i’m just in from searching for hope. my boots are a bit muddy. my fingers are cold. and i’m not surprised to report there were no sightings of winter loosening its miserly grip.
sadly, in my corner of the world there is no snow. no drifts of white. no boughs laden with icy meringue. no fat flakes tumbling, tumbling from heaven to earth.
there is, more than anything, drab brown. not even rich brown. drab. drained-of-zing brown. which, perhaps, is apt description for my soul of late. which is why i was out searching.
thank heaven, the heavens responded last night: posted a nearly full moon, a fat moon, a bright moon, a moon that tonight will glow in all its glory. full snow moon. the moon that marks the arrival at sundown of a jewish holiday i’ve come to love. tu b’shevat it’s called, and it marks “the new year of the trees.” in israel, the holy land where all of these blessings begin, it’s the date on the calendar when vernal whisperings begin. when, if you pulled out your magnifying lens, and tiptoed close to the tips of the almond tree’s branches, you’d easily see the evidence: fat buds, fatter by the hour.
the trees are shaking off their slumber. the trees are stirring toward blossom, toward heavenly perfume, toward fruit. (the prescriptions for tu b’shevat i find wholly enchanting, a four-course feast of fruits and wine, so explained by the kabbalists, those deeply spiritual thinkers who believed that we elevate ourselves by the eating of certain fruits on tu b’shevat. if done with holy intention, they taught, sparks of light hidden in the fruit could be broken open from their shells, freed to float up to heaven, to the great divine, completing the circle of the renewal of life. oh my.)
it’s the eternal rhythm of earth and heavens. the inalterable equation of light from above, and richness from deep down inside the earth. it’s carried us forth, a pulsing pull, from the beginning of time. till now. and some winters — some winters inside our soul — we need surrender to the holy earth, to the rhythms that sustain us, move us forward even when we don’t believe we’ve the energy to lift a weary foot.
this winter would be one of those winters. all around the news is drab to worse. we’ve all been holed inside. and around here not even buffeted by snows, by the glory of an icy-painted window pane. we’re worn thin.
so mother earth comes to comfort us. she offers hope. even when we cannot see it.
back before the winter came, my last act of hope came the day i dropped to bent knee, thrust my shovel in the ground, and tucked in dozens and dozens of bulbs. i’d scanned the nursery shelves for blues and whites, the colors of delft, of old willow plates, the colors of sky and cloud. it’s a form of prayer, i’d insist, to tuck hope beneath the earth, to step away, and await the moment when the surge comes, when the tender determined shoot of newborn green comes poking through the earth. declares triumph. offers proof that hope pays off.
it’s too soon for that moment, as my morning’s patrol has made perfectly clear. but i find hope in other ways. i find hope seeping in through the cracks. do you?
i felt hope last night sitting in a circle of prayerful souls. i feel hope as i watch folks far braver and bolder than me pick up the reins and write the truth. i feel hope as all around i see the humblest among us stirred to action. i feel an awakening, even though it’s not yet the one from down beneath the crust of earth, where all the roots are emboldening, the roots we cannot see.
maybe it’s a blessing that we’re all paying attention, maybe it’s a very good thing that we’re being reminded that a democracy is a fragile thing, a living breathing entity that, like the rhythms of the earth and sky, must be carefully attended to. and we must all hold up our corner of its banner. we must all — by little and by little — find our courage, find our voice, think hard, think critically, employ deepest civility, listen with a gentle heart, and wield the purest acts of justice. and not let go — ever — of plain old kindness. the sort that seems to be rising up in some of the loveliest defiance i’ve ever seen.
come to think of it, that all sounds like hope to me. maybe, after all, it’s out there where the winds blow cold, blow certain. maybe my muddy boots led me to the very thing i’m hoping for.
are you sensing any signs of hope? any stories of pure kindness you’d care to share? the more we hear, the more emboldened we become, i do believe….
couple special intentions on this second friday in february. two dear friends of the chair suffered heart-shatterings this week: deepest prayers to pjt, who lost her dearest best friend far far too soon, and pjv, whose sister — last i heard — is on a ventilator and whose hold is fragile at this point. at my house, we are remembering my papa who died this day 36 years ago. i’ve heard from a few of my brothers this morning, who are all mourning his long absence from our every day.
if you’re curious about tu b’shevat, i wrote about it here a few years back….
Remember what Emily said'”Hope is that thing that perches in the soul and sings.”
indeed i remember. but there are times when it’s harder to hear the sound of those notes…..this has been one of those times…
Sending the biggest hug, tears in my eyes as I remember your dad!! Being in your home and remembering that face, his energy, the sweet vibes of a loving home!! That smile, he also had a cute chuckle that he had when he spoke, do you remember that!!? I loved his voice, strong, confident and kind! His beautiful blue eyes and those cute cheeks, thinking of him today and remembering the young Mahany clan , and the sweetness on briarhill !!! Love you !!xoxo
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thank you, dear dear mary. i love so much that our roots — yours and mine — go back deep into the days when my papa was animating the world. thank you for that much-needed hug…xoxox
I am stubbornly holding on to hope these days, despite the daily deluge of disharmony and discord. I’m pulling inward, listening to classical music, losing myself in the pages of Middlemarch, spending quiet hours with my needle and thread. When I’m out on errands, I make a point to connect with others, offering a smile or a friendly wave. My small efforts have been rewarded with starry smiles and surprised grins. It has been heart-warming. Somehow, we’ll get through these difficult days… I love imaging the spring blossoms that soon will grace your garden…. Just seeing your bright yellow boots was a boost — call it color therapy! I am missing my angel mother, who died thirteen years ago today. My heart goes out to you and your family as you honor your dear father’s memory. Thank you for today’s gentle post…. xxoo
indeed, for both of us the 10th day of february is one when our hearts shattered. forever. though the glue of life, the joys i’d never imagined, the loves i hadn’t known, have served to put my heart back together, stronger than ever.
my heart reaches out to yours, sweet one. i celebrate the joy of all the stories you’ve told of your rarest of mothers. i feel sometimes as if i know her, simply in listening to you, in her wisdoms you share, her poetries, her magic and her whimsy…..
you’ve blessed us with her, and i thank you so very much. you give me hope in sharing her rarest brand of loving.
your path of inner tranquility, and outer goodness, is one i follow too. it helps.
So much suffering … holding our chair friends pjt and pjv close in their grief and fear. And hugs to you and to dear Amy who share a sad, sad day. Love to all of you.
xoxoxo! thank you for the circle of hope….
Words cannot express…thank you dearest and to those at the table also. Prayers for all of you especially pjv. The flock of robins today brought spring thoughts to mind.
dear pjt, we are always always here for you. the loss of a best friend is immeasurable, and never wanes; i know. your heart beats strong here at this table, and a thousand times over the years your kindness has melted me beyond measure. sending love as one week flows into the next. oxoxox