What we see and hear around us is pressing in. It’s real.
Devastating news was delivered to me twice this week, bringing the reality a lot closer to home; my heart breaks for the grievers.
We also receive horrid news every day via various media channels. It’s bad enough to see the inconceivable numbers associated with disease and death. Now we’re receiving news about the indeterminate return to what we used to consider “normal” life, "normal" socializing.
I pray that things do not go back to “normal.” I’m up for a change. A big one. Like universal compassion, deep patience, an unambiguous embracing of difference, justice and equity for all, and unconditional, widespread gratitude. Like a greater focus on what really matters – those things that people who are dying have continued to convey to me over the decades: relationships with loved ones, the solace of poetry, the beauty of nature, the giving of one’s gifts to the world.
A few days ago, I spontaneously ended up on a favorite beachside trail and ran into a dear soul who I infrequently see. I chatted up a storm and she was a very good listener with her big, beaming smile. I talked about a podcast I’d listened to weeks ago and I relayed to her the message of hope that it ultimately contained. After I finished, she exhaled a huge sigh of relief and said something to the effect of, Thank God! I didn’t at first know where you were headed with that story and I was afraid you were going to take away my hope! I hadn’t realized that I might’ve edged in the direction of hopelessness as I relayed my tale, and I woke up to the deeper imperative of holding onto hope during these times.
We all need hope. Tenderness. To receive a kind word, a check-in from a friend, the dose of cheer contained in a wave or a smile.
It’s hard to guess at the fragility within that clings to hope – whatever shred, whatever shape, from whatever source. A fragility that can be easily shaken into a dirty mix of angst, despair, desperation.
That huge red cedar tree in the forest? It gives me hope. It reminds me what strength looks like. She shows me how a balance can be struck between fragility and courage: the scale-like leaves blow easily at the distant top of the tree; the thick solid trunk is immoveable.
I want to be hope. It mostly doesn’t feel like my M.O. But, as David Quammen said, hope is an act of will…a responsibility. I can muster an act of will. I can take responsibility.
Hope meets the tender part of us - that shallow place in the wellspring, that deficit in conditions that equal thriving, that thin veneer of coping that needs shoring up – and it fills to overflowing, it balances circumstance so that flourishing occurs, it rolls in with the tide and washes us anew.
Hope. We might not have it in a moment; that is when we turn to others who love us and seek comfort, drinking from their well.
Hope. In the moments we do summon the act of will to be hopeful, to be a carrier of hope, those are the moments when we touch the lives of others.
All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2020 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."