Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Vulnerability

Made in the USA

Wouldn’t it be grand
To write Trump’s presidency off
And say Done!
As he walks into the setting sun

Yet even as we sleep
A trillion seeds
Sow discord and
Disdain from sea
To shining sea
From the mountains
To the prairies

This isn’t the Trump Brand
It’s the USA Brand
“Made in the USA”
Our perpetual motion display
Of disdain for neighbors
And for strangers within
Our gates looking for
Nothing more than
A life on this earth
Free of the relentless
Task of living in two or more
Worlds at the same time

Black lives
Shades of Brown lives
And don’t forget the women and children
And men of any color at all
Struggling to make ends meet
In every state of our disunion

The Not Welcome Sign
Now rusty and ugly
Hangs in the breeze
Mourning and begging
To be taken down

Are we too late?
Worse yet, have we begun
Another endless chapter
In Our Great Myth of the USA?

As long as our Creator gives me breath, I’m committed to telling the truth.

Sometimes I’m tempted to hold back. Guard my flanks. Lower the flag of protest or truth just a bit. Yet I didn’t begin this blog in order to tell the truth about what’s sweet and nice.

When I posted yesterday’s poem, I felt a bit edgy. Not because of what I said, but because I said it at all. Silence might seem safer and easier. From my childhood, however, I know that’s a lie.

Whether written, lived or spoken, it doesn’t matter. Truth is the only way we’ll find ourselves and make our way together, whether we like the truth or not. Otherwise, we’re running around or hunkering down in our small worlds, or we’re trying (like Trump) to make huge splashes that might feel good, yet do nothing to promote our common welfare.

Thanks again for visiting and reading,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 January 2021
Image found at forbes.com

Alas, Mr. Trump

Alas, Mr. Trump
You are Not the Only Problem
I know you won’t like it
But it’s the naked truth

They smiled and cheered
And raised their weapons
Of warfare screaming
Bravo as you preened

Forgive me for being
So blunt or don’t forgive me
Because it really doesn’t matter
You are Not the Only Problem

In the chaos of last week’s attack on Congress, it was crystal clear. Several weaponed-up angry white men shouted, ‘This isn’t Trump’s war. It’s ours!’ They’d moved way beyond Trump who, it seems, was the high-ranking inciter and/or supporter of violence they’d dreamed of for years. A cover and a disposable figure. An excuse for mayhem and murder.

Before and after becoming POTUS, Mr. Trump was and still is an inciter of white, mostly male pride, privilege, and crude violence unleashed, unafraid, and unrepentant. Is impeachment enough to satisfy the last four years of incitement to violence and disdain?

I don’t have answers. Nor will we find answers until we white citizens take seriously the history of the USA. For decades we’ve endured or ignored regular disruptions of mostly white “I’ll do it my way” men and women. Including standoffs by white men armed with rifles in this ‘land of the free and home of the brave.’

For the most part, they got away with it then and they get away with it now. Yes, a token number of people are being arrested for last week’s attack on Congress. Still, many have disappeared into the woodwork. There’s no way this attack would have happened if the perpetrators had been black.

Here’s now W. E. B. Du Bois puts it in his early 1900’s essay, “The Souls of White Folk” (emphasis mine).

Murder may swagger, theft may rule and prostitution may flourish and the nation gives but spasmodic, intermittent and lukewarm attention. But let the murderer be black or the thief be brown or the violator of womanhood have a drop of Negro blood, and the righteousness of the indignation sweeps the world. Nor would this fact make the indignation less justifiable did not we all know that it was blackness that was condemned and not crime.

Do we have the guts to condemn white crime? And to hold white Mr. Trump accountable for collusion, if not incitement?

