Tag Archives: hope

Open My Window, Birds Still Sing

“Comfort, comfort, ye my people,” says our God.
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40

When Sarah Jarosz sang “open my window, birds still sing” from her new song on NPR’s Morning Edition last week, I felt like a mother eagle had flown into my COVID-19 heart and carried me on her wings. “Up In The Clouds” is a poignant, joyful, reminder of hope in the COVID-19 era. (Hear Grammy-nominated Jarosz’s “Up In the Clouds” and her interview with David Greene here.) As we stare into the next surge of Coronavirus, let us notice our resilience and celebrate the birds that still sing.

Month after month, we kept going. We cleaned pantries and garages when the pandemic began, baked bread, put Teddy Bears in windows, planted gardens, and drew with chalk on sidewalks.

In the beginning, we stitched thousands of masks at our kitchen tables and gave them away for free. We thanked essential workers for risking their health on our behalf. We eagerly awaited summer so we could be outside the confines of our home.

We closed our businesses. Cared for our sick. Buried our dead. Learned how to worship, meet, and chat on Zoom. We have been resilient.

And yet, the Coronavirus is not finished with us yet. More isolation and sorrow await us this winter.

Like the Psalmist, we plead for a word of hope, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”

“Open your window,” says the Eternal One. “Birds still sing.”

All is not lost. There is still love. And goodness. And God who, like a mother eagle, catches us when we fall.

Squirrels still bury nuts in my garden, and my chickens still lay eggs. Eyes smile above face masks. Snow sparkles today on mountain peaks. Vaccines will come in the new year.

Birds still sing. Beauty is still being created, music sung, and laughter heard. Wrongs are still being righted, broken relationships mended, people comforted, hungry folk fed. A world is still being born.

This pandemic will mark us for the rest of our life. Some of us will bounce back quickly. Others will take a long time to fly again. Some will be gone.

Those who make it through will say when facing a new challenge, “If I made it through the Great Pandemic, I can handle this ____.” We will celebrate how strong we are and how resilient we have become.

Every morning it’s the same. Coffee and memories fill my cup.
And I’ve been thinking that I should learn how to do something new with my time – dig my hands in the dirt, build something that works, get all my loose ends tied.
Open my window, birds still sing.
I want to learn all of their songs, sometime this century till the water washes us away.

From “Up In The Clouds” by Sarah Jarosz

The Resilience of Hope

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, I put a table with colored chalk and hand sanitizer near my front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please draw a picture or message of hope. Please use sanitizer before and after. Stay safe. Stay well.”

Almost instantly, people began drawing and writing. When rain washed away the chalk, they drew new pictures. Week by week the pattern continues: hope drawn, hope gone, hope drawn. The resilience of hope visible on my sidewalk.

When I first set out the chalk, I had no idea what would happen. Would we become the crazy people with chalk in front of their house? Would anyone draw? Would it matter? Like priming the pump at a fundraiser, I drew a smiley face to get things started, then took my dogs for a walk.

By the time I returned, there were pictures on the sidewalk. Within days, there were rainbows, flowers, stars, a car and a unicorn. There have been trucks, cats, dogs, houses, families, and smiley faces–even one wearing a mask. Today there are fireworks, pets, mountains, and flowers on my sidewalk.

I was moved by what people drew that first week. I was awed. I still am.

Some people draw, others write messages: Believe hope will come. We will get through this. Love, Peace, Hope. Be Kind. Wash your hands. Thanks for letting us draw. Together.

My sidewalk makes people smile in an otherwise grim time.

People have been leaving messages and drawing pictures ever since. Some people pause to look at the drawings and smile as they continue walking. Parents have said my sidewalk is their child’s favorite part of their daily walk. Teens have shown me which pictures they drew and messages they wrote. Adults have thanked me for giving them a place to share. The sidewalk project has helped build a sense of community that counters our isolation. When I need a lift, I walk out to my sidewalk and feel hopeful that we will make it through.

As the weeks pass and the world around us changes, so, too, have the messages changed. They began with “Stay safe; Wash your hands; Love, Joy, Hope; Hope will come.” After the killing of George Floyd, they’ve included “Black Lives Matter,” and “This Sidewalk Is a Blessing.” June arrived and “Happy Pride Month” appeared. This weekend, someone wrote “Just Mask Up or Stay Home” in beautiful colors. Always, there are messages of “Be kind; It will be OK; We’ll get through this.”

