Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: the human condition

the mouth of a labyrinth | Simone Weil

Labyrinth mosaic, pintrestcom, bf2fc531911eaeff68e36f2a566bd032

Today a visitor read this post from June 2015. The quote below is from philosopher Simone Weil.  I reformatted her words for easier reading and used feminine pronouns. I think this could be about me. Right now. Maybe about you? My comments follow, lightly edited.

The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth.
The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps
is soon unable to find the opening.
Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark,
separated from her dear ones,
and from everything she loves and is accustomed to,
she walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything,
incapable even of discovering whether she is really going forward
or merely turning round on the same spot. 

But this affliction is as nothing
compared with the danger threatening her.
For if she does not lose courage,
if she goes on walking,
it is absolutely certain that
she will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth.
And there God is waiting to eat her.
Later she will go out again,
but she will be changed,
she will have become different,
after being eaten and digested by God.
Afterward she will stay near the entrance so that
she can gently push all those who come near into the opening.

 –Simone Weil, Waiting for God

*  *  *

During a visit to Longwood Gardens, we started down the formal flower walk. The colors were spectacular. However, the odor was so strong that one family member said it was giving him a headache.

The odor persisted along the flower walk. Was it from a strange flower? No. It came from mulch in the flower beds!

Somehow this reminded me of Simone Weil’s words.

The beauty of the world is the mouth of the labyrinth….
at the center of the labyrinth….
God is waiting to eat her.

The world’s beauty includes nature’s beauty, here described as the mouth of a labyrinth that draws me in, unaware of what lies ahead.  Once drawn in, I find myself following the labyrinth to its center, and experiencing at least the following dis-ease:

  • temporary separation from familiar life outside the labyrinth
  • ignorance about where I am and where I’m going
  • fear of going in circles that lead nowhere

The center of the labyrinth is even more disquieting, if not dangerous. The mouth of God waits at the center. It waits to eat me alive, along with any other unsuspecting traveler.

So God eats and digests me. Turns me into mulch or compost, full of life-generating potential. Like compost baking in the sun. A form of death. Everything broken down, turned into solid and liquid gold that feeds the next generation.

Though nature isn’t God, it reflects something about the way God works. It helps me understand why life sometimes feels like a journey to another planet. A messy, smelly, sometimes terrifying journey of dying in order to be reborn as something truly valuable. Something that doesn’t look at all like the image I hope to see in my mirror.

My spiritual formation isn’t about getting all cleaned up. Nor is it about being destroyed by God or anyone else. It’s about being changed, transformed. It won’t happen unless I’m willing to be risk getting lost—helpless and unable to get myself out of my situation, much less understand where I’m going and why.

The journey itself can be terrifying; so can God’s role. It seems alien to all I might expect God to be. Thankfully, I have a choice to enter the labyrinth or not.

Or do I? There’s Simone Weil, standing at the mouth of the labyrinth, gently pushing unsuspecting travelers into the open mouth. In which case, I will emerge transformed by God if I keep moving along, one disorienting turn after another.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 June 2015; reposted 15 January 2022
Mosaic Labyrinth Image from pintrest.com

In the deep mid-winter | 3 Haikus

buzzing ears open
for business this frigid day
listening to nothing

wind howls
through cracked walls
a baby cries

travelers
missing in action
full stop

Real Winter. We haven’t had it here in Eastern Pennsylvania for several years. Now it seems to be making up for lost time.

This morning I set things up to make a big pot of spiced red lentil soup. I also used my SAD ‘happy light’ to help with my mood. Best of all, I decided not to race out early this morning (with D driving) for a blood draw before 9am.

Not a bad beginning to what promises to be a gusty, sun-shiny day, with the temperature plummeting tonight. Not many birds were out for their early morning suet feast.

Beginning this week, I’ll see three of my doctors, one a week, to find out what my blood tests, MRI, and other tests to my feet and legs are adding up to.

In the meantime, I’m finding out when my feet don’t hurt. It’s all about music! Playing the piano instantly takes my mind off the pain. So does walking in the house or working in the kitchen with my new headphones, listening to direct-feed music, babbling brooks and birds, or anything else remotely musical. Thanks to our daughter and her husband for the birthday headphones.

Best of all, I have no pain when I’m sitting at my computer writing poetry or posts for you.

