Fall Gardening Week 3: Bring 'em Inside
What Makes It "Good?"

Still Looking, Always Looking

Last fall, I blogged quite a bit about how I was looking for hope. And then the new year arrived, and I just sort of . . . stopped. Not the looking. Just the blogging about it. It wasn't because I'd FOUND hope, really. (Although things were beginning to feel a little more hopeful back then, with a new president and vaccines on the horizon, y'know?) It was more that blogging about my search was hard, and I was ready to stop talking about it.

But I'm actually always . . . 


And I'm feeling like talking about it again. So I'll probably blog about it now and then, going forward. Not on any kind of regular schedule. But every once in a while, I'll share my thoughts.


History says
Don’t hope on this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
    ---- Seamus Heaney

Lately, I've been feeling a bit . . . off. Not terrible. But also not great. Feeling stuck in an endless loop, and wondering how any of THIS (defined any way you'd like) will End Up. And I know I'm not the only one. Some of you have blogged about feeling this way. My in-real-life friends are talking about it, too. And so is my family.

I think . . . it's These Times.

I mean, we're 18 months into this Covid mess. And the country seems to be . . . well, let's just say . . .  stretched. And it feels like kindness and care and concern have disappeared. And then there's the climate. And . . . ohmygod how can this even BE? 

It's a lot.

Lately, I've been thinking about History.
And my Grandmother.

Even though there has been a lot of History (with a capital H) that has happened since I was born in 1959, it's all seemed kind of distant to me somehow. None of the history-making things of my lifetime have felt all that . . . personal for me. They didn't impact my day-to-day life, for example. They didn't direct what I could or couldn't do or where I could go. Everything kept rolling along . . .  same as it ever was, and I never felt threatened (for lack of a better word) or worried about the future. Even though History was happening all the time, I could still pretty much depend that the future structure of my life would hold.

But now? Well, somehow the future doesn't feel so dependable or seem guaranteed in that same kind of way. And that really does suck the hope right out of the room, doesn't it?

On that cheery note, let's step back and talk about my grandmother for a minute.


My grandmother was born in 1909, and she died just over 100 years later in 2009. Which means she saw a lot of History in her long life, and she lived through a LOT of crises. I mean, think about it . . .  

  • She was a child during World War I.
  • And during the Spanish Flu outbreak.
  • As a young wife and mother, she experienced the Great Depression. On a dairy farm.
  • And in her 30s, she went through World War II separated from her husband for years -- while raising 2 young children. (On a dairy farm).

My grandmother lived through some SERIOUS history.

And somehow, until recently, it never occurred to me to consider what it might have been like for her to live through SO MANY major crises of history -- ALL of them pretty darn personal. During those crises, she woke up every day not knowing how [fill-in-the-blank: WWI, Spanish Flu, The Great Depression, WWII . . . ] would end. She didn't know how any of these stories would turn out while she was living them -- and they really did impact her on daily basis. Restrictions. Rations. Loss. Personal risk. What kept her moving forward? What gave her hope . . . when all of these things were happening during her early life. It must have felt pretty bleak. 

I never really thought about how significant these events would have been for her. First of all, because she never spoke of them. But I think the big thing was that, of course . . . I already KNEW the outcomes! I knew what happened: that the Spanish Flu ended and the Great Depression ended and World War II ended . . . with Victory. So it was easy for me to minimize the reality of how it must have been for her, living through the uncertainty. But my grandmother didn't know. And she got through all it anyway! She must have felt pretty crappy while any of these things were going on all around her. And yet . . . she managed through it. She must have had some hope, and a lot of resilience.


Hope and History.

I think it's hard for us to have hope right now . . . because we don't know the ending of this history we're living through. We don't know what will happen or how things will turn out. And we aren't terribly patient about it either. So it's all this . . . unnerving uncertainty. . .  that's sucking the hope from our lives.

But maybe we can look to the past . . . to see how resilient - as a people - we have been. And how we can be now.

Yes. Things ARE bleak at the moment.
It doesn't feel good.
We don't know any of the endings to our current storylines.
It's unsettling, and uncertainty is never easy.

But History - and my grandmother - show me that we are resilient, and that somehow we find ways to get through whatever History we need to get through. It may not feel comfortable, but we can do it. I think, maybe, that hope and history DO rhyme.

And that's where I'm finding hope today.


(Speaking of rhyming . . . let's have a poem, shall we? Because if this isn't a poem of hope, I don't know what is.)

In Any Event
Dorianne Laux

If we are fractured
we are fractured
like stars
bred to shine
in every direction,
through any dimension,
billions of years
since and hence.

I shall not lament
the human, not yet.
There is something
more to come, our hearts
a gold mine
not yet plumbed,
an uncharted sea.

Nothing is gone forever.
If we came from dust
and will return to dust
then we can find our way
into anything.

What we are capable of
is not yet known,
and I praise us now, 
in advance.


Today's poem was selected for inclusion in How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021. Click here for more information about the poet, Dorianne Laux.







