Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: the human condition

Small gifts of grace

On my way to the garage
A small thin cup-like piece
Of bird shell cracked and broken
Rests on our driveway
Beneath the holly tree
Where resident catbirds set up
temporary nesting quarters

Hours later and bone weary
I turn off the engine and hear
The unmistakable notes of a
Lullaby sweet and calming
Borrowed tunes full of grace
Soft and gentle from a catbird
Keeping watch from a nearby tree

I want to be a catbird when I grow up
Simple beauty singing made-up songs
Of quiet sometimes raucous joy
For everyone and no one in particular
Offering small benedictions to
Broken hearts and weary travelers
On their way from here to there

God bless us every one on this weekend of Sabbath rest and remembrance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 May 2019
Photo of a SE Pennsylvania Catbird found at reddit.com

Writing about Life and Death

Dear Friends,
I have death on my mind these days. Not without life. Yet it’s different, this discipline of writing about death.

Just over a week ago my Fitbit One fell into the toilet! No kidding. No resuscitation. And no easy replacement. I’ve used a Fitbit for approximately ten years. Never once did it jump into the toilet. Until now.

Alas! My faithful Fitbit One is no longer sold or actively supported by Fitbit. So I’ve moved to a lowly pedometer. It won’t produce the same data and analysis. It will, however, get me off my butt and moving every day.

My latest waking dream, posted with a poem called Portals, was also about big change. In the dream, I’ve left my familiar world and just arrived in a different space. It looks and feels like a transitional space. Think of an international airport only nicer. A place where people of all ages, races, nationalities and ways of life are mingling. I’m a beginner, yet at ease and happy to be there.

Here’s something else that’s happening. I’m playing the piano more often and enjoying it more. In the dream I find a room brimming with children singing, and adults out in the hallway singing along with them. I didn’t want it to stop.

Which reminds me of my visits with Diane. Each time I visited, I cried when it was time to leave. Every visit held moments of beauty, pain, and deep connection. Saying goodbye was painful. I didn’t want to leave because Diane might die before I returned.

That’s similar to the way I feel about playing the piano. It’s a sign that beauty hasn’t vanished from my life. Nor will it. Just as long as I stay ‘close to the bone’ and keep telling the truth. Even if I’m not able to play the piano anymore.

In the meantime, I want to know how all of this will play out in my writing. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says this:

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.

© Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, p. 3, published by Pantheon Books in 1994

One thing is certain. Each of us will die sooner or later. I want to walk and write toward death truthfully and with intention, open to voices of others, and especially open to my own voice and experiences along the way.

Thanks for listening and visiting!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 May 2019
Photo found at messynessychic.com

Baby birds

Baby birds
Wrenched by snakes
From precarious nests
Flutter to the ground
Dead and dying

My first memory of daily life
On this lush planet
Teeming with death by
a thousand lashes of
whipping swords and
razor-sharp tongues
small and large –

Have mercy on us.

Lord, is it I?
The question haunts me

Silence and apathy pile on
Proliferating odds
Of global violence perpetrated
By ourselves against ourselves
Despite Your image
Carried within our fragile human
Bodies and aching souls

Have mercy on us.

It was the early 1950s. I’ll never forget the evening we heard a racket outside a window in the dining room. I was about 8 or 9 years old. A pair of cardinals had built a nest in a shrub outside and just below a dining room window. A first-class seat for the whole  family, as bird eggs hatched and little peeps began their regular cries for food! More food!

On this evening, however, the racket was huge. Way more than babies screaming for food. We looked out and saw a small yard snake attacking the nest. The cardinal mom and dad were raising a ruckus, going at the snake. Too late. Babies were already falling out of the nest.

By the time Dad got there, all 3 or 4 babies were on the ground. Still very young, and unable to make their way back to the nest. Dad got a shoebox, lined it with a towel, put on his gloves, and went out to see if he could help. Just before depositing them in the nest, he let us take a look from a safe distance.