Until next time, I’m still
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 January 2022
Photo found at houstonchronicle.com

Colors of dusk and the unknown

Colors of dusk
lull my weary heart to sleep

Day fades into night
as this weary world
churns abruptly
from one horrifying
mess to another

Twilight melts into darkness
punctuated by distant specks of
bright stars and planets
peering into the morass
of today’s fading planet earth
sinking and disappearing
beneath melting icebergs
firestorms and tornadoes
to say nothing of unnumbered
human beings struggling
to keep the little they have—
Or, on the other side of the tracks,
retain monstrous wealth the elite
believe they own and control

Fast fading colors
invite me to lay down
my body and rest
for just a little while
within the unknown

Here are a few questions I wonder about these days.

  • Are we prepared to be a nation driven by greed, anger, lies and innuendos? Or, are we ready to take a stand?
  • Ready to call out lies and innuendoes that pretend to be truth? Ready to live with the consequences?
  • Or, might we try getting interested in what other people think and why?

I would love to see us take a stand, though not just any stand. Am I ready for this? I don’t know. Partly because I’m not sure which is more distressing: the status of our nation and perhaps every other nation in this world, or the status of my health. None of it looks great these days. I keep wondering what to say about all this.

I can’t ignore our nation, and I can’t ignore my health. The AlAnon/AA saying, ‘one day at a time’ works well IF I’m willing to focus on one day or one minute at a time. My mind and my feelings fight against me, as though things will be better (tomorrow!) if I do more research on my health issues. Or read more news articles.

Yet the truth is simple. I’d rather write a poem, play or listen to beautiful music, watch the birds outside our kitchen window, or watch the evening sky flaming out in glory.

Thanks for being part of my sanity plan for old age! I’m still trying to figure it out–one day at a time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 January 2022
Photo found at unsplash.com

My prayer for the New Year

Finding my place
In this pandemic madness
Proves elusive

Perhaps my eyes have
Learned not to see clearly
What others predict

Or I’m just weary
With hanging out and waiting
For the same old news

Don’t get me wrong. I admire every news commentator and guest who speaks from diligent research and personal experience. Especially about the current pandemic.

At the end of the day, however, we haven’t a clue what will happen next here in the USA. Not just regarding Covid and its growing family of unpredictable offspring, but also about our growing habit of living in alternate realities.

Right versus Wrong, Left versus Right, Independent, Nothing at All. Identities proudly held and widely approved as political signatures. They announce one’s loyalty or disloyalty not to a country or to the world, but to unproven and often unprovable opinions about many things.

In fact, most of us have been swimming and/or drowning in alternate realities since the day we were born. When I look back at my childhood, I’m horrified. Just within my own family the push was already on. The goal was crystal clear: obey your parents (especially your father) or pay the price. This goal permeated and shaped every area of my life.

Early experiences of ‘my father’s way or the highway’ didn’t help me become a thoughtful citizen, a trustworthy neighbor, or a careful listener to strangers. I know, anything can happen. I might get into big trouble. However, that’s not news. News would be my growing ability to welcome even more ‘strangers’ into my life.

My prayer for the New Year is that I’ll find simple ways to reconnect with and welcome friends and strangers, especially those who don’t see the world as I see it.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 January 2022
Image found at brandsandplaces.com

My Great MRI Adventure | New Year’s Eve 2021

In knee-high socks
And ortho shoes she trips
The light fantastic

Light as a feather
Music spins through soft earphones
To another world

Silencing all noise
Beauty fills every fiber
Of her weary soul

I’m lying on a long, narrow table. A long capsule slides almost silently over my body.

I’ve been up since early in the morning. D is sitting in the waiting room. I’ve been told more than once that the MRI will take 15-20 minutes. My name is called. I’m ushered into a small room with a closet. I answer a barrage of questions I already answered online and in the waiting room. The woman helping me is kind.

She tells me how to put on the two gowns lying on the bench, and where to lock my clothing and belongings. The only things I’m allowed to wear are my knee-high socks and one other piece of clothing I will not name.

I emerge draped in two huge gowns.

I’m directed to a barber-shop like chair obviously made for people larger than I. I can’t lean back or touch the floor with my feet. I sit up straight and hold still while the pacemaker team disengages Lucy Pacemaker and makes sure they can monitor my heartbeat/arrhythmia while I’m having the MRI. This takes at least 20 minutes. I’m happy to say that everyone who worked with me treated me as the Queen I am, for which I was most grateful!

Finally, I’m escort by a female nurse to the MRI room. The male technician who will be in the room with me the entire time has me change my anti-Covid mask for their mask (not as nice as mine). He also has me leave my changing room key on the table. The nurse and technician help me onto a very narrow table.

