It’s been seven years since my first Lenten project: Radical Lent: A Poetic Approach to 40 Days in the Wilderness. In rereading some of those posts for inspiration, it struck me how very much has changed in my life since that time: I am divorced, I am no longer the mother of young children, I’ve fallen into and climbed out of addiction, I’ve lost my license and (sort of) gotten it back, I’ve bought and sold a house, and am now I’m a renter again for the first time in 20 years, I’ve lost a job in academia and found a new one in human services, my relationships with two of the loves of my life (Noah and Jacob) have become very difficult, and I’m exploring new love with an amazing man. Woah.
Choosing to embark on a new Lenten blog, an intentional 40-day practice after all of this time comes out of the realization that I’ve finally started to move from a completely internal mindset to an external one. I’ve learned to pay attention again. And I want so much to pay attention with you! I’ve missed you!
An example of what I mean by being stuck in an internal mindset is that in 2016, I missed the entire spring season. I wasn’t working, I was barely doing anything, barely leaving my home, barely talking to anyone, barely finding a reason to wake up in the mornings, and then one day I drove out with a friend, and the entire world had become green. Months had gone by and the world had shifted from winter to “things mostly green.” I was stunned. I was speechless. I had missed an entire earth shift.
My friend Rose once said to me that “being along in my own head was not a good place to be,” but it took me a long time to have the courage to turn my eyes outwards again.
And now here I am. Washed up on the brand new shore of a brand new life. And here you are, and I am more humbled than I can say that we are here together.
Some folks have written to me asking about hope. Hope. Hope about current events, hope as it relates to our environment, to aging and caring for those we love as they move from one world to the next, hope as a practical day-to-day practice…Hope.
Hope is the theme of this Lenten blog, and I will tell you now that I have no idea where it’s going. Hope may have been the force that landed me on this new shore, or it may not have been. Hope may have been the force that made my winter amaryllis go from an umimpressive lump in a plastic pot to a thing of exuberant beauty, but maybe not. Hope may be real, or it may be a necessary illusion. I honestly don’t know.
But that’s what’s brilliant about writing–it helps you answer questions, and find your way home. And we’ll get there together! My promise to you is to pay as much attention as I can to things that feel worth sharing, and to never let you forget that I am incredibly grateful that you stop by and visit. I hope you’ll be moved to share your thoughts so that when we get to Easter, we’ll all feel that we have really learned something!
And there will be poetry, of course! The most obvious “hope” poem is Emily Dickinson’s “Hope it the thing with feathers (254),” which I’ve posted below. I don’t totally understand this poem, but I’ve been thinking about it. Here are some thoughts and some ways for you to dive into this poem.
What I like right now is the bird imagery–the potential for flight, the lack of assurance that it might not come, might not stay, might–literally–fly away, but it doesn’t. It stays, and in fact, it “never stops at all”.
I also like that the tune of hope is without words, is undefined, and is based in the soul. It is soul language, which means that it is intimate, and private, and needs to be nurtured in our own secret, hidden ways, until we’re ready to use it as a force for action. Hopefulness does not have to be a public outcry, though of course it can be. It can also be a quiet, growing force within ourselves that will lead us along if we are able to listen.
Finally, I like that this image of hope is free of demands–“it never asked a crumb of me”–it is a quiet, unending life force that may lead to action and change, or it may not. It may simply keep beating, quietly, gently, reliably, until we know how to respond to it. And how amazing is that?
Hope is 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 heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.
I will see you again soon! Ash Wednesday is March 1, 2017. In the meantime, please comment, email, message, or do whatever you like to let me know how I can make this a meaningful experience for you.
As always, all love,