Bonjour et Bonne Année!
New Year, New Hope.
New Goals? Surely, but Bienvenu’s first post for 2022 is not about New Year’s Resolutions.
The focus is nurturing hope, a phrase brought to my attention via Cristina Norcross at the Blue Heron Review, whom I acknowledge in Bienvenu’s pilot post (July 2021).
As 2021 holiday good will and Kairos got underway, I thought the end of the pandemic-tunnel was also nearing. Yet, here we are again in January, 2022, back in COVID caution-mode. In spite of disappointing canceled family and friends’ gatherings, I accept the restrictions of moving cautiously again for a time, and will use the time to nurture hope, trusting hope will nurture me and those I love while riding out these additional not-normal days. A January sojourn in the land of lockdown.
How to do this? First, practicing prayer, lectio divina, and reflection are givens for me. This practice is a priority and a Bienvenu post in itself, which I will save for another time.
Second: I nurture hope via as much time in nature as possible. This can be a challenge, not only in winter (especially when I’ve lived “up north” and across the pond), but because my profession is computer-dependent and, let’s face it, I have to work where the electrical outlets and technology are: indoors! Yes, I know there is a romantic notion of writing in sidewalk café’s or on sunny verandas—which are lovely for a break, change of scenery, and reflection—but that’s usually way less productive. So, I’m intentional about the outdoors! Walking, biking, bird-watching and gazing at a winter-waterfronts (pond, canal, river, creek, lake, ocean). State Parks have been a saving grace for my husband and me during the pandemic; social distancing is a given. Many parks have been near-empty when we’ve visited. We’re intentional about these activities in cities too, which have magnificent public green spaces, urban nature trails, aviaries, zoos, butterfly gardens! So many riches at the fingertips in cities.
In North Carolina and South Louisiana, we load the truck-bed with bikes, kayaks, hiking boots, and picnic. Absorbing winter sky, even sunless, is mind-, imagination-, and mood-elevating for us such that hope-sparks fly! I’m reminded of Mary Alice Monroe’s recent elegant essay on unplugging through nature [title], online at Parade.com.
Third: Nurturing hope through random acts of kindness. Cliché, I know, but when I’ve been dispirited during COVID-tide, hope kindles when I do something for others, expecting nothing in return. This can be as simple as setting aside my own concerns to write snail mail, email, or make a phone call which, in our texting culture, seems harder at times than it should. So, making the effort nurtures hope, perhaps paradoxically.
In closing, I believe counting blessings brings hope. Each New Year, for a great many of them, I’ve been lucky enough to take a few days on retreat to reflect, let go of the old year, and move clear-eyed into the new. 2021 brought many momentous life-events, including seeing my youngest son married, letting go of the house on New Hope Drive where we all grew and the family launched; where writing and teaching-arts blossomed and young people flourished. From that home where we celebrated life and love, we also saw losses and loved ones pass away. It was hard for us to leave that nest, to pass it on to another family to embrace. Yet, closing that home’s door opens 2022 to new life, new love, new hope.
Happy 2022 & Bonne Année.
Note Bene: Merci Beaucoup to Debra Smouse at Modern Creative Life lit-journal for publishing the 2017 essay “Counting My Losses”. This Bienvenu post could be titled “Counting My Gains” as it brings full circle the need for hope I discussed in that essay.