Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Valley Forge National Park

green fields

green fields wave
the valley beckons
a warm welcome

life in full heat
rises with a rush
toward summer sky

Yesterday I drove through Valley Forge National Park on my way to a doctor’s appointment. The sky was cloudless and the sun was blistering hot. No problem. Driving through VF is always a delight and a feast for the eyes. Coming home it was almost ten degrees hotter, yet just as beautiful, uncrowded and peaceful. Like a green, tree-blessed island in the middle of a hot stormy sea.

I’m tempted to feel voiceless these days. Yes, I write, and I post. I often wonder what becomes of the verbiage generated by me and by thousands of others writing about our current situation in the USA. Yet I can’t keep silent. It only makes things worse.

There’s precious life in this country waiting for release, along with buckets of pain. Fractured relationships need healing. Anger about injustice and betrayal still need a full hearing. And no one can be all things to all people.

So I’m counting on being one of the small things that matter. Like a blade of grass, a grain of wheat or even a grain of sand. Or how about a wild flower of the field?

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 July 2018
Photo of Valley Forge National Park found at flickr.com, Paris Images

Catching up with myself

One of my faithful readers has challenged me (informally, of course) to tell you the story behind the photo above. It was my last photo in the Valley Forge National Park post about a week ago.

I immediately thought of three true stories, but another turned up this morning. Nonetheless, just so you don’t feel deprived, here’s a one sentence version of each story I’ve chosen not to tell in detail.

  1. Because Elouise is the firstborn of four daughters, she feels the need to keep running or walking faster in order to stay ahead of the pack breathing down her neck.
  2. Elouise and D love to go for walks during which D takes pictures while E just keeps walking ahead and circling back and then walking ahead again, again and again for as long as it takes.
  3. This was a very long walk with restroom facilities and a comfortable car at the end of the journey which Elouise has now almost reached.

OK. All true, and I could produce more of the same. However, on a more serious note, I’ve never thought of myself as needing to catch up with myself. Which means my self knows where it’s going and I need to learn to follow it. So I’ve chosen to see the photo as a kind of allegory of my current life: learning to listen to what I need and can deliver to myself.

Just over two years ago my life changed. Full stop. Don’t move. Breathe deeply, relax and learn to accept.

Short version: Multiple heart problems partially resolved by lovely Lucy Pacemaker. Two weeks later, nasty fall on sidewalk and a broken jaw that forever changed my walking and eating habits. Slow slide afterwards into adrenal fatigue with improvement, not yet resolved. And just over a year ago, a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease.

The impact on my life was sudden and confusing. I never dreamed recovery would be a long, slow forever slog. Or that other issues already residing in my body would be discovered and need attention as well.

The upshot was that I can no longer predict with certainty what I’ll need or be able to do day-to-day. I know the general limits and possibilities of each day, yet I never know how each day will play out. Things that seemed easy yesterday often feel impossible the next day. There isn’t much I can count on except that I have to eat, sleep, listen to and follow my body.

I remember when I first heard the phrase ‘listening to our bodies.’ I thought I knew what that meant. Yet I now know this is an invitation to controlled chaos. In the midst of this chaos, my body is the only reliable indicator I have to get me from here to there. That is, to a place of acceptance and gratitude without becoming bitter, cynical or despairing. And without making presumptions about tomorrow.

The photo reminds me that though this is a lonely task, beauty accompanies me. Sometimes it isn’t as obvious as Valley Forge National Park. Yet it’s always there waiting to be discovered. Sometimes in my backyard; sometimes in other people; sometimes in music or writing or the wanderings of my mind. I may seem alone and feel lonely; yet there’s more going on than loneliness when I’m willing to receive it. That’s when I truly catch up with myself and am grateful.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 May 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser at Valley Forge National Park, 6 May 2018

Walking at Valley Forge | Photos

Nearly two weeks ago our daughter Sherry and her husband Scott arrived for a long-anticipated visit. Yesterday we drove them to the airport for a flight back to the West Coast. Always it’s too short. Always I weep my eyes out, during and after (not without happy breaks). Always I feel softened and vulnerable. Always I love this break from routine. Always I’m loathe to say goodbye.

The day after they arrived we went for a late afternoon walk through part of Valley Forge National Park. Two things strike me when we visit the Park. One is the stillness and quiet, despite being just a stone’s throw from crowded highways and huge shopping centers. The other is nonstop birdsong, whether we’re walking by the meadow or through a wooded area.

Here are a few photos, minus the beautiful birdsong. The photo at the top shows us (minus D who’s behind the camera) just beginning our walk.

Looking out over the meadows, it’s tempting to think they were always there. Before the 1977-78 winter encampment during the Revolutionary War, almost all Valley Forge was forested. During the 6-month winter encampment, most trees were cut down for firewood and buildings.

Reclaiming the land as a national memorial involved delineating swaths of forest, creating managed meadows, and leaving space for a series of state highways, walking and biking paths, visitor facilities, monuments, memorials, reconstructed troop huts, and other renovated facilities such as George Washington’s headquarters during the encampment (a gift to the Park). The Park covers 3,500 acres (1,400 ha), gets over a million visitors per year, and is open year-round. Click here to see a visitor’s map of the grounds (not true to scale).

Here’s a little jack-in-the-pulpit beside a trail through the woods.

Now we’ll pause to ponder the look of young poison ivy in Pennsylvania. Isn’t it beautiful in the late afternoon sun? And don’t forget as you hike through the woods that so-called ‘dead’ poison ivy vines (often as thick as ropes) are also virulent.


These lovely little flowers are not poison ivy.

On our way back to the parking lot D got a photo of an elusive red-winged blackbird. In the last photo below, I’m almost to the parking lot. Notice the shaded picnic tables to the left, and facilities for visitors on the edge of the parking lot just ahead.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 May 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, 29 April 2018
Valley Forge National Historical Park

chilled to the bone

chilled to the bone
night’s deep silence descends
winter drifts through cracks

***

Disconnected from feelings
Numb and disbelieving
I want to write
So many unknowns
So much at stake
So little time left
Will I or Won’t I?
Sooner or Later?
Is Never still an option?

This week brought unwelcome news in a couple of areas. No catastrophic accidents. Just the knowledge of things I didn’t want to hear. About a friend and about my health.

Yesterday we drove through Valley Forge National Historic Park. Outdoor temperatures were subfreezing. Snow was on the ground, covering a thin layer of frozen sleet. We saw one brave soul walking his beautiful dog along one of the paths that circle and cut through Valley Forge. Everyone else was in heated four-wheel vehicles driving through the Park.

I didn’t write the haiku above after that drive. But it captures some of the angst and foreboding perhaps encoded in the few remaining buildings and cabins still standing here and there throughout the Park. Remnants of a winter nightmare followed by springtime diseases that took more lives than winter took.

They thought they would be going home to their families and friends.

foot paths meander
through fields of wartime sorrow —
home to the fallen

I want to find my way home. Don’t you? Life is filled with breathtaking beauty. The kind that makes leaving it breathtakingly painful. Right now I’m being invited to play life in a different key. And my cold fingers are stumbling around a bit, learning to be at home in what doesn’t always feel like home.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 January 2018
Photo of cabins at Valley Forge found at history.org

Mother’s Day at the Park | Photos

 P1050933

I’m back at my computer after a lovely Mother’s Day. Busy writing up the next exciting instalment about our early marriage. In the meantime, Read the rest of this entry »

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