On my daily walk I often see a single feather abandoned by its owner. Some are more captivating than others. I am surprised at times by their odd placements. They all have one thing in common though. “Hope is the thing with feathers…” springs instantly to my mind when I see one. I smile inwardly. I stop long enough to take a photograph. Maybe I gather it up and take it home with me to adorn my kitchen windowsill. A graceful reminder.
For months I have known that one day the timing would be just right and I would post about this. But it has turned out far different than I planned. I imagined it as one feather in one photo with one stanza of poetry by one Emily Dickinson. One.
But recently feathers began appearing more often than usual. And they were in such amazing places! Agitation set in. Faced with so many images, how would I ever narrow it to only one? I considered posting them together. That would be too much. I feared their individual beauty would be lost and none of them would stand out. That wouldn’t do at all.
Since Bobolicious had made such a spectacle of himself I decided that his photos should definitely go first. It’s always good to begin with a bit of good cheer. Dobbs was included in this group for obvious reasons. Mostly because he stopped long enough to notice the feather. No matter how exuberant he can be, Dobby is far too short to pull off a Bo jumping type move. He soon lost interest and wandered up the trail in pursuit of something more entertaining and closer to the ground.
I received a nice compliment and have fielded a few questions about this particular feather, the Bo feather. How ever did you manage that? Did you toss the feather into the air photographing it as it floated to the ground? That sounds rather peaceful and manageable, now doesn’t it? Here’s the thing. My real life in action goes something like this… The very second that four medium to large dogs (because let’s not forget my furry constant companions) catch sight of me throwing Anything into the air, Everything would go south. And quickly. Including and especially Me! There would be no photos. No feather. No grand moment in time. There would be only me mangled and bruised on the forest floor under a massive pile of dogs hoping for something yummy. Something like…I don’t know… bacon treats maybe. So yeah. The first Without the words definitely did not occur by my gently tossing a feather and capturing beautiful photos as it descended gracefully to earth. Not happening.
For now I’ll leave it as a beautiful mystery. However, I will share with you that the photographs I post are my own and they’re quite real. Each one is what I see and how I see it when I see it. No computer enhancements and such. In fact, I’m lousy at that and have no interest in becoming unlousy at it. In a couple of the suspended pictures I even surprised myself. It looks as though some enormous dinosaur of a bird dropped a feather into my very own woods on a random Tuesday. How did that happpen? And what’s flying around up there that might want to eat me?! All about perspective I suppose.
Ok, I had narrowed down the photos to the first group not really knowing what I would do with the rest. Take care of today and let tomorrow take care of itself, as I always say. So… Since I was quoting an actual poem written by an actual person I thought it best to double check myself on the actual words. And, that’s when I was gloriously reminded that there are two other stanzas to the poem. I love the first stanza. I love it so much that I usually forget that there are two others. Even when I am reminded that they exist I breeze over them absentmindedly wondering – why didn’t she stop after the first one. I mean it’s perfect. Nevertheless, Agitation turned to inspiration! I was off and running with a series! A series? Ugh. I shy away from posting too often.
I grew a great deal this week. Sharing each morning gave me a joy I wasn’t expecting. Readers will read when they want to I learned. I needn’t worry about that. Write when the words come. Publish when it feels right to you. Leave the rest up in the air. Divine Providence! Joyful Happenstance! As one day gave way to the next I found myself aloft in a sky of feather images floating on a cloud of words set to paper by a woman I’ll never know, and wondering about Hope…
Hope is the thing… Emily Dickinson wrote 3 stanzas, 12 beautiful verses about hope. She didn’t call it Hope. But then she didn’t title any of her poems. She simply numbered them. This is number 254. I wonder why she wrote them. I wonder how it came to her. Hopeless days seem so long and bleak. Was it one of those times for her? Was she searching for something to pull her through an unnamed sadness? Did she struggle to gather the words one by one out of a dark night by the dim light of a candle or a gas lamp? Or… Did she watch a sunrise as the first birdsong of the morning floated through an open window? And there were the seeds of Hope full and rounded with promise. Was every word an easily unwrapped gift to her soul on that day?
There are moments in life that are heavy. My steps are slow and unsure. You know the ones. Your shoes feel laden with stones and your vision is clouded over. No matter how much good is right in front of me, I’m just unable to see it. I don’t really know what to do with myself in moments like that. I muddle through.
I’ve been writing on wordpress for a few months now. Most of my posts are tucked contentedly away and I don’t think about them at all. Except one that I cannot quite shake loose. I return to it occasionally and remind myself that it was written with heart to give hope. Still, I have come close to pulling it several times. So far, I haven’t. That post has been on my mind all week long. I hurt for the struggles of others, the ones they graciously let me see, and the ones they keep quietly to themselves. What can I do for you? How can I help? And sometimes there isn’t anything I can do… That’s not completely true. I can always hold them in my thoughts and prayers. As intangible as that sounds I believe it’s by far the best thing any of us can offer one another. When I see with my heart the pain that others bear, my own struggles seem so small. In those moments I feel Inadequacy and Blessing. It is an odd combination perhaps, but there I am.
I feel inadequate to fix it. I want so badly to fix things in this life. But many things are fine just the way they are even if I don’t understand them. There is something graceful about the broken. Visible scars are earned in invisible places. Been there. Done that. Have the gold plated tee shirt to prove it! Inadequacy gives me compassion. Blessings bring me hope. I am humbled by my own blessings. How many good good things are all around me! Dare I say, around all of us?
Sunrise is a universal gift to everyone everyday. Gentle breezes on a hot summer day don’t discriminate between rich and poor. Clouds are not selective. They hold the promise of life giving rain for young and old alike. The tallest redwoods stretch to the heavens as a reminder that strength is earned over time. Whether you are man or woman makes no difference. The monarch butterfly journeys inspiring distances. It does not matter if you move slowly or fast, just as the monarch, keep flying. Although I cannot carry a tune, the birds sing for me as much as for the one who raises the sweetest voice. Flowers bloom for everyone to enjoy! They never stop to ask if you are happy or sad. They offer themselves gracefully for all alike. My blessing often comes barreling in on four legs leaving a heap of shedded fur behind. What does yours look like?
That is where hope resides, in the blessings. In the daily things that we overlook or forget to see. The feather, the beloved pet, the morning glory… These tiny wonders are the homes of hope. Sometimes they arrive as words.
I write because I don’t know how not to write. My thoughts come clearer on paper with pencil. I write because the tiniest thing in my day is so often the most important of all. Maybe it’s the same for you. I measure my thoughts and words carefully before I abandon them here leaving them for you to find and do with what you will. Perhaps in this odd collection of feathers you’ll discover a smidgen of a forgotten something that will give you wings and carry your own thoughts to a place of hope. I hope so.
Without the words? Are you kidding?! Miss D accomplished that far better than I have. My story has rambled up a tree, through a nest, and across a wide open sky only to sing the same tune. Hope is a song that is Always with You. It is as close as your own heartbeat. Be still. Be quiet. Listen. What does your song sound like?
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the song 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.
Ive heard it in the chillest land,
and on the strangest sea;
yet, never, in extremity,
it asked a crumb of me.