As fast as lightning, the technician inserts ear plugs, adjusts my head, puts a large cushion beneath my legs and knees, glues and tapes stuff onto my chest to monitor my heartbeat, puts a finger clip on my right thumb, and a rubber ball in my left hand. I’m to squeeze it if, at any point, I’m not comfortable. If I squeeze it for any reason, the MRI will be terminated and rescheduled.

Finally, sheets are pulled up; my feet are positioned just right and strapped down so they won’t fall off the narrow table. The technician assures me that he’ll be in the room the entire time, ready to help me. Then he disappears somewhere behind my head, and the capsule starts sliding over my body. I decided early on to keep my eyes closed and practice relaxation breathing. I was not prepared for either the noise or the heat.

Nor was I prepared for the cacophony of diverse sounds that bounced around me. Sometimes there were lengthy pauses; sometimes only a few sounds. Other times it was like being caught in crossfire that didn’t want to end. I wasn’t prepared for this strange mixture that had no rhyme or reason.

However, somewhere along the way I thought about drum beats I’d heard when D and I were on sabbatical in Kenya. Instead of angst, I had a bit of curiosity and interest, though I was still shocked by the diversity and clamor of this strange machine.

Suddenly it was done. The young man and my nurse helped me back to my barber-shop chair. The nurse handed me a bottle of water which I drained to the last drop. Lucy Pacemaker was returned to being in charge of my heart. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and have D drive me home.

Thanks for visiting today! For 2022, I pray you and I will grow as truthtellers, no matter how difficult or dangerous it becomes.

Happy New Year!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 December 2021
Image found at wfmt.com

Desmond Tutu, Mary and the oppressed

Pin on madonna

Mary’s song came to mind this morning when I read about Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s life and death. Not the version we hear in church during the Christmas season, but Rev. Zephania Kameeta’s version below.

Mary is often depicted in sumptuous gowns. Yes, we honor her faithfulness to her son, right up to his unjust death. At the same time, I can’t forget her social status. She wasn’t born into a privileged life, and her neighbors may have raised an eyebrow or two when she became pregnant.

The sting in Mary’s song is large, especially when we remember her status in society. From my perspective, Rev. Kameeta captures the sting and the reality of Mary’s song and Jesus’ birth. Not in general terms, but as it relates to his own rejected brothers and sisters in Namibia.

Zephania Kameeta sings the song of Mary – Luke 1:46-55

Today I look into my own heart and all around me,
and I sing the song of Mary.

My life praises the Lord my God
who is setting me free.
He has remembered me, in my humiliation and distress!
From now on those who rejected and ignored me
will see me and call me happy,
because of the great things he is doing
in my humble life.

His name is completely different from the other names in this world;
from one generation to another,
he was on the side of the oppressed

As on the day of the Exodus, he is stretching out
his might arm to scatter the oppressors
with all their evil plans.
He has brought down mighty kings
from their thrones
and he has lifted up the despised;
and so will he do today.
He has filled the exploited with good things,
and sent the exploiters away with empty hands;
and so he will do today.

His promise to our mothers and fathers remains new and fresh to this day.
Therefore the hope for liberation which is burning in me
will not be extinguished.
He will remember me, here now and beyond the grave.

Rev. Zephania Kameeta’s song was published in Why, O Lord? Psalms and sermons from Namibia, p. 15.
© 1986 World Council of Churches, published as part of the Risk book series

Thanks for stopping by today. These are troubled and troubling times. I pray we’ll find our way home, one day at a time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 December 2021
Image found at pinterest.com

Christmas in bleak midwinter

Outside my kitchen window
the sun beams bright and clear
on a cold Monday morning

Hungry birds run into each other
trying to gobble as many
ripe red berries as the law
allows in this increasingly
lawless dreamland called
these ‘United’ states

A slight glimmer of hope
remains despite our
greedy determination
to spend it all on ourselves
before we disappear into
the vortex of a tornado or
wildfires of human mayhem

Christmas has rarely been
this bleak though in truth
it first arrived in bleak midwinter
when powers that be weren’t
expecting the revolutionary
transformation sparked by
one small baby born and laid
in a manger surrounded by
hopes and dreams despite
the stench of reality

Outside my kitchen window
the sun still beams bright and clear
on this cold Monday morning

With apologies to my friends on the other side of the globe, experiencing what may well be a bleak midsummer.  And with thanks to persistent songbirds that captured my attention this morning with their determined dive-bombing for holly berries!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 December 2021
Photo by Terry DeLuko found at pixels.com

Why writing feels dangerous

How do I write when life is still a numbed-out muddle?

Last night I read about a woman who couldn’t get in touch with sensations in her body because she felt disconnected. Numb.