That night we went to bed hoping all would be well in the morning. It was not. The babies were gone.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 May 2019
Photo of baby cardinals found at intothedeep.net

Conversations on Loving and Dying

Diane is on my mind these days. Sister #3 of four daughters. She died of ALS after 10 years of learning to live with it and with death. During this time I visited her regularly, and witnessed a chain of small and large deaths. Game-changers.

Muscle movement died off bit by bit. Some capacities disappeared overnight. This was death in life, taken in a thousand small and large bites. When she died, she was barely able to move her eyes and eyebrows—keys to communicating with family members and caretakers.

What does it mean to die? I don’t believe Diane died just on the day she never woke up. She died a thousand times over on the way from here to there. She learned to embrace and live with death. Sometimes with gusto. Other times with anguish and anger.

Recently D and I started reading and talking about Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. It’s by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush. Ram Dass had a stroke about 20 years ago, and is still learning to live with death. His friend Mirabai Bush spent time with him talking about death, and then helped bring this book to life.

The book invites us into conversation about questions we often ignore. Especially conversation with the person we’re most likely to be with when we die. Call it getting ready to die by learning to let go of what holds us back.

Recently I wrote a poem about numbering my days. It takes wisdom to number our days. I can’t pretend death is way off in the distance. I don’t know when it will come. I do, however, know I need wisdom to make choices. What will I do and not do right now, given the time I have today?

Diane is my heroine for this kind of wisdom. She numbered her days. She decided what she would and would not do in the time she had left, and what would signal the end—time for comfort care until she died.

I don’t have ALS. Still, I have fewer years to live today than I had yesterday, and at least two health issues that will likely contribute to my death.

I’m relieved I’ve begun these conversations with D. They aren’t always easy. They are, however, always productive.

As always, thank you for visiting and reading. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write from my heart. No matter where it finds me on any given day.

Elouise♥ 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 May 2019
Image found at amazon.com

Lost

Aching for a day of rest
Quiet time. Down time.

I’m lost. Uncentered and
Unfocused. Getting through
Each day as I’m able without
Much structure or sense of
Movement. The world feels
Heavy tonight. I want to
Shut it out yet cannot.

Weather. Politics. Disasters
In the making. Addictions to
Addictions. Things falling
Apart display the seamy
Side of life and how little we
Understand where, how or
Why we’re going or not
Going.

Blatant. It’s not hidden
Anymore. No filters to drown
Out today’s terror or tomorrow’s
Warring madness. Caught
Without a plan or the humility
Of guidance or signs of care
For real people not on the
Power grid.

Then again, it isn’t new or
All that different than my
Post-WWII childhood. Just more
Open. Unapologetic. In my face
Like that horror movie I never
Paid to see.

They say we should hope.
I say hope is hopeless minus
Action. Yet here I am. Old.
Not sure I have it in me to
Resist injustice no matter
Where and when it’s found.
Help me find my way home.
I think I’m lost.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2019
Image found at wnycstudios.org

Portals

Doors and windows
Hopes and fears
Toy with my mind
Restless in sleep

What lies within
beyond or behind?
Is this a point
Of no return?

I don’t remember
Leaping into this
Semi-other world not
Reality as I know it

Everyday events
Morph into unfamiliar
perspectives and tastes
Soon turned normal

Is this my home away
From home or a new
Portal ushering me from
This life into another?

I haven’t had many dreams in the past several years. However, they’re beginning to re-emerge.

In my latest waking dream I’m in a great, mixed company of people, including children. We’re in a large conference-like venue. I’m surrounded by strangely familiar and unfamiliar bits of reality.

Overall, I like the unfamiliar bits. First, the food — living plants and flowers eaten without plates or utensils. It tastes good, and there’s plenty of it. Second a room filled with children singing. Their music floats into a large corridor where adults of all ages sing along. What could be more uplifting than that?

I’m not afraid, though my level of uncertainty and sense of being a newcomer is sky-high. I don’t feel out of place. Instead, I feel my way along like the beginner I am, surrounded by people I know or knew, and some I don’t know at all.

