Tunes for a Monday Morning
Embracing uncertainty

Hope and despair

Nattadon Hill 1

Late autumn in Devon. Tilly and I travel the winding pathways of the dying year: through yellow leaves and rust red hills and green grass fields turned white with frost, through trees that seem to flame and wither between one heartbeat and the next.

I am wrapped in a warm and threadbare coat, skirt snagged by brambles, boots caked in mud, my steps unsteady, moving slowly through the quiet landscape of fragile health and recovery. It is not a straight trail. The pathway dips and rises, loops back, moves forward, then turns back again. My destination lies somewhere ahead: I can smell the wood smoke of  its welcoming fire, see the golden glow of the back porch light, guiding me toward stability, certainty, strength of body, mind, and spirit. I'll get there. I am getting there. But the journey is my life right now: the taste of wind and sound of water and the damp grass slippery underfoot. The journey has its necessities, its lessons...its pleasures too, if I am open to them. If I am present on the trail and not putting life and art on hold until that moment of arrival.

Nattadon Hill 2

There's nothing like the slow and tedious progression through an illness to bring to mind the words "hope" and "despair,"  although one's own tiny drop of discomfort seems so damn small, so insignificant when measured against the wounded world around us. I'm reminded daily of that old alchemical principal: As above, then so below. We harm the natural world; our bodies are nature; and we are not immune from ecological disruption, echoed in our blood and bones.

Nattadon Hill 3

How do we balance hope and despair when daily life, or health, or work, or engagement with the world puts us on the narrow path between them? How do we avoid despair's passivity, or false hope's blindness to the challenges ahead? The ecological writer Joanna Macy suggests that despair and hope are not oppositional, but two sides of the same coin:

"By honoring our despair," she says, "and not trying to suppress it or pave over it as some personal pathology, we open a gateway into our full vitality and to our connection with all of life. Beneath what I call our 'pain for the world,' which includes sorrow and outrage and dread, is the instinct for the preservation of life. When we are unafraid of the suffering of our world, and brave enough to sustain the gaze and speak out, there is a redemptive sanity at work.

"The other side of that pain for our world is a love for our world. That love is bigger than you would ever guess from what our consumer society conditions us to want. It's a love so raw, so ancient, so deep that if you get in touch with it, you can just ride it; you can just be there and it doesn't matter. Then nothing can stop you. But to get to that, you have to stop being afraid of hurting. The price of reaching that is tears and outrage, because the tears and the power to keep on going, they come from the same source."

Nattadon Hill 4

Nattadon Hill 6

The transformation of despair into hope is alchemical work, creative work. And what all transformations have in common, writes Rebecca Solnit, is that they begin in the imagination.

"To hope is to gamble," she says. "It's to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty are better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk. I say all this to you because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say this because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope."

Nattadon Hill 5

Gorse blossoms

The trail dips down, rises again. Tilly dances ahead, a four-footed embodiment of exuberance and joy; and I follow after, taking courage from the stalwart gorse blossoms, bright among the thorns.  I have known despair, we have all known despair, but on this beautiful morning I am chosing hope. I am chosing movement, action, transformation. Art is the "ax" I carry: sharp and not too heavy, fit to the strength I have. And stories are the lights that guide me, the golden porch light that will lead me home.

Nattadon Hill 7The Joanna Macy quote above is from "Women Reimagining the World" (in Moonrise, edited by Nina Simons, 2010); the Rebecca Solnit quote is from her book Hope in the Dark (2004).

Comments

Thank you, Terri, for sharing this journey with us. Your words helped me this morning. Not facing despair, but definitely needing some hope to recover from the loss of a beloved companion and the necessity of charting an unknown future. My heart aches - and yet, the power of love!

These are beautiful photos. I feel as if I am on the walk with you and your dog running ahead of you.
So glad that your health is allowing you to make the walk, and that you are giving us your precious time through the writing of this gorgeous blog.

Be WELL!

You write so beautifully and perfectly capture the precarious, surreal journey of all of those who have walked in the shadows, hoping one day to get back to the sunshine. I always think this path has at least one goblin market. I love the image of Tilly when she has gone on ahead and is looking back as if to beckon you to summon the strength to follow. I hope that you feel better soon and step back into the light.

this post has me weeping today. after a couple weeks of a few anxiety attacks, it has all come down yet again this morning. it is during these moments when things feel so helpless, when i look back and think of all the panic and wonder how i'll be able to face the day. but that's really just the anxiety talking to itself. in reality, it is always getting better. two steps forward, one back. this is the first prolonged episode in months. a huge huge accomplishment. this post is helping me to remember my small victories, the moments of calm, relaxation, healing, laughing. but also to honor my tears and anxious feelings as they flood through. thank you, thank you.

