Looking for Hope

Rekindling the Inner Fire

All week long I look for . . . 

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And then on Fridays, I report back.

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“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
                – Albert Schweitzer

I'm an introvert. Which doesn't mean I'm shy or retiring (because I'm neither). And it doesn't mean I don't like people (because I do). Or parties and social gatherings (because I enjoy those, too). It just means that I get my energy from spending time on my own; I need to recharge - I like to recharge - all by myself. As fun as parties and social events are, well . . . they wear me out. And after time "peopling," I really need some down time with my knitting or my paintbrushes or a book . . . and a glass of wine.

As my sister (also an introvert) likes to say, "We are built for a pandemic lockdown."  Yep. Able to withstand limited contact and alone-time with minimal discomfort. Plenty of books and hobbies on hand to last for a good long time. Techology to reach out when we want to reach out. But really not getting that itch to go to a party or any other social gathering that might risk our health, y'know?

But recently, I've discovered that my introvert-ness has a limit. And I'm there. I find, after nearly 9 months of connecting with my friends via FaceTime and Zoom happy hours and online-whatever-you-haves, I'm missing . . . 

community
connections
PEOPLE, in general
seeing and spending real time with my friends

(And my family, too - but that's a whole other kind of missing.)

This longing for community, for my friends, seems especially hard right now -- as we head into what will surely be a long, dark winter. Five more months of being cooped up inside (even though I do have plenty of diversions inside with me) until it's warm enough to meet in the park again for lunch at a picnic table? Five more months of meet-ups and "parties" and happy hours on Zoom (even though I'm grateful for technology that allows this kind of connection) until maybe the vaccine is available? It just feels really bleak right now. And where is the HOPE in that?

So you might say I was at a low spot.
My inner fire was definitely diminished.

And then, something happened.

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I got a note from a friend!

A really wonderful note.
The kind that warms you up and brings a smile and . . . makes you shed a tear or two.

This note bolstered my spirit and . . . gave me hope!
That we will get through this.
That we will get together again.
That we are friends.
That we remain connected.

I discovered that it's actually pretty simple . . . for a friend to rekindle your inner spirit when your inner fire goes out.

Just words.
Just a note.
A simple, heartfelt note.

This week I decided to start writing my own notes to friends. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and start trying to spread some hope out there among my friends.

Maybe those notes will hit at a low spot . . . when the inner fire has gone out.
Maybe I'll be able to rekindle some inner spirits with my words.
I think it's worth a try!

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that rekindle your inner spirit.

 


When Hope Looks Like Gratitude

All week long I look for . . . 

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And on Fridays I report back!

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"When you can't be grateful for everything, be grateful for something."
        --- Anne McOmber

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Thanksgiving is coming. And I love Thanksgiving! It's my favorite holiday, hands down. Food. Family. Grateful hearts. Plenty of tradition - but without the weight and hype of Christmas. Mainly, I love cooking and sharing a big meal with people I love.

Tom and I have been trying to figure out a way to make our usual Thanksgiving "work" . . . in a pandemic. Erin's plans to join us this year were, of course, disrupted months ago. But we were hoping to salvage the feast for those of us geographically closer - Brian and Lauren and my dad. We had come up with all kinds of ideas. 

Maybe we could eat in the dining room with the windows open and an oscillating fan going?
Or maybe we could bring the table out to the garage, open the door, and invite Mr. Heater?
Or maybe the weather will cooperate and we could eat on the patio?

So many ideas. And none of them very appealing. Especially against the backdrop of exploding Covid numbers here in Michigan -- and especially so in our part of the state, which is being hit particularly hard right now. With no coordinated plan in place (anywhere, as far as I can tell), we all need to take care of ourselves and make the best decisions for our families.

With heavy hearts, Tom and I have decided to cancel any attempt at an in-person Thanksgiving gathering this year. (Sorry, Mr. Heater.) We're still planning to cook the same meal we always cook -- just a day earlier. Then we'll pack up the meal and deliver it to Brian and Lauren and to my dad. We're planing a whole-family Zoom to celebrate. It'll be weird. And different. And a little sad. But we have a plan!

So, where's the hope in that, huh????

Well. There is hope . . . in gratitude.

