‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all – …
~ Emily Dickinson
We ended the year that was sitting quietly around a bonfire, its embers glowing softly even as the flames burned brightly with the promise of a new year. In the few days since, in this first chilly week of January, the word Hope is doing the rounds in pictures and in words…as a a whisper, a song, a wish, a poem, a prayer. Posts that are hopeful and poignant in the aftermath of a year that will go down in history as a year that went topsy turvy fast and stayed like that for a long time. A year where just to be human meant to experience how fragile and vulnerable we are.
I watched the sun go down on 2020 with mixed feelings; for me, it was mostly a year of painful growth and hard truths combined with some magnificent breakthroughs. It was a year of love, drama and conflict, a year of grief, fear and anxiety. Every post on hope in the new year was a balm to my soul, the thing with feathers woven into the fabric of our human spirit, nourishing hearts and minds as it spread in the myriad ways that we expressed it. Hope feeds resilience and evolution, individually and collectively, moving us from fear to love, moving us towards life.
What do we do with hope? How do we hold on to it? I asked myself these questions when I sat down to write this piece. Unlike faith, which can move us to ritual and prayer, hope is a fleeting shimmer, a liminal space that we can only glimpse for a moment in time, one that can quickly move us to despair, which as David Whyte says in his beautiful essay of the same name, Despair is strangely, the last bastion of hope; the wish being that if we cannot be found in the old way we cannot ever be touched or hurt in that way again.
Hope is meant to be a visitor, gifting us with a potent vision of something new, something better, something fresh. It often comes to us unexpectedly, floating in on a trill of birdsong, on watery sunlight after a night of rain, on the cool breeze that lifts a leaf or two and our spirits along with it. Always just out of reach and yet…there. It’s on the heady scent of peppermint and chocolate bark that arrived from my secret Santa that helps fuel my writing and in the melody of Elton John’s Your Song that makes me glad I chose love. In no particular order, hope moves us to action, reminds us of what we care about and insists we pay attention to it. So, here’s what we do with hope – we stay present to it, we savour it, and we let it move us forward.
It’s a new year. Set intentions, not resolutions; commitments, not promises. Listen aurem cordis – with the ear of your heart – to the hope that sings in your blood. Let it move you joyfully into 2021.