Karen Rivers

hope is the thing with feathers.

Karen Rivers

This year has been a year of revision.   Thousands of words, but none of them quite new.   

You yearn for "new".  

Next year will be a year to begin again, start fresh.  There are two new books to write, already half-formed, waiting.  There will be new ideas to love and new places to go, if only in your mind.   If only on the page.  (Blank, white pages have always been your favourites.) 

There will be new people.   Maybe.  

What you look forward to having is simply new hope.  

Hope, when you say it out loud, does not feel like a thing with feathers, like Emily Dickinson wrote.  Rather, it feels round and mellifluous, something you hold in your hand and worry between your fingers.  Something with weight.   Hope, you revise, is the pebbles your kids pick up from the beach.  You carry them by the pocketful, as they wish.  ("As you wish, m'lady."  It means, "I love you," of course.)  

Hope is a coat weighed down by pebbles.

Some metaphors are easy.

Hopelessness, for example, is a razor sharp ridge that must be traversed in adverse conditions, like say, with a broken heart, or in bad weather.   Or both.

Just an example.   Nothing personal.  

You are not referring to yourself.   To your own life.  

Are you?


You have been pretending that it is not the case.   You have made out like it hasn't hurt to cross these 365 days.  This winter ridge.   You have not let on how it has been.   You have not told anyone about the way you have been carrying your kids' pebbles in your pockets, held tight in your clenched fists.  


You walked all year, one foot in front of the other.  

Sometimes, it was hard.  

Sometimes, it was easy.  (Not really, that's a lie.)

Sometimes, it was impossible.   At those impossible times, you sat down and waited.   Then you decided how to continue.   By letting go.  The more things you let go of, the easier it became to keep going, although letting go of these things was intensely difficult.   You wrote all your hurt on blank white paper, long paragraphs of jealousy and regret.  Then you folded each page with a great precision.  In this way, flocks of origami birds rose behind you as you made your way towards now. 

The pebbles in your hands kept you safe.   They kept you from flying away, too.   The words were caught on gusts and vanished into the blue.   You wrote her name, Melody, this girl who took everything you believed.   And you let go of that, too.

That was the hardest.  

The last step.

Hate is always the last thing to leave.

There were complicated paragraphs involved.  Sheaves of your papery birds swooped down in parks and on rooftops, like a sudden snowfall.   You imagined Melody standing amongst them, confused and blank, not understanding, because she never tried.  How she never seemed to understand any of it will never fail to shock you.   When you think of it too much, the hate comes back, that one paper bird stuck to your heart like glue.   How you were sick.   How she was there when you couldn't be.  How she rolled her eyes and giggled.   How she took.

You write more.  You fold more.  You walk more.  

A novel's worth of words.   More.   

You let them go.   While you let them go, tears slide over the pebbles in your hands.  When they are shiny, they look beautiful.   The metaphor quivers at the edge of your vision, but you can't quite see it.   There is a beauty in being sad that you don't have access to at any other time.   Letting go of the sadness will mean losing that.   Are you ready?


Now, you say.  It's enough.  It's done.

And so you come to the end of the jagged ridge and of the hopelessness.  

At the end of this journey, there is a sea. 

Hope is a sea, you think.  

You look out to the sea and you cannot tell what is there beyond the white crests on the surf that foam towards you from the distant horizon.   It's dark.  There are stars behind the clouds.  There is not yet much to see.   But you wait and keep looking.  Eventually your eyes adjust and you see all the pebbles on the beach, glistening in the moonlight when the tar-black waves retreat.  A million pieces of hope, buoying you.   You stand on the shore and drop your pebbles amongst the ones already there.   Under your feet, they are holding you up gently and firmly, like loving hands.  

Hope, you say.  

And the wind finally peels away your last carefully folded origami swan.  It takes it somewhere far away from you, into the infinite stars and the darkest forests and all the places no one has ever seen.   And only then, out of sight of you and everyone else, only then does that swan really fly, wings pushing against air, to climb higher and higher, until it becomes the sky, the feathers the thing that Emily Dickinson understood and that now you finally do, too. 

Hope is the thing with feathers.   And hope is the shine on the pebbles.   And hope is a sea.   And hope is a blank, white page.  

Hope is the reason.   Hope is everything.   

Happy new year everyone.    And may your 2012 be filled with hope.