Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

Making the House Ready for the Lord | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver makes it simple, true and easy. My comments follow.

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice—it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

© Mary Oliver 2006
Published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 13

Yesterday I was bemoaning wisps of cat hair floating in every corner; cardboard boxes piled high, waiting for old give-away books; kitchen gadgets and pots looking for a new home or sitting in the sink waiting to be cleaned.

Not that I expect the Lord to visit–though that isn’t an impossibility. This is about regular people who come to our door unannounced. Why shouldn’t things be neat and tidy? After all, I’m retired, and have all the time in the world to keep up appearances!

Mary Oliver’s poem makes me laugh at myself. I’m not a collector of vagabond mice, squirrels or lost dogs. However, for years I’ve collected books, kitchen gadgets and small bits and pieces of arty stuff. Which collects its own stuff called dust.

Unannounced visitors put me to the test. Am I ready to receive the Lord? Maybe this is stretching it, but if I’m not ready to receive the Lord just as I am, I’m probably not consciously ready to receive anyone just as I am.

Even so, truth be told, I’m always ready, whether I think I am or not. In fact, when the Lord or any one of you arrives and comes into my house, it will be ready. Living proof of my priorities, my weaknesses, my loves, my memories and my hopes. All of me. What more could you, or the Lord, ask for?

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2019
Photo by JSLeesPhotography found at Flickr.com
Red Fox, Alonquin, Canada

Things I wonder about

How much and how often should I tell my story?
Or is it time to be the strong woman I was and am
Say directly what I’m thinking
rather than dropping a thousand hints, suggestions
or thinly veiled leading questions
in the vain hope of miraculous intervention
that won’t require me to take risks
or pay prices I don’t want to pay

Since when was I afraid to take risks?
My female life has always been about risk-taking
With due deference to powers higher than I
Or so I thought back then

What is deference anyway?
Maybe it’s my masquerade for fear
My easy way out of what’s looking like
A fraught, uncomfortable collision
Of what?
And at what cost?

Does everyone have a yearning to go back
and begin again, without apology or kissing up
to the so-called powers that be?

When something is blatantly wrong,
why doesn’t someone else step forward who has
credibility and guts to take the first step?

Do I have guts?
If not, have I lost my credibility?

I’m a late learner, not without reason. Even so, what am I to do now? I could rehearse my life story. It was worth writing. Reading it today strengthens and softens me.

I’ve learned the hard way what it means to tell the truth. In person. Face to face. Today, as back then, I don’t deserve to be shamed, humiliated or silenced. By anyone.

So what’s happening now? Not just in Washington, DC, but in our backyards, churches and places of worship, private and public spaces. Do I have the guts to speak up now, and refuse to sit down? I’ll let you know when I find out.

As always, thanks for visiting and reading.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 November 2019
George Orwell quote found at maura4u.com

patches of sun

patches of sun
shifty clouds
stiff cold breezes and
autumn leaves dropping
mess with my brain

breaking waves
crash onshore
chilled warmth floats
here and there
on the beach
in the mountains
on a long walk
through my life
tears and memories
of what was
and will always be

how quickly
seasons come
and go

Yes, another morning walk. This time full of nostalgia—the good kind. Sometimes it feels like my past is flooding the present. Reminding me that I’ve lived and loved with all my heart. And still do.

Cheers to each of you today,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2019
Photo of Tybee Island Beach near Savannah, GA, found at pinterest.com

When I Am Among the Trees | Mary Oliver

Here’s a Happy Monday poem for everybody. My comments follow.

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

© 2006 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 4

Today it’s sunny, bright, very cool, and breezy. I’m just back from a morning walk beneath and near trees, many towering toward the sky.

If I were an older tree right now, I’d be cowering close to the ground. Hoping no one would notice how many leaves I’ve lost, or how bent and even broken my branches are. And did you see those ugly thick roots protruding farther from the ground when the green grass turns brown?

On the other hand, maybe passersby will see how beautiful my remaining leaves are. Or listen to the music of the wind dancing around my chilly bones. Or notice that more light flows through and from my gnarly branches when those pesky, preening leaves are long gone.

