Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

Today | Mary Oliver

Here’s a seemingly simple poem from Mary Oliver. Words are easy; actions are difficult. Which is why I’m sharing it with you today. Not because I think you need to hear this poem, but because I need to hear and live in it more than once in a blue moon. My comments follow.

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

From A Thousand Mornings, Poems by Mary Oliver,  p. 23
Published by Penguin Books 2013
© 2012 by NW Orchard LLC

Dear Mary,

I wonder. Do I have voodoos of ambition these days?  More likely, I’m stalked by voodoos of things I must do whether they seem ‘ambitious’ or not. Think of long lists of things to do. Today, not tomorrow!

So what are you inviting me to give up just for today?

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind being a bee in the garden—provided there’s plenty of sweet stuff to go around. Then there are those fish jumping up out of the water, daring me to come and play with them. Though I’m not sure who wants to compete for gnats anyway.

Okay. I think I get it. It seems you want me to stop ticking off my long list of things I must do so that I can be a productive member of the human race. Though I’m not at all sure what the human race is about.

So yes, I’m going nowhere today. You won’t even know I’m here. Besides, given your lovely poem, I’m not at all sure I’ll ever understand the ‘terrific distance’ this stillness will give me.

I just know that today it’s time to rest, relax, and enjoy letting my ‘voodoos of ambition sleep.’

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 May 2023
Photo taken by DAFraser in June 2019, Longwood Gardens Meadow

Crossings of No Return revisited

Well, I can’t say this was the most exciting week of my life. Nor is next week looking great. Not that there aren’t high points. Rather, it’s the other stuff that’s sitting there waiting for resolution of some kind.

These days, it’s all about food. Not what I’m eating, but what I’m not eating enough of. This past week I’ve been awash in information about how to get my potassium level up. Given my strange history with food, this isn’t a slam dunk.

Perhaps you already know about hypokalemia. I didn’t. Last week I saw my cardiologist. This coming week I see my kidney doctor. I’m hoping we can get on the same page, and that I can keep up with the challenge.

In the meantime, this poem from Without a Flight Plan caught my eye. I first published “Crossings of No Return” in April 2017. I don’t have any more answers today than I had back then. In fact, we seem to be spiraling out of control without any clear commitment to living differently on this aching planet. Not just as citizens, but as individuals dealing with unknown or unanticipated health and welfare issues.

Crossings of No Return

Crossings. . . .

The word resonates with finality
Hints of danger and uncertainty
Sorrow and desperation
Weary clothes and
Hungry faces

One foot in front of the other
Backs burdened with life’s necessities
Bodies and bellies heavy
With tomorrow’s children
Silently pleading

They say our world is disappearing
Melting and boiling away before our eyes
Erupting into a chaotic crisis
Unknown in modern times
Are we ready for this crossing?

Bottom line: Many of us face heart-wrenching sorrow and terrifying uncertainty in today’s world. It isn’t new. It’s in our faces. We can’t ignore it or pretend it will go away following our next election. Nor can we set ourselves apart in a ‘special’ category of human beings who for one reason or another are doing fine, just fine.

As for me, my own sense of security has been carried for decades on the backs of people who never asked to be treated as less than fully human beings. I used to think my family of origin was poor. It was not, all evidence to the contrary. It’s a bit like potassium. If I’m not getting enough of it, it’s because I’m turning my attention to other things–hoping against hope that I’ll make it through in spite of my blindness to reality.

Praying you’ll find small ways to make a difference in the lives of people around you. Not in big, bold ways, but in small ways–maybe half a banana?

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 May 2023
Photo found at morningchores.com

Thou dost not fall | a prayer from Iona

In 2015 D and I visited Scotland to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Ever since then I’ve had a small card on my desk. I picked it up when we were in Iona. The island itself is beautiful. A place that might pass as one of many ‘gardens’ that remind us of reality — gorgeous vistas and displays that capture the good and the not-so-good realities of history both then and now.