My family remains healthy - and we all want to keep it that way for each other.
Being apart for Thanksgiving doesn't change our love for each other.
We are resilient and willing to adapt our traditions for the times.
We have enough and more.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
            --- Epictetus

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I know the coming holiday season is going to be different and difficult and sad for many of us. I'm interested in ways you and your family are going to celebrate the holidays this year -- maybe sharing our ideas for how we can connect while celebrating remotely. I've been doing a lot of brainstorming myself, and I think it might be inspiring for us to share our ideas. 

What do you think? Let's share our ideas! How can we make the holidays . . . feel more like the holidays . . . in this pandemic season? I'll pull together a post based on your responses.

Let's find hope together!

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy.
And gratitude.

 

 


On Muscle Memory . . . and Hope

All week long, I look for . . . 

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and on Fridays, I report back.

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Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a habit that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”
                –
Krista Tippett

I read the quote (above) from Krista Tippett early this week, and it's been hanging there in my head ever since.

Hope.
Muscle memory.

I don't know that I would ever have put those two terms next to each other.
But now I do!

When I think about "muscle memory" I think about all those things I just do automatically, but that were hard for me at one time.

Tying my shoes.
Executing the long-tail cast-on.
Threading my sewing machine.
Moving through a vinyasa.
French braiding hair.
Doing a dead lift.

But with enough repetition and practice, I can do any of those things without even thinking about it now.

Perhaps it's that way with hope, too?

These days, feelings of hope and feelings of no-hope-at-all swing wildly in my psyche. And yet . . . I still go through the automatic actions of someone who is full of hope for the future.

I plant bulbs in my garden.
(Hoping for a future spring that is thick with daffodils!)

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I work out every day.
(Hoping for that day 20-some years in the future when I can pick myself up after a fall!)

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I wind yarn.
(And dream of the sweater that will keep me warm and cozy at some point in the future!)

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Just going through the motions  . . . of hope.

It turns out that even when there are . . . things, situations, people . . . who challenge my hope-filled nature, I know that down deep, I've still got hope. It's there. Even when I don't think about it.

It's my spiritual muscle memory at work!

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy.

Hang in there.
Try to find some time to let your spiritual muscle memory do its thing.

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PS -- Just in case you're having severe anxiety about the election, I wanted to pass along this link to an article that came out yesterday in The Atlantic. A good reminder . . . that 2020 is not 2016. It gave me a little . . . hope. (At least for a mintue.) Maybe it will give you some, too.

 


A Refreshing Reset: Who Doesn't Need That?

All week long I look for . . . 

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And on Fridays, I report back.

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On my quest to find hope, sometimes I find that hope . . . finds me.

A couple of weeks ago, an article in The New Yorker caught my eye. (This one.) I mean, the headline was just right up my alley, including intriguing phrases like "provocative botanical sculptures" and "flower punk." How could I resist? I skimmed quickly. . . but didn't fully read the article. It was about a documentary. And there was a 30 minute film involved. And who has time for that kind of thing in the middle of the day? (. . . she said as she scrolled through Instagram and then picked up Animal Crossings. . . )

So I bookmarked the article and moved on, planning to come back to it at some point.
But I didn't.
I forgot all about it . . . 

until last Sunday morning, when it showed up again in a "digest" post from The New Yorker. 

This time, I did read the article. And then I sat down and watched the 30-minute documentary. And then I watched it again.

Because, my friends, this documentary?  It's . . . HOPE.
And it found me!

The documentary, called Flower Punk, was created by filmmaker Alison Klayman. And as The New Yorker article claims, it is "delightful, and unexpectedly moving." Alison Klayman actually shot this film as a break from a full-length documentary she was working on about Steve Bannon and politics and breaking news. She said her work on Flower Punk provided "a refreshing reset" for her, and enabled her to be "surrounded by and contemplating beauty" after all that darkness (that is Steve Bannon).

If creating this film provided a "refreshing reset" for Alison Klayman in that situation, imagine what watching it might do for you!

I found so much hope and beauty in this short film. For me, it is the perfect intersection of art, the magic of flowers, passion, and growth. And isn't that hope, in a nutshell?

I don't expect you to sit and watch this film right now (because 30 minutes), but I do encourage you to watch it at some point in the next few days. Maybe the next time you feel like picking up your phone to check the news or a social media feed (or that damn Animal Crossings game), watch this instead.

Let hope find you.
Give yourself a refreshing reset!

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And - definitely - time to watch this incredible film.)

