Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Vulnerability

A Moral Obligation | Chinua Achebe


When things fall apart it isn’t an accident. Especially when religion or so-called patriotism is involved.

I don’t find the long view very encouraging these days. The temptation to rewrite history has routinely injected politics into the picture, particularly as presented in or omitted from school textbooks. Usually this favors those in positions of political power over against those with the least power, beginning with Native American Indians.

This need to make things fall apart from time to time has not served the best interests of the powerless, no matter where they live in these so-called United States. Or in Africa, as Chinua Achebe relates in his masterpiece, Thing Fall Apart.

Here’s how Achebe describes the problem–a description in which I hear echoes of our own dysfunctional situation in the USA. Near the end of Things Fall Apart, a disputed piece of land has been given (by the white man’s court) to an African family that had given money to the white man’s messengers and interpreter. Achebe responds with a question and his own answer as follows. Emphasis mine.

Does the white man understand our custom about land?

How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad, and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he was won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we are fallen apart.

As I see it, we must be crystal clear about those we elect to serve the common good, not their own good. The stakes are high not just for this generation, but for those yet to come. As Achebe puts it at the top, this is a moral obligation. And yes, it will cost dearly. Not so much in money, as in humility and determination against all odds.

Thanks for visiting and reading. These are troubling days filled with expected and unexpected challenges. Praying for clarity and for the ability to do what we can where we are, no matter which way the wind seems to be blowing.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 August 2021
Quotation found at forreadingaddicts.co.uk

Sunflowers and Cicadas

Lost in a crowd
Wondering who I am
today and what will
become of us

A sunflower dropped
into the earth by
accident or design
pays no attention

Cicadas raise their
shrill chorus and fall
back into waves of
welcome silence

Hot sunrays pierce
the haze of dawn
with a vigor I cannot
mimic or resurrect

Climbing a small hill
and moving from shade
to shade I wake up
to this burning day

What is progress? I hope I’m making some today. A recent appointment with my integrative doctor produced more follow-up than I like. It feels like being in half-here mode. Living between what I’ve been and whatever comes next. It’s pushing me back to hard questions about what I will and will not agree to at this time of my life. And, more important, what I want to do with my time right now.

In the meantime, I’m mesmerized by our impromptu sunflower family springing from the earth beneath last winter’s large bird feeder. You’d think I’d never seen a sunflower. Nevertheless, it’s magical to find unplanned beauty right in our back yard.

Hoping you’ll find beauty in small things today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2021
Backyard photo taken by DAFraser, 25 July 2021

Photo Therapy for My Heart

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I first published this on 3 February 2016, a few weeks after Mr. Trump became President. The post features several photos I find calm and reassuring no matter what’s happening around or in me. Today Mr. Biden is our President, and there is still much to lament, and not much certainty about our tomorrows. I hope you enjoy the photos and find some peace slipping into your heart.

That’s a mature Dawn Redwood at the top. We’re in Longwood Gardens in their large-tree arboretum. It’s a scorching hot day. The tree’s inviting limbs offer rest in the shade. No entrance fee. No time limit. No requirements except that I step into the shade. Into the relaxing and reassuring freedom of our Creator’s care for me, no matter my age or my health.

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Here’s a tiny flower of the field in the Longwood Meadow Garden. Fragile, delicate, one-of-a-kind, like a snowflake. Here today, gone tomorrow. Yet known to God who delights in the beauty of this world. I can’t help thinking about human life, and the One who creates and fully understands our fragile mortal beauty.

As a parent has compassion for his or her children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear God.
For God knows how we were made,
and remembers that we are dust.
As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of God
is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear God….

Psalm 103:13-17a

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Here I’m  standing in a square pavilion that circles this magnificent eye of water. We’re in the oriental area of the Arboretum at Longwood Gardens. The sound is stunning. A steady flow of water wells up in the ‘pupil’ of the eye and gently cascades down into the pool.

The small dots around the edge are pennies–wishes tossed in by visitors. For me, this is one of the most calming sites in the gardens. Usually there aren’t many visitors here. The benches around the border invite meditation and relaxation, accompanied by the steady sound of water falling. That’s my back to the camera. I’m looking out at the stream that flows downhill from the eye of water before the water is recycled back to the top to overflow yet again.

Finally, one of my favorites. It isn’t spectacularly beautiful like many other Longwood Gardens photos. This is right next to a path, not hidden away in the woods. We’re near the meadow and the water ponds. This mama is doing what our Creator wants to do for each of us. She’s taking her chicks under wings. Keeping them safe, warm, dry and calm. Just where my heart wants to be right now!

