or even in making sure I’ve gotten every word in the right place, spoken or written in the right way, at the right time.

I’ve begun reading Brenda Salter McNeil’s Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now. I’ll say more about it in a later post. It’s a great read so far.

Thanks for visiting and reading. On another note, my poem, Haunted, has been published in a South Georgia newspaper. In addition, my primary care physician asked for it–to use in a small discussion group the practice has begun.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 October 2020
Image found at StarTribuneBaltimore.com

What will we sing at our funeral?

After the post-election fight
(There will surely be one)
After things said and done
(Never to be taken back)
Who are we?
Who are you?
Who are ‘they’?
Who am I?
Do we know how to live together?
Do we know ourselves?

The election pales before
Post-election realities
We can’t turn the clock back
The ticking never stops
Hours chime down
And then ahead despite
Agonies of loss and outrage
From either side of this drama

This country simmers
On the brink of boiling over
Into a million public and private
Wars of attrition and retribution
Burning to the ground every sign of
National good will or peace on earth

“My country, ‘tis of Thee sweet land of liberty?”
What will we sing at our funeral?

I pray I’m wrong. Yet there are already signs of kick-back. White Power individuals and groups are moving to take things into their own hands. Meanwhile, POTUS looks the other way, or acknowledges them publicly in ways that encourage them.

Who will be our true leaders in this unmapped territory? What are my values? What does it mean to follow Jesus no matter where this path takes me?

If my preferred candidates don’t win, will my values or direction suddenly change? Or am I willing to join and keep learning from children, women and men who live all their lives, as Jesus did, without the assumption of good will or peace on earth?

Praying we’ll find our way together,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2020
Map found at pinterest.com

This uncivil war

Up and down
All over the map
Ecstatic one moment
Discouraged the next
Willing myself
To get up in the morning
And begin yet again

So many opportunities
So little time
So little access
To things I think I need

How will it all turn out?
Does it really matter?
Is my small loaf without fish
Enough for today?

A million questions
Race through my mind
As life falls apart
And trash piles up
Just outside my
Window on the world

Deep inside I know
Only a brutal housecleaning
Will tame this deadly nightmare
Of consequences we now
Live to regret
One day at a time

Is the American Dream dead? Can we survive this uncivil war? Actually, we’ve been fighting it from the beginning. Today we can watch the latest episodes unfold right before our eyes, thanks to ever-present news media, and unnumbered sources of information and dis-information.

If you’ve visited my blog during the last several years, you know I’m not a fan of Mr. Trump. Tragically, what we see today is in keeping with everything we already knew about him.

Yet in the middle of it all, there are opportunities for people of good will to work together on issues that have scarred our hearts and souls from the beginning. The evidence is clear. White citizens like you and like me disenfranchised and brutally murdered American Indians, exploited and terrorized slaves night and day, and serially mistreated every ethnic minority that has set foot in this country willingly or unwillingly.

Surely we can come up with another way of going at this. One day at a time. One risk at a time. Pondering our next moves. Not alone, but with others hungry for change. Giving up something of value in order to receive something much better.

After all, white people and their black and brown neighbors also have a history of resisting evil. Even in the most tragic circumstances. What might we learn from and with each other?

Praying for courage to change the things I can. No more and no less.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 September 2020
Azar Nafisi quote found at http://www.idlehearts.com

Beginning from scratch

Beginning from scratch
A thousand times over
The pioneering woman
Keeps her head low
Her determination high
Her feelings under control

How strange they said
When they saw
And took her seriously
Or not as it pleased them
In the moment
That always belonged to them

Changes unfold so quickly
Her memory can’t keep up
With constant expectations
That she’ll have all things under control
And can start or stop on a dime
Without missing a beat

‘Our little angel’ they call her
Responsible and diligent
If a little obsessed with things
Others think inconsequential
Until they wake up one day
To truth they can’t believe

I’ve been thinking about the trajectory of my life. In particular, how difficult it was back in the 1960s and 70s to be a woman in a so-called ‘man’s world.’

It required a kind of focus I don’t remember having. Still, I see it when I read my old class notes, papers and exams from that era. It seems there wasn’t much room for being average.

Virtually every woman admitted to college, university or seminary was considered somewhat strange. Why would we do this? Why take the risk of failing, especially if we’re married?

It’s simple. Women often have more to gain than to lose, no matter how things turn out. There will always be failures and successes. However, in my lifetime there haven’t been many opportunities for women to stand up and be taken seriously in a world dominated by men.

Whether we succeed by their terms or not isn’t the question. The real question is what have we learned about ourselves and others along the way? And what will we do when, in our later years, we must begin yet again from scratch?

Hoping you’re feeling stretched and pulled toward things that matter in the long view, no matter what the short view looks like today.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 September 2020
Nora Ephron quote found at momspark.net

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