The front of the small card shows a vista of Iona basking under a rainbow. Lovely and serene.

The other side contains a small poem/prayer. It captures the realities of everyday life.

As the rain hides the stars,
as the autumn mist hides the hills,
as the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
so the dark happenings of my lot
hide the shining of Thy face from me.

Yet, if I may hold Thy hand in the darkness
it is enough,
since I know that, though I may stumble in my going,
Thou doest not fall.

Note: The author of this prayer is not identified.

I would be lying if I thought this were about life today in the USA. We seem to be disintegrating. Falling apart. Too often refusing to face reality. Or afraid to do so….

In any case, I love reminders that come with rainbows. We haven’t been forgotten. We don’t and won’t have easy ways out of problems created by way of climate change, easy access to firearms, addictive drugs, angry citizens, blood-thirsty leaders, and too many officials intent on putting themselves and their families/friends first.

Which leads me to the prayer above. Not a prayer for everyone in the whole wide world, but a prayer for each one of us. A small reminder that “Thou doest not fall.” No matter what happened yesterday or may yet happen today.

Thank you for visiting, and reaching out your hand in the darkness. Not just to our Creator, but to neighbors and strangers within our gates.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 May 2023
Photo taken by DAFraser, 2015, Iona, Scotland

Blessed saint francis | Dorothee Soelle

What is happening to us and to this planet earth? Why are we enamored with the latest gossip or ‘news’ about things, people, governments and countries falling apart?

Questions like these flood my mind from time to time…including questions about my own place and role in this slow/lightning fast descent into…what? I don’t know what to call it.

Here’s one of Dorothee Soelle’s poems from our not-distant past, the 1970s (Vietnam War era). It rings eerily true, given today’s madness that seems to have a life of its own.

Blessed saint francis
pray for us
now and in the time of despondency
your brother the water is poisoned
children no longer know your brother the fire
the birds shun us

They belittle you
popes and czars
and the americans buy up assisi
including you
blessed saint francis
why did you come among us

In the stony outskirts of the city
I saw you scurrying about
a dog pawing through garbage
even children
choose a plastic car
over you

Blessed saint francis
What have you changed
Whom have you helped

Blessed saint francis
pray for us
now and when the rivers run dry
now and when our breath fails us

Soelle’s poem published in Revolutionary Patience, pp 40-41
Revolutionary Patience © 1969 and 1974 by Wolfgang Fierkau Verlag, Berlin
English translation © 1977 by Orbis Books

Yes, the only thing I can do is be who I am right now. Hopefully doing what I can to help address horrific conditions in our cities, suburbs, towns, and government. Still, I wonder what it means to be ‘ready’ for whatever is coming next.

I’m praying we’ll find ways to address today’s loneliness, hardship, and lack of security. Not as a grand ‘solution’ to everything, but as immediate ways to connect with neighbors and strangers alike. We need each other as much as we need food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep.

Blessings to each of you today and tomorrow.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2023
Photo found at istockphoto.com

What’s happening

Smudge is turning into a movie star…just look at those searing eyes and beautiful coat!

David celebrated his 80th birthday last month–with family members, some we hadn’t seen since before Covid. The gorgeous flowers were from our daughter and her husband.

These days I’m learning (slowly) to accept life without many outings or visits with friends. On the whole my health is good, though my stamina isn’t what it used to be. Still, between Smudge, David, and the birds in our back yard, there’s more than enough to make each day special. Though some days don’t feel as special as I might like.

How are you doing? The news these days is enough to send anyone packing, looking for another world. I pray you’re finding reasons to live, reasons to love, reasons to hope, and ways to help carry–even for a moment–the heavy burden of our growing anguish.

