Once I had a loved one who became lost...desperately, dangerously, life-threateningly lost.
I could do nothing, except keep my fingers crossed, and hope. I wore a white wristband in those dark days, on which were inscribed the words "Faith, "Hope," and "Love."
I wasn't much into Faith in those days, nor did Love seem to be doing the trick. Thus my favorite was "Hope."
So when I found this Emily Dickinson poem, I printed it out and attached it to a plastic six-pack can holder, and taped it to my desk where I would see it many times each and every day.
See, when this loved one was in elementary school, one of the things he/she learned was how plastic waste--like six-pack holders--were polluting the ocean and killing seagulls and turtles. We had to judiciously snip each of the six compartments with a scissors so if that piece of plastic somehow made it to the ocean, it would not get wrapped around a critter's neck and pose a threat to sea life.
In those dark days I longed for a return to the time when the principal problem of my loved one was plastic waste, not a life-threatening dark monster that was about to engulf him/her.
So I became--and remain still--a proponent of Hope. With a capital H. Here is the entire poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Hope must have worked...my loved one has now been a whole human being again for several years, and so will remain for the rest of their life.
Ultrarunning, by contrast, is an optional leisure pastime with no obvious life-threatening implications. Indeed, the connection to Ultrarunning seems superfluous and trivial, but represents the hope we all have of the next run or the next race being somehow magical or mystical, and far surpassing all hopes and expectations.
As we head into the new year, may all your loved ones be safe and all your runs magical.