I love this poem. Though it seems to have spring, summer and autumn in mind, it works for winter as well. Especially when the wind whips through iced branches, bouncing off fragile twigs and sturdy green needles. To say nothing of new snow covering everything in a down comforter.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 November 2019
Image of Beech Trees in Autumn found at thurmanovich.com

What I remember

A young girl searching for perfect autumn leaves
A young boy not old enough for soccer, running laps
Leaves rustling on trees and beneath my feet

Shouts and shrieks from grade-school soccer players
The sight of proud, anxious parents looking on
A few parents sitting it all out in their warm cars

Friendly dogs of all sizes out for pause-and-pee walks
Parked cars lining the Episcopal church parking lot
Churchyard grave stones shining white in bright sun

Smiles on faces of passersby known and unknown
A left-over plastic Halloween spider pretending to be road kill
Squirrels racing around, frantically stashing nuts for winter

The feel of cold wind on my face, bright sun in my eyes
Halloween remnants lurking on front yards and porches
Smashed acorns and acorn meal at every turn

I took a long, glorious walk after church this morning. No huge surprises. Just the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and a chorus of happy shrieks and parental encouragement filling the air.

Sometimes I want to bottle what I feel, see and smell—for rainy days. I’m slowly learning to enjoy each day, and let it go. Clearing the deck for whatever comes tomorrow.

So far today I’m grateful for everything I remember from my walk. I’m also grateful I was able to attend church this morning with D, hear a thoughtful sermon from one of my former students, listen to stunning music during the offering and during communion, collect smiles from several friends, and go for that brisk autumn walk before lunch.

Looking forward to the coming week!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2019
Photo from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, almanac.com

Breath of God Unseen – revisited

wind-sculpted-drifts-martin-nd-13-jan-2017

I  posted this in January 2017. It’s as true today as was then, especially given world and national events of the past few years. It’s difficult to keep my eyes on what matters most these days, rather than what parades as ‘reality.’ 

Breath of God
Unseen
Artist of my heart
And life
Breathe on me 

The wind is cold
Unyielding
To my vain cries
For mercy
Breathe on me 

Evening shadows
Lengthen
In fading light
Brilliant
and foreboding 

Deep blue sky
Darkens
Trees bend and sway
Breath of God
Breathe on me 

It’s late afternoon. This morning I woke to this photo on my weather page. I thought immediately about my life and the way God’s Spirit has blown through and around it, unseen and unbidden.  

Looking back, I’d say the outcomes today are beyond my wildest dreams. Not that I’m perfect or successful or even ‘special.’ Rather, this is about contentment. 

I’m at peace with myself, though not always with situations in which I find myself.  Or even with my behavior. Nonetheless, things have changed in my spirit over the last several years. 

Today I have compassion for myself as a child, as a young teenager, as a wife, mother and grandmother, and as a retired professional. I rarely struggle with feeling like a fraud, or with harsh self-talk that belittles me or accuses me of being The Problem with Everything. 

I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m saying I’m at rest with who I am and who I am not. Especially from the inside out. The part that really matters. 

I like what I see when I think of myself as a huge pile of snow, sculpted by God’s Spirit through winds of change. I know, things aren’t exactly spectacular in the world right now. It’s just that today I’m at peace with myself.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 January 2017, reposted 1 November 2019
Photo taken by Brian Bender at Martin, North Dakota, USA, 13 Jan 2017
Found at Weather Underground App

fragile remnants

fragile remnants
whisper thin bits
pieces unkempt
and overlooked
burn out
in late autumn’s
unforgiving march

wisps of fluff
pressed for time
drift on currents
of unpredictable air
hoping to become
early spring’s
beauty queens

eager to be born anew
the next generation
dies unnumbered
silent deaths

Thanks for stopping by on this chill Monday in Pennsylvania. D took the photos above when we visited Longwood Gardens Meadow two weeks ago. The Meadow’s strange, familiar fall beauty draws me in, despite the general messiness of the Meadow and my life from time to time. Happy Monday!

Cheers,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 October 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser, 7 October 2019 in the Longwood Gardens Meadow

With thanks to Emily

Pierless Bridge - pinterest

Something about aging. I don’t know what it is. I only know what it feels like. A journey into mists, slow and sometimes laborious. Wondering where all that energy went. And how I ever accumulated so many bits and pieces from my past.

Today it’s about clearing the bits and pieces out. Getting to something else, beyond the false fog of my fortressed life.

For decades, I relied on bits and pieces. Every carefully sorted, filed and piled item was a bit of insurance. Proof of my value, resources to be used next term, a hedge against false charges, reminders of why I was here and what I had agreed to do. Plus gems stashed away for later perusal.

Then, in April 2016, I fell and broke my jaw. Life changed. Immediately.

Out of that anguish, I wrote a post that has become one of the top ten posts visited on this site, with 589 views as of today. It’s my commentary on Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, Faith — is the pierless bridge.

I read it several times in the last few weeks of chaos and confusion about many things.