Early this morning a small Carolina Wren was standing on the roof just outside our bedroom window, singing his heart out. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, or what’s going on in today’s so-called news. Here’s to faith sufficient for each day and each night, and ways to connect with each other in these uncertain times.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2023
Photos taken by ERF in March 2023

Getting back to ‘normal’

Thanks for visiting! I haven’t posted anything since March 11. Here’s a quick rundown.

On February 22 I had surgery to replace pacemaker I Love Lucy I with I Love Lucy II. The surgery went well, though the anesthesiologist arrived about 3 hours late (not her fault). Post-surgery was a nightmare of pain and itching due to use of a strong saline solution that messed up my skin. It’s still healing.

In the middle of March, two long anticipated events occurred. First, D turned 80 years old! Second, our daughter and her husband visited us for the first time in more than 3 years (thanks, Covid). They live in Oregon. Both are superb musicians. Our son-in-law was part of the recent Unwound coast-to-coast tour, playing two nights in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. No, I didn’t get to hear the concert in person. Too late and too much for an old lady like me. Besides, what I most wanted was to spend time with them–which we did, before they flew back to Oregon.

Finally, about three months ago I began taking a small capsule twice a day for pain caused by peripheral neuropathy in my feet. It isn’t a drug, and it won’t heal anything. Instead, it reduces pain in my feet. If you’re interested in knowing about this kind of nonprescription approach to many inflammation problems, here’s a Harvard University article. Long, and incredibly interesting.

Finally, it seems we are in yet another Trump show, whether we like it or not. In addition, climate change seems here to stay, and we have fallen into world war whether we like it or not. What will come tomorrow? I don’t know. So here’s small poem about what I do know—about myself.

Cast onshore
Of a deserted island
Shaking water
From my eyes
Seeing nothing
And nobody
As unanticipated
I wonder aloud
Who am I
And why am I here
Now and not then
When all seemed well
That ended well

Published in Without a Flight Plan, p. 61
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2021

Thank you for stopping by, especially in the middle of trying times.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 April 2023

Beauty and Imminent Loss

Does beauty become more beautiful as the end draws near?

The last few years of my life have confronted me with a kind of isolation I never thought I would experience. Not isolation from books or music or what’s happening in my back yard.

Rather, this is about isolation from people. People I love; people I’ve never met in person; people with stories about themselves that I’ll likely never hear.

This morning I read through some of my poems. My health is pretty good these days, as long as I obey my doctors’ orders. My spirit, however, feels caught in a web of weariness and sadness. Some is about the state of our country and this planet. Much is about our rush here in the USA to make sure we’re on the ‘right’ or ‘left’ side of things.

I’m keenly aware of how lonely it is to be a people-person who can no longer galivant with friends and neighbors. If you’re not an introvert, you might think I’ve never in my life known what it means to galivant. That would be a huge error on your part, though I’ll admit to this: I had to learn to have a good time. It didn’t come easy.

So….this morning I read through the March poems I included in Without a Flight Plan. This one hit the mark. Not too cheery; not too morose.