Praying for courage to change the things we can,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 January 2021
Image found at nytimes.com

Life and Death | New Year’s Eve 2020

Words flow like honey
Filled with sharp barbs
Invisible and relentless

Each birth
Each birthday
Each anniversary
Each retirement whether
Planned or not
Each debilitating accident
Each political chess game
You didn’t see coming
Plus Colvid-19 and who’s
Who in the Electoral College Zoo

Grace and glory mixed with
Wormwood and gall
Invite us into the reality of death
Not once in this precarious life
But over and over one day
Following another like a bad
Or good dream depending on
How the ball bounces or
Where it lands on the roulette wheel
Or where we place our trust
As the end precedes the beginning
One day at a time inviting our
Attention not to things that
Dissipate inevitable sorrow
But to sweet gifts of life
Small and almost invisible
Accompanying us into
Each new day and
This new year

Most of my life I’ve assumed New Year Day was the beginning of another great adventure. This year I’m taking it as an invitation not to ignore my coming death. Not because I’m “old” but because I’ve never known when my last breath would leave my body.

Add to that the shape of things today. Not just Covid-19, but streaming refugees, loss of trust between the USA and former allies, the nightmare-like nature of post-Election 2020 claims, grossly inadequate attention to issues related to race, ethnicity, local economies, and growing wealth among those who need it least.

What does this mean? I’ve lived most of my adult life by daily lists. To-do lists. The kind that invite a feeling of despair because they’re never finished. Never.

During the last few weeks I’ve focused on four things that bring me joy: blogging, music, writing poetry, and walking with D. I can’t attend to all of them every day. Still, any one of them is, for me, a way of acknowledging life is short. I don’t have time to waste by avoiding them. Besides, avoiding what I most love won’t bring me joy I could be having right now.

Praying you’ll find your way into joy and alert peace this coming year. This life isn’t over until it’s over.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 December 2020
Image found at travelmanitoba.com

No Room at the Inn | Thomas Merton

I know. Christmas is “over.” Isn’t it?

Yesterday evening I received an email from a friend of many years. Among other things, he passed along the ‘poem’ below, even though it wasn’t written as a poem. 

The excerpt (below) is from an essay, No Room at the Inn, by Thomas Merton. The essay is included in Raids on the Unspeakable, a selection of essays Merton wrote from 1960 to 1966, during the Viet Nam War. The small collection is published in Canada by Penguin Books Canada, and in New York by New Directions Publishing Corp.

Here’s the excerpt, in poetic form.  

No Room at the Inn

Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.

But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
and yet he must be in it,
His place is with the others for whom
there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power, because
they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied status of persons,
who are tortured, bombed and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.

Here’s the rub. I say I’m following Jesus. Am I ready for this? Do I really want to be known as ‘one of them’? 

Praying we’ll find strength and grace in the coming year to join those shut out from the inns of this world.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 December 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

The unsung life of birds | Photos

Junco huddles in bare lilac bush one day after the storm

Swarming outside our kitchen window
They take speedy targeted turns
Though not always with good manners
Flocking nonstop to the one thing
They need this season above all else –
A turn at the table set for everyone

The pecking order becomes clear
In the space of about three minutes

Red-bellied woodpeckers take top honors
Clearing the deck and wrapping themselves
Around the feeder in order to get that
One big seed and retreat to the nearest tree

Feisty cantankerous house finches follow quickly;
Swarming house sparrows hog the food and linger
Fighting furiously for the best seat at the table;
Chickadees and tufted titmice land, grab and go;
Red and white-bellied nuthatches often prefer it
Upside-down and are gone in a flash,
Favorite seeds gripped in razor-sharp beaks

Brilliant male cardinals and their mates hover
In nearby shrubs, watching for an opening
Though he frequently shoves her to the
Sidelines where she patiently (?) waits her turn
Beside sweet grey and white juncos sitting
On the porch rail watching for just the right
Moment to swoop in and grab a bite or two

Isn’t it wonderful to write scripts for the birds? I wonder what they would write about us.

This week we’ve had ample time to study the seed and suet feeders. Generally speaking (in case you’re wondering), ubiquitous gray squirrels are being deflected from the impenetrable bird feeder, thanks to the recently hung suet feeder. They prefer trying to bite through the suet screen, hoping to break in and grab the whole cake!

David took the photos above and below the day after this week’s wild wind, snow, sleet and ice storm. Enjoy!