 


Keep Moving

All week long, I look for . . . 

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And then on Fridays? I report back!

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A while back now, a couple of years ago or so (still deep in the Before Times, for sure), I stumbled onto Maggie Smith's Instagram feed. Every day back then, she was posting a short inspirational "reminder" to herself to . . . keep moving. It turns out she was going through a divorce, and her life was in total upheaval and nothing felt right for her anymore. So she started writing notes to herself each day (she calls them affirmations, encouragements, self-directives, goals) and posting them on social media. The words at the end of each of these notes to herself? Keep Moving.

I looked forward to seeing Maggie's daily posts. Her "notes-to-self" were much more than advice to someone grieving a marriage and trying to figure out how to keep moving through that slog. Her notes were absolutely universal -- encouraging anyone, all of us, to keep moving whenever we are stuck or alone or worn out or going through our own transformations. (And this was back in the Before Times! Remember . . . we used to feel stuck even before the pandemic.) (I forget this sometimes.)

I started taking screen shots of Maggie's Instagram posts to save for myself. I created a little "album" in my phone to store them, so I could dip in and re-read them for a little shot of inspiration whenever I needed one. I shared a lot of them with my daughter, who was working through something at the time. I shared them with friends. And then the pandemic came, and Maggie's notes took on a whole new level of meaning and motivation for me, as I really needed a reminder to . . . keep moving.

I planned to create some sort of journal or "book" for myself full of Maggie's reminders, eventually. But then . . . I didn't have to!

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Because Maggie's daily notes became so universally inspirational (turns out I wasn't the only one screen-shotting them every day), she was ultimately able to collect them up and publish them in a book!

The book - Keep Moving - came out earlier this month, a couple of weeks ago. It's the kind of book that you can sit down and read in one sitting (if you have an hour). It's also the kind of book you can just . . . open up randomly and find a just-right inspiration for that moment (which is how I usually read poetry books, by the way).

Keep Moving . . . is all about hope! There is hope on every single page! Here is what Maggie has to say about hope in one of her opening essays . . . 

"I began writing a goal for myself each day, even when I was struggling and optimism felt less than natural. What kept me going was the idea that hope begets hope, and that practicing hope and courage on a daily basis might help me arrive at that better place. Yes, there is an element of fake it until you make it to being hopeful in a time of crisis. But why not? Perhaps when we try hope on for size, it may not fit at first -- it may hang on us, several sizes too big -- but if we keep wearing it, we will grow into it."
--- Maggie Smith, Keep Moving

Hope begets hope.

Fake it until you make it.

If we keep wearing it, we will grow into it.

Yes. That's it, really, isn't it? Do you want to peek inside with me?

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Here are some concluding words about hope from Maggie in one of her final essays . . . 

"Today I think of myself as a 'recovering pessimist.' I know that optimism is not at odds with wisdom. It's quite the opposite. I think of cynicism as cool but lazy, while hope is desperately uncool -- it has sweaty palms and an earnest smile on its face. What I know to be true is that one hopeful person will accomplish more than a hundred cynics. Why? Because the hopeful person will try."
--- Maggie Smith, Keep Moving

In these disturbing days, let's not give up on hope, my friends.

Let's even be desperately uncool about it.
Faking it until we make it.

Keep moving!

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.)

And - hey! You don't think I could leave this post without sharing a Maggie Smith poem, do you???

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FUTURE

What is the future?

Everything that hasn't happened yet, the future
is tomorrow and next year and when you're old
but also in a minute or two, when I'm through
answering. The future is nothing I imagined
as a child: no jet packs, no conveyor-belt sidewalks,
no bell-jarred cities at the bottom of the sea.
The trick of the future is that it's empty,
a cup before you pour the water. The future
is a waiting cup, and for all it knows, you'll fill it
with milk instead. You're thirsty. Every minute
carries you forward, conveys you, into a space
you fill. I mean the future will be full of you.
It's one step beyond the step you're taking now.
What you'll say next until you say it.

Maggie Smith

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Today's poem was published in Good Bones by Maggie Smith, 2017, Tupelo Press. (It also appears in Keep Moving by Maggie Smith, 2020, Simon & Schuster, Inc. Information about the poet can be found here

 


Trying to Speak

All week long, I look for  . . . 

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and then on Fridays?
I report back!

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This week I've been thinking a lot about what I mean, exactly, when I say I'm looking for . . . hope.