There’s fog and then there’s smog. Fog is good. Smog is rotten–the stuff that hung in the air in the late 1940s when I lived in the Los Angeles area. I don’t mind a bit of fog, though it sometimes puts me on edge. I think of all the accumulated clutter of my life as smog. Things and attitudes about ‘things’ that throw me off balance. That keep me from living and dying to each day.

So here’s the last paragraph of my comments about Emily’s poem, reformatted a bit to catch the heart of the matter for me then, now, and tomorrow. The question is how do I get from here to there? And whose faith really matters?

Before my faith and before my birth
there was something else

The Source of my life greets me
from within the Veil
to which Faith leads

Here waits the One who birthed me
Who boldly and courageously watches for me
from the other side of my human life
spinning out a fragile steel-buttressed thread of Faith—
my Creator’s Faith in me
Faith that leads me home
just as I am and yet will be

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 October 2019
Image found at pinterest.com

The underbelly of the Church – because it matters NOW

I’m feeling small these days. Are you? The challenge at the end of this post is meant for all of us who feel unprepared or small.

Below is a quote from Simone Weil about the social and patriotic power of the Church. Not church as we know it on Sunday mornings, but the Church as a powerful institution within a political setting.

Weil wrote during the Nazi era. Her words are troubling, given the rise of the white Evangelical church’s political influence in the USA. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, but also in public arenas where religious language virtually baptizes political figures as agents of God, up to and including Mr. Trump.

In light of the Nazi era, this turn of events is more than troubling. Many, though not all German Protestant and Catholic churches, including pastors and revered theologians, colluded in the rise of Hitler. Their open support amounted to baptizing Hitler as God’s agent sent as their Great Leader at this time. Yes, there would be some bloodshed. But in the end, life will be better for those who survive, and Germany itself will gain esteem throughout the world.

Here’s what Simone Weil had to say about herself and the Church during the Nazi era. I read this as a comment on both Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany, though she refers to the Catholic Church. Highlights are mine.

All things carefully considered, I believe they come down to this: what scares me is the Church as a social thing. Not solely because of her stains, but by the very fact that it is, among other characteristics, a social thing.

Not that I am by temperament very individualistic. I fear for the opposite reason. I have in myself a strongly gregarious spirit. I am by natural disposition extremely easily influenced in excess, and especially by collective things. I know that if in this moment I had before me twenty German youth singing Nazi songs in chorus, part of my soul would immediately become Nazi. It is a very great weakness of mine. . . .

I am afraid of the patriotism of the Church that exists in the Catholic culture. I mean ‘patriotism’ in the sense of sentiment analogous to an earthly homeland. I am afraid because I fear contracting its contagion. Not that the Church appears unworthy of inspiring such sentiment, but because I don’t want any sentiment of this kind for myself.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Published by Harper Perennial in 1950 to celebrate 100 years since Weil’s birth

I couldn’t agree more. I’m also troubled by the silence of many white Evangelical churches that (rightly) choose not to get on the Trump bandwagon. Silence often enables the abuse of power. I don’t want to catch the silence virus. Hence this post and others to remind me that I have a voice, it counts, and I must exercise it regularly.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2018, reposted 26 September 2019
Image found at books.google.com

What’s the hurry?

Why the rush?
Why so many accidents?
Why the impatience
To get somewhere —
Anywhere but here

On any day of the week
Another set of lives
Is lost to this world
Thanks to our addiction
To what? Waiting until
The last minute? Rushing
To make it through
The intersection before
What?

And then there’s that
Annoyingly impatient
Horn honking from behind
As if that would force me to
Collude with the driver’s
Deep need to hurry to
What? At what cost?

I look in the mirror
And see myself
Not in the driver’s seat
But in mundane events
Of my mundane life
Racing in spirit if not
In body to the next thing
Waiting in the shadows
Of my deep need for
What?

I’m just back from a lovely walk around my neighborhood. Right now the weather is perfect for morning and afternoon walks. What more could I want?

Yet in the half hour before I left the house this morning I thought of at least three things I needed to get done right now. Even though I didn’t. Three excuses for putting the walk off until later in the day. Or tomorrow.

Thankfully, my inability to decide what to do next forced the issue. I went for a walk. It was lovely!

When I returned, D was talking with our painter about a horrible automobile accident in which several lives were lost, including one of his friends. All because of one driver who was in a hurry and couldn’t or wouldn’t slow down to stop for a red light.

I wonder what I’m avoiding when I begin honking the horn at myself. And at what cost?

Here’s to a Wednesday devoid of horn-honking. Especially at ourselves.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2019
Photo found at medium.com

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