The morning after the storm

House sparrows

Nuthatch on suet feeder; yes, the squirrels managed to spring the cage, but not far enough to deliver the whole cake!
Now fully secured, assuming they can’t bite through small padlocks….

Red male cardinal feasting

Female cardinal and a white-bellied junco

I pray this closing week of Advent brings hope and peace into parts of our lives that are difficult at any age.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser, 17 December 2020

The Life we have is very great – revisited

Here’s a second look at Emily Dickinson’s poem about Life, Infinity, and the Human Heart. A good poem for today when we’re missing family members or friends for any reason, plus Covid-19, political standoffs, hate crimes, or the harsh reality of wildfires, avalanches and hurricanes. My lightly edited comments follow.

The Life we have is very great.
The Life that we shall see
Surpasses it, we know, because
It is Infinity.
But when all Space has been beheld
And all Dominion shown
The smallest Human Heart’s extent
Reduces it to none.

c. 1870

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

It doesn’t matter how many worlds we discover beyond this world. It doesn’t matter how far the distance is from here to there and beyond. It doesn’t even matter that the universe is still expanding.

None of this, as surpassingly great or expansive as it may be, holds a candle to the smallest of human hearts.

According to Emily, the Life we now have is ‘very great.’ The Life we’ll have beyond this Life is even greater. Yet it’s infinitesimal compared to what our hearts can see and grasp right now.

Emily describes the heart’s capacity to love Life. Especially when we can’t see those we love. She suggests that the expansiveness of one small human heart outshines infinity itself.

Yes, it’s fascinating to explore the universe, what may lie beyond it and how it’s ordered. Yet what we discover externally will never match the capacity of one small human heart to connect with another human heart.

It doesn’t matter whether that heart is what we call dead or alive, here or there, or somewhere in between. Nor do we need to understand exactly what Space encompasses, how it is governed, or where Infinity resides.

This isn’t about measuring or mapping Life beyond our present Life. Or discovering where those we love now reside.

It’s about connections. All it takes is one small human heart to leap beyond unmapped, immeasurable boundaries, expanding outward in a heartbeat to enfold the hearts of those we love. No matter where they or we may be.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2017, lightly edited and reposted 10 December 2020
Image taken from Hubble Spacecraft, found at nasa.gov

The Cross and the Lynching Tree

breathless morning sky
fiery orange shades of red
light pierces darkness

Often we live and die in self-imposed darkness. Not the dark of night, but the darkness of our understanding, our motives and our ignorance.

For several weeks I’ve been reading James Cones’ latest book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. It’s a tough read. Cone challenges my white understanding of the role too many Christian churches and politicians have played in the history of lynching.

When I grew up, Jesus’ death was all about appeasing God’s anger for our sin. Dying as an innocent on an ordinary criminal’s cross was payment for our sin. Yes, we deserve to die, but Jesus died for all of us, so that God’s anger toward us wouldn’t be our undoing.

If, however, Jesus’ death was a lynching, what does that mean for Christianity in the USA?

According to our history of lynching, white Christians have managed to do to black women, men, children and unborn babies what Roman and Jewish leaders did to Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, it was death on a Roman cross/tree. Yes, it was death on a White cross/tree.

Now, in our supposedly more enlightened age, we think we’re beyond lynching. After all, Jim Crow style lynching is illegal.

Is it? Really? Look around. We’ve developed neat, more anonymous ways of doing the deed. Out of sight and out of mind, except for the occasional uproar over what’s been happening for decades.

White fear and a deeply ingrained false sense of superiority lie at the heart of our White problem. It isn’t about God’s anger at sin, so-called “Christian” values, or even our own wellbeing.

Each morning, like clockwork, we’re invited to let light pierce the darkness of our understanding. It doesn’t take much light. Just a candle here and there in a window will do. That, plus time to appreciate the light we’re offered each day, and a trustworthy guide to prick our consciences and challenge our sight.