Beneath trees of my childhood 

Beneath trees
of my childhood
memories flood my eyes with
dreams and sorrows
packed within
the space of one life
gazing at tamed
and untamed beauty
underestimated
until this moment
of imminent loss

~~~

I pray this day brings peace, beauty, and buckets of kindness to enjoy, and to give away.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2023
Photo found at etsy.com, John McManus Fine Art

Life with Lucy

Seven years ago, in early 2016, two events changed my life. First, I got a pacemaker to help with my heart issues. It went well. I was relieved and slightly ecstatic to have this new gadget that has helped keep me alive for the last seven years.

As some of you already know, Lucy (as in “I love Lucy“) is the name I gave my new pacemaker. She’s been with me through all kinds of ups and downs. That includes breaking my jaw in 2016, just two weeks after getting my pacemaker. There aren’t words to describe how devasted I felt. Especially because I’d just met Lucy and was on my way to a much-needed hair cut!

Suddenly I was living with wired jaws for about five weeks, followed by rehab exercises and drastic food changes. I’m not a party animal. I am, however, a people person. I know beyond a doubt that Lucy, along with D, Smudge, music, family members and friends got me through days and nights of despair and pain.

Two days from now I’m scheduled to get a replacement battery for Lucy. I’m told it’s nothing compared to getting the pacemaker. We shall see.

Do I still love Lucy? You bet I do! Right now I’m looking at a lovely Valentine’s Day card from a member of my church. The front of the card says “Love is patient and is kind.”  Sometimes I wish I could blame my body for the pain it causes me. Thankfully, I’m learning to be patient and kind toward my various bodily aches and restrictions.

That’s my news for today! We’re in a mess here in the USA. All the more reason to be patient and kind with ourselves and with neighbors and strangers near and far. Right now.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 February 2023
photo found at wallpaperweb.org

Green, Green is My Sister’s House | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s poem has been on my mind for over a week. The photo above was taken in the front yard of our first home in Southern Georgia, near Savannah. That’s my small, petite sister next to me. Just hanging there, swinging back and forth, was exhilarating! Sister #3 was still a baby. Sister #4 hadn’t yet arrived. My brief comments follow.

Green, Green is My Sister’s House

Don’t you dare climb that tree
or even try, they said, or you will be
sent away to the hospital of the
very foolish, if not the other one.
And I suppose, considering my age,
it was fair advice.

But the tree is a sister to me, she
lives alone in a green cottage
high in the air and I know what
would happen, she’d clap her green hands,
she’d shake her green hair, she’d
welcome me. Truly

I try to be good but sometimes
a person just has to break out and
act like the wild and springy thing
one used to be. It’s impossible not
to remember wild and want it back. So

if someday you can’t find me you might
look into that tree or—of course
it’s possible—under it.

Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings
Published in 2013 by Penguin Books, p. 49
© 2012 by NW Orchard LL.C.

I love this poem. Not because I want to climb the tree in the front yard of my childhood home, but because it understands and honors the agony of aging. It remembers how things used to be. The good, the bad, the ugly, and those unrepeatable moments of sheer joy. The dear old tree understands there’s nothing left but to lie down under the lovely tree I used to climb. Or beneath it, in the good earth.

Perhaps this is no more than a romantic twist about my aging heart. The heart that wants it all back again. Not just in fading moments or vague memories, but in reality. Like a beautiful statue that captures  the glory, agony, and excitement of life with trees. Special trees. Those that remember us and welcome us home. Wild or weary. It doesn’t matter.

Praying this finds you thriving in your own way, making progress at your own pace, and learning to trust your Higher Power to carry you when you can’t walk so quickly anymore.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2023
Photo taken by my father in the early 1950s. The house looks out on the Vernon River. We’re hanging from an old mimosa tree.

Hurricane | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s hurricane has been on my mind for the last few weeks. There’s so much we can’t predict or count on these days. Not only in nature, but in human experience and global disasters. It doesn’t matter how centered we may be, or how ‘safe’ we think we are. My comments follow.

Hurricane

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything
. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings
Published in 2013 by Penguin Books, pp. 21-22
© 2012 by NW Orchard LL.C.

I’m making it up, one day at a time. I never thought I would be faced with so many decisions. Some feasible; a precious few doable. The trees showed Mary the way. Don’t let the goblins scare you. And don’t give up.

Forget about right and wrong seasons of life. Grab what’s available now, and love with all your heart. Forget what others think. They don’t own your body or your soul. This too is a gift from above. Especially when things are bleak.

My health has an unpredictable mind of its own these days. Still, I want nothing more than the opportunity to be my real self before I die, regardless of impossibly “correct” rules or regulations. No fear. No anger toward myself or others. Just the right season to blossom before the next right season arrives.

Thank you for visiting and reading. I pray all is well with each of you, no matter what the weather.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 January 2023
Photo found at pixabay.com.

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