Hope if the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve never made many New Year’s Resolutions, because I know I’m unlikely to keep them for very long. Any resolution that I make and break is just another reminder of my human failings, of which I have many. (Just ask my husband when I leave the medicine cabinet door open as I dash out at the last second to my Zumba class and he nearly bashes his head.)
However, I do start this year with a feeling of hope. I look back on the past year with the knowledge we’ve come a long way from last January. Covid still had us in its clutches, but booster shots keep most people from being laid low. We survived the mid term election and now commercials featuring soft toilet paper and sleek new cars dominate the air waves instead of scary political ads. The Green Bay Packers won their last two games as I write this after a string of humiliating losses. Winter in Wisconsin without the hope of a playoff berth for our favorite team is bleak indeed. But today, January 1, we have hope.
On a personal note, I survived a whitewater rafting trip on vacation in Costa Rica, though my knees were shaking even before our guide told us to lay on our backs and float if we fell out of the raft going over the rapids. I pictured my bruised and broken body being air lifted to the nearest hospital. I hooked my foot under the side of the raft wall and paddled for dear life. We arrived at the pickup point unscathed. Despite my dread, I overcame my fear of the unknown.
The new year is a giant unknown. We have 365 blank pages looming before us to write the story of 2023. The little bird inside me is singing loudly today. We dropped our daughter, Megan, and her future husband, Tim, off at the airport after a long holiday together. They’re planning a May wedding. In Wisconsin. The spring weather may be uncertain but love outlasts any gale with its “sweetest” song.
Megan prepared for her wedding while she was home by sculpting a cow out of butter. No frivolous flower or wedding dress shopping for her while she was home for two weeks to plan for the event; my daughter created serious art. The butter cow took up residence in our refrigerator for 10 days, until we needed the space and wanted to use a leg on some toast. Her intention is to sculpt a bust of her and Tim for the wedding reception. Tim is from Staten Island. Once the East Coast wedding guests see the butter representation of the bride and groom, they’ll know they are in the heart of America’s Dairyland, where even art can be formed from dairy products.
I think Megan and Tim have discovered the three things Tom Bodett said a person needs to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do and something to hope for. They’ve got the love thing covered, sculpting in butter gives Megan something to do before they exchange nuptials, and every wedding thrives on an abundance of hope.
Still, I wonder why Emily Dickinson chose a bird for her metaphor for hope, instead of a tiger, a gorilla, or a more powerful animal. A tiger roaring in a storm or a gorilla beating its chest in the jungle would show the strength of hope in a world of darkness and tumult. Then I remembered an unseasonably cold March two years ago. A wintery storm set in and the poor robins clung to our neighbor’s tree branches throughout the blasts of wind and gusts of snow. Their tenacity was much like the fragile hope that delivers its ‘wordless message’ for all eternity and in all extremities.
Instead of making a resolution I can’t keep, I’m going to hold on to the thing with feathers inside my soul. Hope makes the difficulties of the present easier to bear. Hope promises the future holds the possibilities of better times and of dreams coming true.
To have hope is to have wings.
PS: The Packers lost the last game, so their play-off hopes are gone. But there’s always next year.