I know what hope means, the technical definition and all. And I have a sense of what I'm looking for. But it's so hard to articulate. Hope -  as a concept - is hard to pin down. It's not just optimism (too simple) -- it's much more obscure; it's fleeting. It's a deeper . . . something. It's one of those I'll-know-it-when-I-see-it (or feel it) kind of things.

So.
Well.
I didn't come up with a clear and succinct way to explain it. But I do know that I can look to the words of poets to help me express what I mean; to describe hope to me in a way I can feel in my heart; that we can all feel in our souls. Who better than poets . . . to give us the words that lift us up; that speak to the universal importance of hope and resilience?

So I've decided to just stop trying to define or explain it myself . . . and just offer you a poem of hope from another of my favorite poets, Lisel Mueller, instead.

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Hope
Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corner
before the lights are turned on, 
   it shakes sleep from its eyes
   and drops from mushroom gills,
      it explodes in the starry heads
      of dandelions turned sages,
         it sticks to the wings of green angels
         that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
   it lives in each earthworm segment
   surviving cruelty,
      it is the motion that runs
      from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
         it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
         of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we can not destroy in ourselves,
the arguement that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.
(It's out there, trying to speak.)

==

Today's poem was published in Alive Together: New and Selected Poems by Lisel Mueller, 1996, Louisiana State University Press.  Information about the poet can be found here

 


Reading for Hope

All week long, I look for . . . 

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And then on Fridays?
I report back!

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Earlier in the week I was explaining to my daughter about how I was looking for hope. She suggested that I might find it in a book -- and she mentioned a particular book that she had read recently. 

This one . . .

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I had never heard of this book before . . . not on any of the "best new books" lists, not on any of your blogs, nowhere. (Probably because it fits into the "fantasy" genre. . . ) But when I talked to Erin about it, I knew I needed to read it. (Erin is as picky a reader as I am, so I take her recommendations seriously.)

Here's her Goodreads review . . .

"What a delightful story of growth, redemption, empathy, and love. An extremely human story about people who can change even in the face of deep, systemic prejudice. A hopeful thought in times like these.

This book was comforting and reading it was a joy throughout. The oppression of magical youths as a metaphor for racism was occasionally a bit on the nose, but honestly it worked for me.

Sometimes, you just need a happy story that inspires hope. This book is exactly that."
            ---- Erin, Goodreads review

As soon as I read that, I just knew I needed to read it.
A "happy story that inspires hope" . . . she says.
So I dropped everything, found the book, and dove in.
I'm not finished yet . . .  but friends? This book is totally delivering!
This book is a delight. It brings HOPE!

Which got me thinking:  There are books that disrupt our thinking and books that challenge us and books that entertain.
So, of course, there are also books that bring us hope!
Books that restore our faith in humanity.
Books that we need right now.

I decided to make a list of books I've read that do just that -- inspire hope. (And it was easier than I expected, because these books are among some of my more favorite books.)

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (quite possibly my favorite book of all time)
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This is Happiness by Niall Williams
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Then, I did a little digging around on the internet . . . and I discovered that there is a Goodreads Restore Your Faith in Humanity book list. Buzzfeed has put out a similar list. And the Guardian just published an article on the subject as well (they call it "comfort reading").  Turns out . . . reading for hope . . . is A Thing!

My recommendation in the looking-for-hope department this week?
Pick up a book!
Not just any book, mind you -- but one that will restore your faith in humanity!
Get to reading.
And when you're tempted to sneak a peek at the news headlines . . . pick up the book instead!

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What books might you add to the list? What books have you read that inspire hope?

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest and read -- and things that bring you joy. 

Don't forget to look for hope.
Find a book that fills your soul.

 


Looking So Hard Right Now

This has been a tough week.

I mean, there's all the ordinary crap of life -- the melancholy-ness of pulling the pontoon out of the lake for the summer, for example. Or weird issues with a friend you used to like hanging around with. Or the "medical morass" you need to lead your dad through. Y'know . . . just ordinary, everyday kinds of crap. The kind we all deal with on the regular.

But then . . . there's the EXTRAordinary shitshow stuff happening all around us right now. The grieving for RBG. The frustration of inaction in the Breonna Taylor case. The latest Trump outrage about refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power.  The lies. The ineptitude. The hypocrisy.

It gets to be too much.