Is this a party? Will it end? I don’t know. I wake up teary, wishing the dream would just keep spinning out.

That’s where I am as of today. This was a busy week, with more time away from home than usual. Today I’m chilling out, grateful for friends I saw this week, for good doctors, and for plenty of plant food (minus flowers) for my ridiculously cruciferous smoothies.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 May 2019
Photo of Smudge in our attic, taken by me in February 2019

Sleep-walking

Sleep-walking
Through another day
Weariness drops into
Dry bones like rain

Eyes mist at the sight
Of old friends making
Music tug at my heart

The clock ticks through
Evening gasping for
Breath undone by the
Speed of life’s descent
Into restless sleep
And premature birth
Of tomorrow

I’ve missed posting for a few days, which feels like forever. Monday was all about seeing my cardiologist, and getting the OK to keep doing what I’m already doing to live with A-fib (atrial fibrillation). Yesterday I visited with two friends before enjoying a quiet, sleepy afternoon at home.

The days are getting longer on the outside, with lots of early morning birdsong. This makes it more pleasant, but not easier to roll out of bed in the mornings. Mother’s Day was quiet, unseasonably cold and rainy. I propose we schedule another Mother’s Day to be celebrated on the first sunny Sunday from today!

Now I’m off to work on that second Longwood Gardens Photo post.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2019
Misty Rainforest photo taken by Andre Kosslick, found at colorear.myhydros.org

On any given day

Death knocks
Each time I blink
Or turn around
To answer the door
Or look the other way

An incessant drizzle
Muffles the sound of
A clock chiming hours
Now gone forever. . .
Steals through pores
In skin and brain
Takes up sweet residence
Pays no rent and
Leaves no tips
For the next occupant

Today I’m off to the kitchen to make a big pot of lentil/veggie soup for my hungry soul. I’m comforted by the thought of death intermingling with life. It doesn’t make it any more attractive. It does, however, make sense of the passing away of each moment.

It also suggests ways to acknowledge its presence instead of wasting energy ignoring it — or trying to lock it in the recesses of a large closet to be opened only upon my death.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 May 2019
Image found at fotosearch.com

You prepare a table before me….

Yesterday D and I visited Longwood Gardens. The weather was beautiful–mild temperatures, a bit of sun, and plenty of clouds without rain.

D took this unlikely photo in the meadow. Oh….  A weed. Maybe; maybe not.

I’m sorry you can’t see how tiny this little ‘wild weed’ is. And I’m fairly certain some of you may not see the little insect lunching on one of the flowers. It looks like a little brown speck on a blossom to the left of the main stem.

I couldn’t help thinking about Psalm 23, and hearing this as a reference to nature’s insects. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I’m pretty sure this little insect’s enemies would include birds and larger insects looking for lunch. But they could also include human beings. Instead of guarding them and their habitats, it seems we’re intent on destroying them.

After all, they’re tiny. A dime a dozen, Who’s going to miss them? Besides, who needs that mangy old meadow, or that weedy vacant lot anymore? They’re eyesores!

It felt odd to think of this little insect as a link in our food chain and the food chain of the meadow. One of thousands of links in distress. The news reports were full of it last night. We’re quickly ramping up our own global disaster already in the making. I couldn’t help thinking about this little speck of an insect on a common ‘weed.’

Happy Tuesday to each of you! I’m working on more LG pics for a later post.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 May 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 6 May 2019, Longwood Gardens Meadow

Thoughts drift in and out

Thoughts drift in and out
Restless and murky
On the edge of
Something not yet
Articulated

My mind waits impatiently
For the penny to drop
into a swirling sea of
Unclaimed possibilities

The juke box won’t wait
It wants to dance now
Drowning my heart with
Aches and longing for
What never was

Sitting up straight
I turn the rusty key
And find one thing
Remains –
I want to go home
Even if it died
Just yesterday

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 May 2019
Photo found at pinterest.com – Foggy Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains

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