… the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all –
- Emily Dickinson
Photo by Robbin Huang on Unsplash
It was the last week of March. The plum trees were the first to blossom; the buds had not waited for the leaves. On the first day, on the branches, they were white, plump, and pearly. And her test was positive.
For the first day that year, though a coat was still necessary, the snow boots and thick ear muffs were not. She went on a walk in the park. She took it with her: that fluttery, feathery feeling.
On the second day it was still there, in her chest, ‘perched in the soul’ and on the trees. By the second week, the magnolias and cherry blossoms had caught up with the plum trees. By April they were carpeting the sky in shades of white and pastel pink. With every breeze showering the grass with colour. Like her fluttery, feathery feeling.
She and her feeling went to the park to see the blossoms every day. They watched the strollers and tricycles too. Some kites, dogs, children at play. The days went by and the little feeling grew. She got used to the little, quiet company. She looked forward to their walks. She liked not being alone or lonely.
On the tenth day it rained. No, it stormed, hailed, blizzarded. They went on a walk in spite of it. It made the daffodils and tulips bloom; now colour sprouted from the ground. Yellow, purple, red, orange, white. On the eleventh day, then the sun was out.
Spring had come. It had promised it would. Only the lilacs remained, but they would bloom in May. She did not know that for certain. She just had a feeling. Hope.
The root of the word ‘hope’ is unknown, like the origin of that strange feeling; that unfounded, unwavering expectation in something good to come, like Spring. Hope has no biological component to it or physiological expression. No scientific reason for its existence but a scientific name: optimism bias.
Hope has other names, across languages, time, cultures: hopa, hoop, hopen, hoffen, hopp, haab, hoffnung, hope. It drives progress, better health outcomes, states of mind, sometimes flowers right out of the ground.
Cognitively assymetrical, hope builds on trust, not knowledge. Expectation, not precedent. Fluttering, feathery feelings. Heads firmly in clouds, not looking down.
To hope is to be human, so irrationally human, so endearingly want to be happy. On the last day she did not know it was the last day. She would not, till the next test.
The results would be negative. She did not know that then. She went on a walk in the park. Most of the flowers had fallen to the ground. Some were still holding on.
They would not last till the following Spring, but it did not matter that day. On that last day they were there and beautiful. And she was happy.
Some tardy cherry trees, and the lilacs, would bloom later in May. She would not be around to see them, or the crab-apple trees. But perhaps she would if Spring came next year. When Spring came next year. She felt it:
that tired but still fluttery, feathery feeling in her chest:
I will wait.