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I think a lot about my grandmother, too, and try to remember just how capable she was. She went to college, became a teacher, and because teachers couldn't continue to teach in those days if they were married, she and my grandfather got married secretly and lived apart for two years. She was raised on a farm and used to tell me stories about how she had to do farm chores when her father was injured. She said there was no choice for most people, they just got on with things and did the best they could. We need to remember and do the same.


YES! I said something very similar to Dale the other day after he got off the phone with his best friend who lives in Oregon. Dale was saying that his friend was feeling despair about the state of the world and not knowing what would happen next, etc. And I said to Dale . . . you love history and you need to look at history to remember that even thought we don't know what's coming, and we never actually have, history shows us that the world goes on. You put it much more eloquently. It reminds me of that expression "you have survived 100% of your hardest days."


Sometimes ALL we have is hope. And if we don’t have any loved ones nearby and the world has fallen down around us, we better have hope. Chloe


The story of your grandmother is exactly the example I used yesterday talking to my son. He is 32 and was concerned about all the things you expressed: climate change, politics, pandemic, lack of kindness. I told him about my grandparent's and parent's challenges and asked him what up until now compared with any of these events. Nothing! He has never met any of these challenges that are completely out of his control.
I hope it put things into perspective for him. And it was a good reminder for me during these uncertain times. Sounds like a lot of us are on the same wavelength.


Anyone who has lived for a century is bound to have seen a lot, but just think of not only the major world events but the monumental shifts in everyday life your grandmother saw! She must've really had an extraordinary life.

I've been feeling the same unsettled feeling lately that so many are experiencing, and I think part of it is that when we started this year with all that hope, we really thought the world would be in a much better place. We thought the vaccine would make a bigger impact, that the new administration would take science-based steps that would make things safer, that life would start to feel a little more "normal." But I think I'm slowly coming to accept that "normal" is just a made-up concept. There's the way things used to be and the way things are. And if we aren't happy with how things are, then we have to hope that the way things will be is better.


What an excellent post. I think back to Inauguration Day when hope looked like a black American young woman dressed in a beautiful yellow-gold coat reading her poem. Sometimes I wonder if I was just naive to think a new administration could turn this country in a better direction. Sometime in the past year, I listened to an On Being interview with a Black American writer (I can't recall his name at the moment) who looked to the history of his people as an example of hope and resilience. Lately I have been thinking about his ideas. And of course, I just spent a week with four of my grandchildren. For their sake, I have to be hopeful.


P.S. I love the photos of your grandmother. She was a beautiful strong woman.

kathy b

Beautiful`. Spot on


Yes. To all of this. My nana spoke about those times. The Great Depression, Prohibition (a real problem if your father drives a beer truck) WWII (being of German heritage made WWII it's own special hell... add to that my grandfather tried to enlist and that was when they discovered he had MS.) and then having to reorganize your life because the bread winner would soon be unable to work. She talked about bleak days, but days in which you never give up - you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Moving forward. Because, as she used to tell me all the time... if you keep moving forward you will eventually move past the hurdle. That is what I have been trying my hardest to do... just keep moving forward. It is not always easy and some days I really feel like life has knocked me back and taken away all my "forward momentum" but I still get up out of bed and keep moving.

This post was exactly what I needed to find this morning. Thank you so much Kym. And thank goodness for your beautiful grandmother. (and all the amazing grandmothers who kept moving forward for all of us!)


Want to add how much I loved your grandmother’s photos. The second one had such a look of familiarity about it. Her clothes and hairstyle seemed just like yesterday - when my mother dressed like that. Chloe


What a thought provoking post, Kym. I have thoughts along those lines as well and it seems to me that we have had the good fortune to live in a golden age that is not typical of the human condition, both in time and in place. And it seems that the party has ended. I think living with threat at the door is probably a more common experience than we would like to admit.

I love the photo's of your grandmother and see a family resemblance there.

The day before your post, Preet Bharara interviewed Bina Venkataraman, the author of The Optimist's Telescope (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/558006/the-optimists-telescope-by-bina-venkataraman/) which I found to be interesting and encouraging.
Here's a link to the podcast: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5tZWdhcGhvbmUuZm0vVk1QNTQ4OTczNDcwMg/episode/NzkyODZjYWUtY2QxYS0xMWViLWE3ZmMtYjNhZDhmZTk0N2E3?hl=en&ved=2ahUKEwjD0_D4pZrzAhXI8p4KHZPzBw8QjrkEegQIDxAF&ep=6

It's about an hour long. I have the book on hold at the library. Have a good weekend!


I love this post, for so many reasons. Connection to your grandmother...thought provoking...and so well written. I read it Friday and have been thinking about it; something that's settled out of that is how much purpose your grandmother (+ her generation) had *while* they were busy surviving! Carrying on with the work of a dairy farm while raising children (on a good day!)... AND surviving the Great Depression... AND WWII (solo). By comparison, we, as a whole, are doing more 'waiting around' during our crisis. It feels so much more...idle. Passive. In that, I think it's easy for people to lose a sense of purpose (unless you're on the front lines!)--which your grandmother had so much of.
And you two look so much alike, I can't get over it!

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