Holding Up

“Hope sleeps in our bones like a bear waiting for spring to rise and walk.”   ~Marge Piercy

People used to ask “what’s new?” or “how’s work?” or “what’s the family up to?” but this year’s standard inquiry seems to be “how are you holding up?”

I don’t know about you, but the holding and the up both are pretty tenuous. Every day seems to pose a more serious threat to democracy, the environment, to justice. This week we are breaking records for Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths, with experts warning of a “dire winter.” I know people who are currently suffering with Covid-19. I know people who have died. I also know people who say concern over the virus is “overblown” and continue to go to the gym and to large gatherings although we’ve now hit daily death tolls exceeding those on 9/11.

Sometimes it feels like I’m polishing every splinter of hope I can find. But when I pay closer attention to what’s holding me up, I find a vast scaffolding. Here are a few rungs on this month’s ladder.

An ash tree in our yard continues to thrive despite invasive ash borers. I greet this tree every time I walk past. Like the sycamore, dogwood, hawthorn, and maple trees around our house I consider this tree a friend. It’s the first tree I see when I look out our back windows, its branches almost always full of twittering birds. I know ash trees are in serious decline. Millions of U.S. ash trees have already died due to the invasive ash borer, including hundreds of trees in the woodland part of our property. But some trees continue to thrive. They’re called “lingering ash.” Somehow these trees, untreated by insecticides, carry on. Their genes seem to resist predation. Science hopes resistant ash can perpetuate the species. This tree’s resistance to annihilation can’t help but inspire me. Let’s hope we can be the lingering best versions of our own species.

Although I’m getting less accomplished overall, I am honored to have recent work published in One Art, Feral: A Journal of Poetry & Art, Revolution Relaunch, Friend’s Journal, and Channel Magazine. I’m also surprised and honored to be one of the winners of Cultural Weekly‘s Jack Grapes Poetry Prize.

Out here, although you can’t see him, Boris the Duck and his unnamed friend paddle around in peace. Boris is flightless due to a healed broken wing. I look for him many times a day and each time his presence amplifies the peace I feel here. Whether making coffee near dawn or washing dishes near dusk, seeing Boris settles something in me.

I love teaching, even via Zoom. I never thought we could achieve a strong sense of connection by screen, but it’s possible. The magic of writing and sharing our work isn’t as high wattage as in-person classes but it’s remarkable. I come away from each class entirely nourished.

And of course there’s the new puppy. Imagine the joy Festus feels right now. Despite his considerable shortness, he discovered the magic of unrolling, carrying, and decorating. May your day hold at least that much happiness.