Thanks for listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2020
Photo found at unsplash.com

squabbling sparrows

outside my window
squabbling sparrows fight for food –
silence reigns within

Onlooker. That’s what I am these days. Not when it comes to local stuff, but the other stuff. Frankly, I’d rather be a sparrow right now than a politician or public official.

Whatever this year has been on the outside, I’m grateful for time to examine my life as a white woman. All without the expectations or interruptions of ‘normal’ daily life.

Put another way, I don’t want to be out there squabbling over the 2020 Election, or suddenly find myself without a job or a sensible plan for the future.

Being a senior citizen has its drawbacks. For one, we don’t get much overt respect, especially in our modern-day young and (especially) white culture. When respect happens, it tastes really good. So far, D and I have been able to navigate this bizarre Covid-19 world. It helps that we’re both introverts with tons of books, and the desire to read and write.

Back to the standoff  and squabbling that’s playing out before our eyes. It’s deadly. No good will come of it. I’m praying justice will be done when Mr. Trump is no longer POTUS, and he can no longer evade courts of law. Still, the behavior of his extremely disaffected followers isn’t a promising sign.

While watching the sparrows squabble with each other, I heard and saw a large blue jay squawk its worst as it landed on the bird feeder and sent all the sparrows fleeing. Everything wasn’t great before the male jay arrived, but at least there was food on the table. And no big bullies in sight.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2020
Photo found at thespruce.com

silent morning breaks

silent morning breaks
my refrigerator hums
one more soul departs

Each death is singular and tragic, especially as the numbers continue to climb precipitously.

This isn’t voluntary mass suicide. It’s a tragedy long in the making, now playing out minute by minute as our current POTUS refuses to face reality about the 2020 Election or Covid-19.

Then there are his very public caretakers. I’m tempted to mock them. But I can’t. For whatever reason, they, along with millions more, have latched onto DT as their hero, even though he can’t deliver on his promises. Another tragedy in the making.

In addition, death by Covid has become so ‘normal’ that I find myself more horrified by daily data updates than by singular tragic deaths.

What happens to our souls when we learn to live with nonsense? Or turn to data more quickly than to human beings and their families struggling to make sense of nonsense? I know I’m guilty. The sheer horror of what’s happening right now in our country is a nightmare gone berserk.

Today I’m praying for singular souls that depart due to Covid-19 or any other cause made more difficult because of Covid. I’m also praying for the aching souls of relatives and friends mourning their deaths.

Who knows? Any one of us or our loved ones might be next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2020
Photo of sunrise on the East Coast found at tripadvisor.com

caverns dripping water

caverns dripping water
fall silent beneath the earth
dry wells languish

Voices we can’t afford to silence are being silenced. Our own descent will surely follow. How many of us are there? Was that before or after the latest Covid-19 numbers were released?

Things like this go through my mind. Especially on a rainy day. This morning I sat at my kitchen table watching the bird feeder. From nowhere a huge swarm of house sparrows landed—at least 40, maybe 50 of them. They squabbled and fought each other for seeds from the feeder and seeds on the ground.

Suddenly, all but one took instant flight. Why? I don’t have a clue. But the remaining sparrow looked around and decided to high-tail it out of there, too.

They say we’re in for a harsh winter. Maybe the sparrows know more than we think they know.

Life is short, full of sweetness and full of sorrow. It seems many of us have a deficit when it comes to acquaintance with sorrow and grief. Others know them all too well.

It behooves us to keep the water flowing. Not just the rivers and streams, but the flow of human connections that soften and shape us into the persons we are. We can’t afford to bolt from the feeder. It might not always taste good, but without it, we will surely languish and die.

Speaking of water, the lovely eye of water in Longwood Gardens (above) is a mirage. Recycled water becomes a loud, stunning eye of water, then a lovely quiet stream that hurries over a small yet spectacular waterfall. Then it rests in a beautiful pond before being pumped to the top and recycled over and over.

It’s mesmerizing. And also a reminder of how much we owe nature and each other for the level of sanity we still enjoy. To say nothing of what we owe the patience and longsuffering of our Creator.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 November 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, May 2012

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