Especially when you're trying (so hard) to look for ...

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I'm betting that many of you are feeling much like me right now.
Wrung out.
Weary.
Disheartened.
Disenchanted.
Tired.
So tired.
So tired of this shit.

In other words . . . hopeless.

So today, I'm going to share something that gets me through when I've lost hope.

I meditate every day, and I usually use a GREAT app called Insight Timer for my practice. (Really. I've used most of the apps out there over the years, and Insight Timer is the best.) Sarah Blondin (of the Live Awake podcast) is one of the most popular teachers on the app -- and one I really like, too. In the early days of the pandemic (which seems now like years and years ago, doesn't it?), Sarah did a session for Insight Timer on Instagram Live called A Message of Hope. I listened to it back then, and I've listened to it several times since -- including twice already this week!

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I thought you all might enjoy Sarah's message, too. You can click on this link to listen. It's on the longer side -- about 18 minutes, but I think you'll feel better - and maybe even a little more hopeful (or at least more settled) - after you listen. You don't need to be a regular meditator to enjoy this; it's less a guided meditation than a soothing talk from a wise friend. It's comforting. And relaxing.

Sarah gives us hope.
And we need some of that right now, more than ever.

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(Now, here's the weird part. When you click into the link, it shows the talk with a 46 minute timeframe. I freaked out when I saw that -- because on the app it's only 18 minutes! And it IS . . . 18 minutes. There's a mistake somewhere there. When you click the arrow to start listening, the time goes down to 18 minutes within seconds. It is NOT 46 minutes. Just so you know.)

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. 

Don't forget to look for hope.
We're all right. We're okay.

 


Thoughts on Hope: A Story About Showing Up

It's Friday. Let's look for . . . 

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As you know, I'm desperately seeking hope.
I'm looking everywhere.
(And actually finding it more often than I thought I would.)

I've also been doing some thinking about a phrase that seems to pop up everywhere these days . . . 

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Show up.

I really like the phrase, myself. It means "to be conspicuous or clearly visible," according to the dictionary on my phone. For me, it means . . . being there. Even if you would rather not be there, and especially if you don't have to be there at all. It involves a choice on behalf of the shower-upper. It's about taking your light out from under your bushel basket and letting it shine. It means speaking up. It means supporting someone. Or an issue; a cause.

Show up.

Today I want to share a story with you about a guy who lives somewhere near me. I don't know his name or anything about him (well, that's not entirely true; I know something very important about him - and you will, too, after you read my story), but I see him all the time. He's just some guy, older than Tom and I I'd guess. Maybe . . . late 60s? Early 70s? He's tall and he has gray hair and he runs in our neighborhood. Every day. I'd probably not really notice him, really, because we have lots of runners in our neighborhood and he would just kind of fade into the mass of them.

But. He stands out.
Because he shows up.

The first time I noticed him was in the winter of 2017. Trump had recently been sworn in (y'know . . . to uphold and defend the constitution) (but I digress). The first Women's March had just happened. The forest rangers were resisting. Remember those days? Anyway. It was a winter morning and I was driving to my kickboxing class at the gym, and I noticed this guy running. And he had big, homemade sign safety pinned to his back: "Dump Trump," it said. Bright yellow sign, brown words. They showed up clearly on his brown running jacket. I honked my horn and waved.

And then . . . I continued to see him running in my neighborhood almost every time I drove to the gym in the morning. His "Dump Trump" sign pinned to his running clothes. Tom would see him, too. We started watching for him. Every day.

By spring, he had gotten rid of the pinned-on sign -- and ran in a brown t-shirt screen printed with "Dump Trump" right on the back. Bright yellow. Clearly visible from a distance. Every day. 

Now, he has an entire "Dump Trump" running wardrobe. For all seasons, for all weather. Jackets, t-shirts, tank tops. Brown and bright yellow. (A model of consistent branding.) Every day.

THAT, friends . . . is showing up!

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I've long wanted to introduce myself to him. Let him know how much seeing him running means to me; how brave I think he is . . . to run with his heart on his sleeve (you know what I mean) like that; how much HOPE he gives me whenever I see him. But it's hard -- because I usually see him when I'm driving and it's hard to stop then.  Besides, I'm in awe of him, and that makes me feel shy about it.

