Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope is the thing with feathers...

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.

---Emily Dickinson

I am jealous of only one woman in Dear Friend's life--and she's been dead for 123 years.

His love affair with Emily Dickinson predates our acquaintance by over three decades. When I first met him, it was the joke in the parish that she was the only woman in the universe for whom he would break his vow never to marry again--and that he was planning to waltz her down the aisle in heaven the moment he got the chance. He has an icon of her in his bedroom. Dead or not, I consider her a formidable rival for his affections.

But I have loved her too. And today, her words have been ringing in my ears. "Hope is the thing with feathers" is a poem that I probably learned from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, more than 30 years ago. I was reminded of that poem as I watched the faces of so many Americans who had gathered on the Mall in Washington to witness and celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States.

Old and young. Rich and poor. Gay and straight. All the colors of the rainbow. I confess that it was a glorious melange that I had never even...hoped...to see in my lifetime.

As I listened to President Obama (how I love typing that!), I also remembered another of Emily's poems:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Today we heard important words about hope--but also about accountability and sacrifice. We heard our new President say that we will all be called upon to do our part in facing the difficult challenges that lie ahead.

The words have been said. It is time for us to make them live. Get busy, people.