Nesting at Longwood

Thanks for coming along!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2016, lightly edited and reposted 24 July 2021
Photo credit: DAFraser, Longwood Gardens

Our current bankruptcy

When all is not said or done
for want of Wisdom,
What more is there
to do but close my eyes
and sleep the sleep
of wearied souls

I used to think old age
would bring increased
Wisdom if not Wealth
And yet I observe how
much more rewarding
it is to stockpile Wealth

and send Wisdom packing
to the dogs as they say
when dismissing what
seems not worth saving
much less passing along
to the next generation

Then again we never were
a nation of invaders
schooled in the art of
Wisdom as Wealth
How else to explain our
Growing bankruptcy?

Watching news outlets is sometimes like playing Which side are you on? Or Gasp-Worthy News. Or now we’ll interview past holders of political office to see what they think about today’s gasp-worthy news though sadly, they no longer have power to change our growing polarizations.

Is this what we want to leave to our children and their children? Of course not. And yet…..

What’s a citizen to do? The most difficult challenge I face daily isn’t the news, but how I interact with friends and strangers. What would it be like to suspend all news, and actually get to know more neighbors and neighborly strangers?

Time? Yes. Also effort, patience and persistence. And, above all, an open heart ready for Wisdom to grow a tiny bit stronger than it was yesterday.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 July 2021
Image found at snopes.com

Masks

 

Horst Lemke sketch for Psalm 139:1-6, Die Gute Nachricht, published by Deutsche Bibelstiftung Stuttgart, 1978

Every morning, along with enjoying the birds and squirrels, I read a bit of German. It’s a way to stay in touch with a language in which I was once fluent. I begin with a Bach Chorale each day (music plus 1st stanza in German). Most of the time that’s more than enough!

However…A few days ago, right after the Bach Chorale, I picked up my copy of The Good News in German, purchased in July 1980. It fell open to the sketch above by Horst Lemke. It struck a chord in me, partly because of our current situation in the USA and elsewhere. But mainly because Psalm 139 rightly assumes each of us owns at least one mask–though we may not own or be wearing a Covid-style mask.

I teared up as I read the passage below, given our current national and international challenges and catastrophes.

Psalm 139:1-12 from the Good News Bible in English (pp. 744-45)

Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions.
Even before I speak, you already know what I will say,
You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power.
Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.

Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there.
If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west,
you would be there to lead me; you would be there to help me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night,
but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

The rest of Psalm 139 is equally beautiful and powerful. Just what I need during these days of chaos, unplanned disasters, deep divisions, and masks behind masks.

Praying you’ll find your way today, knowing that the One who created each of us hasn’t forgotten our names, our faces, or our circumstances.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 July 2021
Sketch by Horst Lemke found in Die Gute Nachricht, p. 419
©1978 Deutsche Bibelstiftung Stuttgart

Dear Friends,

Yesterday D sent me a link to the amazing performance above. It’s the kind of music that’s good for whatever ails you (or not). Relatively short and mesmerizing. Don’t miss it!

This morning I got up early to go to the hospital for another routine blood draw. This was a bit more difficult than usual due to all-night floodlights and a huge crew of workers, equipment trucks and drilling right in front of our house. It went on without a break through the night, and will continue indefinitely. Yes, we were notified months ago that this would happen sometime this summer. We were not, however, prepared for the all night drilling and floodlights!

So far this morning I’ve given up two vials of blood, done a big load of laundry, cooked a pot of quinoa, filled the bird feeder and changed out the bird bath water. I also read more from W.E.B. DuBois’s book, The Philadelphia Negro, and walked nearly one mile (goal: at least 2 miles).

As for yesterday’s post about fireworks, there was an attack last night at a Philly party that had drawn scores of neighbors. The owner of the small eatery had invited the neighborhood to a free meal. A way of saying thanks for their business. When the attack began, most attendees thought it was fireworks. It was not. Two are dead (including the owner of the eatery); one remains hospitalized. The police ran out of their 100 bullet hole markers.

We never know what a day will bring. Nonetheless, I pray we’ll find threads of acceptance and peace, no matter what our situations may be.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 July 2010
Thanks to YouTube for the mesmerizing performance of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

This morning’s walk

Heat rises quickly
in this tinderbox of grief
a blue jay screams

green grass and tree leaves
offer distraction in vain
sorrow boils over

turning toward home
we pass the cemetery
open arms waiting

How many more unscheduled deaths will there be? How much bone-dry drought can we endure? How many unkept promises and lies are we willing to overlook?

