"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches on the soul."


It's a pity, it is, that my blogging seems to have come to mere mentions of products or services I find online. The internet is not a little like having the world at one's fingertips, the universe at one's beck and call. I rather expect I should be able to find anything if I look long enough. An hour should be plenty. And then sometimes I just go window-shopping, for nothing in particular. And that is when I chance upon such delights as the lovely lady on the card above. The words are Emily Dickinson's and the artwork by Yardia, a seller on Etsy.

I've wondered before why hope is so often compared with birds. Have you noticed the recurring metaphor? I'd like to keep a catalogue of the allusions. Both Emilys, Bronte and Dickinson, use this metaphor. I like it. I think there must be something fragile in them both, a tenuousness the virtue and the creature share.

Perhaps I shouldn't say it, but my own hope is rather tenuous at the moment, as if the little bird had been fed on too few crumbs lately. I feed instead its seeming nemesis, despair, with writers such as Anton Chekhov. He writes about people who lead unhappy, unfulfilled lives. Something in these stories appeal to me. Perhaps the cynic in me distrusts happiness as anything more than mere illusion. Perhaps I take comfort in reading of others who have more reason than I do to be unhappy. No, my troubles are but small in comparison. And happiness, like hope, however tenuous, is real. Some readers would find the stories, particularly their oblique endings, vastly unfulfilling and even depressing. I find them beautiful, but the beauty hurts.

I remember one of my professors lecturing on the aesthetics of art and literature. The perfect aesthetic is found in the tension just short of attainment. Recall Michaelangelo's painting of God and Adam on the Sistine chapel ceiling. God is reaching down and Adam is reaching up, but their fingers do not meet. True art is just that tenuous. And so is life. The little bird tells us to hope in the face of unhappiness, hope when despair would come more naturally. Hope. And then she flits away.

Comments

Josie Ray said…
Beautifully written, Rebecca. I once raised a young bird...when I thought I was young! The bird's youthfulness and hope everyday encouraged and amazed me. It KNEW that there was a reason for waking up and singing each morning. As its wings developed, it was always looking upward. One day, it began flying up to the ceiling and looking up, up, up for a way to go higher. I knew it was time to let it fly. (I took it to a wildlife specialist to be retrained for the wilderness, which I should have done initially, but I would so have missed the lessons I learned and the memory of its fluffy, warm, light body perched on my fingers it talked to me).

So when you wonder why hope is called a bird, I think of that bird, and I know. Because birds soar. Because they sing. Because, unless scouting for food, they're always looking up.

But we're earthbound. For now.

Regarding books, I'm just the opposite of you. I can only read sad books when I'm happy, and happy books when I'm sad...not moods of the moment, I mean, but phases of life.

Regarding stopping just short of fulfillment, I'm the type who always sits and imagines what happens in the years following, when I finish a book. Authors assume we don't want to know, once the crisis is over. But I also greatly enjoy those books that are simply about peaceful, everyday life.

Thank you for a thought-provoking post!
Rebecca said…
Josie, what a thoughtful response you have given to my late-night musings! I enjoyed your reminiscences about the bird you raised. It's impressive that it lived. We didn't have very good luck with wild creatures we "rescued,' other than the tadpole we kept in a jar and watched morph into a frog. :-)

What are you reading nowadays? Other than Chekhov, I have been listening to Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and L.M. Montgomery's Kilmeny of the Orchard. So you see, I don't only enjoy depressing stuff! It's nice to have some variation.
Greyhaven Pines said…
Thought-provoking and beautiful post, Rebecca. I had you on my heart the other day and prayed for you. I will again.

Hugs,

Elizabeth
Rebecca said…
Thank you for your prayers, Elizabeth. That's so kind of you...
{lauryl} said…
Lovely quote and interesting thoughts. What are you up to lately? Are you still in school, are you working? We need to catch up! xoxo
Josie Ray said…
Hello, Rebecca. Kilmeny is such a peaceful sweet story. I received LMM's After Many Days (short stories) for Christmas, but haven't opened it yet.

Well, it's January, so I'm emptying out instead of filling, and I've been on a straight diet of Georgette Heyer. Four to be exact since Christmas. She makes me laugh out loud. Royal Escape surprised me, though, because it turned out to be a rather serious and surprisingly accurate historical account of Charles II's escape to France. And I learned more from it than I ever learned in history class.

Also, I've been starting to read two more serious books: Sigurd Olson's Listening Point (he is my all-time favorite naturalist...a pure and sincere heart, a poet, and a wilderness lover all in one), and Max Picard's The World of Silence (greatly influential in Thomas Merton's life), which reads poetically, though it's prose.

When you mentioned relating to unhappy books, I could only think of how I've had to set aside Dickens during difficult times, because unless I'm happy, I simply can't bear Murdstones, Heeps, and Hard Times. :-)

This is getting lengthy, but do you have moods of previously-read books flash deliciously through your mind at times, so that one day you want to go pull one off the shelf and read it, the next day another, so that you can't possibly read them all as fast as their wonderful moods come to mind? (Or is that just me???) The Secret Garden, Villette, and Julie Andrews' Mandy have been calling me this January. I'm starting fairy rose cuttings in a sunny window and perhaps it's making me long for image-invoking accounts of English gardens...

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