It's lovely to have so many of your words again, Terri, alongside more insightful and inspiring quotes. I hope your legs feel strong today and that they carry you farther than you thought you could go. Be well.

This speaks to my condition as the Quakers say .. many thanks

The pictures animate so well what you write - the path, the world, the going forward. Thanks for sharing it with us. And though it goes without saying, I just love to see Tilly, running ahead and then making sure you're following.

Living Under the Roof of Hope

It's a precarious house,
built on the sands of desire,
that old shifting ground
that rises and falls without warning.

Death can shake the foundations,
illness both real and imagined.
But if we remember rain
can not get in, nor snow.

If we remember that a hole in the roof
can reveal the sky.
If we remember that chimneys
can let us vent.

Then hope can hold the roof
and let us do the work
of living, the work
of loving, the work

of letting go.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

(((Terri))) good to see you getting there gently with these deep insights into edge walking with Deep Hope, am reading A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit after reading her fabulous words in one of your posts about the longing found in blue

*love*

I have been following your journey for some time, appreciate the posts immensely. The past 6 months have brought challenge after challenge to my life so today's writing and photos were especially meaningful.

Writing from the frozen land of Wisconsin on a snowy day!

Sara Tree

Blessings and many healing thoughts. "As above, so below. As within, so without." May the healing already be within you.

I am wrapping my heart around your words and the sweet and wondrous photos of Tilly rushing ahead and checking back. Old pains and insecurities have arisen in me this past week, and I've opened my arms to embrace them in love and compassion. Your post shines a light on the way forward. You are a wonder, and so generous. Thank you, Teri. Healing others, you heal yourself? I wonder.

And thank you for the poem, Jane!

((It's great to read your art, and see your 'ax' in motion.)) Thank you for the light, Terri radiant star-woman and her Muse:)

(((Hugs))) Raquel.

As you have returned, so has my ability to comment on Myth and Moor or anywhere for nearly a month.
My IMac, who is named Shcmendrick, as I expected weird magic and total meltdowns as the magician
went through in The Last Unicorn. Yesterday after another session with an online tech, he could not
figure much out but suggested I awaken Softwear.

So as if waking up from dreaming on the couches of Softwear They all returned...poems, stories, a
short novel iI'm working on along with my return to hope.

I am so glad you are better and your absence for a while gave me the strength of Myth and Moor to
believe, Just that. Your presence is a gift to so many. I am sending you imaginary bouquets in the air.

Terri, thank you for singing the path beneath your feet so we can remember to sing our own. I hope you are blessed with all the goodness and strength and encouragement, threefold, that you give out to other people.

Lovely, perceptive post. Thanks for writing it. You give so much to me, all I can give to you are a few wishes. Make sure you wish today! Hugs.

Sarah,

Thank you for saying what I don't have the tools to. Yes, encouragement threefold.
Terri you are such a blessing to many, I am bouyed by your words and determination.
Love,
Terrie

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is just what I needed to read today, as the dark end of the year closes around me. I've been in too much of a rush, not paying attention to the journey, not respecting the pain that brought me to this wilderness. Your wisdom is a healing cup for me.

Thanks for this. I have to admit feeling a tad moment of true despair this morning - I almost couldn't get out of bed it felt so heavy. It was a combination of the world news, my own chronic illness, some rejections, some money stuff. You know, the usual - but it just seemed like I couldn't lift it off. Your post helped.

Thank you, Terri. You share so many songs with us, I hope it's all right for me to share one with you. It's helping me get through some of the hard I'm dealing with at present.

http://youtu.be/qOAzobTIGr8

Another door poem, Jane. Thank you, dear lady.

All of your comments are especially kind today, and have lightened my own journey considerably. I feel very blessed by the community here on Myth & Moor.

I keep returning to this quote, which has long been pinned above my desk and has become almost talismanic for me:

"I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words become the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars."

- Terry Tempest Williams
(from When Women Were Birds)


So beautiful! Thank you.

Terry, this post is one of the many I know I'll return to again and again in my life. Thank you. I admit, I selfishly wish these posts were bound in a book I could keep by my bedside when poor heath and trouble come to visit. Thank you for sharing your journey and hope. My middle name is Hope, given by my grandmother, and I've always been grateful for this reminder. As you say, one difficultly of balance is trying to stay with hope and at the same time accept where we are. The idea of a better tomorrow doesn't have to devalue the present, but it can be confusing. That confusion is its own gift, beneath a wide and windy sky. Health and love and light to you and yours. - Edie Hope

Oh dear, forgive me for using a Y instead of an I in your name! Terry (Tempest Williams) took over!

Yet again,in offering your precious energies and sharing,you are reaching directly into my heart and life.Thank-you so very much.

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