No answers, just questions. Plus recommitment to doing what I can within my small world of family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. It isn’t about saving the world. It’s about making connections that matter. The kind that make our humanity visible in all its flaws and glory, while getting on with the work of becoming human. Together.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2021
Hot summer sun photo found at pixabay.com

ready or not

Staring into the dark
Behind my eyelids
I see nothing
Though the buzzing
In my ear never stops
Like insects in night air
Accompanying the sound
Of tires racing downhill
Outside my window

I imagine the sun
Beaming down brightly
And backyard birds
Feasting on birdseed
Thanks to the kindness
Of the old couple who
Inhabit this old house
Now gone quiet without
The excitement and anguish
Of teenagers to color
The air or play with the
Cat or slowly but surely
Abandon this old house
For their own

Opening my eyes I see
A desk full of ideas
And papers to be sorted
Not my wildest dream
Though I want to begin and
End somewhere before
The sand in my hourglass
Runs dry whether I’m ready
Or not

Despite all the books I’ll never read, countries I’ll never visit, friends and family I may never see again, and daily news that colors the air we breathe, I love life. I also love family members and friends who helped me become the woman I am today.

Death is on my mind today. On Father’s Day our daughter’s father-in-law died. Yet another reminder that I don’t know when my time will end on this earth.

Thanks for stopping by today, and telling someone you love them.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2021
Photo found at labmonline.co_uk

This pain-ridden world

Feeling my way
through one day after another
grates against my desire
to fly and soar with cranes

Scanning the horizon
I see clouds ahead not
the fluffy kind but heavy
with whatever is coming
next in this pain-ridden world

I turn to my trusty keyboard
to play a tune or write a
poem in words that never
quite capture the love I feel
for this world gone crazy
with grief and disbelief
even though we saw it
coming long before it breached
the horizon now contaminated
with the debris of a thousand
misadventures in modernity

The longer I live, the less certain I am that we will implement ways to turn this planet around. Not just for the sake of our human environment, but for the sake of all creatures that inhabit planet earth. The options aren’t very encouraging. Especially if we’re depending on our politicians to deliver something better.

Roots of self-aggrandizement run deep, encouraged daily by new ‘stars’ being born who can make everything OK for maybe a minute. Distracted and distractible, I feel it even in my relatively sane world of retirement.

What will I do today? Ten more things just popped up on my radar. Now what?

More than anything else, I want to keep a steady eye and heart on True North. So what do I do with all this distraction? Today I’m listening to my body and heart as never before. I don’t want to become another misadventure.

Small. I need to keep thinking small. Though I can’t save the world, I want to love it in ways that bring life and joy to me and to those who cross my path. Whether they like the path I’ve chosen, or not.

I pray each of us will find our way through whatever is troubling us right now, and that we’ll experience unexpected joy along the way.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 June 2021
Photo found at nps.gov

In praise of meadows

This morning D and I drove out to Longwood Gardens for a visit. Imagine great weather, wonderful breezes, and puffy white clouds floating beneath a bright blue sky.

D is downloading his photos even as I write this. So yes, you’ll get to see some awesome photos later. In the meantime, here’s one of my early poems, written in 2015 after a visit to Longwood’s still new Meadow Garden. D took the photo above during a Meadow visit in August 2014.

By 2015 I’d been retired from the seminary for several years, and had been blogging since late December 2013. I didn’t have much self-confidence, and felt like an odd ball without a home.

Looking at photos taken in Longwood’s Meadow Garden gave me the idea for this poem. For me, the meadow is the highlight of Longwood Gardens. Not the meticulously planted, pruned and displayed wonders of an estate garden, but the wild, unpredictable beauty of a large meadow inhabited by birds, bees, butterflies and other small creatures.

Here’s the poem–unchanged from its first debut.

Is there something to be said
for wild, lightly cultivated gardens—like meadows?
Not showcases of stunning flowers and cultivated flower walks,
But life-giving, naked, raw beauty—
able to withstand harsh weather with grace—
Welcoming visitors of all kinds.

I want to be a meadow garden
With paths for thoughtful feet
Space for tears and laughter
Occasional butterflies and birds,
Spiders, moths, and ‘lesser’ life forms.

Perhaps the wildness of my internal life
Wants to be honored, named and lightly cultivated?
Recovery isn’t about taming life.
It’s about reclaiming it—
The semi-wild meadow
that hears and sees music 24/7.
That’s what I want to be. Living life
naked, lightly cultivated and beautiful.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 June 2021 (poem first published in March 2015)
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Meadow Garden, August 2014

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