Last month, I was out walking with JoJo and I saw him running past. I quick grabbed my phone to try to at least get a photo, but by the time I got the phone out and the camera ready and  JoJo settled . . . he was too far ahead for me to talk to him or (as you can see) get a decent photo.

But that's him. Mr. "Dump Trump." A fixture now for nearly 4 years . . . showing up . . . on the streets of my neighborhood every day!

I've decided that . . . showing up . . . is much more than just being "conspicuous" or "clearly visible." (Although there certainly is that.)
We show up because we hope.
Our showing up gives other people hope.
When we show up, we shore others up.

Hope . . . in action.

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And because Fridays can still be for poetry (every day can be for poetry, actually), here's a poem for you by Jane Hirshfield, another one of my favorite poets. I've probably shared this particular poem here before at some point, but it seems to be especially appropriate when we're talking about showing up.

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My Life Was the Size of My Life
Jane Hirshfield

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.
In its backgrounders, mitochondria hummed,
above it sun, clouds, snow,
the transit of stars and planets.
It rode elevators, bullet trains,
various airplanes, a donkey.
It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose.
It ate, it slept, it opened
and closed its hands, its windows.
Others, I know, had lives larger.
Others, I know, had lives shorter.
The depth of lives, too, is different.
There were times my life and I made jokes together.
There were times we made bread.
Once I grew moody and distant.
I told my life I would like some time,
I would like to try seeing others.
In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned.
I was hungry, then, and my life,
my life, too, was hungry, we could not keep
our hands off         our clothes on
our tongues from

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.
Show up.

==

Today's poem was published in The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield, 2015, Alfred A. Knopf.  Information about the poet can be found here

 


Around Here

Edited to add note: If you try to leave a comment on this post, but are unable to, would you mind sending me an email (link to the left in the sidebar) to let me know. I've had reports of a problem, and need more data to report the situation. Thank you.

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. . . on Fridays we . . . 

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This week, I got a new book for my poetry collection -- Together In a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic (edited by Alice Quinn and published by Penguin Random House). The editor of the collection, Alice Quinn, reached out to poets across the country to see what they were writing during the days of quarantine, and this collection is the result. The poems, as you might expect, cover the gamut of emotions during those early days when we were all staying home . . . trying to make sense of a pandemic in our midst. Some of the poems are dark, some are melancholy; there's some humor in there, and sadness. 

What strikes me most about these poems, though, is how "far" (I'm not sure that's exactly the word I want to use here, but it will suffice) we've all come in 6 months. Reading these poems -- written, collected, edited, published in a mere 6 months -- was like stepping back in time . . . back to March and April.

Remember that time? Remember how it felt then? We were shocked and anxious and more than a little afraid. We were at home. Inside. Washing our hands and not touching our faces and wiping everything down and hoarding toilet paper and thinking it all might end by . . . summer, surely. We were trying hard to make sense of things back then. To sort out what we could do and not do. Trying not to panic, but kind of panicking.

And the poems in this collection? That's where they are. They come from those early days of the pandemic and the time of staying-at-home.

And reading them now . . . feels kind of dated. 
In a mere 6 months.

And that actually gives me . . . hope. I mean, sure. I'm a lot more jaded about everything now. Worn down and weary and sick of this shit. Like everyone else.

But look how much we've learned.
Look how much we've adapted. 
Look at us.

We're not happy. But we are resilient.
I can see that. I can feel that.
Despite everything . . .  all the crap and all the politics and all the stress and all the just, well, more regular kinds of horrific disasters happening against the backdrop of the pandemic . . . we're still here. Making our way and pulling each other out of the dark spaces and putting the pieces of our lives together as best we can.

That's hope.
In action.

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And because Friday's are still for poetry, here's one from Together In a Sudden Strangeness for you. Now, this poem apparently went "viral" in those early days, so you may already be familiar with it, but somehow, I missed it completely back then. The first time I read it was this week, in this collection. I only found its history when I Googled the author.

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And the People Stayed Home
Kitty O'Meara

And the people stayed home.

And they listened, and read books, and rested, and exercised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new way of being, and were still.

And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, and heartless
ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they
grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and
created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

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Remember, friends. This story isn't over yet, and we don't know how it ends.
We're in the "messy middle" right now.
Let's keep moving.

My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.

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Today's poem was published in Together In a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn, 2020, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House.  The poem was first published on the author's blog, The Daily Round and in O, The Oprah Magazine.