I relate to her. All my life I’ve experienced numbing out—sometimes on purpose; other times as the general go-to mode of my body. That means I feel out-of-place, lost, or just not interested in the vulnerability of connecting.

Years of neglect also hang out in my body. No wonder I get weary and can’t always stay awake emotionally. Perhaps some part of me has lost its memory or its ability to function with and for me.

And so I move on to something else instead of sitting with it. Or wondering about it, loving or even soothing it. Or welcoming it as a major part of the woman I’ve been and have become.

I’m a writer. I want to connect with what’s going on inside me, not just with thoughts running through my mind. I want to listen to myself, speak from within myself. Yet I’ve guarded so much for so long.

Can numbness lead to death? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m hiding from my voice. Sometimes I’m apprehensive about what I might discover or write and then let go. Even before I understand it fully.

From the moment I became a living human being, You’ve been there. Even when I was too terrified to be there. Too terrified to sit quietly with whatever was going on inside this woman I keep calling ‘me.’

Am I afraid right now? I want to believe You hold me close and won’t let me stray far from home. Yet I still think it’s my job to keep myself from straying. Maybe that’s why writing feels dangerous. My words are out there. I can’t control how they’re read or used or abused. Or heard and dissected.

A voice seems more fragile than a body. More connected to soul. More vulnerable to attack. Yet when I’ve done my best to be truthful, and have given it away so that the river moves on within and through me, I’m not sure what else I can do except build a dam.

I know about dams. I’ve constructed many in my lifetime. Little dams. Big dams. Complex, contorted, impenetrable dams. Trying desperately to escape the truth about me.

And what if the truth about me is beautiful? Lovely? What then? Have I killed it?

A small Christmas cactus blossom rests in front of me on my desk. A lovely, fading pinkish magenta. Its fragile petals look like limp gauze wings folded around its core. It isn’t ugly; it’s dying. Doing what lovely flowers do after giving themselves away.

It’s the only way to live. Not forever, but in this present moment. My calendar lies to me daily. It promises more than it or I can deliver. I want to live this one day as if there were no tomorrow. No more, and no less.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 January 2018, reposted 10 December 2021
Photo found at pxhere.com

tear-splashed windows

sunbeams stream
through tear-splashed windows
the old woman blinks

~~~

This is not the turn I thought life would take
when I reached my late seventies.

Yesterday’s newborn chicks have finally come home to roost
not in my back yard but in my body.

Today I bear marks of what being female, white and alive cost
from the day I was born until now.

So far in my life, I’ve been able to function without getting entangled in multiple prescription drugs.

For the last several weeks, however, I’ve been looking at three prescription drugs (each from a different doctor), wondering which options would be relatively safe. Especially given my kidney disease. Some prescriptions drugs can’t be discontinued precipitously, which means no trial period.

I‘m also forced to consider my determination not to be caught up in staying “alive” at all costs. When do I cross the point of no return and stop attempts to fix what is unfixable?

I’ve never missed posting so much as I’m missing it now. I’m grateful for your visits and pray each of us will find a way through troubling times that sometimes overshadow the true gift of Christmas.

Thank you for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 December 2021
Photo found at maxpixel.net

Smiling through rain and sun

My one-eyed bright white light
Peers at me wondering where
I’ve been and why it took
So long to remember her

Smiling through rain and sun
Alike she cheers me on without
Great fanfare or even the
Hint of a bill for services

Rendered day or night
Without complaint and with
No thought of tomorrow
Or what lurks around the corner

Today the sun is out, the temperature is a bit warmer than yesterday, and I just finished cleaning out several kitchen cupboards. They were groaning under the weight of out-of-date or unused ingredients and yummy snacks I used to eat. That was before Lucy (my pacemaker), a broken jaw, kidney disease, plus whatever else has piled on since 2016.

My MRI (to help clarify the kind of peripheral neuropathy I have) did not happen as scheduled, thanks to a mistake made by the hospital. I’m now scheduled for December 29. In the meantime, I’m learning to pace myself and take time to put my achy feet up, meditate, read a bit, listen to music, or play the piano (not with my feet up!).

I still struggle with bedtime coming too quickly—before I’ve gotten ‘anything’ accomplished. At the same time, I’m keenly aware that my feet, legs, mind, heart and hands have worked with minimal rest for most of my life. I seem to have inherited from my parents and most churches I’ve attended the need to accomplish something (for others) in order to prove my female worth in this tired old world. It’s way past time to turn the tables.

Thank you for stopping by! When I review what you’ve been reading, I’m often drawn to an old post that makes me weep—not with despair, but with a kind of joy I didn’t think I would experience in this life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 December 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2017

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