Swooping with Hope!

Today I welcome Advent, the season of waiting for the celebration; I join in the tradition of lighting the first candle on my Advent wreath and I embrace HOPE.
Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite poets, described hope beautifully when she wrote:

  Hope is the thing with feathers
  That perches in the soul,
  And sings the tune without the words,
  And never stops at all.

Picturing a ruffling of feathers stirring up energy and enthusiasm in my soul is like a deep breath surging through every fibre of my being. It’s as if I can sense tiny wings forming within, lifting on the current of my intake of breath. Hello Hope, you feel so grand!

Like so many of my friends and family members, I want hope this Christmas season.  But I don’t want soft simple flutters; I want a frenzy of motion that swoops in like the flock of waxwings that visited our backyard the other week.

One moment I contemplated in silence, the next I countered in shock.  I witnessed whirring wings with practiced precision pushing their body into perfect position.  Waxwings descended from every direction to delight in the delicacies of the shriveled crabapples.  I thought I had stumbled upon a crisply choreographed routine as I watched them take turns, soaring from precarious perches on nearby branches, then contorting and stretching to surround a prized morsel and bring it within reach.

Joyful chatter arose from the waxwings as they merrily encouraged each other to join the feast.  As if they had booked the backyard as their banquet site, they boldly boasted to each other as they stripped the crabapple tree to bare branches. Unlike any musical performance I had attended, this one inspired me with its rising crescendo.  A rising of wings, as if the conductor had signaled the strings of the orchestra, as if the momentum alone would transport all to another level.  A rising, a moment of hope.

Then as quickly as they came, they flew away.  Later, my dog, Dusty and I walked outside to inspect the tree.  Over to my right I heard the similar song from before, but offered in a quieter, gentler tone.  Looking up I saw a bird grasped firmly to a swaying branch.  I noticed the yellow tip of its tail feathers, the brush stroke of red on its head; I welcomed the waxwing with a wondering nod.  It stayed there as Dusty and I headed inside.  It’s singing accompanied us like a hopeful refrain repeating its rhythmic message.

It reminded me of the simple song I like to sing to myself as I start my day.  My paraphrased version is from a song I learned while teaching Bible school one summer.  I try to remember to sing it daily, to focus my thoughts, to continually hold hope within my soul:
  Good morning Lord, it’s a beautiful day!
  Good morning Lord, I’m going your way!

This Advent I’m welcoming hope’s enduring presence by reinforcing this hopeful refrain with the image of the lone waxwing singing merrily on its perch.  Like the waxwings that wait for the celebration of the feast to come, I want to embrace both ways to honour hope within me.  Sometimes I want it to slowly rise like soft feathers unfurling on a gentle breeze, but other days I want it to shake with anticipation as it purposely positions its feathers to align them for a powerful swoop. Then the celebration will begin!

  Good morning Lord, it’s a beautiful day!
  Good morning Lord, I’m going your way!

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