Today the sidewalk art includes green mountains beneath a blue sky and yellow sun, “Black Lives Matter, Just Mask Up or Stay Home,” a house, fireworks, a dog saying “Woof,” and flowers. When my own green shoots of hope wilt in the face of the day’s news, I stand at my sidewalk and feel hopeful.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” says Mother Teresa. I can’t do great things to change the world, but I can do small things with love. One of those small things is to set out chalk and sanitizer and create a canvas for people to share dreams, resilience, and hope with others.

Even when it’s washed away, hope is resilient. Breathe it in: We will make it through.

Knitted shawl with cable and garter stitches

Knit. Rip. Walk. Ice. Repeat.

While I was laid-up last winter with a broken foot, I decided I’d learn to knit.  I streamed knitting classes online and practiced stitches for weeks.  When I got bored with knitting, I’d change to woodworking and sewing videos, then go back to knitting.  After more attempts than I can count, I finally made a hat good enough to wear in public—as long as no one looks too closely. 

Onward!  When I could drive again, I took a short class at a local yarn shop https://www.allwoundupyarnshop.com/ to make a shawl.  In this class, everyone makes the same shawl pattern with the instructor teaching the new stitches, helping us fix mistakes, and encouraging us when we want to give up.  It seemed a good way to take the next step. https://newwayopening.com/2017/11/08/whack-a-mole/

The shawl we were making has two sections. The first is cable stitches—a new skill–and the second is simple knitting.  Surely, I could do this.  People all over the world knit, so how hard can it be? 

That’s like saying people all over the world keep going in tough times.  Or, people all over the world have setbacks but keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Or, people all over the world fall but keep getting up and trying again.  How hard can it be if so many people do it?

Having tried both knitting, and getting up after setback in life, I can tell you:  both are harder than they look.  Really hard.  Frustrating.    The biggest difference between them is that one is a non-essential skill for most of us, and the other is life.

I’m still deciding if learning to knit as a way to push through a major setback was a good idea or not.  The shawl isn’t finished, nor is the comeback.  On each, I go backward so often that I wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Here’s what I mean: I began the shawl at home before the class, but I couldn’t get past the first few inches. I kept ripping it out and starting over.  Even with the instructor’s help, I must have started over at least 1400 times.  Just last night, I ripped out a dozen rows again.  Note to self:  Don’t try to knit in the dim light while watching a movie.

Likewise, the last few years have had what seems like at least 1400 life setbacks, as well. https://newwayopening.com/2018/03/05/my-heart-failure-returned/ I keep pushing through, putting one foot in front of the other, but it sure feels like my knitting experiment:  slow.  I started physical therapy for my foot and ankle and have made good progress. But if I stood too long or didn’t elevate my foot enough, or bent it too much or walked too far, I had to elevate and ice my foot and ankle again for hours. 

For months, I walked and iced, knitted and ripped, walked and iced.

My knitting teacher fixed my mistakes a few times and said, “You can do it.  It’s hard, but you’ll get it.” My doctor said my foot was healing well.  “Keep up the good work. You can do it.” 

Then, I took a class on how to fix mistakes without ripping out endless rows of knitting.  I felt so empowered and hopeful that I almost cried. I straightened my spine and kept knitting. 

On a warm March day, I raked winter debris off my flower gardens.  Granted, I had to elevate and ice my foot for an entire day afterward, but I’d worked in my garden without permanent damage.  Last week, I was finally able to walk around my block.  I’ve gone back to my fitness class.  Sweet.

My shawl is now two-thirds finished.  People who’ve seen it seem genuinely impressed, as I am.  Cool.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Last week, I hiked a short distance on a fire road in the mountains of Eastern Washington and walked on rocks beside a stream.  I couldn’t have done that a month ago. The smell of cedars in mountain air mingled with the sound of birds singing and our dogs splashing in the creek.  If there’s a heaven, I think I was there.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Knitting well isn’t easy, as people all over the world know.  Nor is it easy to keep getting up when life knocks us down.  Yesterday, I chose yarn for my next project and signed up to volunteer in a food bank. Knit and rip.  Walk and ice.  I dare to hope. 

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